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Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
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tag: android

This Week in Sound: Microtonal Errata + Party Lines

+ applbums + old music

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Horse Bests Other Horse: News came this week that old music outsold new music for the first time in recorded history — or, in this case, recorded recorded history. Adam Puglsey lays out the situation at chartattack.com. Of course, as he also writes: “Keep in mind that these stats don’t include album streams, but regardless, it’s a significant turning point.” Which is to say, this may be like saying one breed of horse outsold another breed of horse for the first time after the introduction of the automobile.

The History of the Phone Is the Future of the Phone: Speaking of ahistoricism and technology, at medium.com, Peter Rojas talks about a new phone service called Unmute. It’s an app for conducting phone calls, with one added feature: “anyone can listen in on the calls. In fact, having a conversation in public is the whole point of Unmute, which is why we find it so compelling as a product.” This future-tech platform is vaguely reminiscent of what was, before the advent of widespread individual-household phone service, called a party line. Older baby boomers and their parents can recall apartment buildings and rural regions alike having shared lines. Pick up the phone at the wrong — or, depending on your predilections, right — moment and you get not only an earful of local gossip, but you can participate, as well. More on Unmute, which unlike party lines will provide an MP3 at the end of the call, at onunmute.com.

The Tantalizing Promise of the Applbum: Apps have been the new albums — the “applbum,” perhaps — for awhile now, and though the hybrid isn’t exactly a fulfilled promise, it continues to bear fruit. Adrift, the blissful and expertly glacial generative ambient experience by Loscil (aka Scott Morgan), was released for iOS late last year, and in a (sadly) rare instance of platform equity it popped up this week in an Android version. Well, not directly Android. It’s not in the Google Play Android app store, but in Amazon’s app bazaar. I asked Loscil/Morgan why via Twitter, and he explained that the Android max size was 100 megabytes (“i can’t afford the dev cost of adding expansion packs”), while Amazon has no app-size cap. The size is due to the app’s expansive sonic content that yields its generative (i.e., ever-changing) listening experience. … Meanwhile, Massive Attack has released a new album … that is, app, titled Fantom, that is billed as a sensory experience. Presumably “sensory” implies “interactive,” since music is itself sensory and “interactive” is simply a term that may have outlived its utility before that utility had actually been realized. The thefantom.co site explains: “The remixes reflect your movement and balance, the time of day or night, your location and your surroundings as captured by your device’s camera.” At the moment the link to the iTunes store isn’t yielding the app, but Tom Fenwick at motherboard.vice.com has some in-depth coverage, including the fact that one of the developers is Rob Thomas. The article doesn’t mention this, but Thomas is the former Chief Creative Office of Reality Jockey, where he helped develop the app RJDJ, which used a unique “scenes” scenario to alter in real time the sounds your phone or iPod picked up. RJDJ led, in turn, to several other apps, including ones associated with Christopher Nolan films, such as Inception. More from Thomas himself at soundcloud.com/dizzybanjo.

Nanonews about Microtones: In 1958, Alain Danielou published Tableau Comparatif des Intervalles Musicaux, which to an outsider (whether or not they speak French) might look like a codebook out of The X-Files or the Conet Project. What it is is an encyclopedia of microtones — in Gann’s description, “of all even marginally significant intervals within an octave.” A keen-eyed correspondent of Gann’s recently noticed an error: “On the right-hand bottom corner of page 48, the interval listed as 569/512 should actually be 567/512, as 3 to the 4th power times 7 is, of course, 567.” Here is the evidence:

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As mistakes in tonal esoterica go, Gann notes, this one actually has some currency: “this is one of the intervals used in The Well-Tuned Piano” (one of La Monte Young’s great works). Gann, whose long-ago Village Voice music criticism was essential reading for me and many others back in the day, blogs at artsjournal.com/postclassic, where this notice first appeared. His Danielou article includes a link to a complete PDF of the Tableau book.

This first appeared in the January 26, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Smartwatches Are Always Listening, LG G

The above image is from the initial promotional material for the Android-powered LG G Watch. It is showing support for “Ok Google,” which listens for that phrase as a prompt. Of course, in order to do that, the watch has to be always listening. As useful as the concierge-ish search is, of all gadgets a watch needn’t have to listen — you could just, you know, hit a button. Also from the promotional language: “It doesn’t just listen well, it communicates with you well: straight answers to spoken questions.” The initial specs don’t seem to note the inclusion of a microphone.

This entry cross-posted from the Disquiet linkblog project sound.tumblr.com.

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Life After Nintendo

Shiny chiming jangles made in Nanoloop

20131206-nanoloop

There are several dozen tracks thus far in the “sound diary” credited on SoundCloud to Corruption, who gives as a residence Funabashi, Japan. Many are noisy escapades, tagged simply as “sound diary,” while the one dated “2013.11.19” and given the subtitle “like a moth to a candle” bears a second tag: Nanoloop. That’s the name of a popular piece of electronic music software that originated on the Nintendo Gameboy and has been since ported to iOS and Android. What was, back in 1998, an esoteric dream of handheld music-making has become pop culture, an everyday activity. In Corruption’s hands, Nanoloop makes sequences of shiny chiming jangles that ebb and flow like a low-resolution tide. There’s a glitchy quality to it at times, lending the work a welcome complexity, a dark undercurrent to its slow pace. Corruption does not identify which edition of Nanoloop is employed.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/corrption. More on Nanoloop at nanoloop.com. The above screenshots are from the Android version.

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Panel Discussion: Future of Music

From apps to guitar gear to distribution platforms

The recent San Francisco MusicTech Summit held, on May 28, a panel on “The Future of Music Creation Tools,” featuring Daniel Walton of app developer Retronyms, Sam Valenti of the Ghostly label and new Drip.FM platform, sound designer Dot Bustelo, and musician Dweezil Zappa. The panel was moderated by Billboard magazine writer David Downs. The panelists come at it from various, complementary directions, from iOS apps to guitar gear to distribution platforms, and there’s a heavy emphasis on practical applications, which in this heady field can be usefully grounding.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/sfmusictech. More on the panelists at zappa.com, retronyms.com, dotbustelo.com, and ghostly.com.

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The Sound of Vine.co

Listening to an app that revels in the absence of post-production

This current weekend’s Disquiet Junto project, the 75th, takes the Vine app (more at vine.co) as its subject. This isn’t just because the app’s six-second format allows for an interesting simultaneity of composing, performing, and recording. It’s also because audio has proved to be an under-appreciated aspect of Vine videos.

20130708-vine-offThe undervaluing of sound on Vine.co is in part due to what is, admittedly, a necessary UX decision: by default, the sound is off when a Vine is triggered. You need to click a little speaker symbol with a red X, turning it into two little green signifiers of volume. (The traffic metaphor only goes so far — there is no yellow warning phase.) As a result, Vines are experienced silently at first, the audio perhaps kicking in midway through, after the user takes action and clicks the sound icon, and only experienced in full when the second run of the loop begins. (That is, depending on the circumstance. For example, in the Chrome browser on an iPad, the videos don’t autoplay. Instead, you have to hit play, and in this case sound seems to be on by default.)

20130708-vine-onThe majority of Vines appear to be everyday field recordings and low-key stop-motion sequences. Some ignore sound, resulting in chance noise, while others embrace it. The decision-making, or lack thereof, is especially interesting to observe in the case of those videos that break the six seconds of allotted time into shorter stop-and-start segments. Most non-Vine filmmakers would use a single score to lend continuity to the fragments, but that isn’t an option in Vine, which allows for no post-production.

In turn, there are many Vines for which sound is, in fact, a conscious subject, if not the main subject. What follows are a handful of recent favorites:

Alexis Madrigal captured an ancient 8mm projector, not just its musty imagery but its noisy sound:

Richard Devine has been posting a lot of shots of his music production equipment, with an emphasis on modular synthesizers, often these intimate closeups in which the blippity sounds align with one or more blinking lights. The result suggests a hint of tech sentience:

Ashley Spradlin has posted a series of pieces that display the chance presence of daylight, such as this sequence of the sun playing against a wall, the background audio seemingly a shower. There’s an even stronger example amid Spradlin’s output — shadows of windswept trees filtering through curtains, punctuated by what seems to be an inopportune car honk — but I can’t seem to figure out how to share it. (It shows up in my feed in Vine on my phone, but beyond that I am at a loss.)

And here Craig Colorusso’s solar-powered ambient-drone “Sun Boxes” are given rhythmic texture thanks to quick edits:

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