February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: android

Life After Nintendo

Shiny chiming jangles made in 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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Cues: BLDG Notes, (33 1/3), Facebook Alarmism, …

Plus: Water music, C. Reider on derivative licenses


Faulty Notation: The 73rd weekly Disquiet Junto project was a collaboration with Geoff Manaugh of BLDG BLOG. The Junto participants read segments of a map of the San Andreas Fault as if they were individual scores intended as graphic notation. In a post at his bldgblog.blogspot.com site, Manaugh discusses how the project corresponded with a course he taught this past semester at the architecture graduate school of Columbia University. The above image is an “architectural ‘instrument’ for the San Andreas Fault, designed and fabricated by student David Hecht.” More from Hecht at shareintent.tumblr.com.

Parenthetical Remarks: “So when Sigur Rós releases an album of songs sung in meaningless phonemes and abstract vocalizations, they don’t do so in a vacuum, but are part of an artistic tradition. I hope to locate the album in that tradition, and show where its aesthetics converge and, perhaps more interestingly, diverge from those of its predecessors.” That’s Ethan Hayden talking about his in-progress 33 1/3 book on the album () by Sigur Rós: 333sound.com. More from the author, also a composer/performer, at ethanhayden.com. (I’m currently writing a book in the same series. Mine is on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II.)

FACE Time: “The chord is an F Major 7 (Fmaj7), which means it is composed of four notes: F, A, C, and E. That the perfect ping sound also spelled FACE was a ‘serendipitous discovery.’” That’s Alexis Madrigal writing about the recent alert tones on Facebook.com: theatlantic.com.

Water Music: A website that plays nothing but the sound of rain — well, rain and thunder: raining.fm, via androidandme.com.

Vuzh Feed: There’s a lengthy and in-depth podcast interview with frequent Disquiet Junto participant C. Reider, of the Vuzh Music and deriv.cc netlabels, at musicmanumit.com. Among other topics, it covers the meaning of “experimental” music and the benefits of a Creative Commons license allowing for derivative works. He, er, also says some nice things about this site (MP3).

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Stems: Android Eggs, Tape Loops, Martinez/Skrillex/Korine

Recent links of interest


Android Music: There is a heap of Easter Eggs hidden in the holding page for the upcoming Google I/O developers’ conference, at which various Android subjects will be unveiled. These Easter Eggs are accessed by clicking the I and O on the page to yield various results. For example, clicking 10001000 yields a wave generator, as pictured above, and 11011011 yields a touch-based music toy. This being Google, there are Easter Eggs within the Easter Eggs — that is, the binary code isn’t entirely random. For example 10000001 yields a game of pong, the sense being that the 1 on either end symbolizes a paddle. It’s not immediately clear what the meaning of the two music-related codes is. (Found via the helpful comments on the post at theverge.com.)


Tape Ops: The Dutch musician Wouter van Veldhoven has posted remarkable footage of old-school tape machines deployed to make minimal techno music:

More on van Veldhoven at woutervanveldhoven.nl. Found via laughingsquid.com. Hat tip to Max La Rivière-Hedrick of engine43.org.

Spring Drop: The score to Spring Breakers, the new film by Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo), was largely composed by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez, often working together. The pairing is certainly interesting, since it is fair to say that Skrillex, the showboating EDM figure, and Martinez, the composer of subtle scores to such films as Solaris and Traffic, represent polar extremes along the continuum that is contemporary electronic music. Almost the entire Spring Breakers soundtrack album is streaming is currently at pitchfork.com. Of the album’s 19 tracks, all but 5 feature either Skrillex or Martinez. Three are collaborations, 7 are Skrillex solo pieces (one a remix), and 4 are Martinez solo pieces. The album comes out March 18 on Big Beat/Atlantic Records, and the movie on March 22. The Pitchfork stream includes all but two of the tracks (numbers 8 and 19 in the list below). The movie stars James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine. More on the film at springbreakersfilm.com. Here’s the track listing:

  1. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” – Skrillex
  2. “Rise And Shine Little B***h” – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
  3. “Pretend It’s A Video Game” – Cliff Martinez
  4. “With You, Friends (Long Drive)” – Skrillex
  5. “Hangin’ With Da Dopeboys” – Dangeruss with James Franco
  6. “Bikinis & Big Booties Y’all” – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
  7. “Never Gonna Get This P***y” – Cliff Martinez
  8. “Goin’ In (Skrillex Goin’ Down Remix)” – Birdy Nam Nam
  9. “F**k This Industry” – Waka Flocka Flame
  10. “Smell This Money (Original Mix)” – Skrillex
  11. “Park Smoke” – Skrillex
  12. “Young N****s” – Gucci Mane (feat. Waka Flocka Flame)
  13. “Your Friends Ain’t Gonna Leave With You” – Cliff Martinez
  14. “Ride Home” – Skrillex
  15. “Big Bank” – Meek Mill, Pill, Torch & Rick Ross (feat. French Montana)
  16. “Son Of Scary Monsters” – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
  17. Big ‘Ol Scardy Pants – Cliff Martinez
  18. Scary Monsters on Strings – Music by Skrillex
  19. Lights – Ellie Goulding
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