My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's 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: field-recording

This Week in Sound: Mapping Silence

+ RJDJ + MIT sound + Wainwright Syndrome + speech control + pre-acoustic + Spotify protip

A lightly annotated clipping service (fairly brief edition this week):

RJDJ Return: This video is just a tease, but it’s a promising one. The makers of the RJDJ augmented-reality audio app have a new app in the works, named Hear, that processes everyday sounds through filters. There’s been much talk of an “Instagram for sound.” This has a sense of that wish being fulfilled. Video found via Ashley Elsdon’s (Post-script: since this note first appeared in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, the app has gone live on iTunes’s App Store. Unfortunately the app is not, for the time being, compatible with my fifth-generation iPod Touch, so I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.)

Sound Studies: Geeta Dayal interviewed Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner, who is teaching a course at MIT called “Introduction to Sound Creations.” Says St. Werner, “I think it’s great that the visual-art world has embraced sound more, but there is the risk of that becoming a novelty. There’s also a great chance for sound, to see it as its own art form. It doesn’t need anything that makes it agreeable. That’s the great opportunity we see at the moment.”


Mapping Silence: At the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham writes about a map commissioned last year by the National Park Service “of what the United States would sound like if you were to remove all traces of human activity from the picture,” pictured above. (Via Steve Ashby)

Wainwright Syndrome: Slightly removed from sound, though as always sound is vibration so buzzing is sound, and phones buzzing are doubly sound since the buzz is a stand-in for a ring(tone): at, Cari Romm writes about phantom phone vibrations: “These imagined sounds and sensations are examples of pareidolia, the phenomenon of perceiving a pattern within randomness where no pattern exists (seeing the man on the moon, for example, or hearing satanic messages in a record played backwards). For this particular pareidolia, there are a few things that make some people more susceptible than others.”

Always On: As someone who is rarely a foot from his phone, I still find the voice activation aspect of phones alarming in a privacy sense, but Google keeps upping the ante: “Google Announces Voice Access Beta—Control Your Phone Completely by Voice” (

Pre-Acoustic: If you’re near University of Copenhagen, there’s an interesting symposium happening there in two days, on April 21: “The field of sound studies often gets restricted to sound practices, listening experiences and auditory dispositives after the advent of modern acoustics, established as an academic subdiscipline of physics in the 19th century. Yet unsurprisingly, auditory knowledge was present and impactful in cultures of the middle ages, the renaissance, and early enlightenment”:

Spotify Protip: Since I’ve been on and off tracking my use of Spotify (following the demise of the Rdio service), here’s a Spotify protip. If you’re having issues with the offline sync (which lets you store tracks or albums on a device, as I do on my iPod Touch, which is the primary way I use Spotify), the issue may be that you have too many devices associated with your account. I had four. Once I reduced it to three everything worked fine.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 19, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter:

Also tagged , , , , , / / Leave a comment ]

“Midnight Frames”

This is me learning about iOS apps by reworking audio recorded at midnight

This is a minute of sound recorded just past midnight and then subsequently reworked digitally:

The audio plays on three separate channels, the source tracks slightly out of sync, each channel being muted at random, with a little live, real-time human interaction on my part to nudge the listenability and sense of overall composition. That is, “human interaction” distinct from the human interaction involved in the process of setting up the whole random-mute system.

It’s an experiment in making something just using the iPad. The mixer is the iOS app AUM and the mute is being triggered in an iPad app called Xynthesizr. There is a bit of effects being implemented on the three channels. One is being lent an echoing depth, thanks to the Dahlia Delay app. One is getting lightly distorted, thanks to the Saffron Saturator app. And one is being lightly tweaked with some filters internal to the AUM app.

I have a lot to learn about all these apps. This began as me trying to get the AUM muting triggered by the Fugue Machine app, but that inter-app functionality evaded me for more than one channel. The Xynthesizr worked fairly smoothly, largely because someone introduced me to the MIDI Wrench app, which let me figure out the note values of what’s being emitted by Xynthesizr, so I could assign them directly to be interpreted as on/off signals by AUM. All of which said, I’m still fumbling about with the tools, finding my way. The image accompanying this track is a screenshot of the AUM app with the three channels in view:

File Apr 20, 9 27 53 AM

This is a reworking of a single minute of audio recorded by Forelight. The original track is titled “Midnight {disquiet0160-oneminutepastmidnight}.” It was part of the 160th weekly Disquiet Junto project. That 160th project was the first in an ongoing series, collectively titled One Minute Past Midnight, that explore nocturnal ambience.

The original source track by Forelight is at

More on the One Minute Past Midnight series here:

Also tagged , , , / / Leave a comment ]

This Week in Sound: The Hum

+ ultrasound anxiety + civic sirens

A lightly annotated clipping service (fairly brief edition this week):

The Hum: To say that Colin Dickey’s essay in The New Republic on the perception of persistent hums connects existential concern about industrialization with the ineffable trauma of tinnitus would be to understate the historical range of the study, which moves from the “aeolian sound” reported by an 1828 traveler in the Pyrenees to contemporary Facebook support groups. And it’s thick with interviews, including one with Glen MacPherson, a teacher who founded the World Hum Map and Database Project. Writes Dickey at one point, “As I listened to MacPherson’s story of a mysterious noise, I couldn’t help but notice a sign tacked to the wall behind him, written in the big, gentle hand of a kindergarten teacher: ‘Be kind, be safe, be listening.’” (Via Drew Daniel and Dominic Pettman.) For further reading, I suggest the work on aelectrosonics by Douglas Kahn, as well as field recordist Gordon Hempton’s depiction of electric-grid hums as “the American mantra.”

Ne Plus Ultra: And in tangential news, “New research from the University of Southampton indicates that the public are being exposed, without their knowledge, to airborne ultrasound” (

Warning Warning: Photo by itinerant (sound) artist Jeff Kolar near Stinson Beach, in Marin County, during a visit from Chicago. It’s a visual warning sign in advance of a sonic warning:


This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 12, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter:

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0224: Cold Embrace

Make music with the sound of a refrigerator as its foundation.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of project 0224:

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 14, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, April 18, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0224: Cold Embrace
Make music with the sound of a refrigerator as its foundation.

This week’s project was inspired, in part, by an April 13, 2016, talk that the artist Jeff Kolar gave to students in the class on sound that I teach.

Step 1: Record the sound of a refrigerator, preferably the one in your own kitchen.

Step 2: Listen to the recording to get a sense of the hum, the tonality, and the rhythm or rhythms inherent in that audio.

Step 3: Create an original piece of music augmenting that tonality and rhythm. It’s preferable you simple add material to the field recording, but you can also use the field recording as source material.

Step 4: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 14, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, April 18, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, though between one and three minutes feels about right.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this project, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0224-coldembrace.” Also use “disquiet0224-coldembrace” as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 224th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Make music with the sound of a refrigerator as its foundation.”) at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

The image associated with this project is by Timothy Allen and is used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

Free To Good Home

Also tagged , , , / / Leave a comment ]

This Week in Sound: 3D Crimes + Posthuman Postrock

+ caption studies + !@#$ patents + Google metronome + iPad conducting + seismic listening

A lightly annotated clipping service:

3D Crimes: The hum of a refrigerator may not be enough to allow identification of its make and model, and the electric car may have let us to make our engines sound like something else entirely (see the SoundRacer), but more consequentially the rumblings of a 3D printer may contain sufficient detail for the someone “to reverse-engineer and re-create 3D printed objects based off of nothing more than a smartphone audio recording”:, via Barry Threw.


Posthuman Postrock: There is now a “wearable third arm” for drummers, which brings to mind both the opportunities for posthuman postrock, and the kit developed for Rick Allen of Def Leppard after he lost an arm in the mid-1980s. Above photo shows Tyler White accompanied by Gil Weinberg:, via

[Heavy Breathing]: Last year, Sean Zdenek published Reading Sounds, a book about captions, about how the audio of filmed entertainment (dialog, diegetic sound like a passing car, and non-diegetic sound like a score) is represented with words superimposed on images. Now there’s a two-day “virtual conference” on captions (Caption Studies) scheduled for August 1 and 2 of this year. If you’re the sort of person, like me, who thrills to “[dramatic music]” and “[ninjas panting],” then I’ll see you there. Well, that is, we’ll be online simultaneously:

!@#$ Patents: This sounded like an April Fools joke, but it appeared on Business Insider on March 31, and appears to be the case: Apple has technology that automatically removes the curse words from songs. Filed in 2014, the patent is titled “Management, Replacement and Removal of Explicit Lyrics during Audio Playback.” Keep in mind that two years prior to that, in 2012, the Apple Match service — which adds to your cloud the albums you already own, saving you the perceived hassle of ripping and uploading them — accidentally replaced people’s NSFW versions with the “clean” edits that play in fast-food restaurants and on cautious radio stations — via, Scanner, and King Britt


Google BPM: Well, Google the word “metronome” and you’ll be provided a functioning metronome that allows you to select an integer between 40 and 208 and hear what that click track sounds like:

iClassical Pro: Alan Pierson, of the adventurous chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound, has uploaded to Medium an article first published two years ago on the group’s blog, but it’s new to me. It’s Pierson talking about how he moved from using paper scores to digital scores when conducting. His take: “And while conducting off tablet is safer in many ways, it’s almost certainly more prone to catastrophe on any particular gig than working off of paper scores: a PC crash is probably more likely than music falling off a stand or out of a binder and harder to recover from. But the plusses seem to far outweigh the minuses.” At least now Google can help with the BPM.

Ear on the Apocalypse: “Seismologists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Volcano Network have developed a refined set of methods that allows them to detect and locate the airwaves generated by a volcanic explosion on distant seismic networks.” That is to say, scientists are listening for earthquakes: “This study shows how we can expand the use of seismic data by looking at the acoustic waves from volcanic explosions that are recorded on seismometers”:

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 5, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter:

Also tagged , , , / / Leave a comment ]