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: field-recording

Disquiet Junto Project 0107: Aeolian Metrics

Use a wind chime as the rhythmic foundation for a track.

Note: The SoundCloud.com site is experiencing some connectivity issues as of this project’s starting. If you have difficulty accessing the Disquiet Junto page, try another browser. If that doesn’t work, then when posting your track add it to this page as a comment, and I’ll add it manually to the project set. Sorry for the hassle.

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Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com 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.

Tracks by participants will be added to this playlist as the project proceeds:

This project was published in the evening, California time, on Thursday, January 16, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, January 20, 2014, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0107: Aeolian Metrics

For this week’s project, use the sound of a wind chime as the rhythmic foundation for a track. (You can record the wind chime yourself, or use a pre-existing one, such as the recordings at freesound.org.)

Deadline: Monday, January 20, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your finished work should be between 2 and 4 minutes in length.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0107-aeolianmetrics” in the title of your track, and 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, be sure to include this information:

More on this 107th Disquiet Junto project (“Use a wind chime as the rhythmic foundation for a track.”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/01/16/disquiet0107-aeolianmetrics/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/?p=16588

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Photo associated with this project by Nik Stage, used via Creative Commons license from:

http://flic.kr/p/2EZmeE

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Roppongi Street Noise

From the prolific Corruption

Corruption is out of control. Not the phenomenon of fraudulent conduct among the powerful, but Corruption the prolific and acquisitive sound recorder based in Funabashi, Japan. With no additional contact or web-presence information made available, Corruption’s SoundCloud account (avatar: the compacted “corrption“) is a steady stream of daily noises and lo-fi electronic music, 324 tracks as of this writing. Among the latest in the “sound diary” series is a minute and a half of Roppongi neighborhood street audio:

There are myriad Corruption tracks available. Highly recommended is the 16-piece set The Collector_Insect Beats:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/corrption.

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The Sound of One Tree Creaking

Our man in Nova Scotia

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“Me recording the tree.” That’s how the photo caption reads. The photo accompanies a track by the “me” in question: Justin Buckley. He is visiting family in Nova Scotia during the current North American storm that has made “polar vortex” a household term. The tree is heard for 32 seconds, creaking in the intense winter wind. It sounds as much like a deck of brittle cards being shuffled or a typewriter making hesitant progress toward a thesis. It’s an audio document of a uniquely fierce and persistent storm, the sort of resolute cold more often documented in photographs, such as this one associated with Buckley’s track, and verbal complaints. Buckley reports that recording the sound was not a simple thing: “Most [attempts] were rendered useless from wind noise, but here’s a short snippet of a tree creaking in the wind, with the sound of a foghorn in the distance. Thought I’d share it with you to mark the occasion.”

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/justin-buckley. More from Buckley, who’s based in Berlin, Germany, at crumblereshape.com and twitter.com/crumblereshape.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0105: Ice for 2014

The project: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it (re-redux).

0105-ice2014

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com 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.

Tracks by participants will be added to this playlist as the project proceeds:

This project was published in the evening, California time, on Thursday, January 2, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, January 6, 2014, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0105: Ice for 2014

Happy new year! This week’s project is as follows:

Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

Background: Longtime participants in, and observers of, the Disquiet Junto series will recognize this single sentence as the very first Disquiet Junto project, the same one that launched the series on the first Thursday of 2012. Revisiting it a year later, on the first Thursday of 2013, provided a fitting way to begin the new year. Now, at the start of the third year of the Disquiet Junto, it is something of a tradition. A weekly project series can come to overemphasize novelty, and it’s helpful to revisit old projects as much as it is to engage with new ones. Also, by its very nature, the Disquiet Junto suggests itself as a fast pace: a four-day production window, a weekly habit. It’s beneficial to step back and see things from a longer perspective.

Deadline: Monday, January 6, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your finished work should be between 2 and 4 minutes in length.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0105-ice2014” in the title of your track, and 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, be sure to include this information:

More on this 105th Disquiet Junto project (“Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/01/02/disquiet0105-ice2014/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/?p=16588

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Photo associated with this project found via Creative Commons at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaukay/384109969

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A San Francisco Soundwalk

Megaphones, parabolic concrete, waterfalls, and much more

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We were confronted on the street corner by an evangelical wielding a large, battery-powered megaphone. This being a soundwalk, the appearance on this very cold day of the screaming man in the t-shirt was something akin to an act of serendipity. As he burdened us with the fear of eternal damnation, all I could think was: “My, what a perfect specimen of the urban soundscape.”

A soundwalk is a docent tour of everyday reality. A docent in a museum walks a group of visitors through the galleries and discusses the art: drawing connections, recounting history, responding to and posing questions. The leader of a soundwalk describes the sounds that are encountered en route — how they function as part of the overall soundscape, what they mean culturally, what their origin is, how they set context and are shaped by context.

The “we” on this cold winter Wednesday in San Francisco was myself along with students (a mix of BAs and MFAs) from the course that I teach on sound at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. The course’s subject is the role of sound in the media landscape. It is divided into three sections: how to listen; how objects, services, and organizations employ sound to express themselves (industrial design, jingles, etc.); and how music-related products (bands, stereo equipment, social networks) express themselves in non-sonic ways.

I had mapped out the soundwalk agenda in advance, but the world has a way of intervening, and not just in the form of an angry man hellbent on, well, talking about hell. Which is fine — in fact, interruptions are part of the plan. An itinerary, as they say, is the map, not the territory.

What follows are some key moments along the walk, some planned, some chance:

Simulated Activity: The tour started early on Wednesday morning at the entrance to the Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, near the corner of Fifth. Inside the mall, if you closed your eyes, you might have thought it was as busy as holiday shopping could get. In fact, the only business with customers was a coffee shop on the basement level, where office workers and mall staff were lined up for post-dawn caffeine. The mall, however, seemed to brim with activity because the house music — that is, the music played on the speakers from the ceilings — was loud, upbeat pop. It was downright noisy, in pop-punk sort of way. The noise provided a simulacrum of activity. Without it, the mall would have felt like an airport at 3am: ghostly, void. The noise was a form of wishful, self-fulfilling prophecy. It set the pace for commerce, and in time consumers would arrive and adhere to that pace.

Score-by-Accrual: While still in the mall, we discussed how the structure had its own score-by-accrual, a score in addition to the “official” music. The majority of the individual stores had their own interior musical playlists, and these sounds leaked out and merged in the atrium and walkways. These individual playlists served as cues to potential shoppers, and as such were distant descendents of the barkers at stalls at the bazaars of yore. They also served, once one was inside a specific shop, to block out the sounds of the rest of the mall. The result is a music arms race.

Horns and Chatter: We walked back out to Market Street and headed east, toward 4th Street. The noises of the street provided a clear contrast to the music of the mall. There was no single overarching sound. There was instead a mid-level cacophony of horns and chatter, street cars and shuffling. Each time, though, that I attempted to suggest this contrast between mall and street to my students, the siren of an emergency vehicle managed to muffle my voice.

Different Kinds of Quiet: When we reached 4th Street, we turned south and immediately experienced just how quiet a simple change in direction could be. The bustle of Market subsided. The mall had presented itself as an interior city, but in fact the rules of the mall city differ from those of the actual city. In particular, stores on the street were not each blaring their own scores. Noise ordinances take care of that, as do the closed doors of cold winter days. Of course, the city doesn’t need music to suggest activity. It simply is active. And when it isn’t active, that quietude is generally welcome — unlike in the mall, where it suggests economic downfall.

A Private Silence: On the way down 4th Street we passed the entrance to a building with a large, artfully barren lobby, and discussed how the lobby provided, with its visual and literal quiet, a salve for those who entered. In a city, money buys many things, key among those things a relief from the pressures of the city.

Reel Life: At the corner of 4th and Mission we stopped — briefly, because soon the angry man with the megaphone appeared — to look up at the logos emblazoned on the exterior wall of a newly refurbished shopping mall. The ones high above the adjacent corner emphasized the movie theater situated on the upper floors of the mall. It was noted that these signs announced the presence of an Imax screen, but not of the sound systems. The heralding of high-quality sound comes and goes just as hemlines rise and fall. There are periods when THX and Dolby logos are everywhere. This is, at least in downtown San Francisco, not one of those times, even though this theater features screens with Dolby Atmos, which is barely a year old. Even on the website of the theater, the Atmos brand is subsumed as part of the ETX (“enhanced theatre experience”) brand.

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Holy Noise: We paused in front of the lovely St. Patrick Church, whose congregation dates back to the mid-1800s, and talked about the role that church bells play in a city, about the unique nature of that accommodation. It is difficult to imagine a new kind of business or organization appearing in a city and being allowed to make such a regular contribution to — or intrusion in, depending on your point of view — the city’s soundscape. And yet around the city, around the world, church bells ring out repeatedly, marking not just the hour, but regular times of prayer. (Photo of St. Patrick Church by Andrew Crump.)

Water Wall: Mission Street is fairly narrow between St. Patrick and the Yerba Buena Gardens, divided by a midsection, and the park area feels quite remote from the city. Part of that sense of ease in the park is owed to the constant waterfalls of the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial that lines the rear of the space. In addition to being lovely, and filling the urban valley with a light mist, it also provides a subtle white noise that blocks out much of the city’s intruding sounds.

Unscheduled Playtime: Among the many chance incidents that informed our walk, a favorite of mine was the oversize poster for the Jacques Tati film Playtime that we saw on the inside wall of a French-themed cafe at one corner of Yerba Buena. Playtime was one of two films I had the students watch as part of their homework this semester, the other being The Conversation (our classroom is just blocks from where the openning of The Conversation was filmed, which makes the surveillance theme all the more eerie). Next semester I may swap out one of those films for Diva.

Ambisonic Planning: We crossed back over Mission Street and made our way up the alley alongside St. Patrick and the Jewish Contemporary Museum. Just two steps from the sidewalk, and the noise of the street, in particular the idling of a delivery van, largely disappeared, the result of trajectory, but also of some sizable concrete structures. I talked a bit about the work of Arup, the architectural and engineering consultancy with offices a few blocks away, and how it employs ambisonic technology to allow architects and urban planners to test in a virtual space how structures will influence sound in real space, how materials, forms, and other variables shape not only the physical but sonic space in which people interact.

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Parabolic Fun: The soundwalk concluded back on the sidewalk on the south side of Market Street. Here an installation by the Exploratorium as part of the city’s Living Innovation Zone program had two oversized concrete hemispheres situated in such a way that anyone sitting in one could converse with the person sitting opposite them. (There is, apparently, also an “singing bench” that involves a completed electric current, but we didn’t see or hear it on this walk.)

And, this being an academic soundwalk, there was homework.

Students are to map three sounds in a two-block radius of the building at the corner of Bush and Kearny that houses our classroom:

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The assignment is: “Pin the spots where those sounds originate. Then write up for each spot a sentence or two in which you (1) describe the sound and (2) note the sound’s meaning, utility, function, or some other aspect.”

If you live in the area and want to upload your own map here, or a map of your neighborhood, that would be excellent.

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