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

Numbers Stations and the Fog of War

A series of moodily coded sound pieces by Norah Lorway

4 5 97 02 04

If you tune your radio between stations and come across someone reading numbers like these, it’s likely because you’ve stumbled upon a numbers station, a lo-tech and enticingly antiquated means of transmitting encoded information.

The numbers up top contain basic information about numbers stations. The popular comprehension of numbers stations is largely founded on The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, a collection that initially consisted of four and, later, five compact discs. The set was released by the label Irdial-Discs in 1997. In 2002, the band Wilco used some of the sounds in a track, “Poor Places,” off its Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. That album’s title is itself sourced from a phrase uttered on the Conet album. (Wilco later, in 2004, settled a suit about this unauthorized use.)

In a series of haunting pieces of subsumed numbers recitation, the England-based musician and sound artist Norah Lorway threads a needle. She maintains enough of the source audio that it is recognizable if not always comprehensible, yet buries it in enough sonic detritus that the result gives listeners the experience of having, on their own, come upon the numbers. At times, the numbers are kept entirely from sonic view, the voices giving way to harsh static, and to sudden noises that might be heard as air raid sirens or the clash of machine guns. The voices themselves are at times warped, rendered anxious, as if the utterances contain not just coded factual information but also raw emotional content.

This is a set of two of Lorway’s pieces. According to the brief accompanying note, there is also a third:

More from Lorway, who is based in Birmingham, England, at norahlorway.com, academia.edu, twitter.com/norahlo, and norahlorway.bandcamp.com.

(Thanks to Larry Johnson for the recommendation.)

Also tagged / / Comments: 10 ]

When Sounds Are Images

Northern Gulfs (Glacial Movements) by Yair Elazar Glotman

The album Northern Gulfs by Yair Elazar Glotman comes and goes in rich swells. The music — entirely free of vocals, and essentially of melodies for that matter — is built less from notes than from images. These are sounds, of course, but each sound is so specific, so distinct from each other, that they individually have the quality of images. They’re memorable less for their sonic content than for their narrative content, the place they hold in memory, the stories they propose. On the track “High Tide,” for example, the constituent sounds include the sawing of wood, the creaking of a rope and a slat pier, some high-pitched ring tones, insectoid percussion that could be a cigarette lighter failing to make good on its sole responsibility, and an underlying bass tone with a somber cast. There are six Northern Gulfs tracks in all, each with its own collection of images. Some are more tonal, others more entranced with sourced field recordings, like the scatter of pebbles and echoed bell on “Low Tide” or the ratcheted gears in “Home Port.” Each of these elements, whether tonal or sourced, is entirely self-defined. Each may individually have been processed — stretched, given texture, looped mechanically, hushed — but they never seem to merge in any given track. They are like semi-opaque cards in a deck being constantly shuffled. “Khaypudyr Bay,” named for a spot in the brittle cold of northwest Russia, features a delicate counterpoint of clipped signals, buried deep in a warm, gray hum. Much of the record retains that muted malevolence, but it reaches an extreme on “Kara Sea,” named for the Siberian waters, which feels truly tortured, its elements including backward masked bits that suggest regret, as well as harsh winds and a haunting organ.

The album is streaming in full at glacialmovements.bandcamp.com. It was released in April 2014 by glacialmovements.com. Yair Elazar Glotman is based in Berlin, Germany.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0131: The Key of Tea

Create a composition that naturally extends from the whistle of a tea kettle.

shardayyy 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, July 3, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, July 7, 2014, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0131: Kettle Development

These are the steps for this week’s project:

Step 1: Record the sound of a tea kettle coming to a boil, preferably a tea kettle that whistles when the boil is achieved.

Step 2: Create a piece of music that originates from the sound of that tea kettle reaching its climax. Employ the sound of the tea kettle in an original composition that can be heard to extend from the field recording of the kettle itself. Start your piece with between five and ten seconds of the unaltered kettle sound.

Step 3: Upload the track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud, following the directions below.

Deadline: Monday, July 7, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your finished work will be between one and two minutes.

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 “disquiet0131-thekeyoftea″ 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, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 131st Disquiet Junto project — “Create a composition that naturally extends from the whistle of a tea kettle.” — at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/07/03/disquiet0131-thekeyoftea/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums

Photo associated with this track by Shardayyy via Creative Commons license:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/shardayyy/5587696584

Also tagged / / Comment: 1 ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0127: Library Shhh

Record the sound of your library — and then maybe make something of it.

20140605-libraryshhh

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, June 5, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, June 9, 2014, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0127: Library Shhh

This week explores the concept of silence. You will record one full minute of sound in the sort of place that is often associated with silence, or at least near silence: the library. By doing so, you will help support artist Zoè Benoit’s artwork called “bibliobeep,” which is a collection of library soundscapes from around the globe. Benoit is especially interested in the “beeps” that might occur in a library, so if possible follow this instruction:

“We are looking for one-minute recordings of background noises occurring at library checkout points and returns, including: electronic ‘beep’ sounds, sounds of books or other library media being handled, words exchanged, etc. To properly record a sound, position yourself near the offices where you can hear especially machine ‘beeps’ that incorporate the voices and sounds of library staff and the materials they handle.”

These are the steps:

Step 1: Record the sound of a library.

Step 2: Locate a continuous one-minute segment and upload it to the Numelyo “bibliobeep” project website:

http://goo.gl/7oKwfM

Step 3 (optional): If you so desire, create a very quiet piece of music suitable for background listening. This piece should employ your library field recording as source material.

Step 4 (optional): If you made the piece of music in step 3, then create a two-minute file by appending it at the end of the original one-minute library field recording.

Step 5: Whether you did steps 3 and 4 or if you merely made the field recording from steps 1 and 2, upload the finished file to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud, following the remaining instructions:

Deadline: Monday, June 9, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your finished work should be either one minute (if you just do the field recording) or two minutes (if you also do the composition).

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 “disquiet0127-libraryshhh″ 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, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 127th Disquiet Junto project — “Record the sound of your library — and then maybe make something of it” — at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/06/05/disquiet0127-libraryshhh/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

More on Zoè Benoit’s “bibliobeep” art project at:

http://conference.ifla.org/ifla80/librarians-worldwide-call-beeps

Photo associated with this project via:

http://goo.gl/UJhtQr

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Rain Through a Mixer Darkly

And through a windshield

It’s arguable that the remix of my afternoon sounds more realistic than did the original.

This week has seen some tremendous rainfall in San Francisco, where I live. I was sitting in my car on Monday, just after noon, when the power of the storm was so intense that it was remarkable — and by “remarkable” I mean that I felt the desire to remark on it, which I initially did on Twitter (“Noon bells heard through the rain and through the breathing of a post-swim sleeping toddler”) and then in the form of a 30-second recording on my SoundCloud account. That track sounds more like an ice machine than rain, which was clairaudient, in that shortly after I hit stop on my recorder — in this case my phone, a Nexus 5 — the rain turned to hail, and shortly thereafter came lighting and then, with alarming proximity, thunder.

The storm is longer, more consuming, and less immediately threatening in this reworking by Larry Johnson, who plucked my Creative Commons–licensed audio and had his way with it:

And here, for reference, is the original:

Tracks posted respectively at soundcloud.com/l-a-j-1 and soundcloud.com/disquiet.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]