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

Two Rhythms Neither in Sync Nor at Odds

Ioflow has his kalimba commune with the birds

While not quite a duet for kalimba and birdsong, this little piece, “Midday Walk, Local Birds” by Ioflow, makes those the central elements. You can also hear feet hitting the ground at the opening, and throughout there’s a thin veneer of synthesized glue that keeps the whole thing together. The footsteps give way to the kalimba, which constitutes the track’s beat, and the birdsong has its own natural pace — neither in sync nor at odds with the thumb piano. At the end, as if we’re coming out of a reverie, the sound of walking returns, a little crunch underfoot. At barely a minute in length, this would be barely a step outside one’s front door in real life, but somehow the slow, persistent pace, intoned with metal on wood, suggests something far longer, something apart from everyday events. Put it on repeat.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/ioflow. More from ioflow, aka Josh Saddler, at ioflow.bandcamp.com, twitter.com/ioflow, and instagram.com/ioflow. (The track is part of the Weekly Beats series of projects, more on which at weeklybeats.com. The Weekly Beats series has no restrictions or conventions. There are no specific project assignments. From the FAQ: Q: “What style of music should I write?” A: “Any style you want! This is a challenge for you to be productive and creative, it has nothing to do with style, don’t be afraid to experiment. The most important thing is to have fun and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.”)

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Miéville’s Ear

"Listen the Birds," from his collection Three Moments of an Explosion

I finished reading the excellent recent collection of China Miéville’s short stories. It’s an ice cream sundae made of climate dread and narrative ellipses. It’s titled Three Moments of an Explosion, and much of the work is new to the book. Among the new pieces is a series of scripts for movie trailers, each one treating the form of a trailer much as Miéville does the form of a short story, as a cloudy mason jar filled with ambiguous portent: You know something’s in there, but you don’t know quite what it is.

“Listen to Birds” is the third and final of those trailer-stories. In it a person identified as P records birds, and his interlocutor, D, prods him on the undertaking. Eventually the act of recording the birds seems to trigger something in the birds. There may be cross-species contagion. Simple technology may itself be reshaping reality, or at least P’s perception of reality. The result, fractured and deliberate, mundane and otherworldly, comes across like a muted tone poem by Shane Carruth or a willfully bad trip from Terrence Davies.

Here’s one snippet:

P in a café, talking to a young woman. We hear the noise around them. P’s words sound distorted. They are not in synch with his lips.

He says, “There’s a problem with playback.”

Here’s another:

P walking down a crowded city street.

Voice-over, P: “There’s a signal and I can’t tell if it’s going out or coming in.”

Unseen by P, one person, then two people behind him raise their heads and open their mouths skyward as if shrieking. They make no sound.

The whole things lasts under a minute and 20 seconds. It’s a little surprising that a search on YouTube doesn’t yet bring up a fan film version of it.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the February 17, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0213: Complex Signatures

The Assignment: Combine three field recordings from artist Charles Lindsay to explore and express notions of perceived techno-organic intelligence.

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Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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 the project:

This project was posted shortly before noon, California time, on Thursday, January 28, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 1, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0213: Complex Signatures
The Assignment: Combine three field recordings from artist Charles Lindsay to explore and express notions of perceived techno-organic intelligence.

This week’s project is being done in conjunction with the head of the Artist in Residence program at the SETI Institute. His name is Charles Lindsay, and he has provided us with three very different field recordings. Work completed for this project will be considered for employment in a future project of Charlie’s. Work won’t be used without the given participating musician’s permission.

Step 1: Consider what it is that Charlie is exploring in his work: “I’m thinking about evolution, entropy, sentience, and the complex signatures of intelligence: what microtonal soundtrack would best express the micro and the vast, the field and the matrix, what we call nature and what we call machine, in unity, as music or as sound?”

Step 2: Download the three tracks recorded by Charle that are in this playlist on SoundCloud. The first track was made on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, rain-forest ambient sounds caught with a parabolic microphone at nightfall. The second was made with a hydrophone at dusk amid the Bunsby Islands in British Columbia. The third was made at the D-WAVE2 Quantum Computer at NASA Ames.

https://soundcloud.com/charlies-experiment/sets/disquiet-junto-complex-signatures

Step 3: Follow this request from Charlie: “Please process, merge, and mix these tracks to seven minutes total. Imagine the final track looping indefinitely in a sound installation in a museum or gallery environment. This use of sound in controlled space is something I’m very interested in, as a real time, real space tool to blend so-called realities. Imagine dream images, much the way our mind seems to, glitches and all. I look forward to what you come up with, and thanks very much for your interest.”

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

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted shortly before noon, California time, on Thursday, January 28, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 1, 2016.

Length: Your track should be seven minutes in length — if that request proves too long, certainly consider submitting something shorter.

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 Soundcloud.com, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0213-complexsignatures.” Also use “disquiet0213-complexsignatures” 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 213th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“The Assignment: Combine three field recordings from artist Charles Lindsay to explore and express notions of perceived techno-organic intelligence”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2016/01/28/disquiet0213-complexsignatures/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

The photo associated with this project is the cover of Charles Lindsay’s forthcoming book, Carbon, more on which here:

http://minormattersbooks.com/collections/books/products/charles-lindsay-carbon

And here are details on a MASS MoCA exhibit he will be participating in. It begins May 28, 2016:

http://www.massmoca.org/event_details.php?id=1045

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What Is the Sonic Domestic Utility of the Ocean Surf?

Listening to the Irish coast from the top floor of a Los Angeles hotel tower

I spent the past few days in Los Angeles at a hotel in Hollywood. My room, a small studio on the 11th floor, was awash with ocean sounds when I first walked in. The hotel had a little sound machine set up near the bed. It was on a crowded end table, what with the lamp, cordless phone, and iPhone-friendly alarm clock also sharing the space. Each item was vaguely elegant on its own, but collectively they were a matter of overkill and incongruity by accrual. The sound machine itself was fairly old, the speaker rattly, the recordings mechanical — a fax machine’s idea of surf. There were other options, too: stream, rain, white noise, and so on.

I’d had a similar experience previously at the same hotel chain in a different city, but that time I’d arrived late at night and struggled to find the source of the ocean and turn it off. I used to travel a lot for work, and became amazed by how much variation there could be in the placement and functionality of something as presumably straightforward as a light switch. It’s one thing to master the ever-mutating light switch. A “sound machine” is its own far-from-ubiquitous apparatus, a still-striving category aspiring to private-space normality. The hotel intended the sound machine to be relaxing; it was anything but.

20161009-bedside

This time around I knew how to turn it off: that helpful large element in the front center was, in fact, a very large button — so large that it was hiding in plain sight.

Days passed, and this morning, while drinking coffee and listening through Bandcamp and SoundCloud, I came upon this track (up above) by Hilary Mullaney. It’s a deeply detailed field recording of surf off the Irish coast. A brief note from Mullaney sets context:

This is an edit of a longer recording made at the waters edge on a beach in Spanish Point, Co. Clare, leaving the recording device on the ledge of a black rock to capture the surrounding sounds. It was a cold, wet and windy day in August.

I had it on repeat for a couple hours, the nearly three-minute track washing out through my laptop speakers, a brief pause at each repetition, like a dream starting over again. There’s perhaps too much detail in a track like this to serve as serene background listening — the bird song, rough noise of perhaps the recorder herself moving about, the waves and bubbles washing at imagined feet, the ocean rumbling somewhat threateningly in the distance.

20160109-ireland

It’s unclear if real ocean surf serves the same sonic domestic purpose of fake surf, if the narrative inherent in a “real” recording, especially one as thorough as Mullaney’s, can provide the intended ease of the fake surf. Perhaps the main issue with the fake-surf device is the device itself: a substandard interface, a speaker that degrades over time, a busy addition to an already overstuffed bedside. Or perhaps it is the sound itself: a mechanical lullaby that reinforces (rather than distracting the listener from) the pressures of the modern world outside the window.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/hilarymullaney. More from Mullaney at hilarymullaney.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0210: Ice Coda


The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

20150101-icemusic2015

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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 added to this playlist for the duration of this project:

This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, January 7, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 11, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0210: Ice Coda

The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

Happy new year! This week’s project is as follows. It’s the same project we’ve begun each year with since the very first Junto project, back in January 2012.

Step 1: Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

Step 2: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 3: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Background: Longtime participants in, and observers of, the Disquiet Junto series will recognize this single-sentence assignment — “Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it” — as the very first Disquiet Junto project, the same one that launched the series back on the first Thursday of January 2012. Revisiting it at the start of each year since has provided a fitting way to begin the new year. At the start of the fifth (!) year of the Disquiet Junto, it is 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 regular if not weekly habit. It can be beneficial to step back and see things from a longer perspective.

Deadline: This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, January 7, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 11, 2016.

Length: Length is up to you, though between one and four minutes is recommended.

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 Soundcloud.com, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0210-icecoda.” Also use “disquiet0210-icecoda” 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 210th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2016/01/07/disquiet0210-icecoda/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Photo associated with this project by Michael Scott used via Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/5vyz3G

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