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: film

I’m Talking About Sound + Film at the Disposable Film Festival

That's April 8 in San Francisco at the Bay Area Video Coalition


“Eyes are forgiving, ears less so. Eyes want to be seduced. Ears are sensitive to incongruity, discontinuity, artifice. How can sound reinforce narrative? How can sound be narrative? How can sound design serve as score? We’ll explore the past and the technologically enabled promise of film sound.”

That’s the opening of — and abstract for — a talk I’ve been invited to give at the Disposable Film Festival this coming April 8 in San Francisco from 4pm to 5:30pm. The title of the talk is “Sound + Vision: A Master Class with Marc Weidenbaum.” It’ll be at Bay Area Video Coalition, whose address is 2727 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

I’ll be talking about usefully adventurous examples of creative employment of sound in film and about new technologically mediated opportunities. The audience is likely to include a higher than average percentage of people interested in making films, so I’ll also be outlining a variety of creative prompts to spur original sonic experimentation in the service of narrative.

As examples I’ll be drawing on work I’ve done in music supervision and sound design on the new science fiction film Youth, directed by Brett Marty, and on the documentary The Children Next Door, directed by Doug Block.

You can register to attend the talk here:

The full festival lineup is here:


Also tagged , , , / / Leave a comment ]

A Broker Tour of Clint Mansell’s High-Rise Score

One track in advance of the J.G. Ballard adaptation


“The night passed noisily, with constant movement through the corridors, the sounds of shouts and breaking glass in the elevator shafts, the blare of music falling across the dark air.” —J.G. Ballard’s High Rise

Among the many promising aspects of the forthcoming wide-screen adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s classic novel High-Rise is that it’s set as a period piece. The film unfolds in the fabulous, wide-collar, garishly colored 1970s, the same era during which the book, a 1975 publication, was released. That is unlike recent filmed versions of, say, Planet of the Apes, or The Fantastic Four, or Jason Statham’s take on one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, just to list a few examples, all of which original works were endemic to the era in which they were produced, and then yanked into the future when filmed.

With the new High-Rise, there’s no adjusting to today’s surveillance-media reality, no evocation of how 9/11 rewired America’s brain, no consumer-grade Internet, and no smartphones — all of which could easily lend themselves to Ballard’s urban fable of consumer convenience. The book is a characteristically harrowing Ballardian story in which the violence that humans do to each other, this time in a concrete and steel vertical manifestation of class differences, somehow manages to mask an even darker and deeper potential for violence. The more we play dress up, the more the animal in us, the animal that we are, comes alive.

Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Stoker, Requiem for a Dream) has provided the score to the adaptation, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston, and judging by the first public track, “Cine-Camera Cinema,” it may be a willfully anachronistic act of underscoring — or maybe not. (One of the characters, played here by Luke Evans, is a documentary filmmaker, and “cine-camera” is the term in the novel for his equipment.) The piece is deeply subdued, chanting heard behind an enticing scrim of undulating drones. It has none of the symphonic grandeur of 1970s movie scores, nor the swagger of rock music at the time, though what sound like whistling does bring to mind Ennio Morricone’s westerns. Then again, the post of the track on SoundCloud quotes the Hollywood Reporter’s description: “a lustrous retro-classical score.” So, perhaps the music will be as era-specific as Tom Hiddleston’s lapel. Either way, this excellent first taste of Mansell’s work sets expectations high.

Track originally posted at

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

Fragments of Serbian-Finnish Sound Design

Belgrade-based Svetlana Maraš posts a work no longer in progress.


Svetlana Maraš, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia, has been filling her SoundCloud account with bits and pieces of film scores and sound design projects, some finished, others from efforts that never reached completion, stalled at unforeseen junctures. Five shared fragments of trumpet soundings and quotidian atmospherics are sourced from one of the uncompleted ones, which Maraš describes as “a beautiful, experimental film by a Finnish director.” She writes, “Unfortunately, the film never went into the post-production and was never finished. However, the soundtrack remains.” These include two “soundscapes” and three three spots of trumpet, the latter of which blur the line between soundscape and sound design by emphasizing tone and the slurry space within notes over melody. The room in which the music was played is as much a part of the recording as is the trumpet itself. She lists the constituent elements as “Trumpet, objects, glitch, noise,” and references Nenad Marković as the trumpeter. Marković plays the trumpet, while Maraš plays the room.

Maraš is quite active and prolific, and a Vimeo page ( tracks some of her efforts, such as this short video of a live improvisation on small electronic devices, including a Korg portable and a Buddha Machine, with the ticking of an alarm clock providing the back beat, such as it is:

Set originally posted at More from Maraš at More from Marković at

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

This Week in Sound: SoundCloud, Replicants, Comedy, Surveillance

An occasional, lightly annotated clipping service

One-Track Mind: SoundCloud recently added a “repeat single track” function to its web player. This means that if you’re listening to something on SoundCloud you can click a button to have it repeat when it ends, rather than have the service automatically move on to another track. This is a very welcome turn of events. When it comes to audio streaming, we often don’t really hear something the first time we hear it, and often get lost in the continuity. The ability to repeat a single track in some ways having a chance to really pay attention through repetition.

Replicant Soundscape: Speaking of listening on repeat, this following track has been online since August, but I only just learned of it via an post about a related subject. The account of “crysknife007” on YouTube is filled with great “ambient geek sleep aids” such as the sound of the Starship Enterprise’s engines running for 24 hours straight. What follows is the sound of Rick Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner playing for half a day, so you can imagine you’re a cyberpunk gumshoe when you’re really just sitting at home paying some bills. Though YouTube comments are rightly avoided, a useful follow-up to the track did note that this same sound was later used in Alien for the Nostromo’s medical bay.

Ambient Comedy: The BBC has produced a retrospective of Chris Morris (Blue Jam, Four Lions), the British satirist. I had very much hoped to interview Morris for my recent book on the Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Volume II because he used music from the album in his radio and television sketches to especially haunting effect, but sadly he wasn’t available. The BBC retrospective is three hours long and, according to the BBC webpage, will be online for another four weeks:

New Heights in Eavesdropping: A thorough overview of the U.S. government’s system “Automatic Speech recognition in Reverberant Environments,” aka ASpIRE, an advance speech-recognition tool.

This first appeared in the December 2, 2014, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter:

Also tagged , , , , / / Comments: 3 ]

On now participating in the Gizmodo ecosystem

These are two things that I think Geoff Manaugh, editor-in-chief of the technology and design blog, didn’t know about me when he asked if I’d consider bringing beneath his website’s expanding umbrella.

1: My “to re-blog” bookmark file has been packed in recent months with scores of items from pretty much all of the Gizmodo-affiliated sites — not just Gizmodo, but, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Gawker, and Kotaku. Probably Jezebel and Deadspin, too, but the file is too thick for me to tell.

2: Pretty much the first thing that I read every morning with my coffee — well, every weekday morning — is the “Morning Spoilers” at, the great science fiction website that is part of the Gawker network that also contains Gizmodo.

I knew Manaugh’s work from BLDGBLOG and, before that, Dwell Magazine. He’d previously invited me to involve the weekly experimental music/sound project series that I run, the Disquiet Junto, in the course on the architecture of the San Andreas Fault that he taught in spring 2013 at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture. And I am excited to work with him again.

And so, there is now a cozy subdomain URL where I’ll be syndicating — simulposting — material from, as well as doing original straight-to-Gizmodo writing. I’m hopeful that members of the Gizmodo readership might further expand the already sizable ranks of the Disquiet Junto music projects (we just completed one based on a post from Kotaku), and I’ll be posting notes from the course I teach on “sound in the media landscape” at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco.

For new readers of Disquiet, the site’s purview is as follows:

* Listening to Art.

* Playing with Audio.

* Sounding Out Technology.

* Composing in Code.

I’ll take a moment to break that down:

Listening to Art: Attention to sound art has expanded significantly this year, thanks in no small part to the exhibit Soundings: A Contemporary Score at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. That exhibit, which ran from August 10 through November 3, featured work by such key figures as Susan Philipsz (whose winning of the Turner Prize inspired an early music compilation I put together), Carsten Nicolai (whom I profiled in the new Red Bull Music Academy book For the Record), and Stephen Vitiello (whom I’ve interviewed about 911 and architectural acoustics, and who has participated in the Disquiet Junto). But if “sound art” is art for which music is both raw material and subject matter, my attention is just as much focused on what might better be described as the role of “sound in art,” of the depictions of audio in various media (the sound effects in manga, for example) and the unintended sonic components of art beyond sound art, like the click and hum of a slide carousel or the overall sonic environment of a museum. Here’s video of Tristan Perich’s “Microtonal Wall” from the MoMA exhibit:


Playing with Audio: If everything is, indeed, a remix, that is a case most clearly made in music and experimental sound. From the field recordings that infuse much ambient music to the sampling of hip-hop to the rapturous creative reuse that proliferates on YouTube and elsewhere, music as raw material is one of the most exciting developments of our time. Terms like “remix” and “mashup” and “mixtape” can been seen to have originated or otherwise gained cachet in music, and as they expand into other media, we learn more about them, about the role such activities play in culture. And through the rise of audio-game apps, especially in iOS, such “playing with sound” has become all the more common — not just the work of musicians but of audiences, creating a kind of “active listening.” This notion of reuse, of learning about music and sound by how it is employed after the fact, plays a big role in my forthcoming book for the 33 1/3 series. My book is about Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and it will be published on February 13, 2014, just weeks ahead of the record’s 20th anniversary. As part of my research for the book, I spoke with many individuals who had come to appreciate the Aphex Twin album by engaging with it in their own work, from composers who had transcribed it for more “traditional” instruments (such as chamber ensembles and solo guitar), to choreographers and sound designers, to film directors.

Sounding Out Technology: A briefer version of the approach is to look at “the intersection of sound, art, and technology.” The term “technology” is essential to that trio, because it was only when I learned to step back from my fascination with electronically produced music and to appreciate “electronic” as a subset of the vastly longer continuum of “technology” that connections became more clear to me — say, between the sonics of raves and the nascent polyphony of early church music, or between creative audio apps like Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’ Bloom and what is arguably the generative ur-instrument: the aeolian harp. With both Bloom and the aeolian harp, along with its close relative the wind chime, music is less a fixed composition than a system that is enacted. As technology mediates our lives more and more, the role that sound plays in daily life becomes a richer and richer subject — from voice-enabled devices, to the sounds of consumer product design, to the scores created for electric cars:

Composing in Code: Of all the technologies to come to the fore in the past two decades, perhaps none has had an impact greater than computer code. This is no less true in music and sound than it is in publishing, film, politics, health, or myriad other fields. While the connections between mathematics and music have been celebrated for millennia, there is something special to how, now, those fields are combining, notably in graphic systems such as Max/MSP (and Max for Live, in Ableton) and Puredata (aka Pd), just to name two circumstances. Here, for reference, is a live video of the Dutch musician and sound artist Edo Paulus’ computer screen as he constructs and then performs a patch in Max/MSP. Where the construction ends and the performance begins provides a delightful koan:

All of which said, I’m not 100-percent clear what form my activity will take. I’m looking forward to experimenting in the space. I’ll certainly be co-posting material from, but I’m also planning on engaging with Gizmodo itself, and with its broader network of sites. I’ve already, in advance of this post, begun re-blogging material from Gizmodo and from Gizmodo-affiliated sites: not just “sharing” (in the UI terminology of the Kinja CMS that powers the network) but adding some contextual information, thoughts, tangents, details. I’m enthusiastic about Kinja, in particular how it blurs the lines between author and reader. I like that a reply I make to a post about a newly recreated instrument by Leonardo Da Vinci can then appear in my own feed, leading readers back to the original site, where they themselves might join in the conversation. Kinja seems uniquely focused on multimedia as a form of commentary — like many CMS systems, it allows animated GIFs and short videos to serve as blog comments unto themselves, but it goes the step further of allowing users to delineate rectangular sub-sections of previously posted images and comment on those. I’m intrigued to see how sound can fit into that approach. (It’s no surprise to me that Kinja is innovative in this regard — it’s on Lifehacker that I first learned about the syntax known as “markdown.”) I think that all, cumulatively, makes for a fascinating media apparatus, and I want to explore it.

While I typed this post, it was Tuesday in San Francisco. I live in the Outer Richmond District, just north of Golden Gate Park and a little over a mile from the Pacific Ocean. The season’s first torrential rain has passed, and so the city sounds considerably more quiet than it did just a few days ago. No longer is the noise of passing automobiles amplified and augmented by the rush of water, and the roof above my desk is no longer being pummeled. But where there is the seeming peace of this relative quiet, there is also an increased diversity of listening material. The ear can hear further, as it were — not just to conversations in the street and to passing cars, but to construction blocks away, to leaf blowers, to a seaplane overhead, to the sound of a truck backing up at some considerable distance, and to the many birds that (unlike what I was accustomed to, growing up on the north shore of New York’s Long Island) do not all vacate the area come winter. It is shortly past noon as I hit the button to make this post go live. Church bells have sung a duet with the gurgling in my belly to remind me it is time for lunch. And because it is Tuesday, the city’s civic warning system has rung out. 

Dim sum, anyone?

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