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.

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10 Seconds of Salvation

In the hands of Amulets, repetition is a form of repurposing

Like his earlier reworking of Tony Robbins self-help tapes, Amulets’ New World Translation repurposes a piece of spoken word audio on cassette and transforms it into something that fits into the contemporary world of experimental cassette music — not just music released on cassette, but music in which the cassette is the instrument.

This recording is a 10-second tone set on loop, playing (per his youtube.com video) on a four-track recorder. The loop is a snatch of symphonic white noise, an orchestral drone, like a string section in a deep cistern holding a note until, collectively, they mark the loop’s repeat with a momentary swell.

When Brian Eno wrote that “repetition is a form of change,” part of what he was getting at is how the ear hears new things when subjected to the same sound over and over. In the hands of Amulets’, that change is more practical, but no less evocative. As he write in a note accompanying the video: “the endless tape loop flutters, fluctuates, and slowly degrades over time.”

Here’s the excerpt on YouTube. It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.”

And the full 50-minute version:

Video originally posted at Amulets’ youtube.com channel. It’s available for purchase as physical cassette and download at amulets.bandcamp.com. The flipside of each cassette is the unmolested original audio from a series of Jehovah’s Witness Bible tapes. The length of the A-side depends on the length of the individual tape, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. More from Amulets at amuletsmusic.com. Amulets is Randall Taylor of Austin, Texas.

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Unleash Your Personal Drones

A tape release from Austin, Texas–based Amulets — motivated by motivational tapes.

Part of the beauty of cassette releases is when they tap into the design energy — the tactile experience, the cultural legacy — of the object itself. As Ted Laderas wrote to the New York Times late last year in a letter to the editor, the cassette continues to offer something beyond mere nostalgia: “The cost of manufacturing vinyl and CDs is prohibitive for musicians who sell small numbers of albums. While not ideal, tape is easy to manufacture and easy to personalize, and provides small-time musicians with a viable way of sharing our music that our fans are willing to buy.”

chart-of-the-day-music-industry-1973-2009-feb-2011

Sure, the tape cassette was once a dominant pop-music medium, and yes it has long since faded from mainstream commercial employment, but in addition the pop music market it was the foundation of late-night infomercials that promised a fast-forward education in business, real estate, language — and self-knowledge. The Austin, Texas–based Amulets (aka Randall Taylor) feeds on this association with his new album, Personal Power. Its seven tracks, with titles like “Self-Sabotage” and “The Power of Focus,” are built from the source audio of motivational tapes, specifically those of Tony Robbins, the audio of Amulets replacing the original text spoken by Tobbins. Personal Power was released on June 28, just a few days after participants in one of Robbins’ “firewalks” were reportedly treated for second- and third-degree burns.

Short bursts of speaking flesh out some of the tracks, referring to the side of the tape the listener is on, and welcoming the audience to the realm of self-actualization. The music itself is deeply droning, occasionally giving hints of guitar and loops, and generally enjoying the warpy loveliness of tape-based composition. There’s a certain cultural bleed at work here, a certain irony, in that for all his “business” aura, Robbins is a creature of what’s often called the “new age” movement. The music of the new-age movement, in turn, overlaps with and bears certain aesthetic and structural parallels with exactly the sort of music that Amulets is up to, namely a meditative music that can serve as background for activities and focus on introspection.

tonyrobbins2

Amulets’ creative repurposing of the source material isn’t restricted to the sound and the tape cassettes. Even the “notes/study guide,” as he described them, are part of the project. No doubt the limited edition, a total of 20, was determined by the availability of the originals. If you miss out on the physical cassettes, the audio will still be available for download.

tonyrobbins1

Album originally posted at amulets.bandcamp.com. More from Amulets at amuletsmusic.com. (Chart via businessinsider.com.)

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The Circuit Board Record Album

Tristan Perich on Loud Objects, machine art, and the aesthetics of code

Tristan Perich - Noise Patterns - 7 - Headphones

The Noise Patterns album, plugged into a pair of headphones

Tristan Perich’s Noise Patterns comes in a clear jewel case, but it isn’t a CD. It’s a small, matte-black circuit board. Powered by a watch battery, it produces a series of musical compositions built from the on/off operations on the minuscule chip at the center of the device, the same sort of chip you might find in a microwave oven.

What follows is a lengthy, detailed interview in which Perich talks about the development of Noise Patterns, and various other aspects of his artistic efforts, which range from full-scale museum installations of drawing machines and “microtonal walls,” to live performances in which he builds circuits in front of the audience.

In Perich’s telling, his previous circuit-board album, 1-Bit Symphony, was built from “tone” while Noise Patterns, as its name suggests, is built from “randomness,” from what sounds like white noise twisted and tweaked to Perich’s design.

There will be a more detailed introduction to this interview posted here soon, but in the interest of time — there is a party/concert celebrating the release of Noise Patternstonight at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, with guests, Robert Henke, Karl Larson, Ricardo Romaneiro, Leo Leite, and Christian Hannon — the transcript, along with annotated images from the production of Noise Patterns and other aspects of Perich’s work, is being posted today.

01 - Tristan Perich - Microtonal Wall at MoMA

Perich’s Microtonal Wall, installed at MoMA in Manhattan

Tristan Perich - Noise Patterns - 1 - Angle

Read more »

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Disquiet Junto Project 0232: No Input

The Assignment: Record a piece of music exploring the concept of "no-input mixing."

andypiper

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 in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, June 9, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 13, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0232: No Input
The Assignment: Record a piece of music exploring the concept of “no-input mixing.”

This week’s project explores the concept of no-input mixing. For background, including a tutorial, this Synthtopia article, summarizing more detailed coverage by the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M, might prove useful:

No Input Mixing Tutorial

Step 1: Read up, if it’s not already familiar, on the concept of “no-input mixing,” which involves creating feedback by taking the output of a mixer and plugging it into the input of the same mixer, thus exposing and building on inherent (i.e., noisy) sonic properties of the device.

Step 2: Experiment with no-input mixing.

Step 3: Record a short piece of no-input mixing music.

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, June 9, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 13, 2016.

Length: Length is up to you, though between two and three minutes seems 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 Soundcloud.com, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0232.” Also use “disquiet0232” 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 232nd weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Record a piece of music exploring the concept of ‘no-input mixing.'” — at:

http://disquiet.com/0232/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image associated with this project is by Andy Piper and it is used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

Switched on

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Secrets of the Buddha Machine

Rare recordings from a specialty item made for a French spa

buddhasecret

This week Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, creators of the Buddha Machine, revealed a rarity in the series. The Buddha Machine is a handhelp looping machine, taking its form from devices sold at Buddhist temples that contain cheap recordings of prayers. There have been several in the Buddha Machine series, each containing minimalist drones and patterns, including a collaboration with the band Throbbing Gristle. The early editions simply contained loops, but later ones allowed for pitch shifting as well. What went up on the duo’s Bandcamp page two days ago was Buddha Machine Secret Edition, nine loops, each playing for between five and six minutes, that were made almost a decade ago for a spa in France. The liner note explains:

These are the loops from the ultra-rare Buddha Machine Secret Edition. The music was composed for a French spa which wanted a small-run and limited-edition buddha box to use during massage and healing treatments. Zhang and I compiled the loops in Nice, France, during late winter and early spring 2007-08. Only a few thousand units were manufactured and solely distributed in France.

Recordings originally posted at buddhamachine.bandcamp.com. Virant and Jian are based in Beijing and Hong Kong. More from them at facebook.com/christiaanvirant and twitter.com/buddhamachine.

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