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Sounding out technology.
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The Gentle Percussion of Brian Crabtree

The Monome developer responds blissfully to a Junto prompt (his own)

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I don’t usually single out Disquiet Junto tracks for separate mention as daily Downstream mentions, but this week, the 223rd in the project series, is an exception. Not only did Brian Crabtree, who developed (with Kelli Cain) the ingenious Monome instrument (the lit-up one shown above), devise the idea for this week’s Junto compositional prompt, he also did the project himself.

The week’s project idea, titled “Layered Sameness,” is to record multiple versions of the same solo piece and to then hear them played back all at the same time. The solo piece is, itself, intended to be a series of loops, all played by hand. Thus there are multiple levels of variation on theme, among them the variation between loops and the variation between each overall take. The result is center-less, often quite blissful, as in Crabtree’s (his SoundCloud moniker is Tehn), which is a gentle percussion pattern, like a gamelan built of champagne glasses:

More on the Monome at More from Crabtree at Listen to the full set of musical responses to the project, 25 as of this post, at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0223: Layered Sameness

Record multiple, slightly varying takes on the same looped composition in this project by Monome's Brian Crabtree.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, 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 project 0223:

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

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0223: Layered Sameness
Record multiple, slightly varying takes on the same looped composition in this project by Monome’s Brian Crabtree.

This week’s project was developed by Brian Crabtree, who along with Kelli Cain makes the Monome, the adventurous grid music interface.

The project is an exploration in repeatability, phasing, and density.

Step 1: Compose a relatively simple, short(ish), performable moment to be repeated as a loop, such as notes on a guitar, or clapping, or vocalizing, or some other live performance technique.

Step 2: Choose how many times you’ll play the loop in a row. Aim for a total duration of a minute or two, but feel free to deviate from this suggestion.

Step 3: Record yourself performing this loop, without a metronome.

Step 4: On a new track, record yourself again performing the same number of loops for roughly the same amount of time without listening to the previous take(s) or to a metronome.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 between 4 and 40 times.

Step 6: Adjust master levels. If desired, pan each track randomly.

Step 7: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 8: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 9: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

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

Length: The length is up to you, though between one and two minutes feels 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, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0223-layeredsameness.” Also use “disquiet0223-layeredsameness” 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 223rd weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Record multiple, slightly varying takes on the same looped composition in this project by Monome’s Brian Crabtree”) at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

The image associated with this project is by Teresa Alexander-Arab and is used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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This Week in Sound: 3D Crimes + Posthuman Postrock

+ caption studies + !@#$ patents + Google metronome + iPad conducting + seismic listening

A lightly annotated clipping service:

3D Crimes: The hum of a refrigerator may not be enough to allow identification of its make and model, and the electric car may have let us to make our engines sound like something else entirely (see the SoundRacer), but more consequentially the rumblings of a 3D printer may contain sufficient detail for the someone “to reverse-engineer and re-create 3D printed objects based off of nothing more than a smartphone audio recording”:, via Barry Threw.


Posthuman Postrock: There is now a “wearable third arm” for drummers, which brings to mind both the opportunities for posthuman postrock, and the kit developed for Rick Allen of Def Leppard after he lost an arm in the mid-1980s. Above photo shows Tyler White accompanied by Gil Weinberg:, via

[Heavy Breathing]: Last year, Sean Zdenek published Reading Sounds, a book about captions, about how the audio of filmed entertainment (dialog, diegetic sound like a passing car, and non-diegetic sound like a score) is represented with words superimposed on images. Now there’s a two-day “virtual conference” on captions (Caption Studies) scheduled for August 1 and 2 of this year. If you’re the sort of person, like me, who thrills to “[dramatic music]” and “[ninjas panting],” then I’ll see you there. Well, that is, we’ll be online simultaneously:

!@#$ Patents: This sounded like an April Fools joke, but it appeared on Business Insider on March 31, and appears to be the case: Apple has technology that automatically removes the curse words from songs. Filed in 2014, the patent is titled “Management, Replacement and Removal of Explicit Lyrics during Audio Playback.” Keep in mind that two years prior to that, in 2012, the Apple Match service — which adds to your cloud the albums you already own, saving you the perceived hassle of ripping and uploading them — accidentally replaced people’s NSFW versions with the “clean” edits that play in fast-food restaurants and on cautious radio stations — via, Scanner, and King Britt


Google BPM: Well, Google the word “metronome” and you’ll be provided a functioning metronome that allows you to select an integer between 40 and 208 and hear what that click track sounds like:

iClassical Pro: Alan Pierson, of the adventurous chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound, has uploaded to Medium an article first published two years ago on the group’s blog, but it’s new to me. It’s Pierson talking about how he moved from using paper scores to digital scores when conducting. His take: “And while conducting off tablet is safer in many ways, it’s almost certainly more prone to catastrophe on any particular gig than working off of paper scores: a PC crash is probably more likely than music falling off a stand or out of a binder and harder to recover from. But the plusses seem to far outweigh the minuses.” At least now Google can help with the BPM.

Ear on the Apocalypse: “Seismologists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Volcano Network have developed a refined set of methods that allows them to detect and locate the airwaves generated by a volcanic explosion on distant seismic networks.” That is to say, scientists are listening for earthquakes: “This study shows how we can expand the use of seismic data by looking at the acoustic waves from volcanic explosions that are recorded on seismometers”:

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 5, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter:

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It’s Unfortunate Bandcamp Lacks Playlist Functionality

It'd be nice to whittle Nature Program's excellent Dual Concetric to its ambient core

Update (April 4, 2016): My account was upgraded, so I was able to make the playlist discussed below embeddable:

The original post appears below.

This is the wonderfully textured yet ethereal track “Supine Anchor” off the album Dual Concentric by Brooklyn-based Nature Program. Nature Program appears to be the recording moniker of the individual who made the HC-TT, a device I wrote about yesterday. The HC-TT allows a musician to manipulate a standard tape cassette in real time, to edge the music forward and backward thanks to a large circular knob.

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The website for the HC-TT,, on its Letters page includes a link to the Bandcamp page of Nature Program, where there is currently one album: Dual Concentric. Elsewhere on the HC-TT site there’s a “Why” page — the sort of thing more makers might consider. (That is, if the why isn’t justifiable, maybe there’s a better problem out there for you to solve.) The Why for the HC-TT is compelling, even if you haven’t heard the super cool sound samples associated with it. The site makes a clear case for the cassette’s unique sonic properties and the HC-TT’s potential as part of an electronic musician’s kit. Also, it’s written from the perspective of a curious, exploratory musician:

This device was made for a fairly selfish reason: For years, I’ve wanted to have a compact, organized device that mirrors the compact, organized cassette medium. It’s an obsessive-compulsive dream to create your own library of tape loops which stay safely packaged and organized inside individual cassettes.

“Supine Anchor” is among the most relaxed of the tracks on Dual Concentric. It is a sequence of layered loops whose texture and warped quality suggest they originated on physical tape, perhaps even involved the HC-TT in their production. There’s a lush voice, a falsetto, that brings to mind Brian Eno’s, and it appears about midway through the piece, after the initial bout of fractured minimalist abstract beatcraft melts into something ever more echoing and lush. There’s a lot more to the record than “Supine Anchor” might suggest: techno, light gamecore, electro, instrumental proto-hip-hop. But within that expansive coverage, 20 tracks in all, are about a half dozen or so with a more ambient quality to them.

It’s unfortunate that Bandcamp doesn’t have a playlist function. Unlike services from Spotify to SoundCloud, Bandcamp lacks the ability for listeners to serve as collators. You can learn a lot from following and looking into the acquisitions of fellow Bandcamp users, but you can’t do much more than that. You speak through your wallet (and your wishlist) on Bandcamp. If you buy something, it’s associated with your account (mine is at, but you can’t, for example, create an ersatz hits collection for an artist with multiple albums, or, as I was drawn to do with Dual Concentric, whittle 20 tracks down to their background-music essentials.

Fortunately there are other services, such as, which do allow for collecting material found elsewhere on the web. I can’t embed it (note: my account was upgraded, so I now can embed playlists — see the top of this post), but I’ve made a playlist at that collects seven key tracks off of Dual Concentric, the ones that largely do away with rhythm in favor of something more murky and enticing. The tracks are, in order of appearance, “Sources Say,” “Nature Program – Breathers,” “Supine Anchor,” “Flourishings,” “Inclement,” “Fulfillment Center” and “Understand.”

The full album is available at More on the HC-TT at

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Playing a Tape Cassette by Hand

Listening to a new device, the HC-TT


This little device, called the HC-TT, is a “human controlled tape transport.” It plays standard tape cassettes with no motor, no automation. The only power is a turn of that large knob. The knob moves backward and forward, allowing for gestural effects, as demoed in this Instagram from the account of the manufacturer, the Brooklyn-based Landscape:

A video posted by Landscape (@landscape_hc_tt) on

In this next example, it’s paired with a looping machine, the Elektron Octatrack:

A video posted by Landscape (@landscape_hc_tt) on

There’s a large set of audio examples at Landscape’s SoundCloud account, drawing from flamenco, hip-hop, business self-help, and other sound sources:

The tape cassette has proved to be a useful tool for musicians in recent years to inexpensively release physical documents of their recordings. It’s also prevalent as an instrument, for such things as old-school tape echo and looping, thanks to both reclaimed reel-to-reel systems and cassettes. The HC-TT brings a modern, gadget-maker ingenuity to the medium.

More on the HC-TT at It ships with a power supply and “one randomly selected old cassette tape.”

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