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: generative

This Week in Sound: Mapping Silence

+ RJDJ + MIT sound + Wainwright Syndrome + speech control + pre-acoustic + Spotify protip

A lightly annotated clipping service (fairly brief edition this week):

RJDJ Return: This video is just a tease, but it’s a promising one. The makers of the RJDJ augmented-reality audio app have a new app in the works, named Hear, that processes everyday sounds through filters. There’s been much talk of an “Instagram for sound.” This has a sense of that wish being fulfilled. Video found via Ashley Elsdon’s palmsounds.net. (Post-script: since this note first appeared in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, the app has gone live on iTunes’s App Store. Unfortunately the app is not, for the time being, compatible with my fifth-generation iPod Touch, so I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.)

Sound Studies: Geeta Dayal interviewed Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner, who is teaching a course at MIT called “Introduction to Sound Creations.” Says St. Werner, “I think it’s great that the visual-art world has embraced sound more, but there is the risk of that becoming a novelty. There’s also a great chance for sound, to see it as its own art form. It doesn’t need anything that makes it agreeable. That’s the great opportunity we see at the moment.”

twis-map

Mapping Silence: At the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham writes about a map commissioned last year by the National Park Service “of what the United States would sound like if you were to remove all traces of human activity from the picture,” pictured above. (Via Steve Ashby)

Wainwright Syndrome: Slightly removed from sound, though as always sound is vibration so buzzing is sound, and phones buzzing are doubly sound since the buzz is a stand-in for a ring(tone): at nymag.com, Cari Romm writes about phantom phone vibrations: “These imagined sounds and sensations are examples of pareidolia, the phenomenon of perceiving a pattern within randomness where no pattern exists (seeing the man on the moon, for example, or hearing satanic messages in a record played backwards). For this particular pareidolia, there are a few things that make some people more susceptible than others.”

Always On: As someone who is rarely a foot from his phone, I still find the voice activation aspect of phones alarming in a privacy sense, but Google keeps upping the ante: “Google Announces Voice Access Beta—Control Your Phone Completely by Voice” (androidpolice.com).

Pre-Acoustic: If you’re near University of Copenhagen, there’s an interesting symposium happening there in two days, on April 21: “The field of sound studies often gets restricted to sound practices, listening experiences and auditory dispositives after the advent of modern acoustics, established as an academic subdiscipline of physics in the 19th century. Yet unsurprisingly, auditory knowledge was present and impactful in cultures of the middle ages, the renaissance, and early enlightenment”: soundstudieslab.org.

Spotify Protip: Since I’ve been on and off tracking my use of Spotify (following the demise of the Rdio service), here’s a Spotify protip. If you’re having issues with the offline sync (which lets you store tracks or albums on a device, as I do on my iPod Touch, which is the primary way I use Spotify), the issue may be that you have too many devices associated with your account. I had four. Once I reduced it to three everything worked fine.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 19, 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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The Pure Data of Svetlana Maraš

One minute to stream, and software to run for free

svetlanamaras

You have to click through to the blog of Svetlana Maraš to hear her recent piece “Nymphae,” but don’t mistake that non-embeddable scenario for the work of someone who’s overly concerned about proprietorship. Maras, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia, has more than one SoundCloud page, and posts audio frequently. For “Nymphae,” not only has she uploaded the entrancing, minute-long sample of fractured glistening to stream, she’s also posted for free download the underlying tools anyone can use to accomplish the same sonic ends. Well, anyone with a copy of Pd (Pure data, a “real-time graphical dataflow programming environment,” itself freely downloadable), and the skills to employ it. The tools come in the form of a patch, which looks like this:

svetlanamaras-pd

She describes the project as follows:

Nymphaea is one in a set of 7 works made under the title Ethereal Information. These works are Pure data patches, and they are generative sound works functioning by the rules of partially fixed algorithms. Each of the patches leaves the space for user’s input that will influence certain aspects of the work. Patches can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution license, as part of other works, in installations, galleries, public spaces or wherever you find them suitable. These works are highly minimalistic. They praise the simplicity of production and effectiveness of realization. They are to be appreciated for their audible but as well visual content that is in this case the structural element of the work that reveals work’s internal characteristics.

More from Maraš at svetlanamaras.com. I wrote about her work previously in February 2015, regarding sound design she’d been working on for a film that never saw completion. That audio is still online. The image up top is from an interview with Maraš by Theresa Beyer, published in 2014 at norient.com. Pure data is available at puredata.info.

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The Sixteen-Millimeter Fractal

A work of percussive wordplay by Erika Nesse

16millimeter-nesse

I wrote about Erika Nesse’s fractal music about a month ago (“A Nautilus of Percussive Expressivity”), and she just posted this week another example that’s well worth a listen. Titled “You Can Wish It All Away,” the short piece, not even two full minutes in length, takes tiny snippets of source audio, in this case a woman speaking, and renders from them a slowly evolving rhythmic flurry. Slivers of syllables — not whole verbal sounds but mere bits of them, so even the softest vowel can serve as a plosive thanks to a hard truncation — become an ever-changing fantasy of computer-generated beatcraft.

Two moments seem to suggest that the piece isn’t directly the result of a computer using fractals to break and reformat the source, but that Nesse herself plays a role in the work’s composition — that she is using the fractal algorithm as a source for musical development, much as the algorithm itself is using the original source audio. The first of these moments appears at about the one-minute mark, when the previously furious mix of layered sounds gives way to a harshly minimalist, staccato metric. The second is at the end, when the original sample audio is heard in full, revealing itself as a line from an early episode of The Twilight Zone: “If I wish hard enough, I can wish it all away.” That’s the main character, a former film star, speaking in the episode titled “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/conversationswithrocks. More from Nesse, who’s based in Boston, at conversationswithrocks.tumblr.com and erikanesse.bandcamp.com. Film clip screenshot via youtu.be.

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A Nautilus of Percussive Expressivity

The fractal music of Erika Nesse

Erika Nesse makes fractal music. She codes the music — “coding” being a term that has as much application these days as do “writing” and “composition” to the production of sound. This following playlist collects over a dozen examples of her algorithms set to work on a variety of audio sources. Listen as sounds ranging from white noise (“Fifty One”) to verbalization (“One two three”) to gentle bleeps (“It goes bop”) cycle through patterns within patterns, coming back around to familiar riffs even as they expand continuously outward, a nautilus of percussive expressivity.

For context, Nesse, who’s based in Boston, Massachusetts, wrote the following about the process behind What the Machine Replied, a five-track EP of her fractal music:

This album was generated entirely with fractals, nesting beats within beats to create a self-similar system. I give a small seed pattern of a couple of notes to the machine, and it goes deep into the tree of recursion and echoes back a dizzying track minutes long. Thus, “what the machine replied”.

Here’s a video visualization that aligns the sounds with images, helping the mind trace the patterns:

SoundCloud set originally posted at soundcloud.com/conversationswithrocks. Keep an eye on Nesse’s fledgling fractalmusicmachine.com website.

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Realtime Sonification

A KQED interview with Mahmoud Hashemi about Listen to Wikipedia

20151127-listentowik

Someone adds an entry about a cooking magazine from the 1950s? Boom …

Someone corrects the release date in the discography of James Taylor? Bleep …

Someone undoes a spelling correction in an entry about an undersecretary from a mid-century U.S. presidential administration? Bong …

Audible tones and expanding, colored circles are used in tandem to announce changes to the vast collaborative encyclopedia thanks to the great online tool Listen to Wikipedia (listen.hatnote.com), one of the best examples of realtime sonification on the web. Developed by Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, it’s the subject of a short recent interview from radio station KQED. The conversation with Hashemi goes into the background of the tool. He talks about the software’s actions, and how it serves both as an expression of Wikipedia and as a response to the economic focus of Silicon Valley.

There’s something very pleasing and centering about the placid surveillance of Listen to Wikipedia, all that communal and often rancorous activity transformed into dulcet tones. Sometimes I just let it run on a side screen as I work. Sometimes I also run this pure geographic visualizer, at rcmap.hatnote.com:

20151127-rcmap

Up at the top of this post is a sample still frame of Listen to Wikipedia in action. Here is an example of the sort of realtime information that Listen to Wikipedia parses:

20151127-wikiapi

This documentation summarizes how the sounds and related images of Listen to Wikipedia correlate with actual edits:

Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots.

Here’s a short video of Listen to Wikipedia in action:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/kqed. The KQED story was produced by Sam Harnett, of the podcast The World According to Sound (theworldaccordingtosound.org). Check out Listen to Wikipedia at listen.hatnote.com. It’s also available as a free iOS app (itunes.apple.com).

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