February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, 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: i-hop

disquiet.gizmodo.com

On Disquiet.com now participating in the Gizmodo ecosystem

These are two things that I think Geoff Manaugh, editor-in-chief of the technology and design blog Gizmodo.com, didn’t know about me when he asked if I’d consider bringing Disquiet.com 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 io9.com, 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 io9.com, 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 disquiet.gizmodo.com subdomain URL where I’ll be syndicating — simulposting — material from Disquiet.com, 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:

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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 Disquiet.com 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 disquiet.gizmodo.com activity will take. I’m looking forward to experimenting in the space. I’ll certainly be co-posting material from Disquiet.com, 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?

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“How Love,” How Hip-Hop? (MP3)

A new single by Seattle's Patrick Ellis

The extent to which the uploaded standalone singles by SoundCloud regular Patrick Ellis count as instrumental hip-hop might be gauged according to their content. Much of his work has a delectable downtempo quality. Some is downright ambient thanks to an emphasis on tonal material and surface noise. Others, like the recently posted “How Love / Blue Sky Sprites,” venture more solidly into hip-hop swagger. The track has Ellis’ trademark interest in minimal impact, select source audio, and a hazy, afternoon vibe. Here it is produced with such elements as two soulful vocal samples (one a sped-up melisma), sentimental chimes, and a rhythm just far enough off the beat to arguably register as funky. And at just 1:12, “How Love / Blue Sky Sprites” is suitable for setting on repeat.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/patrick.

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Modest Beatcraft (MP3)

From Patrick from Seattle

Another fine bit of slomo instrumental hip-hop from the Seattle-based musician who goes, simply, by Patrick. He’s a SoundCloud engineer, according to his brief bio, which may explain why his SoundCloud page has one of those snazzy personalized banners that are mostly reserved for big-league accounts. Big-league graphics aside, the track is reliably modest in scope, just a flutter of sub-downtempo beatcraft with enough bridge-like asides to keep things interesting. Ripe for repeat.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/patrick/amethyst. More from him at patrick.bandcamp.com.

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Cues: Skywalker Sound Hunting, Persistent Memory App

Plus the next Cascella/Voegelin podcast, cypher music, more

Sound Hunting: Nathan Hurst of wired.com accompanies Benny Burtt, an assistant sound effects editor from Skywalker Sound, on a sound-hunting expedition:

“You guys ready?” says Burtt, then waits for the echoes to die. He fires the gun, with a pop and a spark.

The pistol gives off a “full frequency event” — that is, the sound covers the full range of audible frequencies, giving a complete impulse response. Back at Skywalker, the editors will use Altiverb to digitally remove the sound of the shot.

“Then we can run whatever sound we want through that program, and it’ll sound like we’re in here,” says Langfelder.

Each microphone they have, called mid-side mics, houses two units — a front facing element to capture the event, and a figure-eight shaped one that records stereo. Because the sounds reaching the side mic have bounced off the surroundings, they helps give a sense of ambient space, says Burtt. Together, they allow the sound engineers to adjust the width of the sound, making it project a sense of space. The microphones Skywalker brought all cost around $2,000 each, and, paired with $4,500, 24-bit recorders, capture sound at 192 kilohertz, around five to six times the quality of a CD.

The article is peculiar in the absence of a mention of Benny’s father, legendary sound designer Ben Burtt, but it does a great job of walking through the process of sourcing sounds, especially for something as expansive as recording the sonic essence of a particular place. Three sound examples are embedded in the article (wired.com).

Source Material: Judging by a photo used to promote the second, forthcoming episode (July 25) in Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin‘s “voyages into listening and writing” podcast, Ora, it will include writings by HP Lovecraft and Pauline Oliveros, and music from the trio of Taku Sugimoto, Burkhard Stangl, and Christof Kurzmann, among other topics:

20130714-ora2

Persistent Memory: The iOS app Heard (apple.com) records continuously into a buffer, allowing you to retroactively determine you want to preserve something (image and information via addictivetips.com).

20130714-heard-ios

Data Floodlights: Footage of Ryoji Ikeda’s masterful “test pattern [nº5],” which was on display from June 8 through July 1 of this year at Carriageworks carriageworks.com.au in Sydney, Australia:

Flickr-tronica: The photo below of Brian Eno introduced me to the Flickr stream of Oz Villanueva, who is a prolific professional photographer of, among other things, live performances. Amid his massive trove are great shots of Markus Popp (aka Oval), Lisa Gerrard, Alva Noto, and Deadbeat

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Code Blog: Diary of a coding intern at bandcamp: bandcampintern.wordpress.com

Bambaataa Arch-live: The “live archiving” of Afrika Bambaataa’s record collection: blouinartinfo.com

Estranged Love: Matmos covers Bow Wow Wow covering the Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy,” rewriting it about NSA leaker Edward Snowden; streaming video at avclub.com.

Music for Cyphers: Computer-music event at Bletchley Park’s National Museum of Computing the last weekend of July: tnmoc.org.

Listening at MoMA: The webpage for the forthcoming Soundings: A Contemporary Score exhibit has gone live: moma.org; it runs from August 10 through November 3, 2013.

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Cues: 1,100 Tracks, DG Sublabel, Amon/Kronos

Plus: an iOS magazine, sounds of Coke bottles, more

Random Access: Jos Smolders, back in the golden age of the compact disc, 1994, released Music for CD Player, a collection of 99 short tracks intended for the listener to sequence. He’s now released a sequel in the form of an 1,100-track album, titled Music for FLAC Player. Yes, that is 1,100 tracks, the overwhelming majority of which are one second or less in length, and all but 30 or so of which are under 45 seconds:

Writes Smolders of the project:

The [Music for CD Player] disc contained 99 tracks. The original plan, however, was to have many more tracks. However CD Redbook protocol allowed a maximum number of 99 tracks, with a minimum length of 3 seconds. With the Internet as a platform these limitations are gone. The number of tracks for an online album are limitless and the length of the tracks can be near zero.

Recomposing DG: The esteemed classical label Deutsche Grammophon is launching a new label called Panorama (via classical-music.com). The first Panorama album will be from the highly collaborative Schiller (aka Christopher von Deylen). DG had previously released a series of genre-pushing “recomposed” albums including Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Matthew Herbert’s reworking of Mahler‘s 10th Symphony.

Amon v Kronos: “V838 Monocerotis” is the title of a new piece Kronos Quartet has commissioned from Amon Tobin as part of the ensemble’s 40th-anniversary celebration: amontobin.com, kronosquartet.org.

iOS Care: I Care if You Listen is a new iOS multimedia magazine about contemporary (i.e. classical) music. The initial issue features interviews with composers Clint Mansell and Arlene Sierra.

Sonic Footnotes: Ora, the occasional broadcast/podcast by Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin about “listening and writing,” has followed up its debut episode with a reading list, featuring the hosts’ own books and titles by Gert Jonke, W.H Auden, and Clifford Geertz, among others.

Donut Hole: Jordan Ferguson is, like me, writing a book for the 33 1/3 series. Like me, he is focused on something that is fairly unusual for the series, in that both our books are about albums that have little in the way of words, let alone of lyrics. My book-in-progress is on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Ferguson’s is about J Dilla’s Donuts. And like me, he submitted to an interview for the publisher’s website. But, being a smart guy, he did his as a video:

Also, Evie Nagy (formerly of Rolling Stone, now at Billboard) has been interviewed about her 33 1/3 book, which will focus on Devo’s Freedom of Choice.

Sounds of Brands: Coca-Cola employed Kurt Hugo Schneider to milk sounds of its cans and bottles to make music. From Adweek’s coverage: “The recording obviously has some studio bells and whistles layered on it, but Adweek was assured that Schneider is truly playing the Coke ‘instruments.'” In another sound-related entry in the Coke series, you’re invited to see how long you can listen to someone singing “ah.”

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