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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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


The doorbell to the San Francisco campus of the California College of the Arts, where I gave my doorbell talk toward the end of last year, by which I mean 2016. Both times I’ve given the talk so far, I’ve started with the doorbell of the place where the talk is taking place. I like the idea that each time the talk will include the doorbells of all the places where I’ve given the talk previously.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


This is the doorbell at the Luggage Store Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Every Thursday night there are multiple sets of music, generally experimental, often electronic, usually local. That’s the Luggage Store Gallery Music Series in a nutshell. If you attend concerts there even just every few months, you start to recognize people, and easily feel at home. Parenthood and a heap of projects keep me from going to as many concerts as I once did, but I try to make time for the Luggage Store when I can. Sometimes I just go because it’s a Thursday night and I’m free: I don’t know what to expect, and I’m never disappointed.

This past Thursday I attended the final concert of the year at the Luggage Store, featuring Toaster (aka Todd Elliott), whom I know through the Disquiet Junto, and the trio of Sheila Bosco (electronics), Matt Davignon (electronics — he helps organize and run the series), and Suki O’Kane (percussion). This doorbell shown here is one I’ve never had reason to ring (except perhaps back in 2012, when I organized a Junto concert there), but always marveled at. It hints at the glorious Luggage Store staircase, a glimpse of which is seen to the side. The entry is festooned with graffiti and stickers in a manner that serves as a litmus test for attendees. It is either welcoming or off-putting, glorious or garish, vibrant or decrepit. I’m firmly in the welcoming/glorious/vibrant camp, myself.

Toaster played a beat-driven set on synthesizer, using Monome patches of his own devising. In between sections of his performance, as he swapped out the software, he piped in recordings off a tape cassette player, which was processed through a bitcrusher, rendering sonic pixel noise. It was an ingenious means to give the impression of a continuous performance, and yet give him, the performer, room to breathe. The trio played a downtempo series of flowingly rhythmic sequences, with Bosco and Davignon both using sampler loopers, and O’Kane on trap set. At one point O’Kane played a snare with her breath. At another she swept the air with a brush, and the place was quiet enough, even with Bosco and Davignon playing, for it to make its own sonic impression.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


Picked up three LPs yesterday at a used-music shop, two scores and a compilation. One of the scores is John Williams’ Earthquake, which I’ve been interested in since collaborating with Geoff Manaugh on a fault-sonification project several years ago. The big takeaway from the LP, released in 1974, is that much of what could be mistaken for score in the film is, in fact, the sound design of the communications, infrastructure, and emergency services activity. The recording closes with almost three minutes of “actual sound effects,” per the bright pink sticker on the LP cover. I’ve never heard the Earthquake music on its own, separate from the film, before.

The second is Two Film Scores for Piano (1976), both by Harvey Schmidt, composer of the 1960 musical The Fantasticks. One is from A Texas Romance, 1909 (from 1964), written and directed by Fantasticks lyricist Tom Jones, and the other is from Bad Company (from 1972), a more straight-ahead drama directed by Robert Benton and starring Jeff Bridges. I don’t know of many movies that have only piano for the score. The main one I can think of is The Firm, with music by Dave Grusin, which I sometimes discuss in the class I teach on sound. There’s also David Shire’s The Conversation, another subject in class, though that one employs some sonic effects to extend the music’s psychological telegraphing. I’m interested in how the solo piano works in film, since film music historically has been a fairly grand affair; it took Hollywood a lot longer to lose the orchestra than it did the sense of film being merely a document of theater. And there’s the connection to silent film scores. Solo piano is also timely, due to HBO’s much-discussed Westworld.

The third album is a Windham Hill compilation from 1987, Soul of the Machine, one in a series of themed collections the new-age label was releasing at the time. It was preceded by a piano set and succeeded by a guitar album. Beyond its utility as a period document, I was most interested in a piece by Gary Chang, who composed one of my favorite film scores, A Shock to the System, directed by Jan Egleson, which combined electronics with the Turtle Island String Quartet.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


The complexities of the doorbell defy even the most learned magicians.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


Great illustration from a 1981 Webster’s Dictionary of the rare English word with no vowels.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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