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: live-performance

An Aphex Twin Syro Cover on Piano

One of Josh Cohen's latest transcriptions

Perhaps Aphex Twin will follow Brian Eno’s recent lead and, as with Eno’s Reflection album, revisit if momentarily the art of long-form ambient recording. Since returning to action in 2014 with a birthday blimp, a well-received full-length (Syro), a live DJ set in the U.S., and a massive SoundCloud presence, among other activities, Aphex Twin hasn’t released much ambient music. On the recent Cheetah EP (2016), there were two short tracks, 27 and 37 seconds each, “CHEETA1b ms800” and “CHEETA2 ms800,” both segments of synthesizer drones that seemed like test runs of film-score sound design. Syro ended with “aisatasana [102],” a beautiful, plaintive solo piano piece that in its hushed quietude balanced the often frenetic beatcraft of the rest of the record. That’s about it.

Josh Cohen has built something of a YouTube following for his piano covers, and now he’s brought his powers to bear on the Syro closer. The song is lovely in its initial form, and unlike Cohen’s other covers (of Radiohead in particular, but also Beck and Father John Misty, among others), what he’s covering is essentially the original, rather than an 88-key reduction of the original. It’s an appropriately sensitive rendition, gentle and considered, reflective and tentative. You can see it in his hands in the video, how they pause between segments. I’m reminded of videos of instrumental hip-hop production on the Akai MPC, where you can see people crafting beats and tapping or, in their muscles, counting out the moments they want to leave silent. In the Aphex Twin piece as in those beats, the silence is part of the beauty; in the videos, the inaction is part of the performance. (The main thing the Cohen cover dispenses with is the sonic capaciousness of the original, how the recordings seems to take place in a large room, and how that dimensionality renders Aphex Twin’s playing softer than it might have sounded otherwise.)

There’s a telling back and forth in the video’s running comments. One individual, who appears to be the person who requested the cover in the first place, says, “The pacing on this song seems difficult to master. I imagine it’s tempting to rush through many of the long rests.” Cohen replies: “This is true. It’s very tempting to play the next phrase, however I’m actually counting in between phrases – it’s not just random silence. For some reason, I find the rests really challenging.”

Video originally posted at Cohen’s YouTube page. More from him at joshcohenmusic.com. Found via the We Are the Music Makers message board. Cohen lives in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

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Buchla Music Easel Video for the New Year

A live performance by Tokyo-based Ozashiki Techno

This extended, 15-minute piece of synthesizer space music is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.” The Japan-based musician who goes by Ozashiki Techno is using the Buchla Music Easel in a live setting. The delicate balance of power between player and played is in evidence. A synthesizer session on something like the Buchla unfolds as much by instruction and cycles as it does by touch, and thus Ozashiki’s occasional intrusion into its space to adjust a fader or flip a switch or attend to a key occurs with the listener’s understanding that if no such motion was made, the Easel would likely persist in making music nonetheless. Ozashiki is there as much to guide as to play, to nudge and shift. The piece proceeds from filmic drones to beading percussives to wispy intonations. It’s the 19th in a series of live Buchla Easel recordings that began back in mid-September 2014. For Ozashiki, the video was a way to end the year; for viewers and listeners, it will be a way to start a new one.

Track originally posted at Ozashiki’s youtube.com channel. More from Ozashiki, who is based in Tokyo, at twitter.com/ozashikitechno.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0260: Tone Fade

An exercise in when a sound ends.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. 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 morning, California time, on Thursday, December 22, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, December 26, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0260: Tone Fade
An exercise in when a sound ends.

Step 1: More than many Junto projects, this is essentially an exercise, one that is as much about listening as it is about playing. It’s also a live performance.

Step 2: Choose an instrument that can have a fairly long fade.

Step 3: The plan is to record yourself playing the instrument selected in Step 2 for around three to four minutes straight, and certainly longer if you choose. Set up your equipment to allow for this.

Step 4: Choose a note or a chord to play on the instrument. You’ll only be playing that one note or chord for the duration of the piece.

Step 5: The plan is to play that note or chord, and to then wait until you’re certain you can no longer hear it, and to then at that instant strike the note or chord again. You’ll do this over and over — waiting until it is silent, but not letting the silence linger. Do this for as long as you like. Three or four minutes seems about right. Kudos in advance to the sonic yogis who aim for half an hour or longer.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0260″ (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track.

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0260-tone-fade/5809

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: 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, December 22, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, December 26, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, but three to four minutes sounds about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0260” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, 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.

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 online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 260th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Tone Fade: An exercise in when a sound ends — at:

http://disquiet.com/0260/

(This project is for Sterling.)

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

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

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0260-tone-fade/5809

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Photo associated with this project is by Michel Banabila, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

flic.kr/p/5GB7bn

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The Tape Machine

An Ondes Magnétique in action

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-5-05-43-pm

The OM-1 Ondes Magnétique is an elegant little box that uses fluctuations in cassette tape speed to effect otherworldly yet melodic material. This video shows SineRider putting it to use. The layering effect is the result of the OM-1 being played through a “triple delay,” meaning each sequence is heard several times, providing its own gentle, hazy backdrop as it gathers and fades. It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.”

For reference, here’s a demo video showing the device put to use on flute, vocal, and other source audio:

Track originally posted at SineRide’s YouTube channel. More from SineRider, aka Devin Powers of Norwood, Massachussets, at sinerider.bandcamp.com, soundcloud.com/sinerider, and twitter.com/SineRider. More on the Ondes Magnétique at ondemagnetique.com. The device is the work of Scott Campbell, who is based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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I’ll Be Talking About Doorbells in Oakland (Dec. 1)

At the offices of the design studio Futuredraft

I’ll likely mention this again, since today is sort of a busy day for many people, but the meetup.com invitation has gone live for the talk I’m giving on doorbells on December 1 in Oakland. Here’s the description:

You’re visiting someone — a friend, a colleague — and you arrive at their building. You put the tip of one of your fingers up against a tiny button that sits beside the entrance, and you push. Somewhere inside the building a bell resounds. Tied up in that tidy interaction are a host of telling cultural, historical, and technological details about the way machines mediate human interaction.

How long do you wait before ringing again? What does the echo of the bell tell you about the interior space? Is the doorbell paired with a camera? Does the camera make you feel suspect, or at least wish that you’d fixed your hair? Will a disembodied voice inquire about your identity? How long have you been standing there? Did the bell ever actually ring? Had you accidentally let your finger slip? Did you perhaps never really register your presence?

Marc Weidenbaum, a longtime critic of and community organizer in electronic music, will talk about the cultural history of that everyday pushbutton gadget, the doorbell. He will discuss the intercom’s development in Japan, the rise of the domestic surveillance apparatus, the consumer-product soundscape of everyday life — and, ultimately, what lessons the humble, ubiquitous doorbell provides in regard to the Internet of Things, the smart home, and the role of sound in user interfaces.

Marc is the author of the 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. His sonic consultancy has included work on GPS mobile apps and coffee-shop sound design, and he has done music supervision for two films, the documentary The Children Next Door and the science fiction movie Youth. He’s exhibited sound art in galleries in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Dubai, as well as at the San Jose Museum of Art. December 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of his blog, Disquiet.com, which focuses on the intersection of sound, art, and technology.

The talk will be held at the offices of Futuredraft (futuredraft.com) in Oakland at 304 12th Street Suite 4E. The talk is free, but RSVPing (via that MeetUp URL) would be nice.

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