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

She Steadies the Noises with Her Harmonium

"External Cabinet" by Yiva Lund Bergner

20150107-ylb

The harmonium is the steadying presence in “External Cabinet” by Yiva Lund Bergner. Amid her sheer, chilling, buzz-saw noise, and fragile splinters of sharp, momentary bursts, and whirligig juts, and rattly percussive overlays, there is the settling calmness of gently speculative keyboard movements. The organ sound provides an underlying drone that in turn serves as a glue for the other constituent parts.

The piece is fully scored for harmonium and electronics, and the score is available for download as a PDF from her website. The detail shown below, from the first page of the score, describes how the percussive elements, as the composition’s title suggests, are the result of using the harmonium casing as an instrument unto itself.

20150107-ylb-score

More from Bergner, who hails from Sweden and currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, at ylvalundbergner.com.

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First New Marcus Fischer Track of the Year

A simple loop, worthy of looping

20150103-mfischer

The first sound uploaded this new year by Marcus Fischer is a tape loop experiment, the source material for which is just a metallophone and bells. The slow layering, the loose tape effects, like the brief slurring of recorded sound, and the evident crackle from seams and errant noises collectively make for an endlessly loopable listening experience: a loop intended to be looped. The track is accompanied by a photo of the employed tools, evidence of just how helpful such information can be in the appreciation of a recording. Note in particular how the length of the loop is accomplished by extending it beyond the recording device’s dimensions thanks to a pair of drinking glasses and what appear to be candles.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mapmap and dustbreeding.com. More from Fischer, who is based in Portland, Oregon, at mapmap.ch.

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This Week in Sound: Fahrenheit, Sonar Sabotage, Unsilent

An occasional clipping service

Audiobook Culture: The past weekend’s Sunday Book Review in the New York Times had an extensive section of audiobook coverage, including a review by Dave Itzkoff of Tim Robbins reading Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451. The conflict in Itzkoff’s piece seemed to be how the rise of the audiobook somehow is part of the gadget-ization of culture. And he credits Bradbury’s book for having posited the notion “that it was not a distant stretch from dismissing books as quaint and obsolete to banning them outright.” He writes, as well, “Fortunately, a few thousand years ago, we gave ourselves a sustainable and still reliable mechanism to provide shelter from these distractions, as well as the option to use it or not” — this “reliable mechanism” is, of course, the physical book. What he doesn’t mention in the review is how Bradbury’s book itself closes with an image of an even more ancient mechanism, in which people — not just people, but maintainers of culture — tell each other stories out loud. Full disclosure: I didn’t so much “read” Itzkoff’s review as listen to it via text-to-speech thanks to the function that is part of the New York Times’ Android app.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/books/review/fahrenheit-451-read-by-tim-robbins.html

Sonar Sabotage: The headline says it all: “Study Shows Bats Jam Each Other’s Sonar to Snatch the Best Prey” (via Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner). Rishi Iyengar reports in Time magazine on research published in the journal Science that bats can block each other’s frequencies. Science’s Penny Sarchet likens it to “sonar sabotage.” It’s nature’s own EMP. The researchers are Aaron J. Corcoran and William E. Conner.
http://time.com/3571704/study-bats-jam-sonar-hunting/

Secular Robot Choirs: Unsilent Night is the annual secular caroling event, in which communal processions of boomboxes layer ambient scintillates provided by the composer Phil Kline. The schedule for the 2014 holiday season is now appearing online, including Manhattan on December 13, San Francisco also on December 13, and Toronto on December 19, with more dates to be added soon. I’ve walked the route in San Francisco, in the Mission, for many years, listening as Kline’s music fills narrow alleys and disperses into the street, as slight variations in playback create false echoes backward and forward in time. If it’s coming to your town, don’t miss it. If it isn’t, consider taking a trip.
http://unsilentnight.com/schedule.html

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Office/Bus Playlist

Also a test run toward a year-end top 10.

What’s on repeat, in estimated relative order of frequency.

  • Loscil’s Sea Island (Kranky, 2014): Gentle beeps and light burrs, so much happening from so little. I was asked, on Twitter, what this sounded like when I was just three tracks in, and I replied: “like a rainy day after the Singularity.” Many days of listening later, it still does.

  • Stafford Bawler, Obfusc, and Grigori’s Monument Valley (Original Soundtrack) (ustwogames, 2014): The score to the beautiful “casual” game is the perfect backdrop for a game that is itself only slightly more active than wallpaper.

  • Gavin Bryars Ensemble’s The Sinking of the Titanic (Recorded Live on 2012 Centenary Tour) (GB Records, 2014): A live performance of a work that always felt like a studio concoction. Listen as a band continues its performance even after the ship goes down.

  • Grouper’s Ruins (Kranky, 2014): Haunting, at times willfully unintelligible, dirges.

  • Michel Banabila and Oene van Geel’s Music for Viola and Electronics (Tapu, 2014): A lovely duet for complementary toolsets, one analog, the other digital. It’s to the album’s credit that it isn’t always clear where one of those ends and the other begins. One track, “Dondergod,” gets a bit intense, in a European free improvisation sort of way, but the rest is elegant as could be.

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Two Recent Talks

Sound art at CCA + "music comics" at the Academy of Art

I gave two talks recently in San Francisco. The first, on October 23, was part of Chris Kallmyer’s course at the California College of Art. The second, on November 11, was a standalone event at the Academy of Art.

The one for Kallmyer’s course, which is about sound as an artistic medium, was a chronology of my work in sound, starting in 2006 and running up to the present. That initial year, 2006, a decade after the launch of Disquiet.com, was, in retrospect, a big transition year for me. That was the year I put together the Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet compilation, as a response to the open call for remixes that Brian Eno and David Byrne created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album. I then connected the dots from Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet through a subsequent series of compilations I put together, all of which involved me asking musicians to respond to a specific compositional prompt — for example to defend Susan Philipsz in Lowlands: A Sigh Collective, to refute Megan McArdle in Despite the Downturn. Those 2010 projects led to a loosening of the curatorial method in the 2011 Insta/gr/ambient compilation, which was broader minded, and had about twice as many members as the earlier projects, and that in turn led to the far more open-ended Disquiet Junto, which as of this writing is finishing its 151st weekly project. In between I touched on the 2009 piece I had at the gallery Crewest in Los Angeles, the 2012 project of putting together a score for the exhibit Rob Walker curated at Apex Art in Manhattan, and my piece at a Dubai art gallery at the start of this year, and brought things into the present with the exhibit I currently have at the San Jose Museum of Art (more on which here at Disquiet.com shortly). I don’t think I’d ever really done a talk before in which all those things were connected as one continuum. It was very enjoyable to walk through, and Kallmyer’s students were curious, thoughtful, and intelligent.

The talk I gave at the Academy of Art was an overview of the work that went into the four comics I edited recently for Red Bull Music Academy (MF DOOM, DJ Krush, Can / Damo Suzuki, Isao Tomita). In the talk, I began back in 1992, when I started editing the comics at Pulse! magazine for what would turn out to be a decade, and then my half decade at Viz, the manga publisher. The Red Bull Music Academy comics combined those two periods, in that the comics drew creators from both Japan and North America. In preparation for the talk I had a bit of a realization about a question I’ve been asked regularly since 1992: “How do you edit comics?” I’ve long struggled with detailed explanations of what it means to edit a comic, and developed this theory about how people who can’t draw can have a tendency to read too much into how complex drawing is, when for someone who can draw a rough illustration is about as much effort as a paragraph is for a good writer. But I now think the question “How do you edit comics?” may have at its root a more simple misunderstanding. When a lot of people hear the word “edit” they think it means, at most, “copyedit,” and they are confused by how you can “copyedit” a picture. In the talk I gave at the Academy of Art I explained that true editing is, ultimately, a form of creative direction, whether or not pictures are involved. Anyhow, the opportunity to talk about comics at the Academy of Art (which is where I’ve taught my sound course for five semesters so far) was very enjoyable, and it was organized by Cameron Maddux.

Many thanks to Kallmyer and Maddux for the opportunities.

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