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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: live-performance

“Six-String Buddha”

A looped ambient guitar track I recorded for the 189th weekly Disquiet Junto project

I set out to make my own version of a Buddha Machine loop: a short phrase that loops over and over, yet is “ambient” enough that it can settle into the background. This one-minute track was recorded on my electric guitar, with no effects except for a little delay that’s built into my amplifier. I used the guitar’s volume knob to remove any sense of the attack when I hit the string: I hit the string with the volume at 0, and only then began to turn the knob up slowly to 10. I also nudged the volume control from 10 back down to 0 to accelerate the end of the tone, but sometimes I let it fade out on its own. The whole thing is comprised entirely of single extended notes, probably 20 separate instances in total. I lost count. There is no evidence of the accrual process in this recording. That is, no notes are added as it proceeds. I didn’t hit “record” until the full set was layered and complete, and then I just let it play on repeat. The looper is the introductory-level Ditto from TC Electronics. The amp is a Roland Micro Bass Cube. I used a Zoom H4N to record it, with the mic about a foot from the amp. I edited it in Audacity simply to trim the length and introduce a gentle fade-in and fade-out at the beginning and end. The guitar is a 2005 Fender Stratocaster (made in Corona, California) that I bought for myself last week as a birthday present, after playing ukulele for five years.

Thanks to Disquiet Junto regular Rupert Lally for advice on the volume control, advice that contributed to the development of this project.

This was recorded for the 189th weekly Disquiet Junto project. Though I created the Junto series and moderate the projects each week, this is only, I believe, the second or third project I’ve actually contributed a track to.

More on this 189th Disquiet Junto project (“Create a dense stack of attack-free tonal material from one audio source”) at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

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At Play in Ladywell Fields

Mola (Chase Lynn) and VenusSmiles (Andrew Tuersley) in free improvisation


Playpark is Mola (Chase Lynn) and VenusSmiles (Andrew Tuersley) making music from the everyday devices of a public park, Ladywell Fields in Lewisham, London — clanging on pipes, pushing wooden sculptures, knocking about on suspended logs. It’s a joyously abstract enterprise. This is the practically named “Piece for Three Water Pumps,” in which off-kilter percussion emerges amid passing birdsong and wind.

And here is video of the improvisation in process. Timecodes: “Whistlers” (0:09), “Keys on Bar” (2:46), “Bridge” (4:47), “Piece for Three Water Pumps” (7:20).

Track originally posted for free download at Video originally posted at

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Sly + Robbie + Molvaer + Aarset + Vladislav

Five men in a dub

The video is titled “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer.” Over at Michael Ross’ excellent Guitar Moderne site, where I first learned of the extensive footage, he expands the billing to “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer & Eivind Aarset,” since Aarset is the guitarist on stage and guitars are Ross’ focus, but that still isn’t the full picture. This hour and a half concert also includes Vladislav Delay, on a variety of trenchantly echoing technology. It’s a formative crew, the sort of dream team that Bill Laswell might have conjured. In one corner you have a Jamaican rhythm duo, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, that is renowned for its boundary-pushing dub and reggae. In the opposing corner you have Norwegian ambient-jazz figures Nils Petter Molvaer, he of the deeply muted trumpet, and Eivind Aarset, whose elegant guitar atmospheres have gained him prominence beyond his extensive work as part of Molvaer’s band. And then there’s the prolific and musically gregarious Vladislav Delay, who here goes back and forth between hammering springs and playing live samples. Together they create expansive, delectably slow-paced, and enticingly elemental percussive spaces. It never gets as chaotic or anarchic or pleasurably lost as do Laswell’s own pan-genre meet-up mashups, but it often comes close, and every player has fine moments throughout, even if you also have to make due with a brief, placid Pink Floyd cover toward the end.

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In the Province of Real Time Electronica

MUTEK’s Patti Schmidt on how Jurassic Park helped birth — and how emphasis on scenography and human scale helps sustain — the music festival


The following interview is with Patti Schmidt, a longtime programmer for the MUTEK festival in Montréal, Canada. The interview took place during the final class session of the spring 2015 semester of the class that I teach about the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Schmidt joined us via Skype.

I frequently invite professionals — musicians, startup representatives, coders, sound designers, publicists — to speak in my class. Rather than ask the guests to prepare a presentation, I interview them in front of the class, and then have the students themselves ask questions. This is a lightly edited transcript of Schmidt’s appearance in class. The interview took place on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, just before the 16th annual MUTEK festival, which ran from May 27 through May 31.

Marc Weidenbaum: First thanks, Patti. I’d like to introduce Patti to the class. This is Patti Schmidt from MUTEK. She’s going be talking with us today via Skype.

Patti, these are the students in the sound class I teach here at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. The class is about the role of sound in the media landscape. This last five or six weeks, we’ve been focused on what we call “brands of sounds,” which is how things related to sounds “brand” themselves, how they express themselves in the marketplace. That followed six or seven weeks on the opposite subject, which was “sounds of brands,” about how things — objects, organizations, services — use sound to make an impression.

I tend to end each semester talking about music, and often I’ll have a music publicist come and talk about the challenges of the past 10 years as the record industry has changed, how streaming and other changes in the music and recording industries have shifted their attentions and skills and so forth.

Patti’s speaking with us in class actually began as the result of an interaction with someone in music PR, who reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in writing an article somewhere about MUTEK, or cover the festival in some way. I replied that I don’t really cover festivals much. Then I suggested we do this, which is have Patti address the class in the form of a live interview, which I’d then edit and post at, and the MUTEK publicist was enthusiastic about the approach. Patti, could you start just by talking to the class a bit about what MUTEK is and a bit about what you do there.

Patti Schmidt: MUTEK is an electronic music and digital creativity festival having its 16th edition this year. It started in Montréal in the year 2000. The director of MUTEK’s name is Alain Mongeau, and in the mid-’90s he was the president something called ISEA, an electronic arts organization that’s based in the Netherlands. ISEA was one of the first international organizations to really become concerned with the role of digital media and digital sound and digital art. So, he helped host the 1995 edition of ISEA here in Montréal, and his idea was that Montréal is a very unique and weird city in North America because there’s been all kinds of technology leading industries and arts here. The video game industry, Ubisoft [a French company], is based here; Soft Image, which was responsible for Jurassic Park, and all these very early special effects, was based here; and Cirque du Soleil, all this stuff. There are a lot of big spectacle, innovative, tech things that have come out of this province — that you would think might otherwise be isolated because of language, because French is the first language that is spoken here. But somehow through technology and technologically driven art and spectacle, including electronic music, Montréal has sort of distinguished itself in the world. Alain helped start a venue here in Montréal called the Society for Art and Technology, or the SAT, as we call it, and it’s become a real hub for a lot of research on immersive performances, visual works, sounds works.

ISEA was a way for Alain, in 1995, to attempt to really route this idea of innovation in music and performance in Montréal. He went on to program a component for a film festival that was concerned with new media, the Festival of Nouveau Cinema. They gave him a component called the Media Lounge for 5 years, where in the late 1990s he would bring in people like Richie Hawtin, who at the time was rather unknown and would be presenting minimal sound and interactive light installations. This was the beginning of laptops becoming an important tool not only for music, but for visual work. And it became possible to then compose on these brand new portable, reasonably affordable tools. So there was an explosion of art and music going on, all over the world, and so he programmed components of this film festival for a few years. Then he was given some seed money by the guy from Soft Image to begin the very first edition of MUTEK, which was hosted inside of a big complex dedicated to new media that this guy had also just started, called Excentris, roundabout 1999.

That was the basic background on MUTEK. A few years later, maybe it was 2003 or 2004, Alain also — because he has this sort of global view and a positive idea of globalization and technology — he started planting seeds for other MUTEKs in South America, and a “micro” MUTEK festival happened in Chile. Then a few years later — it’s now into its 11th year — Mexico City began its MUTEK franchise. This is all, like, “open source,” no money — we don’t receive any money from these festivals at all. It was more about the idea of inverting the axis of the music industry, which usually goes from North America to Europe, so horizontal, and instead, doing a vertical axis — Montréal down to Latin America — where these emergent economies and artistic communities that were also beginning to just use computers and digital technologies to make music, and to plug into a whole global circuit existed. Alain has a personal history in Latin America, which made this possible. He speaks Spanish; his father is a university professor. They were in Chile during the coup in 1973, and he is very comfortable working these angles. So now MUTEK Mexico is 11 years old — MUTEK Argentina has sort of moved to Mexico. We just started a version of the festival in Colombia. The ones in Chile are a little bit dormant. We also have an outpost in Barcelona, Spain, which is European but it is also a place where tons of Latin American expats end up. The festival has a real mission and mandate statement to always cultivate local audience and the kind of artists and communities that are left out of the regular global conversation that’s western-dominated about technology and music — and that’s an essential interest of the festival. And over the years, as well, MUTEK has cultivated a local community here in Montréal. A number of them, a big chunk of the local artists who helped start MUTEK Montréal, have since relocated to Berlin. And they have quite vibrant careers there, so we work this axis as well. And we still always try to cultivate and throw into our international network local artists who are innovative in using technology. There’s other interesting things to look at over the course of a 16-year history of a festival that takes technology as its important taking-off point, and this technology is constantly mutating, and evolving, and changing, and if you’re going to stay relevant you are going to have to stay on top of what those changes are. Read more »

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David Torn, Live (Video)

An early listen to what became Only Sky

The latest David Torn album, Only Sky (ECM), feels like the album he’s been striving for his whole recording career. It manages to find a place at home with his interest in deep, expansive atmospherics, and yet that place is one in which Torn’s pyrotechnic fluency with stringed instruments isn’t entirely put aside. In fact, the intensity of his actions feeds the equal intensity of the ambient foundation, often in the form tiny fragments set on repeat until they merge into a mist. The video follows his manipulation of the sounds, how the automation lets him trade instruments — between electric guitar and oud — without missing a beat. And better yet, at the end he speaks to the audience, apparently back in March 2013, two full years before the album’s release, at a TEDxCaltech event. What he’s playing is what became the album’s title cut.

Video at Found via Michael Ross’ great website. More from Torn at

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