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tag: science-fiction

This Week in Sound: Swan Speakers + X-Files Music

+ Mediterranean blues + fracking the atmosphere

A lightly annotated clipping service:

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The Uncanny Lake: This whimsical image is of inverted satellite dishes (with added speakers) whose design and deployment are intended to refer back to the silhouette and motion of swans. The work is an outdoor installation by Berlin-based artist Marco Barotti. So often the exposed speaker is intended to be ignored in sound art. Kudos to Barotti for making something of the form. There’s video at creativeboom.com, which provides additional information: “Two layers of sound design consisting of bass frequencies and human breath passing through brass instruments provide them with voice and motion. Eight individual audio channels are used to transport the sound through the swans, bringing them to life and remodelling the landscape.”

THE X-FILES:  David Duchovny in the "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster" episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Feb. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ed Araquel/FOX

Cellphone Home: We’re now halfway through the reunion of The X-Files, and the third episode is, in my opinion, easily one of the best told and most enjoyably self-conscious episodes in the history of the show. This six-episode miniseries is clearly about the midlife crisis of Agent Mulder, whose long-held desire to believe has to, now, make due in the age of snopes.com. That scenario is a little disappointing because it leaves Agent Scully playing second fiddle, but Mulder’s self-doubt is more than enough to carry the show, and Scully makes a great foil for his crisis of xenobiological faith. This third episode, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” casts two fine comedians, Rhys Darby (the band manager from Flight of the Conchords) and Kumail Nanjiani (one of the main programmers on Silicon Valley), in roles the least said about the better, except that the duo, along with Mulder, give Scully plenty of opportunity to marvel as the sheer ridiculousness of what life as an X-Files agent involves. Scully can get sanguine, even giggly, while Mulder seems maudlin. At one point he wakes up in a cemetery with a freshly minted hangover. His cellphone is ringing. It’s playing, of course, the theme music from The X-Files. How this meta-congruity fits into the mythology of the series is unclear, but what I really wants to know is if this ringtone is reserved only for Scully. There are three more episodes to go. Perhaps all will be revealed. What’s for sure is that the ringtone works well within the overarching self-awareness of the episode (which features Darby wearing the same hat and clothing as the hero of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which was as much a premonition of The X-Files as The X-Files was of Fringe). The score-within-the-show cellphone moment is a reassuring reminder that, like Mulder himself is advised, the audience needs to take a deep breath and stop trying to connect the dots. At least until next week.

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Basin Blues: That is a map of the Mediterranean. Despite the colors, it is not pretty. The colorful pixels are not recreational spots but locations of especially high noise density. Then again, maybe they are recreational spots as well. More importantly, the map is reportedly the first full map of “underwater noise sources” in the Mediterranean basin, the work of researchers in France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. The primary activity appears to be four sources: harbors, offshore activity (not just oil and gas drilling but also wind farms), seismic surveys, and military exercises. These closely map to cetacean habitats, hence the concern on the part of the researchers. The news was released as part of one of several oceancare.org campaigns to raise awareness. (Found via sonicstudies.org.) … In related news, the Telegraph reports that the noise of ocean-going ships may keep orca whales from communicating with each other.

Sonic Weapons: Via gizmodo.com, sometimes that man-made quake sensation isn’t from fracking down below, but from something on high: “Tremors felt by residents of New Jersey Shore and Long Island today prompted speculation that an earthquake had occurred—but the US Geological Survey confirmed that the rumbling sensations were caused by a sonic boom.” Measurements over at earthquake.usgs.gov.

This first appeared in the February 2, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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David Bowie and the Artful Calculation of Death

RIP to The Man Who Fell to Earth, and to all the other Bowies

When Dennis Potter, the great British television writer (The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven), was dying of cancer in the mid-1990s, he continued to work hard on a number of scripts. His energy was limited, he was interviewed on television while taking morphine for the pain, and yet he didn’t stop working. With characteristic mordant humor, he named one of his final two scripts Cold Lazarus. Better yet, it was a work of science fiction: Ever aware of his limited mortality, Potter wrote something that would take place in a distant future he’d never live to see — none of us will, as it’s set several centuries down the road — and titled it after a man synonymous with being brought back from the dead. Potter died in 1994, less than a month after his 59th birthday.

Apparently, we now know, David Bowie had similar things in the works as his death from cancer approached. Bowie’s “Lazarus” is both a song off his new album, Blackstar, and the title of a musical he developed with co-writer Enda Walsh (of Once). The musical Lazarus is, like Potter’s Cold Lazarus, a work of science fiction, drawing inspiration from Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, the film version of which Bowie starred in back in 1976. (The movie was directed by Nicolas Roeg, who also directed Track 29, based on a Dennis Potter script. Bowie was reportedly the first choice for the male lead in Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle, but the part eventually went to Sting.) Bowie died yesterday, just days after his 69th birthday, which coincided with Blackstar’s release.

A friend once told me, wisely, that when you cry you’re never crying about one thing. The sudden death of Bowie, at such a public moment, when his brand new Blackstar was getting such positive reviews, was not just a shock but an artfully calculated one. Not just a consummate singer, performer, composer, and musician, Bowie was theatrical to the core. His death was, we now know, as much a production as were so many aspects of his career. Thinking about his productivity during such hardship naturally had me think about Dennis Potter, a major hero of mine, and from there the various connections made themselves apparent.

When many contemporary popular artists die, they leave behind a totemic, iconic figure, a singular image. Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson come to mind immediately. But others, like Bowie, mean such different things to different people. One of the phenomenal things about Bowie is that so many of us who focus on different types of music all mourn different Bowies, their own Bowies. “My” Bowie is the ambient-minimalist-progressive Bowie, the one who collaborated with Brian Eno for the “Berlin trilogy,” the one who employed not one but two different King Crimson guitarists (Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew), the one whose Eno-era work was later revisited in a classical setting by composer Philip Glass. (I’d bought my first Bowie album, Hunky Dory, while wandering around Greenwich Village as a slightly fearful teenager. Why Hunky Dory? Because Rick Wakeman played keyboards on it. I was a big Yes fan at the time.)

Listening back to those works, watching live performances, and re-reading interviews, I take some solace in the sheer dedication inherent in those collaborations. In retrospect, we perhaps should have seen Bowie’s death coming, so clearly were ruminations on mortality written into his recent songs. Dennis Potter succumbed to cancer publicly, while Bowie chose to do so privately. Bowie had written in a science fiction mode for so long, we can forgive ourselves for not realizing sooner that his own future had come to an end. It took someone like Bowie to make death feel vital — not an absence, but a force. Like a black star. As he sang on Hunky Dory’s “Quicksand,” the song that closes the album’s first side: “Knowledge comes with death’s release.”

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Report from the (Real) Future (Fair)

A few hundred people listen to the Junto with their eyes closed — plus clairaudient journalism (Nov 6-7, 2015)

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As you can perhaps deduce from the unused drink tickets that remain attached to these two wristbands, I had a pretty debilitating head cold during the Real Future Fair in San Francisco on November 6 and 7. I did, though, have the great opportunity to share the fruits and nearly four-year history of the Disquiet Junto in a short presentation during the Fair’s closing night “Future of Sound” event.

This appearance meant, among other things, sharing a bill with soul-pop figure Kelela, Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast, San Francisco electronic musician Pamela Z, and performance artist Dia Dear, as well as a bunch of journalists from Real Future and its parent media organization, fusion.net. Head cold or not, that was pretty grand.

Some quick highlights of the Fair:

— Alexis Madrigal, editor-in-chief of fusion.net, did me the favor of interviewing me for the Junto presentation. I like talking in front of crowds, and I like a public discussion all the more. Madrigal did a great job of summing up what the Junto is, and if I get my hands on the audio I’m going to transcribe it for future (not just Real Future) use.

— Madrigal has a particular sense of how the sounds emitted from Junto projects are interestingly apart from what is generally considered music. This perspective is something that I can, frankly, lose track of since I spend much of my listening time inside the drone bubble. (I did take the opportunity to mention that one of my favorite Junto projects played with the idea of a song, using the room tone of three different places to flesh out the verse, chorus, and bridge of a “song.”)

— My favorite moment of the live Junto event was when Madrigal had the entire audience close their eyes for 30 seconds and just listen to the final of the Junto tracks we prepared. Me? I kept my eyes open to take it in.

— The Junto project we shared with the Real Future audience is the current one, number 201, in which we: “Encapsulate an album for efficient yet meaningful consumption.” The idea is that in the future, among the many problems of overpopulation and the resulting leisure time provided by the robotization of work is that way more art is being produced. So, how do we, as humans, consume it — not to mention the vast back catalog of novels, music, video games, etc.? In addition to some very interesting sonic processing, this Junto project has led to some fun short-form science fiction in the liner notes to the various tracks. We’ve compressed two different albums in the course of the project, self-titled records by the French group Salmo and the New Zealand duo Montano. For the Real Future event I played a few tracks off the Montano album for context, and then three of the Junto reworkings: from Australia-based Tuonela, Tokyo-based Hiroyuki Kuromiya, and, closer to home, Erik Kuehnl of Berkeley.

— In addition to the folks I mentioned up top, there was some interesting live journalism. Kashmir Hill talked about the “real world mute button” being developed at Doppler Labs. Hill also did a great job the day prior moderating a panel about the future of surveillance.

— Kevin Roose gave a funny talk on vocaloids, in particular Hatsune Miku (who made a guest appearance in the Red Bull Music Academy comic on synthesizer legend Tomita that I edited, with Hideki Egami, last year).

— There was a short video from Daniela Hernandez on LRAD sound weapons.

— Kristen V. Brown reported on an outlier in the field of performance-venue acoustics.

— And there was a report on sonic healing that balanced skepticism with inquiry, but I didn’t catch the name of the reporter.

— One great thing that the Real Future producers did was hire Marc Kate to “live score” the event. Of course, he didn’t live score my session, since I was providing the music, but in all the reports he, in real time, summoned up audio to augment the narrative.

— The headliner of the show was Kelela, who is very much of the soul-pop realm in whose context the idea of much Junto work being “musical” to a general audience can be a complicated sell. I didn’t stay for her performance (#headcold) but I greatly enjoyed the interview that Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast did with her at the start of the evening, talking about the recording of one of her songs. She discussed various aspects of her process, including working with producers, reworking provided instrumental tracks, singing first in vocalese before filling in the vowels and consonants and spaces with actual words. (I also missed Pamela Z.) One great thing about Hirway’s Song Exploder is how the musicians among its listenership are being encouraged, if not outright trained, to speak analytically about how they do what they do. Historically, this has not been a strongpoint of pop-music journalism, excepting technology/instrument-specific reporting in magazines like Guitar Player.

More details on the event: realfuturefair.com. Major thanks to Alexis Madrigal and Cara Rose DeFabio. Check out the website at fusion.net, and definitely subscribe to Madrigal’s Real Future newsletter at tinyletter.com/realfuture.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0200: Kadrey Score

Create a score to a Richard Kadrey short story — using his own voice as source audio.

Kadrey Richard ap1

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 29, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 2, 2015.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0200: Kadrey Score
Create a score to a Richard Kadrey short story — using his own voice as source audio.

This week marks the 200th weekly Disquiet Junto. I’m very excited that the accomplished novelist Richard Kadrey recorded himself reading interlocking segments of his own short story specifically for use as source audio for this week’s project.

Richard Kadrey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim supernatural noir books. The eighth book in the series, The Perdition Score, will be out in July 2016. Some of his other books include The Everything Box, Metrophage, Butcher Bird, Dead Set, and the graphic novel Accelerate. Sandman Slim was included in Amazon’s “100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime.” More from Kadrey at richardkadrey.com, facebook.com/richard.kadrey, and twitter.com/Richard_Kadrey.

These are the 5 steps in the project:

Step 1: The author Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim, Metrophage) has recorded himself reading seven separate one-minute segments of a short story that can be listened to in any sequence. Choose a number from 1 to 7. The tool at the top of this page is useful:

http://www.randomnumbergenerator.com/

Step 2: Download the numerical track from this following playlist. The tracks are listed from “MUDROSTI 1” through “MUDROSTI 7.” Download the one that correlates with the number resulting from Step 1 of this project.

https://soundcloud.com/disquiet/sets/richard-kadrey-mudrosti-junto/s-H7sas

Step 3: Create a score to accompany Kadrey’s reading of his own short story in the track that you got in Step 2. Primarily use Kadrey’s own voice as the source material for your score — bend it, shape it, extract from it, and burnish it to your will. Additional sonic elements, both musical and foley, are welcome, but a substantial percentage of the sound should be from Kadrey’s own voice. Also: keep Kadrey’s own reading audible and inteligible; don’t slow or speed or otherwise edit it. Your score should accompany his reading, not thoroughly supplant it.

Step 4: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud. Include the term “disquiet0200-kadreyscoreX” in the title of your track, where X is the number of the track you were assigned (1 through 7).

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 29, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 2, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work should be the same length as that of the original Kadrey track you downloaded.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, 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.

Title: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term term “disquiet0200-kadreyscoreX” in the title of your track, where X is the number of the track you were assigned (1 through 7).

Tags: And include “disquiet0200-kadreyscore” as a tag for your track.

Download: Due to Kadrey’s generosity and the Creative Commons nature of his source material, you should use the following license for your work and make your work available for download:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

More on this 200th Disquiet Junto project (“Create a score to a Richard Kadrey short story — using his own voice as source audio”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/10/29/disquiet0200-kadreyscore/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

More from Kadrey at

http://richardkadrey.com
http://facebook.com/richard.kadrey
http://twitter.com/Richard_Kadrey

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Disquiet Junto Project 0199: Space Crickets

Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.50.47 PM

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 22, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 26, 2015.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0199: Space Crickets
Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship.

Step 1: You’re going to make an original field recording. Use only your own recordings and those from copyright-OK sources, such as freesound.org.

Step 2: There’s a brief scene in the film Interstellar (2014, directed by Christopher Nolan) aboard a spacecraft in which it’s revealed that the pilot, played by Matthew McConaughey, calms himself by listening to a field recording of crickets and rain. There’s something intimate and reflective about that little sonic trinket of Earth being of use aboard an interstellar ship. In turn, we back here on the planet are going to make a field recording — a “fake” field recording, that is — for our own use. It should answer this question: What does it sound like to listen to a field recording of crickets and rain while aboard a spaceship? (For reference, you can view the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNI-iZ_1Rac.)

Step 3: Make the field recording described in Step 2.

Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 22, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 26, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work should be as long as you see fit.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0199-spacecrickets” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

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).

More on this 199th Disquiet Junto project (“Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/10/22/disquiet0199-spacecrickets/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

The image associated with this project is a screenshot from the film Interstellar.

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