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: science-fiction

Listening to JG Ballard’s High-Rise

A synthesized score by Rupert Lally for the viseral 1975 novel


San Francisco, California, where I live, has one of those “One City, One Book” programs, where a single volume is selected for the general population to read and discuss. The idea is that we’re all more likely to have a single subject of conversation, one that touches on what we have in common. In an age of (supposedly) short attentions spans and the exodus from mass communication in favor of (perceived) silos of narrowly defined interests, a city united around a book addresses many transitions at once. Not all of us have such an ameliorative response to the changes wrought by technology. JG Ballard was the bard of how new technologies don’t so much improve humanity as they reveal, with each consumerist iteration, our basest origins, our most animalistic urges. New technologies, in his telling, don’t make us better; at best, they bring into high definition our failings as a species, and at worst they free us to make poor use of our position atop the food chain.

Since the downtown of San Francisco has become a boomtown for massive, sky-high apartment complexes, I’ve been pushing for Ballard’s visceral 1975 novel High-Rise, about class war playing out floor by floor, to have a turn on the city’s One City, One Book shelf. There is a movie in the works from director Ben Wheatley, with a strong cast, including Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons. Before it threatens to supplant our mental images of Ballard’s story with formal ones, the musician Rupert Lally has released an 8-song instrumental set of music inspired by the novel. If the Wheatley film looks like it is re-setting the story in the present, the music by Lally, with its conscious emphasis on the sine-wave symphonies of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, tries and succeeds in capturing the retro-futurism at the time of the book’s release. (Wheatley has done some directing for Dr. Who, whose famous theme was an early product of the Radiophonic Workshop. The score composer of Wheatley’s High-Rise has not yet, I believe, been announced.) Lally’s High-Rise is all machine-hewn sound, all electric drones and quavering effects in service of a story in which all the latest technology can’t save us from each other, or from ourselves.

Set available at “name your price” at More from Lally, who lives in Switzerland, at

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RIP, Mr. Spock

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015


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This Week in Sound: SoundCloud, Replicants, Comedy, Surveillance

An occasional, lightly annotated clipping service

One-Track Mind: SoundCloud recently added a “repeat single track” function to its web player. This means that if you’re listening to something on SoundCloud you can click a button to have it repeat when it ends, rather than have the service automatically move on to another track. This is a very welcome turn of events. When it comes to audio streaming, we often don’t really hear something the first time we hear it, and often get lost in the continuity. The ability to repeat a single track in some ways having a chance to really pay attention through repetition.

Replicant Soundscape: Speaking of listening on repeat, this following track has been online since August, but I only just learned of it via an post about a related subject. The account of “crysknife007” on YouTube is filled with great “ambient geek sleep aids” such as the sound of the Starship Enterprise’s engines running for 24 hours straight. What follows is the sound of Rick Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner playing for half a day, so you can imagine you’re a cyberpunk gumshoe when you’re really just sitting at home paying some bills. Though YouTube comments are rightly avoided, a useful follow-up to the track did note that this same sound was later used in Alien for the Nostromo’s medical bay.

Ambient Comedy: The BBC has produced a retrospective of Chris Morris (Blue Jam, Four Lions), the British satirist. I had very much hoped to interview Morris for my recent book on the Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Volume II because he used music from the album in his radio and television sketches to especially haunting effect, but sadly he wasn’t available. The BBC retrospective is three hours long and, according to the BBC webpage, will be online for another four weeks:

New Heights in Eavesdropping: A thorough overview of the U.S. government’s system “Automatic Speech recognition in Reverberant Environments,” aka ASpIRE, an advance speech-recognition tool.

This first appeared in the December 2, 2014, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter:

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Disquiet Junto Project 0152: Comet 67P Cover

The Assignment: Record your own cover version of the "song" sung/emitted by the comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, 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.

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 27, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, December 1, 2014, as the SoundCloud deadline — though the encouraged optional video part of the assignment can wait a day or two longer, if necessary.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0152: Comet 67P Cover
The Assignment: Record your own cover version of the “song” sung/emitted by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The mysterious song of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been floated as a likely subject of a Disquiet Junto project since it first was announced by the European Space Agency. Thanks to everyone who suggested it, and I hope you find this approach to the material of interest.

Step 1: Record your own cover version of the “song” sung/emitted by the comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. You can hear the “original” here:

Step 2: Upload the finished track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Note: Per the track’s SoundCloud page: “To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased in this recording. This sonification of the RPC-Mag data was compiled by German composer Manuel Senfft ( Read full details in ESA’s Rosetta blog:”

Length: Your finished work should be between roughly 1 and 3 minutes long.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 27, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, December 1, 2014, as the deadline.

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

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please include the term “disquiet0152-comet67pcover” 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).

Linking: When posting the track, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 152nd Disquiet Junto project — “Record your own cover version of the ‘song’ sung/emitted by the comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko” — at:

Copyright Notice: Original Data Credit: ESA/Rosetta/RPC/RPC-MAG. Sonification: TU Braunschweig/IGEP/Manuel Senfft, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

Credit for image associated with this project:

ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

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Writing Sound

Mira Grant wakes a woman from a coma

“His voice was no more or less compelling than the buzz of the machines around her.” That’s from Mira Grant’s novel Parasite (2014), describing the experience of a woman emerging from a coma. It continues: “None of his words meant anything to her, and so she dismissed them as unimportant stimuli in a world that was suddenly full of unimportant stimuli. … Then the other people in the room started making noise, as shrill and confused as the machines around her.” The sequel to Parasite, titled Symbiont, comes out later this month. I’m just behind in my reading.

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter:

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