February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, 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.

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Even Waveforms Have Terroir

Liner notes I wrote for Dave Seidel's new album, ~60 Hz


Dave Seidel has released an album composed of sine waves, those near and about the ~60 Hz range. That’s the title of his album, ~60 Hz, and I was honored to be asked by him to write a liner note for the record’s release. The digital version went live today at irritablehedgehog.com, and CDs are for sale as well. The label, run by David D. McIntire, has released music by William Duckworth, Jürg Frey, Eva-Maria Houben, and Dennis Johnson, among others.

This is the music, streaming in full:

This is the text I wrote:

“The Waveforms in Your Neighborhood”

The operative information in the title is the tilde. The tilde means “sort of” or “nearly” or “in the neighborhood of.” What follows the tilde in the title are two digits and a pair of consonants, which collectively symbolize the neighborhood in question. What the “60Hz” refers to is a sine wave, categorically perhaps the simplest sound imaginable, a constant of equally balanced ebb and flow. The 60Hz does not merely refer to a sine wave. The 60Hz describes the sine wave succinctly. The contours of the sine wave are beside the point, because they are immutable, an eternal skatepark up and down and up that seems to have begun before time and that will continue after the heat death of the universe. What the 60Hz describes, however, is the nature of this exact sine wave, specifically what might more colloquially be referred to as its pace. The Hz in the title stands for the measurement Hertz, which is the number of wave cycles that occur in a single second. Thus, a 60Hz waveform cycles through 60 times in one single second.

60 per second of anything may signal speediness, but 60Hz proves quite lulling. The wave veers up and down, weaving sonic wool, a thick blanket of hazy warm noise that the ear succumbs to, and then the mind, and then the body. If the wave resembles the distant hum of a power line, that is because 60Hz is the standard frequency of the power infrastructure in the United States. If it does not sound like the whir of municipal undercurrent, that may be because you live elsewhere. Even waveforms have terroir.

The tilde in the title is the operative information because the tilde means that the sounds heard will, in fact, not stick to the 60Hz frequency. They will, instead, hover around 60Hz. What the little tilde means is that the listener will witness the resulting shifts and hedges, veering and layering, collisions and parallels as waveforms are added and set in contrast to each other. These contrasts will yield all manner of aural patterning.

In lesser hands, the patterns would have all the gee-whiz lab-coat charm of a 1950s stereo system vinyl test album. But these waves are not in lesser hands. They are in Dave Seidel’s hands. What we hear is the simplest sound form yielding myriad, tantalizing moiré patterns. Some of these patterns suggest the fervid activity of insectoid communication, others the humble drone of a mumbled mantra. There are pointilist percussive effects, and tones like nothing so much as a masterful solo organ recital. There are phase shifts like a Steve Reich violin piece, and torquing structures like an industrial rock band playing its third encore on the last night of a tour.

And there are echoes, of course, of science fiction. This is electronic music in the purest sense, electricity revealing itself as sound — science transmuted into art. One hears Bebe Barron and Louis Barron’s work on the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. One hears the note accrual inherent in the opening of the original Star Trek theme. One hears the hum of a lonesome space station while its inhabitants are deep in a timeless, cryogenic state.

For all the associative mind games, what is heard is simply a handful of notes taking the concept of minimalism at its word. The operative information in the title is the tilde, the tilde that itself rightfully resembles a tiny typographic sine wave.

Get the release at irritablehedgehog.com. More at Seidel’s website, mysterybear.net.

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Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • These Divergent movie posters were designed to remind me what a role Robert Heinlein played in young-adult sci fi. ->
  • 5 years ago this week Max Neuhaus died and I first wrote about Diego Bernal's music: http://t.co/zCD4N5tyKQ. 15 years ago I wrote on "NP." ->
  • Arvo Pärt cover ("Fratres") attributed to A Winged Victory for the Sullen and ACME Ensemble: http://t.co/ff7kAZMk4v. ->
  • RT @hecanjog: First listen to SAWII after reading the first half of Marc Weidenbaum's SAWII book! #nowplaying ->
  • Fun is writing about a live event only to have someone who attended chime in in the comments: http://t.co/yZYl2PwJV1 ->
  • Hopeful that Alexandre Desplat's Godzilla score is more Syriana and less Monuments Men. ->
  • We should read JG Ballard's High Rise as San Francisco's One City One Book 2014. (Last year it was @doctorow's Little Brother.) ->
  • Yes, I paused the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer for the trailer in order to get a glimpse of the raccoon. ->
  • RIP, Bob Casale (61) of Devo: http://t.co/onRDD0Plgj ->
  • Tuesday noon siren in San Francisco: http://t.co/FrVmKgO1Mx ->
  • "A Rusty Obelisk Made Out of Angel Sighs": @editaurus has folks praise Aphex Twin SAW2 on its 20th: http://t.co/l3FEcCrkwh ->
  • Meant it more as a joke yesterday, but today just mean it: the 2014 One City One Book in San Francisco should be JG Ballard's High Rise. ->
  • My early experience of Devo was on tapes dubbed from vinyl by a friend. Years later I discovered the tapes were faster than the originals. ->
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Disquiet: 15, 10 & 5 Years Ago This Week (2014.07)

My first Diego Bernal, Max Neuhaus RIP, #NP

This would be roughly the week of February 10 through February 16.


5 Years Ago (2009): I feel like I’ve been listening to Diego Bernal’s tremendous atmospheric old-school hip-hop instrumentals for much longer than five years, and perhaps I have, but according to my searches, I first wrote about them five years ago this week; these days Bernal, who is a Texas-based civil rights attorney, is on the San Antonio city council, representing his district. He has less room in his life for music-making these days, but he collaborated this past September with Ernest Gonzales (aka Mexicans with Guns) on the album Atonement. … Also in the Downstream this week: raw materials from Peter Gabriel’s “Games without Frontiers”, great Red Bull Music Academy interviews (Wolfgang Voigt; Mario Caldato, Jr.), some Floridian field recordings from Michael Raphael. … I went back to the New Langton Arts exhibit I mentioned last week about graphically notated scores. … I quoted from Max Neuhaus’s obituary by Bruce Weber from the New York Times (he passed away five years ago on February 9):

The sound creates a space for itself with definite boundaries. You can only hear it within a few feet. But the main audible effect is not so much hearing it as hearing what it does to everything around it. It kind of slices up the sounds of that fountain splashing over there, for instance.

That’s Neuhaus pictured above at his Times Square sound installation. … And I noted an appearance by Otomo Yoshihide at an event in New York.

10 Years Ago (2004): I wrote at some length about the year’s Activating the Medium festival in San Francisco. … Downstream entries included a four-minute stretch of French desloation by Planetaldol, a video for Warp artist Req, video by Keith Fullerton Whitman, more video from Whitman, and an interview with Scanner.

15 Years Ago (1999): I wrote about the “NP” (“now playing”) bit people were adding to their email signatures. I mis-identified it as an emoticon, but heck it was 1999.

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Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • Today's Aphex Twin SAW2 track has a beat made from a vocal—this on an album often described as beatless + vocal free: http://t.co/68YCLqYgCB ->
  • Duet for rain drops and distant siren. ->
  • rainy day -> Augustus Pablo ->
  • RT @touchmusic: Android version of Touch app now available here – http://t.co/JSH4ZNePsc ->
  • 5 days, 5 tracks to go in Aphex Twin SAW2 countdown. Today, the Fourth World rhythmic aura of "Grass": http://t.co/78QEseDbae ->
  • still raining -> Augustus Pablo -> Dub Narcotic Sound System ->
  • Man, it's been 5 years since this incredible graphic-notation score exhibit at New Langton in San Francisco: http://t.co/jVvOLy248Y ->
  • It's fun looking back 5/10/15 years each week. Love this quote from Greg Egan's Schild's Ladder: http://t.co/25uQ3VYJDI ->
  • I'd pretty much go back to Japan for any reason, but this exhibit looks especially interesting: http://t.co/Rjx0zt8bUv ->
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Disquiet: 15, 10 & 5 Years Ago This Week (2014.06)

Graphic notation, Greg Egan, dusty drones

This would be roughly the week of February 3 through February 9.


5 Years Ago (2009): Highlight of the week was definitely a two-part overview of an incredible exhibit of graphic scores at the New Langton Arts gallery in San Francisco. My photography was especially terrible, but there’s lots of documentation. These included work from Robert Ashley, William Basinski, Gavin Bryars, Cornelius Cardew, Alvin Curran, Philip Glass, Ryoji Ikeda, Joan Jeanrenaud, György Ligeti, Christian Marclay, Barry McGee, Gordon Mumma, Conlon Nancarrow, Phill Niblock, Carsten Nikolai, Raster-Noton, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Steve Roden (see above photo), Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morton Subotnick, Yasunao Tone, Stephen Vitiello, Iannis Xenakis, and others. The show was curated by Christoph Cox and Robert Shimshak. … Quote of the week was humorous hater comments about a white-noise app (“Good app if you like to fall asleep to static!”). … The PhotoShopping of sound. … The Downstream included some laptop-enabled improv, the latest in Taylor Deupree’s daily sound uploads, live recordings from D’Incise, some dusty drones from Eluder, and dubby 8-Bit from Simon Mattison.

10 Years Ago (2004): Quote of the week was from Greg Egan’s then new novel, Schild’s Ladder:

As she entered the chamber, she seemed to emerge from the mouth of a burrow to float above a lush, wide meadow beneath a cloud-dappled sky. The illusion was purely audiovisual — the sounds encoded in radio waves — but with no weight to hold her against the ceramic hidden beneath the meadow, the force of detail was eerily compelling. It took only a few blades of grass and some chirping insects to make her half-believe that she could smell the late-summer air.

Review of a show at the Luggage Store Gallery by Jorge Boehringer and Mohtallah (Brian O’Reilly and Stefanie L. Ku, performing with Peter Segerstrom). … Downstream entries included netlabel work from Veem, heavily mediated spoken-word experimentation from Warren Ellis and Scott Lamb, some Game Boy fun from Overthruster, a Cex remix by Colongib, and live loops from Rick Walker’s Loop.pooL.

15 Years Ago (1999): Nothing this week.

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