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.

tag: software

Beat Machine Beat (MP3)

An iMaschine experiment from Ohio

Pissoir, who identifies himself simply as Benjamin from Ohio, has uploaded a slow rage of video game noise, its beat a trenchant, martial, steady rhythm that is, as it proceeds, accented here and there with triple-time filigrees, semi-automatic weapons fire, hi-hats that might be made of cellophane, and countless other resplendent noises. The track is titled “Solip,” and the post notes that it is a teaser. For what? We’ll have to wait to see. Also mentioned is that it was produced in iMaschine, the iOS “beat sketch pad” apple.com. Recommended to listen on repeat.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/benjamin.

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Cues: Martinez/Refn, Memory Prosthetic, Summer Camp …

Plus: "Deviant Wear," ambient art, Sakamoto in the forest, and more

20130709-refn-thailand

Martinez + Refn + Thailand: Perhaps not every sequel that relocates to Thailand is a disappointment. The score to Only God Forgives (screen shot above) by Cliff Martinez (film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn) is streaming in full at pitchfork.com. Martinez scored Refn’s previous movie, Drive. Working with Martinez are Gregory Tripi and Mac Quayle (who between them collaborated with him on such films as Contagion, Arbitrage, Spring Breakers, and Drive). There’s also Thai pop music, and two of the Martinez tracks are orchestral works performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The movie is set in Bangkok and stars Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas. A less than promising report by Manohla Dargis (at nytimes.com) from the Cannes Film Festival notes the centrality of wallpaper to the movie: “There are a lot of opportunities to examine that wallpaper with its repeating pattern – nonfigurative swirls with teethlike serrations suggestive of a dragon.” The description could apply to the pulsing, ambient Martinez score as well.

Sound Design in Product Design: “This could sense the sound levels in the room, and then gradually nudge you to turn over a bit,” Drexel Design Futures Lab director and assistant professor Nicole Koltic tells cbslocal.com of a robotic mattress. Koltic is describing a work in an exhibit at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery in West Philadelphia. The exhibit features projects by six master’s students in the Interior Architecture and Design program at Drexel. Also in the show is “Memory Prosthetic” by Sarah Moores:

“The memory prosthetic is a wearable device that records an audio track when there is a detectable physiological change in the wearer. This thesis speculates on how memories form through emotional connections to events and the integration of technology and biological responses to enhance our awareness of these connections. The design scenario consists of a wearable device that records events with the assistance of biofeedback and a listening pod, which plays back the audio to enhance meditative reflection on selected moments throughout the day.”

And “Deviant Wear” by Kim Brown:

“The pervasiveness of handheld computing has shifted how we experience and interact with our environment and filtered the physical world through a digital screen. This project explores strategies for encouraging ambulatory exploration of the urban landscape through experimental prototyping with environmental sensors, physical feedback and audio graffiti.”

More on the exhibit at drexel.edu. The show runs from July 5 through July 21, 2013.

Ambient Art: Tim Griffin, executive director and chief curator of the Kitchen, curated the current show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Titled “ambient,” the exhibit collates work by Liz Deschenes, Olafur Eliasson, Susan Goldman, Mary Heilmann, Nathan Hylden, Sherrie Levine, Tristan Perich, Seth Price, Nick Relph, Haim Steinbach, and Alex Waterman in an attempt to locate a parallel to Brian Eno’s initial sense of ambient music. A quote from the liner notes to Eno’s Discreet Music album serves as a touchstone for the exhibit. It runs from June 20 through July 26, 2013. To quote from part of the exhibit text:

“If ambient music emerged decades ago as an artistic mode revolving around dislocations and relaxations of authorship–and quasi-reversals of figure and landscape, foreground and background–perhaps this proposition may usefully be expanded today, in a manner pertaining not only to objects of art but contemporary ways of looking (and their tenuousness between artistic periods).”

Listen About Listening: Seth S. Horowitz, author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind, is interviewed on kuow.org about how to be a better listener. Horowitz is the chief scientist at neuropop.com, a sonic consultancy. He has an account at soundcloud.com/universalsense.

Flora Magic Orchestra: Ryuichi Sakamoto unveils his Forest Symphony at the elegant forestsymphony.ycam.jp website: “Ryuichi Sakamoto will produce music on the basis of bioelectric potential data gathered from trees around the world. In line with this potential data, environmental information of each tree’s distribution will be added and the tree’s link with the music will be presented visually under the visual direction of Shiro Takatani.” It’s part of the 10th anniversary of the Yamaguchi Center for Art and Media.

Sound Art Summer Camp: If you’re in the Dallas, Texas, area and are (or have) a pre/teen, there’s a sound art summer camp. It runs from July 15-19, 1-4pm, and is for ages 10-18: “During this camp, students will learn to make a self-portrait by recording and combining the sounds of their daily lives.” More on the camp at oilandcotton.bigcartel.com. The series is run by Chaz Underriner, more from whom at chazunderriner.com. Found via the “moms” section of dmagazine.com.

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Cues: 1,100 Tracks, DG Sublabel, Amon/Kronos

Plus: an iOS magazine, sounds of Coke bottles, more

Random Access: Jos Smolders, back in the golden age of the compact disc, 1994, released Music for CD Player, a collection of 99 short tracks intended for the listener to sequence. He’s now released a sequel in the form of an 1,100-track album, titled Music for FLAC Player. Yes, that is 1,100 tracks, the overwhelming majority of which are one second or less in length, and all but 30 or so of which are under 45 seconds:

Writes Smolders of the project:

The [Music for CD Player] disc contained 99 tracks. The original plan, however, was to have many more tracks. However CD Redbook protocol allowed a maximum number of 99 tracks, with a minimum length of 3 seconds. With the Internet as a platform these limitations are gone. The number of tracks for an online album are limitless and the length of the tracks can be near zero.

Recomposing DG: The esteemed classical label Deutsche Grammophon is launching a new label called Panorama (via classical-music.com). The first Panorama album will be from the highly collaborative Schiller (aka Christopher von Deylen). DG had previously released a series of genre-pushing “recomposed” albums including Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Matthew Herbert’s reworking of Mahler‘s 10th Symphony.

Amon v Kronos: “V838 Monocerotis” is the title of a new piece Kronos Quartet has commissioned from Amon Tobin as part of the ensemble’s 40th-anniversary celebration: amontobin.com, kronosquartet.org.

iOS Care: I Care if You Listen is a new iOS multimedia magazine about contemporary (i.e. classical) music. The initial issue features interviews with composers Clint Mansell and Arlene Sierra.

Sonic Footnotes: Ora, the occasional broadcast/podcast by Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin about “listening and writing,” has followed up its debut episode with a reading list, featuring the hosts’ own books and titles by Gert Jonke, W.H Auden, and Clifford Geertz, among others.

Donut Hole: Jordan Ferguson is, like me, writing a book for the 33 1/3 series. Like me, he is focused on something that is fairly unusual for the series, in that both our books are about albums that have little in the way of words, let alone of lyrics. My book-in-progress is on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Ferguson’s is about J Dilla’s Donuts. And like me, he submitted to an interview for the publisher’s website. But, being a smart guy, he did his as a video:

Also, Evie Nagy (formerly of Rolling Stone, now at Billboard) has been interviewed about her 33 1/3 book, which will focus on Devo’s Freedom of Choice.

Sounds of Brands: Coca-Cola employed Kurt Hugo Schneider to milk sounds of its cans and bottles to make music. From Adweek’s coverage: “The recording obviously has some studio bells and whistles layered on it, but Adweek was assured that Schneider is truly playing the Coke ‘instruments.’” In another sound-related entry in the Coke series, you’re invited to see how long you can listen to someone singing “ah.”

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A Week on Rdio

Genre blackout, metadata funhouse, playlist generation

20130707-rdioI’ve been using Rdio.com for about a week now, and I’m enjoying it. For $4.99 a month, it’s certainly an affordable option. The sound quality has been fine (on phone via T-Mobile, and via wifi on a Nexus 7 in the kitchen, as well as on a laptop). The two major selling points are access to spur-of-the-moment selections — especially for some ancient rock’n’roll, like the Who or the Kinks — and quick listens through current releases, like Sigur Rós, Kanye West, or the revived Black Sabbath.

In terms of catalog, Rdio is far from the Borgesian universal library these services are sometimes likened to. A writer at the New York Times said, back in March, “I rarely come across an instance when Rdio can’t supply a song I’m looking for,” but that may say more about the relative breadth of the writer’s taste than it does about the depth of Rdio’s holdings. There are large, bewildering holes in the discographies of prominent electronic artists — plenty of Aphex Twin albums, for example, but almost none of the myriad EPs and singles. There are just six full-lengths from DJ Krush, and just eight from Keith Fullerton Whitman, both of whom are more prolific than those numbers suggest. Then again, from Grouper there are 11, which is nearly complete, and the Tim Hecker selection is also strong. The main gripe is Rdio’s album-centric orientation, the result of which, in hip-hop and r&b, means very little in the way of instrumental tracks. In electronic music, the limited presence of singles has the unfortunate result of dimishing the connections between artists that are usually highlighted in the logrolling we call remixes.

The absence of genre on Rdio is strange, at once confusing and freeing. Tracks are devoid of the standard categorizations like “rock” or “country” or “jazz.” It’s healthy, in that you stop wondering whether album X is really genre Y, and just listen — that said, the absence of genre and tags really limits discovery and filtering options.

Speaking of context, the site is woefully limited in that regard. There are no liner notes, and what track metadata is present frequently provides a funhouse-mirror view of an album’s history: Photek’s The Hidden Camera was released in 1996, but is listed on Rdio as a March 2003 release (Spotify has the year correct); Prince’s Dirty Mind is listed as 1984, when it was 1980 (again, Spotify has it correct).

In any case, I’m enjoying Rdio so far, and have started some playlists intended for general consumption (paralleling but not overlapping much with the “Carousels” I launched on SoundCloud). Right now there are two: “Disquiet / Ambient” and “Disquiet / Beats.”

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Cues: Rdio, Spotify; Writing Sound; Producer Reducer

Ambient playlists, a new Resonance podcast, Rick Rubin, and more

This Is Rdio Disquiet: I’ve started a pair of ambient stations/playlists at rdio.com and spotify.com, for any folks who subscribe to those services. These are in addition to the three setlists-by-accrual “Disquiet Carousels” over at SoundCloud.com.

If a Setlist Plays in the Forest: Olivia Solon at wired.co.uk reports on a project involving a radio transmitter deep in a Scottish forest by name of Galloway. The music will play for 24 hours. “Those who want to hear it,” writes Solon, ” will have to head to the forest. There will be no repeats and the files will be deleted after they are played.” The music will include work by Severed Heads, The Herbaliser, Scanner and Stephen Vitiello, Dave Clark, Imogen Heap, and Richard X. The koan-probing DJs are Stuart McLean (aka Frenchbloke) and Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodges, the latter two of whom are artists in resident at Galloway Forest.

Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin have created a new broadcast series, titled Ora, about “Writing Sound” for Resonance104.5FM in England. After the program(me)s are heard on radio, they’ll pop up on the resonancefm.com website. The first one aired Thursday, June 27, 2013, with a rebroadcast scheduled today, June 29, after which it’ll pop up on the Resonance site. Here’s a description:

Writing Sound voices the relationship between listening, hearing, talking and writing – it puts forward a language that is part of the listening practice and challenges the nominal relationship between sound and words, naming and reference. It is language as the production of words, the material of language, in response to the material of sound, that invites listening as a material process also to uncover in language the process of listening, rather the source of what is being heard.

◼ Excellent interview with producer Rick Rubin (LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash) at thedailybeast.com, especially in terms of his focus on simplicity. His emphasis on less being more is virtually required reading for anyone participating in this week’s Disquiet Junto project, which is based on subtraction-as-composition. Here is Rubin replying to an informedly leading question from interviewer Andrew Romano:

Q: So you don’t believe that, say, a great melody is necessarily part of a great song?

A: No, no. I think one of the things that really drew me to hip-hop was how you could get to this very minimal essence of a song—to a point where many people wouldn’t call it a song. My first credit was “Reduced by Rick Rubin.” That was on LL Cool J’s debut album, Radio. The goal was to be just vocals, a drum machine, and a little scratching. There’s very little going on.

Decade of SoundWalk: July 1 is the final day for proposals to participate in the 10th annual soundwalk.org sound art festival in Long Beach, California. Last year I ran a panel discussion at SoundWalk, and the whole event was a blast.

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