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: sound-art

DIY in the Digital Age

Notes from Niki Korth's recent Creative Commons Salon event

Last Friday night, the 13th, I had the pleasure of giving a short talk at an event sponsored by the Creative Commons and organized by artist and writer Niki Korth. The event title: “Creative Commons DIY Salon – I Can Do Anything Badly.” It was set up to celebrate the publication the fascinating new book, I Can Do Anything Badly 2: Learning by Doing Is a Shared Responsibility, which is a collaboration between Korth, Clémence de Montgolfier, Hoël Duret, and Frédéric Teschner. I Can Do Anything Badly 2 collects conversations, in English and French, with artists, coders, lawyers and others “in order to document the spirit of DIY in the digital age.” The book is available in print and as a free PDF. More on it at


My talk was about the Disquiet Junto, and what led up to it, about my transition over the past decades from interviewing musicians to engaging with them in music projects. The main junctures I focused on were 1989, when I started as an editor at a music magazine; 1996, when I left the magazine to take an online job; 2006, when, with the Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet project, I for the first time commissioned original works of music in response to a compositional query; 2011, when I opened the commissioning process a little for what became the Instagr/am/bient compilation; January 2012, with the launch of the Junto; and October 2014, when the Junto sound installation was exhibited at the San Jose Museum of Art. I talked about the structure of the Junto, in which musicians each week, 500+ at last count, respond to compositional prompts, how the varying nature of those projects combined with the communal structure provides a comfortable, supportive structure (I’m studiously avoiding the word “community,” and failing) in which to potentially fail. And I explained how my own development and moderation of the Junto similarly pushes me into areas of deep inexpertise.

The other presentations were very interesting. Korth ( gave an overview the overall plan for the evening, and connected it to her recent book with De Montgolfier, Duret, and Teschner.

Luca Nino Antonucci ( talked about the history of the Venus de Milo, “bad sculpture,” and how incompleteness has its own sense of attraction.


Mahmoud Hashemi ( talked about his great sonification project Listen to Wikipedia (, which he built with Stephen LaPorte. I was especially happy that Hashemi was involved, because despite the fact that we’d never met before, I use Listen to Wikipedia every semester as a subject when I teach my class about the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art.

And for her presentation, Carissa Potter ( went from theory to practice by having everyone in attendance fail in public at doing the tango.

There had been a plan initially to have music performed by members of the Disquiet Junto, but the timing just didn’t work out, which is for the best because the presentations went — happily — well past the planned 8pm closing time.

More on the event at, which was held at the Park Life gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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Video, Final Days of San Jose Museum of Art Installation

A brief video interview about my SJMA / Disquiet Junto piece, "Sonic Frame

The San Jose Museum of Art has posted this interview with me about the piece, “Sonic Frame,” that I developed to be part of its 45th anniversary exhibit, Momentum, which runs through February 22, 2015:

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“Sound as Commentary”

Niki Korth interviewed me about my San Jose Museum of Art installation.


Niki Korth asks great questions. She interviewed me recently about the “Sonic Frame” audio-visual installation I developed for the 45th anniversary of the founding of the San Jose Museum of Art. The work will be on display through the 22nd of this month. “Sonic Frame” is a response to an earlier piece of work, a silent video by Josh Azzarella, that is part of the museum’s permanent collection. The interview was published today at The Big Conversation Space, the website of a collaboration between Korth and Paris-based Clémence de Montgolfier.

Below is the opening question and my response, about the nature of that overused term “disruption” and the unique capabilities of sound in an artistic context. Later in the interview she asks about the source video for the project, the extent to which I was in touch with the original artist, the inherent subject of terrorism, the nature of the Creative Commons, and what was involved in working with around 80 composers in the process of developing the piece.

Korth: The SJMA describes the Momentum exhibition as one that ¨disrupts the status quo¨ by inviting artists to ¨intervene¨ on the works from their permanent collection that are on display by responding to them through the creation of new works. Do you consider your work to function as a disruption, in this context? What do you see as the function of disruptions and interventions within art practice more generally, in particular as they pertain to sound?

Weidenbaum: I’m personally a bit hesitant about the specific word “disrupt” because of its current broad use, perhaps its overuse, as an adopted term of tech jargon. Even in tech jargon it’s a meaningful and useful term, but for every useful employment there are dozens that are less than informed, more received, less considered. But more generally, yeah, certainly: this work, like the other work in the Momentum exhibit, was generated as an act of disruption, as the word was specifically employed by the fine folks at the San Jose Museum of Art. I think the museum’s use of the word was a solid choice — the museum is at the heart of Silicon Valley, and this approach to the world, this upending of systems, is very much on the minds of many of the people who visit the museum, the people who drive by it every day, the people who live and work in its vicinity.

The goal of the interventions was to develop something original that influences the audience’s reception of the source work. “Intervention” is a word that the museum also employed, in addition to “disrupt,” and I personally connected a bit more to “intervention” than to “disrupt.” I like the idea of intervening between the original work and the spectator, the idea of being an “active spectator,” somewhere between the original artist and traditional spectator. I am quite engaged by the idea of appropriative musicians, those who work with pre-existing material, being what I like to call “active listeners,” and I saw this project as being something of an “active viewer” — someone who has an impression of what they view, in this case Azzarella’s video, and expresses that impression by making something in response.

I use the phrase “sound as commentary” a lot to describe this process, that there’s a non-verbal yet still sonic way to communicate ideas. The original video is silent and singular, and I worked on something that is sonorous and has myriad points of view. I think anything that reminds people that the art on the wall is the start of a process as much as the end of one is a good thing. We tend to think of art as the culmination of artistic intent, and it’s great to have an opportunity to make active and to present the idea that art builds on art, as well as the fact that our perception of a work can be influenced in many ways by external circumstances. I think that sound is a particularly useful tool in such a scenario because there is always a sonic content for work, even work that is intended to be silent, and drawing attention to that activity can be thought-provoking, informative, disorienting.

The full interview is at, where the above photo is sourced from.

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Playing with Fire (Alarms)

A sound art project in 9 volts by Jeff Kolar


Few of us ever really take or have the time to consider the sonic nuances of a smoke alarm. We’re either too busy exiting the building or, more often, yanking the 9V battery when the boiling pasta has set the thing off. But characteristically curious Jeff Kolar has lowered the everyday gadget’s volume and applied to it his sonic microscope, yielding five tracks of high-pitched tones heard from various perspectives. The tracks are labeled with successive narrative aspects: “Ignition,” “Flame,” “Growth,” “Fully Developed,” and “Decay.”

There may be no sound more capable of getting someone’s attention than a smoke alarm, except perhaps for a crying baby. But in Kolar’s hands they are less piercing than insinuating. The shrill, sharp noises warp and layer and bend, each sequence suggesting itself as nanotech minimalism, from the bright chirp with which “Fully Developed” opens, to the ticking drone of “Flame,” to the tea-kettle anxiety of “Decay”. The effort is a work of audio forensics. In time, you come to understand the functional sonic components of the classic alarm, perhaps to even reflect a bit on this blissfully mundane aspect of life or death situations. It’s almost enough to make you linger the next time a smoke alarm goes off — but please exit the building before making sound art about it.


Tracks originally posted at The piece was part of the glitChicago exhibit that ran during August and September of 2014, and was produced by Kolar during his residency at ACRE. More on the project at Smoke Detector CD, complete with its great “As Seen on TV” cover, via Twitter image via

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Disquiet Junto Project 0160: One Minute Past Midnight

The Assignment: Make a one-minute field recording starting right at midnight (wherever you are).


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.

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

This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, January 22, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 26, 2015. (This week there is a little wiggle room. See below.)

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0160: One Minute Past Midnight
The Assignment: Make a one-minute field recording starting right at midnight (wherever you are).

This week’s project is very simple. It asks that you make a field recording of sound, just one single minute, starting at a specific time: midnight.

From simple things complex things sometimes grow, and this project is a hopeful initial step toward a variety of related projects that may spring up over the course of 2015, perhaps even culminating in some sort of collection, maybe even in a physical space along the lines of the “Sonic Frame” installation at the San Jose Museum of Art (that piece largely drew its sonic material from an earlier Junto project). No one’s work will be repurposed without their permission, and it’s appreciated if you post your track with a Creative Commons license that allows for non-commercial reuse and sharing.

The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Record audio, outdoors or indoors, at midnight wherever you are.

Step 2: You can post the audio as is, or create a slight fade in of volume at the start and fade out at the end.

Step 3: Upload the finished track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud. Please consider posting photography, even video, associated with your efforts.

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

Deadline: Projects are usually due at 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 26, 2015. This time, if you need to do the recording the final night of the project, it’s OK to upload early on January 27.

Length: The length of your finished work should be one minute.

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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please include the term “disquiet0160-oneminutepastmidnight” 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 160th Disquiet Junto project — “Make a one-minute field recording starting right at midnight (wherever you are)” — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

Photo associated with this project adapted from one by Manuel Delgado Tenorio and used via Creative Commons license:

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