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

The Politics of Doorbells

Privacy, technology, politeness, and caution in the age of Instagram

A friend asked: Has anybody caught you taking pics of their door buzzer? And if you do get caught, how would you explain yourself?

I answered: One person has. I was taking the photo one morning of the buzzer at a generic, undistinguished apartment building. Someone was backing their car out of the multi-tenant garage. The person for some reason got out of their car before it was fully backed out, I think maybe to see if anyone was walking on the sidewalk, and then saw me. Instantly I was asked, quite anxiously, “What do you think you’re doing?” The person was upset. I looked back and said, “I’m taking a picture of the doorbell.” The person instantly calmed and said, “Oh, OK. Thanks. Have a good day.” I have some rules about the doorbells I photograph, and among them are anonymity — not only do I never post photos that show clearly evident names, I don’t even take photos of doorbells that have identifiable names clearly on them. The second rule is addresses. If the full address is on it, I don’t take the picture. Those two rules alone keep at bay a lot of the interpersonal weirdness (the perceived invasion of privacy in taking a picture of something that by definition is fully public). I’m also pretty careful that no one is watching when I do it. That morning when the driver got upset with me was a bad call on my part. The garage door was already open. I should have seen that coming.

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This Week in Sound: Mapping Silence

+ RJDJ + MIT sound + Wainwright Syndrome + speech control + pre-acoustic + Spotify protip

A lightly annotated clipping service (fairly brief edition this week):

RJDJ Return: This video is just a tease, but it’s a promising one. The makers of the RJDJ augmented-reality audio app have a new app in the works, named Hear, that processes everyday sounds through filters. There’s been much talk of an “Instagram for sound.” This has a sense of that wish being fulfilled. Video found via Ashley Elsdon’s palmsounds.net. (Post-script: since this note first appeared in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, the app has gone live on iTunes’s App Store. Unfortunately the app is not, for the time being, compatible with my fifth-generation iPod Touch, so I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.)

Sound Studies: Geeta Dayal interviewed Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner, who is teaching a course at MIT called “Introduction to Sound Creations.” Says St. Werner, “I think it’s great that the visual-art world has embraced sound more, but there is the risk of that becoming a novelty. There’s also a great chance for sound, to see it as its own art form. It doesn’t need anything that makes it agreeable. That’s the great opportunity we see at the moment.”

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Mapping Silence: At the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham writes about a map commissioned last year by the National Park Service “of what the United States would sound like if you were to remove all traces of human activity from the picture,” pictured above. (Via Steve Ashby)

Wainwright Syndrome: Slightly removed from sound, though as always sound is vibration so buzzing is sound, and phones buzzing are doubly sound since the buzz is a stand-in for a ring(tone): at nymag.com, Cari Romm writes about phantom phone vibrations: “These imagined sounds and sensations are examples of pareidolia, the phenomenon of perceiving a pattern within randomness where no pattern exists (seeing the man on the moon, for example, or hearing satanic messages in a record played backwards). For this particular pareidolia, there are a few things that make some people more susceptible than others.”

Always On: As someone who is rarely a foot from his phone, I still find the voice activation aspect of phones alarming in a privacy sense, but Google keeps upping the ante: “Google Announces Voice Access Beta—Control Your Phone Completely by Voice” (androidpolice.com).

Pre-Acoustic: If you’re near University of Copenhagen, there’s an interesting symposium happening there in two days, on April 21: “The field of sound studies often gets restricted to sound practices, listening experiences and auditory dispositives after the advent of modern acoustics, established as an academic subdiscipline of physics in the 19th century. Yet unsurprisingly, auditory knowledge was present and impactful in cultures of the middle ages, the renaissance, and early enlightenment”: soundstudieslab.org.

Spotify Protip: Since I’ve been on and off tracking my use of Spotify (following the demise of the Rdio service), here’s a Spotify protip. If you’re having issues with the offline sync (which lets you store tracks or albums on a device, as I do on my iPod Touch, which is the primary way I use Spotify), the issue may be that you have too many devices associated with your account. I had four. Once I reduced it to three everything worked fine.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 19, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0225: Serial Composition

Sight read a late-1940s painting by Argentine artist Lidy Prati as a graphically notated score.

lidyprati

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. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

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

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 21, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, April 25, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0225: Serial Composition
Sight read a late-1940s painting by Argentine artist Lidy Prati as a graphically notated score.

This week’s project takes as its subject a painting recently posted by art critic Blake Gopnik. Seen here, it dates from around 1948, he writes, and is by the Argentine artist Lidy Prati (1921-2008). In his description, Gopnik references Piet Mondrian, whose music is often associated with musical scores. Both the grid-like structure of Prati’s piece and its title, “Serial Composition,” suggest it as the subject of sonic investigation. Gopnik connects the piece to computers: “[I]t speaks of a system that can generate them. Computers and their algorithms seem on this painting’s mind, at a moment when computers still filled entire rooms with vacuum tubes.” (Note that as I was researching this project I came across work by Marcelo Gutman, who has created colorful score tributes to Prati.)

These are the steps for this week’s project.

Step 1: View the circa-1948 painting “Serial Composition” by Lidy Prati at this URL:

http://blakegopnik.com/post/142806762364

Step 2: Consider it as a musical score. Think about the sort of musical composition that “Serial Composition” might be.

Step 3: Record yourself performing “Serial Composition” as a graphically notated musical score.

Step 4: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 21, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, April 25, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, though between two and three minutes feels about right.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this project, 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 in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0225-serialcomposition.” Also use “disquiet0225-serialcomposition” 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 225th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Sight read a late-1940s painting by Argentine artist Lidy Prati as a graphically notated score”) at:

http://disquiet.com/0225/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image originally posted (and viewable in larger scale) at

http://blakegopnik.com/post/142806762364

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This Week in Sound: Exposed Speakers + Paramusical Ensemble

+ AM-less e-cars + muting Istanbul

A lightly annotated clipping service — and because I was prepping for the second week of class, this week’s This Week in Sound is a bit more rangy and a bit more cursory. Then again, maybe it should be more rangy and cursory in the first place:

Brain Tunes: The New York Times reports on MIT research that seeks to codify the human experience of music: “By mathematically analyzing scans of the auditory cortex and grouping clusters of brain cells with similar activation patterns, the scientists have identified neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music.” As C. Reider noted on Twitter, the definition of music in the research is peculiarly limited. Reider points to this section of the piece: “When a musical passage is played, a distinct set of neurons tucked inside a furrow of a listener’s auditory cortex will fire in response. … Other sounds, by contrast — a dog barking, a car skidding, a toilet flushing — leave the musical circuits unmoved.” Alex Temple put it well: “If people are still saying this over 100 years after Russolo’s ‘The Art of Noise,’ they’re probably never going to stop.” And Nick Sowers: “Sorry NY Times, my musical circuits are also moved by dog barks and car skids. Maybe not toilet flushes tho.”

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Paramusic Union: The feel-good music-tech story of the week must be that of Rosemary Johnson (telegraph.co.uk), a violinist whose career was stopped short due to a car crash that left her severely disabled, unable to speak or even move. But after a decade of effort at Plymouth University and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London, Johnson is now producing music through technology that lets her control computer equipment with her brain. The photo above shows Johnson and three other disabled individuals who, along with the Bergersen String Quartet, form what they call the Paramusical Ensemble.

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Umbrella Stands: The fact is every week I could feature one or another new work of sound art whose visual impact results from a preponderance of speakers — and I probably will. This week’s, above, is of an installation, Re-Rain, created by Kouichi Okamoto and on display at the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art in Shizuoka City, Japan. Each speaker emits the sound of rain, which is reflected off the inside of the umbrellas: thecreatorsproject.vice.com.

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Lagos Sonics: Speaking of exposed speakers, above is a shot from the washingtonpost.com site on Emeka Ogboh’s “Market Symphony,” a new work displayed at the National Museum of African Art. The speakers, which play sounds from Balogun Market in Lagos, and elsewhere in Nigeria, are installed on “colorful enamelware trays” of the sort found in the market. It’s the museum’s first sound installation. (I may be in D.C. at some point in the next few weeks, and if I get there I hope to check out this exhibit.)

Muting Istanbul: Imagine being able to mute or amplify individual elements from what constitute a city’s soundscape. Ateş Erkoç has produced such an installation in Istanbul as part of the exhibit Everyday Sounds: Exploring Sound Through Daily Life: dailysabah.com.

AM Unplugged: Apparently the mechanics of electrical cars don’t go well with AM radio, reports music3point0.blogspot.com: “cars like the Tesla Model X or BMW i3 don’t install them since the AM reception is impossible due to the internal electrical noise of the car” — via motherboard.vice.com, twitter.com/jeffkolar.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the February 9, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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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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