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.
Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:
This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, September 3, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, September 7, 2015.
Step 2: Now record 10 seconds that sync to that animation. (Alternately, record an extended piece of music that is intended, every 10 seconds, to sync with the animation.)
Step 3: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud. (Bonus points if you manage to sync the audio and animation and upload to a video service.)
Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.
Deadline: This assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, September 3, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, September 7, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work will likely be 10 seconds, but could be longer depending on the choice you make in Step 2 above.
Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, 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 include the term “disquiet0192-psycatdelicloop” 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, and link to (and identify) the two SoundCloud pages for the source audio you selected:
More on this 192nd Disquiet Junto project (“Record a 10-second loop to accompany an insane cat GIF”) at:
“Musick to Play in the Dark” is a mini-suite of shifting elements, from Vietnamese singing to antic percussion. It is by Luong Hue Trinh, a Vietnamese national who studied in Japan and has traveled widely. Opening with high-tension strings before the singing kicks in, it slowly becomes a majestic, maximalist work, heavy on hypnotically rhythmic percussion. The beat, heard as if from inside an old alarm clock, has a back and forth sway that creates intricate patterning, especially as it is set against distant pounding and sonic effects.
There’s also video of her performing an excerpt of the piece at the Onion Cellar in Hanoi, making it clear she’s working largely on a laptop from prerecorded field recordings and sampled music:
The video is titled “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer.” Over at Michael Ross’ excellent Guitar Moderne site, where I first learned of the extensive footage, he expands the billing to “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer & Eivind Aarset,” since Aarset is the guitarist on stage and guitars are Ross’ focus, but that still isn’t the full picture. This hour and a half concert also includes Vladislav Delay, on a variety of trenchantly echoing technology. It’s a formative crew, the sort of dream team that Bill Laswell might have conjured. In one corner you have a Jamaican rhythm duo, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, that is renowned for its boundary-pushing dub and reggae. In the opposing corner you have Norwegian ambient-jazz figures Nils Petter Molvaer, he of the deeply muted trumpet, and Eivind Aarset, whose elegant guitar atmospheres have gained him prominence beyond his extensive work as part of Molvaer’s band. And then there’s the prolific and musically gregarious Vladislav Delay, who here goes back and forth between hammering springs and playing live samples. Together they create expansive, delectably slow-paced, and enticingly elemental percussive spaces. It never gets as chaotic or anarchic or pleasurably lost as do Laswell’s own pan-genre meet-up mashups, but it often comes close, and every player has fine moments throughout, even if you also have to make due with a brief, placid Pink Floyd cover toward the end.
We already have our jetpacks. We just happen to call them drones. Sure, these drones don’t carry us into the sky the way we were promised in our childhoods, but they carry with them our eyes, our imaginations, and our ambitions. Now that we live so much of our lives online, is it much of a stretch to suggest that drones take us up in the air?
Thanks to Tim Prebble, drones also carry with them our ears. Prebble is an accomplished field recordist who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where he runs Hiss and Roar (hissandaroar.com), a sound design library of everything from fireworks and metal resonance to chimes and tortured pianos. His lengthy sound-design film credits include Antarctica: A Year on Ice, 30 Days of Night, and The World’s Fastest Indian. Prebble this week posted on Facebook a single photo of a small consumer-grade (i.e., non-military) drone carrying an audio recording device (the second still image down below). When I asked him for more details of what he was up to, he sent me a lengthy account, and many more photos, plus the two videos shown here. The video up top is a quick summary of experiments he’s been doing recording with drones, and recording the sound of drones. It’s a Doppler paradise.
Best experienced in headphones, the above video shows various settings for the drone recording, including an opening shot from the drone’s own perspective, while recording the audio effect of it passing by several microphones. Later on in a subsequent clip, the three-dimensional motion can be experienced as three-dimensional sound: stereo manages left and right, while relative volume accounts for foreground and background. Throughout, the primary sound is that of the drones themselves, a sound Prebble likens to that of bees. The results are striking.
In experimental electronic music, the word “drone” is virtually a genre unto itself, one that explores stasis in everything from field recordings to sine waves to layers of ambient textures. Since the word “drone” has come, popularly, to refer to flying devices, jokes are made regularly about “drones of drones.” Prebble has managed to make the joke real, and the result is no joke — it is alternately eerie and warm, anxious and majestic.
Here is Prebble himself, from an email he sent to me with permission to share, on what he is developing:
“The Bees Sound Angry”
While I’d seen plenty of drones & footage shot with them online, I never really appreciated their potential until I worked on a short film project recently where we wanted aerial footage but a helicopter was unaffordable. We ended up hiring an experienced drone pilot and after the first shoot I began dreaming about their potential, for image but also for sound.
Once the project was finished I decided to get myself a quadcopter, a DJI Phantom 3 Pro. My first experiments were focused on technically learning to fly it, but also learning to deal with the discombobulation of having a set of eyes that can move remotely in three dimensions. I consider a camera drone akin to having a set of tracks & dolly (or a camera crane) which can move in any of the three dimensions without the constraints — the first video I shot was effectively a vertical tracking shot from outside my house…
One aspect of using a drone that can be problematic is that it tends to attract people, and avoiding slack jawed observers in shots can be a challenge. But it is often the sound of the quadcopter that first draws peoples attention – if you haven’t heard one close up, then the best description I can think of is that they sound like a small swarm of angry bees, and when you do fast movements the bees sound very angry! Ever since that first drone shoot I’ve been fascinated by quadcopter sounds, which led me to this experiment:
From a sound designers perspective I LOVE the idea I can control & perform movements with this swarm of angry bees, so the first idea I am pursuing is to capture a library of sound effects, much as I would for a vehicle for a film. I am capturing a lot of variations of quadcopter start, take off, away, hover, approach and land, as well as doppler passbys & moves at various speeds. While the resulting library will be useful for practical purposes it will also be rich source material for manipulation & processing….
But as with any vehicle recording, exterior recording is only half the story. When recording vehicles I happily capture onboard perspective sound to multitrack; placing mics in the engine bay, near the exhaust, near tyres and inside the cabin. Effectively capturing constant perspective, isolated elements to be rebalanced as per the needs of the film.
So that first photo above was an attempt at recording onboard, constant perspective quadcopter sounds. I’d first thought of using a pair of tiny DPA4060 lavalier mics but the recorder soon became the issue eg my Sound Devices 722 recorder weighs 1.2kg & while the Phantom 3 is powerful it was never going to carry more than its own bodyweight as cargo. So next I tried the Sony PCM D100, rigged to hang below the drone.
The results were surprisingly good – there was some wind noise, a 150Hz HPF got rid of most of that but more layers of Rycote wind protection will achieve that better & at the source. There was also a very small amount of motor whine & electrical interference from the camera gimbal, but once the rotors are working that sound is masked. The next iteration of rigging I suspended the recorder on rubber bungy rather than string, to avoid transmission of any vibrational noise, and I also experimented with different lengths, attempting to place the recorder & mics further from the prop wash.
A secondary sound recording idea I am pursuing with the drone is purely as a transporter. Imagine placing your mics in the top of a 1000 year old Kauri tree, or on a small island in a lake. Both would potentially provide unique ambience recordings, but getting the mics into place is difficult. So I’ve been thinking about whether there is a way to have the drone carry my recorder to such locations, safely land & power down to allow clean ambience recording, and then fly home.
The recorder hanging below the quadcopter means that landing is difficult – I’ve avoided this issue so far by hovering the drone within arms reach & simply grabbing it & powering off. With the extra weight I would want to be VERY confident before risking losing my drone & recorder – if it toppled over while landing then it would be a very tough decision to either abandon it, or risk life & limb to retrieve it!
Suspect we will be seeing more ads like this in future!
The latest David Torn album, Only Sky (ECM), feels like the album he’s been striving for his whole recording career. It manages to find a place at home with his interest in deep, expansive atmospherics, and yet that place is one in which Torn’s pyrotechnic fluency with stringed instruments isn’t entirely put aside. In fact, the intensity of his actions feeds the equal intensity of the ambient foundation, often in the form tiny fragments set on repeat until they merge into a mist. The video follows his manipulation of the sounds, how the automation lets him trade instruments — between electric guitar and oud — without missing a beat. And better yet, at the end he speaks to the audience, apparently back in March 2013, two full years before the album’s release, at a TEDxCaltech event. What he’s playing is what became the album’s title cut.
• November 7, 2015: At 7:30pm I'll be discussing the Disquiet Junto with Fusion's Alexis Madrigal as part of the Real Future of Sound event in San Francisco at realfuturefair.com.
• November 9, 2015: A short essay I wrote ("Bassel K") will appear in the book The Cost of Freedom, dedicated to Bassel Khartabil, who's been detained in Syria since March 15, 2012. Details at costoffreedom.cc.
• Around November 30, 2015: Jeff Kolar's album Doorbells will be released by the label Panospria. I wrote the liner notes. In the meanwhile you can listen to his previous album, Smoke Detector.
• December 13, 2015: The 19th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: soundcloud.com.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.