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: video

Disquiet Junto Project 0071: Wind Music

The Assignment: Create an original score to the trailer to Christine Knowlton's film about blind sailors.

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com 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.

This week’s Disquiet Junto project is our first to employ video. It’s long been on my mind to do a video project, in which the participants would provide a score to pre-existing footage. I am sure this won’t be the last.

This assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 9, 2013, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, May 13, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0071: Wind Music

This week’s project is straightforward. It is an exercise in scoring for video. The video is one minute and four seconds long. It is the trailer to a film now in development. The title of the film is Sense the Wind and the director is Christine Knowlton. The subject of the film is blind sailors. The fact that film is about people for whom hearing is especially important made it very attractive. The director is excited to hear, and see, what we come up with. As her @SenseTheWind Twitter feed states of the film: “Blind sailors race across open water, learning not to fear what they cannot see — on boats or on land.”

The source video is here. It has all the audio, but no music:


Rules: The only restriction is that you should not employ any copyright-protected audio (i.e., source material), because the intent is for the director to select one of the tracks, potentially, to serve as the backing music for the trailer. And yes, you may certainly employ audio from the trailer as source material for your music.

Considerations: When working on this project, it is encouraged that you map out the trailer in advance of scoring, and take into consideration emotional/narrative beats, and the way its momentum builds.

Video Upload: If you have time, please also add your finished music to the trailer and upload the video to Vimeo (or another service of your choosing). Given the time involved, should you chose to upload the video, there is no firm deadline, though it would be nice if you could get it done by Wednesday, May 15, two days after the music is due.

Deadline: Monday, May 13, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your track will be equal to or less than the length of the trailer, which is four seconds over one minute.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: Include the term “disquiet0071-windmusic” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Please consider employing a license that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

I give the director permission to use my music in the trailer for the film Sense the Wind for promotional purposes.

More on this 71st Disquiet Junto project, which involves creating a backing score for the trailer to the film Sense the Wind, about competitive blind sailing, directed by Christine Knowlton, at:


More details on the Disquiet Junto at:


More on the film at


Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

Cues: Sound Motion, Book Audio, Dr. Eno, …

Plus: Google+, bugs, Windows EDM, more

Sound Motion: Three videos of materials responding to sound:

First up, mercury: “The higher the frequency the more ‘nodes’ will appear along the outer edge of the mercury,” via io9.com:

Second, what a speaker looks like when a 61 Hz tone plays at 60 frames per second, via laughingsquid.com, via Max La Rivière-Hedrick:

Third, “Non-Newtonian fluid meets subwoofer,” an experiment by Natasha Carlin (a student this semester in the class on sound I teach at the Academy of Art in San Francisco):

Note: the project was for an earlier class Carlin took, but she used as part of a student presentation in our class.

20130707-youGenerative Fiction: This is a paragraph from early on in the novel You, written by Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible). The novel is set in the world of video-game development. The paragraph is told from the point of view of the book’s main character and narrator. He’s a newb game designer who at this moment in the story, toward the end of chapter seven, is trying to sort out a bug in the software. The paragraph also seems to work as a playful metaphor for composers working in generative environments:

They could have been minor coincidences. I knew by now that a simulation-heavy game was unpredictable. A monster could wander too close to a torch and catch on fire; then it would go into its panic-run mode and anything else it bumped into might catch. Or a harmless goblin might nudge a rock, which then rolls and hits another creature just hard enough to inflict one hit point of damage, which then triggers a combat reaction, and next thing you know there’s an unscheduled goblin riot. The blessing and curse of simulation-driven engines was that although you could design the system, the world ran by itself, and accidents happened.

More on the novel at austingrossman.dreamhosters.com.

Reading Sound: This immediately movied to the top of my to-read list: Justin St. Clair‘s Sound and Aural Media in Postmodern Literature: Novel Listening, just out from Routledge. From the description:

This study examines postmodern literature— including works by Kurt Vonnegut, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Ishmael Reed, and Thomas Pynchon —arguing that one of the formal logics of postmodern fiction is heterophonia: a pluralism of sound. The postmodern novel not only bears earwitness to a crucial period in American aural history, but it also offers a critique of the American soundscape by rebroadcasting extant technological discourses. Working chronologically through four audio transmission technologies of the twentieth century (the player piano, radio, television audio, and Muzak installations), St. Clair charts the tendency of ever-proliferating audio streams to become increasingly subsumed as background sound.

More from St. Clair at soundculturestudies.net. He’s an assistant professor of English at the University of South Alabama.

Sound Matter: The publisher Noch bills itself as having a focus on “expanded listening.” Its first volume, What Matters Now? (What Can’t You Hear?), features 16 new writings (ranging from music criticism to short fiction, from visual poetry to art writing) by Cheryl Tipp, Chiara Guidi, David Toop, Francesco Tenaglia, Helena Hunter, Ivan Carozzi, James Wilkes, Luciano Chessa, Mike Cooper, Patrick Farmer, Salomé Voegelin, Sandra Jasper, Simone Bertuzzi, Stefano Scalich, Steve Roden, Tone Gellein. It’s edited by Noch founders Daniela Cascella and Paolo Inverni. Details at nochpublishing.com.

Dr. Eno: The BBC has some audio (one minute and six seconds) of Brian Eno’s The Quiet Room, an audio-visual healing installation at the Montefiore Hospital in Hove, England: bbc.co.uk. It is very Thursday Afternoon. That’s a good thing. … While on the subject, the Soundcheck show from WNYC has been interviewing musicians about their guilty pleasures; Eno provides a welcome context to his answer: “I’m not really embarrassed about any of my tastes.” (Latter link thanks to Mike Rhode.)

More Children: Nice little review by the Seattle Stranger‘s David Schmader of The Children Next Door, for which I did sound design with composer Taylor Deupree, at thestranger.com: “it’s a masterpiece — smart, tough, fearless, and miraculously compact.” Directed by Doug Block, produced by Lynda A. Hansen. The film is playing there at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival 2013.

One Liners: Keep an ear out for cicadas. ◼ There’s now a page on Google+ for a fledgling Disquiet.com presence: gplus.to/disquiet. ◼ Various Microsoft content projects apparently have an “electronic dance music” component (adweek.com). ◼ 19 musicians made tracks from just two tones and three beats in the 70th Disquiet Junto project, which ended last night.

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Cues: Turner Query, InstaJam, Sound Videos

Plus: Phil Kline on Brian Eno, orchestral stasis, voice overacting, and more

Shorted Shortlist: The shortlist for this year’s Turner Prize has been announced. The artists are Laure Prouvost, Tino Sehgal, David Shrigley, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A writeup at blouinartinfo.com refers to Sehgal as a “first” for the Turner (“the first time an artist producing no object is included”), but I wonder if Susan Philipsz, who won for a sound-based work in 2010, doesn’t count in that regard. Charlotte Higgins, among others, noted this back in December 2010; Higgins wrote of Philipsz, at guardian.co.uk, that she “is the first person in the history of the award to have created nothing you can see or touch.” Then again, perhaps what the Blouin story, by Coline Milliard, is getting at is that even though ephemeral, the Philipsz piece in question — Lowlands, which involved multiple versions of the same 16th-century Scottish song — was still a self-contained work, unlike with Sehgal, whose “objectless practice involves events performed by participants.” For the record, I’m not remotely focused on art horse races — in “art competition” in general — but I am interested in how art horse races shape and illuminate things, like institutional conceptions of the role of sound in art.



What Sound Looks Like: That’s a visualization of the song of a humpback whale up top, below left crickets chirping and below right a Northern Cardinal. These are the work of Mark Fischer, who combined his interests in computer programming and marine acoustics. More at his website, aguasonic.com (via dailymail.co.uk, via io9.com).

App Developments: You can now connect your instagram.com account to your thisismyjam account, and “use any Instagram photo as your jam image,” according to an email announcement from the latter service late last week.

Unsilent Eno: “[H]aving invented the future, shouldn’t he be allowed to live in it?” — that’s composer Phil Kline (Unsilent Night) on Brian Eno returning time and again to particular themes and concepts (wqxr.org). … Speaking of whom, Eno’s latest installation is at the Montefiore Hospital in Hove, England (via longnow.org). This will, no doubt, lead to Eno’s Syndrome, a pathology suffered by those who seek treatment at Montefiore Hospital to take in his installation.

Past Isn’t Past Dept.: The further ahead we progress, the deeper into the past we can delve. Technology continues to let us listen to things that were, until recent years, unlistenable, such as a recording of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone: ibtimes.com:

Live Film Sound: “The film has drifted into obscurity for one simple reason. … ‘The sound doesn’t exist.’” — that’s from Susan King’s piece in The Los Angles Times about the resuscitation of The Donovan Affair, a 1929 Frank Capra film (“the first all-talking motion picture he directed for Columbia Pictures”). There’s now a live theatrical version of the film, with actors and musicians and others providing audio to the projected movie. How did they get the script? There was a copy in the archives of the New York State Board of Film Censors — “but it was only 60% to 70% accurate.”

Voice Overacting: “It’s going really well but you don’t have to add your own sound effects” — that’s fight-training advice given to actress Hayley Atwell, who plays Peggy Carter in the recent Captain America films, at metro.co.uk (via io9.com).

Sounds of Brands: “Live Music and a Canned Patron” — that’s the title of Ben Sisario‘s piece in The New York Times about the Red Bull Music Academy (nytimes.com). The academy began in 1998, 11 years after Red Bull was founded. The event in New York this year includes work by Brian Eno, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Giorgio Moroder, among many others. Flying Lotus is an alumni; he participated in 2006, when the event took place in Melbourne — that’s the year of his debut album (1983, titled for the year of his birth). Red Bull is an essential case study in this class on sound in the media landscape I’ve been teaching.

Sound Designers: There is a deep well of sound-design mini-documentaries about film over at soundworkscollection.com. Below is an eight-minute overview of the sound and music in the David Fincher version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with commentary from composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, sound re-recording mixer Michael Semanick, and re-recording mixer, sound designer, and supervising sound editor Ren Klyce (thanks for the link, Max La Rivière-Hedrick of futurepruf.com). The discussion at one point focuses on an especially fine moment in the film, when the droning of a floor cleaner in a nearly deserted office building melds with the movie’s score:

Orchestral Stasis: What follows are the fourth and fifth movements from the world-premiere performance of Markus Reuter’s “Todmorden 513,” a beautiful example of orchestral stasis. It was recorded at the King Center Concert Hall in Denver, Colorado, on April 18, 2013 (cinematographer and sound recorder Scott “Gusty” Christensen, music director/conductor Thomas A. Blomster):

Interface Agnostic: “Be skeptical of the name and GUI of all your plugins.” — Excellent advice, both practical and metaphorical, from Brandon Drury in his column “I’m A Sound Designer: Game Changer #8″ at recordingreview.com.

Also tagged , , , , , , , , , / / Leave a comment ]

Cues: Jozef Van Wissem Per Rosanne Cash, Mike Patton Scores Derek Cianfrance

Plus: Celluloid heroes, Hearts of Space, Warren Ellis, more

◼ Part two of the two-part history of Celluloid Records is now streaming online, via strut-records.com:

Mike Patton’s score to The Place Beyond the Pines is streaming in full at pitchfork.com. The film stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper, and was directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). There’s also an interview a the site. In addition to 12 original cues from Patton, the film features by Arvo Pärt and Ennio Morricone, among others.

◼ The soft launch of music critic Michael Azzerad’s new website, The Talkhouse (at thetalkhouse.com), included Laurie Anderson on Animal Collective and Vijay Iyer on Flying Lotus. Rosanne Cash describes Jim Jarmusch and Jozef Van Wissem’s The Mystery of Heaven as sounding “like Ennio Morricone and Brian Eno got in a fight while writing the music for a spaghetti western.” According to press materials, “The Talkhouse will feature one piece on one album written by one musician each day, five days a week. On weekends, the site will feature a long-form music feature piece written by artists across many genres: film, comedy, literature, etc.” Azerrad is the author of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 and Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. The site is still listed as being in beta.

◼ In his occasional email newsletter, Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Red, Gun Machine) talked a bit about the excellent Spektrmodule podcast (“ambient, sleepy and haunted musics,” in his description) that he concatenates. The latest episode, number 17, includes music by Pausal and Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices.

◼ There’s a three-day ambient-music convention/conference, titled AMBIcon, to be held from May 3 – 5 in San Rafael, California. It is taking place to note several milestones for the Hearts of Space, which began in 1973 at KPFA-FM in Berkeley and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The show began national syndication in 1983, and earlier this had its 1,000th broadcast. There will be eight surround-sound performances by Hans Christian, Stephan Micus, Jeff Pearce, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Michael Stearns, Stellamara, and Tim Story, a Q&A session moderated by Stephen Hill (the series’ host and co-founder), and a presentation by Mark Prendergast, author of the book The Ambient Century. More details at hos.com.

◼ There were 19 tracks produced for the 64th Disquiet Junto project, which ended last night at 11:59 pm. The project involved the theme of “composing from memory.” … Also, I finally put together a set of the 25 extant tracks from the 14th Junto project, which involved sonic versions of the comic that served as the starting point for Matt Madden’s Oulipo/Oubapa comic, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style.

Also tagged , , , , , , / / Leave a comment ]

GIF in the Wind (MP3)

A guest GIFbites entry by otolythe


The GIFbites series continues to seek to locate the sonic equivalent of, the sonic score to, the phenomenon known as the animated GIF. The latest GIFbites entry, as always 15 seconds long, is a guest piece by friend-of-Disquiet otolythe. The uncharacteristically subdued GIF in question, shown above, could be a piece of toilet paper caught in a Levolor blind. The otolythe score is all television static, video-game sound effects, and distracted mastication — perhaps the very sounds of the living room that the Levolor in question guards from the harsh, suburban sun.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/gifbites. Animated GIF via whtebkgrnd.tumblr.com. Rules on GIFbites submissions are at gifbites.com. GIFbites is orchestrated by the insightful and curious Daniel Rourke, more from whom at twitter.com/GIFbites and machinemachine.net.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]