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

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Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
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tag: video

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.

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Cues: Deaf Gaming, Twang Bar Noise, Tank Preservation, …

Plus: a 30-part sound documentary on BBC, the history of Celluloid Records, and more

Deaf Gaming: Interesting anecdote from a recent gamasutra.com piece on the late video game creator Kenji Eno, written by Brandon Sheffield. The “Eno” in this is, of course, Kenji (not Brian), and the Saturn is the Sega game console from the mid-1990s:

“For his next game, Sega wanted to make it an exclusive — whatever it was. Eno had recently met with some sight-impaired folks who liked to play action games, and he asked himself, “What if you made a game that the blind and the sighted could play equally?” So he created the game Real Sound, which is an audio-only retail game, and made Sega promise that if he made the game exclusive to them, they would donate 1,000 Saturns to blind people, and he would supply 1,000 copies of the game. Again, this was an unusual idea for 1996, but he felt the stagnancy of the industry, and went to great lengths to shake it up.”

Surround Sound: The Tank is a 60’ x 30′ vessel — a “rusted steel water tank” in the words of its caretaker, Bruce Odland, who has made use of its inherent 40-second reverb since 1976. He’s set up a kickstarter.com campaign to ensure its future use:

The campaign ends March 31, 2013. More on the project at kickstarter.com. (Thanks for the tip go to Joshua Izenberg, whose film Slomo just won the Documentary Short prize among the Short Film Jury Awards at the 2013 SXSW festival. Jeremiah Moore, the sound designer on Slomo, is apparently also involved in this Tank project.)

Electretymologies: There’s a hair’s-breadth matter of word choice in today’s “playlist” by Jon Pareles in the New York Times. In a single column he reviews six records. For SuunsImages du Futur he mentions “the repeating synthesizer tones of early electro.” For How to Destroy AngelsWelcome Oblivion he mentions both “dank electronic sounds” and how “the electronics mostly give way to the acoustic.” And for Draco Rosa’s Vida he mentions “dipping into new wave, Caribbean styles, electronica and, at the end, hard-rock blasts.” The emphasis is mine. Those are four distinct terms, all variations on a core root prefix, all used in close proximity: electro, electronic, electronics, and electronica.

Twang Bar Theory: This is pretty great. Over at youtube.com, Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails) as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival back in 2011, discussing the “history and future of guitar noise”:

The event opened with a guitar solo, to set the tone, as it were, for the event, and there’s a third section as well.

Docusound Platform: Promotional video for the site docusound.org, “a platform for producing and distributing audio documentaries”:

Sonifying Auckland: Sound designer Tim Prebble, along with filmmaker Denise Batchelor, is a 2013 artist in residence of the Auckland regional parks system. Details at scoop.co.nz. Here is description from the announcement: “He’ll record local native birdcalls, slow the recordings to allow notation and then ‘play with this as the DNA of music’, embellishing and orchestrating it. On completion, his music will be played at a local venue and a CD, tentatively called The Bird Song Preludes, will be available after his residency.” More from Prebble at musicofsound.co.nz.

Celluloid Heroes: The first of two parts of a documentary about Celluloid Records, over at youtube.com, featuring among others Bill Laswell, DXT (formerly Grand Mixer DST), and label founder Jean Karakos:

Re-scanning: Great interview at thequietus.com with Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, about his range of activities. He goes project by project, talking about his early work with the technology from which he took his name (“The scanner was connected directly into a tape deck the whole time. This was ’91, ’92, this was anticipating an idea of the internet, there was no access to this kind of networked world that we’re so comfortable with today. These voices and accessing them suddenly took you into a very private place that you could never otherwise be in.”), collaborating with filmmaker Derek Jarman and artist Mike Kelley, and “re-soundtrack[ing]” the final two minutes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, and much more.

In Brief: There’s a 30-part audio documentary titled Noise: A Human History being presented starting tomorrow, March 18, on BBC 4 by David Hendy of the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex: bbc.co.uk (via bl.uk). ¶ The palmsounds.net provides a brief overview of a talk Rob Thomas (of Reality Jockey) gave in London about mobile music. ¶ In the Field: The Art of Field Recording is a new book containing interviews with artists whose work employs field recordings. Among those are Andrea Polli, Christina Kubisch, Francisco López, Hildegard Westerkamp, Jez Riley French, and Lasse-Marc Riek. (Thanks for the tip, John Kannenberg.) ¶ “Why Do People Use ‘Nope’ Even Though ‘No’ Is Shorter?” (at slate.com, via Quora). The short version is that “no” may have half as many letters but the hard stop at the end of “nope” arguably makes it more succinct. The author, Marc Ettlinger, has other theories as well, including an informative bit on “sound symbolism.” ¶ Robert Henke, aka Monolake, is coming to the San Francisco Bay Area as a visiting instructor at CCRMA, the computer music department at Stanford University. In a warm-welcome gesture, the department made the page announcing his course look just like a page from Henke’s own monolake.de website. ¶ That White House petition to make unlocking cellphones legal, mentioned here recently, has gained President Obama’s support. ¶ The 62nd Disquiet Junto project had 44 participants, each making music from three sine waves. ¶ Here’s a recording of Steve Reich’s “Radio Rewrite,” his new adaptation of Radiohead’s “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and “Everything in Its Right Place”: youtube.com. (Note, it’s audio only. Found via the indispensable rgable.typepad.com.)

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Drone + Video = Vrone

Exploring the sonic potential of the Vine app

2013-vinelogoThe app called Vine facilitates the easy production of six-second audio-video clips. It has managed to locate an entertaining parallel between tweets and animated gifs, between short outbursts of self-expression and the hypnotic splendor inherent in repetition.

My first Vine post (I’m @disquiet on Vine) was of a 7″ single playing on a turntable, specifically a 7″ that was a compilation of locked grooves, short loops in which the record needle gets stuck and plays forever. The length of the loop and length of the video do not quite match, and the seam is all too evident, but it was a fun experiment, especially because it used an old nifty bit of loopy pop culture to test out a new nifty bit of loopy pop culture:

(The compilation 7″ in question was released in 1993 on RRRecords. It features pieces by Big City Orchestra, Controlled Bleeding, Randy Greif, Jim O’Rourke, Gregory Whitehead, and 95 other contributors. View the full track list at discogs.com. There’s a picture of it at deadformat.net.)

Matthew Barlow has posted several items on Vine that are musical in nature — that is, they emphasize the audio as equal to if not over the visual. That is in contrast with the majority of Vine posts, in which the sound is often just the ambient noise of whatever happens to have been going on when the video was shot. Note that outside of the Vine app itself, Vine loops come up muted, requiring the listener-viewer to opt to turn up the volume. One example of Barlow’s exploration of Vine’s sonic potential is this bit of wind chime, which can be thought of as an especially early version of endlessly looping music, though of course its structural complexity makes those sounds more varied that a locked groove. When looped to six circular seconds, the distinction becomes less meaningful. Barlow ingeniously uses multiple seams between short segments of clips of the wind chime to make the overall length of the clip less self-evident than it would have been with a straight single shot:

The core of Barlow’s Vine experiments have tended to focus on a balance of visual and drone. He’s tagged them many things, including #lofi and #loop and #experimental, but foremost is the neologism #vrone. It is a useful term, not only because it suggests a new form, but because the word #drone on Vine is mostly of small flying objects.

Here is an example of his efforts:

And here is another:

Better yet, use vineviewer.co to pull up the results of the #vrone hashtag, and listen to (as of this writing) three of Barlow’s pieces playing simultaneously.

More from/on Barlow, who is based in Asheville, North Carolina, at twitter.com/MattCBarlow and matthewbarlow.bandcamp.com. More on Vine, which is currently only available for iOS, at vine.co and itunes.apple.com.

Postscript: Shortly after this was published, Barlow informed me that the term #vrone was suggested by the musician Sima Kim.

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Cues: Glass House, Lucier’s Audiobiography, Prelinger’s Manifesto, …

Plus: sine waves, ambisonic growth, Autechre streams, more

Glass House Music: Via NPR, video of Julianna Barwick performing a haunting layering of her vocals at the famed Glass House of Philip Johnson in New Canaan, Connecticut:

The conjunction of her music and this place brings to mind the influence of transparent residences on John Cage’s conception of sound. This is from his book Silence:

“The glass houses of Mies van der Rohe reflect their environment, presenting to the eye images of clouds, trees, or grass, according to the situation. And while looking at the constructions in the wire of the sculptor Richard Lippold, it is inevitable that one will see other things, and people too, if they happen to be there at the same time, through the network of wires. There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.””

Talking Book: In a review of Alvin Lucier’ book Music 109 (Wesleyan) at lareviewofbooks.org, Dave Mandl gets to the heart of the document — that it is more history than musicology, and more personal history than history: “What exactly determined the set of people and compositions Lucier chose to discuss in his book — or, for that matter, in his lectures? … The most likely answer is also rather mundane: Lucier probably chose this particular group because it’s the circle of people he happens to have been involved with.” Not, to suggest, that there’s anything wrong with that.

Borrower Be: Rick Prelinger’s essay “On the Virtues of Preexisting Material” is essential reading, especially for folks interested in the conceptual framework of the Creative Commons. This is the outline of his self-described “manifesto”:

  1. Why add to the population of orphaned works?
  2. Don’t presume that new work improves on old
  3. Honor our ancestors by recycling their wisdom
  4. The ideology of originality is arrogant and wasteful
  5. Dregs are the sweetest drink
  6. And leftovers were spared for a reason
  7. Actors don’t get a fair shake the first time around, let’s give them another
  8. The pleasure of recognition warms us on cold nights and cools us in hot summers
  9. We approach the future by typically roundabout means
  10. We hope the future is listening, and the past hopes we are too
  11. What’s gone is irretrievable, but might also predict the future
  12. Access to what’s already happened is cheaper than access to what’s happening now
  13. Archives are justified by use
  14. Make a quilt not an advertisement

It’s at contentsmagazine.com.

Sine Table: This is the workbench of someone developing sine waves for musical use:


It was posted by Jeff Kolar as evidence of his work on the current, 62nd Disquiet Junto project. On a simpler note, if you’re participating in the project, making music from sine waves, this browser-based oscillator may be of use: onlinetonegenerator.com, as recommeded by Karl Fousek (karlfousek.com).

In Brief: ¶ The February compilation of Creative Commons music from the nx series includes a dozen tracks from the 59th Disquiet Junto project, “Vowel Choral Drone: musicnumbers.wordpress.com. It was compiled by Miquel Parera of Barcelona, Spain, who is at twitter.com/computerneix. (Hat tip to Larry Johnson (soundcloud.com/l-a-j-1).) ¶ Got word this morning that the Stephan Mathieu project at indiegogo.com was officially fully funded. ¶ The firm Arup, whose ambisonic activity has been a subject here, has further expanded its acoustics endeavors with the integration of the firm Artec (artecconsultants.com, arup.com). ¶ Both the Saturday and Sunday Autechre live sets from last weekend are still streaming as archival recordings at mixlr.com/autechre. ¶ Rob Walker, good friend and the organizer of the apexart exhibit that hosted Disquiet Junto music last year, has taken a new gig as a news columnist at Yahoo! (news: mediabistro.com). In his first column he lays out why the whys and hows of gadget-land are more deserving of focus than the whats — that is, than the gadgets themselves: “I won’t be doing is joining the race to post images of and quote press releases for the latest gizmo. To me, what’s really interesting about technology isn’t technology—it’s what people choose to do with technology, for better and for worse.” ¶ This section had been called “Stems,” for the partitions in the contemporary electronically mediated recording process. Before that it was called “Tangents.” Now it is called “Cues.”

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John Parish Cue

A taste of his forthcoming collection of music for film

The title of John Parish’s forthcoming compilation album, Screenplay, has various meanings. A collection of music he has written for the screen, it toys with industry terminology. By borrowing the language of the narrative and applying it to the score, he is staking a claim for the role music plays in film, the extent to which it has its own story to tell. By bringing together cues from several films, rather than releasing the full scores of any of them, the album is exploring the extent to which music for films has any life beyond the films themselves, beyond matters of narrative. The films included on Screenplay are Nowhere Man, Plein Sud, Sister (aka L’enfant d’en Haut), and Little Black Spiders. The last of these has had its end credits made available for free download, courtesy of the Screenplay record label, Thrill Jockey. It’s a stylish mini-suite, opening with looped vocals whose evident seams make the results sound more like notes played on a keyboard than sung by a choir. In time, strings and other instruments kick in, all with the studio ingenuity and slow-burn drama that Parish has brought to his work with PJ Harvey, Sparklehorse, and others in the past.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/thrilljockey. More details on the album at thrilljockey.com and johnparish.com.

Here is a trailer for Little Black Spiders, featuring different music:

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