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: voice

Angela Wilson + Devin Sarno’s Dark Homeland

Five minutes of industrial dread

“Homeland” is a dark sonic phantasm, a five-minute dip into an echoing space that’s all muffled voices, anxious activity, and industrial dread. The track is a collaboration between Angela Wilson and Devin Sarno, heard nudging sublimated vocals, affectless expressions whose distorted syllables merge with the overall sound design. The underlying audio is a droning substrate, seemingly the result of some heavily mediated string instrument, mixed here with those contorted vocals and scratchy field recordings. In a brief post at Sarno’s website mentions that the collaboration was virtual, the two musicians trading files via email.

Later, on Facebook, Wilson wrote a bit about the process of the track: “After I read this I realized I never shared my process, this track is a culmination of extra wet granulated metro voice memos, and melting ice, under the dripping electric bass loops of Devin Sarno.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/devinsarno. More from Sarno, who is based in Los Angeles, at devinsarno.com. More from Wilson, also from Los Angeles, at angfranc.es.

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I’ll Be Talking About Doorbells in Oakland (Dec. 1)

At the offices of the design studio Futuredraft

I’ll likely mention this again, since today is sort of a busy day for many people, but the meetup.com invitation has gone live for the talk I’m giving on doorbells on December 1 in Oakland. Here’s the description:

You’re visiting someone — a friend, a colleague — and you arrive at their building. You put the tip of one of your fingers up against a tiny button that sits beside the entrance, and you push. Somewhere inside the building a bell resounds. Tied up in that tidy interaction are a host of telling cultural, historical, and technological details about the way machines mediate human interaction.

How long do you wait before ringing again? What does the echo of the bell tell you about the interior space? Is the doorbell paired with a camera? Does the camera make you feel suspect, or at least wish that you’d fixed your hair? Will a disembodied voice inquire about your identity? How long have you been standing there? Did the bell ever actually ring? Had you accidentally let your finger slip? Did you perhaps never really register your presence?

Marc Weidenbaum, a longtime critic of and community organizer in electronic music, will talk about the cultural history of that everyday pushbutton gadget, the doorbell. He will discuss the intercom’s development in Japan, the rise of the domestic surveillance apparatus, the consumer-product soundscape of everyday life — and, ultimately, what lessons the humble, ubiquitous doorbell provides in regard to the Internet of Things, the smart home, and the role of sound in user interfaces.

Marc is the author of the 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. His sonic consultancy has included work on GPS mobile apps and coffee-shop sound design, and he has done music supervision for two films, the documentary The Children Next Door and the science fiction movie Youth. He’s exhibited sound art in galleries in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Dubai, as well as at the San Jose Museum of Art. December 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of his blog, Disquiet.com, which focuses on the intersection of sound, art, and technology.

The talk will be held at the offices of Futuredraft (futuredraft.com) in Oakland at 304 12th Street Suite 4E. The talk is free, but RSVPing (via that MeetUp URL) would be nice.

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An Hour-Long Grouper Set

Hosted by Boiler Room

The prolific Boiler Room electronic-music content generation feed machine is often full of fish-eye views of sweaty DJs, but it veers at times down less beat-intensive corridors. This here is a nearly hour-long set of Grouper, aka Liz Harris, performing against a backdrop of footage by filmmaker Paul Clipson. It’s breathy stuff, her voice layered with keyboards, mere snippets of atmosphere given minutes to loop on end, the whole thing like veils giving hints of veils giving hints of veils. It’s all intonation and gauze, but the seeming softness belies a deeper tension. Much ambient music sounds — and is — peaceful, but there’s a tensile quality to Grouper’s music, like just past the threadbare scrim is something tough as nails, an unknowable intensity. The video gives glimpses of her at the mixing board, her fingers lightly adjusting signals, keeping certainty just out of reach.

Video originally posted on the Boiler Room YouTube channel. More from Grouper at this sites.google.com address.

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A Beat Amid Voices

A new track from Oakland-based Marilyn McNeal

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Marilyn McNeal’s new album, Spacetime, ranges from off-kilter techno (“Frere”) to folktronic blues (“Nice Home”) to downtempo beatcraft (“String Theory”), and in numerous other directions as well, often simultaneously. There are six tracks total, and each puts a unique spin on whatever realm of music it might feel closest to approximating. Perhaps the most significant treat is the track that, naturally, is most difficult to even begin to classify:

That track would be “Tower,” which loops several vocal lines — one deep and slow, one high-pitched and rapid, one ethereal and modulating this way and that — all of them echoing in and out of sync with each other. Through the post-verbal quilt runs this fascinating little beat, not much more than a terse click track, so innocuous it might not even be evident on initial listens. How that beat holds its own needle-drop composure amid the psychedelic syllabic cascades is just one of the piece’s many pleasures.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/marilynmcneal. More from McNeal, who is based in Oakland, California, at marilynm.org and twitter.com/popularmagicsf.

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Listening to Yesterday: Dim Sonics

The feel, if not the content, of conversation

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The local restaurant at lunch yesterday was sizable, in all three dimensions. The large space was packed with diners of all ages, several tables with at least four generations of family members. The double-high ceilings collected the conversations from the various tables, jumbled them up, and shot collages — echoed, splintered, layered — to wherever you sat or stood. Virtually every table was speaking Chinese, ours being one of the few exceptions. Nothing overheard by us was understood, rendering the numerous conversations, the ones close by and the ones reflected off the ceiling, into a kind of human-generated white noise. The murmuring, all at a reasonably sedate volume level, combined with the drone of the nearby soda machine into an underlying purr. In some ways we felt culturally apart; in different circumstances, the buzz might have reinforced such a feeling. In other ways, though, we felt strongly bound by our shared neighborhood and our mutual affection for this restaurant’s sesame balls, shrimp dumplings, shumai, and other dim sum treats. In that latter regard, the vocal hum felt like we’d tapped into the neighborhood’s energy, into the tonality, if not the content, of micro-regional conviviality.

(Photo by i_yudai, used via Flickr and a Creative Commons license.)

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