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

Realtime Sonification

A KQED interview with Mahmoud Hashemi about Listen to Wikipedia


Someone adds an entry about a cooking magazine from the 1950s? Boom …

Someone corrects the release date in the discography of James Taylor? Bleep …

Someone undoes a spelling correction in an entry about an undersecretary from a mid-century U.S. presidential administration? Bong …

Audible tones and expanding, colored circles are used in tandem to announce changes to the vast collaborative encyclopedia thanks to the great online tool Listen to Wikipedia (, one of the best examples of realtime sonification on the web. Developed by Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, it’s the subject of a short recent interview from radio station KQED. The conversation with Hashemi goes into the background of the tool. He talks about the software’s actions, and how it serves both as an expression of Wikipedia and as a response to the economic focus of Silicon Valley.

There’s something very pleasing and centering about the placid surveillance of Listen to Wikipedia, all that communal and often rancorous activity transformed into dulcet tones. Sometimes I just let it run on a side screen as I work. Sometimes I also run this pure geographic visualizer, at


Up at the top of this post is a sample still frame of Listen to Wikipedia in action. Here is an example of the sort of realtime information that Listen to Wikipedia parses:


This documentation summarizes how the sounds and related images of Listen to Wikipedia correlate with actual edits:

Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots.

Here’s a short video of Listen to Wikipedia in action:

Track originally posted at The KQED story was produced by Sam Harnett, of the podcast The World According to Sound ( Check out Listen to Wikipedia at It’s also available as a free iOS app (

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A Memory of a Night Out

"Fear Biz" by Italy-based IQbit (aka Claudio Cuciotti)

It’s not uncommon to come upon a description of culture that is said to take apart the very thing it seems to be a part of: gallery exhibits that critique the art world, pop music that is poking holes into pop music, poetry that undermines poetry. Often the supposed critique is so difficult to distinguish from that which it is commenting on that it becomes a part of the whole. The revolution is televised, and then syndicated. Now, “Fear Biz” by IQbit makes no immediate claims for its purpose. The track, as posted on the Italy-based IQbit’s SoundCloud account, is accompanied just by one bit of description: “Any Resemblance to Real Persons or Actual Facts is Not Coincidental.” The comment may just be a toss-away joke, or it may be a direct reference to the reality that surfaces in “Fear Biz,” courtesy of sirens and street noise. No matter. The heart of the track is a sequence of club-like emanations: synth pads, strobing percussion, throbby beats, echoing voices, dramatic modulations. A few of them on repeat for six minutes would be a minimal brand of dance music. Instead, it’s a story of sorts, a suite of transitions, three-and-a-half minutes of moments, more like a memory of a night out than the score to a night out. I’ve written once previously about IQbit’s music, back in November 2011. The subject then was a remix he’d done that emphasized the ecstatic opening moments of minimal techno over the rote beats that often follow.

Track originally posted at There’s a lot more of music from IQbit — aka Claudio Curciotti — at He makes his home at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0202: Text-to-Speech-to-Free

Create an audiobook chapter from the new essay collection The Cost of Freedom.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, 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, November 12, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 16, 2015.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0202: Text-to-Speech-to-Free
Create an audiobook chapter from the new essay collection The Cost of Freedom.

Earlier this week the book The Cost of Freedom, with an essay by Lawrence Lessig, among others, was published into the public domain. Its goal is to raise awareness about the ongoing detainment of Creative Commons coder/artist Bassel Khartabil Sadafi. I have an essay in the book, as does Jon Phillips, who encouraged that China-gallery project we did a few weeks ago (project 0195).

We’re going to help spread the book by creating audiobook entries of some of its chapters. This is the third Junto project related to Bassel. On March 12, 2015, the third anniversary of his seizure, we did Disquiet Junto Project 0167: Placid Cell. And earlier still, on January 23, 2014, we did Disquiet Junto Project 0108: Free Bassel.

These are the steps:

Step 1: Obtain a copy of the free book The Cost of Freedom: A Collective Inquiry at:

Step 2: You will be turning one of these chapters into a spoken-word recording. You’re encouraged to use text-to-speech, but you also can read it aloud. Select a chapter — perhaps out of a specific interest, or perhaps by chance operation. When doing so, please, if you have a moment, please register which chapter you’re doing on the Disquiet discussion forum, so we’re less likely to have repeated chapters:

Step 3: Create a track with the spoken text of the chapter and additional background music. You can use your own original music, or source audio from previous Bassel-related projects. The text should remain intelligible. Do confirm the license on music from these two projects before employing:

Step 4: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud. In the title to your track include the term “disquiet0202-costoffreedom” and the title of the chapter you used.

Step 5: When sharing the music, please consider employing these two tags: #freebassel and #newpalmyra. The first is an ongoing tag raising awareness of Bassel’s situation. The second, related to Junto project 0167, involves collective effort to continue one of Bassel’s art projects: a three-dimension CGI rendering of the ancient city of Palmyra.

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

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 12, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 16, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work will be determined by the length of your selected chapter.

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, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0202-costoffreedom” and the title of the chapter you used. Also use “disquiet0202-costoffreedom” 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 202nd weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Create an audiobook chapter from the new essay collection The Cost of Freedom) at:

The source of the text in this project is from the book The Cost of Freedom, which raises awareness about the ongoing detainment of Creative Commons coder/artist Bassel Khartabil Sadafi. More on it here:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

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Nicklas Lundberg’s Aleatoric Voicings

Like the Roches covering Arvo Pärt

Nicklas Lundberg of Sweden uploads audio to SoundCloud under the various names, including Back Porch and Entryway. These appear not to be names, however, so much as points of orientation. Lundberg lists “Entryway” as his “main account,” which makes “Back Porch,” in contrast, a place where he presumably tends to his less common creative practices. One hopes that the practices that inform the dramatically titled “Greater Duophonic Mass Part 02 – (parallel modes and aleatoristic melodies for long digital notes)” become more common for Lundberg, because the results are beautiful — harrowing at times, yes; emotionally draining even, yes. But, beautiful nonetheless, like the Roches covering Arvo Pärt around a camp fire. It’s a nearly 20-minute piece of layered singing, the parts passing with the chance criss-crossing hinted at in the title (the “aleatoric” part). At times a voice comes to the fore, a deep groan or a high, piercing screech, but it all, in the end, is subsumed into the mass. That’s “mass” in both the density and liturgical sense of the word.

Track originally posted at More from Lundberg at

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Report from the (Real) Future (Fair)

A few hundred people listen to the Junto with their eyes closed — plus clairaudient journalism (Nov 6-7, 2015)


As you can perhaps deduce from the unused drink tickets that remain attached to these two wristbands, I had a pretty debilitating head cold during the Real Future Fair in San Francisco on November 6 and 7. I did, though, have the great opportunity to share the fruits and nearly four-year history of the Disquiet Junto in a short presentation during the Fair’s closing night “Future of Sound” event.

This appearance meant, among other things, sharing a bill with soul-pop figure Kelela, Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast, San Francisco electronic musician Pamela Z, and performance artist Dia Dear, as well as a bunch of journalists from Real Future and its parent media organization, Head cold or not, that was pretty grand.

Some quick highlights of the Fair:

— Alexis Madrigal, editor-in-chief of, did me the favor of interviewing me for the Junto presentation. I like talking in front of crowds, and I like a public discussion all the more. Madrigal did a great job of summing up what the Junto is, and if I get my hands on the audio I’m going to transcribe it for future (not just Real Future) use.

— Madrigal has a particular sense of how the sounds emitted from Junto projects are interestingly apart from what is generally considered music. This perspective is something that I can, frankly, lose track of since I spend much of my listening time inside the drone bubble. (I did take the opportunity to mention that one of my favorite Junto projects played with the idea of a song, using the room tone of three different places to flesh out the verse, chorus, and bridge of a “song.”)

— My favorite moment of the live Junto event was when Madrigal had the entire audience close their eyes for 30 seconds and just listen to the final of the Junto tracks we prepared. Me? I kept my eyes open to take it in.

— The Junto project we shared with the Real Future audience is the current one, number 201, in which we: “Encapsulate an album for efficient yet meaningful consumption.” The idea is that in the future, among the many problems of overpopulation and the resulting leisure time provided by the robotization of work is that way more art is being produced. So, how do we, as humans, consume it — not to mention the vast back catalog of novels, music, video games, etc.? In addition to some very interesting sonic processing, this Junto project has led to some fun short-form science fiction in the liner notes to the various tracks. We’ve compressed two different albums in the course of the project, self-titled records by the French group Salmo and the New Zealand duo Montano. For the Real Future event I played a few tracks off the Montano album for context, and then three of the Junto reworkings: from Australia-based Tuonela, Tokyo-based Hiroyuki Kuromiya, and, closer to home, Erik Kuehnl of Berkeley.

— In addition to the folks I mentioned up top, there was some interesting live journalism. Kashmir Hill talked about the “real world mute button” being developed at Doppler Labs. Hill also did a great job the day prior moderating a panel about the future of surveillance.

— Kevin Roose gave a funny talk on vocaloids, in particular Hatsune Miku (who made a guest appearance in the Red Bull Music Academy comic on synthesizer legend Tomita that I edited, with Hideki Egami, last year).

— There was a short video from Daniela Hernandez on LRAD sound weapons.

— Kristen V. Brown reported on an outlier in the field of performance-venue acoustics.

— And there was a report on sonic healing that balanced skepticism with inquiry, but I didn’t catch the name of the reporter.

— One great thing that the Real Future producers did was hire Marc Kate to “live score” the event. Of course, he didn’t live score my session, since I was providing the music, but in all the reports he, in real time, summoned up audio to augment the narrative.

— The headliner of the show was Kelela, who is very much of the soul-pop realm in whose context the idea of much Junto work being “musical” to a general audience can be a complicated sell. I didn’t stay for her performance (#headcold) but I greatly enjoyed the interview that Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast did with her at the start of the evening, talking about the recording of one of her songs. She discussed various aspects of her process, including working with producers, reworking provided instrumental tracks, singing first in vocalese before filling in the vowels and consonants and spaces with actual words. (I also missed Pamela Z.) One great thing about Hirway’s Song Exploder is how the musicians among its listenership are being encouraged, if not outright trained, to speak analytically about how they do what they do. Historically, this has not been a strongpoint of pop-music journalism, excepting technology/instrument-specific reporting in magazines like Guitar Player.

More details on the event: Major thanks to Alexis Madrigal and Cara Rose DeFabio. Check out the website at, and definitely subscribe to Madrigal’s Real Future newsletter at

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