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.

The Fractal Voice

Rotating shards courtesy of Boston-based Erika Nesse

Erika Nesse makes fractal music. She imposes intricate, self-reflexive patterns upon pre-existing material, breaking it like mirror that has shattered, except this shattered mirror has been reformed into a gleaming, spinning, geometrically intricate and fascinating mirror ball. The ball goes round and round, speeding up, slowing down, shifting suddenly, and all the while shooting back tiny sliver segments of the source material that is reflected in it. Well, sonically speaking.

In Nesse’s hands, a simple vocal tone can be turned into a momentous rhythmic figure, shifting endlessly between variations subtle and stark. This piece, “Kyrie (Geometric Clouds),” takes its fractal methodology from the image that serves as the track’s cover art. As Nesse decodes the image in a brief accompanying note: “An audio clip is split into fragments. Up and down represents the location in the clip where the fragment starts. Left to right represents time within the track. Many layers of the fragment starting at different times are stacked together, creating an echo effect.” Listen for the patterns. Then take a deep breath, step back, and listen to it as a multi-movement composition with echoes of Scott Johnson (vocal cutups) and Philip Glass (hyper-charged minimalism).

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/conversationswithrocks. More from Nesse, who is based in Boston, Massachusetts, at fractalmusicmachine.com and erikanesse.bandcamp.com.

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Listen to the Stars

A video by U.K.-based State Azure

This seven-minute performance video by State Azure focuses tight on a few modules in a larger synthesizer rig. There is no mess of spaghetti wires. There is a limited set of blinking lights. There is a single hand adjusting knobs on a single device. The accompanying liner note references some on-screen technical details, some off-screen support equipment, and some minor post-production activity. Otherwise, “Starfall,” as the track is called, is just this: a blissfully thin expanse of near-static time, a live ambient performance in which a seeming hush is nudged into the foreground and left to sway slowly this way and that, to pause for a moment, to let little details linger. It’s the music of a planetarium after hours. The lights are simply from the music equipment, not the stars, and those are more than enough.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted to State Azure’s YouTube channel. More at stateazure.bandcamp.com and soundcloud.com/state-azure. State Azure is based in the U.K.

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A Harp Goes Against the Clock

What happens when you bring a harp to a digital-workstation fight?

What happens when you bring a harp to a digital-workstation fight? Watch this video of Mary Lattimore in the magazine Fact‘s Against the Clock series to find out.

Fact’s long-running series pits one musician at a time against themselves. In each edition (there are 150 or so as of this writing) of Against the Clock, the featured musician makes a track in one sitting of 10 minutes or under, recorded and presented uncut. The overwhelming majority of videos are from the fields of techno and hip-hop, and related beat-driven music. Even when a seeming outlier such as James McNew, representing his band Yo La Tengo, shows up, as he did in a video last month, the result is beatcraft, not necessarily the indie rock a Yo La Tengo might expect.

Just yesterday, Against the Clock featured the harp player Mary Lattimore, who in ten minutes is seen looping her harp atop itself over and over. What the session yields is a beautiful track, but not until Lattimore, who records for the Ghostly International label, has eked all manner of sounds from the beast of an instrument. Not only does she send cascades of plucked strings against themselves, plotting out deep spaces with varying volume levels — a cathedral made of sonic pixels — but she bangs against it with a metal ring and scrapes the strings, among other techniques, to make the most of her singular tool. At times she puts aside the harp and concentrates directly on the looper in which she is collecting and collating elements of her live playing.

Video originally posted at Fact’s YouTube channel. While the response so far has been largely positive, not every beat-oriented Aginst the Clock watcher was a fan (“i’m not watching this vid series to see someone play the harp for 10min….. jeeez” wrote one commenter). More from Lattimore, who lives in Los Angeles, at marylattimore.net and marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com.

By the way, the only reason this video isn’t included in my ever-expanding YouTube playlist of fine live ambient performances is because toward the very end there is a brief interview with Lattimore. The interview is informative. It’s just that including a video with dialog would break the intended flow of the playlist.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0333: Half Evil

Where numerology casts a shadow on musicology.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, May 21, 2018. This project was posted in the evening, California time, on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration fo the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0333: Half Evil
Where numerology casts a shadow on musicology.

Step 1: This week’s project is the 333rd consecutive Junto project. That’s half of 666. Ponder the dark side.

Step 2: Record a piece of music that could be described as “half evil.”

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0333” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0333” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Please consider posting your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0333-half-evil/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

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

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, May 21, 2018. This project was posted in the evening, California time, on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Length: The length of your track is up to you. A play on numbers is worth considering.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0333” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, 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.

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 online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 333rd weekly Disquiet Junto project (Disquiet Junto Project 0333: Half Evil / Where numerology casts a shadow on musicology) at:

https://disquiet.com/0333/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0333-half-evil/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The photo associated with this project is by Tom Ahearn, used via Flickr and a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/579pzq

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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Disquiet Junto Project 0332: Lucky Numbers

Make music based on the lottery.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, May 14, 2018. This project was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, May 10, 2018.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0332: Lucky Numbers
Make music based on the lottery.

Step 1: Every day, newspapers around the world publish the local lottery numbers. We’ll be making music based on these numbers. Think about how a string of numbers might inform — might seed — a short musical composition.

Step 2: Locate the lottery numbers near your — or, if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a lottery, find someplace that does.

Step 3: Generally speaking, the winning lottery numbers come in the form of a small set, such as 4, 7, 28, 37, 41, 2 (the recent Super Lotto jackpot here in California).

Step 4: Having located a set of lottery numbers, then compose and record a short composition that is somehow based on them. (Do detail how you extrapolated sound from the lottery when uploading the track.)

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0332” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0332” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Please consider posting your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0332-lucky-numbers/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

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

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, May 14, 2018. This project was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, May 10, 2018.

Length: The length of your track is up to you, but around a minute or two sounds about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0332” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, 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.

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 online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 332nd weekly Disquiet Junto project (Disquiet Junto Project 0332: Lucky Numbers / Make music based on the lottery) at:

https://disquiet.com/0332/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0332-lucky-numbers/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The photo associated with this project is by Rick, used via Flickr and a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/4rCdaA

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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