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.

Disquiet Junto Project 0381: Shared System

The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner.

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 Monday, April 22, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

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 0381: Shared System
The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner.

Step 1: This week’s project involves all participants working with the same instrument. The instrument is a specific set of modules in a free software synthesizer. The software is Reaktor Blocks Base. It comes as part of the free Reaktor Komplete Start, which is available here:

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/bundles/komplete-start/

(Certainly if you’d prefer to emulate this week’s “shared system” using VCV Rack, or another piece of software, or your own hardware modules, that is totally fine.)

Step 2: The musician Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) graciously agreed to create a shared system based on Reaktor Blocks Base. It consists of these modules:

Bento Box Osc
Bento Box SVF
Bento Box VCA
Bento Box Mix
Bento Box Env
Bento Box LFO
Bento Box S&H
Bento Box 4 Mods

Here is some background on Scanner’s thought process in the development of this system: I think it would be interesting to present a limited package of blocks they can use, and to not use a traditional sequencer. Instead, people would consider how an LFO or modulation can move a sound or series of sounds around. (In some sense, this is a more West Coast than East Coast approach.) I’m concerned if we include the sequencer then it would suggest lots of decent pattern-oriented music wrapped around a similar theme or approach. This idea of such reductionism is basically about avoiding the obvious in these encounters and leaving the creator to think a little more than they might have to otherwise. It could perhaps be reduced further, but it’s enough to get people shaping sounds and creating shapes. Any less and it could potentially be too limiting and uninspiring. It’s truly a Bento Box Delight. I presume there’s a modest learning curve for some users, but there’s a guide that seems very clear on the NI website.

Step 3: Create a piece of music using only the modules (one of each) as described in Step 2 above.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0381” (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 “disquiet0381” (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: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0381-shared-system/

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

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, April 22, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0381” 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: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 381st weekly Disquiet Junto project — Shared System / The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner — at:

https://disquiet.com/0381/

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-0381-shared-system/

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

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo credited to Ananabanana:

https://flic.kr/p/7KW67U

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

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Aphex Twin in Translation

The Japanese edition of my 33 1/3 book on Selected Ambient Works Volume II

I just today received copies of the brand new Japanese translation of my book on Aphex Twin’s landmark album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. My book was published in 2014 to coincide with the album’s 20th anniversary, and the Japanese translation arrived this year to coincide with its 25th.

This is especially a thrill because I spent many years working in manga, helping shepherd the translation into English Japanese comics. I was the editor-in-chief of the English-language edition of the major Japanese manga magazine, Shonen Jump, and of its sibling, Shojo Beat, and as a vice president of their publisher, Viz Media in San Francisco, had the opportunity to meet and interview many major manga creators, including Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball). It’s very nice to be now have sent my own book in the opposite direction.

The edition is absolutely beautiful, with a wraparound cover partially obscuring the classic Aphex Twin logo, and lovely details throughout — in particular, note how there is a little table of contents on the bottom of each left-hand page, with a tiny arrow showing you which chapter you’re in.

I look forward to learning how the quotes from Alvin Lucier, Daphne Oram, and Fernando Pessoa were translated, in particular the Pessoa and Lucier given how much their work engages with variations on source material, notably Pessoa’s numerous alternate heteronyms and the decay inherent in Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.”

The Japanese book is considerably larger than the original English book (top), and even than the recent Spanish edition (middle), which came out in late 2018. I’m not aware of any planned additional translations, but these sure make me happy.

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Why Do We Listen Like We Used to Listen?

Or: When your phone teases an alternate present

This is a screen shot off my mobile phone. What it displays is the active interface for the Google Play Music app. Visible are the cover images from four full-length record albums, all things I’ve listened to recently: the new one from the great experimental guitarist David Torn (Sun of Goldfinger, the first track of which is phenomenal, by the way), an old compilation from the early jam band Santana (for an excellent live cover of Miles Davis and Teo Macero’s proto-ambient “In a Silent Way” – more tumultuous than the original, yet restrained on its own terms), and for unclear reasons not one but two copies of Route One, released last year by Sigur Rós, the Icelandic ambient-rock group.

If you look closely at the little icons on top of those four album covers, you’ll note two that show little right arrows. That’s the digital sigil we’ve all come to understand instinctively as an instruction to hit play. And you’ll note that both copies of Route One are overlaid with three little vertical bars, suggesting the spectrum analysis of a graphic equalizer.

What isn’t clear in this still image is those little bars are moving up and down – not just suggesting but simulating spectrum analysis, and more importantly telling the listener that the album is playing … or in this case the albums, plural. Except they weren’t. Well, only one was. While I could only hear one copy of the Sigur Rós record, the phone was suggesting I could hear two. Why? I don’t know. I felt it was teasing me – teasing me about why we still listen the way we used to listen, despite all the tools at our disposal.

Now, if any band could have its music heard overlapping, it’s Sigur Rós, since they generally traffic in threadbare sonic atmospherics that feel like what for other acts, such as Radiohead or Holly Herndon or Sonic Youth, might merely be the backdrop. All these musicians have hinted at alternate futures, though in the end what they mostly produce are songs, individual sonic objects that unfold in strictly defined time.

It’s somewhat ironic that Route One is the album my phone mistook as playing two versions simultaneously, since Route One itself originated as an experiment in alternate forms of music-making. It was a generative project the band undertook in 2016, described by the Verge’s Jamieson Cox as follows: “a day-long ‘slow TV’ broadcast that paired a live-streamed journey through the band’s native Iceland with an algorithmically generated remix of their new single ‘Oveour.'” The Route One album I was listening to contains highlights of that overall experience. An alternate version, with the full 24 hours, is on Google Play Music’s rival service, Spotify.

What this odd moment with my phone reminded me was that it’s always disappointing, to me at least, how little we can do – perhaps more to the point, how little we are encouraged and empowered to do – with the music on our phones.

Why don’t our frequent-listening devices, those truly personal computers we have come to call phones, not only track what we listen to but how we listen to it, and then play back on-the-fly medleys built from our favorite moments, alternate versions in collaboration with a machine intelligence?

Why can’t the tools time-stretch and pitch-match and interlace alternate takes of various versions of the same and related songs, so we hear some ersatz-master take of a favorite song, drawn from various sources and quilted to our specifications?

Or why, simply, can’t we listen easily to two things at the same time — add, for example, Brian Eno’s 1985 album Thursday Afternoon, an earlier document of an earlier generative system, to that of Route One? Or just add one copy of Route One to another, as my phone suggested was happening, one in full focus, the other a little hazy and out of sync.

Why aren’t these tools readily available? Why aren’t musicians encouraged to make music with this mode in mind? Why is this not how we listen today? Why do we listen like we used to listen?

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Disquiet Junto Project 0380: Ears Only

The Assignment: Record a piece of music for an audience of one.

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 Monday, April 15, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0380: Ears Only
The Assignment: Record a piece of music for an audience of one.

Just one step this week:

Step 1: Record a piece of music for someone in particular. (You don’t need to identify who the person is. You alone need to know the person for whom you are composing.)

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0380” (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 “disquiet0380” (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: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0380-ears-only/

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

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, April 15, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0380” 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: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 380th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Ears Only / The Assignment: Record a piece of music for an audience of one — at:

https://disquiet.com/0380/

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-0380-ears-only/

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

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo credited to Andrew West:

https://flic.kr/p/2bg8zN

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

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Tokyo Sightings

And in good company

One of the students in my sound course was in Tokyo over spring break and took these photos for me at two separate bookstores: one of a sizable display of my (translated into Japanese) Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book (and in good company: the Yellow Magic Orchestra book), and the other of it nestled between Prince and Coldplay.

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