As 2003 comes to a close, references to an album titled The Civil War are sure to start appearing again in print and on the web, as folks begin compiling their lists of the best albums of the year. Released in late September on the Matador label, The Civil War is a nine-track collection of music by Matmos, the San Francisco electronic duo, who this time out enlisted a host of folksy instrumentation in their richly layered music — this in contrast with the group’s previous release, A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, which was based almost entirely on the sounds of plastic surgery procedures. If you haven’t yet checked it out, Matador posted at the time of its release an MP3 file of the record’s penultimate track, “The Struggle Against Unreality” (file here), with its plucked acoustic guitar, martial drums and extended abstract closing sequence. Like much hyper-constructed music, “The Struggle Against Unreality” is a mass of conflicting sounds: the guitar, though quiet, has as much presence as an entire string section; a tolling bell comes up against a stuck loop; a song that opened with familiar sounds of string instruments closes on what may very well be a solo for dot matrix printer. And as a nod to A Chance to Cut, the song reportedly features the sound of the blood in Matmos member M.C. Schmidt’s carotid artery. A track from that album, built from liposuction audio, is also housed on the Matador website (file here).
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).
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Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0484 / A Movable Heart / The Assignment: Transplant the sounds of Chris Kallmyer's wind chimes to a new location.
• 0483 / Type Set / The Assignment: Use a recording of yourself typing something as the underlying rhythmic track for a piece of music.
• 0482 / Exactly That Gap / The Assignment: Make a musical haiku following instructions from Marcus Fischer.
• 0481 / Capsule Time / The Assignment: Record a time capsule for yourself in the future.
• 0480 / Ongsay Aftcray / The Assignment: Record a piece of music by employing Pig Latin as a technique.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 484 consecutive weeks to date.
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