Aaron Ximm went to Southeast Asia on his honeymoon in 2000, and he came back nine months later with a dowry’s worth of field recordings. A self-described “headphone tourist,” he subsequently produced a CD of sounds he found in Laos — “whining outboard engines,” “an ancestor memorial celebration,” “plumbing resonance” — forged into musical compositions. The album is titled Rockets of the Mekong, released this year as a CDR, the fourth volume in the Echolocations series from his Quiet American project. One of Rockets‘ 14 tracks, titled “Calisthenic,” is available for free download from the album’s promotional page (here) on the Quiet American website (quietamerican.org). It’s a beautiful piece, just over four minutes long, though it feels much quicker; brief snippets of real world sound are looped to incantatory effect, moving steadily away from silence. The track’s title might be an expression of its pace, its rapid-fire little sound elements, seeming at first like the hive techno of a late night insect swarm. Ximm, who writes eloquently and philosophically about his sound art, describes “Calisthenic” as follows: “An exercise in negative space. Composed almost entirely from a single moment in a very short source recording, this piece was created using a sculptural process in reverse: starting from almost nothing, everything is added back, a little at a time. At the end, we escape our single moment and the context of the recording (made in Luang Prabang, Laos) is revealed.” The name Quiet American is taken, of course, from the Graham Greene novel about Vietnam, and there are field recordings from Vietnam (as well as from Burma, Nepal, the United States and elsewhere) on Ximm’s website to complement the neighboring Laotian ones.
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 29, 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 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.
• 0500 / Humming to Your Selves / The Assignment: Play a tune by yourself and as if by two people whom you invent.
• 0499 / Out of the Landscape / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in which a sound emerges from a field recording.
• 0498 / Sonic Entomologist / The Assignment: Create a new hybrid insect from the sound of two different insects.
• 0497 / Benjamin's Glass / The Assignment: Pay tribute to Benjamin Franklin and his armonica
• 0496 / Isolation Room / The Assignment: Create new music around one strand of something you made in the past.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 500 consecutive weeks to date.
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