One of the beautiful things about electronic music that’s derived from conceptual art is that it provides its own readymade metaphors. In other words, in the absence of traditional musical form, we have the musician’s m.o. to lend sense to something that is otherwise abstract. Case in point, Retina Burn, the new, half-hour long piece by Andrea Polli, available as of last month as a free download from the Stasisfield netlabel. Polli’s work — 27-plus minutes of low-level interference and broken whirs — takes as its source “soundwaves generated by the sun.” Polli then manipulates this sonic information, transforming it with what she’s termed “intuitive ocusonics,” or computer-aided musical interfaces that track eye movement. Why does she choose to shape the sound with her eyes, and not with fingers on a keyboard, or on a six-string? Conceptually, Polli’s point is self-apparent: by manipulating sound from the sun with her eyes, she’s doing what we otherwise must not, which is to look directly at the sun. What’s interesting, though, is that the resulting sound art, as heard on the overtly slow Retina Burn, doesn’t suggest the scorching, brilliant center of our solar system (although the crackles do bring it to mind) so much as it sounds like data being processed meticulously in the name of science: pristine data sets published for peer evaluation. The Stasisfield label’s sixth release this year, Retina Burn is available here. More on New York-based musician Polli at her webpage, 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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming 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.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th 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.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 465 consecutive weeks to date.
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