The San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, up a steep, tree-lined and particularly Hitchcockian street in North Beach, has become a sound-art nexus in a city with more than its fair share of sound-art nexuses (nexi? nexes? nexum?). In the past year or so there, academic Douglas Khan (author of the superb Noise, Water, Meat) has talked about how radio was “discovered” before it was “invented”; artist Steve Roden has limned the commonality between his fragile music and his visual art; filmmaker Walter Murch (The Conversation) has talked about the craft of sound editing. M.C. Schmidt, of the duo Matmos, who is manager of the New Genres Department at SFAI, recently started hosting Thursday-night music events at the institute (among the guests: William Fowler Collins, Bevin Blectum and Thomas Dimuzio), and Saturday he took his series into the lecture hall for a sedate, hour-long set by fragile-sound experts Coelacanth, a collaboration between Loren Chasse and Jim Haynes, their slow-burn and anti-audiophilic noise given a fitting visual complement courtesy of filmmaker Keith Evans. Evans’ images of wiggling paramecium, of bent light and of nature in raw decline gave substance to the remote, intensely delicate sounds produced by Chasse and Haynes, who crouched in the near dark on stage as they performed. Their self-described mission: “operating the tools of an imagined science to explore the various possibilities for sound to originate from traditionally non-musical materials.” If you didn’t make the concert, there are MP3s from all three of Coelacanth’s records up at helenscarsdale.com, the web home of their record label (two each from The Chronograph, 2001; The Glass Sponge, 2003; and Mud Wall, 2004). Evans’ visuals don’t come along with the files. But if you close your eyes, the essence of decay will arrive in its own good time.
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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