With the possible of exception of John Adams, composer Michael Nyman may be the most melodic of the major minimalists. Yeah, say that five times fast to a tune by Gilbert and Sullivan, and then head over to the Other Minds catalog at the Internet Archive (aka archive.org), which has in its coffers not one but four entries of Nyman’s music recorded live during OM’s 2005 concert series. These include two sets performed by the Del Sol String Quartet (String Quartet No. 3 and “The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi,” the latter featuring soprano Cheryl Keller and visuals by Mary Kelly, though the MP3s, of course, include none of Kelly’s images) and two by Nyman himself (his soundtrack for Manhatta, a short silent film by filmmaker Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand, and excerpts from his most widely heard work, the score for The Piano). Make that Nyman himselves, because the Manhatta piece, the most highly recommended download of the group, features him performing on piano along with two prerecorded piano lines. The result is a rambunctious mesh of staccato lines and complementary patterns, with Jazz Age echoes of Gerswhin in particular and futurism in general (it would make a good programming choice alongside Wynton Marsalis’ Citi Movement). As with Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint composition, it appears that Manhatta is intended to be realized by a combination of live soloist plus tape, not as an ensemble performance. The Sheeler/Strand film dates from the 1920s, but unfortunately it is not, as one commentator notes in the Internet Archive entry for Nyman’s Manhatta, in the vast public-domain repository at archive.org. (This link should go to a list of the Nyman entries; otherwise search the archive.) More on Nyman at michaelnyman.com and the Del Sol at delsolquartet.com.
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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