Quick Links: (1) Charles Babbage would be proud. Check out the video documentation of a symphonic performance in Brighton, U.K., last month that involved a 16-ton steam engine and several laptop computers (link). The composer, Stuart Smith, shares details in this post. (Via createdigitalmusic.com.) … (2) Via the Music Thing blog (link), DJ Aptem (or DJ Artyom, via boingboing.net) is a Russian gearhead who built his own cassette-based DJ system. The sound of the variable-speed tape (“curvature,” as Artyom puts it) is a pleasing corollary to the skipping CD and scratched LP. There’s a 12-track mix on his site (link). … (3) Ironically, Aptem/Artyom’s lo-tech achievement circulated widely the same week that the BBC reported (link) on the diminishing sales of cassette tapes. (Via engadget.com, which mentions that U.K. cassette sales have dropped to 900 thousand, from 83 million in 1989, but neglects to note that the same BBC article says that combined sales in Turkey and India equal almost 170 million.) … (4) Check out the wooden porch swing that doubles as a xylophone, at musicalfurnishings.com (via i4u.com). … (5) Now, that’s slow. We’re 1/200th of the way through Jem Finer‘s 1,000-year-long music project, Longplayer (via Andrew Jaffe‘s Leaves on the Line blog). If you’re near London Bridge, you can participate in a related “slow walk” this coming Tuesday, June 31 (slowwalk.org). And, yes, that’s the same Jem Finer who used to be in the Pogues; heck, wasn’t Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook in the Housemartins before he went big beat? … (6) Soundtrack.net interviews video-game composer Jesper Kyd (who wrote the in-game portions of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory that Amon Tobin didn’t write) on the transition to working in film and television. … (7) Thanks to makezine.com, learn to record the sighs (and more) emitted by your Tamagotchi. … (8) And if you’re in Long Beach, Calif., on June 25 or 26, there’s an innovative SoundWalk event being held there. More info at soundwalk.org (no relation to slowwalk.org, presumably). … New Releases: New releases this week include (1) Nice Nice‘s EP Yesss!, which features remixes by dj/Rupture, Caural and Stars as Eyes (Audraglint), and (2) the DVD of The Jacket, with a score by Brian Eno. … More new-release info at brainwashed.com/releases and videoeta.com. … Disquiet Heavy Rotation: (1) A new 12″ off the State of the Arts (Decon) album from rapper Afu-ra (not to be confused with Japanese human-beatboxer Afra) includes two instrumentals: the excellent, DJ Premier-produced “Sucka Free,” which lays a Hitchcockian bug buzz under a thick lope of electric bass, and little sirens that suggest early Public Enemy and a goof on techno, plus the PF Cuttin-produced “Poisonous Taoist,” which is a bit of lightly reworked afrobeat. Info at afu-ra.com. … (2) Prefuse 73‘s Surrounded by Silence (Warp), released a few months ago, was uneven, its various vocalists (Aesop Rock, Ghostface, Kazu) not necessarily complementing each other. There are great tracks on it, in particular the loungey gadgetry of “Pastel Assassins,” the chaotic pieces recorded with Tyondai Braxton (“TV Versus Detchibe,” “Mantra”) and by far the album’s standout: the mashed up hillbilly funk of “Pagina Dos,” featuring the Books. Speaking of which, “Pagina Dos” and seven other tracks make up the superb new Prefuse 73 Reads the Books release (also on Warp), which is packed with his digital futzing with the group’s folksy raw goods. … (3) The trio of recent William Basinksi reissues (all unnecessarily barren in their packaging) are alike only in that their fluid ambience, like still waters, disguises its density and energy with grace. There are sample audiostreams at aquariusrecords.org: two from Melancholia (one, two), on which string instruments echo the work of Gavin Bryars, and one each from Water Music I and Water Music II. … Good Reads: (1) Composer and critic Kyle Gann reviews a CD on his PostClassic blog (link), which wouldn’t be news, except that the CD is his own, Long Night (Cold Blue), which he says borrows from Morton Feldman, Harold Budd, Terry Riley and Brian Eno (“this too is another Eno-esque touch: the isolated melodic figure as self-evident sonic icon, which Gann attempts to integrate into a structure more ambitious than Eno’s ambient vignettes”). … (2) From telegraph.co.uk, an overview of sound art (June 15). … Quote(s) of the Week: A new Brian Eno album (Another Day on Earth, out last week) means new Brian Eno interviews, conversation being one of his many art forms: (1) “lyrics are the only thing to do with music that haven’t been made easier technically” (telegraph.co.uk, June 16); (2) “I started to notice that you could buy keyboards of such complexity that you basically press one note on them and you’ve got a career as an ambient artist. I thought, there doesn’t seem much challenge in that any longer” (guardian.co.uk, June 7); (3) “I’ve spent a long time doing instrumental music but as the technology has got more advanced, it has become less and less interesting to me” (news.scotsman.com, June 5). Perhaps he should hang out with that cassette-tape DJ, Aptem/Artyom, next time he’s in Russia.
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.
• 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.
• 0460 / Creative Destruction / The Assignment: Show how you got to a tortured sound.
• 0459 / From a Distance / The Assignment: Make music intended to be heard from afar.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 463 consecutive weeks to date.
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