The uploads to the Other Minds collection at the archive.org has a stellar new item. Well, new to the archive. Back in early 1973, Other Minds guru Charles Amirkhanian visited the Oakland Museum and recorded a walking tour of its exhibition, “When Music Was Mechanical,” curated by Gretchen Schneider. The hour-plus recording (MP3) features numerous examples of automated music, including the Lyon and Healy Empress Electric Orchestrion, the Wurlitzer Model 165 Band Organ and the Mira Music Box. Originally broadcast on January 25, 1973, on KPFA and KPFB, the exhibit ran from December 16, 1972 through February 4, 1973. Not only is there a lot of mechanical music recorded, but Amirkhanian describes in detail many of the instruments and Schneider talks about the show’s curation, which focuses on machines from the start of the 20th century, and she discusses the complexities of having multiple sound sources in a single exhibit (another name considered for the event was “Christmas Cacophonia”). She mentions two organizations to which most collectors, at the time, belonged: the Musical Box Society and the Automatical Musical Instruments Collector’s Association. Thirty-plus years later, of course, each has its own website: mbsi.org, amica.org. According to Schneider, the show was one of the museum’s most popular exhibits at that point in its history, with so many visitors that many had trouble seeing the instruments. More info, and alternate download formats, at archive.org.
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.
• 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.
• 0495 / Protip Etude / The Assignment: Share a tip for making music or working with sound, and record a track that employs it.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 499 consecutive weeks to date.
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