“What makes the thing play?” That’s the simple question asked by Charles Amirkhanian early in the first of two hours of interviews he and Bill Schechner did with player-piano enthusiasts back in the early 1970s. They’re now available as a pair of MP3s from archive.org (MP3, MP3). A few sentences into the answer from a member of the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA), Amikhanian asks to back up a bit, from the mechanisms of playback to the recording process itself. He compares the piano rolls to a mix between Torah scrolls and computer punch cards, and the conversation quickly gets into the realm of “impossible” music produced on the player piano, of composers interested in “doing piano work separate from the pianist,” things that even things two pianists working in tandem couldn’t coordinate. It’s a great glimpse not only into an early form of high-tech home entertainment, but into the passions of the vacuum-powered form’s preservationists. And the recordings include the audio of numerous old rolls.
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 28, 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 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.
• 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.
• 0487 / Carillon Quotidian / Assignment: Turn a recurring sound from your life into music.
• 0486 / Earths Days / The Assignment: Celebrate Earth Day on or for another planet.
• 0485 / Strange Weather / The Assignment: Remix the pure sounds of Chris Kallmyer's traveling wind chimes to your own musical purposes.
• 0484 / A Movable Heart / The Assignment: Transplant the sounds of Chris Kallmyer's wind chimes to a new location.
• 0483 / Type Set / The Assignment: Use a recording of yourself typing something as the underlying rhythmic track for a piece of music.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 487 consecutive weeks to date.
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