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Communal Fourth World Chat Room MP3s

Chat rooms have a bad rap. They’ve gained a touch of the aura that used to hover around the word “hacker.” Though today it means something closer to “entrepreneur,” hacker used to be equivalent to “dangerous anti-social malcontent.” Chat rooms are social by definition, so they can’t be truly anti-social; but they still are saddled with a reputation as a locus for, if not a downright contributor to, anti-social behavior.

As a descriptor, “chat room,” however, has a broad reach, and it includes countless places where musicians meet up with like-minded peers for advice, support and, in this age of network art, even semi-anonymous collaboration. Cases in point are the em411.com community, the comment tags on posts at createdigitalmusic.com (and the forums at its sibling site, createdigitalnoise.com), and the Music Cafe section of the forums at kvraudio.com, the latter an “information resource for open standard audio plugins.”

A typical new post at kvraudio.com might have a subject line like “Topic: anyone wanna add to my ambient trombone thing?” Earlier this month, a longtime kvraudio.com member who goes by bernhardtjeff used that line to head a post of a lengthy bit of Fourth World dub, a lulling bass end that seeps out to the end of the horizon, with muted trumpet layered atop (MP3). After some discussion among other forum mates, a member named thokay posted an update. The first thing one hears in the thokay version is a clubby beat that the original had willfully avoided, but thokay has a plan, and in time the beat merges with the deep bass of the original. Thokay folds in keyboard chords and trims the piece to pop-song length. In the end, that clubby rhythm can be heard to lend a framework that helps showcase the horn while not jeopardizing the lazy quality of the original (MP3). View the full forum thread at kvraudio.com.

As one forum member responded, “It is quite remarkable how much difference another person’s ideas can make to a tune.” It’s equally remarkable how much of this sort of virtual collaboration is occurring in so-called chat rooms.

PS: Just to correct the above, the instrument heard in the material by bernhardtjeff is a trombone, not a trumpet, and no mute was employed. Sorry for my error.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • 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

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