New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Quotes of the Week: SoundCloud’s Exemplary Comments System

To close out the week of coverage, it’s useful to take a look at the conversations that occur within the web community of music-makers and -appreciators. Not the website’s forums, mind you, though those are informative. No, each track posted to SoundCloud allows for individuals to comment at any place along the given track’s timeline, matching comments to horizontal coordinates on the track’s waveform. It looks something like this:

Most of these comments, of course, are thank-yous — as when, above, watsonsound (aka Frank Rose: at the 39-second point in “11 15 09m” by map~map (aka Marcus Fischer: takes the opportunity to say, simply, “beautiful.”

Or when an unspecified member of the 2eq Records label (, at the 2:18 point of a track titled “Lapidarium” by Michael Banabila (, record his impression: “very nice.”

But that’s just the beginning. The timeline comments in SoundCloud also allow for conversations between musicians and listeners, which yield explanations of how the tracks were constructed. Take this back’n’forth between Mark Harris ( and musician Stephen Vitiello, at the 4:06 spot of Vitiello’s track “Dolly Acending”, which Vitiello had described as “A long track, based on a remix of a live recording of Dolly Parton singing Stairway to Heaven made in 2004-2005″:

Harris: is this all from a dolly parton singing?? – amazing! Vitiello: it is but stretched and stretched and processed some more. Thanks for asking! Harris: what did you use BTW SoundHack?? Vitiello: As I remember, it was a combination of Soundhack, Pro Tools and Live

Here’s the Vitiello track in question. Though for some reason the comments aren’t appearing in the widget here, they do at the track’s page on

SoundCloud is not a closed system; as evidence suggests, the tool allows for somewhat fluid communication with content systems outside its architecture. For example, there’s a track titled “Kitchen Song of Storms” in the collection of Sarah Brown (aka esbie, at, and the annotation she attached to it was fairly basic (“I was humming this in the kitchen the other day”). But meanwhile over at her blog,, she’d commented at length about its production process. Brian Biggs (of took up the subject of esbie’s reflections within the SoundCloud interface, six seconds into the piece’s brief, 33-second length: “Responding from your blog post, no no no it’s the way it should be. A click track or Ableton would have taken the funny funky away. Glad you left it alone.”

And, using the comments for another purpose entirely, for episode three of his “Signal Drift” series (at of mixtapes, The Land Of (aka Justin Hardison) used the comments tool as a way to note when the song changes to a new track. See the rat-a-tat-tat series of icons along the comments field here:

As always, I’m at

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comments: 3 ]


  1. Julian Lewis
    [ Posted December 6, 2009, at 10:13 am ]

    Variation on The Land Of: value of timed comments especially noticeable when people respond to/query/make suggestions on mixes – also remixes of individual tracks.

    Good example is the interplay around this remix of Philip Sherburne’s:

  2. Marc Weidenbaum
    [ Posted December 6, 2009, at 10:21 am ]

    Thanks, Julian — that is a cool example, the Sherburne mix. I realize there’s likely a breaking point at which comment-overload might set in. But right now I have confidence in the SoundCloud crew. They really seem to have this service’s software upgrading at a good pace.

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  • […] video for sharing and commenting. This isn’t a typical TV-viewing habit, but the way that Soundcloud are popularising this kind of in-audio-stream commenting is a promising trend. Could the same be […]

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website 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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