My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Past Week at

  • There's a special smile that greets "all rights reserved" photos of public graffiti on #
  • Morning sounds: shower, hard drive; no birds, no cars. The entirely unfamiliar industrial drone that preceded yesterday's quake is gone. #
  • Sprinklers on, so water pressure's low. Carbonite's backing up my hard drive to the cloud, so same can be said of my Internet connection. #
  • Footage of original Hawaii Five-0 theme-song musicians in re-recording session (for TV reboot) embedded in this story: #
  • Continuing to enjoy habit of listening to score before seeing movie — it's kinda like a sonic spoiler, and brings it out during showing. #
  • Yowza — that quake moved my chair. Of course, my chair is on wheels. Looks like it was maybe 10 miles off the San Francisco coast. #
  • 5 Reasons for a Musician to Consider @creativecommons — a little guest post I just did for @wammusic #
  • Gotta love "cassette only" albums that will later "appear as a compact disc." So they're "only" for now. #
  • All electronics are louder in the evening. Refrigerator, hard drive, a watch's hand, a light switch turned off then on, a distant motor. #
  • This new @firefox build, 3.6.7, has been crash-tastic. #
  • After serious CSS fiddling, comments on now cleaner: threaded, spaced right, colored simply. Numbering is odd, but otherwise… #
  • Morning sounds: Tivo hard drive like some digital babbling brook, buses outside rampaging like rhinos. #
  • Pretty great that @xlr8rmag does free full-issue PDFs. August has Oval, LA's "abstract instrumental scene" & more #
  • People come & go on Facebook so often that if you use an IM client (like Pidgin), there's a near-constant stream of enter/exit tones. #
  • Excellent abstract hip-hop instrumentals by @knxwledge — via @whyarcka in reply to WhyArcka #
  • Between The Matrix & Inception, Robert Longo may be a bigger influence on movie fight scenes than John Woo & Quentin Tarantino combined. #
  • Best sounds in Inception: Johnny Marr's guitar, the knowing use of Édith Piaf, & (yeah, cautious on spoilers) a certain truncation. #
  • Can't overstate pleasure, if not outright benefits, of living walking distance from movie theater, especially one offering double features. #
  • Morning sounds: shower, heater (this is San Francisco), hard drive, various netlabel offerings. #
  • Walking by neighborhood restaurant, briefly mistook sound of fan for, yes, vuvuzela. #ptsd #
  • Wouldn't it be easier to tidy up to non-English-language movies if a beep signaled that it's time to look at the screen to catch a subtitle? #
  • Q: What did William Faulkner's voice sound like? A: Exactly as you imagined: #
  • Thanks @dylanhorrocks for my Twitter background, up all this month, in my "Curating Twitter: Sketches of Sound" project: #
  • Looks like @evernote sync is back up. Finishing some projects before heading to @sfelectricworks for David Byrne / Dave Eggers exhibit. #
  • Man, @evernote sync issues, too (judging by an @twitter search, not an isolated issue). Trouble in the cloud this morning. #
  • Supposed to update @twitter background with great original @dylanhorrocks image but profile updates now have tech issues: #
  • Morning sounds: hard drive, distant sanitation vehicles (and related activity), little if any birdsong. #
  • Will not be attending #comiccon this week — may time reading of China Miéville's Kraken to experience it vicariously. #
  • Last day for @mintylewis background on my Twitter account; new one tomorrow. enewsletter Wednesday to include Scorn CD contest. #
  • Another netlabel into the eternal Internet dustbin RT @nq_music @jhfisher Hippocamp closes after 9 years: #
  • Celebrate World Listening Day with Pootie Tang: (following up @npseaver on AC/DC's critique of R. Murray Schafer). #
  • My friends' kid apparently wakes up singing happy birthday to her stuffed animals. It's a riot. #
  • Morning sounds, Pasadena edition: HVAC, laptop drive, birds (latter in surround-sound mode rather than just from backyard like back home). #
  • It's July 18 — happy "World Listening Day": And in not unrelated news: happy birthday, R. Murray Schafer. #
  • Los Angeles vanity-plate moment: confirmed guy with OBOE DR plates actually repairs oboes for a living. Convertibles allow for conversation. #
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Quote of the Week: Lost’s Theme-Less Theme Song

It’s Comic-Con this week, down in San Diego. Once upon a time, Comic-Con was a mix of professional business conference and geek art fair for fans of serial storytelling told in cheap pamphlets and sold in several thousand mom’n’pop stores around the U.S.

These days it’s primarily an opportunity for Hollywood to pitch its wares to fully suspecting pop-culture fetishists, and for the IT ninja at Twitter to test the fortitude of its servers.

While Comic-Con has not taken a tip from the Tribeca Film Festival and offered a long-distance pass for those who want to watch the panel discussions and other events from the comfort of their own laptops, there’s plenty of reporting from the con online, among it the tireless work by Alan Sepinwall, of the TV blog

In a post this past week, Sepinwall made note of the following comment from the panel for the upcoming Hawaii Five-0-remake series by the actor Daniel Dae Kim, best known as the tragic Korean corporate bagman from the series Lost:

“I’m happy to be on a show that has a theme song.”

What Kim’s referring to is the opening theme to Lost, which was little more than a drone that slowly contorted, as the logo for the show came into focus against a black screen, rotating as it moved, and then slipped out of view. (This is the U.S. theme — as with other shows, it varied when adapted for other countries.) But what that Lost theme lacked in whistle-along-ness it made up for with pitch-perfect, story-appropriate ambiguity. No hummable song would so well match the narrative fluidity and genre switcheroos of Lost — and more to the point, no other opening song would prepare listeners for what is one of the most sonically expressive series ever on television. Forget the proper score by Michael Giacchino (which got a lot of press coverage as the series reached its recent, and to me unsatisfying, conclusion), whose swelling strings and heart-racing beats were a red herring, while the real audio ingenuity was at work on screen: from the dastardly rattle of the smoke monster, to the nostalgia symbolism of the occasional turntable, to the thundering alarm of the Dharma clock, and on and on.

Not that the folks behind Hawaii Five-0 version 2.0 don’t have the courage of their own convictions. According to that post at, the producers originally recorded a new version of the song, then realized what a bone-headed idea that was, and brought in many of the original musicians to re-record the quasi-surf-rock classic. Click through to that story for a link to video footage of the recording session.

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Real World v. Composed World v. Interior World (MP3)

That’s not how the rules are supposed to work, right? If you’re combining natural sounds and electronic ones, there’s an inherent contrast, the noisy chaos of the “real” world set alongisde the considered organization of the “constructed” one. The real world is the one outside our doors. The constructed one is the one inside our minds.

Yet treehouses, which is to say Mike Rotondo, ingeniously — and, perhaps of more important, both tunefully and delectably — messes with such categories on “Goodbye Mission Dub,” a track he uploaded earlier this week to his account.

The track opens with street noise, and soon we’re faced with a handful of elements. First there’s an off-kilter rhythm that sounds automated but has a purposefully sloppy, slightly-off-the-beat thing going for it. Then there’s a woodwind, winding its way in and out of the rhythm. And finally there’s clanging percussion, what may very well be pots and pans.

The latter component seems to inherit the spirit of those field recordings, which come and go in the mix — they sound like happenstance, but they’re thoroughly functional, no less a part of the “music” (in contrast with the field-recording audio document of “real life”) than is the woodwind. And that semi-mechanized beat, with its odd metrics, is less dependable, less sturdy, than any of the other parts of the piece.

The song’s slow beat matches the San Francisco neighborhood of its title, and the dub is much more a matter of spirit than of what’s traditionally thought of as dub. There’s no heavy delay, no dank cavernous echoes. “Goodbye Mission Dub” situates itself as living-room music (or, given those pots, maybe kitchen music), a social space halfway between the outside world and the interior one. You’ll want to put it on loop and play it all afternoon.

More on Rotondo at and and, for that matter,

(Photo of Mission District mural by Wendy Harman via

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5 Reasons to Participate in the Creative Commons

Ever since ASCAP, the performing-rights organization, sent out a fundraising letter to its members in which it singled out Creative Commons as a underminer of copyright, the subject of the business of the creative process has sparked yet another round of online discourse. I was invited by the websbite to summarize the arguments in favor of Creative Commons — a non-profit organization that develops licenses that help artists (musicians, yes, but also painters, photographers, filmmakers, and so on) navigate a world so mightily transformed by the Internet and associated technologies.

I’ll post, for archival purposes, the full piece here in a week or so, once it’s had its run at We All Make Music. The five most pertinent reasons I came up with are (1) Creative Commons is non-exclusive, (2) you choose the license that’s right for your work, (3) Creative Commons is optional, (4) traditional performing rights organizations don’t necessarily have your individual interest at heart, and (5) Creative Commons is wired for networked creation.

The Creative Commons is an important topic for all the art discussed on — issues of authorship, of sampling, of piracy, and of free distribution (the latter being the reason there’s enough music for me to recommend a legal free download every weekday) are at the core of this site’s mission.

Read the full piece (“Five Reasons For a Musician to Consider the Creative Commons”) at

For background on that troubling ASCAP mailer, check out the discussion at Molly Sheridan’s

More on Creative Commons at

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Surachai & Justin (MP3)

Beat-driven instrumental electronica often builds as it goes along — following a disorienting bit of opening noise, there’s a rhythm track, then some half-broken sound that’s treated like a lead instrument, then a sinuous unknowable that adds flesh to the bones, then variations on that sequence, one after another, perhaps one or another dropping out, momentarily, but ultimately moving forward, and gaining in dimension. The elements gather force. The overall structure may bear the hallmarks of, or otherwise hint at the structure of, the pop song — the verse, the chorus, the repetition thereof interrupted by a bridge — but the strength of it is how those elements join up, get confused, reveal something about each other as they come into conflict.

In “The Pain” by Surachai and Justin, the sounds get heavier and thicker as they move along (MP3). Patterns come into view as the piece makes its way, splintering occasionally, like a module’s short circuited or a plug-in has crashed, until the monotony becomes its own force, and then the splintering comes back for real, and the whole thing just collapses, beautifully.

[audio: |titles=”The Pain”|artists=Surachai and Justin]

The track’s part of a two-piece set at

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