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: August 2010

Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • Next Buddha Machine "Chan Fang" 禅房 is Chinese classical instruments: "Pure melody: no heavy reverb, layers of delay or any other processing" #
  • 1,000 Buddha Machines, sitting in a grid: http://is.gd/eIrDu #
  • Excellent scrap paper at the San Francisco Public Library: http://ow.ly/i/3sxZ Christian Marclay would approve. #
  • RIP, Keith Barr (b. 1949), Alesis founder and developer of ADAT (digital audio tape) http://is.gd/eHrSY #
  • Reminder: 9/5 is last day of Shanghai exhibit @asianartmuseum in SF; neon sound art "Landscape" (2007) by Shen Fan (ç”凡) is a must-see/hear. #
  • In the past 24 hours, both the Ghostly Discovery (1.50) and Buddha Machine (2.1) iOS apps were updated to allow for background play. #
  • Marvin Hamlisch named conductor of Pasadena Pops. Does this mean we'll have an orchestral night of the music of Steven Soderbergh films? #
  • Nostalgia can be measured. It equals the length of time between when one attends a concert & when one begins to look for a bootleg thereof. #
  • #ff @fieldnoiseaudio @dubfiction @sfemf @soundtrackerdoc @whyarcka @my_fun @davidholmes (not the one you think); off-topic: @twart1st #
  • Vaguely remembering pager slang. #
  • [email protected]: great. Four songs, improvised, the third with Mike Patton joining in. Riley sang as well as played piano; Zorn beamed. #
  • Headed to Yoshi's for 8pm Zorn+Riley duo. How it's (reportedly) not sold out, I dunno. The 10pm Zorn+Frith+Patton reportedly has sold out. #
  • Ghost of record-retail's past: http://ow.ly/i/3qX4 #
  • RIP, literary critic Frank Kermode (b. 1919), a cornerstone of my college education. #
  • Music by Philip Glass, Jonathan Coulton, Moby in geometric-remix game Chime (for charity) . Clear summary: http://is.gd/eFiTP (via bradonnm) #
  • Bill Laswell's Method of Defiance (w/ Kondo, Krush, Worrell) has signed up at http://soundcloud.com/methodofdefiance #
  • Great zombie-hand-in-pixel-sea cover art by Hannes Pasqualini for Plain Flavored's netlabel frelease Chipmusic in G Minor http://is.gd/eEYkm #
  • Caught the Glasshouse gallery-as-home exhibit by Lital Dotan & Eyal Perry at Marina Abramović West tonigh; lots of sound, not all domestic. #
  • When wherehouse.com fulfills an online order, the email confirmation receipt tells you how much it'll pay to buy back previous purchases. #
  • Near-silence in library suddenly dispelled by loud, and quite hi-fidelity, ringtone of Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." #
  • Slonimsky would have even RT'd John Stuart Mill: "I was seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations." #
  • More Nicolas Slonimsky: "Musicians do not manufacture material goods and therefore, like poets, must subsist parasitically." #
  • Twitter's digital liquefaction has me in Hayward again. Odd, 'cause I see the Pacific Ocean & Golden Gate Park where I'm standing @support #
  • Twitter was made for Nicolas Slonimsky. On conductors: "convenient to have a leader whose function is to give the signal to begin the music" #
  • Still convinced #dubstep is a successful rebranding of #illbient Great free hour-long mix by Matta at http://j.mp/9aSzuD (via @adnoiseam) #
  • Testing the photo-posting option in Android Hootsuite: http://ow.ly/i/3pp1 #
  • Hot: 80 degrees inside. Odd night, sleeping with window open — rarity in these parts. Fell asleep to insect chatter; woke to passing geese. #
  • Oddly fixated on whether or not the favicon for Google Calendar will switch from 31 to 30 when August gives way to September. #
  • Neat web-based "DJ player" for Soundcloud (includes modest little looper) http://soundcloud.musikame.com/ via @davidholmes @haynes_dave #
  • RIP, songwriter George David Weiss (b. 1921; "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Wonderful World," "Lion Sleeps Tonight") #wimoweh #
  • ♫ Morning sounds: initial release, all low-lying techno by Bartek Kawula, on the brand new netlabel http://basicsounds.ca (via @ario et al.) #
  • When I read Eno collaborates with Jon Hopkins, I think Johns Hopkins, meaning Baltimore, meaning Matmos, which unfortunately isn't the case. #
  • The music last night on Rubicon ("Connect the Dots") was its best yet. Is Peter Nashel still on the show, or is it a new composer? #
  • There's gotta be a nearby alternate universe where the manga Gantz and the Webkinz company Ganz are one and the same. #
  • Seems ironic: audio-book version of Gordon Hempton's One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World. #
  • RIP, inventor Robert W. Gundlach (b. 1926), leading figure in development of Xerox http://is.gd/ezp95 #copyleft #
  • Zimoun will have piece @_TheLab_ (SF) group show 9/17-10/9, 2010, w/ Koski, Chapple, Bowen, Haynes/Parker, Crofton, Jorritsma, Thwaites … #
  • Brian Eno signing with Warp Records is as if Miles Davis had left Columbia not for Warner Bros. but for ECM. #
  • Sometimes I have to remind myself that when someone describes something as "dissonant noise" it's intended as a pejorative. #
  • Morning sound: 1st evidence of birdsong in weeks. Like someone added a vocal to the standard instrumental track of hard drive, bus, & plane. #
  • Passing boombox, a floor below, raspy as all get-out: an FM station through busted speakers on draining batteries powering rusted wires … #
  • Twilight:Shojo::True Blood:Yaoi. #
  • Me & 10 ancient ladies buying dim sum. Hard to believe the steadily percolating background chatter would be foreground if I knew Chinese. #
  • Whenever I am inundated by news about Vin Scully, I am momentarily surprised by the popularity of architectural criticism. #
  • Just realized you already can subscribe to comments on individual posts on my Disquiet.com site. Guess I can check that off my to-do list. #
  • Firemen walk in & out of Toronado to deal with fire in basement, while bar remains full of people drinking. Outside kids stare at the trucks #
  • Morning sounds: passing cars resounding like waves, hard drives buzzing like insects. Everyday tech is a sound menagerie. #
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Manga / Video-Game Program Music (MP3s)

It’s kinda funny that it’s called “program music,” given what such a term suggests in our age of computer-assisted cultural activity.

That’s the term for the classical tradition in which an instrumental work has an inherent but unspoken (that is, unsung) narrative. Perhaps the best known, and best loved, example is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas, which, as the Beatles might have put it, is based on a poem by a man named Goethe. We all have in our heads the Apprentice imagery — those animated mops and buckets — from Disney’s 1940 animation Fantasia (if not the more recent Nicolas Cage film), but Dukas’ music had been around for 43 years before that. Part of what made Fantasia such a fitting tribute to Dukas’ piece is that while the film provided an intoxicating, and indelible, stream of images, it didn’t add dialogue.

Music scholar Nicolas Slonimsky suggested the alternate term “descriptive music,” to allow for a phrase that more comfortably encompasses a broader range of less narrative-driven pieces, like Gustav Holst’s The Planets (not to be mistaken, of course, with Dr. Dre’s recently announced celestial hip-hop project — which it’s worth noting is reported to be instrumental, i.e. rapping-free) and Modest Mussorgksy’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as covered famously by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer — which brings us back, via prog-rock, to electronic music, circa the 1970s.

Last year, chiptune/8-bit figure Moldilox performed his own bit of “program music,” producing a score to a video game that had never existed, based on the great manga Drifting Classroom by Japanese genius Kazuo Umezu (see disquiet.com, thejosephlusterreport.blogspot.com). With tongue, and game controller, still firmly in cheek, he’s now followed that up with a lesser-known Umezu series, Fourteen, a sprawling future-fiction work starring the tragic poultry-human hybrid Chicken George (shown up top, alongside one of Fantasia‘s anthropomorphic mop buckets).

[audio:http://www.beepcity.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/01-The-Birth-of-Chicken-George.mp3|titles=”The Birth of Chicken George”|artists=”|artists=Moldilox] [audio:http://www.beepcity.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-The-Liberation-of-Chicken-George.mp3|titles=”The Liberation of Chicken George”|artists=Moldilox]

Moldilox’s faux-score for the faux-game has the following narrative, as he describes it:

“‘The Birth of Chicken George’ and ‘The Liberation of Chicken George’ follow the first and second stages, respectively. The first finds the player controlling the lump that will become Chicken George, maneuvering past scientists in the lab, and eventually making it toward a series of computer terminals while fighting off attackers and growing piece by piece. Stage two has George free at last, and running rampant through a zoo filled with scientific horrors, releasing them all and unleashing them on the unprepared masses.”

Both are performed in classic 8-bit sounds from the Pliocene era of video games, as developed in the audio-software program Milky Tracker (milkytracker.org). The song “Birth” (MP3) has a suitably eerie opening section, with industrial noises, as well as rises and drops in scales that suggests some serious shoots’n’ladders action. And “Liberation” (MP3), with its disco-Beethoven motif, ups the pace, with a more complicated melody, and a lot more zooming around, including moments of dramatic pausing. As with pre-Fantasia Dukas, you’ll have no trouble picturing the action in your head.

More on the project, for which Moldilox provided the game-cartridge image shown above, at beepcity.com.

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3D Music (MP3)

Stereoscopic play is a common trope in computer music and, more broadly, electronic music. The power to move sound right and left — and to a somewhat lesser extent forward and back — in the spatial stereo spectrum is an enticing one. It’s the DJ’s equivalent of all the stop-motion, physics-freezing hyperrealism that made those Matrix scenes so fresh.

To control sound on the dance floor, or on the home stereo, is to exert dominion — a la the opening credits to the old sci-fi TV show The Outer Limits: “There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not adjust the picture. We are now controlling the transmission. We control the horizontal, and the vertical.” To play with the stereo space is about control, about sonic elements as a kind of fetish — perhaps in both senses, not just as a enticing object of fascination, but as a metaphysical totem.

And isn’t that what psychedelic music is all about? Cinchel (aka Chicago-based Jason Shanley) recently posted just such a stereo-spanning bit of computer-music psychedelia, titled “20100721,” the date it was posted (and, presumably, given the casual nature of the Cinchel blog, and the way the track ends somewhat suddenly, the day of its making: MP3).

[audio:http://cinchel.com/music/20100721.mp3|titles=”20100721″|artists=Cinchel]

For about four and a half minutes, it’s all flanging wonderment. At first it has the gummed up density one experiences when one leaves one’s tickets to the rave at home, and is left to experience it from outside. But then, bright sharp sounds appear, little elements, spritely ones, that at first blip with a coy, semi-sentience, before becoming part of the rhythmic content — for this is nothing if not a beautiful pulsing series of intersecting patterns. Sounds occur in Cinchel’s music that cause you to look left or right, or to pay attention as they zip across the room. You respond physically, especially when listening on speakers, in contrast with headphones. That said, this is firmly in what radio DJs, long before the rise of the rave, called “headphones-only” music.

Cinchel doesn’t say much about the track in his post at his site, cinchel.com (which is named “When the Sky is Full of 0”²s and 1”²s …..”). He just says, “i am going to keep making … this stuff until someone tells me to stop.” I’m certainly going to do no such thing.

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What the New Brian Eno Album Might Sound Like: Video, Free Jon Hopkins MP3

The news is circulating that Brian Eno‘s new full-length record will be released by the British label Warp. In many ways, Warp is itself the news — there’s much anticipation for any new Eno album, but especially so now that he’s aligned himself with the home of Aphex Twin, Autechre, Flying Lotus, Battles, and Prefuse 73, just to name a few of Warp’s roster who break new ground as a matter of course. This will be his first solo record in half a decade, since 2005’s Another Day on Earth, which was released by Hannibal. Small Craft on a Milk Sea, as the new album is titled, is due out November 2 in the U.S. and November 15 in the U.K.

Eno recording with Warp is like when Tom Waits or Merle Haggard signed with the label Anti-: a godfather joining up with a label whose very outlook on culture he’d helped inspire in the first place. Venturing into alternate history, it’s as if Miles Davis had switched from Columbia Records not to Warner Bros. but instead to ECM. The latter comparison is particularly apt, because of timing. Davis’ first record for Warner Bros. was the 1981 The Man with the Horn, released barely 20 years after the launch of ECM, which put out its first record in 1969. Warp was founded just over 20 years ago, in 1989.

We know what the new Eno album will look like, thanks to a series of promotional pushes from his new label, Warp. As is increasingly common in the record industry, various versions are coming: a limited-availability box set, a collector’s edition box set, a CD, and several digital-only downloads. Here are images of some of those editions:

But what will it sound like? Some of the clearest indication is in its personnel. Small Craft on a Milk Sea is credited to Brian Eno, but also states “With Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.” In fact, it was a mention on Abrahams’ blog that resulted in premature coverage at guardian.co.uk, a leak for which Abrahams later apologized. Both Hopkins and Abrahams have worked with Eno in the past, Hopkins on the score to The Lovely Bones, the Peter Jackson film, and Abrahams in a variety of capacities (he appears on such albums as Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, Another Day on Earth, and Surprise, the Eno-produced Paul Simon project). Eno guested on Abrahams’ The Unrest Cure.

Hopkins and Abrahams have numerous mutual associations beyond Eno. Both are alumni of David Holmes projects. Holmes remixed Hopkins’ “Light Through the Veins” last year. Abrahams played on Holmes’ scores to Oceans 12 and Code 46 (the latter is especially under-appreciated, and I recommend it highly). Abrahams’ Scene Memory is an EP of remixes, featuring Hopkins and Holmes, as well as Eno associates Roedelius, J Peter Schwalm, and Jan Linton. Hopkins also contributed a remix to Abrahams’ EP1, a follow-up to the Abrahams album Honeytrap. Abrahams played on Hopkins’ Opalescent.

All of which is to say, Hopkins and Abrahams bring not only experience with Eno to Small Craft, but also a considerable amount of mutual experience, which should provide meaningful cohesion. (Anyone who read Geeta Dayal‘s recent book on Eno, Another Green World, was reminded that it isn’t unheard of for Eno to throw together musicians who have little prior experience working with each other.) Both Hopkins and Abrahams emphasize a certain unemphatic approach, often beat-driven, but still background-able, ambient music with a populist sensibility. Abrahams is a guitarist, and guitar is often discernible in his work.

In May of last year, rcrdlbl.com posted this free download of the Hopkins gently upbeat instrumental track “Wire,” off his solo album Insides:

 

Neither Hopkins nor Abrahams have much in the way of free (legal) downloadable music online, but there is a lot of streaming audio: Hopkins at jonhopkins.co.uk, myspace.com/jonhopkins, dominorecordco.com, and soundcloud.com/jonhopkins; Abrahams at leoabrahams.com, myspace.com/leoabrahams, and last.fm/music.

And here, in closing (via createdigitalmusic.com), is video of Eno in performance with both Hopkins and Abrahams, along with Karl Hyde (of Underworld) and the Necks, on Sunday, June 14, of last year at the Sydney Opera House:

 

More on Brian Eno’s forthcoming album Small Craft on a Milk Sea at brian-eno.net and warp.net.

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Tangents: Copyright Dialog, White Noise, Classic Rock …

The Social Politics of MP3 Blogs, in Real Time: Extended comments section to a blog post, in which sound artist Hans Peter Kuhn has it out with a blogger who had posted MP3s of his recordings: 433rpm.blogspot.com (via twitter.com/robinrimbaud). Here’s a very brief condensation: Kuhn: “I am one of the two copyright owner I know that I never granted you the rights to do so. Please delete the download button from your blog.” Blogger: “I have no idea why after 26 years you don’t want any one to hear this, are you ashamed of this work?” Kuhn: “I am not talking about big moneys but to click a link is too little. … I am proud of it, that is why it is not free, it has a value. That does not always means only money, but money is the easiest way to trade and unfortunately money is the term we have to live with.” As for me: I remain fascinated that the blogger’s instinct, in his/her very first reply to Kuhn, was immediately to respond obnoxiously to the musician whom he/she purports to admire.

Chompin’ at the Bit: Always worth seeing how the intersection of music and gadgets is interpreted by the gadget press, though the response by gizmodo.com wasn’t particularly appreciative of Tristan Perich‘s elegant 1-Bit Symphony (pictured above): “It’s hardly music, and I very much doubt you’ll get your money’s worth in terms of plays per dollar.” Here’s my initial take, from November of last year: disquiet.com; somewhat anticipating the gadget press, I wrote it up in the classic tech-fetishist mode: the “unboxing.” Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal says, “The music initially calls to mind robot language from a 1960s sci-fi movie, or perhaps Pac-Man gone minimalist, yet it’s not a gimmick. The oscillations have an intense, hypnotic force and a surprising emotional depth” (wsj.com).

Meddle Orb: David Gilmour, guitarist of Pink Floyd, is teaming with the techno production outfit the Orb (Alex Patterson and Youth — via pitchfork.org, via twitter.com/0pn). The album is titled Metallic Spheres and is due out October 4. How will it compare to Youth’s work with Paul McCartney as the Fireman (Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest, 1993; Rushes, 1998; Electric Arguments, 2008) — or, for that matter, Eric Clapton‘s Retail Therapy (with Simon Climie as TDF, 1997)?

In Brief: Program for this year’s Ars Electronica: aec.at, first week of September in Linz, Austria. … Belated belated 10th-birthday wishes to Little Sound DJ (the-palm-sound.blogspot.com). … Are there enough white-noise apps yet that one could be called Yet Another White Noise Generator? This one is called SimplyNoise: simplynoise.com (via appscout.com). … Peter Kirn picks up my (disquiet.com) discussion of his talk about the meaning of the word “digital”: createdigitalmusic.com.

Site Maintenance: Doing a little interface experimentation. Added a “tweet” button to posts (Twitter is the first, and in many ways only, social network I’ve actively participated in, at twitter.com/disquiet), as well as the ability to subscribe to comments from individual posts via email. Not 100% sure I’ll keep either (it’s not that difficult to tweet in the first place, and the comments feed is available from the RSS icon in the browser nav bar), but we’ll see.

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