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

  • RIP, Chris Dedrick (b. 1947) of Free Design: Enoch Light alum; influenced Stereolab, Cornelius (reissued them on Trattoria); screen composer #
  • One of those days when I realize I've 4 cameras on various objects w/ me, & that's in my (truly) light bag. Would be 5 if iPod Touch had 1. #
  • First Nolan/Zimmer's Inception theme, then Bieber at 800%. What will be the next slo-mo sound phenomenon? #
  • Morning sounds: hard drives whirring, heater coming on, city buses rattling. The fog horns have abated. #
  • Recent email contest for new Books CD asked readers to name fave recent novel. Interesting list, largely lit-fic and sci-fi. #
  • Transformers 3: Rise of the Makers #diyfilms #
  • Use MySpace? (Jokes aside, tons of musicians do.) Act on newly simple apps-blocking options in updated privacy settings: #
  • #ff brick-layers: @sfemf @icainboston @vinylathletes * brick-makers: @mapmap @gregdavismusic @markemorse @mariplasma @greg_pond #
  • Foghorns especially garrulous tonight. Me thinks they've been reading some China Miéville in the off hours. #
  • Forget the #webisdead silliness in the September @wired — the issue has not one but two Moog stories, including a gorgeous prototype pic. #
  • RIP, Bill Millin (b. 1922), the Scottish bagpiper whose D-Day role was immortalized in the film The Longest Day. #sonicweapons #
  • The device in Mad Men ep4 this season (the secretary can hear the phone but can't be heard) is called a "mother-in-law" #
  • Entire house vibrating as the apartment complex down the street undergoes a pneumatic intervention. Think "Steve Reich meets Consolidated." #
  • Great @gregdavismusic modular analog last night, + tangerine dreaminess ( ) & folk drones ( #
  • Netlabels without RSS feeds are arguably more confusing than art museums without @flickr accounts. #
  • Update: the Sep30/Oct1 yarn I'll be spinning about serial + visual storytelling (aka comics) has moved to Denver from Boulder #planningness #
  • Looking forward to @gregdavismusic tonight at the Hemlock. #
  • Sad day for crate diggers: Fat Beats closing its NY & LA stores via @shocklee #
  • A little pre-noon James Blackshaw … #
  • New Aronofsky looks like Center Stage mashed with X-Men. (I'm especially happy it means a new Clint Mansell score.) via @popcandy @brubaker #
  • ♫ Afternoon movie score: "Self Defense" cue by Ranju Majumdar from indie thriller @determinism streaming on @soundcloud #
  • Mistook passing airplane for weekly noon-Tuesday San Francisco emergency-warning siren; briefly thought it was two hours later than it is. #
  • Thanks, Hannes Pasqualini (, who drew my Twitter background this month. More on the Bolanzo, Italy, artist #
  • Many thanks again to @dylanhorrocks for providing the original illustration for my Twitter account last month (7/20-8/16) #
  • RIP, Robert Wilson (b. 1957?), Gap Band bassist. Check out 37 tracks that sample 'em (Snoop, Paris, Nas): via @shocklee #
  • New email newsletter Wed. includes contest for Books' recent CD, The Way Out. Subscribe here: #
  • "I Am Sitting in a Room Podcasting" RT @rootstrata live loop fail #
  • Having nothing to do with this, but very pleased that it exists: #
  • There have been many great developments in music e-tailing. Searching for an 11-track release before @emusic rolls over is not one of them. #
  • Happy 1st anniversary to @new_people in SF's Japantown. Impressive that its Superfrog Gallery y'day could block loud street-festival bands. #
  • When mashups happen in "real" life: right now Social D & Nas playing separate stages @sfoutsidelands — listening in distance for the merge. #
  • Great free composed-field-recording release by @landrecorder at I wrote the liner notes. Thanks for the invite, @sbtrmnl #
  • For the record, I'm not in Hayward, California, despite what the weirdly inaccurate @twitter auto-location service often seems to believe. #
  • The 1/2 quarter-speed / 1/2 hyper-speed dub of Mala's "Don't Let Me Go" (new Soul Jazz 12", flip of Four Tet) is killer #
  • I'm closer to @sfoutsidelands physically than @twitter-ly. Don't think I've seen one Tweet on it this entire weekend, though it is trending. #
  • I do realize I have conflated some Internet colleagues into one imagined individual, whereas other multiple avatars are in fact one person. #
  • Unlike Gilbert&George, I have no political issue with church bells. But when they ring other than on hour or half hour they're disorienting. #
  • Impressive. Over 300 active netlabels (free, legal) listed by @displatypus … My list (merely 114) #
  • Morning sounds: shower, dryer, hard drives, plane, and (likely imagined, as it's still early) rumbling of the nearby Outside Lands Festival. #
  • Think I'm going this morning to hear Kitaro play in Japantown @new_people — never sure if he's Japan's Jean Michael Jarre or its Mantovani. #
  • Enjoying the modern silent film that is driver after driver talking on speaker phone (or Bluetooth earbud) behind windshields. #tati2010 #
  • Enjoying the 8bit Steve Reich that is standing in line amid multiple beeping cash registers. #
  • Boston alert: @callithumpian doing Gavin Bryars' Sinking of the Titanic on Aug 20 @icainboston #
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How to Submit Music (& Apps) for Review on

This site’s been experiencing a significant uptick in correspondence about how to submit music (as well as apps) for review. I just updated the F.A.Q page (i.e., Frequently Asked Questions, at in this regard. Here are the key sections:

4. Can I send you music for review consideration? I would love to hear your music. However, just to get this clear from the outset, I am a horrible correspondent. I simply don’t have the time to engage in ongoing back and forths via email about whether I plan on covering your music. I get an enormous amount of music from musicians and their record labels, and that doesn’t count all time I spend seeking out music (and sound-related art), so I can’t promise to write back in a timely manner. Honestly, I can’t promise to write back at all. What I can promise is the following: I will listen to what you send to me, and I will consider it for coverage. So, how do you send me music? My preference is that you email me a link to a Zip file containing 320kbps MP3 files. If you feel the need to send me a CD (or vinyl, or some other physical format), you can email me (visit the Contact page) to get my address in San Francisco, where I live. Do not send MP3s as attachments: they clog up my email, and I just delete them. In closing, I do want to hear your music — but I also want to hear other people’s music, and the less time I spend in correspondence, the more time I can spend listening.

5. Do you review sound/audio/music-related apps? Yes, certainly — apps as well as applications. The intersection of sound and interactivity (aka games) is an important one. Since at least July 2000, I’ve been tagging such content on the site with the term “audio-games.” I can currently review apps written for Apple’s iOS operating system (I have an iPod Touch) and for Android (I have an Android mobile phone), and applications written for the Apple and Windows operating systems (I really should have a proper Linux set up, but currently do not). Just get in touch with me via the Contact page.

Full F.A.Q. at

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On the Sudden Popularity of Glacial Sound

There must be a third round coming. These things come in threes, don’t they, like celebrity deaths and blockbuster movie franchises?

The “thing” in this case is the mass popularity of — the sudden mass consciousness of — what, generally speaking, is a matter of sonic composition relegated deep in left field, in the outer margins of music-posting hubs such as,, and, where avant-gardists are known to ply their trade in the after hours and share it with other out-sound listeners.

And so it’s especially appropriate that it was on that Justin Bieber, the peculiarly youthful Canadian 16-year-old, was revealed to be utterly angelic … when one of his songs is slowed to the glacial pace of 800% its original length:


As of this writing, the Bieber art-prank has garnered over one and a quarter million plays, and almost 800 comments, the latter of which have turned the elegant Soundcloud waveform interface into block of harsh striations that look like what might happen if Paul Smith were given half an hour to art direct an issue of Benetton’s Colors magazine. Those comments tend toward the comparative: a user named Seefreund says “sigur ros on helium,” and adds a smiley face, while one named Precipidate noted: “Reminds me of John Tavener / Ben Frost.” Of course, it’s quite likely that all songs sound like a Sigur Ros sound check when slowed to eight times their intended pacing. What we do know is that when Sigur Ros is sped up by 800%, it resembles nothing remotely like Justin Bieber (for this we can, again, thank the struggling servers of What Predipidate is getting at is that ancient and contemporary music have, alike, strived for the angelic by using stasis as a compositional tool. We can expect more of these slow-mo mixes shortly — the question is whether early-polyphony experts like Anonymous 4 or Tallis Scholars will get in on the action. As a measure of the impact of the GBM (glacial Bieber moment), the usually practical-minded website has run a how-to on what software can be employed to make one’s own “slowed-down ambient epic.”

And this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg, at the risk of extending the glacial metaphor. That honor would go to Inception, from director Christopher Nolan. Only a few weeks ago, it was discerned that the artfully attenuated main theme by composer Hans Zimmer for the brainteasing film is, in fact, an orchestration of a maudlin Édith Piaf pop song heard elsewhere in the film, slowed down almost beyond recognition, the key word being “almost”:


This Eames-ian matter of degrees fits tidily with Nolan’s narrative logic, which posits that dreams occur much more quickly than real life, so that hence a dream within a dream will happen all the more quickly — which is to say, will feel like it lasts all the longer. Nolan made his name with another kind of time-shifting, in the backwards-told tale Memento. (Summer 2010 was something of a bonanza for experimental orchestration. Shutter Island, the pulpy Martin Scorsese psychological-horror enterprise, featured slow-music masters like Ingram Marshall and up’n’comers like Max Richter. Both films star Leonardo DiCaprio.)

To think, a year and a half ago, I’d merely hoped that the latest Nintendo DS system — whose microphone allows for slowing and speeding of recorded audio — would spark sonic play among gamers. This current zeitgeist is deeper than mere concerns about sound for its own sake. Leif Inge’s “9 Beet Stretch”got a lot of attention six years ago (,, for its slowing down of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 to 24 hours, but it never seemed to tap into some broader cultural desire.

So, what’s the cause of popular attention to slow sound? What have Nolan and Bieber, the latter unwittingly, tapped into? Is it the drawn-out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the extended recession, the Kurzweil-ian hyperbole about incipient immortality, the way rapid changes in technology have us half-living in the future, or how concerns about global warming suggest that we may in our lifetimes witness the sort of change previously comprehendable solely by geologists?

Whatever is going on, time is most certainly on our minds.

Now, all this activity is unlikely to suddenly welcome the music of an Alan Morse Davies (check out numerous examples of his work:, or a Thomas Köner (whose recently reissued 1993 album Permafrost — note the pertinent title — was the subject of debate earlier this month in the “MP3 Discussion Group”) to the Billboard classical charts. But if the sonic properties of the Bieber opus are previously unfamiliar to you, and strike your fancy, please do track down what Davies has done with the sounds of pygmies and old jazz standards, among other source material, and what Köner can majestically summon from that most stasis-infused sound of all: static.

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Electronics + String Quarter = “Glitch” (MP3)

If merely the list of ingredients entices you, then know in advance that “Glitch” by Daniel Wohl does not fall short, does not disappoint, and if anything is more than the sum of its equally spare and excellent parts. Those ingredients are the musical elements “string quartet” and “electronics,” plus the tantalizing “and” placed in between them, all of which is wrapped in that succinct title, which promises all manner of lovely brokenness. The promise is delivered, and Wohl has made three of the piece’s four movements available for free download.

The highlight may be the piece’s final movement, in which slowly bowed violin plays against Morse-Code-on-Quaaludes beeping, the two strains drawing together into a sluice of stuttered eloquence (MP3). This gives way to a Michael Nyman”“esque bounty of bright-skies melodicism, heard against a persistent — ingratiatingly grating? — industrial pulse.

[audio:|titles=”Mvt 4 (I Drone)”|artists=Daniel Wohl]

More details on the music page at Wohl’s website,

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Sketches of Sound 5: Hannes Pasqualini

This is the fifth occurrence of a relatively new little project, called “Sketches of Sound”: inviting illustrators to sketch something sound-related. I post the drawing as the background of my Twitter account,, and then share a bit of information about the illustrator back on Call it “curating Twitter.”

The above drawing was done for me for this project by Hannes Pasqualini, who lives in Bolzano, Italy. During the day, Pasqualini works as a communications designer. At night he thinks, writes, draws, and assembles noise into sonic sequences. His love for the unsettling, the macabre, and the absurd can be found in his comics and illustrations (which he has published in Italy and abroad, in books, anthologies, and magazines) and in his musical ramblings. What he likes most is to combine the two disciplines: as a comic artist he’s recently published a book about jazz in Italy during the ’50s, and he has created short comics and illustrations dedicated to acts like Pere Ubu, Bauhaus, and Soap&Skin.

Like a lot of visual artists, Pasqualini also makes music, and he describes his “Sketches of Sound” illustration as “a surreal representation of what I have on my studio desk.” Here, for reference, is a photo of his desk:

And here’s the video trailer ( for the comic Gietz!, which Pasqualini drew; it was written by Andrea Campanella and published by Tunué:


If you click through to Pasqualini’s channel, you’ll also see this circuit-bent music tool that he created by using a fan to modulate the sound of the Michael Una’s Beep-it optical theremin:


For more on Pasqualini, check out his online portfolio at, his blog at, his music at, and his comic Spiracle at

The previous “Sketches of Sound” contributors were, in alphabetical order, Brian Biggs, Warren Craghead III, Dylan Horrocks, and Minty Lewis.

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