Past Week at

  • Morning sounds: spoon against bowl, baby's small cries as she wakes, cars passing on wet street, hard drives. #
  • RIP, bassist Walter Payton Jr. (age 68), link between Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Lee Dorsey; father of Nicholas Payton #
  • I love getting packages from Russia #
  • iPod Touch (gen 4) + Bluetooth keyboard (Stowaway) + G1 phone + Barnacle Wifi Tether (app) = pretty darn good and highly mobile setup #
  • Picturing the vast warehouses where the robots making pre-election robo-calls will be stored once election day passes. Sleep well, robots. #
  • [email protected] Good question, where to start listening to Milton Babbitt. I'd say this great Babbitt/Amirkhanian interview in reply to tedfriedman #
  • Morning sounds: hard drives, baby's breathing and trumpeting, light traffic, and what may be a neighbor's dryer. #
  • Trading emails with Nigerian scamster trying to trick me out of iPod I put up on Craigslist is like communicating with brain-damaged cyborg. #
  • Dreaming of a Wayne Thiebaud / Steve McQueen mash-up, "24th Street Intersection" meets Bullitt. #
  • Man, now Nitzer Ebb is back. Who isn't back at this point? I want a Skylab reunion. #
  • Dear @myspace congrats on redesign; now howzabout including blog posts in emails instead of just providing a generic link back to yourself. #
  • Used to cafes playing music. Used to earbud sound bleed. Not used to multiple people at cafe on laptops watching videos without headphones. #
  • Gotten in the habit lately of turning off music shortly before noon, in order to hear the bells. As habits go, it's a good one. #
  • Once again don't notice that I've left the kid's Fisher Price Calming Vibrations seat on for half an hour, empty — calming, indeed. #
  • "The National Do Not Call Registry doesn't cover political messages…you've probably noticed that lately" via @lifehacker #chatterpollution #
  • Fireworks. #
  • "Decibels measure…intensity of…trouble…physicist gets into because he didnʼt take off his shoes first" per CNiemann #
  • The iOS autospell for "Napster" is "baldish" #
  • Happiness is discovering a brand new izakaya in your neighborhood. #
  • The Radio Shack (excuse me, the Shack — oy) near my house is closed today due to "technical difficulties," according to handwritten sign. #
  • Tuesday noon siren heard from inside ramen shop in SF's Union Square, muffled by walls, conversation, and slurping. #
  • Elevators are Tetris in reverse, bodies shifting at each floor so as to maximize mutual distance. #
  • According to the revamped Electric Company, the "ninja of the alphabet" is … the silent e. #thistweetisbroughttoyouby #
  • RIP, tuba player Harvey Phillips (b. 1929), whose Ringling Bros apprenticeship taught him music serves an alarm: #
  • Honking from numerous automobiles pierces my headphones on the bus; it signals a win by the Giants. #
  • "'the people's version' of the [Brion Gysin] dreamachine cell phone app" via @tommoody #

When Voices Intrude (MP3)

Richard Francis‘s solo synthesizer and computer performance at Fotofono in New York this past July 15 took every microsonic musician’s nightmare and turned it into a performance (MP3). The nightmare is a simple one: people start talking. Quiet music like that which Francis lets slowly seep from his equipment is the sort that barely is audible over the tone of the room in which it is heard, music that can be mistaken for — music that can draw inspiration and source material from — the buzz inherent in the equipment on which it is made.

[audio:|titles=”Live at Fotofono”|artists=Richard Francis]

The voices in the piece are muffled, to the extent that in documentary evidence like this MP3, they could be mistaken for actual, thoughtless, inconsequential yet consequential conversation, the kind that frequently mars live recordings — not an audio component determinedly acted upon.

Track originally posted at, where it shares space with two other sets also recorded that evening. More on Francis at

Synthetic String MP3

Treehouses is the name under which San Francisco area musician Mike Rotondo posts his compositions at A track several months ago titled “Goodbye Mission Dub” attracted attention thanks to its mix of composed and real-world sounds (, which seemed to set in opposition notions of interiority and exteriority, and recontextualized the idea of “dub,” which all would have been fine on its lonesome but the track had the additional benefit of being a tuneful pleasure as well.

This time around, it’s an experiment for a class — Rotonto recently started in the CCRMA program (“Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics,” which such luminaries as John Chowning and Max Mathews call home) at Stanford, and already one of his assignments has provided something he’s decided worth sharing, a synthesized string piece titled “Dawny Thoughts”:

Writes Rotondo of the piece:

I made a software instrument for class, based on a physical model of a plucked string, wrote a few effects I could control with the pitch & mod wheels on a midi keyboard, and played this with it. I think it nicely describes my state of mind at the time (8AM after coding all night). I’ll practice some more with the instrument and try and record something tighter, but I like this enough to put it up here anyway :)

To some extent, it can be heard as a melding of “Mission Dub” themes. If “Mission Dub” balanced an automated beat with acoustic instrumentation, “Dawny Thoughts” is a mechanical vision of an acoustic instrument, plucked and strummed, and occasionally tweaked in a manner that exposes its computer-code underbelly.

Track originally posted at More on Rotondo at

Past Week at

  • Sony "reportedly ceased production of all cassette Walkmans and will stop selling them in Japan as soon as the current inventory runs out." #
  • In this week's The Good Wife, alarm of car being battered by character beats in time with song on soundtrack. #tvsonics #
  • In this week's NCIS, binaural audio of recorded gunshots used to identify murderer's rifle. #tvsonics #
  • Alarmed, so to speak, to hear Tues-noon city-wide emergency siren on Thurs at 10:20am, not realizing it's a quake drill: #
  • Back from Sacramento, where I ran into someone at a concert from whom I had borrowed a paperback book in, like, 1993 or 1994. #
  • Cold night, most homes' windows closed, but on walk home there's communal if disparate cheering, no doubt related to Giants game. #
  • Digging into advance copy of forthcoming Brian Eno album. #
  • The more extremely vertiginous of Wayne Thiebaud's paintings have come to seem, to me, of a piece with Leb Woods's impossible architectures. #
  • When visiting Sacramento from San Francisco you need to adjust your ears to filter through sound of (seasonally present) air conditioning. #
  • The beautiful extension of the Crocker Art Museum (classic building with sleek contemporary wing) is like an expanded version of @sjmusart #
  • Photo of those four great Fred Dalkey portraits of (unidentified) Joseph Beuys at #
  • Great quartet of portraits by Fred Dalkey of (unidentified) Joseph Beuys at in Sacramento. #
  • Waking to motel's combination of vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers. And news of GarageBand's metric equivalent of AutoTune. #
  • ♫ Afternoon tunes: the tasty broken-funk mixes and mashes of Mogillah at #
  • Hotel sounds: freeway motion, passing service staff's keys, refrigerator rattles, children talking rapidly (correlates with pool proximity). #
  • Driving solo to Sacto; recalling what @andybattaglia9 once said to me about moving to NYC from ATL & missing solitude of car surround sound. #
  • The noon sirens are echoing formidably today, all 104 of 'em. #
  • Headed up to the state's capital (CA, that is) for 36 hours for some research. If anything #sound ish is going on, please lemme know. #
  • Rock'n'roll legend Leon Russell: "My hobby is silence" #
  • Karen M. O'Leary's amazing cut-out maps: Corresponds well with earlier Jill Silvia spreadsheets & way up @bldgblog alley. #
  • When I first read of @tylergreendc re-installing @sfmoma collection I thought it was some cool new web-based application #
  • Don't upgrade OS or install significant new software before trip. Don't upgrade OS or install significant new software before trip. Repeat. #
  • RIP, jazz saxophonost and Coltrane alum Marion Brown (b. 1935. via @pheezy #
  • Alfred Molina was a good Mark Rothko (hampered by script that played for laughs) but I really wanna see his mordant funnyman Morton Feldman. #
  • The issue with Android OS for me isn't fragmentation. It's that the root (so to speak) build remains a largely inaccessible Platonic ideal. #
  • Two more tracks from forthcoming Brian Eno CD, Small Craft on a Milk Sea, ("Horse," "Emerald and Stone"), now streaming: #
  • Excellent. Michael Brook scored the new David O. Russell film, The Fighter. #
  • Jill Silvia's dissected spreadsheets are like Agnes Martin mashed up with Bartleby the Scrivener: via @creativeapps #
  • Steve Layton, composer & frequent @sequenza21 contributor, has participated in the Steve Reich remix contest: via @aworks #
  • RIP, fractal mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (b.1924), via @osakimandias via @Ihnatko #
  • Ooh, not just a new netlabel. A new netlabel from Oakland: @onyudo #
  • #APE highlights: Megan Kelso panel; Justin Parsons' I Ching; Jimenez Lai's architecture comics; new Clutch McB split (w/ Nicole J Georges). #

Listen to the Weather (MP3)

The Listen to the Weather project asks musicians to create new music from sound-related data and one additional element, “their favourite song about water.” That’s how the formula is described at by the project’s curator, the Australia-based sound artist Kate Carr. Among the entries in the project is this one by Guy Birkin, whose work has been featured here previously (including a granulated guitar drone in February of this year and a deeply nostalglic remix of a children’s TV-show theme song in April). This time around, Birkin has taken as his material numeric data of the “light level, temperature and relative humidity” during a 24-hour period in Sneinton, Nottongham, in the U.K. He then used the data as a controller for a variety of sound manipulations. As he describes it, in brief:

Light level controls grain amplitude; temperature controls grain location within the sample; relative humidity controls grain density. 24 hours of data is compressed to four minutes of sound, with the result that the track starts quietly at midinight, becomes louder as the sun rises, changes with the atmospheric conditions, and settles down to a calm, warm evening, before finally fading away again.

While the piece includes sampled sound (“four minutes of ambient sound from the same location, and percussion made with that sound plus filtered noise and sine waves”), it’s a fine reminder that when we talk about “field recordings,” we’re talking about more than just audio documentation; we’re talking about all manner of observation.

Original track at