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

The Self-Cutting (Up) MP3

“You have this feeling that it’s” — and the voice cuts out. That’s how the track starts. The sudden cut is more of a truncation than a fade. Had it been the latter, we wouldn’t know for sure if the speaker (so to speak), the interlocutor, had stopped mid-track (so to speak), or if this is the result of an edit. But, clearly, it’s an edit. Clearly for several reasons: the way the sound just ends, the opening up of a vacuum-like sonic space. And, of course, the piece’s title, “Chopped Off the Think.” Also, few tracks on Soundcloud.com, where the file is hosted for free download, have waveforms that look like this one’s, with these bits of sound that end in an instant, followed by extended near-silence, marked by thick singular horizontal bars.

The voice returns: “You don’t know what the” — and it’s fairly certain an f-bomb has been avoided thanks to another quick edit. As the track proceeds, it builds momentum, urgency. The voice seems to be narrating its own editing, as it comments on what does and doesn’t work, and how certain integers seem to correlate with a more pleasing effect. It’s like we’re witnessing the edit (which is credited to all n4tural) as it is enacted.

There’s a unique quality to the human voice — not just this voice, but the human voice in general. It’s a quality that often renders all other sound around it to the background. This track wrestles with the voice by curtailing its presence, limiting its power, focusing our ears on its sound by keeping its message tantalizingly just beyond reach.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/all-n4tural.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com 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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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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