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

Remixing a Stroll

Two days ago, after spending many hours with nothing playing but an MP3 that consisted in large part of the mechanical sound of an old turntable making its rotation, I had the sense that I was still hearing the track, even though I was miles from the house, pushing a bright orange three-wheeled stroller in which dozed my eight-month-old. This was along Golden Gate Park, where people regularly park their cars with the apparent interest in having their passenger-side windows broken. The sidewalk there is littered daily with glass, which collects in these dry glistening pools. I had navigated just such a pool of reflective shards, and one of those shards had, it turned out, embedded itself in the rear left wheel of the stroller. With each rotation, there was a scratchy sound, which in time took on the metronomic significance of a beat. The beat sound, in turn, so to speak, brought the ear to bear on what happened the other 350 or so degrees of rotation, when the wheel regained its grip on the pockmarked sidewalk. The sound of that portion of the rotation was weathered down, in a sandpapery way. I reached for my phone, continued to push the stroller, and used the bright red Record button in the Soundcloud.com app to tape 20 seconds of this beat. (It’s an Android phone, but there’s also an iOS version of the app.) The result is as follows:

Some comments began to accumulate on the page where the track is posted for streaming and download, and then 24 hours later an email arrived from Thomas Park, who records prolifically under the name Mystified. He had commented the day prior on my track, which I had titled “Broken Glass in a Stroller Wheel,” and in the intervening hours he had taken my track and produced something new from it, which he titled “Stroller Groove”:

Just looking at the waveforms of the two recordings, it’s clear that only one of these has the inaccuracies inherent in natural-world sound (even if part of that so-called natural world is a mass-produced, human-powered vehicle). The Mystified remix starts with a brief loop selected from the original track, and slowly accrues a veneer of minimal techno. As such, it provides an echo of my walk, in some manner resembling the way that my walk had provided an echo of the turntable MP3 to which I had been listening earlier in the day.

Tracks originally posted at soundcloud.com/disquiet and at soundcloud.com/mystifiedthomas

(Above photo from flickr.com/photos/wheatfields via Creative Commons license.)

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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