The recent EP Soft Answers by Janes Scenic Drive makes a strong case for the single-instrument recording — in this case not solo piano, or solo cello, but a synthesizer called the Polar, and produced by the company Access. Janes Scenic Drive is a moniker for the active electronic musician Phillip Wilkerson. Here, playing solo on his one select tool, he ekes out plaintive soundscapes. The tracks vary widely, from daybreak haze to industrial droning. One particular highpoint is “In the Country of Her Eyes,” which changes shape as it progresses, and steers a course midway between the collection’s more dissonant and consonant extremes (MP3). The enjoyably meandering quality to the synthesis may be a result of the randomization opportunities employed by Wilkerson. It’s especially pleasurable throughout to keep in mind that this was all produced on a single machine, that the sounds, tempo, the overall approach, all of it, is in part determined by a piece of technology that Wilkerson has taken the time to learn to make the most of. Certainly he is pursuing his own aesthetic goals — but he’s also, arguably, pursuing the aesthetic goals of the instrument’s developer.
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
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• 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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Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0478 / Collage of Collages / The Assignment: Make a collage that will become part of a larger collage.
• 0477 / Flying Blind / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in which some substantial portion is performed without looking.
• 0476 / IAH Forecast / The Assignment: Here's your next single's cover. Now record it.
• 0475 / Low End (4 of 3) / The Assignment: Remix a trio by doing forensics on its component parts.
• 0474 / Police Action (3 of 3) / The Assignment: Complete a trio by adding a track to an existing duet by two other musicians
And there is a complete list of past projects, 478 consecutive weeks to date.
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