New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Music Before Music (MP3)

Forgive a momentary foray into geographic generalizations. There is plenty of ambient music made in large coastal cities, and much as well in what is called, in the United States, the Midwest. Mark Rushton lives in Iowa City, Iowa, which falls in the latter, and his ambience has, arguably, a unique cast. It is neither urban nor rural, neither digital nor folkie. It is not an expression of dense grids of technologically mediated culture, nor of an agrarian environment — and neither is it an expression of aspiration to either of those states. It is its own sound, and audiences keeping abreast of it — he publishes through various services, primarily — welcome the steady arrival of sonic postcards from a special zone. A recent such release (if that word, “release,” has much meaning any longer) is “Pre-Show Music.” It takes field recordings from Rushton’s daily life and ushers them into a new sonic space, given a mix of lushness and aridity that is his signature.

The track comes, on its page, with a small amount of background information:

Sound collage based on audience recording prior to a school band concert, processed washing machine sounds, Ableton Live-created rolling fog, and numerous other loops

The voices heard early on are drawn from that pre-concert chatter. They’re heard buried deep in a dirge-like haze, perhaps the “fog” of Rushton’s description. There’s a beauty to the irony of Rushton’s undertaking, turning the moments before music into a music unto itself. Part of the mark of his success is how despite the fact that the sounds that subsume the voices feel composed — certainly no one would mistake them for having been part of the world at that moment — they still carry with them an intent that is more dramatic or mood-oriented than melodic. The end result is like a soundtrack for a small film with no narrative intent — all setting, all place.

Track origially posted at More on Rushton at,, and

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Past Week at

  • Piece I wrote recently. RT @SactownMagazine Need reading material? Read our piece on Charlie Peacock. Here he is w/ Bono #
  • RIP, violin teacher and critic (and, also, friend) Edith Eisler (b. 1925) via @operafella #
  • File under "If I were in Tokyo": Maciunas/Fluxus exhibit at Gallery 360 Degrees: (Events/concert, too.) #
  • If you don't use Thunderbird or Outlook in Windows 7, please tell me what you use. Thanks. #
  • Glad I didn't hit # while on hold with @godaddy — they're playing Squirrel Nut Zippers, missing whom is like being nostalgic for nostalgia. #
  • Thank you, @godaddy: "If you would like to remain on hold without music, press pound now." #
  • Read more »
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Entering and Exiting the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Looper’s Delight: The Audio Relay unit that both serves up the Radius broadcast and provided its chance theme music

Some sounds are too good not to be looked into more closely — not just listened to closely, but inquired after. The great Radius radio show and podcast out of Chicago ( opens each episode with a lightly squelchy buzz of tone. It’s a fractured bit of ether that matches the show’s overall aesthetic, from the lovely simplicity of its logo (a volume knob at its most rarefied) to the elegance of its black-and-white website design, all the way down to how it has personalized the waveform visualization to match its greytone approach. And of course, there is the structured noise by composers and sound artists — among them Michael Woody, Margaret Noble, Sturqen, and Noé Cuéllar — that is the series’ subject matter. You can hear the opening sound and some of the subsequent podcasts at, and view the mentioned graphic elements as well as read more about the series at its website.

Having written about Radius podcasts in the past, I sent in an email asking about that opening noise. Truth be told, I didn’t at first even realize it served as a theme to the show. When I heard my first Radius podcast, I just thought that initial tonal material was part of the overall music being presented. Only later, with subsequent entries in the series, did I realize it was theme music.

Radius’ Jeff Kolar wrote back to explain what the opening sound is. He refers to it as the “Radius loop”:

The Radius loop file is a live field recording using Radius’ low-powered FM transmitter. Radius uses a mobile FM radio transmitter called the Audio Relay, a collaborative project between Temporary Services and Brennan McGaffey. More information about the Audio Relay can be found online here: The “Radius loop” is a field recording of the Radius transmitter powering up for the first unregulated broadcast on local 88.9 FM. I accidentally forgot to ground the radio signal, which caused the transmission to fade in and out, back and forth between the un-used commercial station, and the Radius pirated signal. The static glitch is the sound of Radius entering and exiting the electromagnetic spectrum once every 2 seconds.

A chance recording of a unique piece of technology functioning in an unexpected manner, a true glitch. It is difficult to imagine a more fitting sound to serve as the theme for the Radius series.

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Techno & Nostalgia (MP3s)

Nostalgia is not an unfamiliar mode for techno. There’s a downbeat aura to its dance-floor drama, one as much about missed opportunities and lost love as it is about promise, hope, the future. The older that techno as a genre gets, even as the music itself progresses, the more its implicit vision of the future becomes an inherently nostalgic one, longing to be measured against past accomplishments. As the canon of great techno albums and great techno events solidifies, musicians must do battle as much with the past as they do with their contemporaries. This is true of any art form, but for one that, like techno, is founded on futurism, the idea of making peace with the past carries additional weight.

And, in the right hands, additional irony. There is no smirk to Extravagance, no wink, but there is a sense of distance from the subject matter that could just as well be called irony. Don’t judge the album’s cover, shown above, too quickly — what is wrong with pointing out that since the dawn of recorded music there have been forlorn lovers and listeners?

And what else to term a record, credited to Rad Manor, that before diving into commendable, slowly spun beats, opens with an ancient bit of radio pop (what sounds like, perhaps, a singing cowboy) whose archaic sensibility is echoed, literally (layers flange it beyond comprehensibility), and then supplanted by a somewhat morose piano that sounds like nothing so much as the funeral dirge for the singer (MP3). This first track, “Anselmo,” bears little immediate resemblance to the two that follow. It opens and closes with the familiar static of old vinyl, a kind of magical touch since the music heard above (perhaps “amid” is a better term) that vinyl is so radically different at the start end end of the track. But it’s nowhere as different as what follows. “Rave Names” and “White Lighter” are the names of two tracks of what would be more familiarly termed techno, the first of which is especially admirable for its disparate, arid percussion.

[audio:|titles=”Anselmo”|artists=Rd Manor]

Rad Manor is a name employed by Jacob Wright, who lives in Redlands, California, by way, reportedly, of Las Vegas, where perhaps he got his taste for old-school lounge music. Get the full release, for free download, at Released late last month by the netlabel.

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Remote in the Reeds (MP3)

The netlabel Stasisfield, at, run by John Kannenberg, has ventured deep into rarefied sonic territory in the past, but its current release may be its most sonically remote yet. Recorded by Coppice, a duo from Chicago, it is an extended survey of small tones. Coppice is Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer, and they based the work, titled Vinculum (Courses), on what is described as “bellows and processed reeds” (the full materials were, apparently, an “8-channel installation with shruti box, free reeds, accordion, acoustic filters, and electronics”). As those materials might suggest, the sounds are delicate, venturing into the realm of pure tone, one after another, starting so quiet as to be mistaken for dog whistles, and slowly growing in intensity. Two things come into focus as the work proceeds. One is how the general absence of an attack, of a strong initial sonic signature, draws attention to textures within the tones. The other is how the concept of “intensity” itself is a purely relative one, because as “present” as the work becomes, that is largely in contrast with just how fragile it was when originated (MP3).


Originally released for free download and streaming by More on Cuéllar at and Kramer at The work was recorded live on March 25 of this year at the Flea Theater in New York City, as part of Music with a View 2011, curated by Kathleen Supové.

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