Disquiet Junto Project 0005: “Layering Reality”

The Assignment: Add sounds to an unedited field recording

Each Thursday evening at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment.

The fifth Disquiet Junto project was, at its essence, about creating an original musical score for a brief, film-less documentary film. The “film-less documentary film” part of the project was track’s sonic foundation: an unedited field recording each musician made during his or her everyday life. To that foundation, the musicians were instructed to add new sounds of their own making.

The assignment was made late in the day on Thursday, February 2, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, February 6, as the deadline. View a search return for all the entries: disquiet0005-layer. As of this writing, there are 53 tracks associated with the tag.

Here are the instructions that were presented to members of the Disquiet Junto:

Disquiet Junto Project 0005: “Layering Reality” Plan: The fifth Junto project is about amplifying the inherent musicality of everyday life. Of all the Junto projects so far, this one may call for the lightest touch. Of course, achieving a light touch may require the most amount of work. The project will be accomplished by adding sounds (notes, riffs, tones, beats, noises, processing, drones, what have you) to a foundation track that consists of an original, unedited field recording. Pre-Production: First, you will make an audio field recording from everyday life. This track will serve as the foundation for your piece. This recording can be made anywhere — on the bus, or while riding a bicycle, or sitting in a field, or waiting in the lobby of a building, or in the kitchen, wherever. There are only two rules regarding the field recording: (1) Do not include intelligible voices unless you are certain that recording people, wherever you are, is legal. (2) Do not edit the field recording, except to fade in and out to achieve the desired length. Chances are you’ll record quite a bit, and then select your favorite segment. You might even, after starting work on one foundation track, make decisions about what constitutes a good foundation and then go and make a new field recording. Length: Keep the work to between two and five minutes. Sensibility: In the end, the foundation field recording track should remain fairly discernible in the mix. Title/Tag: Please include the term “disquiet0005-layer”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track. Download: As always, you don’t have to set your track for download, but it would be preferable. Linking: When you post the track, please include this link: http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/ Bonus: You might consider (if you have an interest in video/film-making) recording the foundation audio field recording as part of a video, and then when the track is complete going ahead and re-syncing the audio with the original video. There’s no deadline for doing this “bonus” part of the project — if you are interested in doing it, feel free to do so after the track deadline has passed.

This “bonus” round — which involved making good on the film-like nature of the assignment — was accomplished by at least three of the participants:

AllDaySleep (aka Sedona, Arizona’s Matthew Barlow) posted at youtube.com this video of his “Sunset on Lake Montezuma” track:

London-based Robert Thomas, aka Dizzy Banjo, made his first appearance as part of the Junto this week, and it seemed like an appropriate project for him, since by day he is the Chief Creative Officer at Reality Jockey. That London-based software development firm created the RJDJ and Inception apps (as well as Voyager and Dimensions), which let people interact with, filter, and transform the sounds around them. Here’s a video (from youtube.com) of his piece, the foundation of which was recorded at Liverpool Street Station. In a great development, Thomas said he will be making an “RJDJ scene” from the software with which he transformed the Liverpool audio — in other words, anyone with RJDJ on their iOS device will be able to witness how the same algorithms transform their own personal sonic environments. Here is his video:

Ted Laderas (aka OO-ray, of Portland Oregon) also made a video (available at vimeo.com) of his piece, filmed and recorded on the Oregon coast. Unlike the other two, it employs artful editing. Also, Ambienteer (James Fahy, of Guildford, Britain) has suggested he may yet get a video up of his piece.

One of the great things about the Soundcloud.com platform is the ability for musicians to post additional information, including external links, related to their tracks. Here are just a few examples from the over 50 pieces of music that resulted from the fifth Junto project:

Kevin R. Seward touched on the opportunities for pushing the perceived boundary between what is background and layer. Of the elements in his track he writes, “One is an imposter, trying to pass itself off as not added on.”

Ted James (of Providence, Rhode Island) posted images (at betteroffted.tedjames.info) of where his track was recorded.

In the write-up for his piece, Brooklyn-based Tom Vourtsis did an exemplary job of laying out what he set out to accomplish, and how he did so:

I gathered a decent selection of field recordings ranging from the sound of an escalator thumping and whimpering to the sound of meatballs simmering on a stove. What I chose is the sound of the freezer in my kitchen at my Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment. The drone of the motor in my freezer was interesting enough to stand alone for this project, but I was intrigued by the additional, unexpected sound of ice cubes in the freezer intermittently cracking and popping — not unlike a record — due to the expansion of the ice when the freezer door remained open for an extended period of time, raising the temperature inside the freezer. I selected a couple of different ice clicks and added a delay effect to introduce some rhythm to the track, and hovering above the other freezer noises were two drones created via MIDI in Ableton Live — one of which is deep bass — that I felt complemented the “cold” feel of the raw recording. My goal was to duplicate the noise of everyday life while adding a bit of flavor, and I’m pleased with how the noises buried inside a freezer held up when serving as the backbone of this track.

Among the new participants to join in this week were Kate Carr (of Surry Hills, Australia) and Michel Banabila (of Rotterdam, Netherlands), bringing the total number of unique contributors to 99.

Visit, listen to, and consider joining the group at soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto.

A full list of Junto projects is housed on Disquiet.com.

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