My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • I like that my local movie theater is three years older than the Academy Awards: http://t.co/5QAGvgUR #
  • It is an 88 bpm afternoon. #
  • We have our 100th contributor. Welcome. RT @mGeeInThePlace: My first #musicmonday release in a while. Check it out now http://t.co/8laR0q5D #
  • San Francisco reminder. If you live here, or visit, and like outward bound music, this is your social calendar: http://t.co/eI6cDG2C #
  • Wondering how things would have worked out differently had it been called CUF music instead of IDM. #ClubUnFriendly #
  • It is very Instagram out. I will need to use my umbrella filter when it’s lunch time. #
  • Read more »
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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: 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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Minimalist Premiere by Alarm Will Sound (MP3)

Chamber music with a daring sparseness

The great contemporary-classical ensemble Alarm Will Sound continues to share recordings of material it performed at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival last summer. Previously covered here was Liza White’s Bernstein/North-esque “Step!” Uploaded earlier this week was “We Were All,” a chamber orchestra work by composer Yotam Haber that calls for voices and, as delineated in the score, a keyboard with the following qualities: “preferably synth with an electric piano sound that has an 80s retro quality.”

The keyboard isn’t the only participant here with a retro quality. There is, to the pulsing rhythms and emotionally distant chant-like singing, something reminiscent of Steve Reich of that same era, especially his wonderful Tehilim. Distinguishing Haber’s piece is a daring sparseness. It may be scored for a mid-size ensemble, 16 total instruments and voices combined, but at any given moment it sounds more like only two or three might be playing, and even then the demands placed on them are more about a virtuosity of attention and rhythmic restraint than about anything remotely like show-stopping flair.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/alarm-will-sound. More on Alarm Will Sound at alarmwillsound.com. More on Haber at yotamhaber.com, including the complete score of “We Were All” as a PDF (from which the above image is excerpted). The work was commissioned by the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund. The recording was made live on July 16, 2011.

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On the Persistence of the Wind Chime in Instrumental Hip-hop

Free beats from Great Britain via Bulgaria

The wind chime is not the most likely percussive instrument in a hip-hop track — nor a likely melodic component, for that matter. It is slight, and prone to inaccuracy, and has all the swagger of a mid-nap pixie-dust sprite. But in the hands of Third Person Lurkin, a characteristically old-school member of the roster at the Bulgarian netlabel Dusted Wax, the chime serves multiple purposes. (It also, truth be told, may be a tiny bell and not a chime, but the effect is the same.) It initially appears in the track “Over Forgotten Places,” off the Cloud Mirror album, as an accent, one sound among many. Even when it initially repeats, it seems more like a flourish than a building block. But as the track proceeds, that’s exactly what it is: the key enabler of swing in the track, a swing that’s as fragile as a dust-laden cobweb in an afternoon breeze, but a swing nonetheless (MP3). In its own way, it is just as much a sonic irritant as once were the sirens that bled through Bomb Squad productions for Public Enemy, but here it’s an irritant along the lines of near-subaural “mosquito” tones that are used to shoo teens from convenience stores.

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/DWK118/Third_Person_Lurkin_-_01_-_Over_Forgotten_Places.mp3|titles=”Over Forgotten Places”|artists=Third Person Lurkin]

Get the full album for free download at dustedwax.org; there’s some beautiful echoed horn in the track “Sun Domes.” More from Third Person Lurkin, who’s based in England, at thirdpersonlurkin.bandcamp.com.

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Drones Are a Beach (MP3)

Freely downloadable drones from Japan's Summons of Shining Ruins

The beach is a useful metaphor for a drone album. It offers images and associations including stasis, a blank horizon, an abyss-like edge, the threat of undertow, the white noise of natural occurrences. The metaphor provides the title for the latest from Summons of Shining Ruins, aka Shinobu Nemoto. Titled On the Beach, it is five tracks of lightly layered drones. The hiss on “It Was a Tragedy of Microscopic Proportions” in particular sounds like distant surf, a persistent low-level whir that suggests some massive outbreak of tinnitus. Beneath and above it all is a cantilevered melodic pulse, an ebb and flow of church-organ gravitas that has the feel, again, of a wave coming and going. The deep horn-like sound in turn comes to figure that of a warning to ships in a deep, unforgiving fog (MP3).

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb104/03-It_was_a_tragedy_of_microscopic_proportions.mp3|titles=”It Was a Tragedy of Microscopic Proportions”|artists=Summons of Shining Ruins]

Get the full set for free download at restingbell.net. The site provides these two links for reference to Nemoto: moufu-rokuon.net, magneticmnemonics.bandcamp.com His music was covered here previously in 2011, 2010, and 2009.

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