The most recent Disquiet Junto (“Zola’s Foley”) project was about conglomeration, about the creation of a sense of place and space using far-flung source material. It wasn’t one of the more popular of the weekly composition-project series, but it yielded some fine work — not just in the final productions but in the byproduct. Zedkah, who hails from London, put humorous effort into his entry, which imagined a retail space: “Carla Stores is on the outskirts of NE London, accessed by one of the last stops on the Makebelieve line.” And subsequent to posting that, he shared one of the work’s constituent parts, under the title “Creakfoot mix [ for your creative use].”
In the Junto track he noted that “several footmen constantly pace the panel wood reception in a surprisingly rhythmic way.” Here we hear just the pacing itself, as he recorded it for use in his Junto piece. He posted this excerpt with hopes of hearing it sublimated into others’ musical efforts: “This is offered as download to anyone who might like it to do something with it. Would love to hear some musical use of this.” Here’s hoping someone takes him up on it.
There are field recordings, and there are field recordings. There are audio documents of the soundscape, and there are regionally indigenous musics archived thanks to portable gear.
And then there are hybrids. There are compositions that make use of the physical environment to perform something tuneful or rhythmic or otherwise musical in real time. Such is “Construction Container” by Joshua Wentz, in which simple percussion prefaces, then aligns with, and overall frames the sound of a passing train. The very brief liner note associate with the track is simply: “Felt mallet on an overturned metal construction container, as the El passes by.” That’s El for elevated train — Wentz is based in Chicago. The distant train is heard coming into sonic view, as it were, though the looming presence may not be self-evident on first listen. It passes quickly, and once it’s passed by, the percussion slows, a denouement that artfully echoes the vehicles diminishing presence.
The urtext of such experiments in realtime environment jamming is arguably “Ear to the Ground” by the great David Van Tieghem, once upon a time a stalwart of the nascent New York downtown scene, and today a major force in theatrical sound design and composition (upcoming projects include August Wilson and Clifford Odets revivals). Here, for reference, is a video of it:
Miulew is Björn Eriksson, of SollefteÃ¥, Sweden. It’s unclear if his track “Electric Voices in Happy Cloud – experiment 1” is voice processing or electronic voice phenomena. That is, it is unclear whether it is voices clipped and truncated and splintered and filtered until they sound abstract, or if it is the semblance of voices arising from within electronica’s effluence. Is it noise from signal or signal from noise? Either way, it’s a granular pleasure. Here’s how Eriksson describes it:
So this was a tryout of seeing if I could capture some voice-like sounds in a feedbacked granulator setup. At first I found some rather “voicy” things, but when I started to work deeper onto it I lost it. So this must be considered an experiment more than a worked through track/piece. Anyway; i was rather happy about some of the sound textures and frequency behaviours of the feedbacked loops so this is something I am happy to share with whoever might be interested! This is definitively something I will go for another round with soon. After when listening to this I was having the image of being inside a “happy cloud” – hence the title. In a cloud drifting over landscapes, dreamlike – ((which in some some way also must be a reference to that track by 801 I liked so much when I was young))
Wednesday of this week was the second of the 15 weekly three-hour classes I’m teaching on sound at San Francisco’s Academy of Art (academyart.edu) this semester. Last week’s entry on the first class got a helpful and enthusiastic response, so I thought I’d do it again. As with last time, this isn’t the full lecture, and even less so is it a representation of the discussion, which this week was great; it’s just a quick run through the subjects we covered.
Per the syllabus (PDF), this second class meeting focused on “A Brief History of Sound:”
Overview: We’ll trace overlapping paths through the history of sound, beginning with the human conception of sound, and then exploring the developing role of sound in modern media.
Part I: Celebrity Death
The class starts each Wednesday at noon, and my intention was to begin this one by playing some music, specifically an instrumental version of a Whitney Houston hit. The subject at hand was “celebrity death,” more on which in a moment. The tech failed me (more likely I failed the tech), so I ended up playing the song after the class break, but in the interest of context, this is a video containing the audio:
One of the pleasures of this course is probing my own uncertainties. Last week, the specific uncertainty on which I focused related to the role of sound in the work of JJ Abrams (briefly: to what extent his notable sonic sensitivity contributes to the popularity of his projects). This week allowed me to touch on a question that haunts me: What was the emotional and cultural experience of losing a musician to death before development of recorded music?Read more »
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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming 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.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th 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.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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.
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.
• 0472 / Jam Time (1 of 3) / The Assignment: Record the first third of a trio that others will complete.
• 0471 / Phase Transition / The Assignment: The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something with it.
• 0470 / Calendar View / The Assignment: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen (or more) super-brief segments.
• 0469 / [Missing in Caption] / The Assignment: Make music that pushes the constraints of descriptive television captions.
• 0468 / Mirror Rorrim / The Assignment: Create a new persona for yourself, and record a duet together.