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.

What Sandy Sounded Like

First-hand field recordings of the nasty storm via SoundCloud

The storm we’ve come to call Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States last night, and this morning I found myself looking at photos of the Victoria Secrets lingerie model (and Transformers threequel actress) Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. This was because my anxious pre-dawn searches on Twitter for updates regarding my hometown of Huntington, Long Island, were apparently yielding nothing of particular value. I live in San Francisco, and Huntington felt very far away.

I’d come, the night prior, to lean on Twitter for Sandy news because that first-hand reportage — the photos and brief summary statements — had provided a superior sense of what was going on than did the professional news reporting, which seemed, appropriately, to be more about what was happening in the sky (forecast) and less about what was happening on the street (aftermath). Or, more to the point: Twitter was showing me what was happening in the lives of people I care about who happened to be posting on Twitter; it (along with Facebook) provided a glimpse of certainty in a haze of geographically diffuse generalities. But when it came to my family, which isn’t on Twitter, suddenly the metaphorical picture got fuzzy, news on Huntington proving to be difficult to come by in any specific and meaningful way. (As this morning has proceeded, more Huntington-specific material has begun to be prioritized on the Twitter; Sandy has, fortunately, pushed Rosie back to the dark side of the search return.)

And then I did what I do every morning, which was to fire up SoundCloud, and to listen to what’s in my queue. The latest Disquiet Junto project ended last night at 11:59pm, and there were almost two dozen tracks to check out. But something else, something more pressing, was in the listening queue, as well: sounds of last night’s storm. SoundCloud is currently, forgive the description, flooded with sounds of the storm, and they are informative in their own way. Photos and text provide a sense of what people choose to focus on, choose to document, while sound gives a sense of something beyond their control. A lot of this has to do with the nature of the medium: one takes a photo and writes text, generally speaking, after something occurs. But audio recording is more like video, in that you elect at some point to hit record, but you have no idea what is going to occur from that moment on — will a tree fall, a siren roar, or will nothing of note happen? And video still suggests the individual has elected to point the lens in a direction, while audio is less directed — you hit record, and wait.

Particularly harrowing is this low-fidelity recording of the wind in Harlem, posted by HarlemGal. Every time it kicks into high gear, there’s the sense that it might not let up, even when there’s the relief that it does:

Lefteri Koutsoulidakis posted an eerie bit recorded in Astoria, where the sound of the storm is framed by some sort of fritzy whir, like a flourescent bulb on overdrive:

Electronic musicians, needless to say, were among the posters. This is Devin Underwood (aka Specta Ciera) recording the wind from Cambridge, Massachusetts:

This is from the accomplished field-recording individual Michael Raphael, aka Sepulchra, outta Brooklyn:

And for an ongoing sense of the storm, check out the efforts of Manolo Espinosa, who is described as SoundCloud’s “Head of Audio … focused on spoken audio and sounds.” He has been maintaining a set of these Sandy field recordings:

(Photo up top of the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, from the Facebook page of

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Subscribe without commenting

  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website 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

  • Field Notes

    News, essays, surveillance

  • Interviews

    Conversations with musicians/artists/coders

  • Studio Journal

    Video, audio, patch notes

  • Projects

    Select collaborations and commissions

  • Subscribe

  • Current Activities

  • Upcoming
    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of
    • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
    • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly ( at Gray Area (
    • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the 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

  • 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).

  • disquiet junto

  • Background
    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.

    Recent Projects

  • 0548 / Drone Vox / The Assignment: Make a drone using just your voice.
    0547 / Genre Melee / Combine two seemingly different genres.
    0546 / Code Notes / The Assignment: Make music that includes a secret message.
    0545 / Unself-Awareness / The Assignment: Learn from feedback intended for others.
    0544 / Feedback Loop / The Assignment: Share music-in-progress for input from others.

  • Full Index
    And there is a complete list of past projects, 548 consecutive weeks to date.

  • Archives

    By month and by topic

  • [email protected]

    [email protected]

  • Downstream

    Recommended listening each weekday

  • Recent Posts