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.
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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Taking Shelter (MP3)

Ghostly, in two ways, track from forthcoming Loyal album

As a promotion for the forthcoming album Heathered Pearls from Loyal, the label Ghostly has made available for free download a track, “Beach Shelter,” that makes so much of so little it seems to recoil at being branded either minimalist or maximalist. It’s a threadbare loop that slightly overlays itself, turning the seam into a momentary braid of wispy figments. It has the sloopy motion of a moored raft in a light current. It’s minimalist in its materials and rhythmic rectitude, maximalist in its rich sonic spaciousness, and yet something else entirely in the way it makes epic gestures in tiny motions. Just beautiful.

Heathered Pearls is Jakub Alexander. Track originally posted for free download at and More on Heathered Pearls at,, and, among other places.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0043: Dazzled Machine

The Assignment: Make mechanical roars from the sound of a retail space.

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on 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. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate.

This is a set of the tracks created in this project. At the time of this update, there were 22:

The assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, October 25, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, October 29, as the deadline. (Instructions below translated below into Croatian, Japanese, and Turkish by Darko Macan, Naoyuki Sasanami, and M. Emre Meydan, respectively.)

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0043: Dazzled Machine

This is a shared-sample project. The goal is to take pre-existing field recordings and to turn them into something else.

The pre-existing field recordings are the audio produced by Disquiet Junto members for projects 0037 and 0038.

The “something else” is as follows:

The field recordings in question are documents of retail spaces, such department stores. You’ll will rework the audio from one or more of the field recordings to achieve something inspired by the following description: “There was the continuous roar of the machine at work, of customers crowding into the departments, dazzled by the merchandise, then propelled towards the cash-desk. And it was all regulated and organized with the remorselessness of a machine: the vast horde of women were as if caught in the wheels of an inevitable force.” The quote comes from the novel Au Bonheur des Dames, or The Ladies’ Paradise, by Émile Zola, originally published in 1883. Please pay special attention to the notion of everyday noises that in combination suggest machinery at work.

You can use as many of the recordings as you desire, but you cannot add any other sound sources to them. You can use whatever tools you desire in your reworking of the original material.

The field recordings are located at these two search returns:

Background: The goal for this project is twofold. In the immediate sense, it is to explore field recordings for their rhythmic intent.

The project, however, has broader intentions. It’s being undertaken in association with the exhibit As Real as It Gets, organized by Rob Walker. The exhibit will run at the gallery Apex Art in Manhattan from November 15 ”“ December 22, 2012. Sounds produced for this Disquiet Junto project will be considered to be played in the gallery as part of the exhibit, and will also be made available to Disquiet Junto participants and other musicians and sound artists for subsequent projects related to Walker’s exhibit.

There will be a Disquiet Junto concert at Apex Art on November 27 in conjunction with the exhibit.

This is Apex’s initial, brief description of the upcoming exhibit: “As Real As It Gets gathers fictional products, imaginary brands, hypothetical advertising and speculative objects, devised by artists, designers, and companies. We resist commercial material culture as inauthentic, phony, and less than legitimate, but should we? Presenting the marketplace as medium — while supplies last.”

Walker is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and Design Observer, and the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are (Random House: 2008) and Letters from New Orleans (Garrett County Press: 2005). Walker co-founded, with Joshua Glenn, the Significant Objects project.

Deadline: Monday, October 29, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your finished work should be between 2.5 and 6 minutes in length.

Information: Please, when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please include the term “disquiet0043-dazzledmachine”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Please consider setting your track for free download.

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

This Disquiet Junto project was done in association with the exhibit As Real as It Gets, organized by Rob Walker at the gallery Apex Art in Manhattan (November 15 – December 22, 2012):

More on this 43rd Disquiet Junto project at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0043: Dazzled Machine

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

Read more »

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PR, Email, and the Eternal Deluge

A note about music promotion

A note about email. This is intended in particular for individuals and organizations who’ve sent me, or intend to send me, email about their music releases and not heard back from me. What follows is a snapshot of my email inbox as of 9:00am California time today, October 25, 2012. This morning feels representative, if a little on the light side — hence the time I feel like I have to take a break from the deluge and comment on it. First, some statistics:

Number of emails received: 113

Number of emails about album releases: 19

Number of emails about videos (streaming and DVD): 4

Number of emails about concert tours: 3

Number of emails about 7″ singles: 2

Number of emails about milestones in the lives of musicians and organizations: 7

These numbers (well, aside from the overall count of 113) don’t include additional press inquiries about video games, movie screenings, art gallery openings, club nights, mobile apps and other software applications, gadgets, and so on. Nor do they include artist and record-label newsletters I have myself actively subscribed to. Nor do they include personal/professional correspondence with musicians, artists, and related individuals. Nor do they in any way represent the fact that the significant majority of the music I write about is music I come upon through my own surfing, RSS-feeding, concert-attendance, social-network participation, general media consumption (magazines, TV, movies, books), and so forth.

This is, mind you, all by 9:00am. I assure you by the end of the day those 113 emails will have at least tripled, and most of these other stats along with them.

On occasion when I receive an overwhelming number of emails from one source that have nothing to do with what I am focused on, I send this quick summary statement:

For future reference, I pretty much focus my writing on “technologically mediated sound” — ambient music, sound art, experimental classical, hip-hop production, that sorta thing.

And on occasion, I send this form letter as a reply:

Hi. I don’t reply much to PR correspondence, even directly from musicians. There’s simply too much of it, often as many as 300 emails per weekday. The best way for me to state the situation is as follows: I receive an enormous number of inquiries about reviewing music, I listen to as much as I can without doing what I’m listening to the disservice of being too casual about it, and I write about what I find interesting. Feel free to send me music email (as a link, not an attachment). Just please don’t take it personally, or even read into it any reflection of my (dis)interest in the music, if and when I don’t respond. And yes, this is a form letter, as is most of the PR I receive. Best, Marc [email protected]

(Photo of character from Mary Mapes Dodge’s classic story about the boy who put his finger in the dike found via

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Ukulele Ambience (MP3s)

Brian Biggs puts the slack — and a bit of glitch — in slack key

Brian Biggs has posted three experimental duets that appear to have grown out of last week’s Disquiet Junto project. The project, the 42nd in the ongoing weekly series, involved participants employing the oldest and newest instruments in their practice to create a “naive melody.” Taking a cue from Talking Heads, the melody was accomplished by employing the oldest, more familiar instrument in the production of the backing track, and the newer one — on which the performer was, by definition, still something of a novice — in the production of the foregrounded melody. By coincidence in advance of the announcement of the project that led to that piece, Biggs had tried out a variety of modular apparatuses and approaches, in addition to his saxophone and ukulele, yielding three varied tracks:

He explains in brief:

Tracks created with a ukulele, a Harvestman Tyme Sefari (version 2), and a MakeNoise Phonogene. A little four-note strum in F went to the Tyme Sefari, another simple uke thing in A went to the Phonogene. The outs of the two samplers went to the audio input of a Cwejman MMF-1 filter, and then output and recorded to a Zoom H4N with reverb from the Motu 828 interface.

I was on the fence regarding keeping both the Tyme Sefari and the Phonogene until these tracks. The end-of-loop output of each module kept the other in “time” and being able to fool with each independently of the other is worth keeping both.

The technical information aside, especially recommended is the first of the three duets, which uses backmasking to create a sense of timelessness that merges well with the acoustic intonations of the instrument.

Set originally posted for free download at More detail on Biggs’ process at, where the above image is sourced from.

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Live Trio (MP3)

Schoster/Landis/James, guitar/synth/electronics/voice, Providence 2011

If ever the shape of a recording’s waveform presented the potential listener with a vision of an enticingly varied performance, the April 6, 2011, live concert by a trio of electronic musicians (Ted James, Erik Schoster, Brendan Landis) is a chief contender.

The waveform of the 20-minute set, as shown on Landis’ account, seems to take every possible visual approach, from sharp changes in amplitude to staccato subsets to extended singularities, from tepid passages to richly dense ones. The instrumentation is loosely described in the accompanying liner note: James on “Synthesizers, Electronics,” Schoster on “Computer, Electronics,” Landis on “vox, guitar.” To begin with, the voice: this isn’t singing, not in the sense of words and songs and melody; the voice, as employed by Landis, is one instrument among many, one source of drones and noise among others. If it at times seems distinct from everything else because of its recognizability, so too is the occasional case with the guitar, which once in a while stops being an anonymous provider of sonic effluvia and comes to resemble what is more immediately recognizable as a guitar. In both situations, though, even when the sound sources become familiar, the music remains abstract, deliberately non-associative. There are, indeed, varied approaches here, from light percussive fields to attenuated drones, from subdued glossolalia to heady shimmers. Furthermore, these sounds are just a few among many others, and overall the performance is less about simultaneous collaborative effort, less about harmony, and more about concentration and communal pursuit, about music that unfolds, that develops, that moves forward.

Track originally posted on October 20, 2012, for free download at More on Schoster at More on Landis at More on James at

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