When the track reaches 22 and a half minutes, there is a brief piano figure, very brief, just a few notes. These few notes trace a downward arc. There’s a pause afterward. It’s long enough to make the listener wonder if the sound of piano was overheard from somewhere else, somewhere apart from the recording, somewhere unrelated to the underlying sound that had preceded it — perhaps through a wall, or an open window, maybe emanating from the listener’s own memory. But repeat it does, and then again, and then there’s a modulation at some stage of this repetition of the piano, enough to a suggest formal compositional approach and not merely sound for its own sake, which has been the effect up until now. Up until now it has been a low-level drone. The piece shifts as time passes, it grows. The piano is exchanged for a deeper, orchestral swell. This is “Score to a Quotidian Experience” by Collin Thomas. It’s an hour-long piece recently released on the always excellent restingbell.net The description here can come across as breathless, because the unanticipated developments, ones that both challenge and reinforce the concept of ambient music (challenge by veering from stasis, reinforce by providing a non-invasive framing structure), are so promising and enjoyable. The track is anything but breathless — it’s slow, subdued. It’s sonic breath.
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.
• 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).
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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.
• 0455 / Inner Invertebrate / The Assignment: What does a moment (or a day) in the life of a jellyfish sound like to a jellyfish?
• 0454 / Lsoo Vneg / The Assignment: Encode the name of someone you love into a piece of music.
• 0453 / Dial Up / The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound.
• 0452 / Let's Scream / The Assignment: Get cathartic. Be resilient. Turn your scream into music.
• 0451 / Ursula's Silences / Make music inspired by a line from A Wizard of Earthsea.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 455 consecutive weeks to date.
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