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Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Hauntology of Daily Life (at Medium.com)

Or, why China Miéville has, for years, been stuck in my backyard retelling the same story

P1010472 copy

I am taking a bit of a midsummer rest here at Disquiet.com. There will be occasional posts throughout August, especially on Thursdays, when new Disquiet Junto projects go live.

Which is not to say I’m not busy. I just posted my first piece at the Medium.com service. It is titled “The Hauntology of Daily Life.” It is about China Miéville being stuck on a loop in my backyard, and how sounds can be rooted in place, and how memories are made.

This is the full text:

“The Hauntology of Daily Life”

Or, why China Miéville has, for years, been stuck in my backyard retelling the same story

A certain new, wifi-less café is situated across the street from a certain longtime dry cleaner in my neighborhood. I know this because I went to the dry cleaner to deal belatedly with some food-stained sweaters, and noticed the relative proximity as I made my approach by foot. I knew the café was somewhere around there, but had not yet connected that the two businesses were so close to one another. Needing to next head to a café to accomplish some work, I decided on this nearby one, despite having never entered it before, rather than my regular café, which is several blocks further down the road.

I made this decision while the dry cleaner’s proprietor, wearing his standard short white gloves of the thinnest imaginable cotton fabric, registered my drop-off by ticking away at his countertop touchscreen computer with the eraser of a long yellow pencil that has never been, and will never be, anywhere near a pencil sharpener. The tick of his touchscreen has a specific sound, a tight punch of a signal, that I associate solely with this dry cleaner. I do not visit the dry cleaner often, but when I do, I look forward to the touchscreen tick just as much as I do to the idea that my sweaters might soon have fewer spots on them.

Having deposited the sweaters and retrieved a yellow receipt so bright in color that it is impossible to lose in even the most overburdened wallet, I headed to the new café for two reasons: I had been meaning to check it out, and walking the additional handful or so of blocks to my regular café felt more like procrastination than exercise. As it turned out, the new café’s strident lack of Internet connectivity helped nudge me along during the current stage of a particular project, and I will almost certainly return there in the near future, even if all my sweaters are clean.

Next time I need to go to the café, I will know exactly where it is, just as I know that another café that I frequent is across the street”Š—”Šone block closer to the Pacific ocean”Š—”Šfrom a dim sum place I eat lunch at frequently, and just as I know that a favorite Vietnamese restaurant is on the same block as the movie theater that is closest to my home. I could not tell you the cross streets of any of these businesses, but I know where they all are in relation to each other. That is how memories are cemented. At least that is how my brain makes memories, through context, correlation, proximity.

And through incidence. There are different types of proximity, and though the word suggests physical nearness, there is also simply chance incident. On the way to the dim sum restaurant, there is a spot where I think about feathers, because a dead bird was left there for several weeks, and for weeks after its carcass had disappeared, individual feathers fluttered in the bushes and grass.

Key for my memory is sound, certain parallels between physical places and the sounds that I associate with them.

I do not think of alarms when I walk past the neighborhood fire station, but I do think about the crying in a nursery ward. This is because of a sign on the firehouse door that announces the place as a safe haven for unwanted newborns. The sign shows a child sleeping in a pair of hands, yet I cannot walk by that firehouse without the helpless calls of infants ringing in my mind’s ears.

There is a stretch of road between Pasadena and Glendale where I will always hear the rhythmic threadbare minimal techno of Monolake’s album Cinemascope, even if Led Zeppelin is blasting on the radio,even if I am deep in conversation on the phone or with a fellow passenger, even if the windows are open and letting in the sirens of passing police cars, all of which has happened. More than a decade ago, on a visit to the Los Angeles area, I blasted a CD of that album in a rental car after a long day of meetings, on my way to visit a friend across town, and though I have never again sat in that particular car, and I have long since parted ways with that employer, and my physical copy of the Monolake album is buried in a box in my closet, the music still hovers on the highway, waiting for me to trigger it simply by driving through it.

And I cannot step into a particular corner of my home’s small backyard without having the novelist China Miéville tell me a story”Š—”Šmore specifically, tell me a particular part of a story. For at some point, many years ago, I struggled in that spot with a heavy ration of weeds, and while I pulled at the weeds, tried to separate them from the ground without leaving their crepuscular roots intact, a recording of Miéville reading from one of his stories played through the headphones attached to my MP3 player. I was fixed in that spot long enough for the story to take root. It is as if the story lingers there, set on a loop on an invisible jukebox, and I can access it if I get just inside a specific zone of the yard.

The piece also resides at medium.com.

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American Soil (MP3)

A British microphone makes the familiar exotic

One of the best reasons to read foreign news sources is to get a sense of the world beyond one’s own borders — by which is meant both the official lines of geographic demarcation, and the manner in which cultural norms lead to a self-selected understanding of reality, of life. To read about, say, the Grand Canyon in a Swedish newspaper’s travel section is to have a very different view of it than from, say, Sunset magazine, which considers the national monument to be part of its backyard. This sense of perspective is as true of everyday objects and events as it is of national treasures. And it is true of the news, as when the field recording catalog that is the great Touch Radio podcast series, which is based out of Britain, adds a recording of protests in Hollywood, all chanting and helicopter whirs and drumming and honking and, still, some birdsong (MP3).

[audio:http://www.touchshop.org/touchradio/Radio97.mp3|titles=”Hollywood Protests”|artists=TouchRadio]

Track originally posted for free download at touchradio.org.uk.

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Sound of Sound of Art (MP3)

John Kannenberg listens to art places

Rampant drumming. Cavernous echo. Murmuring crowd. Determined footsteps. Rising voices. Security pings. Hushed commentary. These are the things a museum is made of — or at least its sound environment. The audio comes courtesy of John Kannenberg, a musician and sound artist who often takes the space in which art is displayed as his starting point.

He describes the recording as follows:

This 3-minute teaser contains sounds recorded in June and July of 2013 as source material for my in-progress composition “A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago.”

The best — or at least most remarkably well-timed — moment is when what appears to be a docent can be overheard describing synesthesia, how one can hear colors and smell sensation, and so on. Little did she know her spoken words would take on a new, unintended artistic purpose, themselves transformed from commentary on art to an artful commentary on commentary on art.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/johnkannenberg. More from Kannenberg at johnkannenberg.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0083: R#d#ct#d

The Project: Treat a page from recently declassified documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records as a graphically notated score.

20130801-redacted

Each Thursday 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. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate.

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, August 1, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, August 5, 2013, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0083: R#d#ct#d

This week’s project is an open-ended exploration of surveillance and graphic notation.

The page at the following URL is the score that you will perform:

http://goo.gl/eYX80X

You can use any instrumentation you choose, just no source audio for which you cannot yourself claim ownership or fair use.

Background: The image is page 8 of recently declassified documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records.

Deadline: Monday, August 5, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your track should have a duration of between two and five minutes.

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: Include the term “disquiet0083-redacted”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Please consider employing a license that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 83rd Disquiet Junto project, in which a page from recently declassified documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records is treated as a graphically notated score, at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0083: R#d#ct#d

Image found via twitter.com/shearm and twitter.com/glennf.

Full document at:

http://goo.gl/wVydxR

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

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