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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

17th Anniversary of Disquiet.com

17 sentences of reflection on fax machines, HTML, corporate housing, and ambient music

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Seventeen years ago today I purchased the URL Disquiet.com.

Each passing year, when I have the time, I write a bit about that process, that time period.

I think I’ll give myself the additional Oulipo constraint of utilizing only as many sentences as there are years to the anniversary, though of course parentheticals, em-dashes, semi-colons, and other delaying tactics will allow me some leeway.

One constraint that has been consistent over the years: I don’t read back what I’d written before, because part of this semi-annual reflection is allowing mis-rememberings to seep in; I’ve seen and read Rashomon enough to appreciate the value of multiple viewpoints, all the more so when those multiple viewpoints are one’s own.

In 1996 I had moved to San Francisco right around my birthday, August, from Sacramento, where I’d been living since 1989, after moving out from Brooklyn in 1989 to take a job at a music magazine, Pulse!, published by Tower Records.

I’d had various FTP and low-key web presences since 1994, around when 1993’s Mosaic browser gave way to the Netscape browser, and mostly I used them as places to store small documents, to link to things of interest (in 1994 there was only so much of non-scientific, non-governmental interest on the then very new World Wide Web), and to practice my HTML.

I considered various names for Disquiet.com, including Yellow and Cilantro, but eventually went with Disquiet because I was under the spell of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, and because, clearly, the word fit so well with what I was interested in: quiet music, sound manipulated by electronics, shifts in culture as a result of technological augmentation.

As I recall, purchasing the URL involved a lot of non-Internet activity, including some phone calls and faxing.

It also took quite a while for the DNS system to function properly, so that entering the URL into the browser brought up the web page.

Even then, server time-outs and other issues would often yield the site not loading.

I was, at the time, newly installed as editor-in-chief of a website about San Francisco (Citysearch.com), and my anxious weekend duties included waking up early and testing if the site was live (which it quite often was not), and then dealing with IT to correct the situation.

At first, Disquiet.com was simply a repository of material I had published elsewhere, primarily at Pulse! (along with its sibling publications Classical Pulse! and epulse), where I continued to contribute until the magazine closed in 2002 — this is why the site’s earliest posts actually predate the site’s debut; only later on, when my friend Jorge Colombo suggested that I start date-stamping my posts, did this site become what would be termed, later still, a blog.

Among my first freelance pieces for Pulse! after leaving the magazine fulltime was an interview with Aphex Twin for his quasi-eponymous Richard D. James Album — I had no idea at the time that I would 17 years later write a book about Aphex Twin, albeit about the record he had released two years prior, Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

I would eventually write the cover story to the final issue of Pulse!: Missy Elliot.

The Aphex Twin interview took place in corporate housing (i.e., Noe Valley apartment abandoned by a senior Citysearch manager and filled with small cots, like a safe house for wayward travelling salespeople), while I looked for an apartment (eventually landing one in the Richmond District, about which at the time I knew absolutely nothing) during what was probably an even more difficult time to find housing than is the case today.

I frequently make lists of the 10 things I most thankful for, and this website has never dropped off — and I am very much looking forward to what I will do on it (and tangentially off it) in 2014.

A web search informs me that December 13, 1996, was a Friday, just as it is today — so much for bad luck.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comment: 1 ]

One Comment

  1. w craghead
    [ Posted December 13, 2013, at 11:22 am ]

    Congrats Marc. I love this site so much.

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  • about

  • 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

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  • Upcoming
    December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
    December 28, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

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    July 28, 2021: This day marked the 500th consecutive weekly project in 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 oup.com.)

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    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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    0509 / The Long Detail / The Assignment: Create a piece of music with moments from a preexisting track.
    0508 / Germane Shepard / The Assignment: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.
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