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. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Different Piano, a Different Noise

A musical soundscape by Victoria Fenner

Like yesterday’s Downstream entry, today’s is of piano subsumed in noise. Yesterday’s noise has an industrial static to it. It is a thick forest of noise through which the piano occasionally becomes apparent. What makes yesterday’s piece, “Week Twenty Nine Project”by Madeleine Cocolas, work as a composition is how the melody’s slow development is at creative odds with that noise — the notes don’t just follow each other, but they in addition have to make sense of the drone through which the emanate.

Today’s piece, “Early Morning With Piano Cityscape” by Victoria Fenner, is a retroactive composition — which is to say, it is field recording that, through selection and framing, can be heard as a composition. What it contains is the everyday sounds of the city, two and half minutes of them, a single swath of a day recorded, extracted, and saved for posterity. There is variety to the sounds in Fenner’s recording: birdsong, traffic, a general municipal whir, aircraft, household activity, and a piano. The piano is just one sound among the many, but because its musicality is explicit it stands out, no matter how loud the other noises, such as the encroaching bus — or so it appears — that arrives toward the end, might get.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/victoriafenner. More from Fenner, who is based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, at magneticspirits.com and twitter.com/VictoriaFenner.

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Aphex Twin SAW2 Countdown: Track 20 (“Hexagon”)

A track per day up through the February 13 release of my 33 1/3 book

SAWII19

cover-from-Bloomsbury-siteI am going to do this track-by-track countdown to the release, on February 13, 2014, the day prior to Valentine’s Day, of my book in the estimable 33 1/3 series. It is a love letter to Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which will mark its 20th anniversary this year, less than a month after my book’s publication. More on my Aphex Twin book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com. The plan is to do this countdown in the reverse order, from last track to first. For reference, an early draft of the introduction is online, as is the book’s seven-chapter table of contents. The book’s publisher posted an interview with me when I was midway through the writing process.

There is some irony to doing this countdown since the book is already shipping to folks who pre-ordered it via an online retailer such as Amazon, but the official date stands, and that’s the target — the end date — of this countdown, February 13. And for what it’s worth, while the physical copies are mailing now from retailers, the Kindle version won’t turn on until February 13. Still, the digital version costs less.

And this is a recommended reading scenario, despite the pains I go in the book to distinguish lucid dreaming from intoxication:

There’s an entire chapter in my book focused on trying to undo some of the conventional wisdom that describes this album as “beatless.” I look at tracks with intense beats, and at tracks with inherent beats (the pulse of a sine wave, by way of example). But I’m less interested in the mistaken term than in other things the idea of “beatless” might in fact mean. I won’t go into depth here (there is, of course, the book), but I think in the end it has as much if not more to do with the song-less-ness of Selected Ambient Works Volume II, a song being a structure, a meta-beat, a macro-beat — a threat to song, to pop and rock as it had previously been known and appreciated. Because if all one needed to do was to show that the album has beats, one could just play this lovely mid-tempo track that is half beat, half synth cloud, plus occasional piping of what could be an oboe. The track goes by the name “Hexagon.”

Here it is slowed down:

Here it is with someone playing a drum solo on top, emphasizing the beats that are already part of the track:

And here it is reversed:

More on my Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com.

Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.

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Disquiet: 15, 10 & 5 Years Ago This Week (2014.04)

Steampunk instruments, remixed Battlestar Galactica, Howard Dean's scream

This would be roughly the week of January 20 through January 26.

2009.01-mikeford

5 Years Ago (2009): The image of the week was a steampunk instrument by Mike Ford. … The quote of the week was the first two paragraphs of an essay by Eula Biss on the telephone (“The idea on which the telephone depended—that every home in the country could be connected with a vast network of wires suspend ed from poles set an average of one hundred feet apart—seemed far less likely than the idea that the human voice could be transmitted through a wire”). … Downstream recommended listening included Battlestar Galactica remixes, some proggy instrumental goodness from Marco Cervellin, mini film scores by O.S.T. (Chris Douglas), a skateboard documentary soundtrack by Odd Nosdam, and a live Amon Tobin performance.

10 Years Ago (2004): The quote of the week was a comment on Slate.com about the famous scream by Howard Dean on the 19th. … Downstream entries included Nanoloop tracks, music by Deadbeat (aka Scott Monteith), a mix by Luke Vibert (aka Wagon Christ), fourth-world trip-hop from Eivind Aarset, and material by Pocka (aka Brad Mitchell).

15 Years Ago (1999): A piece about Slow Gold II, an $89.95 piece of software that let you slow down music. … A review I wrote for Amazon.com of Michael Nyman’s score to The Piano (this is back when Amazon was hiring music journalists to write featured reviews — not consumer reviews, official Amazon reviews — of albums that it sold).

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Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • RIP, Japanese voice actor Seizō Katō (b. 1927), Megatron and Galvatron in Transformers: http://t.co/Tz3TNOi1TW ->
  • Apparently two days in a row I wrote on Disquiet about artists from Virginia. Maybe tomorrow I'll make it a trifecta. ->
  • Helix has had an impact. Soft r&b tunes from the 1970s playing in public places now freak me out a little. ->
  • Yahoo! The @djunto weekly music project series is now well over 3,000 extant tracks and 420 contributors: http://t.co/Cjn2aOvZib ->
  • Man, it's hard these days to type "Yahoo!" and have people not think you're writing about, you know, Yahoo! ->
  • Thought my Nexus 7's screen paled next to my iPad (retina) but it was just that the iPad's wallpaper was more bright/colorful. #stupidme ->
  • #aeolian #metrics. The week's @djunto was inspired by "White Blur 1" off subject of my new book, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol II. ->
  • Just did my first interview with a podcast for my 33 1/3 Aphex Twin book. That was fun. Good questions. More on it as its broadcast date ne”¦ ->
  • Read more »
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Is It Solo Piano When There Is Noise?

Melody and tension from Madeleine Cocolas

The framing material is alternately sheer and grating, a haze of static, a thick brush through which the piano, slow and steady, occasionally makes itself heard — first some tentative notes, then a hint of a melody, then a sour note to emphasize that all is still not well. The development is not restricted to that solo piano. First of all, it’s odd to think of it as solo piano, since there is so much more going on in the track, but everything else is a noise so primal it seems to come from some other plane. Yet that noise also changes as time passes, the volume and the brittle metallic intensity rising and falling in waves. This is “Week Twenty Nine Project” of Madeleine Cocolas’ ongoing attempt to write an original piece of music each week, last mentioned here in June 2013.

This is the note she wrote when she posted it:

Oh my goodness. Have you seen Gravity yet? If not you should go and see it now. Preferably in 3D. It was so tense that I had worn hot pink lipstick to go see it (nothing special there – I wear hot pink lipstick everywhere), but when I went to the bathroom afterwards I noticed I had smudged it all over my face from holding my hands against my face. And that stuff doesn’t really come off very easily.

Anyhow, here’s my Week Twenty-Nine Project. I had fun with this one and spent hours manipulating some of Greg’s guitar noodling by slowing it down, reversing it, putting reverb and other effects on it, then I put a simple piano melody over the top. I like the relentless wall of noise that sits behind the piano melody. Maybe I’m still harboring a bit of the tension from Gravity?!

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/madeleine-cocolas. She’s an Australian composer based in Seattle, Washington. More from her at madeleinecocolas.blogspot.com.

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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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