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Aphex Twin @ 33 1/3 (1/5): Book I Did(n’t) Write

The first of five posts for the 33 1/3 website

The publisher of my Aphex Twin book, 33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury, has invited me to write blog posts this week to note the book’s official publication on Thursday, February 13. The first of these five posts is up today: “The Aphex Twin Book I Did(n’t) Write.”

These are the first three paragraphs of the piece, about a third of the piece’s total length:

It is fitting that I wrote a book about “Volume II”of something, because I wrote the book twice.

When I proposed writing a book for the 33 1/3 series about Selected Ambient Works Volume II, the landmark 1994 album by the British electronic musician Aphex Twin (aka Richard D. James, above), I knew the sort of book that I wanted to publish. I also knew the sort of book that I didn’t want to publish. And because this was to be my first book, and I was very much finding my way in the process, I ended up also writing the book that I didn’t want to write, just to get it out of my head. Doing so probably wasn’t the best use of time in a practical sense, but it proved very satisfying, and even a little useful.

The Book I Didn’t Want to Write involved working through the album track by track, each of its 25 individual pieces of music in a row. By mentioning this disinclination of mine, I don’t intend to offend any other authors in this series — or in similar pursuits — who have taken this track-by-track approach. I simply had little interest in taking the opportunity to publish a book with 33 1/3 only to simply guide the listener/reader through the record one song at a time, like a docent on a walking tour of some historic cemetery. That approach didn’t seem true to the ambiguity inherent in this record, with its nearly vocal-less content, all but one of the tracks lacking words for a title (utilizing pictures instead), the whole thing intended as much for deep background playing as for attentive listening. It’s an album to get lost in, not to be be provided a Star Map for.

Read the full piece at 333sound.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • 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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