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

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

Monthly Archives: February 2015

Disquiet Junto Project 0165: Bertoia Furniture Music

The Assignment: Create a composition that explores the sonic resonance of Harry Bertoia's iconic side chair.

Note: This week’s project is being done in part to spread the word about the Kickstarter campaign to archive the Sonambient recordings of Harry Bertoia. More at As of February 26, 2015, at 5pm, the campaign has garnered two thirds of its $15,000 goal, with 11 days to go. March 10, 2015, will mark the 100th anniversary of Bertoia’s birth.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, 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, February 26, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, March 2, 2015.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0165: Bertoia Furniture Music
The Assignment: Create a composition that explores the sonic resonance of Harry Bertoia’s iconic side chair.

Harry Bertoia designed his iconic side chair for Knoll in 1952. This chair — this functional metal sculpture — is used around the world, from cafes to offices, patios to homes.

Step 1: For this week’s Disquiet Junto project, please create an original composition exploring this common chair’s unique sonic resonance. Consider: What does it sound like alone at rest? When sat upon? When brushed against by cafe-goers? When blown upon by the wind? If you don’t have access to one of the chairs, use something similar, or just use your imagination.

Step 2: Upload the finished track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 3: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Thanks to Bruce Levenstein ( for co-developing this week’s project.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the late evening, California time, on Thursday, February 26, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, March 2, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work should be between one and five minutes.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, and 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please include the term “disquiet0165-bertoiachair”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 165th Disquiet Junto project — “Create a composition that explores the sonic resonance of Harry Bertoia’s iconic side chair”— at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0165: Bertoia Furniture Music

Thanks to Bruce Levenstein ( for co-developing this week’s project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

Image associated with this project by Bruce Levenstein, used with his permission:

High Museum of Art - 3

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An ongoing series cross-posted from

Hold button in and speak. #soundstudies #ui #ux

Cross-posted from
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Sound Class, Week 4 of 15: The Jingle

Sounds of brands, ancient markets, news callers, Texaco, Spotify, Brylcreem, homework


The commercial jingle took a strange turn at the birth of radio. To understand that detour it can help to listen further back, to trace the jingle to the very birth of commerce, long before recorded music — arguably long before recorded history.

The “jingle” is the subject of the fourth week of the course I teach on the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. After three weeks spent studying listening, the fourth week is the start of the second arc of the course: “sounds of brands.” This second arc is the longest of the course’s three arcs, and runs through week 10. Each week of the 15-week course my plan is to summarize the previous class session here. Please keep in mind that three hours of lecture and discussion is roughly 25,000 words; this summary is just an outline, in this case less than 10 percent of what occurs in class.

As with the previous two weeks, the structure of this lecture is based around a timeline of sorts. For class meeting two it is “the history of listening,” and for class meeting three (last week) it is “a trajectory of the use of sound in film and (later) television.” This week it is a rough outline of “the history of the jingle.” The outline reads as follows. This is less a timeline than a sequence of talking points in rough chronological order:

ӢӢ the development of the jingle

We start with the definition of the “jingle,” which originates in the 14th century to mean “of imitative origin,” in Dutch and German. In time this comes to be a verb, and to expand in the mid-1600s to be a “catchy array of words in prose or verse.” Its employment as a “song in an advertisement” dates from around 1930, fairly recently. But if the usage is recent, the role of the jingle is not.

Ӣ from the Moroccan market to newsboys

We start with the purpose and benefit of the jingle. As early as there were marketplaces there was the need for a product to distinguish itself, for a caller to attract consumers, to get them to visit one stall rather than another. That practice continues to this day in some markets, and had something of a heyday in modern times with the “newsboy,” who could announce bits of the headlines but still make purchase of the paper requisite for getting the full story.

Ӣ song sheets

There’s a received assumption that connects the jingle specifically to a commercial song, a ditty written to sell a product. I talk a bit about popular singers who got their start as jingle writers. But as the word’s definition explains, the “catchy” verse preceded what we have come to think of as a full song — which isn’t to say we had to wait until the rise of radio and recorded music for the jingle to be a proper song. One artifact of interest is the advertising or promotional “song sheet,” as documented by Elizabeth C. Axford and by Timothy D. Taylor, among others. The song sheet, in its day, was a promotional song given as a small gift to consumers, for example when they visited a Studebaker dealership to test-drive a vehicle. The genius, in retrospect, of the song sheet was that it meant people would then return to their homes and played the advertiser’s jingle themselves on the family’s parlor piano. Talk about “viral.” The practice makes the Max Headroom “blipvert” seem like a brute force attack by comparison.

Ӣ Burma Shave

These popular roadside signs (e.g., “Don’t pass cars / on curve or hill / If the cops don’t get you / morticians will / Burma Shave”) didn’t kick in until well into the 20th century, but they serve as a good example of a modern jingle that isn’t truly a song, and also how a jingle can be crafted to suit its environment. The question that lingers over this class meeting is: “What is the Burma Shave of the Internet?”

Ӣ Texaco Star Theatre

The odd detour I mention early on is how at first radio was not a matter of interstitial advertising, as we experience it today, but of sponsored hours. To that end, for many years early in radio one had a positive association with an advertiser because their name was affixed to a regular weekly variety show. Only later on did radio stations stop selling “time” and start selling “audience.” The jingle as we know it may have its roots in the markets of yore, but it only really took shape once brands needed to make the most of a half minute or so of advertising, after the hour-long sponsorship had faded. We may not have solved the riddle that is the “Burma Shave of the Internet,” but we can draw a fairly straight line from the Texaco radio hour, and its ilk, to to modern-day resurgences of the practice, such as “branded playlists” on Spotify.

For this week’s class, the students’ homework included a research and analysis project. The assignment read in part: “Identify a single song that’s been used more than once (three times at least) in different settings to promote different products/services from different companies. Explain the role that the song plays in the varied executions, and how it’s employed differently in each setting.” In class I break them into small groups, of three or four students each, and they compare what they learned in their research. The goal for each group is to develop a list of best practices they agree upon for employing a pre-existing song to represent an organization, brand, or service. We then collate these best practices again when the whole class reconvenes to sort out what the individual groups decided.

I usually show a few archaic commercials at this point. We already marveled at some Kit Kat candy commercials in recent weeks. We now watch an animated Chiquita TV commercial that explains how you don’t refrigerate bananas, and compare it with how, say, early iPod commercials had to teach the viewer how to use the (then) new touch interface. We also watch an early Brycreem commercial, and I investigate how the melody is quite expertly insinuated into the narrative before it appears explicitly as a jingle. The close reading of the Brylcreem requires several repeat viewings and a lot of pausing, as we did the week prior with a scene from the David Fincher version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Ӣ Homework

For the next week they have three assignments. They are to write in their sound journals, as always four times in the given week. They are to read an interview with former KCRW DJ Nic Harcourt, to learn about the role of the music supervisor. And they are to watch Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime and write about the role of sound in its narrative. I warn them that if they found The Conversation, which we watched for homework two weeks prior, to be a little slow, that Playtime is about half its speed.

Note: I’ve tried to do these week-by-week updates of the course in the past, and I’m hopeful this time I’ll make it through all 15 weeks. Part of what held me up in the past was adding videos and documents, so this time I’m going to likely bypass that.

This first appeared in the February 24, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter:

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This Week in Sound: Superheroes, Maps, Freesound(s), …

A lightly annotated clipping service

”¢ Heroic Jingle: Kudos to readers of for noticing the small text on the poster for the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie and discerning from it that Spider-Man may very well be in the film. Why? Because there’s a credit for composer Danny Elfman, who wrote the theme for the modern Spider-Man films:

”¢ Sound Trip: My friends Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki are now using sound to investigate the urban environment with a series at Design Observer. The first takes them to San Francisco’s Mission District:

Ӣ Tracking Sound: This is a bit old, dating from late December, but I just came across the news that, a massive shared database of field recordings and other sounds, now allows users to track specific tags and users. Useful if you have a fetish for creaking doors, foghorns, or particular species of bird:

”¢ Mapping Sound: The National Park Service has mapped the quietest places in the United States of America. The word “sonification” is a useful one in discussing the way sound can be employed to explain data, but in this case it is, in turn, a simple visualization that best depicts how the west is far more quiet than the east:

This first appeared in the February 24, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter:

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Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works Volume 3 (Beta)

A mixtape-in-progress, drawn from user18081971's SoundCloud account (updated August 29, 2016)

Note: Since Aphex Twin has removed almost all of his archival SoundCloud tracks from public view, I made a YouTube playlist (see above) of the first 10 from the SoundCloud playlist that appears below. The other three tracks don’t appear to be on YouTube. I’ve also added the brief “CHEETA2 ms800” off the 2016 Cheetah EP. For some reason the other short Cheetah track, “CHEETA2 ms800,” doesn’t appear to be on YouTube.

Note: This list is being updated when new tracks surface. Aphex Twin now goes not by user48736353001 on SoundCloud but by user18081971 (his birthdate). As of October 16, 2015, it has 13 tracks. And because Aphex Twin is more than likely to delete all these tracks at some point, I’ll also include the titles here, for posterity’s sake:

“35 SAW II Un Road Shimmer F”
“9 Un Chopped F Beginning [SAWII Un]”
“33 SAW II Un Stabbing Interview”
“4 Red Calx[slo]”
“5 Just Fall Asleep”
“blue carpet”
“Th1 [slo]”
“8 Lush Ambulance 2”
“11 Early Morning Clissold”
“(watery big ez)”
“Lecce – Voltage Controlled Acoustic Resonators”
“4 Voice Solo 1 Teac”
“4 Voice Solo 2 Teac”

Original post, from February 24, 2015: As of yesterday morning, there were 155 tracks in the rogue Aphex Twin account on SoundCloud, where Richard D. James has added the generic “user48736353001” to his long list of monikers, among them AFX, Polygon Window, and Caustic Window.

Then quite suddenly, after a 17-day gap, there was a 156th track, “Lannerlog,” which I wrote about yesterday afternoon. Over on, someone subsequently wondered if the “spigot” might be in the process of being turned on, and that turned out to be the case. First there were three more tracks on the user48736353001 account, then 14 more, and as of this writing, a full day later, there are now 173 tracks total in the account.

I’ve begun compiling the above set, under the working title Selected Ambient Works Volume 3, as an imaginary sequel to Selected Ambient Works 85-92, whose earliest tracks are 30 years old as of 2015, and to Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I wrote a book on the latter album. It was published last year as part of the 33 1/3 series to note the Volume II album’s 20th anniversary.

What does and doesn’t belong in this Volume 3 is up for debate. I’m emphasizing material that has an apparent parallel to the material on Volume II, including tracks whose titles include a “SAWII” reference. If you happen to hear anything on Aphex Twin’s SoundCloud accounts that you think should be included, please let me know (I’m at [email protected]), and I’ll see if they fit into this playlist. Arguably a Volume III in the series would have a distinct character to the previous volumes, much as Volume II was distinct from 85-92. The precise qualities of that character are unclear, and perhaps would draw from elements of the antic percussion that were evident on his later 1990s albums.

My 33 1/3 book has seven chapters, the last of which I titled “Selected Ambient Works Volume III” and in which I tried to piece together semblances of ambient work in the releases Aphex put out following the release of Selected Ambient Works Volume II. It was a purposeful exercise in well-intentioned, fully informed futility, the point being to note the distinction of Selected Ambient Works Volume II amid the broader catalog. All of which said, there is a considerable amount of material in the newly opened archive at the user48736353001 account that has the sinuous ambient quality of his early years, and that is well worth spending time with. I’ll be expanding this playlist as I continue to listen through the newly posted material.

Of the current 173, there are several close calls, like “1 nocares” and 19 Ssnb, that I haven’t included here.

Setlist posted at My 33 1/3 book is available from many retailers, including, which is operated by the label, Warp, that releases the majority of Aphex Twin’s music. In my book I interview the individual who is largely responsible for the track names later associated with the songs on Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and who went on to work at Warp for a decade, during which time he helped to launch Bleep.

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