This sure was a nice way to start the week. Pitchfork yesterday published a list of “the 33 best” books in the 33 1/3 series. About 106 or so books have been published by 33 1/3, including mine on the 1994 Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2. Here’s what the “33 best” article has to say about it:
Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was a puzzle when Aphex Twin released it 21 years ago: an anti-album that eschewed track names and introduced a spare sound that was in the process of either dissolving for forming. It was, in other words, an ideal release for the new forums of this thing called the Internet, whose members not only picked apart the music but helped define the album for subsequent generations. Marc Weidenbaum packs a lot into these 130 pages: a mini-biography of a ground-breaking artist, a capsule history of ambient music, and an example of how digital technology determines how we hear and interpret music.
The full article is at pitchfork.com. It was written by Stephen M. Deusner. (I think it’s supposed to read “dissolving or forming.”)
There are a lot of great subjects ahead in the 33 1/3 series. I’m especially looking forward to Andrew Schartmann on Koji Kondo’s music for the Super Mario Bros video game and to George Grella on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. There’s a full list of the books in the series at 333sound.com.
Another piece from Corruption, the prolific Japanese musician whose SoundCloud account generally veers between broken beats and industrial field recordings, and occasionally makes pauses for equally remarkable swaths of lounge-ready background tones, in this case pulsing, seductive, beading fragments of retro-futuristic exotica.
Back in 2002, the first issue of the short-lived magazine The Ukulele Occasional was published, and in it I had a short piece on Les Paul, widely associated with the development of multi-track recording and of the solid-body electric guitar. At the time, I was living in New Orleans, and he was playing weekly at a club in Manhattan, even though he was nearing age 90. I’d interviewed Les Paul once before, and was hankering for a reason to speak with him again when I stumbled on a bit of history I wanted to flesh out. The magazine was founded by Jason Verlinde, an old colleague from my Tower Records Pulse! magazine days, who went on to found The Fretboard Journal.
The two times I interviewed Les Paul, I was hunting for something that likely never existed. I dreamed that in his multi-track experimentation he had recorded things that were closer to noise music than the accomplished, jazz-tinged pop for which he is best known. Maybe such tapes are buried deep in his archives. But no matter. Speaking with him was always a pleasure. He passed away in 2009.
I’ve been slowly adding old material to this site. The post was uploaded to Disquiet.com on June 27, 2015, but backdated to mid-2002 to match the original publication date. Read the full piece in the archives.
One building, one door, one mailbox, two buttons, both the same model, but one new, one quite old, one labeled A, one with its previous label removed, the outline of the latter left behind like the adhesive of a bandaid on a child’s shin.
The latest David Torn album, Only Sky (ECM), feels like the album he’s been striving for his whole recording career. It manages to find a place at home with his interest in deep, expansive atmospherics, and yet that place is one in which Torn’s pyrotechnic fluency with stringed instruments isn’t entirely put aside. In fact, the intensity of his actions feeds the equal intensity of the ambient foundation, often in the form tiny fragments set on repeat until they merge into a mist. The video follows his manipulation of the sounds, how the automation lets him trade instruments — between electric guitar and oud — without missing a beat. And better yet, at the end he speaks to the audience, apparently back in March 2013, two full years before the album’s release, at a TEDxCaltech event. What he’s playing is what became the album’s title cut.
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
• I was on Vivian Host's Peak Time show (on Red Bull Radio) on March 11 to extol the timeless virtues of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and related works. You can listen to a recording here: redbullradio.com.
• My latest article is a review in the March issue of The Wire magazine of the week-long Recombinant Festival (held in San Francisco), whose performance highlights included Herman Kolgen, Rrose, and Electric Indigo.
• March 22, 2019: I'm giving a talk at noon on Friday at the Algorithmic Art Assembly, two days of events (Friday and Saturday) in San Francisco: aaassembly.org. The talk is titled "The Woodshed Is a Black Box" and this is its description in the program: "How a rules-based system formed, shapes, and fuels the long-running online music community known as the Disquiet Junto."
• May 7, 2019: This day sees the release of Rob Walker's book The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday (Knopf), which has entries about the Disquiet Junto.
• May 22, 2019: Final day of the semester of the 15-week "Sounds of Brands" course I teach once a year at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I post occasional updates here. Follow the tag #sounds-of-brands.
• December 13, 2019: This day marks the 23rd anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2020: This day marks the 8th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell.
• 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.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0376 / Pi Filling / The Assignment: Celebrate Pi Day.
• 0375 / Despite Yourself / The Assignment: Make a piece of music that sounds as unlike you as you can accomplish.
• 0374 / Glitch Glitch / The Assignment: what happens when you glitch something that's been glitched?
• 0373 / Copernican Music / The Assignment: Record a piece of music intended for an alien species.
• 0372 / Honeymoon Phase / The Assignment: Record a piece of music with (only) your most recently obtained instrument or music/sound tool.