I rent a small office. In the morning it takes me about half an hour to walk to the office from my home. This commute is a modest version of a fantasy I have long harbored — not so much a fantasy as a scenario, and it’s probably not really even me in the scenario. It’s someone older, less social, more focused. I think this someone only writes fiction. I think. He has two homes. There’s a home where I live now, out in the Richmond District of San Francisco, and there’s another home deep downtown. I’d wake up — he’d wake up — in the morning, walk all the way downtown, which would take about an hour and a half, and then he’d write for the whole day. The next morning he’d wake downtown and walk all the way back to the Richmond District, where he’d begin writing again.I’ve been in this new office for about two months, and the commute, the distance, the half-hour walk, has provided some of the structured reflection that the fictional scenario presupposes. One core component of the scenario isn’t just the distance, but how different are the two locations from each other. My half-hour walk doesn’t provide as much distance or difference, but it’s still re-orienting. Key among the office’s distinguishing characteristics are sonic ones. It has a carpeted floor, for one thing. And then there are the sounds from outside — church bells next door on the hour, the recess chatter at an elementary school just past the church, and the Tuesday noon civic warning siren. There are a hundred-plus speakers spread around San Francisco that ring out with a test siren each Tuesday at noon — first the siren, then a male voice intoning in English (and in select neighborhoods in Spanish and Chinese) that this is only a test. Even with that many speakers, the majority of the citizens of this city hear the siren from some distance. Were there actually an alert, it would be louder and more insistent. As it turns out, the siren in my new work neighborhood is directly across the street from my building’s entrance. I had lunch earlier than usual today, and happened to walk right beside it as it rang out. Since I moved into the office I haven’t been sure where the siren is, until suddenly there it was, drawing attention to itself, high atop a massive pole in the middle of the street — loud as could be, telling us that all is well, at least for now. At home, the Tuesday noon siren is far more diffuse, to the extent that I hear several sirens at once, their relative proximity creating an echo effect, as if I live in a deep canyon when in fact I live on a high hill. At the office, the same siren is thundering and declarative, a forceful reassurance of the status quo. An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: 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. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• 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. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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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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.
• 0456 / Line Up / The Assignment: Interpret a painting by Agnes Martin as if it were a graphic score.
• 0455 / Inner Invertebrate / The Assignment: What does a moment (or a day) in the life of a jellyfish sound like to a jellyfish?
• 0454 / Lsoo Vneg / The Assignment: Encode the name of someone you love into a piece of music.
• 0453 / Dial Up / The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound.
• 0452 / Let's Scream / The Assignment: Get cathartic. Be resilient. Turn your scream into music.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 456 consecutive weeks to date.
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