Quick staccato notes suggest forward momentum. Backward masking suggests reflection. The rapid beats take us into the future. The molasses-slow warped sound takes us into the past. The former happens by quickening our pulse. The latter happens even as the music proceeds forward, even though we’re aware it moves forward. This psychoacoustic illusion is pushed to lovely ends in “A Gentle Southerly at Dusk [jimmy kipple’s Autumnal miasmix],” a reworking by Kipple of a Nettles original. The source material took guitar and turned it into something akin to a post-rock, minimalist gamelan. Kipple lovingly rends the Nettles piece until it has none of its rhythmic underpinning, until it is a constant flow of hints and gestures and flashbacks, of sliver moments stretched until their ends meet, stretched until they become transparent. We listen through that transparency, to layer, upon layer, upon layer. The track proceeds, but we’re stuck in an eternally held instance, winding and unwinding until past and present blur.
If commitment is the measure, then Max Richter’s deservedly well-received Sleep, his eight-hour sonic paean to slumber, has one major peer this year. That would be Taylor Deupree’s ongoing 2015 Studio Diary. At about 70 tracks so far, the diary is only half the length — just under four hours — of Richter’s Sleep, but like Richter’s work, Deupree’s balances length with lightness, intensity with a soft touch. The October 12 entry, “a piano in autumn,” is little more than a digital piano refracted over the course of a minute and a half, as minor artifacts of tone are extended and warped while the full, simple piece continues. It’s Satie on pause, Feldman heard from a right angle. It’s a work composed entirely of grace notes.
Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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.
Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:
This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 22, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 26, 2015.
Disquiet Junto Project 0199: Space Crickets
Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship.
Step 1: You’re going to make an original field recording. Use only your own recordings and those from copyright-OK sources, such as freesound.org.
Step 2: There’s a brief scene in the film Interstellar (2014, directed by Christopher Nolan) aboard a spacecraft in which it’s revealed that the pilot, played by Matthew McConaughey, calms himself by listening to a field recording of crickets and rain. There’s something intimate and reflective about that little sonic trinket of Earth being of use aboard an interstellar ship. In turn, we back here on the planet are going to make a field recording — a “fake” field recording, that is — for our own use. It should answer this question: What does it sound like to listen to a field recording of crickets and rain while aboard a spaceship? (For reference, you can view the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNI-iZ_1Rac.)
Step 3: Make the field recording described in Step 2.
Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.
Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, October 22, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 26, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be as long as you see fit.
Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, and be sure to 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 Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0199-spacecrickets”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).
More on this 199th Disquiet Junto project (“Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship”) at:
The loop-based “multnomah_fall” by Geneva Skeen (aka Geneeeeves) employs vocals as instrument-like source material. Glottal sounds and incandescent moans take on drone-like roles in a slow-build, slow-burn recording that amasses density as it progresses. Dense as it gets, though, you can still hear deep inside it — past the wiry, wooly, bristling noise, past the eventual incursion of industrial rhythms — to the base materials on which it is all founded. It’s 15 minutes to be put on repeat.
Certainty Reducing Signals is the title of a 10-track set that C. Reider released back on July 13, aka Netlabel Day. That’s the day when we celebrate the phenomenon of small record labels that actively distribute their music for free, often — though perhaps not as often as one might want — with the intention that listeners subsequently rework the music themselves. Reider is a longtime proponent of experimental music and creative re-use. And true to form, the record’s liner notes include details on what went into it. (Full disclosure: Three of the tracks originated in the Disquiet Junto series of weekly projects, and I’m thanked in the notes.)
One highlight is “Dirigible,” a rusty, wired, dense thicket of noises that has a delightfully slow internal pulse. Starting out as a Junto project, it employs as source material Marsh and May’s album Falling More Slowly, from the Linear Obsessional netlabel.
Another favorite is a “site recording” titled “Vaporizing Rain,” a mix of rattling and white noise, likely the title substance hitting a metal roof. The result, two minutes in length, is a thoroughly engaging generative rhythm. True to the generative paradox, it is never quite the same twice, yet consistent throughout.
(The audio was autoplaying, and in advance of me sorting out how to turn off the autoplay, please proceed to freemusicarchive.org to listen.)
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.
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.