19 Years of Disquiet.com

Reflecting on reflecting

December 13, 1996, is the day I used a fax machine during a lunch break at a dotcom I’d joined a few months earlier, in order to send in an order for a URL, this URL: disquiet.com. The name comes from the book The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet.

Each year on December 13, if I have the time, I recount some memories of that time, and the time that has passed. On purpose, I don’t read previous entries while writing one of these semi-annual posts. I’m interested in what surfaces each year, what changes in emphasis may arise. These posts are as much objects of reflection as they are acts of reflection.

The main trajectory of Disquiet.com is as follows. It has several years of pre-history, as a series of FTP sites hosted at “~suffix” accounts at various ISPs. From its launch in 1996 through 1999 or so, Disquiet.com was largely a repository for work I’d already published elsewhere, primarily at Tower Records’ Pulse!, Classical Pulse!, and epulse magazines. At some point I was asked one time too many by someone when exactly I was posting something new to the site. I would generally explain, “Well, first I have to write something somewhere else, then wait for that publication date to pass considerably, and then I can upload the article to Disquiet.com.” Finally it occurred to me that I could just, you know, post something directly to Disquiet.com, bypassing prior publication. For reference, Webster’s English dictionary dates the origin of the word “blog” to 1999, before which we were all just typing cluelessly if excitedly in cyberspace.

In 1999 I moved to New Orleans from San Francisco, for what would last four years. The site came into its own in those years, with the introduction of datestamps and a more frequent occurence of publishing. I moved back to San Francisco in 2003, and continued to post regularly.

The next major change in the site was 2007, which was when, almost 11 years after launching the site, I finally began to add images to posts. Prior to 2007, it was text-only — straightedge ambient, no filigree. Somewhat ironically, the introduction of images to the site focused my ears. The first post with images was of a travel log of a trip to Japan, something I ported over from an early tumblr account I’d set up (sound.tumblr.com, which I occasionally turn back on, but have never found a consistent use for). With that travel log I began to emphasize sound as much as music. Also, 2007 is when the site was ported over from hand-coded HTML to WordPress — yeah, before 2007 I was coding not only the site but its RSS feed by hand.

The next major shift from that was 2011, when the WordPress theme was upgraded, by my friends at futurepruf.com, to be “responsive” (i.e., it works smoothly on phones, tablets, and full-size browser). 2012 saw the introduction of the Disquiet Junto series of weekly music projects (the 206th Junto project is underway as I type this), the start of the course I teach on sound at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco, and my signing a contract with the publisher Bloomsbury for a book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which was completed in 2013 and came out in 2014, the same year I had my first museum exhibit, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

As on any 19th anniversary, what’s particularly top of mind this year is next year, the 20th anniversary. I’d like to do something special for it.

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