Before hitting play, consider expanding this video to full-screen, and turning off your lights, and wearing headphones, and maybe even dimming the screen a bit. For 10 minutes, immerse yourself in this compound-like studio installation of Wouter van Veldhoven. The performance is titled “automated reed organ, old televisions, radios and other machines,” which is helpful, because otherwise we’d very much be in the dark, quite literally, about what’s going on. Lights swell and recede, giving snapshot glimpses of equipment, notably a wide array of old reel-to-reel tape recorder-players, and cathode-ray TVs tuned to no channel in particular. The pacing and the clack of the momentary illumination suggests a slide projector is in effect. The “automated” aspect of the title gives some sense of what’s going on, that the machines are being triggered in various ways that treats them more like samples in physical form than as musical interfaces, and the line items of equipment explain what’s being triggered. The result is something akin to a team-up between Pierre Bastien (robotic derivations of old-world instrumentation, notably that sad-sack reed organ) and Nam June Paik (Cold War”“era media art). It’s a tremendous piece, bringing to mind steampunk aesthetics, but exploring them without the emphasis on fashion filigree. There’s little here that doesn’t need to be here. There’s no visual artifice added to the tape machines or the TV, for example. They’ve just been jacked into a hand-made system that produces archaic, romantic music. Part of the romance relates to van Veldhoven’s presence. He’s seen coming in and out of view, apparently tweaking the apparatuses, like a custodian from a Hayao Miyazaki movie who is charged with the constant maintenance of some fragile, failing infrastructure.
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
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th 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.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the 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.)
• 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.
• 0479 / Truck Radio Rain / The Assignment: Locate three sound sources and make something with them.
• 0478 / Collage of Collages / The Assignment: Make a collage that will become part of a larger collage.
• 0477 / Flying Blind / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in which some substantial portion is performed without looking.
• 0476 / IAH Forecast / The Assignment: Here's your next single's cover. Now record it.
• 0475 / Low End (4 of 3) / The Assignment: Remix a trio by doing forensics on its component parts.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 479 consecutive weeks to date.
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