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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tightly Wound Moments

A short figment by Microvolt of Sittingbourne, England

This bit of distilled ambient music was posted by Microvolt a year ago, and it’s getting some new listens, at least in part thanks to a repost by Dave Dorgan. Spend five minutes in thrall of tightly wound moments of lower-case wonder. There’s nothing here that has more presence than a ghost echo from down the hall. It’s all gentle blood-in-the-ears tingle and passing-airplane drone. A keyboard sounds like it’s being played from several leagues underground, like someone is spinning Harold Budd vinyl all alone in a bunker, unaware that the sound is, ever so slightly, leaking out. The sharpest if not loudest element in the mix is an occasional flash of backward-mask effect, which seems to nudge the sound — or at least the listener’s consideration — into a nostalgic mode.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mrmicrovolt. Microvolt is Sittingbourne, England”“based Paul Randall, more from whom at twitter.com/PaulMicrovolt, youtube.com/mrmicrovolt, and microvolt.bandcamp.com.

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Hour-Long William Basinski Video

Recorded live at MoMA PS1 in March 2016

Last week I posted a tremendous hour-long set of Grouper, aka Liz Harris, performing live. That performance was part of a double bill at MoMA PS1 in New York City on March 20, 2016. The other name on the marquee was William Basinski, famed for his use of tape loops toward otherworldly, time-altering effect. That Basinksi video, just under an hour in length, is also on YouTube. Hidden in shadows, aside from dark blue silhouettes and sparkly projections, a wool-capped Basinksi works through shuddering ambient textures in super slow motion, waves upon waves of protracted glisten.

Video originally posted on the Boiler Room YouTube channel. More from Basinski at mmlxii.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0252: Sonic Palindrome

Make music that sounds the same backwards and forwards.

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Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks in this project:

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, October 27, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 31, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0252: Sonic Palindrome
Make music that sounds the same backwards and forwards.

Step 1: Consider the palindrome, which refers to a word (e.g., “madam”), phrase (“Never odd or even”), or sequence (“5290330925”) that reads the same backward and forward.

Step 2: Consider the ways in which a palindrome might have a parallel in music and sound.

Step 3: Compose a short piece of music that is informed by a concept that arose from Step 2.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0252”(no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track. (Assuming you post it on SoundCloud, a search for the tag will help me construct the playlist.)

http://llllllll.co/t/make-a-sonic-palindrome-disquiet-junto-0252/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, October 27, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 31, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Two minutes feels about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0252”in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, 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.

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).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 252nd weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Sonic Palindrome: Make music that sounds the same backwards and forwards”— at:

https://disquiet.com/0252/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

llllllll.co/t/make-a-sonic-palindrome-disquiet-junto-0252/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Photo by Ian McKenzie, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

flic.kr/p/b3F6Wz

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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Jen Kutler’s Stationary Guitar

A fantasia of droning metallic forms

This living room concert features nearly a quarter hour of Jen Kutler eking a fantasia of droning metallic forms out of a stationary guitar. There are many alternative guitar practices, from playing with your teeth to preparing it, à la a Cageian piano, with paper clips and other small objects. In many ways, an electric guitar can be said to always be prepared, in that it is almost always having its signal routed through various effects pedals. In contrast with a piano, an electric guitar is almost never heard unaltered. For all the perceived rawness and realness of, say, a rock’n’roll guitar solo, that sound is heavily technologically mediated. Kutler’s performance has all the force of a great rock statement, all the roil and ecstasy, but it pursues it without the familiar, orienting substrata of rhythm or melody.

There’s something illustrative about how Kutler situates her guitar. It’s on a guitar stand, at rest. A lot of noise guitarists take a lap-steel approach, holding it sideways. Others telegraph the meditative quality of meter-less sound by placing it flat on the floor, a six-string savasana. Others lay it on a desk amid various cables and effects, akin to a synthesizer or a keyboard. Those horizontal approaches can be read as contrasts to the normal positions: over one’s knee or suspended by a strap. The horizontal positioning matches the ambient/noise approach to sound, that we’re not hearing a song, but instead a song inside out, the material of a song, the sounds not the tune. We’re listening to music from a perpendicular angle. In Kutler’s hands those sounds are akin to a Harry Bertoia sculpture, of thick metal rods swaying amid the very noise they are emanating.

Kutler works with her own homebrew music technology, such as these MIDI-enabled umbrella and sewing machine:

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Video originally posted at the YouTube channel of unARTigNYC. More from Kutler at jenkutler.com and soundcloud.com/jenkutler. More from unARTigNYC at unartignyc.com.

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An Hour-Long Grouper Set

Hosted by Boiler Room

The prolific Boiler Room electronic-music content generation feed machine is often full of fish-eye views of sweaty DJs, but it veers at times down less beat-intensive corridors. This here is a nearly hour-long set of Grouper, aka Liz Harris, performing against a backdrop of footage by filmmaker Paul Clipson. It’s breathy stuff, her voice layered with keyboards, mere snippets of atmosphere given minutes to loop on end, the whole thing like veils giving hints of veils giving hints of veils. It’s all intonation and gauze, but the seeming softness belies a deeper tension. Much ambient music sounds — and is — peaceful, but there’s a tensile quality to Grouper’s music, like just past the threadbare scrim is something tough as nails, an unknowable intensity. The video gives glimpses of her at the mixing board, her fingers lightly adjusting signals, keeping certainty just out of reach.

Video originally posted on the Boiler Room YouTube channel. More from Grouper at this sites.google.com address.

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  • about

  • 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

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    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
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  • 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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