Picked up three LPs yesterday at a used-music shop, two scores and a compilation. One of the scores is John Williams’ Earthquake, which I’ve been interested in since collaborating with Geoff Manaugh on a fault-sonification project several years ago. The big takeaway from the LP, released in 1974, is that much of what could be mistaken for score in the film is, in fact, the sound design of the communications, infrastructure, and emergency services activity. The recording closes with almost three minutes of “actual sound effects,” per the bright pink sticker on the LP cover. I’ve never heard the Earthquake music on its own, separate from the film, before.The second is Two Film Scores for Piano (1976), both by Harvey Schmidt, composer of the 1960 musical The Fantasticks. One is from A Texas Romance, 1909 (from 1964), written and directed by Fantasticks lyricist Tom Jones, and the other is from Bad Company (from 1972), a more straight-ahead drama directed by Robert Benton and starring Jeff Bridges. I don’t know of many movies that have only piano for the score. The main one I can think of is The Firm, with music by Dave Grusin, which I sometimes discuss in the class I teach on sound. There’s also David Shire’s The Conversation, another subject in class, though that one employs some sonic effects to extend the music’s psychological telegraphing. I’m interested in how the solo piano works in film, since film music historically has been a fairly grand affair; it took Hollywood a lot longer to lose the orchestra than it did the sense of film being merely a document of theater. And there’s the connection to silent film scores. Solo piano is also timely, due to HBO’s much-discussed Westworld. The third album is a Windham Hill compilation from 1987, Soul of the Machine, one in a series of themed collections the new-age label was releasing at the time. It was preceded by a piano set and succeeded by a guitar album. Beyond its utility as a period document, I was most interested in a piece by Gary Chang, who composed one of my favorite film scores, A Shock to the System, directed by Jan Egleson, which combined electronics with the Turtle Island String Quartet. 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.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
• 0460 / Creative Destruction / The Assignment: Show how you got to a tortured sound.
• 0459 / From a Distance / The Assignment: Make music intended to be heard from afar.
• 0458 / Phrase Shift / The Assignment: Make music in a sequence of parts with shared elements.
• 0457 / System Alert / The Assignment: Compose sounds for an OS.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 461 consecutive weeks to date.
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