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Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Radiant Explosion of W. Zabarkas

A new album on the Glistening Examples label

There’s a radiant explosion at the heart of W. Zabarkas’ The Origin of Dreams, a recent release on the Glistening Examples label. Much of it has an overwhelming industrial churn, even if you don’t make good on Zabarkas’ liner-note appeal: “The artist requests that you listen to this album at maximum volume,” it reads. Each of the tracks — “Autumn Invades the House,” “FOREST-91,” “2 0 9 4,” “Whereof One Сannot Speak, Thereof One Must Be Silent” — opens with an expansive, hyperactive static. For the most part they also see that massiveness, that ebullient chaos, through to the end. “Whereof One Сannot Speak, Thereof One Must Be Silent” closes on a long fade. “2 0 9 4,” after peaking with something akin to a post-rock band’s third-encore climax, also fades at the end. “Autumn Invades the House,” the opening track, fades as well, if fairly quickly by the standard set by the others. Only “FOREST-91” gives way to something else, something elegant, something other than the sense of a knob dutifully, patiently rotated to cold zero; it’s a few notes on repeat, the world’s slowest arpeggio, It’s so apart from the rest of the album that its quietness has the opposite effect: it ends up perhaps the main thing, other than the overall sense of being caught in a cyclone, that the listener may remember. It’s hard to tell what’s buried in that noise. There may be ritual chanting amid “FOREST-91,” or it’s a trick of the ear, human presence imagined as a pattern in the vast randomness. Zabarkas’ suggested patterns are rousing, powerful, fully mechanical, yet charged with purpose and momentum.

More from Glistening Examples at glisteningexamples.com. More from Zabarkas at soundcloud.com/wzabarkas and vk.com/zabarkas.

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This Week in Sound: Sonic Illusion + Stonehenge Simulation +

+ audio birding + theater geeks + jack politics + more

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Sonic Illusion: “[W]hat we imagine hearing can change what we see” is the layperson’s summary of an investigation by Christopher C. Berger & H. Henrik Ehrsson (“The Content of Imagined Sounds Changes Visual Motion Perception in the Cross-Bounce Illusion”) noted in Nature. The article lays out various experiments involving response bias and auditory imagery. (I’m immediately drawn to wonder just how much, in turn, we can attribute to the role sound informs our experience of narratives and places.)

Stonehenge Simulation: Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield has created a virtual experience of what Stonehenge might have been like “with all the stones in place,” writes David Sillito for the BBC. “He has now developed an app which will help people blot out the sounds – including those made by tourists, and cars on the nearby A303 – and go back to the soundscape of 3,000 years ago.” (The project brings to mind Bassel Khartabil’s work on revisiting the ancient city of Palmyra.)

Avian Few: Birds thought long ago to have gone extinct, having disappeared from their native England, live on in New Zealand. “By comparing recordings of yellowhammer accents in both countries scientists were able to hear how the birds’ song might have sounded in the UK 150 years ago,” reports Georgia Brown in the Guardian. (Via Tim Prebble)

Good Lick: According to the postal service of Greenland, only 10 to 15 albums of music are released each year by citizens of the island nation: “The bestselling of these are issued in a number of 5,000. copies. Rather impressing in at country of only 56,000 inhabitants.” So it is that the post office has released music-themed stamps, ranging from “drum song” to accordion music. (Via Michael Rhode)

Jacked Up: The headline to Rita El Khoury’s article at AndroidPolice.com says it all: “[Because that doesn’t sound ridiculous] HTC has an app to update the firmware of its USB-C to 3.5mm adapter.” It’s worth noting that as of this typing, the article has 137 comments.

Audio UI: That cool hockey puck that comes with Microsoft’s Surface Studio may have gotten old quickly: As Juli Clover reports at MacRumors.com, Adobe is working on voice-enabled search and editing of images.

Dust Up: Artist Nina Katchadourian has produced a sound tour of the MoMA in Manhattan in which she details the battle against dust at the venerable museum. As Aruna D’Souza writes at 4columns.org, two years of research yielded a 30-minute recording with numerous stops, among them “the main lobby, a closet holding air purifiers, the soaring atrium, the helicopter that hangs on the second floor, a window ledge.”

Theater Geeks: Putting aside the Wired article’s clickbait title suggestion of autonomously created large-scale buildings, Liz Stinson writes up the marvel that is the Elbphilharmonie. That’s a new theater in Hamburg, Germany, and its acoustic panelling was produced with hyper-detail computer aid: “No two panels absorb or scatter sound waves alike, but together they create a balanced reverberation across the entire auditorium.” The architecture firm of Herzog and De Meuron collaborated with acoustics expert Yasuhisa Toyota on the project.

Primate Directive: Researchers have found that human and baboon voices have far more in common than was previously believed to be the case, writes Colin Barras for the New Scientist. Joël Fagot (Aix-Marseille University) and Louis-Jen Boë (Grenoble Alps University) have identified previously unrecognized vowels among 1,300 baboon subjects.

# FADE OUT

Recent deaths of note.

RIP, musician Tommy Allsup (b. 1931), who lost the coin toss that would have put him in Holly/Valens/Bopper’s plane

RIP, Bronski Beat keyboardist Larry Steinbachek (56)

RIP, pianist and singer Buddy Greco (b. 1926)

RIP, songwriter Greg Trooper (b. 1956). He wrote, among others, “Everywhere,” a war heartbreaker I know from Billy Bragg’s great cover.

RIP, conductor, composer, and scholar of Australian music Richard Divall (b. 1945)

RIP, Hans Berliner (b. 1929), chess champion and early computer-games figure

RIP, Keyboard Magazine (42)

RIP, Dick Gautier (b. 1931), played rock star in Bye Bye Birdie

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the January 17, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0264: Time Travel

Record a piece of music that plays with the perception of time.

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 will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 23, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 19, 2017.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0264: Time Travel
Record a piece of music that plays with the perception of time.

Step 1: Recorded music is, generally speaking, a fixed object. It’s a document. It proceeds linearly, over time. It is, in the terminology of fine art, “time-based.” That said, music has the power to change one’s perception of time. Slowing and speeding tempo alone can alter a listener’s understanding of what is happening. Backward masking, sublimated hints of themes yet to come, the sound of a tape in fast forward mode — those are just a few ways that a composer can suggest that time is not moving linearly. Now, consider for a moment the tools available to give an impression of time doing things other than proceeding in a steady forward motion.

Step 2: Record a short piece of music that takes time travel as its theme, using ideas that resulted from the consideration in Step 1.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0264” (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:

http://llllllll.co/t/music-for-time-travelers-disquiet-junto-project-0264/6157/

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’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, January 23, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 19, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you, but two to three minutes sounds about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0264″ 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 264th weekly Disquiet Junto project, Time Travel: Record a piece of music that plays with the perception of time”:

https://disquiet.com/0264/

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/music-for-time-travelers-disquiet-junto-project-0264/6157/

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

Image associated with this track is by Heather and used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

flic.kr/p/4fD1HJ

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

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Bell Increments

Five tracks of overtones on overdrive

Until yesterday evening I had never uploaded audio before to Bandcamp.com, despite being a longtime user, and despite investigations of the service playing a role in the course I teach on the role of sound in media landscape.

Anyhow, I recently added a new module to my modular synthesizer, and in the process of testing it out, I thought I would go and post some of the results. Those results became the collection, two and a half minutes total — five tracks of modulated bell tones. Below is the embedded sound and the information from the disquieteditions.bandcamp.com page:

This is a collection of five variations on the same bell sound. The bell is being run through a modular synthesizer, with an emphasis on a module called the ADDAC601. The ADDAC601 is a filter bank. It divides the inbound audio into eight bands across the audio spectrum, and then allows those bands to be worked upon by any manner of inputs. In this case the inputs are a variety of LFOs, or low frequency oscillators, often working in combination. Sine waves and triangle waves and saw-toothed waves consort and, in turn, exaggerate the source audio. The LFOs put the overtones into overdrive. These five tracks, each more complex than the previous, are excerpts from a larger collection that accumulated after I added the ADDAC601 to my small modular synth rig. They explore incremental changes as LFOs pile up and the variations take on more internal complexity. Because they were recorded in sequence without pause, each retains echoing, refracted elements of the previous track.

The source audio is a bell recorded by Freesound.org participant Sarana and uploaded for communal reuse on October 14, 2009. The source audio was pitched down a bit before being worked upon by the modular synth, and it also is run through a digital delay before hitting the ADDAC601. Here is the source audio, for comparison:

www.freesound.org/people/sarana/sounds/81832/

The track is licensed under this Creative Commons license:

creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Natalie Braginsky’s Noise Vexations

Two exercises in sonic disturbance

Natalie Braginsky uploaded some serious noise about two weeks ago, two tracks of digital vexations. There “.linexp,” five minutes of brief shots of razor-edged pixel disturbances, and “total emotional collapse number four,” which embraces a thick screen of randomness. The latter focuses on the sort of sounds that often suggest the roiling sea but here seem more like an avalanche on — to borrow and bend a phrase from Godflesh — looped repeat. It takes awhile to get underway, opening with short bursts of fireworks that eventually fill the sky, the whole thing running for four-plus minutes. It’s “.linexp” that presents itself as ready for more general consumption. The noise miniatures bring to mind road-side snapshots of robotic collisions and sad-toned circuits failing in public.

Tracks originally posted at soundcloud.com/nataliebraginsky. More from Braginsky, who is based in New York City, at twitter.com/ntkvby and instagram.com/ntkvby.

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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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    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
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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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    • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the 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.
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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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