Memories of our early file-sharing ways: This is a detail from a story by comics artist Jillian Tamaki, collected in her recent book, Boundless. The story, first published in 2015, has nothing to do with random Squarepusher songs being illicitly downloaded, and instead focuses on a single MP3 that has an unfortunate effect on listeners. (The track is six hours long and titled “SexCoven.”) In a few panels, Tamaki captures a different time from ours. She casually posits the past as a beta test for the current technological present. The past isn’t foreign, just more pixelated. There’s the boxy interface, the requisite time sink (another panel shows just how burdensome dialup surfing could be), and that no longer ubiquitous wired mouse/pad combo, among other details. Kudos in particular for the varied case treatments of Squarepusher’s name, an early glimpse at the impact of metadata fluidity, and the smudge effect of “scroll scroll” in the subsequent panel (that action description was invisible to me in print, and I only noticed it after looking at this photograph of the page). The case issues with the Squarepusher titles are the visual gateway drug into how the story’s title track makes its way from an anonymous user’s computer to countless ones around the globe. This specific story might never have begun on a commercial website, or in a bricks and mortar record store for that matter. And even if the story is a fiction, a dark fantasy rendered in the artifacts of realism, the sense of a rupture in time, a shift in culture, a warping of communication, is trenchant.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.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 465 consecutive weeks to date.
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