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Interview for the 300th Disquiet Junto

Thanks to Caliper Music's Matt Ackerman

Back in early January 2012, when I first posted to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud, I wasn’t sure anyone would take me up on the compositional prompt I had in mind, or on the idea of compositional prompts for that matter. The prompt was, “Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.” But people did take me up on it, and what was something of an experiment became an ongoing experiment — and then, two weeks ago, we celebrated the 300th consecutive Junto project. Each week I propose a composition as a series of steps, or instructions, and then musicians respond with tracks informed by the prompt. That is the Disquiet Junto in a nutshell.

On the occasion of the 300th Junto prompt, Matt Ackerman of the Caliper Music blog interviewed me about the Junto — about its origins, the role today of social media in music (and vice versa), keeping the prompts fresh, and my favorite sound, among other subjects. Here’s one segment of the interview:

C: What’s your favorite sound?

M: I tend to think of sound in context, not alone. I teach a course about the role of sound in the media landscape, and I structured the course that way because I didn’t want to do a sound studies project that suggested that sound must be considered in hermetic, theoretical isolation. The brain isn’t an anechoic chamber. If anything, it’s the opposite. If anything, we as humans are the opposite. Sound occurs in the context of the moment it resounds, in the way we experience it physically, and also amid the non-linear accumulation of personal and cultural associations it brings to mind. All of which said, if I had to choose one sound as a favorite, it would be the sound of ice in a glass. That is, specifically the sound of ice cubes put in a cold beverage, and especially when those cubes crackle and pop as they ever so slowly change composition. That sound is the subject of the very first Disquiet Junto, when I asked musicians to record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it. It was already a sound I liked. I drink a small glass of iced coffee every morning, always with a couple ice cubes in it. But because of what the Junto has become, that sound has become rich with personal meaning and associations, which have in turn reinforced it as a favorite, as a true touchstone. When I did the first Junto project, that sound was the subject of it because I liked the sound. Now every morning when I drink iced coffee, I think in turn of the Junto.

Read the full piece at calipermusic.blogspot.com. Major thanks to Ackerman for having done this, especially for the gracious introduction he penned for the interview.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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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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