A doorbell button sends a variety of signals. It’s an instruction, an invitation, a place-marker. When lit at night, it can suggest habitation, even when no one is home. Often, especially in dense urban settings, the doorbell’s inherent messages aren’t sufficient to the task, however. There may be numbers and letters to clarify the association of address and interface. There may be arrows directing the visitor’s eye and finger. There may be redirects for postal services. There may be cameras that, intentionally or not, create an interactional moat, a digitally mediated divide between visitor and host — the host in such circumstances has an access to, a vantage on, a control over the visitor before the visitor has ever stepped foot inside. There’s lore of the vampire, who in some tellings must have permission before crossing such a threshold; digital vampires of the opposite persuasion — the ones on the recording end of the camera — have no significant restraints on their ability to capture, to collect and collate. They need not even cross the divide to have a presence.Sometimes the additional message is simply a bit of text, like here, where the instruction to “push hard” is neatly appended below the button. This modest device has no internet-era or even multi-functional connectivity, but it does speak messages, even beyond its literal one. For context, understand that there is also an array of buttons hung on that perpendicular metal gate. This button is an add-on, perhaps a replacement for one of the earlier ones. There is personality to the writing, in particular the swirl in the numeral 2 and the playful vitality of that “a” in “hard,” its schoolbook charm somehow both youthful and old-fashioned. This writing wasn’t done quickly, or haphazardly, or out of anger. It doesn’t appear to contain a subtext of antipathy toward a landlord, or toward technology for that matter. The writing is welcoming, reducing any emotional strain that such an instruction might have introduced in other circumstances. Still, the button itself shows little wear, which can be read generously as the resilience of something well-constructed, or more likely as evidence of it having been pushed with limited frequency over the years. The genteel stroke of the pen, upon reflection, takes on a kind of neediness, the entreating smile of an urban entity that knows the loneliness of the crowd all too well. 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.
• 0473 / Placebo Effect (2 or 3) / The Assignment: The Assignment: Record the second third of a trio that others will complete.
• 0472 / Jam Time (1 of 3) / The Assignment: Record the first third of a trio that others will complete.
• 0471 / Phase Transition / The Assignment: The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something with it.
• 0470 / Calendar View / The Assignment: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen (or more) super-brief segments.
• 0469 / [Missing in Caption] / The Assignment: Make music that pushes the constraints of descriptive television captions.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 473 consecutive weeks to date.
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