Tension in the Mist

A device-duet in layers by Joseph Branciforte

This short test run by a composer based in Brooklyn by the name of Joseph Branciforte combines two devices toward layered, fragile effect. One is a synthesizer that provides for patching by cables to produce various sounds, patterns, and textures. The other, into which the synthesizer’s signals flow, is a delay pedal, which lends a sense of spaciousness that is in direct contrast to the tiny footprint of the actual boxes.

The pedal isn’t the sole source of the airy quality inherent in the track’s tonal material. Branciforte explained to me in an email that while this piece — which bears no title aside from what is little more than a list of the equipment with which it was made (“makenoise 0-coast / ambient loops with earthquaker space spiral”) — is a layering of eight elements. The first seven had already been completed when he hit record on his camera. What we’re witnessing here, in the video, is the eighth and final layer being added to the whole.

The overall effect is cloudy and drowsy, but there is tension in the mist, like the way the stereo play introduces a singsong quality, and how occasional tiny percussive blips suggest a signal beeping in an unattended NASA mission control center. At a minute and a half in length, the piece is best played on loop, which is especially appropriate since it is itself an accumulation of loops.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally published to Branciforte’s YouTube channel. More from Branciforte at josephbranciforte.com, instagram.com/josephbranciforte, and twitter.com/josbranciforte. Branciforte did me the honor recently of adding to a track I’d recorded as part of a Disquiet Junto project.

Disquiet Junto Project 0317: Triadic Awareness

The Assignment: Record the third part of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track of two parts.

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 the playlist for the duration of the project.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, January 29, 2018. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 25, 2018.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0317: Triadic Awareness
The Assignment: Record the third part of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track of two parts.

Step 1: This week’s Disquiet Junto project is the third in a sequence that explores and encourages asynchronous collaboration. This week you will be adding music to a pre-existing track, which you will source from the previous week’s Junto project (disquiet.com/0316). Note that you are finishing a trio — you’re creating the third part of what two previous musicians created. Keep this in mind.

Step 2: The plan is for you to record a short and original piece of music, on any instrumentation of your choice, as a complement to a pre-existing track. First, however, you must select the piece of music to which you will be adding your own music. There are 56 tracks in all to choose from, 54 as part of this playlist:


And then the 55th is a video by Bassling (aka Jason Richardson), in asynchronous collaboration with Benn DeMole:


And the 56th is Samarobryn (interestingly based in Australia, as is Richardson), in asynchronous collaboration with jwhiles:


To select a track, you can listen through all that and choose one, or you can use a random number generator to select a number from 1 to 56, the first 54 being numbered in the above SoundCloud playlist, and 55 being the Bassling/DeMole track, and 56 being the Samarobryn/jwhiles. (Note: it’s fine if more than one person uses the same original track as the basis for their piece.)

Step 3: Record a short piece of music, roughly the length of the piece of music you selected in Step 2. Your track should complement the piece from Step 2. It should fit both sonically and compositionally between the two parts that constitute the pre-existing track. When composing and recording your part, do not alter the original piece of music at all. In your finished audio track, your part should be panned center. To be clear: the track you upload won’t be your piece of music alone; it will be a combination of the track from Step 2 and yours. It will be a trio.

Step 4: Also be sure, when done, to make the finished track downloadable, because that is the nature of share-alike licenses in the Creative Commons, and also because there may yet be more projects in this sequence.

Background: The title of this project, “Triadic Awareness,” comes from an idea I learned about when I was reading a book by Frans de Waal, the primate scientist. The concept correlates nicely with such ideas as “ambient awareness” and “parallel productivity” that have long been underlying concepts in the Disquiet Junto projects.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0317” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0317” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Please consider posting your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:


Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process. Be sure to name the track to which you’ve added music and the name of the two musicians who recorded it, and include a link to it.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, January 29, 2018. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 25, 2018.

Length: The length of your track will be roughly the length of the track to which you are adding something.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0317” 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 essential for this specific project 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 317th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Triadic Awareness: Record the third part of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track of two parts) at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Subscribe to project announcements here:


Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:


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

Image associated with this project is adapted from a photo by Martin Kenny and is used via Flickr thanks to a Creative Commons license:



Synthesized Frivolity

From mafgar of Portland, Oregon

There’s a frivolity at the root of this track that makes it stand out. The little blurp of sonic gymnastic play with which it opens slowly repeats and then expands excitedly as it goes. It runs through the first time, then pauses, and then begins its looping transformations, at times settling down to something approaching ease, and then suddenly bounding about. It has a sweet disposition, like a little robot plaything running free, out of the clutches of the overly affectionate child it spends daylight hours attending to. It flutters and burbles, pings gleefully and flits about with an infectious eagerness. “Rings into Clouds (an obligation)” by mafgar presumably takes its name from the synthesizer technology from which it was made: a ring modulator and a granular sound processor. The melody doesn’t develop so much as it veers wildly while still adhering to a core tonality, much of it with a plectrum-like quality.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mafgar. More from mafgar, who is based in Portland, Oregon, at mafgar.bandcamp.com, spotify.com, and Google Play Music.

RIP, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

Electronic music is science fiction, sometimes more than others

Bidding farewell to the great Ursula K. Le Guin. I was so young when I read her the first time, I didn’t know about genre conventions. My imagination was pretty close to a clean slate. I simply recognized the transition as I entered into another world, and I never fully returned.

Later in life, as I got interested in Monome music equipment and related software, I came to sense like minds when I recognized familiar names among the tools, such as the Earthsea and Ansible synthesizer modules.

The Voice as Sound Source

Brona Martin puts her mouth where her synthesizer is.

Electronic musicians searching for interesting sound sources need only look in the mirror. There they should easily find one of the most underutilized yet readily available tools: a mouth. Brona Martin explores the potentials for vocal processing made possible by digital audio software in her track “Lament.” Part of the processing here isn’t even electronic. It’s simply a matter of the tones that Martin elects to perform, from her soft breaths, to high choral o’s, to throaty gurgles, to occult moaning, just to give reference names to a few of the myriad sounds that make themselves heard in “Lament.”

Those sounds are, in turn, turned into other things entirely: a tender vowel stretched beyond its capacity, a breath set on mechanical loop, a warm utterance that dissipates into pure atmospherics — a hush, made soundscape. Some of the transformations, from severe insectoid noise to supple bell tones, leave behind entirely where it was that they originated. To Martin’s credit, this all comes together. “Lament” isn’t a parade of effects, or a survey of possibilities. Part of why the piece works is how it is all layered, lending congruences and a sense of verticality to the progression.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/brona-martin. More from Martin, a composer and sound artist based in Irleand, at bronamartin.org.