New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Temporary Guitar

The ephemeral music of Cousin Silas

“Bell Pit” is Cousin Silas of Huddersfield, England, on “ambient guitar.” That’s the very tag, hence the quotes, associated with many of Silas’ tracks posted on SoundCloud. Like other musicians mentioned here this week, Silas appreciates SoundCloud as a “staging” ground. Posts he makes to his account are, he warns in his brief bio, eventually replaced with other things. This likely isn’t an economically determined decision, as Silas has a Pro account, allowing plenty of room for uploaded music. More to the point, it is simply a recognition of the nature of SoundCloud, as a waystation, not a back catalog, a work-in-progress, not a done deal.

The ephemeral quality of that posting process of his has a nice parallel in the music itself, which in this piece is all silken swells and plaintive modulations. There are multiple lines for the ear trace, sometimes overlapping with a momentary balance, but usually one given significant prominence over others. And there is a sense of roominess that is never remotely filled. Quite the contrary, Silas makes his music light by providing a significant illusory space in which it transpires.

The track is also available for free download, something of a declining norm in this age of streaming-first listening. That’s an invitation from Silas, who writes, “If anyone wants to use any of my music, no problem. Just ask.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/cousin-silas.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0320: Table of Contents

Make a composition containing loopable background-music segments for each chapter of one of your favorite books.

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, February 19, 2018. This project was posted in the late afternoon, California time, on Thursday, February 15, 2018.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0320: Table of Contents
Make a composition containing loopable background-music segments for each chapter of one of your favorite books.

Step 1: You’ll be composing a sequence of short, loopable segments of music that are useful as background music for reading.

Step 2: Choose a favorite book.

Step 3: Consider the tone, the temperament, and the content of each chapter in the book.

Step 4: Compose a piece of music with as many segments to it as there are chapters to the book. Compose each individual segment with the idea that it is loopable as background music while someone is reading the given chapter. Consider making connections between chapters through melodic themes or instrument choice and so forth.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0320” (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 “disquiet0320” (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:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0320-table-of-contents/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

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, February 19, 2018. This project was posted in the late afternoon, California time, on Thursday, February 15, 2018

Length: The length is up to you. It seems like a loop of between 10 and 20 seconds might be best for each chapter, though shorter could perhaps work, too.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0320” 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 320th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Table of Contents: Make a composition containing loopable background-music segments for each chapter of one of your favorite books) at:

https://disquiet.com/0320/

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:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0320-table-of-contents/

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

Image associated with this project is by Emory Maiden on Flickr, and is used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/9yHZ6R

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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The Melody Method

A Celtic lilt out of Istanbul

A lot of the “is it or isn’t it” discussion that surrounds ambient music comes down to the matter of rhythm. The presumed background-ness of ambient music runs into a seeming — that is: a perceived, if not true — conflict with the presumed present-ness of more overly rhythmic music. (I go into this in some depth in my book on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Extremely short version: even sine waves have rhythms, so the idea of the absence of rhythm in ambient music is somewhat moot.)

What gets lost along the way in that emphasis on rhythm is the potential conflict between melody and ambient-ness. Melodies have a rhythmic component, certainly, but there’s more to melody than rhythm. There is a sense of narrative, of development, and of transitions, among other facets, that collectively run in contrast with the sense that much ambient music aspires to the opposite, to something akin to stasis.

A track like “20180215” by Istanbul-based musician Gurur Gelen, working under the name Pullahs, manages, through its slow pace and it’s muted voicing to insinuate a melody, a genial if sad-toned one, with something of a Celtic lilt, into the mix of hazy synthesis and what may very well be processed birdsong. The melody is certainly hummable, and yet its extremely relaxed cadence and its circular quality keep it from becoming the sole focus of the listening experience.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/pullahs. More from Gelen/Pullahs at twitter.com/Pullahs, youtube.com/user/Pullahs, vimeo.com/pullahs, and pullahs.bandcamp.com.

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Layers of Voice

From California-based Noise Jockey

Part of the beauty of using vocal sounds as the source for electronic music is simply just how far you can push the source tones and yet, to the human ear (which is so attuned through evolution to recognize the human voice), that vocal-ness remains self-evident. A case in point is “The Groan Machine” by Noise Jockey. It’s a layering of a dozen mouth utterances, each processed through a range of equipment listed in the accompanying note. The full breadth sounds are somehow both otherworldly (cast sweeps of white noise, thick stacks of elements, wide expanses of texture) and tellingly human.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/noisejockey. More from Noise Jockey, aka Nathan Moody of the San Francisco Bay Area, at nathanmoody.bandcamp.com and noisejockey.net.

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The Moments After Unboxing

Early uses of new equipment distinguish YouTube

YouTube may have its own longstanding audience for full-length recordings, and that ever-expanding catalog may align well with owner Google’s Play Music service, but among YouTube’s great distinguishing strengths is, as with SoundCloud, a facility for casual, of-the-moment works.

Forget those fetishistic unboxing videos, in which newly purchased equipment is unwrapped with the chilly fervor of a robot stripper. Where musical equipment is concerned, YouTube is arguably at its best shortly after unboxing, when new tools are first put to use.

Take SineRider’s “Floating:Drifting” (the full title is “Floating:Drifting (4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator)” — in electronic music, as in classical, the titles often resort to the equipment employed. It’s a single-take video that focuses on a single module that is part of a larger, off-screen synthesizer rig. We listen as waves of cloudy loveliness tease at key signatures and overlap to form gossamer moiré patterns.

Occasionally a hand drops into view to turn a knob or adjust a setting. The correlation between action and sound, between cause and effect, is less clear here than in the videos I include in my video playlist of live ambient performances, but then again, this is early on in this musician’s employment of the tool in question. The alignment of cause and effect may be just as much an enigma to SineRider as it is to us.

Track originally posted to SineRider’s YouTube channel. More from SineRider, aka Devin Powers, at sinerider.bandcamp.com and twitter.com/SineRider.

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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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