My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monthly Archives: January 2019

Steady State

Nudging an ambient beast

The machine does most of the work. It chugs along, lights blinking a telegraph of the underlying rhythm, knobs erect and at precise angles, tones rendered as held bits atmosphere, fraying as they go, the full effect a sort of aged glisten. Occasionally a hand comes into view, introducing a new note, altering the way a present sound is filtered, making other adjustments that may not be immediately evident to the listener — perhaps just to retain the work’s status quo. Sometimes when you’re the caretaker of a modular synthesizer, your job is not so much to play an instrument as it is to keep steady something that’s already moving on track, on target, in key. This video is Alex Roldan at play with his modular synthesizer, and it dates from late November of last year (earlier videos from him include drum covers of songs by Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin). Since then there have been another four modular ones from Roldan. Subscribe to his channel to encourage further endeavors.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted to Rodan’s YouTube channel. More from Rodan, who is based in Washington, D.C., at iamanalog.bandcamp.com.

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A Jigsaw of Desire

Listen to — and watch — Peter Speer re-work Alice Coltrane.

If you really love a piece of music, you don’t just remember it in sequence. You remember it in slices, bits that your brain plays on repeat, often without effort. You remember it in different keys. You remember it slower, faster, in a different time signature altogether. You remember segments played out of the original order, layered, yoked together through a compulsion for a different whole, or more to the point: in a new arrangement that prioritizes your ideal comprehension of the song, a jigsaw of desire.

To hear Alice Coltrane’s “Om Shanti” re-worked (the hyphen added to emphasize the newness, the apartness-from-the-original) by Peter Speer on the sparest of a modular synthesizer setup — just two pieces: a sampler and a tool to control the sampler — is to hear such a mental remapping, albeit here performed in realtime. It’s Speer’s consciousness manifesting in the physical world of dials and cables. Coltrane’s alternately sultry and mournful tonalities are stretched and echoed, turned into nano-washboard rhythms and deep cavernous spaces, all in fitting tribute to her otherworldly oeuvre. Grounding the effort are the modest, even mundane, maneuvers that Speer must enact over the course of the video to accomplish his goals.

Video originally posted at vimeo.com. More from Speer at instagram.com/peter.speer.

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Algorithmic Art Assembly

I'll be giving a talk at this two-day event in San Francisco on March 22

My friend Thorsten Sideb0ard is hosting Algorithmic Art Assembly, a new event in San Francisco on March 22nd and 23rd this year, “focused on algorithmic tools and processes.” I’ll be doing a little talk on the 22nd, which is a Friday.

Speakers include: Windy Chien, Jon Leidecker (aka Wobbly), Julia Litman-Cleper, Adam Roberts (Google Magenta), Olivia Jack; Mark Fell (a Q&A), Spacefiller, Elizabeth Wilson, M Eiffler, Adam Florin, Yotam Mann & Sarah Rothberg — and me. Performances include: Kindohm, Algobabez, Renick Bell, Spatial, Digital Selves, Wobbly, Can Ince; Mark Fell, W00dy, TVO, Shatter Pattern, William Fields, Sebastian Camens, Spednar. Here’s a bit more from the website, aaassembly.org:

Algorithmic Art Assembly is a brand new two day conference and music festival, showcasing a diverse range of artists who are using algorithmic tools and processes in their works. From live coding visuals and music at algoraves, to virtual reality, gaming, augmented tooling, generative music composition, or knot tying, this event celebrates artists abusing algorithms for the aesthetics.

Daytime talks will present speakers introducing and demonstrating their art, in an informal and relaxed setting, (very much inspired by Dorkbot).

Each day will feature one workshop in an intimate setting, creating an opportunity for you to learn how to create live coded music using two of the main platforms, SuperCollider and TidalCycles. Workshops are limited in space, with reservation required – details to come.

Evening performances will be heavily based upon the algorave format, in which the dancefloor is accompanied by a look behind the veil, with several artists projecting a livestream of their code on screen. Performers will play energetic sets back to back, with minimal switch-over time.”

It was a new year, so I cleaned up my bio a bit. Here’s how it reads currently:

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 that explore creative constraints. A former editor of Tower Records’ music magazines, Weidenbaum is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and has written for Nature, Boing Boing, Pitchfork, Downbeat, NewMusicBox, Art Practical, The Atlantic online, and numerous other periodicals. Weidenbaum’s sonic consultancy has ranged from mobile GPS apps to coffee-shop sound design, comics editing for Red Bull Music Academy, and music supervision for two films (the documentary The Children Next Door, scored by Taylor Deupree, and the science fiction short Youth, scored by Marcus Fischer). Weidenbaum has exhibited sound art at galleries in Dubai, Los Angeles, and Manhattan, as well as at the San Jose Museum of Art, and teaches a course on the role of sound in branding at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Weidenbaum has commissioned and curated sound/music projects that have featured original works by Kate Carr, Marielle V Jakobsons, John Kannenberg, Steve Roden, Scanner, Roddy Schrock, Robert Thomas, and Stephen Vitiello, among many others. Raised in New York, Weidenbaum lives in San Francisco.

More on the Algorithmic Art Assembly at aaassembly.org. The event will take place, both days, at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts grayarea.org.

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Physical Modeling

Thinking ahead to 2019

Last month marked the 22nd anniversary of this website, and last week marked the 7th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto. After a lot of virtual time, I’m thinking about physical objects.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0366: Ice Breaker

The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

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.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, January 7, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 3, 2019.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0366: Ice Breaker
The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

Welcome to a new year of Disquiet Junto projects. This week’s project is as follows. It’s the same project we’ve begun each year with since the very first Junto project, way back in January 2012. The project is, per tradition, just this one sentence:

Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

Background: Longtime participants in, and observers of, the Disquiet Junto series will recognize this single-sentence assignment — “Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it” — as the very first Disquiet Junto project, the same one that launched the series back on the first Thursday of January 2012. Revisiting it at the start of each year since has provided a fitting way to begin the new year. At the start of the eighth (!) year of the Disquiet Junto, it is a tradition. A weekly project series can come to overemphasize novelty, and it’s helpful to revisit old projects as much as it is to engage with new ones. Also, by its very nature, the Disquiet Junto suggests itself as a fast pace: a four-day production window, a regular if not weekly habit. It can be beneficial to step back and see things from a longer perspective.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0366” (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 “disquiet0366” (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: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0366-ice-breaker/

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.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, January 7, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, January 3, 2019.

Length: The length of your track is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0366” 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: Please consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

Context: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 366th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Ice Breaker / The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it — at:

https://disquiet.com/0366/

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-0366-ice-breaker/

There’s also a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet to join in.

Image adapted (cropped, text added, etc.) from a Flickr photo by Brandon Heyer, thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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

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

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