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: February 2019

Sounds of Brands: Initial Concepts

The blackboard after reviewing the first three weeks of the semester

The course I teach each spring, “Sound of Brands,” passed an early milestone this past Wednesday, February 27. Our fourth weekly class meeting, it marked the end of the first major arc of the syllabus and the start of the second arc.

The first arc is “Listening to Media,” three weeks during which students work on their listening skills. They accomplish this by starting their sound journals, which they are to write in four times per week, and by exploring two primary topics: first, a time line of sound and its relation to the nature of being human; second, a more compact time line of sound and its relation to film (and other media).

This Wednesday began the second arc, which is the core of the curriculum, the six-week stint (out of fifteen three-hour sessions total) from which the course takes its name: “Sounds of Brands.” In this arc we explore how things use sound to express themselves in the media landscape. We’ve already looked, to date, at film and television, and a bit at video games, but now we’re looking at products and services and corporations and so forth. (I use the word “brands” because it provides a broad stroke. That said, I do suggest that if the word “company” works fine in a given situation, then please say “company” instead of “brand.” There’s something uncomfortably anthropomorphic about the term “brand,” and something narcissistic to that particular anthropomorphism. When it’s useful and necessary, use it, certainly. When it’s not, don’t feed the beast.)

To make that shift from the first arc of the course to the second, we paused at the start of class Wednesday to reflect back on concepts we worked through during the first three weeks. This blackboard displays what accumulated during about 45 minutes of discussion that I led. Looking at it now, I realize it’s essentially three things: a lot of neat ideas, and a bunch of super-accomplished thinkers, and Dragnet. The board was getting packed and we needed to shift to the new material, so I should mention one additional concept that should have been on there: “sound design as score,” the TV series Southland, associated with it, much as Dragnet is here associated with “voice over,” which in turn is associated with “non-diegetic.”

And while on the subject of diegetic sound, I should mention something else. Now, “diegetic” and “non-diegetic” are useful, hallowed terms in film studies. In case they are not familiar, “diegetic” refers to sounds that correlate with action happening on screen, in the story as it is unfolding (dialog, sound effects, etc.), while “non-diegetic” refers to sounds that are separate from whatever realism you want to attribute to the filmed image. Classic examples of “non-diegetic” sound include the score and, yes, voice-over narration.

I just want to note some issues with characterizing “voice over” as expressly non-diegetic. I think the diegetic/non-diegetic pairing, while useful, suggests a binary when there’s really more of a continuum. There’s an argument to be made that voice overs are sometimes expressions of thought of a character who is part of the story, not an omniscient narrator, and that thought is sometimes concurrent with what is on screen, and that what is on screen is sometimes out of sync with everyday conceptions of time.

In any case, with that over, we moved on to the origins of the jingle. I’m not doing a week-by-week online summary of the course here this semester, but I am mentioning material on Twitter, and will likely do a few more focused write-ups in the coming months.

Oh, and yes, the classroom I’m teaching in this semester does have an actual blackboard, and I am filthy with white dust at the end of each session. There’s a pencil sharpener hanging on the wall, too.

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Live Stream Aphex Twin Discussion March 11 (10am Pacific)

On Vivian Host's Peak Time show

Oh, yes, the 25th anniversary Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II is on March 7 — and on March 11, days later, at 10am Pacific time, I’ll be on Vivian Host’s Peak Time show (on Red Bull Radio) to extol its timeless virtues. You can bookmark this URL for the stream:

https://redbullradio.com/shows/peak-time/episodes/march-11-2019

Here’s Peak Time’s description of the episode:

Music critic and journalist Marc Weidenbaum calls up to discuss this quarter-century anniversary of this seminal release.

Richard D. James AKA Aphex Twin is undeniably one of the most important figures in modern electronic music. His IDM and ambient techno productions of the early 90’s helped shape a new era of music and he continues to influence sounds of today. This year, his sophomore album Selected Ambient Works, Vol II, a record that dazzled critics and fans with its indefinable aesthetic and was touted for reinvigorating ambient music, turns 25. On today’s show, Vivian will speak with a leading expert and the author the 33 1/3 on this album, the music critic Marc Weidenbaum.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0374: Glitch Glitch

The Assignment: what happens when you glitch something that's been glitched?

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 Monday, March 4, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, February 28, 2019.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0374: Glitch Glitch
The Assignment: what happens when you glitch something that’s been glitched?

Step 1: Take a recording. Glitch it.

Step 2: Glitch it a second time, in some different manner, and try to have moments where the initial glitch remains evident and untarnished (well, un-further-tarnished).

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0374” (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 “disquiet0374” (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-0374-glitch-glitch/

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

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, March 4, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, February 28, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you. Short is good.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0374” 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 for this project be sure to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 374th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Glitch Glitch / The Assignment: what happens when you glitch something that’s been glitched? — at:

https://disquiet.com/0374/

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-0374-glitch-glitch/

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

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo by Ario:

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

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

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Diva of the Sublime

A track from Ana Roxanne's new album

The Leaving Records label selected the lovely song “Nocturne” as its SoundCloud post to represent the seven tracks that comprise ~~~. That’s the new solo album (and that is, indeed, three tildes in a row) from Ana Roxanne. It’s a beautiful performance, Roxanne’s elevated voice — a mix of choir-schooled, pitch-perfect tonality and casual, approachable, often speech-like intonation — filling the track from start to finish. There is a vaguely Celtic sensibility to Roxanne’s singing at times, but its primary quality is a kind of ethereal affection. There’s a definite solitariness to it, but it is by no means remote or rarefied. Roxanne’s vowels are echoed deeply into the vast distance, sometimes with a pleasingly artificial rigidity to the rippling effect, and all the while a slow, percussive drone under⁣girds the piece, thrumming at a low level.

Get the full album at anaroxanne.bandcamp.com. It’s available digital, and while the first pressing of 69 cassette tapes sold out, a new run is now available. The website lists March 15 of this year as the release date, but it’s all already streaming in full. More from Roxanne at instagram.com/frincess.

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The Form of the Longform Abstract

In the form of Geneva Skeen's new album, Dream State

Say what you will about the mix of nostalgia, fossil-fuel products, and subpar sound quality that is employed with some finger-pointing regularity to characterize the resurgence of the tape cassette as a 21st-century conveyance of music from recording artist to listener, one positive service has certainly been accomplished: the rise of long-form compositions.

It seems more common today than it has been since the heights of the progressive rock era for commercially released albums to contain suite-length pieces, symphony-dimensioned (horizontally if not vertically) explorations longer than extended 12″s, longer than medleys, longer than the attention span attributed (malignly) to a generation raised amid screens.

Geneva Skeen’s many-layered collage of a new album, Dream State, on the label Crystalline Morphologies, is such a recording. It has two sides, each nearing 20 minutes — and far longer if taken into account is the time required to extract oneself from the artfully grim environment in which the music deposits its audience. The tracks amass mumbling tones and field recordings of clammy spaces, industrial noise and angelic singing, interrupted occasionally — or more to the point, layered further — by the barking of dogs. It is music that would make far less sense in the confines of a pop song. It is long enough to get lost in. This is the form of the abstract, a space suggested by throwback technology, and put to work for new purposes.

Timely purposes, truth be told. In a note describing the circumstances in which the music was made, Skeen depicts a world “heavier and more opaque” than it was just a few years earlier. She acknowledges circumstances one doesn’t take comfort in waking to. Her music wrestles with this new reality by exploring it for both its real and surreal qualities, its details and its incongruences, its shapes and its shadows.

Album released earlier this month at genevaskeen.bandcamp.com. More from Skeen at twitter.com/geneeves and soundcloud.com/geneeeeves. The work was recorded at a Land and Sea residency in Oakland, California, in 2018. More from the record label at crystallinemorphologies.com.

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