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: April 2019

The Uprooted Orchestra

Liner notes I wrote for a new album by Michel Banabila

This past week a new set of liner notes I wrote went live. They accompanied the pre-release announcement of a tremendous new album by Michel Banabila. I’ve collaborated with Banabila, who is based in Rotterdam, in various ways over the years, and this new album from him is one of my favorites. Here is my brief essay that accompanies the record, titled Uprooted. The album is available digital and on a limited-edition CD. Tomorrow mark’s the album’s official release.

“The Uprooted Orchestra”

“Orchestral.” The word’s an adjective, certainly, an unambiguous one. It depicts amassed instruments working in synchrony according to a fixed document prepared in advance.

But what if “orchestral” were uprooted? What if “orchestral” referred to what we heard, not how it was recorded? What if “orchestral” welcomed electronic instruments not just into the pit, but into the compositional process?

For that is the sound of Michel Banabila’s Uprooted, this album of beautiful, striated, patient music — patient on the surface, deep with turmoil underfoot. When bass clarinet and harmonium rise above a misty string section halfway through “Breathe,” that’s orchestral. When woodwinds trill and pulse against piano on “Dragonfly,” that’s orchestral.

Over the years, Banabila has made his share of experimental ambient, wherein future roots cultures are foreseen through a low-tech looking glass. On Uprooted, the tech is transparent. The album has touches of Fourth World, most notably on “Collector” and “Breathe,” but Uprooted is orchestral, full stop.

It’s also an album entirely forged of material sampled by Banabila from improvisations by invited musicians. Those samples were then constructed into a whole by Banabila, layered sinuously rather than triggered on a rhythmic grid. The fixed orchestral document here is the recording, and it marks the close of the composer’s efforts, not the start of the performers’.

The Uprooted album features contributions, by way of the samples mentioned in my essay, from Peter Hollo (cello), Alex Haas (synths & electronics), Gareth Davis (bass clarinet), Oene van Geel (viola & stroh violin), Stijn Hüwels (guitar & electronics), and Gulli Gudmundsson (el.bass, double bass, e-bow), with Banabila on MIDI instruments, sampling, and electronics.

Get Uprooted at More from Banabila at

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Algorithmic Art Assembly on Cycling74

A detailed summary by Tom Hall of the March 2019 event

I gave a talk on March 22, 2019, at the inaugural Algorithmic Art Assembly, an amazing two-day combination of presentations and performances held in San Francisco. I’ll post a transcript of my talk here soon, but for the time being, there’s a great and thorough overview of the Algorithmic Art Assembly at the website of, written by Tom Hall. Here’s Hall’s section on my talk:

The opening talk, ‘The Woodshed is a Black Box’, was from Marc Weidebaum, who has run the Disquiet Junto for over two decades. He spoke about his inspiration for starting it and spoke at length about “woodshedding” — a term from the world of jazz that can be applied to many forms of creative practice. I’d not heard the term before, but the way Marc presented it, it certainly made me rethink the way in which I work and experiment to develop new work, and develop rules to help shape, drive, and fuel it. I think my favorite thing about Disquiet Junto is that there are no winners — that the work is made in one sitting and that it’s probably not finished, straight from the woodshed.

Read the full piece at

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I Was on Darwin Grosse’s Podcast

Talking about art and music and technology (and print magazines, and music communities, and pop music) on the Art + Music + Technology podcast

Just this past Monday, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Darwin Grosse for his excellent, longrunning podcast, Art + Music + Technology, and the episode went live today.

For a sense of the scale of Grosse’s podcast, my entry in the interview series is number 271. I’ve enjoyed Grosse’s interviews for a long time. Past participants in the Art + Music + Technology podcast include frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator Alessandro Cortini, creative technologist Cassie Tarakajian, Monome developer Brian Crabtree, synthesis researcher Curtis Roads, and keyboard legend Herbie Hancock.

Grosse and I talked a lot about the Disquiet Junto music community I’ve been moderating since 2012, about my book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and about my time as an editor at Tower Records’ magazines. One subject I especially enjoyed when listening back to the audio this morning was about the future of music communities online, since the flaws of social media have become widely known in recent years. Here is a quick transcription of that part of the interview:

Grosse: Just to finish up, then, where do you think communities can go. Because it seems like you really enjoy being part of communities and being part of growth environments, right? And introducing people to things and stuff like that.

It seems like in a way we’ve almost hit a point where we’re not sure how to grow beyond that. We’ve seen things that are massive, like Facebook, end up being … not feeling satisfying because it becomes either a place where you can be taken advantage of or a place that’s just plain too overwhelmed with people. Or we have places that are so small that they end up feeling insular.

What do you think is the kind of community growth that can happen that provides an interesting next step?

Weidenbaum: It’s an interesting question. One thing that comes to mind as I’m formulating a response is that when I look at music technology these days, one of the ways I gauge how entrenched it is or how promising it is, is by the quality of the conversation on the forum related to that hardware or software. It’s not always a direct relation because there are sometimes people who are very yappy about things that actually maybe don’t prove that effective, but by and large, I think there is some really interesting information to be culled when you’re considering buying a synthesizer module or considering buying a piece of software or some other piece of hardware, a stomp box or something. You can look at the conversation online, usually on the forum that’s from the website of the manufacturer of that software or hardware, and get a sense of the culture of that content.

I think the issue there, for me, is that, as somebody who writes for a living, I think that writing can be highly overvalued. And I feel that one of the reasons the Junto exists as a model for this is that I feel that musicians communicate to each other through music primarily. And I feel that there’s an opportunity in communities for people to communicate in non-verbal ways.

Instagram is a nice step in that direction, though a lot of the pleasure of Instagram is actually the captions for the image like, “Oh now I’ve seen this beautiful picture; where is it from or what’s the context?” But I feel like one of the things that I’m trying to do with the Junto and one thing I’d like to see more is that it isn’t just a bunch of people chatting about presets and how they use tools, but their actual participation in the community is somehow nonverbal, that through images and sound and code, they’re participating, which is why GitHub is a community but it’s often not considered alongside [others]. … People talk about these massive communities and GitHub rarely comes up in the list alongside Facebook and Reddit and all these other. It’s interesting because GitHub, to me is just as much a community as these others. You know, a pull request is a form of participation.

Grosse: And communication.

Weidenbaum: Yeah, exactly.

You can hear (stream or, for free, download) the full, 45-minute podcast here: Many thanks to Darwin for the invitation and the great conversation.

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What Sounds Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from

If you’ve ever been required to read contracts on a regular basis, you may know this feeling. The feeling: each paragraph, each sentence, each clause, sometimes even each word feels on its own like an individual vestige of an individual previous incident. The document in front of you is a clot of those numerous and varied incidents, all metastasized amid what was once likely a quite brief, concise, and even innocent document. The innocence was lost in a lengthy sequence of events that required clarification and amendment, and clarifications of amendments, and amendments of clarifications. Certainly some of the initial text reflected actual forethought: someone had considered a misreading of intent (how the spirit might be failed by the letter), and made sure to write — to embed — the specific meaning into the document. But that’s not the feeling you have. The feeling you have is where the scent of some previous incident rises from some bit of language, and with it the full sense memory of that incident you had not, yourself, actually been present for. And when you lift your face up from the contract, you face the real world, and in the real world there are similar clarifications and amendments, some providing helpful orientation, others downright dispiriting in that they evidence fully how sometimes even the most obvious thing needs to be written out in capital letters and affixed with a messy glob of tape.

What Sound Looks Like: An ongoing series cross-posted from

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Disquiet Junto Project 0379: Open Studios

The Assignment: Share a track, get feedback, and give feedback.

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, April 8, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 4, 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

Disquiet Junto Project 0379: Open Studios
The Assignment: Share a track, get feedback, and give feedback.

Step 1: The purpose of this week’s project is to provide participants opportunities to get feedback on works-in-progress. Consider work you’re doing you’d appreciate responses to from fellow Junto participants.

Step 2: Either upload an existing recording (sketches and mid-process takes may prove optimal), or record something new and post it online for feedback. If there are some things in particular you’d like feedback on, mention what they are.

Step 3: After uploading, be sure to listen to the work of other participants, and to post responses.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0379” (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 “disquiet0379” (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

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, April 8, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 4, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0379” 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: 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).

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

More on this 379th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Open Studios / The Assignment: Share a track, get feedback, and give feedback — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to 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 credited to Matthew Ebel:

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