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: August 2019

Before and After Language

Highlights of LACMA's exhibit Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing

The above image is a detail from a contemporary piece of calligraphy by artist Kim Jongweon, who is working toward a new visual vocabulary born of ancient and modern Korean writing. Until dissuaded, I’m going to believe this character (in both the sense of a written character, and of an image depicting a human face) is playing some sort of woodwind, or perhaps is singing. Note the smaller, inset figure. It appears to be dancing. Also shown, below, for context is a photo of the full Jongweon piece, currently displayed as part of Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing, a large-scale exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That one little dancer is but a filigree amid this expanse of orderly, buoyant drawings:

The exhibit is phenomenal, massive walls given over to single characters the size of a human body, glass cabinets with fine ancient texts, and rubbings of even older examples of Koreans expressing themselves with lines, lines that some day would evolve into writing, into an expression of voice as much as of thought. Try, for example, returning the gaze of a 7,000-year old face as seen in this petroglyph. I’m fascinated by the absence of ears. Is this how someone saw themselves? Is it a drawing of a mask? Stare back in time and time stares back at you:

A focus of the exhibit is hangeul, a modernized and simplified Korean lettering, or “phonetic script,” that dates back to the 15th century. It was developed in order to replace the classical Chinese that had long been the region’s lingua franca. (That’s not actually an accurate description. As a This Week in Sound reader, Anne Bell, helpfully clarified for me, via email: “The Korean language has always been distinct from Chinese but the elite used classical Chinese characters as the writing system for centuries. What hangeul did was mimic the actual sounds of spoken Korean, making it a true phonetic alphabet. The hangeul alphabet has 28 letters. Compare this to Chinese where basic literacy requires learning between 2500 to 3000 characters. This was huge in terms of democratizing the written word.”) I’ve always marveled at the pleasing geometry of the Korean language, and this exhibit brings it alive in a way I had long dreamed of. Look at these bold letter forms and ponder that this was published in 1446.

At times in the exhibit the connection between line and tongue is made explicit, as in this 1947 document (almost exactly 600 years later than the above book), which explains how “mouth movements” match various aspects of hangeul:

More on the exhibit at the museum’s website, which explains that due to how rare many of the displayed pieces are, the show will not be touring: lacma.org.

This is lightly adapted and expanded from an edition first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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Corporate Blogs and Social Media

When and why did writing for oneself begin to decline?

Sometimes I think the decline of blogging coincided with the rise of the corporate blog, and with that the sense if you couldn’t blog under a paying banner it was perceived as a vanity plate, as less than serious, as even embarrassing, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

I don’t think it’s that complex, though. I’ve come to think the decline of the blog is, indeed, simply a matter of social media, on which you can say far less and receive far more of a response. The ratio is disproportionate, and blogging against that tide is tough going.

Hasn’t deterred me. Been at it since 1996, before “blog” was a recognized word. I continue to recommend blogging (in essence: writing a public journal), and have been happy to see activism in favor of blogging on the upswing lately.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0400: Sub Divided

The Assignment: Create a score to a Malka Older story using the author's own voice as source audio.

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, September 2, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, August 29, 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 0400: Sub Divided
The Assignment: Create a score to a Malka Older story using the author’s own voice as source audio.

Step 1: The author Malka Older (Infomocracy, Ninth Step Station, Orphan Black: The Next Chapter) has generously recorded herself reading her own short story, “The Divided,” and made that recording available to the Disquiet Junto community for this project. Acquire the nine (roughly) one-minute segments of the recording in this zip file:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mgwx9fa9bwz76ll/0400-stems.zip

Additional information on the book in which this story will be collected, … and Other Disasters, at masonjarpress.xyz.

Step 2: Select one of the nine tracks at random.

Step 3: Listen to the entire story, which is about nine and a half minutes long. Consider the narrative sensibility of your assigned subset of that story.

Step 4: Create a score and sound design to accompany Older’s reading of her own short story in the track that you selected in Step 2. Primarily use Older’s own voice as the source material for your score — bend it, shape it, extract from it, and burnish it to your creative ends. Additional sonic elements, both musical and foley, are welcome, but a substantial percentage of the sound should be from Older’s own voice. Also: keep Older’s own reading audible and inteligible; don’t slow or speed or otherwise edit it. Your score should accompany the reading, not supplant it.

Step 5: This is important. Please title your track “Malka Older – The Divided – Part X/9 disquiet0400” where “X” is the segment number you were assigned. (Don’t include the quotation marks.)

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0400” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0400-sub-divided/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

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, September 2, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, August 29, 2019.

Length: The length of your finished track should be the same length as the source audio for your track.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0400” 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 400th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Sub Divided / The Assignment: Create a score to a Malka Older story using the author’s own voice as source audio — at:

https://disquiet.com/0400/

Thanks to Malka Older for providing the audio and collaborating on this. Thanks to Alex Hawthorn for audio technical assistance.

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-0400-sub-divided/

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

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This Week in Sound: Death of a Field Recording Artist + …

A lightly annotated clipping service

This is lightly adapted from an edition first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

As always, if you find sonic news of interest, please share it with me, and (except with the most widespread of news items) I’ll credit you should I mention it here.

Field recording is not for wimps. Remember the scene in Grizzly Man, the Werner Herzog documentary, in which we watch the director’s slowly contorting face as he listens, in a mix of fear and astonishment, to the audio of a dying Timothy Treadwell, the film’s title character, as Treadwell (an unfortunate name in this circumstance) is mauled by a bear? Keep that in mind as you read about the reported death of Julien Gaulthier, a “French artist who used sounds of nature in his music.” Gaulthier had been traveling in a remote stretch of Canada with a biologist, Camille Toscani, “recording new sounds for his work.” Toscani reports a “bear entered their camp at night and dragged Gauthier away.” (via Daniel C and Tobias Reber)

Sarah Jeong, a member of the editorial board of the New York Times, writes about Facebook and audio surveillance as part of The Privacy Project. It’s a limited-run email newsletter. The crux: “insistence that Facebook is not listening to you is, predictably, undermined by Facebook, which sometimes is secretly listening to you.” Jeong is distinguishing a widespread perception (that Facebook or some other service is serving something up to you in an ad or other content based on something you have said) from a reality (that Facebook, for example, is using humans to transcribe audio you may believe to be entirely private). This is the difference between a deep-seated anxiety and a practical, uncomfortable reality.

Consider sonic warfare as a subset of “hostile architecture“: that is, as an audio parallel to uncomfortable benches, skateboard-resistant ledges, and spiked window ledges.

“The harvesting of biometric data from sometimes vulnerable populations has raised concerns about the potential for mass surveillance.” Madhumita Murgia, European technology correspondent for the Financial Times, ties audio surveillance together with eye, face, and other technologies into a concern about biometric data.

That hyperviolent fighting video game is actually vegan food-violence porn. Or at least its sound effects are. (via NextDraft)

“Last month alone, Americans received an estimated 4.7 billion illegal spam calls.” Apparently a dozen major telecom providers are teaming up to fight this. The name of the underlying technological fix is STIR/SHAKEN, which sounds like a James Bond reference, apparently stands for “Secure Telephony Identity Revisited and Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.”

The only thing worse than receiving a call from a spam number may be inadvertently asking your voice assistant to dial one. Your robo-assistant may be doing you a disservice that has nothing to do with invading your privacy. At least not in the manner you’ve come to be concerned about.

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Ancient Visage

From LACMA's exhibit on Korean writing

Start the day by returning the gaze of a 7,000-year old face: a petroglyph rubbing from the excellent LACMA exhibit Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing. I’m fascinated by the absence of ears. Is this how someone saw themselves? Is it a drawing of a mask? Stare back in time.

More on the exhibit at lacma.org

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