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.

Dialing Instructions Inside

Phone (away from) home

This notepaper was on the bedside table. A few sheets were stacked on top of a pleather folio at the hotel where I spent time over the holidays. There were no instructions inside the folio, despite the clearly printed promise. There was, however, a memory of a time when a hotel phone was your primary such connection to the distant world while away from home. You’d share the number and extension upon arrival, and if you traveled regularly, you’d struggle with the slight variations in keypad controls depending on device and manufacturer. Instructions were valued, even if information design hadn’t caught up with the brave new task at hand. You might be greeted, at day’s end, with a welcome light. The light signaled the presence of voicemail, of messages from friends and loved ones. Allowing for time zones, you might never actually speak with these people directly while away; you’d ping-pong audio snapshots of your respective days: recollections, notices, inquiries. Today we’d call such communication “asynchronous,” a term necessary because so much of life has become synchronous, or at least has gained the illusion of synchrony, a synchrony whose acceptance masks, and may even cause, many forms of interpersonal fracture, fractures resulting from the pressures of profound simultaneity. As for those old audio snapshots on hotel phones, they were the preserve solely of the temporary residence’s third-party system, one that would be wiped clean when you settled the bill at the end of your stay. Today, somewhere, there is a surplus of this notepaper, ever so slowly being worked through by visitors who bring their own phones. Maybe they’ll use the bedside phone to ring the front desk to request a pen.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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