New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Listening Off-screen

To the semi-generative glitch of Johannes Hertrich, aka Unifono

At exactly two minutes and two seconds into this short video, there is some motion at the bottom of the screen. Look for it. Don’t dwell on it, but keep an eye out for it. There is other motion throughout, primarily the blinking of lights. Those lights coordinate with the sounds, because the lights emanate from the devices that produce and influence the sounds.

The lights are signals to the musician using the devices, but they can serve a purpose for the listener, as well. For example, look to the upper left, where the word “play,” all caps, appears to the right of a larger-than-average circle. Note how the appearance of that circle being illuminated corresponds with one of the central presences of sound surfacing momentarily. Likewise, look at the tiny horizontal array at the very bottom left, how it serves as a kind of visualization of a certain band of quick and brittle noises.

What’s seen here is a modular synthesizer, more specifically a virtual one. It is a modular synthesizer simulated on a computer. It’s being used by the German musician Johannes Hertrich, who goes by the moniker Unifono, to render what he terms a mix of IDM and glitch. There are, indeed, touches of Autechre’s bracing sonic torques here, but the music is very much Unifono’s. More importantly, the music is generative, or as Unifono puts it, semi-generative (more on the “semi” in a moment). This means that for all the development within the music, all the changes that take place, it is all happening based on a system that Hertrich set up and then sat back and listened to, just as you and I might.

Then there’s that “semi.” This brings us back to the motion two and a half seconds in. There may be other reasons Hertrich considers the music semi-generative, but a sure one is the motion at 2:02. See how the knobs turn a bit, and how the module itself seems to jerk up a little? That’s because even though we can’t see Hertrich’s hands manipulating the software, we can see evidence of it. The knobs turning are one example. The slight motion of the module itself is another. It seems that in touching the module, Hertrich has briefly nudged it out of place. It returns immediately (if you’ve used this software, which is called VCV Rack, you’ll recognize the magnet-like quality the module evidences as it rests quickly back into place).

I realize as I reread this before posting that it could be misconstrued as a critique of the performance. I want to be clear, therefore, that it as meant as nothing of the kind. The audio is great. I played it on repeat for much of the day, and took notes on some of the techniques, the play between modules, by which Hertrich achieved his sonic goals. What I wanted to do in focusing on the motion at 2:02 was to observe the presence of the human touch in a video that is, in essence, a screenshot-in-motion of a machine working automatically, one left, as it were, to its own devices. It’s like an incredibly subtle variant on the Twitch genre of videos, in which viewers watch someone else play a video game live. Except here the software is considerably more obscure, and motion is brief, exceptionally so.

More from Hertich at Try VCV Rack out at

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Subscribe without commenting

  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website 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. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

  • Field Notes

    News, essays, surveillance

  • Interviews

    Conversations with musicians/artists/coders

  • Studio Journal

    Video, audio, patch notes

  • Projects

    Select collaborations and commissions

  • Subscribe

  • Current Activities

  • Upcoming
    December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of
    December 28, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    July 28, 2021: This day marked the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
    There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
    A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at

  • Ongoing
    The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm:

  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

  • disquiet junto

  • Background
    Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.

    Recent Projects

  • 0511 / Freeze Tag / The Assignment: Consider freezing (and thawing) as a metaphor for music production.
    0510 / Cold Turkey / The Assignment: Record one last track with a piece of music equipment before passing it on.
    0509 / The Long Detail / The Assignment: Create a piece of music with moments from a preexisting track.
    0508 / Germane Shepard / The Assignment: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.
    0507 / In DD's Key of C / The Assignment: Make music with 10 acoustic instrument samples all in a shared key.

    Full Index
    And there is a complete list of past projects, 511 consecutive weeks to date.

  • Archives

    By month and by topic

  • [email protected]

    [email protected]

  • Downstream

    Recommended listening each weekday

  • Recent Posts