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 2020

A Cooperative Community

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

The mundane isn’t necessarily banal. The mundane can impose a weight, a presence, a deficit, one that stands in contrast with its seeming everyday-ness, its ordinariness, its blanket generality. Take, for example, the blank face with which this doorbell interface meets a visitor. There are eight rows of virtually indistinguishable units. The buttons on the right are uniform. The ones on the left might once have displayed the names of the occupiers, but the horizontal slats are now merely variations on decay: three top rows of reluctant white; then one that’s been trimmed on both sides, like someone long ago tried to swap in a replacement bit of paper; then a dark blank, the base background, presumably, of all the others; then a yellowed swath, telegraphing the nicotine coloration of its inhabitant’s aged teeth; then a brief coda of the originating quasi-white; and then a strange grey, hard for the eye to focus on, the truest absence among myriad other absences. How all but the top and bottom units’ residents might even instruct visitors to announce their arrival is unclear (“Hit the one near the middle, below the darkest one”). Perhaps there are no visitors to this building these days, and there haven’t been for longer than anyone has any desire to recall. Perhaps this address is some sort of co-op, in the ancient sense of the term, a cooperative community, whose members’ names once proudly adorned the entrance in a public display of vertically integrated solidarity, but whose mutual interdependence rose over the years in inverse proportion as the names faded and, eventually, entirely disappeared.

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Mursyid’s Exploration

Synth + loops = deep space

There are periods of time when, for one reason or another, my listening focuses on an individual musician. Twice last week and, now, today, where my listening has settled is on the work of Fahmi Mursyid. I receive a lot of correspondence about music from publicists and musicians, and I balance the inbound recordings with what I myself come across online. To my mind, the feeds on my Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and YouTube accounts are just as valid as — if not more so than — the queries in my inbox. This live performance video shows Mursyid layering tones and sequences on his portable synthesizer. There’s a light, exploratory quality, in part because the song has a childlike aspect to it, and in part because the music sounds like the score to footage of an unmanned research vessel headed out to the great unknowns of deep space. All of Mursyid’s YouTube videos are explorations of a sort, pursuing sounds on a variety of devices and software applications. Highly recommended to add to your YouTube feed.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally published at YouTube.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0426: Cellular Chorale

The Assignment: Make music with the source audio from (and inspired by) a Patricia Wolf project.

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, March 2, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, February 27, 2020.

Tracks 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 0426: Cellular Chorale
The Assignment: Make music with the source audio from (and inspired by) a Patricia Wolf project.

Step 1: This is a collaboration with Patricia Wolf, based on her Cellular Chorus. Check it out at:

http://cellularchorus.com

Step 2: Download the 64 source tracks of the Cellular Chorus at:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v0w2kl69ys9bzvx/AAC4Ydqg7KeGCuICxO6gIipEa?dl=0

Step 3: Create a new piece of music using only the source audio. Use as many of the samples as you’d like, but don’t add other sounds, or process the samples to any extent more than slightly altering the individual material.

Background. Patricia Wolf has said of her original piece: “Cellular Chorus is a work of spatialized aleatoric music using smartphones to bring people physically closer to have an interactive and collective experience with light and sound. The piece is played by each user visiting Cellular Chorus on their smartphones. … The sounds I made are meant to harmonize. There is no right or wrong way to play them. The intention of this piece is to repurpose your smartphone for deep listening, creative experimentation, and to immerse groups of people in a sound and light environment with face to face interactions.”

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0426” (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 “disquiet0426” (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 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-0426-cellular-chorale/

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 2, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, February 27, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Shorter is often better.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0426” 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 426th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Cellular Chorale / The Assignment: Make music with the source audio from (and inspired by) a Patricia Wolf project — at:

https://disquiet.com/0426/

Thanks to Patricia Wolf for collaborating on this project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

More on Wolf’s Cellular Chorus at:

https://www.cellularchorus.com/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0426-cellular-chorale/

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

The image associated with this project is a still from a video, provided by Patricia Wolf, of a Cellular Chorus event.

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Multiple Narratives

An EP from Chicago's NoiseTheorem

A woman’s voice intones the melody of a child’s bedtime song (hence the track’s title, “Lullabye”) amid throbbing synthesized bass and squawking, barely comprehensible (purposefully so) emergency-services chatter. In combination, the elements suggest multiple narratives converging toward tragedy. The same could be said of the album as a whole: Graveyard of Forgotten Gods, a three-track EP from NoiseTheorem, who’s based in Chicago, Illinois. Old-school video-game projectile noises enliven a dubby, spacey, downtempo techno on “Tears for Venus,” which conjures up the likelihood that someone managed to recreate a didgeridoo simulacrum inside of a hacked Second Life account (and just so there’s no ambiguity: that’s meant as a compliment). And on “Song for Ellie,” a gothy procession of dark beats and whirly effects finds the tiniest glimmer of hope in a gentle keyboard motif.

Get the full set at noisetheorem.bandcamp.com. More from Noise Theorem at noisetheorem.com and soundcloud.com/noisetheorem. (The voice on “Lullabye” is Janet Kownacki’s.)

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Join a Cellular Chorus

At the invitation of Patricia Wolf

Chances are you have more than one internet-accessible device in your home. Gather them together, and pull up the following webpage on each: cellularchorus.com.

Every time you invoke the Cellular Chorus page, a random audio file will be set as the browser’s default. (There are currently 64 different audio files in all.) Then let them play, all of them at once. Move the devices around the room. Don’t let any single device take prominence. Adjust the volume accordingly. Use the pulldown menu or the forward/back buttons to alternate between tracks. Note how the same file will sound different on your rattly old tablet than it does on your brand new laptop, how your humble kitchen speaker can’t hold a candle to your bleeding-edge smartphone.

Now dim the lights. Each instance of sound comes with its own shade of gradated color, like a little handheld Olafur Eliasson installation. Let them illuminate the room. Also note how the sounds work together. This is due to the planning and intent of Patricia Wolf, the Portland, Oregon-based musician who came up with Cellular Chorus, which she describes as “a work of spatialized aleatoric music using smartphones to bring people physically closer to have an interactive and collective experience with light and sound.” (The website was designed and developed by Jaron Heard.)

“The sounds I made are meant to harmonize,” she notes on the site’s info page. “There is no right or wrong way to play them.” Many of the tracks are drones, some electronic in origin (like number 5), others employing the human voice (12). Some (like number 9 and 34) are percussive.

In an email to me, Wolf explained a bit more about the project’s origin, about how the cold Northwest winter inspired her to employ a tool of online social activity, the smartphone (hence the name of the piece), to bring people together in person.

So now use one of your devices to get in touch with some friends. Have them over, and get them all to use cellularchorus.com at once, together.

More from Patricia Wolf at instagram.com/patriciawolf_music, where recent videos have highlighted footage of the Cellular Chorus in action, and at soundcloud.com/patriciawolf_music. More from Jaron Heard at jaronheard.com.

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