Granular synthesis lends itself to music that is at once majestic and circumspect. By capturing the tiniest slivers of sound and holding them for extended moments, it puts the listener in a place akin to near stasis: not frozen, but froze-ish. It gives your ears the chance to luxuriate, and contemplate, sound as a surrounding expanse. The mingling of experiences, when implemented well, can balance the breadth of a landscape painting with the focus of a haiku. The new album You Were Away by Stray Wool is well implemented in this regard. Its four tracks — some a leisurely five minutes, others nearly twice that length — take their time, and ours, to explore crevices within piano samples and, presumably, other sources. The results range widely between emotional states. The collection opens (“A1”) with what sounds, at times, like fog horns pushed to the breaking point, and ends with platonic ideal of pastoral ambience (“B2”). For all the slow motion, though, it is not without a sense of humor. The penultimate track, “B1,” begins with a sample of what appears to be an ethnographic researcher interviewing a musician who performs Celtic mouth music: “There are no instruments at all?” we hear her ask in amazement. The piece then moves forward like metal being bent by a powerful force, moaning under the pressure. Depends, apparently, on your definition of “instrument.”
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com 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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming 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.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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: disquiet.com/junto.
• 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).
Most Recent Posts
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.
• 0431 / Solitary Ensembles x 3 / The Assignment: Complete a trio by adding a track to an existing duet by two other musicians.
• 0430 / Solitary Ensembles x 2 / The Assignment: Record the second third of a trio that others will complete.
• 0429 / Solitary Ensembles / The Assignment: Record the first third of a trio that others will complete.
• 0428 / Urban Moss / The Assignment: What echoes of past concerts are retained within this pole?
• 0427 / Music 4 Airplanes / The Assignment: Make music that blends in with the industrial drone of modern air flight.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 431 consecutive weeks to date.
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