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.

How We Listen

And the failed promise of files

How we listen to music in 2020 differs significantly from how it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. And it differs from how we’ll listen in the future, doubtlessly. Over at an online, public discussion board where I regularly participate, someone introduced a conversation about how we listen right now. My initial sense was I listen on varied services today, whereas during the distant past of relative youth my listening was more unified. Then I began to do some forensics — that is, I thought before I typed my contribution to the discussion — and what I found differed from what I expected:

The Past: When I was growing up, I listened through four main ways: (1) the AM/FM radio in my bedroom, (2) the boombox cassette player (later with an LP player hooked into it) in my bedroom, (3) my parents’ LP/cassette player in the living room, and (4) MTV on the living room television. (Eventually a cassette Walkman and a CD player joined the mix. And later on: a CD Walkman.)

The Present: I set down that list to contrast it with the present. By definition, the present is more in flux than the past. These days, I note, it’s easier to categorize my listening habit by technology than by location. Someone replied in that same discussion that the transition “from place-based listening to product-based listening” is worth reflecting on. I agreed: I think the phone and the laptop are my main sources of distancing from music listening in this regard. Locations have disappeared because there is no spatial distinction. Sitting in the living room without either my phone or my laptop is a luxury I rarely take up — outside the house, even less so. By way of example, I typed my part of that chat on my phone as I walked to the barbershop. (For further example, three people at the barbershop were playing some racing game together on their own phones, as if the barbershop were their living room.) In any case, what follows is where my listening habit stands in mid-February 2020. It may change. It will. And I do need to treat my living room more like a cultural Faraday cage.

Laptop: Browser (SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, etc.), plus a desktop Google Play Music (GPM gets me ad-free YouTube) application, plus an endless array of files that I have long since failed to keep organized. I play the files in VLC. (I would like something less clunky looking than VLC.) And there’s a CD player hooked up to my laptop, though I use it less to listen directly than to rip files (FLAC, thanks for asking) that I then listen to.

Phone: Same as laptop, minus the files (and less frequent SoundCloud).

iPad: Same as phone. (I have also gotten into setting up wholly unoriginal, very simple generative stuff that I think of as the semi-intentional releases of the software developers, but that’s a side topic.)

Other: Stereo in living room (LP, CD, cassette — though the cassette player is unplugged at the moment due to spatial constraints).

Notable Absence: I don’t really listen to podcasts. This may or may not relate to the fact that I don’t really listen to much music with words/voices in it. I do listen to a lot of audiobooks.

The Future: I am fine listening in lots of different places and formats. To be clear: I’m not really in any major way disappointed in my listening habits. The primary corrective fixation I have is the failed promise of digital files. I have a ton, and do not revisit them the way I do other formats. I want to have a better handle on my file-based listening. I’ve been on the hunt for a good cross-platform (iOS, Android, Windows in my current case, though it’ll inevitably change) options. I sometimes think a standalone portable device is a good idea for me. The MP3 player, once ubiquitous, is now such an antiquated concept that when I ponder it, my brain translates it into “a Kindle for music.” (I don’t have a Kindle. I’m waiting for when the Paperwhite gets the inevitable upgrade to adjustable warm light.) That said, I don’t really want to carry one more thing.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comments: 2 ]


  1. J Simon van der Walt
    [ Posted February 22, 2020, at 9:56 pm ]

    Does listening to music played live by musicians count as ‘listening’? Does listening to myself making music count as ‘listening’?

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted February 23, 2020, at 7:50 am ]

      Certainly. I hope it’s pretty clear I’m talking about prerecorded music, but like I note in the bit up above about generative music in iOS apps, ultimately any discussion of listening can be folded in. My emphasis here, though, is prerecorded music: fixed documents, as it were, arguably with an emphasis on “longform,” in contemporary terms, or its precedent term: the long-playing record album (aka LP). That’s what the initial discussion forum was about, and that’s where my head’s at.

      I can’t say I spend a heap of time watching live streams of people performing, even though the YouTube accounts I follow do prompt and tempt me frequently. I do, though, watch some of those live sets after the fact, which gets at temporal blurring akin to the locative blurring mentioned in the piece. All of which said, if one’s primary experience of listening these days is solely live at concerts, that’s awesome, but sort of apart from what I’m exploring.

      And I’ve been taking guitar lessons for two years, and fiddling with a modular synth for half a decade or so. They’re a big part of my life, and I think I’d put them adjacent to rather than within this discussion. But that’s just me.

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, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of
    • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
    • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly ( at Gray Area (
    • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of 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

  • 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

  • 0544 / Feedback Loop / The Assignment: Share music-in-progress for input from others.
    0543 / Technique Check / The Assignment: Share a tip from your method toolbox.
    0542 / 2600 Club / The Assignment: Make some phreaking music.
    0541 / 10BPM Techno / The Assignment: Make some snail-paced beats.
    0540 / 5ive 4our / The Assignment: Take back 5/4 for Jedi time masters Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.

  • Full Index
    And there is a complete list of past projects, 544 consecutive weeks to date.

  • Archives

    By month and by topic

  • [email protected]

    [email protected]

  • Downstream

    Recommended listening each weekday

  • Recent Posts