Nathan McLaughlin’s performance this Sunday was a highlight of a weekend packed with free live online shows. There are many more such shows to come during our time of widely distributed isolation, and I recommend not only a listen to his gig, if reflective solo guitar sounds up your alley — but also one if you’re planning on playing live online yourself. He does so much, so simply, and (audio glitches in the archived transmission aside) with enviable concentration, that it’s a model for such a thing as destination viewing. The video is just him, in a wooden chair, with an acoustic guitar in hand, and enough (largely off-screen, though there is a reel-to-reel machine rolling along against the wall) equipment to lend his already raga-like playing a nimbus of graceful echoing. There’s a clear aesthetic connection between his minimalist finger-picking and the hall of sonic mirrors in which it occurs — so clear that the two factors in fact blend together. Close to the end, he ruptures the fabric of performance by stopping his picking. He turns the guitar up in his lap, as a recording of his playing plays on. And then he takes a bow to the strings, and creates a drone that consumes all that came before, and then he gets up from the chair and walks off-screen, leaving the drone to drone, until he slips back in to lower the volume to a finish. I’ve been listening to and writing about Nathan McLaughlin’s music at least since January 2006, back when he went by the name Doogie, and, at least to my ears, he’s never sounded more thoughtful and focused.
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).
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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.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 465 consecutive weeks to date.
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