One highlight of last year’s San Francisco Electronic Music Festival was a disarmingly simple set on the part of local musician Marc Kate. While many participants in the annual festival bring a richly performative aspect to their work, not to mention a range of devices, Kate sat behind a single Prophet 12 synthesizer atop a card table. I reviewed the concert series that year for The Wire, noting that Kate “plays stately, increasingly lacerated chords.” There were a lot of performers in 2019 and only a little room in the review, so that’s all Kate got in the piece. Now he’s uploaded the performance, all 20 minutes, giving it a larger audience than it did that evening. When you listen, and you should, do pay attention around the halfway mark. That’s when the piece, which bears admirable qualities of the Blade Runner score, transitions from gentle atmospherics to threatening ones, from chamber music to something far more orchestral. Early on, the tones are not necessarily comforting, but the drones have a sleepy quality, with hints of the depth of night, the undercurrent of something wicked coming this way. Then the wickedness arrives, and does it ever. The second half is full of climatic (and climactic) tumult, the force and bluster of a raging storm, combined with the anxiety of an alien invasion. It’s a pretty masterful performance.
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.
• 0460 / Creative Destruction / The Assignment: Show how you got to a tortured sound.
• 0459 / From a Distance / The Assignment: Make music intended to be heard from afar.
• 0458 / Phrase Shift / The Assignment: Make music in a sequence of parts with shared elements.
• 0457 / System Alert / The Assignment: Compose sounds for an OS.
• 0456 / Line Up / The Assignment: Interpret a painting by Agnes Martin as if it were a graphic score.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 460 consecutive weeks to date.
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