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.

Monthly Archives: February 2021

Live, if Mechanized

An automated place by Tobias Karlehag

It’s simply plastic, wood, and metal, with the midday world just outside a clear plate of glass, and yet the sound is that of a welcoming place, perhaps a fictional one, perhaps one in a sonic terrarium, structured just right, so as to have the desired effect — peaceful, inviting, blood-pressure-reducing — but a place nonetheless. This is Tobias Karlehag’s 12-minute automated recording, a synthesizer set to work and not once intruded upon by human hands. There’s depth here, tiny sounds echoing space while in the near we hear textured washes and melancholy tones. Though this is a live, if mechanized, performance, it could virtually be a still image were there not occasional bits of movement: a passerby, a light going on and off and on again, a small display dimly registering change. But change happens, in the music and the visual alike, more often than it might initially appear.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine live performance of ambient music. Video originally posted on YouTube. More from Tobias Karlehag, who is based in Gothenburg, Sweden, at and

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OK, Giggle

Or the three-second Groundhog Day

Voice AI mini-nightmares are common enough to be generic, yet each can be a marvel when experienced firsthand. I was driving, using Google Maps to advise me where to go. (I say “advise” because Google Maps seems to think unprotected left turns are a breeze.) Then this happened:

While driving, I had an audiobook playing. At some point, the voice actor / narrator said someone giggled. That was the word: “giggle.” For whatever reason (can’t imagine why), the voice AI in the phone experienced this word as a trigger, paused the audiobook, and asked me what I wanted help with. The AI eventually got the clue that I hadn’t summoned it, and the phone returned to the audiobook. One great thing about this system is when the audiobook came back, it had backed up a bit. Except (yeah, you see this coming, ’cause you’re smarter than the AI) what happened was:

It had rewound, so to speak, to just prior to word “giggle” so the whole thing repeated: The AI thought it was a call to attention, asked how it could make my life easier, and then I waited. Then it got the hint and the audiobook started all over: giggle, prompt, silence, repeat.

giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence …

Ok, maybe not that many times.

I kept thinking: maybe at some point it’ll rewind a little less far, and this won’t happen. Nope. So, I got, yeah, a tad frustrated. I took slow, deep breaths. I reflected on the glories of our age. I pondered Roko’s Basilisk. And then I said, angrily, “I can’t stand this.” And then Google Maps said it could help. Having misheard (miss-machine-listened-to, or is it machined-listen?) the word “stand,” it offered to reroute me to a dry cleaner that could deal with the “stain” I had mentioned.

At least when the audiobook started up again, somehow it had jumped past the giggle, so I was out of that three-second Groundhog Day. As for me, I’m still learning to laugh at the situation.

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Current Favorites: Synth, Cello, Code

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.

▰ Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire” combines live cello with synthesizer accompaniment, the blinking lights matching his four strings drone for drone.

▰ I caught Chiho Oka’s set during the recent No Bounds Festival event (a livestream), hosted by algorave figure Alex McLean, and several of the pieces she performed then are on her forthcoming album, Manipulating Automated Manipulated Automation. The record isn’t due out until February 28, but four tracks are already streaming, and they evidence the combination of rigor, humor, and pathos she brings to her work.

▰ Omri Cohen’s Meditation Spores is deep-synthesis ambient, brimming with digital artifice, and vibrant in its doleful melodic lines and tonal processing.

Tags: , , , / Comment: 1 ] Slough, pentatonic, Stravinsky

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made at (which I think of as my public notebook) that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here. Some tweets pop up on sooner than I get around to collating them, so I leave them out of the weekly round-up. It’s usually personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud, especially these days, when a week can feel both like a year and like nothing whatsoever has happened or changed.

▰ Yes, I’m enjoying the new Mick Herron novel, Slough House (seventh in the Slow Horses series).

▰ Close-up of the speaker grate on the back of a battery-operated alarm clock. The speaker grate is 7 millimeters in diameter. (Insert grating joke here.)

▰ As someone who lived in New Orleans for four years, I appreciate that Mutable Instruments released a new module named Beads on Fat Tuesday.

▰ Today in guitar class pentatonic education. (Jeff Rona joked in reply: “A potentially great companion to my upcoming book ‘5 Things I Like About the Pentatonic Scale'”)

▰ Alternately alarmed and amused by (while also trying to focus on some still hazy metaphorical meaning to) the idea that it is mid-February 2021 and my phone claims to not recognize this word

▰ Nothing says “frictionless user experience” like a button that reads “Sign up with SAML SSO”

▰ 8:12am sounds: hour and a half in, the house still creaking as it warms; mechanical whir in the distance; interior echo of something a neighbor has dropped; white noise of cars passing in opposite directions (clearly one ignored the stop sign); hum of refrigerator two rooms away

▰ That moment when you’re using an online tool to sign something and the automated signature looks like Ralph Steadman scribbled it while under the weather

▰ “Random method generates the same numbers” is my kinda first thread to read on a music message board in the morning over coffee

▰ Today I learned that the modernist squiggle that’s always featured on the cover of the journal Perspectives of New Music was a scribble by Igor Stravinsky. (And they all look like Alexander Girard sketches to me.)

▰ Favorite Yoko Ono factoid: she was apparently Kobo Abe’s translator the first time he visited America. Happy 88th birthday to her.

▰ The new TV series Debris (starting March 1, at least in the U.S.) looks like someone sneaked in at night and asked me while I was sleeping what I wanna watch once a week. Which means that like Counterpart, Intelligence (the one with Ian Tracey), and Travelers it’ll have a short run. Maybe it’ll last as long as Fringe, which it most resembles.

▰ Just proofread some liner notes I wrote. Very excited for when this physical object is released into the world.

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Fleming’s Automated Fantasia

Illuminated by a cathode-ray tube

Femi Fleming’s is a YouTube channel to keep track of. It’s regularly updated with electronic music that pushes at different areas, some noise, some beat-oriented, a lot of atmospheres. In another era something like this, which falls in the atmosphere zone, might have been titled “Minuet for Cello and Piano,” but the year is 2021 and the available instrumental colors have broadened considerably. So instead, this is “Ambient Live Looping Drone with Eurorack and Elektron Octatrack.” Illuminated by a cathode-ray tube TV set to glitchily stun, the devices do all the work while Fleming remains off camera, having set it up, pressed go, and removed himself from the mise en scène. Dense tones collide like nothing so much as a fantasia of big city traffic, all muted honking and the echo of tall boulevards. It begins and ends suddenly, suggesting both it’s part of a bigger work, and also that the segment is of something automated that Fleming determined showed the overall setup in its best light.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine live performance of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube. More from Fleming, a student at RISD, at

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