Cables, Triads, Surrealism

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating recent tweets I made at, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form or otherwise) on sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

▰ Been re-watching Downton Abbey and thinking about the way it maps the adoption of technology as time passes (electric lights, cars, a blender, a radio), and was about to tweet a quote (“Mrs. Patmore is not what you’d call a futurist”), only to find when I searched Google that I had done so when it first aired. Later: “Why is it called a wireless when there are so many wires?” This is something said by Daisy when a radio is brought into the house for the first time, thanks to the king being due to make a broadcast announcement.

▰ Guitar class update: I haven’t been this into triads since I was addicted to Hong Kong crime movies.

▰ “Your gift is quite destructive but look at the music you can make.” (Been re-watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

▰ I think there is an insect crawling slowly across my phone’s upturned face. It is the reflection a bird hovering outside the window.

▰ The term “Surrealism Tycoon” is certainly my kinda headline clickbait. And this is totally the raw material for a sequel to China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris: “Arturo Schwarz, Refugee Who Became a Surrealism Tycoon, Dies at 97,” via

▰ Guessing this bypassed “United States Sells Unique Wu-Tang Clan Album Forfeited by Convicted Hedge Fund Manager Martin Shkreli”

▰ My favorite pithy summary of the Disquiet Junto music community is Ethan Hein’s. He said in effect that I write record reviews of music that doesn’t exist yet and then internet strangers make it real. I’m not sure I could improve on that. The 500th weekly project begins July 29.

▰ “I blink with fatigue, and my eyelashes make an infinitesimal, inaudible sound against the felt whiteness of the pillows slope.” Been thinking about @espejoacustico‘s suggestion we finally get around to a proper Pessoa-themed Junto project. It is the Disquiet Junto, after all.

▰ I highly recommend the Take5 email from the Japan Times ( a free (English) daily newsletter of five top stories, a glimpse into what’s happening. I wish more newspapers from countries where I don’t read the language did it. Maybe they do. Any recommendations?

▰ There are days when using the browser interface for the New York Times crossword is like pushing back on a ouija board against a particularly strident spirit.

▰ Cool. There’s a new entry, all about the Disquiet Junto, on the ever-growing Music Games Wiki:

▰ Yes, but when do we get the 5-CD expanded box set of George Harrison’s Electric Sound album?

▰ Tinyletter has become a drag, which is part of why I haven’t published a This Week in Sound email in quite a while. I’m looking to switch to Buttondown or an alternative. Trying out some options. So far, Buttondown seems pretty cool.

▰ It was a week:

🗹 buncha work
🗹 longform writing
🗹 cheating on longform writing
🗹 Disquiet daily
🗹 Junto 500
🗹 guitar study
🗹 exercise
🗹 gallery review filed
☐ email catch-up
🗹 home office remedies (standing)
🗹 digital tool revisions (newsletter)
🗹 sign off til Monday

Disquiet Junto Project 0500: Humming to Your Selves

The Assignment: Play a tune by yourself and as if by two people whom you invent.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, August 2, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 500: Humming to Your Selves
The Assignment: Play a tune by yourself and as if by two people whom you invent.

It was Kamen Nedev of Madrid, Spain, who suggested via Twitter that after all this time we do a proper Disquiet Junto project inspired by the late poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935).

Step 1: Create two alternate identities, people other than yourself. Each of these two people should be musicians, and they should be strikingly different from you and from each other.

Step 2: For each of the two people you invented in Step 1, fill in their background. Think about where are they from, what are their interests, what sort of music do they make?

Step 3: Record a piece of music in which a tune of your choosing is played three times in a row. The first time it is played as you might play. The second time it is played by the first of the two personalities you developed in the previous two steps. The third time it is played by the second of those two personalities.

Additional Background: This week’s project is inspired by the work of Fernando Pessoa. You don’t need to know much about him to participate, thought it’s highly recommended that in the future you learn more about his writing and his legacy. A key thing to understand about Pessoa is his concept of the “heteronym.” Pessoa wrote from numerous points of view, and for each he developed a unique persona. These were, as Richard Zenith writes in his new biography of Pessoa, more than pseudonyms. These weren’t merely alternate names under which a person published work. They were alternate names under which Pessoa published work that was unique to each of those names, because they weren’t merely names. They were individual identities that inhabited his imagination. There is much that is remarkable about the work and life of Fernando Pessoa, not least of which is that his family name translates into English, from his native Portuguese, as the word “person.”

Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet (Livro do Desassossego) was the inspiration for when I launched the website in 1996, and the name in turn lent itself to the Junto when I proposed the first project during the first week of January 2012. The 10th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto will occur this coming January 2022. The word Junto was borrowed from Benjamin Franklin’s Junto society, which he formed in 1727 for “mutual self-improvement,” an aspiration carried on by our Junto. Perhaps in six years we can celebrate the tricentennial of Franklin’s Junto.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0500” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0500” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #DisquietJunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Note: Please post one track per weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, August 2, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

Length: The length of your finished track is up to you (to all three of you).

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0500” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 500th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Humming to Your Selves (The Assignment: Play a tune by yourself and as if by two people whom you invent) — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this project is by aesthetics of crisis, and used thanks to Flickr and a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:

How Junto Prompts Originate

In advance of the 500th project

A key thing about the Disquiet Junto prompts is that just about any participant can do them at any point, and do so alone. A new project is posted every Thursday, and the deadline is the following Monday at 11:59pm, whatever local time zone you’re in. By definition, I don’t want someone logging on at midnight on a Sunday and realizing there were steps that required more time than they have left before the deadline. So, every project has to be a standalone and doable in a pretty short amount of time, though of course people can spend more time if they choose to.

The majority of projects are reverse-engineered from observations I have had. I might see a story in the science pages about some matter of physics, or a line in a novel where sound plays a role in the story, or a descriptive passage in a review of a record, and then I will wonder, “How can I flip that around so it’s a description in advance, rather than after the fact?” Ethan Hein, a longtime participant who has written at length about the Junto himself, put it particularly well. He said in effect that I write record reviews of music that doesn’t exist yet, and then internet strangers make it real. I couldn’t improve on that.

Also, a lot of the projects come from collaborations with members of the Junto, and artists, writers, and other creative individuals.

Hard to say what makes a good one. Participation varies widely by week, from the low teens to the low seventies, in terms of number of musicians. Some of the least active projects have resulted in some of my favorite music, so it’s not really about quantity. I will say that a given project is good enough for a given week not only because it stands on its own but because it makes sense in a broader context, which is to say how it relates to other projects we’ve done recently, and that we’ll do in the near future. I feel a bit like a DJ that way. The Junto is an ongoing flow of projects, and where a project is situated in that flow is as meaningful as what the project consists of.

The above originated as my answer to a pair of questions (“How do you come up with the prompts for the pieces? What makes for a good one?”) posed to me by Colin Joyce for an article he wrote for the online publication I Heard It In A Magazine (

Junto: Work Is What Is Important

In advance of the 500th project

I think inspiration is overrated; I think work is what is important. You can only make music if you make music. You can only paint if you paint. You can only write if you write. If you make music, then when you are done you have made music. If you don’t, you won’t have. In general, you won’t get better at it, or at anything else, unless you do it. And so you do it. I think being inspired really happens in the midst of work, not before the work. You might not even feel all that good when you’re done, and you may not even realize that you were inspired until much later. So, you start working and at some point you feel inspired, and then you go from there. And even if you don’t feel inspired, you keep going.

The Junto prompts are sometimes called inspirations, but they’re not intended as such. They’re practical. They’re intended as projects to do, so that in the process you will at least have made music, certainly have exercised your skills, and maybe learned something along the way you can apply at a future date. Perhaps you’ll feel inspired, too, but I think concerns about inspiration can be a detriment to creativity. Inspiration suggests, to me, some sort of pleasurable dopamine experience, like an epiphany. That’s great if it happens, but it should be a byproduct, not a goal, and certainly not expected as a starting point. Anyone who waits to be inspired before doing something isn’t going to do much, and they’re likely setting themselves up for disappointment.

I teach my students about keeping a sound journal. If they write about sound four days a week, if they dedicate themselves to it, then by the end of the semester, they’ll be a lot better at it. One of the key things I tell them is that if you don’t know what to write, then start the journal entry by writing, “I don’t know what to write and” and then continue from there. What, then, is the musical equivalent of a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen? There isn’t a direct comparison in music. You can play chords and improvise on and with them. You can record sound and play with it. But many people need more than that, which is fine. The point of the Disquiet Junto is that it’s there when you have time and interest, every week, from Thursday to Monday. It gives you a project to complete, and along the way you may get inspired, or you may just improve your muscle memory, or your workflow.

And if nothing else, there are some interesting people you might meet online, and in person, along the way. This relates to one other key thing I’ll say about inspiration: for a lot of people, it helps to know someone else is doing what you’re doing at the same time, even if they’re doing it separately. It’s the reason lots of people sit in coffee shops or libraries, or hang out on social media while working from home. For young children, this is called parallel play, but it works for adults, too. Even doing something at a distance alone at home, knowing someone else is doing the same Junto project is a form of parallel play. I think that factor is essential to the Junto’s existence and its utility.

The above originated as my answer to questions (“What do you feel like you’ve learned about music-making or the process of inspiration through all the years of helming this project? I imagine you must have some interesting takeaways after seeing how all these different people respond to all these different ideas?”) posed to me by Colin Joyce for an article he wrote for the online publication I Heard It In A Magazine (