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Some Favorite Junto Projects from the First 499

In advance of the 500th project

The 500th project is coming up very soon. This seems confusing to me, because January 2012 doesn’t seem that long ago. The last Thursday of July will be the 500th Junto project, and then this coming January 2022 will mark the Junto’s 10th anniversary. Even though we occasionally repeat projects, 500 makes it difficult to choose favorites. I love the very first project, which is now the project we do the first week of every year: to record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it. In recent years, we’ve done a project where we create asynchronous trios over the course of three weeks. First someone records a solo, then the next week someone else records a second layer that turns it into a duet, but both individuals know to leave room for a third musician who will, the third and final week of the sequence, turn it into a trio. I marvel at the results every time we do this project, especially when there are multiple trios based on the same duet. Those two projects are among my favorites, which is why we now do them annually.

Other favorites include when we had, separately, the novelists Richard Kadrey and Malka Older record themselves reading their own fiction, and then the musicians sampled the sounds of the authors’ voices and made scores and sound design for the fiction from the voices. I don’t actually listen to a lot of music with voices in it, but I am still very interested in voices, and these projects with Kadrey and Older helped us get inside their voices, both literally and figuratively.

Another favorite was proposed by Brian Crabtree, best known for the Monome Grid instrument, who shared a technique of his: record a simple, brief, loopable moment many times, without a metronome, and then layer them atop each other. The result is just beautiful, this quavering quality that you end up with. One final favorite: We did a great project that was displayed in the San Jose Museum of Art for its 45th anniversary, in which members of the Junto each composed a score for the same video footage, and the visitors to the museum experienced how different the video felt depending on which piece of music played, an eye-opening experience for the viewers and the musicians, alike. We’ve done so many projects, it’s hard to choose.

The above originated as my answer to interconnected questions (“You’re approaching 500 installments in the series so far, right? Are there any moments that especially stand out in your memory of all these years? Pieces that floored you? Prompts that were particularly fruitful? If so, why do they stick with you so much?”) posed to me by Colin Joyce for an article he wrote for the online publication I Heard It In A Magazine (hii-mag.com).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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