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 (hii-mag.com).