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: October 2021

Some Memories of Media, Part 1 (Slight Revision)

Note on notes

This is just a note, for anyone who primarily reads via RSS, that the post I made yesterday, “Some Memories of Media,” underwent some minor revisions this morning.

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Some Memories of Media

From LPs through the arrival of the CD

I heard a song on the radio, turned off the radio, walked downstairs, put on my sneakers, and walked to town, a little over half a mile. The record store didn’t have the record. The owner of the store had never heard of the record even though I’d just heard it on the radio. Then I walked home.

I heard a record had come out. I walked to the bus, and then got on the bus, and three and a half miles later got off the bus, and went through the mall to find the record store, and then found the record. I brought the record home, pulled off the thin cellophane wrapper, pulled the sleeve out, cupped the vinyl’s edge in my hand, tipped the LP onto the record player, lowered the needle, and turned up the volume. Other than the single, which wasn’t particularly good, it wasn’t good at all. In another week or two I could afford another record.

My parents dropped me off at the train station, where my friend was waiting. It was the weekend, and we took the train into the city, the two of us, and then walked a mile and a half or so downtown and wandered amid the shops, looking for record stores whose addresses we half remembered. With no small amount of anxiety, we went into the stores, braving the withering indifference of the clerks, and flipped through bins looking not so much for something to buy as for the one or two things we’d choose to buy out of all the things that were of interest. We’d then carry those LPs with us for the remainder of the day, cushioning them while eating falafel or hot dogs, stowing them carefully on the train ride home, and the next day actually getting to listen to them. I’d keep the receipts for the totems they were.

Sometimes I would tape a record for a friend, and vice versa. One friend taped over something else, and I fretted, perhaps too aggressively, about the reduction in quality due to reuse. Tapes weren’t cheap, but they were cheaper than LPs. It felt odd to have a collection split among two media, but that’s the way it was. One band in particular sounded much better on dubbed tapes than when I finally bought the vinyl. I realized it was because my friend’s tape deck taped a little fast. I’ve always preferred the quicker take, and have tried to emulate it with MP3s and other digital recordings.

College arrived, and there were two record stores very close to my dorm for two out of the four years. One, on the second floor, had new arrivals of used records seemingly every day. Someone without much taste or sense was receiving remarkable records from record companies and immediately selling them to the store. I would buy many of these records. I wondered if this person was one of my professors. Eventually I, too, would trade in records in exchange for other records, but for the time being this was one-way transaction. The idea that records were (in addition to being a repository of sound) a form of currency, or perhaps even an asset, was still new to me. I’d never become a collector, in the sense I understood the word, but the records certainly accumulated.

CDs arrived and were, immediately, in a different league, and time passed before many were available used. These cost real money. They came inside plastic boxes that were, for a time, put inside long cardboard boxes, called longboxes, that were when put side by side the width, essentially, of an LP. The geometry facilitated slotting them into bins in record stores. Over time the amount of space for LPs shrunk, and CDs filled their place. But that took several years. CDs were both more reliable (they didn’t scratch or decay through regular usage like LPs and cassettes did) and yet more precious (due to their price, their shiny materials, and the way their cases had a tendency to break).

At first, I bought a new CD like it was a piece of jewelry or furniture, even though I didn’t own any jewelry or furniture. A few CDs sat side by side on the shelf above my desk. Their plastic spines caught the reflection of the sun at certain times of the day. When I bought my first CD, I didn’t even own a CD player. I had to go to the room of someone I didn’t even know very well and listen to it there. Eventually I got a CD player at a ridiculously low price (crazy, you might say) at a store that liked to have what it called “Christmas in August” sales. The owner would eventually serve time for financial crimes. With the exception of that first CD I bought, which was available only on CD, all the others I initially purchased were of records I already owned on LP or tape. They had qualities that made me want to hear them in the pristine vacuum of digital sound. I was not disappointed.

We lived in the city now. College had come and gone. We knew where the record stores were, every one of them. Halfway down this block, around the corner from that train stop, up above that shop. We would flip through the bins and buy records other people had discarded. We bought used records. New records were another tax bracket entirely. There was a filter on our available purchases: We bought what others no longer wanted. Some of these records were stamped with little bits of legalese claiming the record label could, at any point, come take the album back. Many had little slits in the covers that reduced their value, though for whom I did not know, because the slits meant nothing to me. Some actually were used, rather than promotional copies someone had exchanged. The worn ones had to be inspected carefully. Some were past their sell-by date. I learned to ascertain with a glance what was and wasn’t playable. Sometimes I messed up, but the records were pretty cheap used, so it rarely mattered. Again, I wasn’t collecting records; I was accessing music. Those actions weren’t unrelated, but they weren’t the same thing, either.

The first holiday season after college ended, my bosses at my first job, a graphic design company, gave me a tiny little cassette player as a year-end bonus even though I’d only worked there for a few months. It was barely larger than the case in which a cassette came, excepting the slot reserved for battery power. It was made of metal. It wasn’t the most expensive thing I owned at the time, but it was the most expensive thing I owned pound for pound. I carried it everywhere, and treated it carefully. For the first time, I had reason to tape my own records for myself, rather than to exchange with someone else. The change in size of the cassette player that rendered it portable thus utterly altered my sense of what a cassette tape was, what it was for. Now it was for me in a more personal way. The portable player, which some friends had had versions of for years, was no longer theoretical to me; it transformed music (almost certainly triggering my interest, ever since, in what many would term background music) by transforming the utility of the tape cassette. I would record a record I liked a lot, and then listen to it while wandering the city, while waiting for the train, while concentrating at work. The metal was cool to the touch, its edges were sharp, and I’d feel the tape rotating as it played, the gears and other parts vibrating, emanating a rhythm entirely apart from that of the music.

Note: This was published on October 25, but some edits were implemented early on October 26.

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Mike Dayton’s Music for Scarier People

In time for Halloween

Get your Halloween on early with Mike Dayton’s Scarier Music for Even Scarier People, a 12-track collection that is part Radiophonic Workshop alien invasion, part Blair Witch Project quotidian horror. The mix of whirligig synthesizers and everyday noise, of whizzy scifi sound effects and the creaking and scraping of your worst home-alone nightmares, is the perfect soundtrack for the upcoming annual festivities and, you might say, every other day, as well. Definitely check out the overwhelming choral onslaught of “Otherworldly Assemblage,” interrupted by anxiety-provoking stuttering that is, as time passes, totally consumed by the drone.

More from Dayton, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at

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Current Favorites: Score, Drone, Cover

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.

▰ The score to a short film, Jim of Earth, composed by Coma Calling, aka Kyle Cramb of Wichita, Kansas. Some richly suggestive atmospheres, full of tension and narrative.

▰ Three tracks by mora-tau, aka Takenori Iwasaki of Utsunomiya, Japan, comprise the album Memorial. The key track is the opening one, “Into Secret,” an 18-minute drone with varying textures.

▰ A synthesizer cover of Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” by Perplex On (based in Munich, Germany), with a musicbox-like quality to it:

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From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating most of the tweets I made the past week 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.

▰ “Things never sounded like what they were: guns, fire. Everything terrible sounded much more innocent.”

I finished Alison Stine’s novel Road out of Winter. I read too many books where plot takes precedence and there’s barely a memorable phrase. Stine layers description meaningfully. The above is a good example, in that the narrator (on the road during anarchic societal breakdown following intense climate change) herself employs description to communicate, not just to set to scene but to connect back to earlier moments in the telling.

▰ “I think it’s gonna be a long long time”

Nothing like being trolled by hold music.

▰ Quality customer service from Empress Effects:

▰ Only upon returning home did I fully appreciate how friggin’ loud the hotel’s HVAC was.

▰ Hears sound from other room.

Thinks, “Huh, I don’t listen to a lot of music with singers, but that sounds pretty great.”

Goes into room.

Learns the “singer” I heard was, in fact, an electric pencil sharpener.

▰ I’m fairly certain Silverview is the first John le Carré novel with a smiley face emoji in it. (As someone replied via Twitter, we’ve moved from George Smiley, who first appeared exactly 60 years ago in Call for the Dead, to a smiley face.)

▰ This week’s Disquiet Junto project is about, in a sense, serial composition, though not in the sense that we generally mean serial composition (that is, not in the Schoenberg sense). Instructions went out, as always, via

▰ Thanks to my friend Bart Beaty for having alerted me to this. I love when an Onion headline is arguably even more interesting when you get past the humor: “Composer Surrounded by Discarded Sheet Music Suddenly Perks Up at Sound of Rhythm of the City” (

▰ It’s barely rained in years here.

I’ve watched endless hours of YouTube videos of people walking around in the rain over the past few years.

It’s raining right now.

So, somewhere in the back of my head, I feel like there’s a large YouTube video shoot going on outside.

▰ Four albums you were obsessed with in high school: King Crimson’s Discipline, Fun Boy Three’s Waiting, Violent Femmes’ debut, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Limiting to four was hard ’cause I was so obsessed. The pool for obsession was small compared to today. Those are what came to mind before bed. I slept on it before posting. Also: Let It Be, Double Fantasy, Face Dances, Security, Mr Tambourine Man, 90125, and on and on.

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