Sound Ledger¹ (Fish Heads, MIT Ears)

Audio culture by the numbers

155,000,000: The estimated number of years ago that that sound production appeared in ray-finned fishes

33: The number of times sound evolved separately in the fish family tree

1,500: The number of virtual models of human listening developed by MIT neural network researchers in order to train an AI to spatially locate sound much as people do

¹Footnotes: Fish: MIT: (Via Paul Roquet).

Originally published in the January 31, 2022, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter

Kobo Abe’s Synthesizer

And a Twitter translation

My favorite things have aligned. Here’s a video, from 1985, of Japanese novelist Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes, The Ark Sakura) talking about his synthesizer, an EMS Synthi AKS, as part of his efforts in the theater. (I recommend Nancy Shields’ book Fake Fish: The Theater of Kobo Abe if that aspect of Abe’s output is of interest.) I worked in manga for five years and the only word I recognize is “ongaku” but that’s on me. Fortunately, the Japanese musician NRV (aka Nerve, aka Manabu Ito) generously posted this translation of it in reply to my initial tweet.

Kobo Abe: This is…

Interviewer: A synthesizer?

KL Yes, that’s right. You know, I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but… When you’re doing a play, if you ask a composer to do it, the music is done at the last minute. In the worst case, the music is not ready until the stage rehearsal. In my case, it’s not good if the music doesn’t come first. I’m an amateur, but I thought if I could manage it myself, so I started to make music by buying these things. So from a certain point, I’ve been adding my own music to all my plays.

I: So you have a piece of work, could you play it?

K: Yes, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call it a work, but I make various sources.

I: Sound sources?

K: Yes. And I put them together in various ways.

I: So it’s a work of chance?

K: A kind of, and sometimes I get interesting sounds. Would you like to have a listen?

I: Yes, please.

K: It’s like the sound of a bell, isn’t it? This is a beautiful sound, isn’t it? This is how I make music.

. . .

Update: And in the ongoing discussion on Twitter, Jim Whittemore uploaded this 1976 photo of the U.S. importer of EMS synthesizers, EMSA (EMS America) in Northampton, MA. Credit for the photo goes to Dennis Kelley. Bruford, Syfy, Bleep

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. This isn’t a full accounting. Often there are, for example, conversations on Twitter that don’t really make as much sense out of the context of Twitter itself.

▰ Score. Bill Bruford has his own YouTube channel now. He’s posting old performance clips, lectures, and more.

▰ Got the This Week in Sound email out, fourth week in a row, if a little later in the day on Monday than I hope to be the norm going forward.

▰ As the reboot culture went on and on, I frequently joked about (slash wished for) a remake of a distant childhood memory, the TV series Ark II. When I read about the new Dean Devlin sci-fi (slash Syfy) series (titled: The Ark), I briefly imagined that’s what it is.

▰ My 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II is now available via the mothership,

Disquiet Junto Project 0526: Magic Number (2 of 3)

The Assignment: Record the second third of an asynchronous trio.

Special Note: You may contribute more than one track this week. Usually Junto projects have a one-track-per-participant limit. This week you can do a second one. Please see additional details in Step 5 below.

Answer to Frequent Question: You don’t need to have uploaded a solo in last week’s project to participate in this week’s second phase of the trio sequence.

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, January 31, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 27, 2022.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0526: Magic Number (2 of 3)
The Assignment: Record the second third of an asynchronous trio.

Step 1: This week’s Disquiet Junto project is the second in a sequence intended to encourage and reward asynchronous collaboration. This week you’ll be adding music to a pre-existing track, which you will source from the previous week’s Junto project ( Note that you aren’t creating a duet — you’re creating the second third of what will eventually be a trio. Important: Leave space for what is yet to come.

Step 2: The plan is for you to record a short and original piece of music, on any instrumentation of your choice, as a complement to the pre-existing track. First, however, you must select the piece of music to which you will be adding your own music. There are tracks by numerous musicians to choose from. The majority are in this playlist:

And additional appear in the discussion:

(Note that it’s possible another track or two will pop up in or disappear from that playlist and discussion. Things are fluid on the internet.)

To select a track, you can listen through all those and choose one, or simply look around and select, or you can come up with a random approach to sifting through them.

Note: It’s fine if more than one person uses the same original track as the basis for their piece.

It is strongly encouraged that you look through the above discussion on the Lines forum, because many tracks include additional contextual information there.

Step 3: Record a short piece of music, roughly the length of the piece of music you selected in Step 2. Your track should complement the piece from Step 2, and leave room for an eventual third piece of music. When composing and recording your part, don’t alter the original piece of music at all, except to pan the original fully to the left if it hasn’t been panned left already. In your finished audio track, your new part should be panned fully to the right. To be clear: the track you upload won’t be your piece of music alone; it will be a combination of the track from Step 2 and yours.

Step 4: Also be sure, when done, to make the finished track downloadable, because it will be used by someone else in a subsequent Junto project.

Step 5: You can contribute more than one track this week. Usually Junto projects have a one-track-per-participant limit. You can do up to two total. For the second, it’s appreciated if you try to work with a solo that no one else has used yet ( look at the project’s post on Lines, linked to in these instructions, or to the project playlist, which will be posted here once tracks start coming in). The goal is for many as people as possible to benefit from the experience of being part of an asynchronous collaboration. After a lot of detailed instruction, that is the spirit of this project.

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0526” (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 “disquiet0526” (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.

Step 8: Also join in the discussion on the Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to [email protected] for Slack inclusion.

Note: Please post one track for this 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, January 31, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 27, 2022.

Length: The length should be roughly the same as the solo track you selected.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0526” 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 526th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Magic Number (2 of 3) (The Assignment: Record the second third of an asynchronous trio) — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on