Sound Ledger¹ (Mad, Noise, Toys)

Audio culture by the numbers

18: the largest number of Z’s in a single sound effect in the comics of Don Martin from Mad Magazine (for a buzzing bee)

12,000: number of annual premature deaths in Europe attributable to noise pollution

10: number of dollars, in millions, raised by the manufacturer of an “AI-enabled toy uses voice recognition and natural language processing to help instill good sleep habits in children at night and provide entertainment and educational activities during the day”


Mad:, Europe: Toy:

Originally published in the April 25, 2022, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. Get it in your inbox via

Current Favorites: Trumpet, Melodica, Buddha Machine

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

My 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:

▰ There’s a new album from the late Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo due out next month. It’s two CDs. One CD is all what the label describes as ambient pieces, and here’s a taste:

The second CD is a concert from 2005. Here’s a video of some of it, complete with live painting by Seitaro Kuroda. The band is Kondo (trumpet) + Bill Laswell (bass) + Hideo Yamaki (drums) + Yoshinobu Kojima (keyboards).

Kaori Suzuki’s nearly half-hour “Music for Modified Melodica” exemplifies her penchant for intensity. The overtone overload — the notes note: “Intended for hi-volume listening!” — cycles through like a massive chorus of insects with phenomenal breath control, and I mean that as a high compliment.

▰ With “Transporter,” J Butler reworks a Buddha Machine, singing bowls, and other atmospheric source material along with field recordings into something that sounds like if Brian Eno’s “Apollo” was about a walk in the forest: Noyes, Mingus, BPM

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 sooner in expanded form or otherwise on I’ve found it 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.

▰ I didn’t know until today that (yeah yeah TIL) “Noyes” is pronounced “noise.” A friend visiting Chicago sent me a four-second video from a train. The automated voice is heard saying what appears to be “This is noise.” The screen at the rear of the car reads “This is Noyes.”

(And yeah, now my cultural-jukebox brain is revisiting old issues of The Duplex Planet.)

▰ Got a bunch requests in this regard the past couple weeks while I was traveling, so I wanted to mention it here: I enjoy writing liner notes, and I make time for doing so. Artist bios (like for press kits, etc.) are something I don’t really have time for. Thanks.

▰ Start a blog. Then in 25 years you can tell yourself what a rewarding way it has been to spend 25 years, as I’ve been doing this year in between writing new blog posts.

▰ Yes, you’re drinking a cup of coffee while your brain whirrs up for the day, and you’re listening to the new edit of Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” and at the appropriate moment you do, indeed, find yourself crossing your arms, instinctually, in front of your chest.

Just as a side note, the original “Shock the Monkey” video now looks sort of like a supercut compression of the Moon Knight TV series.

▰ “So, what’s your optimal BPM?” That’s what I asked on Twitter. I got a lot of responses: ➔

▰ It’s Earth Day. Take out your earbuds and open your window.

▰ “We care about your experience so we may record this call.”

Note: cause and effect are not simply the result of the insertion of a conjunction.

▰ The 10th novel I finished reading in 2022: I read Sayaka Murata’s excellent Convenience Store Woman earlier this year, and followed it up with Earthlings, which engages in a similar narrative (individual viewing society from an extreme remove) but in a much darker mode. And the novel’s end is hardcore Ballardian. Yow. (Also: There’s virtually no sound in Earthlings, a stark contrast with Convenience Store Woman, which was full not just with sound, but with the protagonist’s perception of sound.)

▰ Friday, April 22, 2022, was the 100th birthday of one of the greatest musicians of all time, American jazz bassist Charles Mingus. I tweeted a playlist of favorites to mark the moment, starting with a live 1964 concert with Eric Dolphy, wending through covers by Keith Richards and Joni Mitchel, touching inevitably on his own Ah Um and his trio album with Duke Ellington and Max Roach, Money Jungle, and closing on the opening cut of Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus — his initial solo on “II B.S.” is so deep, so intimate. Then he invites the band in a bit at a time until it scales out to something utterly massive in scope. ➔

▰ And finally, the weekend, which I take off social media. Some recommended plans:

  • Listen to more Mingus
  • Let Earth Day linger
  • Prep for World Listening Day (July 18)

EarthPercent for Earth Day and Beyond

A Brian Eno joint

As of Earth Day 2022, Friday, April 22, there’s a slew of tracks up on Bandcamp as part of EarthPercent (, a project co-founded by Brian Eno. EarthPercent encourages musicians (and other participants in the music industry) to pledge 1% of their income in order to address climate matters. Given the dismal economic state of the music industry, this may sound like a difficult pitch — but, Eno being Eno, he managed to get a ton of musicians to upload exclusive tracks as part of EarthPercent’s fundraising activities.

The names in the Bandcamp event range across genres. On the ambient and post-classical tip, I recommend Isobel Waller-Bridge’s “Elizabeth,” a minute and a half of choral hush; Poppy Ackroyd’s live set (three pieces originally recorded for her glistening Pause album from late last year); and Galya Bisengalieva’s brutally arid “Kantubek.” (Major thanks to Ian Brooks on Twitter for having hipped me to the latter two.)

Eno himself sings on “Did The World Begin Today,” featuring Leo Abrahams. It’s a beautiful, super-slow ballad, on the order of his “You Don’t Miss Your Water” cover, and his collaboration with John Cale, Wrong Way Up. Eno also worked on tracks with Michael Stipe and with Hot Chip.

None of the EarthPercent songs are streaming unless you purchase them, hence the lack of an embedded player in this post. Explore the full collection at

Disquiet Junto Project 0538: Guided Decompression

The Assignment: Get someone from tense to chill.

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, April 25, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0538: Guided Decompression
The Assignment: Get someone from tense to chill.

Step 1: Your goal with this piece is to guide someone from a place of intense stress to something more sedate. Keep that in mind.

Step 2: A lot of meditation-oriented music takes the end point as the start. Consider that it can be jarring to listen to calm music when you are anything but calm.

Step 3: Compose a piece of music that starts in a state of accelerated tension, allows the listener to align their own tension with that of the music, and then slowly proceeds to calm down, until the music is sustainably peaceful.

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0538” (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 “disquiet0538” (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

Project discussion takes place on

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, April 25, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

Length: The length is up to you. How long does it take to calm down?

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0538” 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 538th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Guided Decompression (The Assignment: Get someone from tense to chill) — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on