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: September 2022


For a survey from a music equipment company

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

The Waveforms of War

Interceptions from the front lines

The horizontal waveform has become a ubiquitous visual signifier of audio. It was popularized in particular by SoundCloud, but existed long before that in various digital audio tools, and can be tracked back further to the height of the multi-band stereo-system equalizer in the 1970s. The waveform’s deployment in a New York Times feature story this week (about intercepted phone calls home from Russian military personnel carrying out the campaign in Ukraine) turns the now generic symbol into an urgent harbinger — part surveillance sigil, part ethereal lifeline, part literal cry for help. The source of the recordings is Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, which “obtained recordings of thousands of calls that were made throughout March.” The audio is all in Russian, so the Times superimposed English translations for a broader audience. Watching the sound wave pulse has the sense of a nervous heartbeat as we read what is being spoken, such as “I didn’t know this was going to happen. They said we were going for training.” And: “I don’t want to kill any more people, especially the ones I will have to look in the eyes.”

It occurred to me after I included this in my latest issue of the This Week in Sound email newsletter that I would have loved if the Times had hired Scanner to render these with backing music.


Tag: / Leave a comment ]

3D Render of Earbud Using Nanotechnology

Picture this

When DALL·E 2 opened the user floodgates on Thursday, I was ready with my generative visual aspirations. The New York Times, back in April, described the browser-based software DALL·E 2 as “building technology that lets you create digital images simply by describing what you want to see.” That might sound like yet another technologist’s empty vaporware promise, but as the intervening months have shown, the software actually works — which is both thrilling and, true to the modern internet, terrifying. (The same day DALL·E 2 became accessible to anyone, Facebook announced its own AI art app, a text-to-video tool called Make-a-Video.) I spent about an hour during breakfast feeding concepts into the DALL·E 2 algorithm and waiting patiently to see what might pop out. Of all the images I received, the one shown here was my favorite. The prompt I entered was “3D render of an earbud that uses nanotechnology to connect with your hippocampus.” I may share some more of my audio-themed DALL·E 2 harvest later. I posted a bunch to over the course of the day, and included some telling fails. I particularly like this result because it looks both fantastic (that is, beyond what I had myself imagined when I asked for it) and yet very much like the burnished fantasies (over)sold by technology companies. One has to wonder how much of the raw cultural material — the now hotly debated source content for DALL·E 2’s automated creativity — this is based on was no more real than is this image itself. The dreams that dreams are made of. I’ve spent the past decade sending brief music composition prompts to a growing community called the Disquiet Junto, who each week make new tracks based on carefully worded instructions. Needless to say, interacting in an adjacent manner with artificial intelligence is quite interesting to me.

Give it a go at

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0561: Samplelicker

The Assignment: Rework environmental sound recordings with Aphex Twin's new software.

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, October 3, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, September 29, 2022.

Tracks are added to the SoundCloud playlist for the duration of the project. Additional (non-SoundCloud) tracks appear in the discussion thread.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0561: Samplelicker
The Assignment: Rework environmental sound recordings with Aphex Twin’s new software.

Step 1: There’s a new piece of freely available software called Samplebrain. It was designed by Aphex Twin and developed by Dave Griffiths of Then Try This. Download Samplebrain and read up at:

Step 2: Create a piece of music using Samplebrain. For source audio, only use sounds tagged “bird” or “rain” or “night” from Use as many as you like. Be sure to credit the source material when posting your finished track.

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0561” (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 “disquiet0561” (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, October 3, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, September 29, 2022.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0561” 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 561st weekly Disquiet Junto project — Samplelicker (The Assignment: Rework environmental sound recordings with Aphex Twin’s new software) — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

Tags: , , / Leave a comment ]

Back to the 1990s

With a pair of write-ups on Pitchfork

I’m pleased to have two pieces in a pair of 1990s roundups published this week at Pitchfork.

For “The 150 Best Albums of the 1990s,” I wrote about Gang Starr’s 1998 album, Moment of Truth. As I note in the short summary, this was the hip-hop duo’s fifth album, but perhaps more meaningfully, it was the second after Jazzmatazz, a landmark record that Guru, the Gang Starr rapper, made with jazz musicians like Dr. Lonnie Smith, Roy Ayers, Courtney Pine, Branford Marsalis, and Donald Byrd (it also had MC Solaar, Chaka Khan, and N’Dea Davenport, among others). DJ Premier, whose taste for jazz surfaces with his use of horn and, especially, piano samples, didn’t participate in Jazzmatazz.

I didn’t play much of a role in the decision-making about the included albums, though Gang Starr was on the list of artists I proposed writing about. The main album I would have liked to see on this list that isn’t there is Kiko by Los Lobos.

For “The 250 Best Songs of the 1990s,” I wrote about “Trip II the Moon (Pt. 1 and 2),” a pair of 1992 breakbeat tracks by the British producer Acen. Choosing just 250 songs to represent the 1990s is beyond my comprehension. I wouldn’t even know where to start. It was fun, though, to help support the rave contingent, also represented on the Pitchfork list by Double 99, Beltram, Goldie, and, of course, the great Underworld.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]