This is the fifth occurrence of a relatively new little Disquiet.com project, called “Sketches of Sound”: inviting illustrators to sketch something sound-related. I post the drawing as the background of my Twitter account, twitter.com/disquiet, and then share a bit of information about the illustrator back on Disquiet.com. Call it “curating Twitter.”
The above drawing was done for me for this project by Hannes Pasqualini, who lives in Bolzano, Italy. During the day, Pasqualini works as a communications designer. At night he thinks, writes, draws, and assembles noise into sonic sequences. His love for the unsettling, the macabre, and the absurd can be found in his comics and illustrations (which he has published in Italy and abroad, in books, anthologies, and magazines) and in his musical ramblings. What he likes most is to combine the two disciplines: as a comic artist he’s recently published a book about jazz in Italy during the ’50s, and he has created short comics and illustrations dedicated to acts like Pere Ubu, Bauhaus, and Soap&Skin.
Like a lot of visual artists, Pasqualini also makes music, and he describes his “Sketches of Sound” illustration as “a surreal representation of what I have on my studio desk.” Here, for reference, is a photo of his desk:
And here’s the video trailer (vimeo.com) for the comic Gietz!, which Pasqualini drew; it was written by Andrea Campanella and published by Tunué:
If you click through to Pasqualini’s vimeo.com channel, you’ll also see this circuit-bent music tool that he created by using a fan to modulate the sound of the Michael Una’s Beep-it optical theremin:
A soundmark of this neighborhood is a steady, stationary, early-morning rumble of what I take to be a motorcycle somewhere far enough away to be difficult to triangulate, and sometimes initially mistaken for anything from construction work to rattly fridge to passing seaplane. This morning, “early” meant right after 7am.
And no, I don’t ride a motorcycle, myself. Vehicle noises were simply, in deep retrospect, an early entry point for me into sound as a subject, and into onomatopoeia as a means of exploration (beginning, for me, with my mom striving to communicate with a mechanic).
Here’s a related panel on the topic from a comic (“Mentors”) I did with Hannes Pasqualini a year ago this month. If you click through to the final of its four panels, the intent is to show these were examples from my childhood.
Robin Rimbaud goes by the name Scanner due to his early work, which involved snatching people’s conversations from the ether and lending those often fraught words new emotional meaning by composing accompanying soundtracks. His atmospheric scores deepened the words’ presence, turning domestic squabbles into radio dramas, monologues into manifestos, idle chatter into comedy of the absurd. This work was intimate and abstract, trenchant and seeking. When I think about early Scanner recordings, which I do often, in my imagination they sit alongside the output of other artists whose unique vision connected human speech and composed music, notably the way Dennis Potter’s screenplays gave voice to the inner turmoil and fantasies of his characters by having them lip-sync popular songs, and how the composer Scott Johnson transcribed the ticks and nuances of human utterances and wrote settings that were, in effect, arrangements fleshing those words out to the scale of a chamber ensemble. Potter found the big dreams within small lives. Johnson found the density in the linear. Scanner found the spectacle in the everyday.
And so it was a huge pleasure today when one of Scanner’s old voices appeared in a new piece, albeit a brief one. Today is Fat Tuesday, and perhaps by chance or perhaps by perfect design, the music synthesizer company Mutable Instruments, based in Paris, France, released a new module called Beads (having lived in New Orleans for four years, I found the connection natural, but it was likely coincidence). The module had clearly already been in the hands of many forward-thinking synthesizer musicians for some time, because right on cue YouTube and Instagram (as of this evening, I couldn’t find any on Vimeo) were filled with video demonstrations of this new module’s features. (Full disclosure: the four-panel comics I created last year were done so with illustrator Hannes Pasqualini, who, with his wife, Elizabeth, designs the interfaces at Mutable.)
For one of his Beads pieces, Scanner took a spoken voice that will be recognizable to fans of his 1997 album, Delivery. In the original, titled “Heidi,” the backing music is a moody, melodramatic bed, like some slurry hybrid of Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann, while an unnamed man both pleads his case to and verbally assaults the titular woman.
In Scanner’s brand new track, “Heidi Concrète,” the man is back, nearly a quarter century later, as if caught all along in some mythic limbo, ever ruining his own chances at reconciliation. Now, however, in place of the original music is simply the voice as it is transformed in the Mutable Beads module (hence the “concrète” in the title, borrowed from “musique concrète,” or music made from preexisting sounds). The voice in the new “Heidi Concrète” is fractured and looped, battered and frayed, and ultimately utterly dismantled into a pool of splattery assonance. And because it’s a video, the viewer can associate the varied treatments to specific actions: buttons pressed, knobs turned. While many other musicians are exploring the tonal possibilities of the new module, a common mode for such first-patch videos, Scanner dug deep in his personal crate.
Whenever I hear Scanner’s early work, I wonder if the speakers ever recognized themselves in it. Musicians coming to “Heidi Concrète” to witness an accomplished musician’s initial take on the new module will, I hope, recognize new creative possibilities in what Scanner has done.
Video originally posted to Scanner’s YouTube channel. More from Robin Rimbaud, who is based in London, England, at scannerdot.com.
The Italian musician, designer, and illustrator Hannes Pasqualini debuts a new project in which he reworks real-world audio in real time. The series, of which this video is the first, is titled Sounds on Location. The above clip, about four minutes long, shows him setting up on a bench. White noise and passing traffic fill the stereo spectrum. Then, about 30 seconds in, the video fades to black and then back again, the sounds now running through Pasqualini’s iPad. The processed result emerges from the source audio: more rhythmic, more foregrounded, spare noise given improvised purpose through compositional intent.
Pasqualini outlines his approach as follows:
Step 1: go to a place that inspires me, record sounds
Step 2: create some loops from these sounds
Step 3: create a little track on location, mostly with the sounds I have recorded in step 1
Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Pasqualini (who collaborates with me on the recent comics I’ve been posting) at papernoise.net.
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
Upcoming • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com. • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
Recent • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier). • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly (aaassembly.org) at Gray Area (grayarea.org). • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation. • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community. • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community. • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too. • A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
Background Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.