My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.


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Abstraction for Charity

Five pieces by as many artists for a women's shelter in Glasgow, Scotland

The Stochastic Method is a beautiful collection of largely instrumental music with a purpose. The purpose is to raise funds for and awareness of the Ubuntu Women’s Shelter in Glasgow, Scotland. Participating are Paul Michael Henry, Painted in Shadows, Jenn Kirby, Graham Dunning, and Leslie Deere. It was Deere who produced an event at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow this past December that brought the musicians together (details at The tracks range from Celtic-accented shoegazey lushness (Painted in Shadows) to layers of twitchy noises above lulling tones (Henry). Kirby’s piece has a modern-ecclesiastic quality to it, zither-like instrumentation mixed with pillowy choir. Deere’s is a collage of drones and voices, slipstream artifacts and distant rhythms. Dunning’s begins as a kind of abstract rave music before dissolving into haunting sound design that suggests a forest deep in the night.

Get the release (and give what you can) at More on the Ubuntu shelter at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0420: Luna Tick

The Assignment: Make music that proceeds according to the phases of the moon, in celebration of Lunar New Year.

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 Monday, January 20, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0420: Luna Tick
The Assignment: Make music that proceeds according to the phases of the moon, in celebration of Lunar New Year.

Thanks to George Kelly, whose suggestion inspired this project. Just one step this week.

Step 1: Lunar New Year is fast approaching. Celebrate it by making a piece of music that is inspired by the phases of the moon.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0420” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0420” (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 track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

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.

Additional Details: Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, January 20, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Shorter is often better.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0420” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and 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: Consider setting 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 420th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Luna Tick / The Assignment: Make music that proceeds according to the phases of the moon, in celebration of Lunar New Year — at:

Thanks to George Kelly, whose suggestion inspired this project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this track is by Manu Mejias, and is used (image cropped, text added) via Flickr thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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Anna Höstman Goes Dark

Exploring the aphotic zone with the Red Shift Ensemble

Don’t judge a track by its waveform.

Certainly, if there are hard edges evenly spaced, then expect something with a beat. To sort out the pace, your imagination must factor the number of perceived units to the track’s length. And still you might be wildly off.

And if the waveform varies widely, ranging from short snatches of excited activity to long swaths of even keel, the best you can do is to expect the unexpected.

The waveform for “Blind” by Anna Höstman, a composer based in Victoria, British Columbia, suggests itself as a series of swells, vertiginous ones by the looks of it. To a degree that turns out to be, upon listening, the case, but just barely. While “Blind” does move from slow pulse to slow pulse, the heights are quite subdued, the string-instrument equivalent of someone humming inwardly to themselves, lost in their own thoughts. The result is serene tinged by tension, as played here by Red Shift Ensemble, a string quartet consisting of cello, violin, viola, and double bass. The combination of cello and double bass lends the music its depth, its rich lower end (contrast Red Shift with a traditional string quartet, which would have no bass, and a pair of violinists). Listening to the variation in “Blind,” to the subtle steps of tonal development, is quite rewarding.

In a brief liner note, the composer explains that the track is inspired by the aphotic zone, or the darkest depths of bodies of water, where light doesn’t penetrate. The performance was the piece’s debut, December 16, 2019, at the Pyatt in Vancouver. The musicians are Laine Longton (cello), Sarah Kwok (violin), Parmela Attariwala (viola), and Mark Haney (double bass). Also per the liner note, the piece was performed by Red Shift in “complete darkness.” Listen to the recording as the audience did: lights out.

Track originally posted at More from Anna Höstman at

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The Landlubber’s Hydrophone

Witness the sonic emanations captured by the Geofón mic.

It’s not often I write an entry in this site’s daily Downstream series on the audio examples for a piece of music gear, but maybe it’s more of a case that I don’t do so often enough.

Proceed immediately to the website ( of the Bratislava, Slovakia-based company LOM and check out the four audio clips recorded with LOM’s highly sensitive microphone, the Geofón, shown above. Per the descriptive copy: “Geofón is a sensitive geophone adjusted for field recording purposes. Originally designed for seismic measurements, it can be used with regular field recording equipment to capture very faint vibrations in various materials and even soil.”

There is also a warning: “Neodymium magnets may cause interference with credit cards (magnetic stripes), cardiac pacemakers and ICDs.”

And a caveat: “Due to the nature of the geophone sensor, you may experience picking up electromagnetic interference in specific urban areas and other places with strong electromagnetic fields.”

The mic, which looks more like a plug, comes with a magnet (“for attaching to steel constructions”) and a “stainless-steel spike adapter,” so you can stick it into the ground. The four audio examples on LOM’s Geofón page are somehow both earthy and atmospheric, and all are deeply enticing. There are heavy waves of a bridge handrail, the fluttery reverberations of locks on a bridge, the creaky echoes of bowed plastic siding, and the undulating hum of a bathroom fan. They get at an intimacy that gets your imagination going. You look at the objects around you, at the ground outside your window, and ponder what audio is secreted inside it. The Geofón is, in a manner of speaking, a hydrophone for a landlubber. Much as the hydrophone can be submerged , the Geofón, in its own way, tells us what is resounding just below the surface of our senses.

More on the Geofón at The outdoor image is from the LOM Instragram page. The sound designer and recording artist Richard Devine posted a video of the Geofón in action at his Instagram account yesterday.

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Real-Time Ambient

A performance by Alex Roldan

Edging between background ambience and melodic progression, this short, live performance by Alex Roldan is exactly the sort of video that led me to start my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. In it, in full view, we watch as Roldan plays a collection of instruments: a controller in the form of that grid, and a trio of sound sources and manipulators. The correlations between audio and physical actions are self-evident, taking a bit of the mystery out of the music, and the processes and tools that enabled its real-time production.

Video originally posted at Roldan’s YouTube channel. More from Roldan, who is based in Washington, D.C., at and

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