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.

field notes

News, essays, reviews, surveillance

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Much has happened over time at this address, at these addresses, at this location, this building, this structure. Sure, there can be a slight sense of dislocation along any given stretch of street as odd numbers are skipped on the even side of the block, and vice versa on the opposing — how the resulting rough congruences leave open potential voids, missing numbers, interstitial spaces that prove, upon investigation, either purely hypothetical or hidden in plain sight.

But this multi-residence doorbell is something else entirely. Here there is a 1236, and then a 1238A, and also something missing, something forgotten, something erased. Where, to begin with, is the 1238 whose former presence required the “A” to be appended to a separate unit? What was the room to the right of 1236, a space now taped over, not just the label but the button itself? What’s the extra bit of tape above 1236 — what information did it exhibit? Why did 1238A get added on later, using embossed label tape, rather than appear as part of the original doorbell? And finally, what is referenced by the blue tape residue atop the brown metal strip above the buttons? Was there some previous configuration?

In any case, at some point do let the myriad inherent questions recede and take some pleasure in the happenstance construction of the object itself. Blow up the image, marvel at the various textures, and revel at the readymade, Robert Rauschenberg-seeming piece that the world — which is to say: lack of care, combined with time, combined with a need to solve some now deeply obscured problems — has served up.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

303 + 606 = Punctum

Caterina Barbieri and Carlo Maria have their new ways with old tools.

Punctum is the duo of Caterina Barbieri and Carlo Maria working with old electronic equipment in new ways. On Remote Sensing they take their start with hallowed Roland boxes dating from the early 1980s, namely the TB-303 and the TR-606. Barbieri and Maria then pair and filter these artifacts with additional equipment. The result is heavily punctuated beats that echo with a fierce, vibrant, rhythmic intent.

On “Uncharted,” each foregrounded plunk is refracted with a sturdy, antiseptic repetition. That hard-rubbery effect is magnified on “Quick Botta,” where it provides a bottom level to an ever-rising sequence of 4/4 tribal efficiency, and on “Innocecocchito,” which is a quarter the speed and all the more chilly for it. On “Innocecocchito,” that same brittle decay is the sound of a hospital ward experienced through heavy sedation and half-dead fluorescent lights — which is to say, its glorious in its stubborn fragility.

Album available at caterinabarbieri.bandcamp.com. More from Barieri at caterinabarbieri.com and Maria at carlomaria.bandcamp.com. Image from ziguline.com.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


This doorbell may have begun its functional life alone on the front of the small office building. Or, perhaps from day one it shared the entrance with its two neighbors: that blank black face of the card reader and the usefully over-sized gadget providing wheelchair accessibility. Either way, the three objects have little in common except a vague adherence to form, an apparently agreed upon sense that a shallow cuboid object suspended from a facade signals “This is how you get in.” The visual confusion afforded by the additional buttons shouldn’t distract from the peculiar decision-making evidenced within the design of the doorbell itself. Note how the surveillance camera’s circular computer eye is significantly larger than the actual doorbell button itself, thus complicating the wayfinding message. In any case, somewhere along the line someone came to determine that when there are multiple interactive objects awaiting a visitor, the presence of the doorbell is diminished — hence the now worn label hand-affixed to the doorbell. There is something “Hello, My Name Is” to the ripped paper tag, what with its all-caps writing — as if the doorbell is introducing itself before the visitor does the same.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Listening to Kate Williamson’s Comics

Caught between pop music and ephemeral sounds in At a Crossroads

There is a lot of sound, a lot music, in Kate T. Williamson’s 2008 graphic novel At a Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents’ Place, but there are few if any actual sound effects. There are some “thump thump thump”s written into the panels during a brief anecdote about a squirrel infestation, and three little musical notes are rendered during a karaoke scene, where they could almost be mistaken for crumbs on the carpet. That’s about it. Yet despite the relative paucity of drawn sound, the book abounds with sound. It appears in the form of the sounds around her that she shares with the reader in keen descriptions that also reveal her state of mind. There are also numerous references to her favorite pop music, which serves as an emotional support structure.

Williamson, in the context of this story, could certainly use some support. She’s back home, living with her parents, and trying to finish a book. At a Crossroads is certainly a graphic novel, but it could easily be read as — mistaken for, considered — something other: a series of portraits and landscapes of suburban ennui rendered with captions and word balloons. The captions do tell a story, about a young woman dealing with Gen X dropout anxiety, and there are clear comic-book moments, multiple panels on a page or across pages that combine dialogue and figurative drawing. However, much of the book is comprised of extended, often silent or near-silent instances, like a two-page spread showing a house buried in snow, or another two-page spread of leaves on a few branches, or a New Jersey street scene depicted at night. Only the last of those examples features any text, a sentence or so at the bottom of the page in casual script. These spreads occasionally bring to mind the photographs of Duane Michals, who would write snatches of description onto his images, like scenes in a film — or, as it were, panels from a live-action comic.

It’s tough to publish a book about the anxiety about publishing a book, because the whole time the reader is thinking, “Uh, I’ve got the book in my hands. And the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, is pretty respectable.” This is the rare situation when the book itself is kind of a spoiler for the book. Still, Williamson’s analysis of her own heightened emotional state is handled solidly. The frequent appearances of pop music provide social filters (litmus tests for possible new friends), and acts of self-expression. One minute she’s doing karaoke, the next attending a Hall & Oates concert. It can be fun, and the presence of all the radio fodder is balanced by her meditative consideration of the near silence that exists around her most of the time. If the pop music is Williamson reflecting on her old self, the person she was when she previously lived with her parents, then the everyday noises are her consideration of loneliness, of her current, temporary, transitional state.

She is caught, in other words, between pop and her sonic awareness of place. The book moves back and forth between those very different sonic terrains: packaged pop on the one hand and quotidian soundscapes on the other. It feels meaningful, as a result, that at the very end of At a Crossroads Williamson listens to the soundtrack to a movie, a Wim Wenders film, Paris Texas, whose score was composed by Ry Cooder. In other words, at the close of a memoir in which the narrator either pays attention to ephemeral background noise or focuses on highly crafted pop music, Williamson takes solace in recorded music intended to serve as background.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


An inset panel from Hulk #4 (2017), written by Mariko Tamaki, drawn by Nico Leon, who really get me. Alternate caption: “Superheroes, they’re just like us.”

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
Tag: / Leave a comment ]