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

Forensic Sci-Fi

Looking back to the future before Star Wars

Very excited to be writing a piece for the series Klaatu You, in which contributors were invited by website editor Josh Glenn to “revisit their favorite pre-Star Wars sci-fi movies.” I’ll be writing about Colossus: The Forbin Project, the 1970 film directed by Joseph Sargent (perhaps best known for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three). Up top is a photo of some of the accumulated old paperbacks that sit behind my synthesizer, including the original D.F. Jones novel and one of its two sequels. And here’s the list of Klaatu You entries (some already published, many scheduled for the rest of 2020) as it stands:

Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Wayne Chambliss on THEM! and PHASE IV | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | J.C. Gabel on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS | James Hannaham on FROM HELL IT CAME | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Alison Fensterstock on ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON | Kevin Obsatz on DEATHSPORT | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

Check out the series at I’ll note here when mine goes live.

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Every Year

Right around now

Q: Oh, you’re into sound. You must love the Fourth of July.


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A Work Tailor-Made

A twin in art

A friend forwarded a story by Michael O’Donnell about the Aubrey-Maturin books of novelist Patrick O’Brian. The article, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week, opens, “I don’t know anyone but me who’s got a work of art that was tailor-made for him.” My friend wanted to know if the friends to whom he forwarded the article had a work they felt was tailor-made for them.

O’Donnell goes on: “Not tailor-made in the sense that the author or artist made a personal gift of it: I’m not referring to dedicatees. Nor do I mean favorites. Everyone has favorites. I mean stumbling across a film or novel that is pitched so finely to your particular sensibilities that encountering it is like discovering a twin sibling. You understand that it will be a part of your life from that point onward. The closest I’ve come to meeting another person who’s had this eerie good fortune was my grandfather, whose love for the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff was extraordinary to behold. He would sit in his rocking chair and close his eyes as the sound washed over him. From the expression on his face, you would almost think he was in pain. But those who knew him well understood that the look was rapture.”

I gave it some thought. Earlier in life this would have been an easier question to answer, an immediate one. At various stages of life I would have answered instantly: the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; or Brian Eno’s album Thursday Afternoon; or Dennis Potter’s TV mini-series The Singing Detective; or Don DeLillo’s novel Mao II; or J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin; or Terence Davies’ film Distant Voices, Still Lives; or the Latin Playboys’ debut album (the album I pitched to the 33 1/3 series before I pitched Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II); or Fernando Pessoa’s prose collection The Book of Disquiet (yeah, yeah, which translation?); or Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet sound-art installation; or DJ Krush’s album Kakusei.

Short version: I don’t think I have one. I’m a serial obsessive art monogamist (SOAM for short). Right now the closest I could get is the Agnes Martin room at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Which of course, due to the pandemic, feels quite far away, even though it’s just across town.

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On Online Concerts (and Music Plus AI)

My latest review for The Wire

If you’re a curious listener to adventurous music, then you’ll likely recognize this typeface. I wrote a concert review that appears in the latest issue of The Wire (437, the one with Tangerine Dream on the cover, or more specifically a Robert Beatty illustration).

This is the first freelance concert review I have ever written on the same device on which I witnessed the concert. That’s because it was a streaming event, fairly early during the pandemic, two months back on April 18. It was a triple bill put on by Indexical, a non-profit promoter based in Santa Cruz, California, and featuring Happy Valley Band, Erin Demastes, and Repairer of Reputations (aka Ryan Page). Indexical isn’t a venue, per se. Indexical is an opinionated concert promoter making use of various venues. These include a gallery and a production studio, and as of the pandemic, the streaming platform Twitch, as well.

The headliner was quite the Happy Valley Band, who, under the guidance of leader David Kant, perform versions of familiar pop songs transcribed from impressions synthesized by artificial intelligence. During the show Karp characterized what they do as “destroying your favorite songs,” which is about right. In the published review I compare Happy Valley Band to a combination of Kenneth Goldsmith and PDQ Bach (cultural plundering in the service of joking forensic dismemberment). In my draft, I pondered what if David Letterman had replaced David Sanborn on the Hal Willner’s Night Music series: They sound like someone threw the notes off the roof of a building to see what happens when they splatter on the ground. Or, remember those old play-along albums called Music Minus One? On them, one part of a popular piece of music would be removed, so you could play along and feel like a member of the ensemble. The Happy Valley Band is more like Music Plus AI: the original version lingering quietly in the background, a halcyon through-line memory of less complicated times, while the machine-processed rendition stomps through the foreground. All of which said, you have to admire the group’s collective and good-humored commitment to the experiment. (There’s more on Demastes, who played a microsonic set that involved close-up live images of the sources of her audio, and Page, whose work involved fictional found footage, in the published review.)

I didn’t spend much of the review considering the then unique circumstances of the virtual event, based on my sense that (1) I didn’t want to repeat what other reviewers in the same issue might say, given the limited space, and (2) by the time the review was published, this sort of thing would be the norm. At the time, what I was thinking about was how venues and technology create new forms of intimacy (it was pretty nice to be able to just put my feet up on my desk) and memory (all three performances are archived on Twitch: Happy Valley, Demastes, and Repairer). Noise pollution is an old problem in concerts, notably from the chattering class that is fellow attendees. Light pollution rose with the advent of the cell phone. As I mention in the review, the main new irritation here was the venue itself, as Twitch, being aimed at gamers and not at people who want to focus on the performer, has a tendency to draw attention to itself, urging you to level up when you really want to just watch and listen. On the flipside, it was pretty cool to run into a friend from another city (someone I hadn’t seen since 2012) in the chat room, and to catch the name of a musician I admire who happened to show up in the audience.

In any case, pick up the latest issue for the review.

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A comic with Hannes Pasqualini

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