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.

RIP, Cecil Taylor (1929-2018)

Learning from the fierce pianist's intensity

My favorite Cecil Taylor story is secondhand. I used to see him play at the Knitting Factory in the late 1980s when I was fortunate to live a few blocks away. I would often sit in the audience with Irving Stone and his wife, Stephanie. (It’s after Stone that John Zorn named the venue he founded, the Stone.) Taylor was late to a show one night, and Stone told of an epic late appearance by Taylor decades earlier. Taylor had been booked on a boat that would tool around Manhattan while jazz musicians played for a willingly captive audience. Taylor, who was often late for shows, Stone said, was warned not to be late because the ship’s schedule was unforgiving. The night of Taylor’s performance arrived, as did the boat. The audience boarded, along with other scheduled musicians. But no Taylor. They waited briefly, but the schedule had to be kept, and the boat left the dock. And then, of course, arrived Cecil Taylor, running to the end of the dock, unable to reach the boat, his eager audience stranded aboard, watching his figure fade in the distance. Judging by how late he was to the Knitting Factory that night, Taylor had never learned his lesson, though of course his audience, me included, was going nowhere. We waited. He arrived, and blew our minds.

I reviewed a massive Cecil Taylor box set many years ago, and I mentioned to a friend what I’d been working on, and he asked, teasingly, if I had managed to do so without using the word “cluster.” Cecil Taylor is the musician most synonymous with the word “cluster” (often employed by critics to describe his playing), except perhaps for Roedelius, Moebius, Plank, and Eno — and, as someone reminded me on Twitter, Cowell.

The walls of noise of Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, and Godflesh and Slayer, and Last Exit and Machine Gun, translated at some point, for me, into a model of dense fields with cascading details. That all, in some way, I realize in retrospect, led me to focus on ambient music. Not ambient music as a refuge from noise, but as quiet form whose sublime intensity I had come to appreciate as having a kinship with noise, one of uniform-yet-chaotic pattern-fields best appreciated upon close examination, or upon utter surrender. It’s wrong to reduce Cecil Taylor’s music to its intensity, yet coping with and eventually reveling in its intensity is an important path that Taylor-admirers must walk. Ambient music rewards (if not requires) similar levels of dedication, notably patience and attention-paying. It’s almost certainly easier for someone ear-trained in Cecil Taylor’s piano crucible to find a way into ambient music than the other way around, but ambient listeners will find much reward in the wildly fluctuating systems of Taylor’s recordings if they take the time required.

Anyhow, my favorite Cecil Taylor album is For Olim, released in 1987 on Soul Note. It’s solo, and essential. Seek it out.

RIP, pianist, improviser, genius Cecil Taylor (b. 1929).

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Disquiet Junto Project 0327: Time Zoned

Create a piece of music that is simultaneously in 3/4, 2/4, and 7/4 time.

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 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, April 9, 2018. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

Tracks will be added to “>the playlist for the duration of the project.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0327: Time Zoned
Create a piece of music that is simultaneously in 3/4, 2/4, and 7/4 time.

Step 1: This week’s Disquiet Junto project, the 327th consecutive weekly Junto project, running since January 2012, will engage with the number 327. Compose a piece of music with three separate and distinct through-lines. Think of each of the three lines as an individual voice. The important thing is that the three through-lines occur in your composition simultaneously. One voice should be in 3/4 time. One should be in 2/4 time. And one should be in 7/4 time.

Major thanks to Ethan Hein and Nate Trier for helping develop the project.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0327” (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 “disquiet0327” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Please consider posting your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0327-time-zoned/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, April 9, 2018. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

Length: The length is up to you. Making it 3:27 would be perfect.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0327” 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: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 327th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Time Zoned: Create a piece of music that is simultaneously in 3/4, 2/4, and 7/4 time) at:

https://disquiet.com/0327/

Major thanks to Ethan Hein and Nate Trier for helping develop the project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0327-time-zoned/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this project was made by Nate Trier for the project.

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Stained-Glass Butterflies

A guitar-based track from Japan-based Michiru Aoyama

A guitar can be heard deep in the heart of “Coco” by Michiru Aoyama. It’s a slow strum that alternates back and forth between a pair of chords, neither of them left to fade out entirely before the next one encroaches on its rippling sonic afterimage. The chords are muffled, as if played with wool gloves, as if filtered through a thick canvas scrim. They are overwhelmed, as well, by an entirely other frame of reference, a dense, slow-moving cyclone of brighter sounds, fluttering like stained-glass butterflies sent suddenly aloft, twinkling with the light and each other’s dim reflection. There is no self-evident development to what Aoyama is up to here, except to the extent that the ear might focus on the two patterns and how if at all they might chance to correlate or diverge. If there is change, it is a matter of nuance. It’s an instrumental chant, a singular statement, an environment set to loop.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/michiru-aoyama. Aoyama is based in Kamakura, Japan. More at michiruaoyama.jimdo.com and michiruaoyama.bandcamp.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0326: Wave Turntable

In collaboration with composer Danny Clay, make music for his exhibit with artist Jon Fischer using only sine waves and turntable surface noise.

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 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, April 2, 2018. This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the project’s duration.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0326: Wave Turntable
In collaboration with composer Danny Clay, make music for his exhibit with artist Jon Fischer using only sine waves and turntable surface noise.

Step 1: Tracks in this project will be played as part of a free event in San Francisco at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts (mcevoyarts.org) on Saturday, April 7, 2018, for an exhibit by composer Danny Clay (dclaymusic.com) and artist Jon Fischer (feather2pixels.com). The project was developed in collaboration with Clay. Before proceeding, consider the sort of music that might be conducive as partially-heard, partially-background music for an art event.

Step 2: Compose a short piece of music using only sine waves and the surface sounds of vinyl played on a turntable. Those two sources are inspirations for the Clay/Fischer exhibit. (The cover image to this project shows some of Fischer’s turntable art.)

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0326” (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 “disquiet0326” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Please consider posting your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0326-wave-turntable/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, April 2, 2018. This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

Length: The length is up to you. Roughly two to four minutes sounds about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0326” 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: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 326th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Wave Turntable: In collaboration with composer Danny Clay, make music for his exhibit with artist Jon Fischer using only sine waves and turntable surface noise) at:

https://disquiet.com/0326/

More on Clay and Fischer at:

http://dclaymusic.com
http://feather2pixels.com

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0326-wave-turntable/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this project is by artist Jon Fischer from his exhibit with Danny Clay.

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Renditions of Idealized States

The pursuit and avoidance in naturalness of ambient music

Almost all ambient electronic music is environmental. The question is often whether or not that environment feels natural to the listener, and in turn whether, in the case of naturalness, it feels ordinary or extraordinary — or more to the point, how far along those continua it might be situated. “Prelude for Spring” by Araceae, from the new album Lunae Semita, succeeds by keeping the ear guessing at various interstices throughout. It moves from space music to meadow atmospherics to vocal-infused heavenly choirs and back again over the course of just under seven minutes. According to a brief liner note, the actual field recordings were sourced in Upper Michigan, Detroit, Berlin, and Amsterdam. In the ear, they are all hyper-realized into sedate, emotionally rich renditions of idealized states. That is, up until the very end, when the crunch of (what sounds like) leaves underfoot fades in, and puts everything that preceded into further perspective.

Araceae is Ryan Malony, who also records as Uun and is based in Detroit, Michigan. Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/faint-faint-music. Get the full album at faintmusic.bandcamp.com. More at and discogs.com.

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