New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

The Cables of Marina Rosenfeld

Currently at Kadist in San Francisco

Four details from Marina Rosenfeld’s installation Music Stands (2019), which just finished its run at the Kadist gallery in San Francisco (kadist.org). There’s a lot more to the piece, and to the exhibit, “Seeing Sound,” curated by Barbara London, which featured two additional artists, Aura Satz and Samson Young. I was just particularly taken with the sinuous cable flow:

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What Preceded the Disquiet Junto

In advance of the 500th project

The Disquiet Junto music community began in 2012 in immediate response to a project I did at the end of 2011, and the project in 2011 was the culmination of a sequence of projects I started in 2006, so I’ll start there.

In 2006, Brian Eno and David Byrne made available some stems from one of my favorite albums of all time, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and they created a website where people could upload their own music made utilizing those stems. Today, this sort of promotion is common. In 2006, it was not. I was excited about the project, and immediately disappointed by the music people were uploading, so I sent notes to a bunch of musicians encouraging them to participate. The response I got essentially had two components: first, great idea; second, you’re right that the music people have been uploading is sorta depressingly generic, and I’m not sure I want my music alongside it. I took that as an form of encouragement, and I decided to create an online album, which became Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet, which drew from the netlabel community at the time, and included a dozen tracks by, among others, Stephane Leonard, Roddy Schrock, John Kannenberg, Brian Biggs, and Mark Rushton, just to name a few. That turned out great, so I did a series of these albums in the subsequent years, and each originated as a kind of prompt. I’d always enjoyed interviewing musicians, and sending them creative prompts was like a conversation, just one in music instead of words. I did a bunch of these, excited by the work of Hal Willner and John Zorn, and then at the end of 2011, I did one that felt really special.

Up until that point, every project involved musicians I approached directly myself. In 2011, I worried I was being restrictive. So, I got word out, mostly on Twitter, that if people made ambient music and had Instagram accounts, they were welcome to participate in a new project, which became Instagr/am/bient. I asked all the participants to send me a single Instagram image. I then sent each participant a different image and said, “This is the cover of your next single. Now go record the single.” I loved that project, and it was downloaded and streamed over 100,000 times, but something negative someone said stuck with me. They said, “Oh, this got around because of Instagram,” like it was dependent on an association with a commercial enterprise for its success. I simply thought they were wrong, both about the popularity with an audience, and by extension about the enthusiasm of the participants. I thought what was important was this sense that the musicians were making music for each other. Not for an audience, but for each other, a kind of collective themselves. Not long after, I came up with the idea of the Disquiet Junto as a means to test that hypothesis: what if we start with the idea of musicians making music for themselves and for each other, and put aside for the time being any concerns about an audience. That was the plan.

Historically, I think a lot about the instructional writings of Yoko Ono and Pauline Oliveros, and the arts movements Fluxus and Oulipo. I think a lot about the concept of an etude, about a piece of music that is an encapsulation of a technique. I think about how pre-digital techniques foresaw sampling and remixing, like how orchestral and chamber composers simulated bird song, as well as the noise of city streets, and quoted pre-existing music in their own compositions. Same goes for jazz. All of that had a big impact on me. Speaking of more recent history, when the Junto started in 2012, I was a big fan of the Iron Chef of Music series and the Stones Throw Beat Battles. Those are both sample-based situations where people around the internet make music based on a shared set of material. In the Junto I wanted people to share more than samples. I wanted them to share the impetus for a track, the concept, which is to say: the prompt.

The above originated as my answer to a pair of questions (“How did Disquiet Junto first come about? Were there any historical precedents that inspired you?”) posed to me by Colin Joyce for an article he wrote for the online publication I Heard It In A Magazine (hii-mag.com). Cover images by Brian Scott of boon.design.

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twitter.com/disquiet: Dalton, Kadist, Oblique

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating recent tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form or otherwise) on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

Gunpowder Milkshake uses the same Karen Dalton song, “Something on Your Mind,” that Mayans MC did this past season, number three. It’s a beautiful track, how her voice always sounds like it’s going to break, and I’ll now always associate it with cinematic ultraviolence. And oh that violin that emerges. It’s by Bobby Notkoff, who played on Joni Mitchell’s For the Roses, and several Crazy Horse records (with and without Neil Young).

▰ Last month, members of the Disquiet Junto music community recorded sounds of fictional insects they had imagined. This past weekend, participants created hybrids by blending the sounds of pairs of those imaginary insects. The playlist menagerie is here: soundcloud.com/disquiet.

▰ Some coordinates:

disquiet.com
soundcloud.com/disquiet
youtube.com/disquiet
instagram.com/dsqt
flickr.com/disquietpxl
tinyletter.com/disquiet
tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto

▰ First burrito at Cancun on Mission in forever

▰ Weighing in at 1,055 pages. See you later.

▰ When I bought the URL and started disquiet.com in 1996, it was named for Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. More broadly, it was because, unless I’m mistaken, the copyright had run out on the book, so translations could more easily be published. I had several recent ones. Oh yeah, disquiet.com turns 25 in December. The Junto turns 10 in January. Next Thursday is the 500th consecutive weekly Disquiet Junto project. But first I need to post the 499th today. (And in 6 years, it’ll be the 300th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s original Junto.)

▰ The Dune trailer looks epic. It should look epic. It’s Dune. The most promising thing may be that it appears to have a sense of humor. Alternately, the most promising thing is they seem to have ditched the Pink Floyd song.

▰ If you zoom (not Zoom) in and dial the number, you can hear a conversation between Laurie Spiegel and the late Pauline Oliveros. Or you can visit the Kadist (kadist.org) gallery in San Francisco, where the installation (Dial Tone Drone by Aura Satz) is part of the Seeing Sound exhibit. The traveling exhibition is curated by Barbara London, who in 2013 assembled MoMA’s Soundings: A Contemporary Score. Two other artists are featured at Kadist in San Francisco: Marina Rosenfeld and Samson Young. Perhaps to their credit, not one of them is on Twitter, but three of the four are on Instagram, if that’s of interest. The number is 1 (833) 764-1221.

▰ Hit pause and accidentally stumbled on Downton Abbey and Zombies:

▰ Oh, wow. When I posted to Facebook, it triggered the facial recognition, so now it looks like a first person shooter based on the Downton Abbey and Zombies movie:

▰ Really appreciate the Disquiet Junto being featured in this piece at hii-mag.com about internet communities for musicians built around compositional prompts. As one of the Oblique Strategies cards reads: “Define an area as ‘safe’ and use it as an anchor.”

▰ Checklist:

🗹 499th Junto
🗹 ton of work
🗹 long-form writing
🗹 writing that’s me cheating on long-form writing
🗹 gallery review draft
🗹 lunch with friend
☐ email catch-up
🗹 guitar practice
🗹 home cooking
🗹 some exercise
🗹 go offline until Monday

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Moon

A mesostic

Nearly Midnight
      nO passing cars
      nO sidewalk chatter 
   sileNt movie
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Colin Joyce on the Junto at Hii-mag.com

Along with Sarah Geis' Audio Playground

Major thanks to Colin Joyce, who wrote an article for hii-mag.com about music communities that are built around shared composition prompts. The piece is titled “Prescriptive Art Practice in Sound,” and it features two primary examples. One is Audio Playground (audioplayground.xyz), a project run monthly since last year by Sarah Geis, former artistic director of the excellent Third Coast International Audio Festival. The other is the Disquiet Junto. Joyce approaches the topic through the lens of the classic Oblique Strategies cards of Brian Eno and his late collaborator, the artist Peter Schmidt.

Here’s an excerpt:

Part of the long-running success of the project seems to come from the attention and care that Weidenbaum has applied to the prompts themselves. There are never too many in a row with the same style or bent. Some are more conceptual, like #392 “Compose the national anthem for a fictional country,” while others are more practical, like #336 “Share a piece of music you’re working on in the interest of getting feedback.” Changing up the approach no doubt helps the musicians stay engaged, but it also allows everyone involved to flex different creative muscles, to push themselves in different ways, to always be trying something new. But for Weidenbaum, what’s most important is that people are spurred to action. Whether a prompt deeply resonates with a person or not, the hope is that work gets made in response.

“I think inspiration is overrated,” he says. “I think work is what is important. You can only make music if you make music. You can only paint if you paint. You can only write if you write. In general, you won’t get better at it, or at anything else, unless you do it. And so you do it. I think being inspired really happens in the midst of work, not before the work.”

Weidenbaum’s years of shepherding the project have resulted in a robust and engaged community. The group stays in touch through a Slack channel and a message board, encouraging one another and explaining the processes behind their pieces. It’s heartwarming in a way that feels rare in the currently decentralized state of the internet. So often making music and art can be an isolated process, especially for people who work in forms that might be deemed experimental, but projects like this allow people to connect. They’re able to push themselves but also to get in touch with others who are interested in doing the same. “The single best part of it is the people,” Weidenbaum explains. “I have become aware of so many creative individuals, and had remarkable conversations with so many of them.”

Read (or listen to)the full piece at hii-mag.com.

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