This current weekend’s Disquiet Junto project, the 75th, takes the Vine app (more at vine.co) as its subject. This isn’t just because the app’s six-second format allows for an interesting simultaneity of composing, performing, and recording. It’s also because audio has proved to be an under-appreciated aspect of Vine videos.
The undervaluing of sound on Vine.co is in part due to what is, admittedly, a necessary UX decision: by default, the sound is off when a Vine is triggered. You need to click a little speaker symbol with a red X, turning it into two little green signifiers of volume. (The traffic metaphor only goes so far — there is no yellow warning phase.) As a result, Vines are experienced silently at first, the audio perhaps kicking in midway through, after the user takes action and clicks the sound icon, and only experienced in full when the second run of the loop begins. (That is, depending on the circumstance. For example, in the Chrome browser on an iPad, the videos don’t autoplay. Instead, you have to hit play, and in this case sound seems to be on by default.)
The majority of Vines appear to be everyday field recordings and low-key stop-motion sequences. Some ignore sound, resulting in chance noise, while others embrace it. The decision-making, or lack thereof, is especially interesting to observe in the case of those videos that break the six seconds of allotted time into shorter stop-and-start segments. Most non-Vine filmmakers would use a single score to lend continuity to the fragments, but that isn’t an option in Vine, which allows for no post-production.
In turn, there are many Vines for which sound is, in fact, a conscious subject, if not the main subject. What follows are a handful of recent favorites:
Alexis Madrigal captured an ancient 8mm projector, not just its musty imagery but its noisy sound:
Richard Devine has been posting a lot of shots of his music production equipment, with an emphasis on modular synthesizers, often these intimate closeups in which the blippity sounds align with one or more blinking lights. The result suggests a hint of tech sentience:
Ashley Spradlin has posted a series of pieces that display the chance presence of daylight, such as this sequence of the sun playing against a wall, the background audio seemingly a shower. There’s an even stronger example amid Spradlin’s output — shadows of windswept trees filtering through curtains, punctuated by what seems to be an inopportune car honk — but I can’t seem to figure out how to share it. (It shows up in my feed in Vine on my phone, but beyond that I am at a loss.)
And here Craig Colorusso’s solar-powered ambient-drone “Sun Boxes” are given rhythmic texture thanks to quick edits:
â—¼ Faulty Notation: The 73rd weekly Disquiet Junto project was a collaboration with Geoff Manaugh of BLDG BLOG. The Junto participants read segments of a map of the San Andreas Fault as if they were individual scores intended as graphic notation. In a post at his bldgblog.blogspot.com site, Manaugh discusses how the project corresponded with a course he taught this past semester at the architecture graduate school of Columbia University. The above image is an “architectural ‘instrument’ for the San Andreas Fault, designed and fabricated by student David Hecht.” More from Hecht at shareintent.tumblr.com.
â—¼ Parenthetical Remarks: “So when Sigur RÃ³s releases an album of songs sung in meaningless phonemes and abstract vocalizations, they don’t do so in a vacuum, but are part of an artistic tradition. I hope to locate the album in that tradition, and show where its aesthetics converge and, perhaps more interestingly, diverge from those of its predecessors.” That’s Ethan Hayden talking about his in-progress 33 1/3 book on the album () by Sigur RÃ³s:
333sound.com. More from the author, also a composer/performer, at ethanhayden.com. (I’m currently writing a book in the same series. Mine is on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II.)
â—¼ FACE Time: “The chord is an F Major 7 (Fmaj7), which means it is composed of four notes: F, A, C, and E. That the perfect ping sound also spelled FACE was a ‘serendipitous discovery.'” That’s Alexis Madrigal writing about the recent alert tones on Facebook.com: theatlantic.com.
â—¼ Vuzh Feed: There’s a lengthy and in-depth podcast interview with frequent Disquiet Junto participant C. Reider, of the Vuzh Music and deriv.cc netlabels, at musicmanumit.com. Among other topics, it covers the meaning of “experimental” music and the benefits of a Creative Commons license allowing for derivative works. He, er, also says some nice things about this site (MP3).
Â¶ Android Music: There is a heap of Easter Eggs hidden in the holding page for the upcoming Google I/O developers’ conference, at which various Android subjects will be unveiled. These Easter Eggs are accessed by clicking the I and O on the page to yield various results. For example, clicking 10001000 yields a wave generator, as pictured above, and 11011011 yields a touch-based music toy. This being Google, there are Easter Eggs within the Easter Eggs — that is, the binary code isn’t entirely random. For example 10000001 yields a game of pong, the sense being that the 1 on either end symbolizes a paddle. It’s not immediately clear what the meaning of the two music-related codes is. (Found via the helpful comments on the post at theverge.com.)
Â¶ Tape Ops: The Dutch musician Wouter van Veldhoven has posted remarkable footage of old-school tape machines deployed to make minimal techno music:
Â¶ Spring Drop: The score to Spring Breakers, the new film by Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo), was largely composed by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez, often working together. The pairing is certainly interesting, since it is fair to say that Skrillex, the showboating EDM figure, and Martinez, the composer of subtle scores to such films as Solaris and Traffic, represent polar extremes along the continuum that is contemporary electronic music. Almost the entire Spring Breakers soundtrack album is streaming is currently at pitchfork.com. Of the album’s 19 tracks, all but 5 feature either Skrillex or Martinez. Three are collaborations, 7 are Skrillex solo pieces (one a remix), and 4 are Martinez solo pieces. The album comes out March 18 on Big Beat/Atlantic Records, and the movie on March 22. The Pitchfork stream includes all but two of the tracks (numbers 8 and 19 in the list below). The movie stars James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine. More on the film at springbreakersfilm.com. Here’s the track listing:
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites””“ Skrillex
“Rise And Shine Little B***h””“ Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
“Pretend It’s A Video Game””“ Cliff Martinez
“With You, Friends (Long Drive)””“ Skrillex
“Hangin’ With Da Dopeboys””“ Dangeruss with James Franco
“Bikinis & Big Booties Y’all””“ Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
“Never Gonna Get This P***y””“ Cliff Martinez
“Goin’ In (Skrillex Goin’ Down Remix)””“ Birdy Nam Nam
“F**k This Industry””“ Waka Flocka Flame
“Smell This Money (Original Mix)””“ Skrillex
“Park Smoke””“ Skrillex
“Young N****s””“ Gucci Mane (feat. Waka Flocka Flame)
“Your Friends Ain’t Gonna Leave With You””“ Cliff Martinez
“Ride Home””“ Skrillex
“Big Bank””“ Meek Mill, Pill, Torch & Rick Ross (feat. French Montana)
“Son Of Scary Monsters””“ Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
Â¶ The deadline for signing the White House petition to “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal” is February 23. This is a serious issue that relates to many subjects of importance to this site: creative reuse, terms of service, intellectual property, and the right to tinker, among others. Please give it a read and consider weighing in: petitions.whitehouse.gov.
Â¶ Fascinating if brief interview with Jeff Kolar over at rhizome.org about the correlations between radio and dance, about forms that might be thought to correspond with the disembodied and the body. The interview was done in response to a collaboration Kolar has undertaken with performer/choreographer Jennifer Monson and lighting designer Joe Levasseur. Kolar performed at the 2012 Chicago Disquiet Junto concert, and founded the Radius broadcast, a frequent source of entries in this site’s Downstream coverage.
Â¶ We talk a lot about sonification, the aural parallel to data visualization, but the flipside is important, too: the application of big data to sound. Interesting Q&A at forbes.com about Gracenote’s API, with smart contrast drawn to how it compares with that of Echo Nest.
Â¶ Beat boxing, an MRI, and learning about the physiology of language: bbc.co.uk
Â¶ Not sure I’ve mentioned this. Thanks to my newly upgraded SoundCloud account (courtesy of the service’s Heroes program), both the Instagr/am/bient (with music from 25 musicians, including Marcus Fischer and Ted Laderas) and LX(RMX) (with music by Steve Roden, Scanner, and six others) compilations are available for free download.
Â¶ This mockup of the forthcoming HTC One mobile phone seems to suggest it has stereo speakers. Note the grill pattern on top and bottom: androidandme.com.
Â¶ Pitchfork is streaming the new Matmos album, The Marriage of True Minds, for the next few days: pitchfork.com.
Â¶ Joon Oluchi Lee was Roddy Schrock’s partner in the second of the pieces that Schrock performed at the apexart Disquiet Junto show back in November. Over at his lipstickeater.blogspot.com blog Lee talks more about his development of the piece. Video here: apexart.org.
Â¶ John Kannenberg has posted his first download at johnkannenberg.bandcamp.com, Live at ZKM Medienmuseum | 11”‹.”‹11”‹.”‹12, a “live site-specific performance of electronically manipulated field recordings of other museum sounds.” Two bucks.
Â¶ The Verge tech/gadget website has been doing some interesting things with its design of late, notably the inclusion at the top of Sam Byford’s interview with Craig Mod (“What is a book in the age of the iPad?”) of the ambient noise of the Tokyo, Japan, location where they had their conversation. Byford, in the comments, notes what he recorded the noise, and presumably the interview, on: “I got a Sony TX-50 on fire sale, which turned out to be perfect for what I need it for. Super thin and convenient.” (Via Evan Cordes, aka pheezy.com.) … In a related note, “Chronicling the Trip: From Pixels to Paper” by Stephanie Rosenbloom in the New York Times includes this observation: “No app is as foolproof as my Moleskine notebook. But they can make multimedia memories with details like miles traveled and ambient sounds heard along the way, whether they’re church bells in Florence or Pacific loons in Alaska.” Needless to say, the idea of journalists and travelers making sound recordings on a regular basis, whether professional or casual, is a welcome one.
â—¼ Power Station: Fascinating piece at bbc.co.uk on how forensic police detection can use the ~50Hz hum of the power grid as a date/time-stamp for confirming legitimacy of audio evidence:
This buzz is an annoyance for sound engineers trying to make the highest quality recordings. But for forensic experts, it has turned out to be an invaluable tool in the fight against crime.
While the frequency of the electricity supplied by the national grid is about 50Hz, if you look at it over time, you can see minute fluctuations in the order of a few thousandths of a hertz.
â—¼ Italo Horror: Trailer for Berberian Sound Studio, directed by Peter Strickland, about a sound engineer employed by an Italian horror-film studio (thanks for the tip, apeshot.tumblr.com). The score is by Broadcast (guardian.co.uk):
â—¼ Scanner Patrol: Nice to see Eric Eberhardt‘s youarelisteningtolosangeles.com (and other cities, including New York, Chicago, Montréal, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Portland, Austin, Baltimore, Denver, and Phoenix), which layers streaming music with police scanners, getting some coverage: latimes.com rightly brings Michael Mann’s films into play, while nsfwcorp.com does some dream analysis. The site also goes by url2.la.
â—¼ Junto Records: A lot of Disquiet Junto folks involved in the weekly creative-restraint music projects have made sets on SoundCloud of their efforts, such as Carlos Russell (carlosrussell.bandcamp.com), but Grzegorz Bojanek, with Constraints, goes the step further with a physical release. Here’s a shot of the cover being printed:
â—¼ Tome Report: Make note of nochpublishing.com: “a publisher for expanded listening”; edited by Daniela Cascella (whose En abÃ®me: Listening, Reading, Writing. An Archival Fiction was published by Zer0 Books last September) and Paolo Inverni. Also: twitter.com/nochpublishing.
â—¼ Ava Moderne: Great interview with guitarist Ava Mendoza (by Michael Ross) at guitarmoderne.com. The Nels in this quote from her is Nels Cline:
Nels’ playing when I was a teenager sort of helped me understand that classical-esque guitar playing, shreddy solos, and walls of noise were not necessarily unrelated and could actually be good friends
“A major sound of war is the sound of white noise. If you are a commando, it’s always in your ear, and every base location or operations room has that crackle of radios,” says Godfrey.
[Patrick] Hennessey cites the “whirl of generators” as another constant at modern patrol bases, while in a “surreal juxtaposition”, whatever is playing on MTV can become a soundtrack to a war.
Presumably that bit about MTV is meant in anecdotal or associative terms, since what’s playing on MTV these days, and for some time, has been anything but music. (Godfrey is Amyas Godfrey, “an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.” Hennessey is described as “an author and former captain in the Grenadier Guards.”) The article as it appears online is packed with example audio-video recordings.
One particularly memorable detail opens the article:
In Gaza, correspondents have described the whine of Israeli drones overhead. In Arabic they’re known as “Zananna”, literally “whining child”.
“Provide open source archival data+live feeds to new media artists to create aesthetically rendered data visualizations (data as both source and artistic medium) Artists and scientists working together unique method to explore and showcase new discoveries. Artist residencies?”
It’s received just one comment: “With this you run the loss of science data in the images. That is not what the NASA website is about.” That person should read “Shhhh. Listen to the Data” in the May 2012 physicstoday.org, about Wanda DÃaz-Merced’s xSonify:
“When I get the data, I convert it to sounds. I can listen for harmonics, melodies, relative high- and low-frequency ranges,”she says. With NASA’s Swift satellite, for example, DÃaz-Merced “was able to hear [previously overlooked] very low frequencies from gamma-ray bursts. I had been listening to the time series and said to the physicists in charge, ”˜Let’s listen to the power spectra.’”
(The xSonify project was covered here back in May of last year.)
â—¼ Art Worlds: My friend Raman Frey has started a new blog. In a recent post, he pondered where art is headed in our brave, still new-ish world of networked, geographically disperse, lightly overlapping micro-communities. I weighed in with a comment about how the art world is different from, for example, the music industry and the journalism trade: ramanfrey.com. In part:
One key difference is that music and journalism, again just to take two examples, didn’t really court digital media as a subject to anything remotely resembling the extent that the art world did. In a way this helps, because the art world has a library of jargon and learning at hand about understanding digital media. In another way, it makes the transition all the more difficult, because after how many years — what, it’s been 40-plus since Jasia Reichardt’s The Computer in Art, just to suggest one milestone — the art world less than other worlds can’t claim ignorance to the generational forces at work. It can’t, like the flailing business known as publishing, just say, “Well, this is how we’ve been doing things for so long,”because part of what the art world has been doing for so long is embracing, exploring, and promoting digital media.
â—¼ App Yap: This is a bit of a tangent, but I have a new phone, as of one month ago. It’s my third Android phone in a row. I spent about two years with the G1, then about two years with the Samsung Galaxy S (aka the Vibrant), and now I begin life with the Nexus 4. So far, my one-word review is: Wow. My main disappointment is the report that Jelly Bean, the 4.2.1 version of which resides on my phone, has given up on USB On-The-Go, which allowed Android devices to connect with USB devices like keyboards, mice, and thumb drives. As for apps, my main task-oriented software is: the stock email (K9, an alternate, for the moment seems unnecessary), HootSuite (for Twitter and Facebook posts, and potentially Google+ if I can get the time to set up a proper page), OfficeSuite (for formal document writing) and Epistle (for .txt, which is my primary medium for writing), FBReader (for DRM-free ePubs — plus OverDrive for library ebooks, and the Kindle and Google Play Books apps; I wish they’d all adopt the “scroll” reading mode recently introduced in Apple’s iBooks app), Dropbox and (Google) Drive (for storage), and Google Reader. And I’ve begun fiddling with iDisplay, which like AirDisplay lets you use your phone (or tablet) as a second screen to your laptop/desktop — and, better than AirDisplay, it works via USB in addition to wifi. (By “task-oriented” software, I mean that I am not counting things like the dedicated reader for theverge.com, or the Instagram app, or games and music/sound-making software.) One reason I stick with Android over iOS for my phone is the widgets — I have an iPad and an iPod Touch, and there’s something disorienting about the expansive grid of app icons that makes me feel like a hungry person walking into a supermarket: “Er, which first?” As for me, I prefer how Android lets me view information, and to update information, front and center. I rely on the stock calendar widget, on a “sticky notes” variant called seNotes Plus (which combined with the Jelly Bean voice-to-text software is pretty killer), and on the stock Reader widget (to keep me up to date on a handful of priority RSS feeds). Other widget favorites: Easy Voice Recorder, Extended Controls (which lets me set up one-touch things like screen dimming, screen always-on, screen lock, battery level, and so forth). Also: Ultimate Rotation Control, which among other things lets you set the homescreen/desktop of your phone to landscape mode. That about covers it. My needs are fairly minimal. If you use Android and have any favorite apps or gear, let me know.
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.