A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.
▰ London-based Vigi Beats delivers five brief instrumental hip-hop tracks, the loops expertly balancing a downtempo pace with a frenzy of sped-up samples. The set is titled Just Some Chops.
▰ Hard to imagine the new Thys / Amon Tobin collaboration wasn’t initially conceived as the score to an unidentified video game or film project, so thick is Ithaca with scene-setting, rhythmically amorphous sonic experimentation.
▰ John Schaefer’s New Sounds hosts two piano performances by Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds. Arnald’s new album, some kind of peace, involves his algorithmic Stratus software (“intelligent custom software that could trigger self-playing, semi-generative ‘ghost’ pianos — his ‘robot writing partners'” per the software company, Spitfire Audio, that released it). Listen to the interview at newsounds.org.
Some tweet observations (twitter.com/disquiet) I made over the course of the past week, lightly edited:
▰ Watched an old British TV mystery in which the damning evidence turned out to be the church organ was heard without use of pedals, meaning some kid had been asked by the organist to unwittingly provide an alibi during the murder. For the record I discovered the plot while watching the episode. I didn’t watch because someone had told me the plot. That said, had someone told me the plot, I almost certainly would have watched.
▰ Pretty sure that’s the last time I’m gonna all-caps the title of the new Autechre album
▰ Chrisjen Avasarala from The Expanse books gets our current moment. (This is from Babylon’s Ashes, volume six in the series.)
▰ “The host has another meeting in progress” (Who can’t relate?)
▰ This tweet will have a small audience, but I’ll mention it was a letdown in the final episode of Fast and the Furious: Spy Racers that right after one of the characters names an op Operation Mindcrime the song we hear isn’t by Queensrÿche but instead by Age of Menace. There was a fun little Hamilton/@reneegoldsberry
Easter egg (she plays Ms. Nowhere) toward the end of the episode. (Probably a lot more of those that I missed.)
▰ Me: Kinda wish we could push fast forward a bit. Star Trek: Discovery: How’s 950 years sound?
Right in time for another pandemic weekend, the great harp player Mary Lattimore has released a Friday drop, a full album of music that is at once lush and austere, fragile and full-bodied. Such are the wondrous contradictions in her hypermodern (improvisational and digitally enhanced) employment of an instrument generally associated with dusty antiquity. The seven tracks are quite varied. Some, like “Silver Ladders,” sound like gentle machine augmentation of the familiar harp sound, while others layer in pronounced additional instrumentation (notably the heavily delayed guitar on “Til a Mermaid Drags You Under”), or suggest the sort of complexity only a much larger ensemble could accomplish (“Sometimes He’s in My Dreams”). That guitar part comes courtesy of Neil Halstead, best known as a member of the band Slowdive. Halstead hosted Lattimore at his Newquay, Cornwall, studio for over a week and produced the resulting album, which is titled Silver Ladders.
All held chords and cinema-ready dramatics, calculated shimmers and barely perceptible shifts, “OUT∃R WΩRLDS” by composer Dolores Catherino represents a search for intelligent life between the notes. The result bridges the gap between 20th-century classical modernism and classic synth space music. Track originally posted art soundcloud.com/dolores-catherino. More on Catherino at newmusicusa.org.
“Flacholet” is described by its composer-performer, Henrik Meierkord, who is based in Stockholm, Sweden, as “An organism of cello.” That is apt. The track is as if the cello has taken on a life of its own, a life enabled by some sort of electronic assistance. The slow sawing of the strings is rendered with depth and warmth, and the droning that it yields becomes as much a part of the composition as the originating tones. Halos of sound appear, and textured moments yield brief, sharply defined cameos before fading into the lush lull.
And as it turns out, the track itself has taken on a life of its own, as well. It was picked by by Marco Lucchi, of Modena, Italy, with Meierkord’s consent, and pushed even further into atmospheric realms. “Separasjon” builds on the drone-like qualities of the original, reducing the highs and lows of the drama in favor of something hushed but no less powerful.
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.