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tag: classical

Disquiet Junto Project 0334: Mass Branca

Record a massive multi-layered tribute to the legendary guitarist-composer.

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, May 28, 2018. This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 24, 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

Disquiet Junto Project 0334: Mass Branca
Record a massive multi-layered tribute to the legendary guitarist-composer.

Major thanks to James Britt for contributing this Junto project prompt.

Step 1: This project is a tribute to the late avant-garde composer and guitarist Glenn Branca, who died earlier this month. Among Branca’s many musical systems was to have a vast number of musicians, say 100 guitarists for example, perform together. We’re going to explore that mass of sound to produce a mass in Branca’s memory. It will be a Mass Mass.

Step 2: Pick a single sound source, an instrument perhaps, but really anything that makes a specific sound. One thing to aim for is a sound source that is rich in overtones.

Step 3: Use multiple layers (with “multiple” being defined as you see fit — 100 layers would be awesome, but so too would 10, 30, 50, etc.) of this sound source to record a piece of music.

Background: While knowledge of Glenn Branca’s work isn’t necessary to participate, it is recommended to read up and listen a bit.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0334” (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 “disquiet0334” (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

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, May 28, 2018. This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Length: The length of your track is up to you. Massive doesn’t necessarily mean long, but long is certainly welcome.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0334” 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 334th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Disquiet Junto Project 0334: Mass Branca / Record a massive multi-layered tribute to the legendary guitarist-composer) at:

Major thanks to James Britt for contributing this Junto project prompt.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

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

The image associated with this project is from Wikipedia and used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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The Muffled Classicism of Christina Vantzou

A track off her new album, No. 4

“So, when you play this live, you just have to figure out a way to construct a huge bell jar to put over the entire orchestra except the cello player.” That is how a friend of Christina Vantzou’s described her aesthetic back to her, per Vantzou’s own recollection when I interviewed her a few years ago on the occasion of her third album, Nº3 (Kranky). It’s an apt comparison. There is a restraint, a sense of sounds emanating down a dark hall, music heard through thick fabric, to Vantzou’s recordings, and the approach holds strong on her new album, No. 4, released earlier this month.

This No. 4 track, “Staircases,” exemplifies Vantzou’s approach. Traditional classical elements, heavy on sedate strings and a minimal piano line that descends like the title subject, are heard in a quiet but intense echo, one in which space — whether real or virtual, physical or a matter of post-production — is as much an instrument as the instruments themselves.

Album posted at More from Vantzou at her channel and at

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Buried in the Depths

Sara Callaway lends her violin to a Stephen Vitiello construction

This is an asynchronous duet between Sara Callaway, playing violin, and Stephen Vitiello, playing with samples of Callaway’s violin after the fact. At first the emphasis of the recording is simply Callaway’s pizzicato action, all pointilist plucking, and then it is on layers that suggest a small chamber group playing something that is equal parts classical minimalism and rural bluegrass, the artful construction informed by a pop sensibility yet fully eschewing song form.

The major transition occurs approximately halfway through, when there is a shift in the balance of power, when the synthesis overtakes the sample, when dense shimmers and industrial roiling come to the fore. Into the mix then arrives a voice, which Vitiello says he can’t recall the source of (“The voice at the end is someone else, unknown buried in the depths of my hard drive”). It manages to both confirm the pop-like gestures, and, with its ethereal, disembodied sensibility, also confirm the avoidance of allegiance to pop.

Track originally posted at More from Vitiello at

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The Disintegration of Swoop and Cross

A preview of an album on the Time Released Sound label

In one week’s time, the Time Released Sound record label will release Disintegration, an album by Swoop and Cross. Swoop and Cross is the name under which the London-based musician Ruben Vale records a mix of classical and ambient, or more to the point a music in which those two finds significant common ground. An advance listen to Disintegration is available on Time Released’s page. Throughout, solo piano is echoed in myriad ways. There are duplicated lines that suggest a hall of mirrors, and there are faint glimmers that presuppose the presence of an astral accomplice. That latter, ghostly aura lends the already somber, if at times quickly paced, music a nostalgic atmosphere. About two thirds of the way through the track, the piano temporarily disappears, and the glimmer takes over: a hushed, granular cloud through which a flock of birds is heard passing.

More from Time Released Sound at More from Swoop and Cross at

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Unsilent Night 2017

You owe it to yourself to try this wherever you happen to live.

Made it to Unsilent Night this past weekend. I love attending. If you haven’t ever, I do recommend looking at the schedule and seeing if it’s happening in your town: I see it’s in Austin on December 17th, Manhattan on the 17th as well, Montréal on the 19th, and Colorado Springs on the 16th. If you’re not familiar, the short version is that 20-plus years ago the composer Phil Kline wrote and recorded four piece of ambient music, collectively titled Unsilent Night, that are meant to be played simultaneously. He then distributed these recordings individually to people, who put them on boomboxes and walked around lower Manhattan in a kind of secular carol for the holidays. Since then it’s been repeated every year in Manhattan, and spread to many other places, about 116 different cities according to the website.

We went last night, using a mix of an iPhone, an Android phone connected to an old Jambox, and an an archaic iPad Mini. They were running the free app, and I was streaming from SoundCloud. You can also download the tracks, and whenever I’ve participated, there have been tape cassettes and CDs available for free use, provided by whoever had organized it that year.

At some point after everyone gathers at the meet-up location, the organizer does a countdown and we all hit play at (roughly) the same moment. The beauty of the sound of Unsilent Night is how those four tracks, in random combinations of emphasis, mix — with variations on them playing slightly out of sync on a wide variety of playback mechanisms, and how the sound bounces off walls in narrow spaces and diffuses in wider, more open spaces — and of course, there’s the sound itself, as it’s a lovely, sedate, holiday-vibe composition, filled with soft bells, and muffled singing, and minimalist percussion.

The path we take in the Mission District hasn’t changed much over the years. We start in Dolores Park, on an edge of the Mission District, where it becomes the Castro District. We then walk through the Mission, sticking mostly to less-populated streets and wider alleys, but not infrequently passing storefronts. There were a lot of people participating this weekend, perhaps 150, maybe more. I was surprised I only recognized one person, a local composer, and otherwise everyone was an unfamiliar face, except that is a few I recognized solely from past Unsilent Night events, like this one guy who has a beautiful old Gramophone-style speaker atop a very tall stick, with an lovely attached wooden box, inside of which I imagine is a phone or an iPod or something.

This year the event started at 5pm, which was great. I seem to recall it started much later in the past. It was nice to see faces, and to experience the transition from daylight to significant darkness as we proceeded. The main change I recall in the walk from previous routes is that this time we headed back directly from the Mission (that is the actual Mission, at the corner of Dolores Street and 18th Street) to the spot near the tennis courts in Dolores Park where we began, rather than re-entering the park further away, up a hill, and coming back down that way. The full composition is 45 minutes long, and we walked almost the full 45 minutes, lingering for the last few minutes in the park as the music came to its subdued close.

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