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.

tag: doorbell

Aspiring-to-Stately

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

At some point — and judging by wear and tear, “some point” was a long time ago — one of two things happened. First: someone got a deal on these stately (or aspiring-to-stately) doorbells. Or second: that someone made a decision to add something perceived as classy to the front of this otherwise standard multi-unit building. These doorbell fixtures look less like a modular system, and more like individual devices intended for single residences. Perhaps there was a consideration in that regard. Perhaps the idea was to lend an aura of spacious suburban self-possession to the, in fact, close confines of urban apartment existence. There are at least three further stories to be tracked: What’s with that red paint at the bottom? Why is unit 3805’s button pristine in contrast with the three others. And why are the top two screws of the facade clean and bright, while the bottom two seem rusty and old? But those stories are overshadowed, so to speak, for to the right is a telling shadow: a dark, narrow, vertical gap provides stark evidence of just how close the next neighboring building is. The gap is a reminder that in a dense urban setting, even if you bring an illusory touch of the suburban to your own space, tight interpersonal proximity remains a fact of life.

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Lab Rat

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Like a lab rat accessorized by scientists with some sort of mind-machine alpha-stage, pre-release technology graft, this humble, generic, ubiquitous model of doorbell has been raised to the ranks of high security thanks to the unlikely pairing of a digital touch pad. The pad comes with a sentience- and surveillance-suggesting red light. There are two other spots to its left where additional lights may appear, or maybe they are slots for cameras. Perhaps if you know the entry code, you’re aware of their purpose. Or perhaps that bit of knowledge is reserved for yet a higher tier still of security clearance.

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User Feedback

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

There is an understanding in user-interface work that an individual who clicks on something might further register the action if they experience some manner of feedback resulting from their action. There is also an understanding in user-interface work that succinct messages work best. These two understandings collide at the entrance to this apartment building.

I tried something different this time when I posted the photo. I put it up on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and asked people to provide their own captions. A bunch of folks piped up, and I liked these two responses in particular: jdginstagramz (via Instagram): “Self-Captioned.” And Paul Lamere (via Twitter): “TCP doorbell.”

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The Extended Gap

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Walking at night to the ocean and back feels ominous. There may be no need for another, more specialized or nuanced word. Virtually everything in the city that isn’t shut down shuts down early these days, so there is little reason to go out at night, except to walk to the ocean and back. Very few cars come and go because there are very few places to come to and go from. It’s quiet in a deeply unfamiliar way, the widespread societal inactivity all the more so. Few if any planes fly overhead. You can walk a quarter mile and not see another human. It’s dream-quiet, movie-set quiet. Until it isn’t. A simple sound carries further than usual. The thud of dinner being delivered outside someone’s front gate a block away registers hard. The extended gap in time between the thud and the sound of the gate finally being opened does, too.

Walking during the day is its own kind of ominous. People move about with their respectful distances fairly well sorted; we’re flour put through a sifter, all evenly distributed. The placidity of that metaphor belies the underlying tension. You see someone you know, and you each nod at a block’s distance, and the nods contain a mutual acknowledgment: we’ll both keep going; chatting at the distance of six feet holds little appeal at the moment. You pause in front of one of the neighborhood’s countless locked gates. The six cavities where once there were doorbell buttons are, of course, mere coincidence. But when socializing in close proximity has become so unwelcome, the gate’s blank face feels like another sort of distancing nod.

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The Way Temporary Fixes Become Permanent

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

It isn’t about the arrow, though of course it’s about the arrow. The arrow is what catches your eye, gets you to pause, to ponder, to elect to take a photo in the first place. It also isn’t about that shallow, yellowed old doorbell mounted perpendicular to the right of the gate, though that doorbell is certainly what the arrow is about.

No, it’s about the tape, all that excess tape around the arrow. If the arrow tells us to look up and to the right to locate the doorbell, which it does, then the tape is more of a wink. The tape tells us that this arrow isn’t the first attempt by a resident of this home to direct the visitor’s eye, and index finger, in the desired direction.

If the arrow is intended to divert the eye, the tape draws the eye in toward the collage-like mass, to the assemblage of paper that’s molded around what must, at some point, itself have housed a doorbell, and to the haphazard duct tape that strives to keep the paper in place, and to the tape fragments themselves, which hint at prior signage efforts, and then further out along the surface to the mangled gate front that summons up thoughts of other forms of wear, that potent combination of environment and neglect.

As with so many after-market jury-rigged corrections to suboptimal doorbell fixes, this one is a treatise on numerous topics, all at once. There’s the failure of the original device, the problematic placement of the replacement, the covering up of the discarded ringer, the need to bridge the gap from old to new, the way temporary fixes become permanent ones. And hidden in the background, there is the source of so much of the visual confusion: the gate, of course, which further separated visitors from the front door sometime after the house’s original construction. Which is to say, the arrow was fated. Once the gate was introduced, the home owner (or landlord, or property management firm) had already effectively pointed an arrow in another direction.

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