Data confirms what the ears were sensing.
It’s been quiet — understandably so, given the circumstances — in the Richmond District of San Francisco, where I live. I’ve mentioned characteristics of the quiet previously, and wondered about the quiet not just on the ground but in the air. Above is an image of what San Francisco’s airspace looked like this morning as I drank coffee. Below is a chart of the decline in flights globally (as tracked by Flightradar24.com, also the source of the map).
In his book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet, Gordon Hempton takes the concept of a place on Earth where the sound of a plane does not intrude as a means by which to measure environmental health. He considers not just everyday air traffic like freight and commercial routes, but the unique tension where the planes are a self-contradictory byproduct of nature tourism, such as in the National Parks here in the United States:
And very much to Hempton’s point, the presence of silence has correlated directly with a slowdown of our planet’s machines, flying and otherwise, in reaction to COVID-19. This widely distributed NASA/ESA graphic comparing air quality in Wuhan, China, a year ago and today is clear evidence. (More at cbs.ca.) Here in the Bay Area, air pollution has already reportedly dropped by 38% (sfgate.com).
However, the thing our current quiet has reaffirmed for me, as an admiring if pragmatic reader of Hempton’s book (also recommended: the associated documentary, Soundtracker), is that silence is contextual. I’d go so far as to say that silence is synonymous with context; it is the sense, the setting, the environment (using the broader sense of the term) in which life unfolds. An argument attributing restorative qualities to our current quiet would be tough to make. This is a very different quiet, not a presence but a void.
The Assignment: Employ nature as your conductor.
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 Monday, February 17, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, February 13, 2020.
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 tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):
Disquiet Junto Project 0424: Fluctuating Rhythm The Assignment: Employ nature as your conductor.
Step 1: Compose or choose a work of music. (The work can involve any number of instruments or can be purely electronic.)
Step 2: Perform the work outdoors, employing nature as your conductor. (Any natural phenomenon may be enlisted to keep time during your performance. Examples include the sway of a tree in the wind, the flow of a stream, or the circling of a flock of birds before a storm. Consider a phenomenon that fluctuates with environmental conditions, such that your rhythm varies in ways that situate your work in the landscape.)
Background: This is a collaboration with the artist and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, who is working on a global initiative to enlist natural systems as official time standards. Read more here:
Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:
Step 1: Include “disquiet0424” (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 “disquiet0424” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.
Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.
Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:
Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.
Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.
Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.
Additional Details: Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, February 17, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, February 13, 2020.
Length: The length is up to you. Shorter is often better. Let nature take its course.
Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0424” 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: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).
For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:
More on this 424th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Fluctuating Rhythm / The Assignment: Employ nature as your conductor — at:
This is a collaboration with the artist and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats.
More on the Disquiet Junto at:
Subscribe to project announcements here:
Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:
There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.
The image associated with this project is by Chris Murphy.