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: forum-digger

On now participating in the Gizmodo ecosystem

These are two things that I think Geoff Manaugh, editor-in-chief of the technology and design blog, didn’t know about me when he asked if I’d consider bringing beneath his website’s expanding umbrella.

1: My “to re-blog” bookmark file has been packed in recent months with scores of items from pretty much all of the Gizmodo-affiliated sites — not just Gizmodo, but, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Gawker, and Kotaku. Probably Jezebel and Deadspin, too, but the file is too thick for me to tell.

2: Pretty much the first thing that I read every morning with my coffee — well, every weekday morning — is the “Morning Spoilers” at, the great science fiction website that is part of the Gawker network that also contains Gizmodo.

I knew Manaugh’s work from BLDGBLOG and, before that, Dwell Magazine. He’d previously invited me to involve the weekly experimental music/sound project series that I run, the Disquiet Junto, in the course on the architecture of the San Andreas Fault that he taught in spring 2013 at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture. And I am excited to work with him again.

And so, there is now a cozy subdomain URL where I’ll be syndicating — simulposting — material from, as well as doing original straight-to-Gizmodo writing. I’m hopeful that members of the Gizmodo readership might further expand the already sizable ranks of the Disquiet Junto music projects (we just completed one based on a post from Kotaku), and I’ll be posting notes from the course I teach on “sound in the media landscape” at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco.

For new readers of Disquiet, the site’s purview is as follows:

* Listening to Art.

* Playing with Audio.

* Sounding Out Technology.

* Composing in Code.

I’ll take a moment to break that down:

Listening to Art: Attention to sound art has expanded significantly this year, thanks in no small part to the exhibit Soundings: A Contemporary Score at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. That exhibit, which ran from August 10 through November 3, featured work by such key figures as Susan Philipsz (whose winning of the Turner Prize inspired an early music compilation I put together), Carsten Nicolai (whom I profiled in the new Red Bull Music Academy book For the Record), and Stephen Vitiello (whom I’ve interviewed about 911 and architectural acoustics, and who has participated in the Disquiet Junto). But if “sound art” is art for which music is both raw material and subject matter, my attention is just as much focused on what might better be described as the role of “sound in art,” of the depictions of audio in various media (the sound effects in manga, for example) and the unintended sonic components of art beyond sound art, like the click and hum of a slide carousel or the overall sonic environment of a museum. Here’s video of Tristan Perich’s “Microtonal Wall” from the MoMA exhibit:


Playing with Audio: If everything is, indeed, a remix, that is a case most clearly made in music and experimental sound. From the field recordings that infuse much ambient music to the sampling of hip-hop to the rapturous creative reuse that proliferates on YouTube and elsewhere, music as raw material is one of the most exciting developments of our time. Terms like “remix” and “mashup” and “mixtape” can been seen to have originated or otherwise gained cachet in music, and as they expand into other media, we learn more about them, about the role such activities play in culture. And through the rise of audio-game apps, especially in iOS, such “playing with sound” has become all the more common — not just the work of musicians but of audiences, creating a kind of “active listening.” This notion of reuse, of learning about music and sound by how it is employed after the fact, plays a big role in my forthcoming book for the 33 1/3 series. My book is about Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and it will be published on February 13, 2014, just weeks ahead of the record’s 20th anniversary. As part of my research for the book, I spoke with many individuals who had come to appreciate the Aphex Twin album by engaging with it in their own work, from composers who had transcribed it for more “traditional” instruments (such as chamber ensembles and solo guitar), to choreographers and sound designers, to film directors.

Sounding Out Technology: A briefer version of the approach is to look at “the intersection of sound, art, and technology.” The term “technology” is essential to that trio, because it was only when I learned to step back from my fascination with electronically produced music and to appreciate “electronic” as a subset of the vastly longer continuum of “technology” that connections became more clear to me — say, between the sonics of raves and the nascent polyphony of early church music, or between creative audio apps like Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’ Bloom and what is arguably the generative ur-instrument: the aeolian harp. With both Bloom and the aeolian harp, along with its close relative the wind chime, music is less a fixed composition than a system that is enacted. As technology mediates our lives more and more, the role that sound plays in daily life becomes a richer and richer subject — from voice-enabled devices, to the sounds of consumer product design, to the scores created for electric cars:

Composing in Code: Of all the technologies to come to the fore in the past two decades, perhaps none has had an impact greater than computer code. This is no less true in music and sound than it is in publishing, film, politics, health, or myriad other fields. While the connections between mathematics and music have been celebrated for millennia, there is something special to how, now, those fields are combining, notably in graphic systems such as Max/MSP (and Max for Live, in Ableton) and Puredata (aka Pd), just to name two circumstances. Here, for reference, is a live video of the Dutch musician and sound artist Edo Paulus’ computer screen as he constructs and then performs a patch in Max/MSP. Where the construction ends and the performance begins provides a delightful koan:

All of which said, I’m not 100-percent clear what form my activity will take. I’m looking forward to experimenting in the space. I’ll certainly be co-posting material from, but I’m also planning on engaging with Gizmodo itself, and with its broader network of sites. I’ve already, in advance of this post, begun re-blogging material from Gizmodo and from Gizmodo-affiliated sites: not just “sharing” (in the UI terminology of the Kinja CMS that powers the network) but adding some contextual information, thoughts, tangents, details. I’m enthusiastic about Kinja, in particular how it blurs the lines between author and reader. I like that a reply I make to a post about a newly recreated instrument by Leonardo Da Vinci can then appear in my own feed, leading readers back to the original site, where they themselves might join in the conversation. Kinja seems uniquely focused on multimedia as a form of commentary — like many CMS systems, it allows animated GIFs and short videos to serve as blog comments unto themselves, but it goes the step further of allowing users to delineate rectangular sub-sections of previously posted images and comment on those. I’m intrigued to see how sound can fit into that approach. (It’s no surprise to me that Kinja is innovative in this regard — it’s on Lifehacker that I first learned about the syntax known as “markdown.”) I think that all, cumulatively, makes for a fascinating media apparatus, and I want to explore it.

While I typed this post, it was Tuesday in San Francisco. I live in the Outer Richmond District, just north of Golden Gate Park and a little over a mile from the Pacific Ocean. The season’s first torrential rain has passed, and so the city sounds considerably more quiet than it did just a few days ago. No longer is the noise of passing automobiles amplified and augmented by the rush of water, and the roof above my desk is no longer being pummeled. But where there is the seeming peace of this relative quiet, there is also an increased diversity of listening material. The ear can hear further, as it were — not just to conversations in the street and to passing cars, but to construction blocks away, to leaf blowers, to a seaplane overhead, to the sound of a truck backing up at some considerable distance, and to the many birds that (unlike what I was accustomed to, growing up on the north shore of New York’s Long Island) do not all vacate the area come winter. It is shortly past noon as I hit the button to make this post go live. Church bells have sung a duet with the gurgling in my belly to remind me it is time for lunch. And because it is Tuesday, the city’s civic warning system has rung out. 

Dim sum, anyone?

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The Disquiet Junto Project List (0001 – 0449 …)

Association for communal music/sound-making, since January 2012. [Updated: August 7, 2020]

The Disquiet Junto is a group I founded on The purpose of the group is to use constraints to stoke creativity. Each Thursday evening I post a clearly defined compositional assignment, and members of the Junto are to complete the assignment by 11:59pm the following Monday. The initial Junto assignment was made on January 5, 2012, the first Thursday of the new year.

The inspirations for the group’s existence are numerous. There are the weekly Beat Battles sponsored by Stonesthrow, and also hosted at, in which dozens if not hundreds of participants craft instrumental hip-hop beats from a shared sample. There is the tradition of Oulipo, whose embrace of creative constraints is personified by one of its co-founders, the author Raymond Queneau. Several comics artists with whom I have worked, including Matt Madden, have bonded under the banner of Oubapo, and there is, in fact, a related musical tradition, which goes by Oumupo. (I was reminded that the Iron Chef of Music projects at were also an influence on my thinking. They were for many years a big part of the Downstream department here.)

The word “junto” comes from the name of a society that Benjamin Franklin formed in Philadelphia during the early 1700s as “a structured forum of mutual improvement.” In Franklin’s honor, the third Disquiet Junto project explored the glass harp, an instrument he experimented with in the development of what he christened the armonica.

The idea for the Junto arose after the completion of a Disquiet project at the end of December 2011. That project, Instagr/am/bient, was more loosely curated than other such projects I had commissioned, beginning in 2006 with Our Lives in the Bush of Diquiet. Instagr/am/bient proved quite popular, with over 20,000 listens and almost 4,000 downloads in its first month, and this success suggested to me that I experiment with an even looser format — the irony being that this “looser” format is, in fact, dedicated to constraint. Much to my surprise, the very first Junto project resulted, in four days, in 56 original pieces of music by as many musicians. The assignment was to record the sound of ice cubes in a glass and to make something musical of that recording.

If for the musicians involved, the Disquiet Junto is an experiment in creative constraints, for me it is as much an experiment in what I would describe as “community organizing as a form of curation.”

Visit the group — and, better yet, sign up and participate — at There’s also an email announcement list for the group. If you would like to be added to the subscription list, you can join up here: And there’s an F.A.Q.

This page serves as an index of the assignments. They are listed here in chronological order:

These are the weekly projects to date:

0001: ice cubes

0002: duet for foghorn and steam whistle

0003: expanded glass harp

0004: remixing Marcus Fischer

0005: adding sounds to everyday life

0006: remixing archival Edison cylinders

0007: create through subtraction

0008: rework Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography

0009: cross-species collaboration

0010: remix a previous Junto track

0011: everyday mechanical rhythms

0012: cut and paste

0013: remixing wild Up playing Shostakovich

0014: sonic version of Matt Madden’s Oubapo story

0015: aural RGB

0016: sandpaper and dice

0017: transition between field and composed

0018: relative prominence

0019: graphic score (photo by Yojiro Imasaka)

0020: use the NodeBeat app

0021: the four seasons

0022: sonic decay

0023: palindrone

0024: a suite of sonic alerts

0025: remixing project 24

0026: making music from your trash

0027: turm the instruction text into sound

0028: remix a netlabel release

0029: music from water, inspired by William Gibson’s Count Zero

0030: sounds from silence

0031: Revisiting a 1955 Yoko Ono Fluxus piece

0032: sonify the 2012 U.S. presidential election polling data

0033: making music with a turntable but without vinyl

0034: Use the theme song of the Radius broadcast as the source of an original composition

0035: Make music from a sample page of Beck’s Song Reader sheet music

0036: Reworking Bach into abstract expressionism

0037: The sound of commerce

0038: Make a fake field recording

0039: Combine three tracks from the Nowaki netlabel into one

0040: Turn a Kenneth Kirschner duet into a trio

0041: Dirty minimalism

0042: Record a “naive melody” with your oldest and newest instruments

0043: Make mechanical roars from the sound of a retail space

0044: Transition from storm to calm using field recordings from Sandy 2012

0045: Combine material from the public domain adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer

0046: Investigate a recording of the voting process for its “sonic fingerprint.”

0047: Turn the muffled voices of a distant party into the foundation of a recording.

0048: Celebrate the Creative Commons license that allows for derivative works by remixing music from the Three Legs Duck netlabel.

0049: Make a track, 50% of which is the sound of a tape cassette deck in motion.

0050: Encode a word or phrase in Morse Code and employ that as a track’s rhythm.

0051: Create a 2012 audio diary with a dozen five-second segments.

0052: Celebrate the Creative Commons by remixing three tracks from the Bump Foot netlabel.

0053: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it (redux).

0054: Create an original musical score for the day’s news.

0055: Combine two Nils Frahm solo piano pieces into one.

0056: Make music from the sound of the tick of a clock.

0057: Use sounds from the Phonetics Lab Archive at UCLA to depict emotions.

0058: Celebrate the Creative Commons by remixing three tracks from the Endless Ascent netlabel.

0059: Make music from three randomly assigned vowels.

0060: Record something about yourself and your music/sound in your own words and voice.

0061: Record a single for which the cover would be the image suggested by a @textinstagram tweet.

0062: Make music using just three sine waves.

0063: Make a new piece of music based on an echo-laden re-recording of Gregorian chant.

0064: Compose a piece to align with, from memory, 60 seconds of everyday sound.

0065: Compose music atop a randomly assigned segment of a pre-existing track by Jared Brickman.

0066: Collaborate posthumously with the late Jeffrey (Nofi) Melton.

0067: Compose music for a phrase from Homer’s The Odyssey

0068: Combine three songs from the first release of the new netlabel.

0069: Make music from field recordings of earth, water, air, and fire.

0070: Create a single piece of music from two tones and three beats.

0071: Create an original score to the trailer to Christine Knowlton’s film about blind sailors.

0072: Make a domestic score from sounds recorded in your own home.

0073: Read a map of the San Andreas Fault as if it were a graphic notation score

0074: Turn applause into music.

0075: Make a 3-part, 18-second suite with the Vine app.

0076: Use the sounds of the room in which you sleep as source audio for a score to you describing your dream.

0077: Combine music from three different netlabels to create one track.

0078: Create music by removing sound from a century-old Edison Symphony Orchestra recording.

0079: Remix music from the movie Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) to make a downtempo instrumental.

0080: Make music with a metronome.

0081: Create generative music with four loops of differing lengths

0082: Create a minimal techno track using elements of a Haydn string quartet.

0083: Treat a page from recently declassified documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records as a graphically notated score.

0084: Connect two distinct field recordings via a transition between isolated elements.

0085: Make a song with three simple parts (oscillator, drum machine, field recording).

0086: Your next single is titled “Hyperloop.” Now record it.

0087: Make five varied doorbell rings.

0088: Make a track simulating 3D sound.

0089: Use the sounds of interstellar space to make “goodbye music” for the Voyager 1 space probe.

0090: Explore the sound of a radio caught between stations.

0091: Explore the musical qualities of footsteps.

0092: Use room tone to shape a three-part suite.

0093: Combine music from three different netlabels to create one track.

0094: Record an unlikely vocal trio with the sound of a bird, a kitten, and a pig.

0095: Musicians post recent tracks with the express purpose of getting constructive feedback.

0096: Pay tribute to the late Lou Reed’s noise classic.

0097: Decode the music in a phrase from a book.

0098: Combine original three spoken texts into one track.

0099: Compose an 8-bit melody based on the “E G D” startup sound of the Xbox One.

0100: Record the sound of water boiling and make something of it.

101: Make a phase composition based on the sounds of three switches.

0102: Record original secular holiday music: glistening, reflective, gentle.

0103: Make a song based on last week’s “sonic tinsel” project.

0104: Create a 2013 audio diary with a dozen five-second segments.

0105: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it (re-redux)

0106: Treat the weather chart as a graphically notated score.

0107: Use a wind chime as the rhythmic foundation for a track.

0108: Create a soundscape for the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

0109: Insert musical objects into an urban soundscape.

0110: Celebrate the 100th birthday of that old cut-up, William S. Burroughs.

0111: Rework work from Impulsive Habitat, Xylem, Zeromoon (via

0112: Turn your week’s dayplanner into music.

0113: Record a piece of music that slowly improves, in tribute to the late Harold Ramis’ film Groundhog Day.

0114: Combine elements of Dave Seidel’s album ~60 Hz (Irritable Hedgehog).

0115: Record a duet with yourself, divided by a wall.

0116:Record a score for daily dental hygiene.

0117: Compose an original piece of music in response to a haiku.

0118: What is the room tone of the Internet?

0119: Write music to accompany the typing of a work of fiction.

0120: Write a song based on the heartbeat of Marcel Duchamp.

0121: Two projects of varying complexity inspired by Edward Frenkel’s book Love and Math.

0122: Create music for a fake movie whose plot is “Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph.”

0123: Help Gizmodo create the soundscape of the home of the future.

0124: Recombinate work from the netlabels addSensor, As4cords, and Audiotalaia.

0125: On the centennial of the great W.C. Handy song “The Yellow Dog Blues,” participate in a Studio 360 listener challenge.

0126: Change the meter of a 1918 jazz recording by the Louisiana Five.

0127: Record the sound of your library — and then maybe make something of it.

0128: Write a score to accompany a short piece of text you wrote a year ago today.

0129: Create tones to match five of the new emoji.

0130: Create a composition by altering an ongoing loop

0131: Create a composition that naturally extends from the whistle of a tea kettle.

0132: Collaborate with the late Jeffrey (Nofi) Melton using a previous tribute track.

0133: Compose an especially short and concise composition.

0134: Compose music to accompany one minute of a dance video by Cori Marquis.

0135: Record the sonic equivalent of air conditioning.

0136: Recombinate work from the netlabels Nowaki, Phantom Channel, and Rec72.

0137: Produce an original piece of music that fits the genre “old-time electronica.”

0138: Compose a 2.5-minute soundtrack to complement a work of silent video art.

0139: Create and upload a track that exemplifies one key creative process you’ve developed.

0140: Take a recent track of your own and “cover” it with different equipment.

0141: Interpret a New Yorker cover as a graphically notated score.

0142: Make music from the near silence of phone calls.

0143: Play a live duet with the world outside your window.

0144: Remove parts from an unfinished composition to create a finished composition.

0145: Make a short piece of music inspired by a provided verse.

0146: Make a short piece of music based on a typographic symbol for the word “silence.”

0147: Record 8 seconds of white noise in your own personal style.

0148: Make music inspired by and suitable for listening to while reading William Gibson’s novel The Peripheral.

0149: Take a walk around the block and make something from it.

0150: Record a subtle personal mobile score.

0151: Score a segment of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead using the movie’s audio as source material.

0152: Record your own cover version of the “song” sung/emitted by the comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

0153: Record a short sound intended to be set on repeat.

0154: Create a track from two locked grooves

0155: Take a track and its remix and meld them into something new.

0156: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen five-second segments.

0157: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0158: Go from noise to signal with words.

0159: See what music the steps of a favorite recipe yield. 0160: Make a one-minute field recording starting right at midnight (wherever you are). 0161: Create a new track from three tracks from three different netlabels.

0162: Use Paul Lamere’s “Girl Talk in a Box” to gain a new perspective on your own music.

0163: Create a new late-night ambience with sounds from a handful of pre-existing field recordings.

0164: Create music that emerges from the sound of fireworks.

0165: Create a composition that explores the sonic resonance of Harry Bertoia’s iconic side chair.

0166: Take a pre-existing track, slow it in descending states, and then add something to it.

0167: Marking the 3rd anniversary of Bassel Khartabil’s incarceration, turn the silence of a room into something soothing.

0168: Create an original, multi-part piece with a single audio source.

0169: Make a track using only an HTML5 drum machine.

0170: Create a one-minute track that takes the project title as its guiding aesthetic.

0171: Rework a pre-existing field recording in response to an Oblique Strategies card.

0172: Do something analog, then do the same thing digitally, and then combine them.

0173: Do an “over” rather than a “cover” of a pre-existing track.

0174: Play something on your favorite instrument — wearing gloves.

0175: Record the composition on top of the rough draft.

0176: Create a composition on top of a rough idea first recorded on your cellphone.

0177: Netlabel Portrait Use samples of recent Dark Winter Records releases to produce a sonic image of the label:

0178: Emphasize the bells in an urban field recording.

0179: Show off (and explain) one thing you’ve learned recently about an instrument/tool.

0180: Use the Russian nesting dolls as a model for a musical composition.

0181: Imagine your favorite instrument is dreaming while it sleeps — what does it sound like?

0182: Do a rendition of Ethan Hein’s laptop orchestra score by yourself.

0183: Insert something that plays across the stereo spectrum in an after-dark field recording. 0184: Explore the relationship between segments that consist of 1 bar, 8 bars, and 4 bars. 0185: Summon up a memory, and then summarize it in sound.

0186: Explore the sonic contours of a word you’ve spelled out loud frequently: your name.

0187: Shift between three renditions of the same melody.

0188: Take a provided track and make it more complex.

0189: Create a dense stack of attack-free tonal material from one audio source.

0190: Set two out-of-sync loops atop each other, and then add sonic glue.

0191: One chord to rule them all — on several instruments.

0192: Record a 10-second loop to accompany an insane cat GIF.

0193: Record a short composition for two instruments that occasionally intersect.

0194: Record the sound of a clock and make something playful and sweet out of it.

0195: Make music for a Caochangdi Village National Day party.

0196: Sight-read the whiteboard notation from a children’s music class.

0197: Sight-read newly uncovered choral music from the 10th century.

0198: Create an overture for a full-length album.

0199: Make a field recording of a field recording in a spaceship.

0200: Create a score to a Richard Kadrey short story — using his own voice as source audio.

0201: Encapsulate an album for efficient yet meaningful consumption.

0202: Create an audiobook chapter from the new essay collection The Cost of Freedom.

0203: Add something to a rhythm track titled “It.”

0204: Add a foundational rhythm to an ambient foreground

0205: Interpret boxed-up music-education materials as a graphic-notation score.

0206: Compose a track with a trio of through-lines that repeatedly alternate relative prominence.

0207: Rework source audio from Michel Banabila’s 1983 album, Marilli.

0208: Record a composition in place using only the sounds around you.

0209: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen five-second segments.

0210: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0211: Shift between the midnight sounds both within and beyond a physical structure, preferably your home.

0212: Make music intended to attract male mosquitoes.

0213: Combine three field recordings from artist Charles Lindsay to explore and express notions of perceived techno-organic intelligence.

0214: Bring to the fore the distinction between two specific microtones.

0215: Make a short track with just pin-prick audio.

0216: Add a thin foundational bed to beats of pin-prick audio.

0217: Take an existing assemblage of rhythm and tone and turn it into verse/chorus/verse.

0218: Following the path of artist Kate Carr, explore sounds from a distance.

0219: Working with artist Paolo Salvagione, create the audio backdrop for a piece of choreography utilizing only the sound of soft breaths.

0220: Make overtly rhythmic music from short loops of overtly arrhythmic source audio, following instructions from Dennis DeSantis.

0221: Compose something — quiet, peaceful, refreshing — you’d want to wake up to.

0222: Compose a piece for contemporary dance — with a “soft top” and a “shifting bottom.”

0223: Record multiple, slightly varying takes on the same looped composition in this project by Monome’s Brian Crabtree.

0224: Make music with the sound of a refrigerator as its foundation.

0225 / Serial Composition: Sight read a late-1940s painting by Argentine artist Lidy Prati as a graphically notated score.

0226 / Bucky Ball: Compose music for a fictional greatest-hits collection of the electronic music of R. Buckminster Fuller.

0227 / Treated Chord: Record a piece of music in which what changes is the treatment of the notes that comprise a single chord.

0228 / Three Mics: Make a piece of music with one sound source recorded three different ways.

0229 / Fourth Worldizing: Use a favorite trick of legendary sound designer Walter Murch.

0230 / Design I: Interpret a graphic score (never before performed or realized) from the mid-1970s

0231 / Field Complement: Compose a piece to align with, from memory, 60 seconds of everyday sound.

0232 / No Input / The Assignment: Record a piece of music exploring the concept of “no-input mixing.”

0233 / Netlabel (NND Remix) / The Assignment: Make one track from three different netlabels, courtesy of a Creative Commons license.

0234 / Remix Ximer / The Assignment: Make a remix of three tracks of a remix of three tracks, courtesy of a Creative Commons license.

0235 / Dice Music / The Assignment: Create a piece of music based on a structure determined by the roll of a single die.

0236 / Hello Jun(t)o / The Assignment: Say hi to the Juno Spacecraft by embedding Morse code in an original composition.

0237 / Combination ABCs / The Assignment: Build a 90-second composition from three 10-second segments.

0238 / Magnifying Contant / The Assignment: Record a piece of music, emphasizing the sounds of production over the music itself.

0239 / Code Requiem / The Assignment: Compose a short composition in memoriam for a piece of recently deceased software.

0240 / Emerging from a Drone / The Assignment: Compose a piece of music in which a drone slowly, imperceptibly, gives way to something rhythmic and/or melodic.

0241 / Foreground Effect / The Assignment: Compose a piece of music in which the material processed is secondary to the processing.

0242 / Share Yer Knowledge / The Assignment: Make (and annotate) a track that provides an example of a trick/skill/tip you want to share about a piece of musical software or hardware.

0243 / Synth Trial / The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.

0244 / Euro Mixin / The Assignment: Combine tracks from three different European netlabels (Portugal, Spain, Switzerland) into one sonic union.

0245 / Practical Music / Write a piece of music for getting things done, suitable for playing on repeat.

0246 / Double, Quadruple, Sextuple / Compose a piece of music that increases speed in stages as it proceeds.

0247 / Waltz, Maybe / Interpret as a graphic score an illustration drawn upon waking by Lark Pien.

0248 / Galactic Tick / Celebrate the new celestial holiday in music.

0249 / 80 Phases / Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday.

0250 / Soothing Sounds for Junto / Make some peaceful music for an infant child.

0251 / Soothing Sounds for Parents / Remix some music for infants with parents in mind.

0252 / Sonic Palindrome / Make music that sounds the same backwards and forwards.

0253 / Doorbell Rehab / Record some welcome music.

0254 / Fog and Steam / Make music from two provided samples.

0255 / Capone’s Ghost / What does the banjo music of the fabled criminal sound like?

0256 / Music in Place / Record a short piece of music using the sounds around you.

0257 / Remember Noisevember / Make some noise.

0258 / Sonic Climate / Express your local weather in sound.

0259 / Signals Lost / Summon up a horror story in sound.

0260 / Tone Fade / An exercise in when a sound ends.

0261 / Audio Journal 2016 / Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen five-second segments.

0262 / Ice Code / Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0263 / Overture Edit / Produce an overture to an existing album.

0264 / Time Travel / Record a piece of music that plays with the perception of time.

0265 / Kitchen Music / Record a piece of music that uses items from just one drawer.

0266 / Vocal Cuts / Use segments of your own held vowel to make music.

0267 / The Metronomic Society / Create a theme song for a fictional organization.

0268 / Walking Music / Take a stroll and describe it in sound, paying tribute to the late manga great Jiro Taniguchi.

0269 / Duet Portion / Record half of a live duet.

0270 / Just Duet / Record the second half of a duet live.

0271 / Prison Sky / Mark the 5th anniversary of open-source software engineer Bassel Khartabil’s detention.

0272 / Exoplanetary Intervals / Use music to express the relationships between planets.

0273 / Alarm Clocked / Make music for a (new! improved!) slow-waking alarm clock.

0274 / Broken Sound / Record a piece of music in the genre called “broken sound.”

0275 / Revisit Something / Make a track all over again.

0276 / 808 Blockchain Beats / Make 808-style beats based on the blockchain.

0277 / Chew Concrète / Make music inspired by C. Reider’s Chew Cinders album procedures.

0278 / MacConnel’s Jingle / Interpret a work of contemporary art as a graphically notated score.

0279 / Word Interiorities / Dissect the sonic properties of a single spoken word.

0280 / 20170514 / Celebrate the 70th birthday of a Junto member.

0281 / Pattern Interruption / Create a pattern, loop it, and intersperse alterations.

0282 / Berio’s Bach / Make a piece of music based on one composer’s observation regarding another composer.

0283 / Rooms Within Rooms / Make an instrumental song built from the sounds of different room.

0284 / Creative Commonfield / Make ambient music from the sound of clay bowls.

0285 / Live Barcoding / Make rhythms from your packaged goods. 0286 / Found in Translation / Make three versions of something from different distances.

0287 / Digital Pause Tape / Make a track using only cut and paste.

0288 / Interspecies Duet / Make music from samples of two different animals.

0289 / Ancient Artifacts / Imagine a forgotten instrument and make music with it.

0290 / Text-to-Beat / Use computer-generated speech as the rhythmic foundation for a track.

0291 / Lantern Effect / Make music that suggests the way a paper lantern filters light.

0292 / Eclipse Music / In coordination with St. Louis Art Hack Day, make some solar-inspired tunes.

0293 / Emerge/Immerse / Make music for Paige Dansinger’s Palmyra 3D/VR images, paying tribute to the late Bassel Khartabil.

0294 / Offline Status / Pay tribute to the late Bassel Khartabil by turning his spoken words into music.

0295 / Disregard Echoes / Make music inspired by a haiku, reflecting on Australian history.

0296 / Clustered Primes / Make music inspired by a prime-number query initiated by novelist Robin Sloan.

0297 / Domestic Chorus / Make music from all the alarms, buzzers, and other alerts in your home.

0298 / Dungeons & Drum Machines / Make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die.

0299 / 10bpm Waltz / Make super slow music in 3/4 time.

0300 / The 300th Project / 3 chords x 100 seconds

0301 / Parts > Sum / Artfully reduce an album to something less than itself.

0302 / Gronkytonk / Record a single in the genre introduced in Malka Older’s novel Infomacracy.

0303 / Out of Sequence / Pay tribute to the Roland 303 by doing something that is apart from how you think it was intended to be utilized

0304 / Let’s Buzz / Create a piece of music by thinking of the structure of a bee hive.

0305 / Three Princes / Explore chance by exploring the roots of the word “serendipity.”

0306 / Music in Motion / Record a piece of music while en route somewhere.

0307 / Black and White and Punk All Over / Pay tribute to the Sex Pistols on the 40th anniversary of Never Mind the Bollocks.

0308 / Giving Thanks / Write a short piece of music for a person or thing you’re thankful for.

0309 / Military Matrix Mixer / Mix music according to a military standard for relative message clarity.

0310 / From Memory / Recall — and then recreate — a favorite sound.

0311 / Ceramic Notation / Read a work of ceramics as a score in graphic notation.

0312 / Amplify/Magnify / Explore two ways in which sound is scaled.

0313 / Audio Journal 2017 / Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen five-second segments.

0314 / Cold Start / The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0315 / First Chair / The Assignment: Record the first third of a trio.

0316 / El Segundo / The Assignment: Record the second third of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track.

0317 / Triadic Awareness / The Assignment: Record the third part of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track of two parts.

0318 / Linear Training / Record a piece of music composed of variations on the same held tone.

0319 / Duly Noted / Make a composition with the same melody repeated but with notes appearing and disappearing.

0320 / Table of Contents / Make a composition containing loopable background-music segments for each chapter of one of your favorite books.

0321 / Let’s Active / Make a short piece of music that decreases the mind’s tendency to wander, based on research by Dr. Liila Taruffi, PhD, and her colleagues.

0322 / The Wanderer / Make a short piece of music that encourages the the mind’s tendency to wander, based on research by Dr. Liila Taruffi, PhD, and her colleagues.

0323 / Music for Meditation / Record a piece of music suited to meditation.

0324 / Factory Floor / Make music for newsrooms, design studios, and other collaborative workplaces.

0325 / Fake Book / Make a forgery of an old jazz song by using samples from three Edison cylinders.

0326 / Wave Turntable / In collaboration with composer Danny Clay, make music for his exhibit with artist Jon Fischer using only sine waves and turntable surface noise.

0327 / Time Zoned / Create a piece of music that is simultaneously in 3/4, 2/4, and 7/4 time.

0328 / Sonic Pentimento / Record a piece of music inspired by a term from painting.

0329 / Extended Version / Make a piece of music in which you expand the functionality of an instrument — and document your technique.

0330 / Wax Off / Make a piece of music by erasing aspects of a pre-existing track.

0331 / Born Under a Bad Sine / What does it sound like when a robot has the blues?

0332 / Lucky Numbers / Make music based on the lottery.

0333 / Half Evil / Where numerology casts a shadow on musicology.

0334 / Mass Branca / Record a massive multi-layered tribute to the legendary guitarist-composer.

0335 / Alone Time / Record conference-call hold music — a private limbo of your own making.

0336 / Open Mic / Share a piece of music you’re working on in the interest of getting feedback.

0337 / Through-Composted / Create a piece of music that is through-composed, but built entirely from samples.

0338 / Imaginary Quartet / In collaboration with Naviar Haiku, make a four-person band from the provided four live solo.

0339 / Rude Mechanicals / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in this imaginary genre.

0340 / Porta Party / The Assignment: Record a piece of music entirely on the go.

0341 / Sample Forensics / The Assignment: Place a fragmentary sample into a natural-seeming setting.

0342 / In Sea / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in tribute to Terry Riley’s In C using only samples of water sounds.

0343 / Big Pun / The Assignment: What does a musical pun sound like?

0344 / Careful Symmetries / The Assignment: Explore palindromes in musical form.

0345 / Sample Time / Make your own drum machine sounds, do something with them, and share them.

0346 / Drum Machinations / The Assignment: Make a beat with new drum machine sounds provided by other Junto musicians.

0347 / Remix Remodel / The Assignment: Update a track by one Junto participant by adding beats from another Junto.

0348 / Hot Mise en Abyme / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the art-historical term for fractal/recursion.

0349 / Got Glitch? / The Assignment: Help define “glitch” by glitching something, and explaining what you did.

0350 / Selected Insomniac Works / The Assignment: Make very quiet music for very late at night for very fragile psyches.

0351 / Selected Insomniac Works Volume II / The Assignment: Rework some very quiet music by making it even more sedate.

0352 / Layering Permutations / The Assignment: Play something melodic atop two variations.

0353 / Warp & Weft / The Assignment: Read loom-woven fabric as a musical composition.

0354 / Rituals & Canticles / The Assignment: Make music using instruments from a future that doesn’t fully remember our present.

0355 / Sonic Vivisection / The Assignment: Operate with incisions on a live sound in real time.

0356 / Ground Swell / The Assignment: Derive something spooky from a specific place.

0357 / Clock Work / The Assignment: Base a piece of music on your previous 12 hours.

0358 / Rhythm + Blue(s) / The Assignment: An exercise in genre.

0359 / Broken Clock / The Assignment: Use an image not as a graphic score, but as a graphic depiction of a remix.

0360 Fishbowl Progressions / The Assignment: Explore spatial sound as a compositional element.

0361 / Zork Diaries / The Assignment: Score a classic interactive fiction.

0362 / Operational Surrealism / The Assignment: Make a piece of music informed by a key text from the art movement.

0363 / Gymnopédie Rats / The Assignment: Make over Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” in your chosen genre.

0364 / Casting Drones / The Assignment: Use dice to determine your slowly shifting tones.

0365 / 2018 Tracker / The Assignment: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen (or more) super-brief segments.

0366 / Ice Breaker / The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0367 / Trio Initiate / The Assignment: Record the first third of an eventual trio.

0368 / Engage Duo / The Assignment: Record the second third of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track.

0369 / Final Solo / The Assignment: Record the final third of a trio, adding to a pre-existing track, based itself on a prior pre-existing track.

0370 / Through Lines / The Assignment: Follow a single strand in the accumulated material resulting from a multi-part, multi-thread collaborative endeavor.

0371 / Concrete Ambience / The Assignment: What could concrete wallpaper music sound like?

0372 / Honeymoon Phase / The Assignment: Record a piece of music with (only) your most recently obtained instrument or music/sound tool.

0373 / Copernican Music / The Assignment: Record a piece of music intended for an alien species.

0374 / Glitch Glitch / The Assignment: what happens when you glitch something that’s been glitched?

0375 / Despite Yourself / The Assignment: Make a piece of music that sounds as unlike you as you can accomplish.

0376 / Pi Filling / The Assignment: Celebrate Pi Day.

0377 / Algorithms Assemble / The Assignment: Have fun with rules applied to scales, in coordination with the Algorithmic Art Assembly.

0378 / Blue(tooth) Haze / The Assignment: Experiment with the sonic qualities of a failing signal.

0379 / Open Studios / The Assignment: Share a track, get feedback, and give feedback.

0380 / Ears Only / The Assignment: Record a piece of music for an audience of one.

0381 / Shared System / The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner.

0382 / Understanding McLuhan / The Assignment: Remix samples of an interview with Eric McLuhan on his father and media theory.

0383 / Interstellar Ambience / The Assignment: Record the sound of an apartment on a large interstellar ship.

0384 / Breath Beat / The Assignment: Explore breath as a resource for rhythm.

0385 / Audubonus Instrumentum / The Assignment: Imagine a fake instrument, and make music with it.

0386 / New Colors / The Assignment: Out with the old white noise, in with the new.

0387 / Everything & More / The Assignment: Make a single piece of music using every single instrument that you have at your disposal.

0388 / Random Less / The Assignment: Make a single piece of music with very few tools, all selected at random.

0389 / Long Then / The Assignment: Take an old song, and make it (much) slower, and add something.

0390 / Pace Quickens / The Assignment: Take an old song (or field recording), and make it faster, and then add something.

0391 / Front Page / The Assignment: Make music that fills in where the news trails off.

0392 / Another Country / The Assignment: Compose the national anthem for a fictional country.

0393 / Mix Master / The Assignment: Make a new composition from your favorite parts of three of your previous recordings.

0394 / You & Me / The Assignment: Accompany the music made by a species other than your own.

0395 / Acoustic Expanse / The Assignment: Make music with (samples of) the biggest guitar in the southern hemisphere.

0396 / Front Page / The Assignment: Make music with by humming a song and then processing the humming.

0397 / Numbers Racket / The Assignment: It’s 808 Day. Do it up.

0398 / Rauschen Bern / The Assignment: Make music by making a collage of noises.

0399 / Edges & Echoes / The Assignment: Make sonic art for a space with the sounds of that space.

0400 / Sub Divided / The Assignment: Create a score to a Malka Older story using the author’s own voice as source audio.

0401 / Noise Pacing / The Assignment: Use background noise as a beat, as a rhythm.

0402 / Music for Tasks / The Assignment: Record music intended as the backdrop/soundtrack to a chore.

0403 / Filter Box / The Assignment: Record music a piece of music in which a sequence of sounds is treated by the same filter or process.

0404 / Seven (St)ages / The Assignment: Record a piece of music that follows the arc of Jacques’ “All the world’s a stage” speech from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It.

0405 / Trustable (C. Remix) / The Assignment: Remix music from C. Reider’s album … a trustable cloud.

0406 / Phoneme Home / The Assignment: After a visit to Yellowstone National Park, you send a sonic report back to your planet of origin.

0407 / Dark Pitch / The Assignment: What do you hear between stations on the radio dial during a drive in the middle of night?

0408 / Fritiniency Tronics / The Assignment: Were “fritiniency” (“the chirruping sound made by birds or insects”) a musical genre or technique, what would it sound like?

0409 / Spooky 3.0 / The Assignment: Raise haunting music to the next level.

0410 / Op Audio / The Assignment: What does the sonic equivalent of Op Art sound like?

0411 / Wrapped Up / The Assignment: Record a piece of music as a gift for someone special to you.

0412 / One Chord Wonder / The Assignment: Play an extended chord where the instrumentation of each note changes as the piece proceeds.

0413 / Objective Thankfulness / The Assignment: Highlight one piece of musical equipment for which you are particularly grateful.

0414 / Mod Cons / The Assignment: Compose one or more sounds for an appliance/device/gadget of your own choosing.

0415 / Seasonal Metal / The Assignment: Tinsel is your latest instrument.

0416 / Time Laps / The Assignment: Improvise successive layers, each time reversing the previous layer.

0417 / Changes Tracker / The Assignment: Create a sonic diary of the past year with a dozen (or more) super-brief segments.

0418 / Ice-Nine / The Assignment: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it.

0419 / Dischoir / The Assignment: Make music from 100+ vocal samples of held syllables by members of the Disquiet Junto.

0420 / Luna Tick / The Assignment: Make music that proceeds according to the phases of the moon, in celebration of Lunar New Year.

0421 / Marquee Ghosts / The Assignment: What sounds haunt a discarded movie theater in the middle of the night?

0422 / Chapter Cascade / The Assignment: Make a piece of music made up of tiny alternating parts.

0423 / Hold Noise / The Assignment: Record music intended to sound just as garbled as the hold music on a phone call.

0424 / Fluctuating Rhythm / The Assignment: Employ nature as your conductor.

0425 / Crop Score / The Assignment: Crop circles are musical compositions.

0426 / Cellular Chorus / The Assignment: Make music with the source audio from (and inspired by) a Patricia Wolf project.

0427 / Music 4 Airplanes / The Assignment: Make music that blends in with the industrial drone of modern air flight.

0428 / Urban Moss / The Assignment: What echoes of past concerts are retained within this pole?

0429 / Solitary Ensembles / The Assignment: Record the first third of a trio that others will complete.

0430 / Solitary Ensembles x 2 / The Assignment: Record the second third of a trio that others will complete.

0431 / Solitary Ensembles x 3 / The Assignment: Complete a trio by adding a track to an existing duet by two other musicians.

0432 / Ensembles (Remix) / The Assignment: Take an existing musical trio and remix it to make it your own.

0433 / Kit Bits / The Assignment: Create a kit’s worth of percussion samples.

0434 / Beat Kit / The Assignment: Create music with beats crafted by fellow Junto participants.

0435 / Woodshed Report / Share something you’ve been working on (and respond to what others post).

0436 / Planetary Headspace / The Assignment: Share a recording of your local environment to create a communal soundscape.

0437 / Echo Relocation / The Assignment: Record someone else’s field recording of their environment playing within your own.

0438 / Deep Plan / The Assignment: Compose a piece of music in which something special is situated at the very center.

0439 / Hybrid Self / The Assignment: Compose music combining the styles of two musicians you admire.

0440/ Tuning In / The Assignment: Dismantle the institution known as A440.

0441/ Three Stones / The Assignment: Make music that explores territory sonically.

0442/ One Sentence / The Assignment: Make music that explores the shape, tone, cadence, and content of a favorite section of prose or poetry.

0443 / In Two Landscapes / The Assignment: Take two different field recordings and combine them to make one track, as in a mash-up.

0444 / Bot Ensemble / The Assignment: Make music as directed by the great account.

0445 / Aare Tribute / The Assignment: Read maps of a river as a graphic score.

0446 / WWWLDD / The Assignment: Celebrate World Listening Day for the whole weekend.

0447 / Listen Ahead / The Assignment: Make some music for the near future.

0448 / Seamless Bridge / The Assignment: Create a 20-second piece of music to connect two preexisting 20-second pieces of music.

0449 / Page Machine / The Assignment: Read a page of text from a book as if it were a musical score.

And this is the initial post I made on, announcing the project on January 7, 2012: “Sneek Peek.”

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Stonesthrow Migration from to Soundcloud (Instrumental Hip-Hop MP3)

The Stonesthrow label’s weekly sample melees recently migrated to the sound-file community from the cloud-storage service (the latter of which is due to be shut down, following its acquisition by Facebook). It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the backend-technology shift influences the ongoing competitions. For now, it’s difficult to think of a significant downside to the move away from

That’s nothing against; the service had regularly improved its interface over time. But one of the major benefits of the Soundcloud interface is that each participating musician will have a distinct personal page, so if a listener enjoys one track, it will be all the easier to locate other tracks by the same person. When the Stonesthrow Beat Battles were on, collating the various contributors felt a bit like being a character on the AMC TV series Rubicon, trying to track down information on mysterious figures who post coded missives online and leave a disparate and disconnected approximation of a data trail.

Beat Battle #192 is happening right now, which gives us time to focus on the well-attended #191. For readers just coming upon the idea of a Beat Battle, the way it works is that all the participants have a set amount of time, a little less than a week, to construct a beat (that is, a hip-hop-oriented backing track) based on a shared sound source. For contest #191, that sample was a bit of mellow instrumental pop jazz by Don Julian and the Larks (aka the Meadowlarks), titled “Just Tryin’ to Make It.” With a lightly swinging rhythm and a sweet lead saxophone, the track had numerous sample-able moments. Beatmaking tends to fall into two camps: reworking known music and crate-digging for rarities. The Larks track falls into the latter camp.

To these ears, the winner of #191 should have been Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Tictoc, who took the enjoyably subdued tune and torqued it into a noisily looping monster, somewhere between the skronk symphonies of Glenn Branca and the dense collages of Public Enemy:

Track originally posted at Original contest announcement, with link to source audio, at

Speaking of the demise of, there was a piece by PC Magazine‘s John C. Dvorak (at about the (much reported but still not yet in effect) demise of, in which he decried the fragility of a cloud-based Internet ecology: “It’s like a bone yard. Blame the cloud. You’ve basically wasted years of effort saving cool Web sites with bookmarks for no reason.” The piece is worth a reading, though it offers no apparent solution. It also begs the question, are dead links a massive problem? Putting all your data in one basket, as it were, is a problem, but that’s true whether the basket is in the cloud or in your basement server. Either way, it’s an avoidable one; only had so much impact on the Internet, but imagine suddenly going belly-up. In addition, there’s a mistaken fetish quality to the perceived eternal nature of links; maybe there’s something to be said for data that disappears.

It’s wait and see for now on how the Stonesthrow switch to Soundcloud from will play out. It seems like a win for participants and listeners, but perhaps the relative loss of anonymity won’t prove to be a boon — maybe the looseness of gave producers reassurance that their copyright-meddlesome habits wouldn’t be easily trackable, and the Soundcloud mode will be less attractive. For now, the Beat Battles go on.

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The Spoils of the Beat Battle

Been awhile since the last check-in at the ongoing Beat Battles series hosted by, the popular message board of its namesake record label.

The latest, number 151, like all previous Beat Battles, involves tossing up a beat-friendly sample and seeing which battler can push it further along.

As always, among the entries you’ll find both rudimentary cut’n’paste, and some inspired executions — and also as always, once you’ve listened to a handful of the mixes (at least 38 files were uploaded to the arena, at, you won’t listen to the original the same way again.

This time around, the source material is a tinny bit of rhythmic simplicity, though it has just enough different segments — old-school beats, Casio-quality congas, some vocoded chanting — to allow for numerous mixing outcomes.

The original is available as a download, but not for streaming, at Among the highlights of the contest are those by bit1 (MP3), who provides a slo-mo version, all laconic hand claps, buzzy atmospherics, and a riff that suits the downtempo approach, and insDrumental (MP3), who judging by the sheer internal-combustion complexity of the outcome may have put more effort into his entry than a good number of his competitors combined.

The winner, chosen demo-cratically by votes on a separate message thread (at, was mplssoul, who worked in au courant sped-up vocals and a stuttery beat (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Way Out”|artists=bit1] [audio:|titles=”STBB 151″|artists=insDrumental] [audio:|titles=”myEscape”|artists=mplssoul]

The direct links and streaming above may not function properly, but either way, be sure to spend some time at the site, where the entries reside. The service continues to up its game, now allowing for Zip downloading of a given folder. Also give a read to the comments that trail each entry, evidence of the supportive community of producers that has built up around the Stones Throw Beat Battle.

And on to battle 152 …

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The Rashomon of Remixing (MP3s)

There are few pleasures as richly kaleidoscopic as the Rashomon of Remixing: the online beat battle.

Two of the foremost beat fight clubs are located at and In the message boards at both sites, disparate producers, most weaned on hip-hop, take a shared sample and do with it what they will.

Consider the latest from Stones Throw — the 126th beat battle hosted by that great record label. The originating cut is a mostly instrumental bit of soul, “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” And as of this evening, more than two dozen renditions have been posted, key among them an entry by Theory Hazit that takes the initial funk and cuts it up into something just broken enough to be entirely contemporary (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Look What U Made Me Do”|artists=Theory Hazit]

Then there’s DJ Earl-e, who slows it to a spartan pulse, the guitar flashing past like a distant comet (MP3), and, just to single out one other fine entry, an edit by Density & Time, which ratchets up the guitar into something approximating hard rock, though the looped beat ensures it’s never mistakable for anything but raw hip-hop (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Armstrong”|artists=DJ Earl-e] [audio:|titles=”Dirty Bong Blues”|artists=Density & Time]

View the full set of entries in chronological order at — especially should the links above fail to function. Witness the original posts and voting at, respectively, and

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