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: gadget

The Landlubber’s Hydrophone

Witness the sonic emanations captured by the Geofón mic.

It’s not often I write an entry in this site’s daily Downstream series on the audio examples for a piece of music gear, but maybe it’s more of a case that I don’t do so often enough.

Proceed immediately to the website (lom.audio) of the Bratislava, Slovakia-based company LOM and check out the four audio clips recorded with LOM’s highly sensitive microphone, the Geofón, shown above. Per the descriptive copy: “Geofón is a sensitive geophone adjusted for field recording purposes. Originally designed for seismic measurements, it can be used with regular field recording equipment to capture very faint vibrations in various materials and even soil.”

There is also a warning: “Neodymium magnets may cause interference with credit cards (magnetic stripes), cardiac pacemakers and ICDs.”

And a caveat: “Due to the nature of the geophone sensor, you may experience picking up electromagnetic interference in specific urban areas and other places with strong electromagnetic fields.”

The mic, which looks more like a plug, comes with a magnet (“for attaching to steel constructions”) and a “stainless-steel spike adapter,” so you can stick it into the ground. The four audio examples on LOM’s Geofón page are somehow both earthy and atmospheric, and all are deeply enticing. There are heavy waves of a bridge handrail, the fluttery reverberations of locks on a bridge, the creaky echoes of bowed plastic siding, and the undulating hum of a bathroom fan. They get at an intimacy that gets your imagination going. You look at the objects around you, at the ground outside your window, and ponder what audio is secreted inside it. The Geofón is, in a manner of speaking, a hydrophone for a landlubber. Much as the hydrophone can be submerged , the Geofón, in its own way, tells us what is resounding just below the surface of our senses.

More on the Geofón at lom.audio. The outdoor image is from the LOM Instragram page. The sound designer and recording artist Richard Devine posted a video of the Geofón in action at his Instagram account yesterday.

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Harmonica Clouds

And variations within

The layering comes quickly in this video from Ryan Kunkleman. A button is pushed and the harmonica disappears off-screen. We hear a few notes, and we expect the playing to complete a phrase, for the player to pause for a breath. This doesn’t occur. Instead, before the original phrase ever ends another one is layered atop it. Looping has been enacted. There will be no pause for breath for the nearly 13 minutes of this piece. What there will be is a steady accumulation and movement between the held tones of the harmonica, chords giving way to phrases giving way to chords, little moments occasionally peeking (and peaking) through the sonorous clouds.

The tools, in addition to the harmonica and microphone, are a recent piece of software called Cheat Codes (github.com/dndrks), running on a Norns, an open-source sound computer from Monome (monome.org).

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video first posted at Kunkelman’s YouTube channel, under the moniker esc.

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Broken Media and Entering the Past

Two reminders of technology's mediation

Two blasts from the media past in one day: a CD and a dongle.

(1) I purchased a CD of the score to Breaking and Entering, the Anthony Minghella film, on eBay because the music isn’t on Google Play Music (which I subscribe to), or on Spotify, or on any equivalent I’ve found. I’m a big admirer of Underworld and of Gabriel Yared (all the way back to Betty Blue), and after listening to rips of the Breaking and Entering tracks on YouTube I wanted to be able to listen to it in full. This is from 2006, the year before Underworld scored Sunshine for Danny Boyle, who a decade earlier had helped inculcate them into the vocabulary of film with Trainspotting (true, “Cowgirl” was in Hackers the year prior).

The Breaking and Entering CD arrived still wrapped in its original prophylactic cellophane, affixed with a price tag of nearly $14, or more than twice what I had paid, including shipping, to some semi-anonymous eBay “store” (aka someone with a packed closet or garage across the country from me).

The CD came with a 12-page booklet containing a lengthy essay by Minghella about the role of music in his creative process (it opens: “I find it very difficult to write the screenplay for a film I’m directing until I can hear what the film might sound like”), and about how he brought Underworld together with Yared, much as earlier Minghella films had led to other pairings for Yared (with trumpeter Guy Barker for The Talented Mister Ripley and T-Bone Burnett for Cold Mountain, not to mention the role Marta Sebestyen’s voice played in The English Patient).

Were Breaking and Entering on a streaming service, none of this material would likely have been present (the essay’s length would push the norms even of Bandcamp), nor the detailed credits, including an attribution to Martin Cantwell for “Atmospheres,” which I’m a bit desperate to know more about. Currently Google has all of seven returns in a search for “‘Martin Cantwell’ atmospheres ‘breaking and entering'” and it will have eight as soon as I hit publish on this post. (There are more returns for a random subtitle from a TV show I mentioned in my previous post.)

If the universal-jukebox promise of streaming services and Google searches had already failed me, trying to rip the CD to my computer’s hard drive was another reminder of the gaps that technology inserts into our knowledge. A service did manage to populate the tracks’ titles, but in the process listed Underworld as “artists” and Yared as “composer,” which has no basis in reality, as Minghella himself recounted. He joked they became a fully collaborative trio: “Undergab” or “YaredWorld.”

(2) The other item is a little converter dongle that will let my jack-less mobile phone (currently an Android Pixel 2 XL, though users of iPhones and other devices know the same pain) use cabled headphones. “Cabled headphones” is a retronym, in light of the rise of the Bluetooth variety. Bluetooth has its uses, but the fact is that at some point during a long day, my earbuds’ batteries are likely to run out. Also, I have a really nice pair of cabled headphones at home.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0414: Mod Cons

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

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, December 9, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, December 5, 2019.

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

Thanks to Junto member Iain Holmes for having proposed this project.

Step 1. You’re going to create sound for an appliance. Choose the appliance. Maybe it’s something you own, maybe something you don’t, maybe something that doesn’t exist and you made up. A washer, a game console, a microwave, an electric skateboard, a jetpack, whatever you’d like.

Step 2. Decide what sound or sounds you’re going to compose. Maybe it’s the start-up tone, or an alert, or maybe you want to come up with a whole suite of related sounds.

Step 3. Consider the environment in which the device from Step 1 is employed.

Step 4. Compose one or more sounds for the device you decided upon in Step 1, taking into consideration the context of Step 2.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0414” (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 “disquiet0414” (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:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0414-mod-cons/

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, December 9, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, December 5, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0414” 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 414th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Mod Cons / The Assignment: Compose one or more sounds for an appliance/device/gadget of your own choosing:

https://disquiet.com/0414/

Thanks to Junto member Iain Holmes for having proposed this project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0414-mod-cons/

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this track is by Dan Machold, and is used (image cropped, text added) via Flickr thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/9BsKBb

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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Disquiet Junto Project 0413: Objective Thankfulness

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

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, December 2, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, November 28, 2019.

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

Step 1: Think about all the tools you use to make music, hardware and soft.

Step 2: Focus on one tool for which you have, of late, been particularly thankful.

Step 3: Record a piece of music highlighting that tool’s employment. When doing so, imagine that the creator(s) of the tool might have the opportunity to hear it.

Step 4: When posting the completed track online, be sure to describe what the tool is, and why you chose to highlight it.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0413” (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 “disquiet0413” (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:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0413-objective-thankfulness/

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, December 2, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, November 28, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0413” 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 413th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Objective Thankfulness / The Assignment: Highlight one piece of musical equipment for which you are particularly grateful:

https://disquiet.com/0413/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0413-objective-thankfulness/

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this track is by julochka, and is used (image cropped, text added) via Flickr thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/jS32DD

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

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