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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: gadget

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

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

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:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to 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:

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The First Button

Of many, at Perfect Circuit in Burbank

In Los Angeles for the long weekend on a project, I finally had a chance to visit Perfect Circuit for the first time. Perfect Circuit is one of the best synthesizer (and related) retail outfits in America, with superior mail-order service, excellent videos (on YouTube, where they blessedly employ limited voiceovers, letting the music do the talking), and most importantly a wide-ranging and deep stock of equipment (plus books and other merchandise). Much of that equipment is on view and available for fiddling with inside the nondescript corner storefront operation (which doubles as a warehouse) in Burbank. There are large table tops loaded with gadgets, a small wall of effects pedals, and several massive (well, massive to me with my modest little rig) modular-synth setups. And that’s just the main room. There’s a smaller secondary room of equipment, and another room dedicated to vinyl releases. The place is also deceptively quiet, because everyone walks around with a pair of headphones, jacks in, and plays.

But before you get to turn any of those knobs, or slide any of those faders, or push any of those buttons, there is a more important button you need to push: The door to Perfect Circuit is locked during business hours. There’s a doorbell out front that you need to press. And for all the noise you may generate once you’ve entered, the single sweetest sequence of sounds you are likely to experience during your visit is the combination of that doorbell registering your presence, followed by the click of the door when it is unlocked.

(Side note: If you’re in the area, the carnitas at Taqueria El Tapatio on W Victory Blvd are smoky and delicious.)

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Pop Ambient from Aldo

Three devices and a YouTube channel

Simple music made with simple tools. The idea might seem obvious, but on YouTube — where many musicians, experienced and new, known and not, share works-in-progress in the form of demos and tutorials — simplicity often isn’t the order of the day. Comprehensiveness is. Here, refreshingly, a single sound source and a single tool for looping combine to let Aldo, a French musician living in London, accumulate and manipulate material. Aside from a thick delay pedal at the end of the chain to lend spaciousness, that is it. The result is a glitching, droning, undulating collection of material prepared in advance and then improvised upon in a live setting. The result is vibrant pop ambient.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Aldo’s YouTube channel. More from Aldo at

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Duet with Washing Machine

A Junto video from Jason Richardson

We live with our machines. These machines are small and large, ranging from light switches to refrigerators, from doorbells to dishwashers, from laptops to digital assistants. We know these machines. We know them even if we don’t pay attention to them. We know them through lived experience, which is the deepest form of learning. And among other things, we know their sonic natures, that which constitutes their unique characteristics, how they participate in, contribute to, the ever-shifting suite of noises that is the domestic soundscape, and how their contributions change as a result of the hour, the season, the humidity, the context. This week in the Disquiet Junto, the weekly music community based on shared compositional prompts, musicians are using such sounds, such noises, by exploring them for their rhythmic potential ( In many cases, no doubt, these will not be happenstance sounds but familiar ones. The Junto projects are brief, barely four days between when the prompt is emailed out and the final deadline occurs. Given the creative constraints, participants will generally call upon familiar resources. Take Jason Richarson, the prolific and longtime Junto participant, who elected to use his washing machine as his backing track. He plays against it like he has its rhythms in his blood. He can anticipate its rough tumble, and meets it as an equal partner.

Track originally posted at Jason Richardson’s YouTube channel. He has some additional notes about the recording on his website, Ironically, it was raining the day he wanted to do the project, so he had to use a recording of the machine he made several years ago.

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Did Someone Say Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms?

Better yet: "circuit bent smoke alarm ... ringtones"?

Dylan Sheridan recognizes that the ubiquitous line of defense against residential fires is, in fact, a low-grade computer chip that sounds like a (very) early arcade video game. In Sheridan’s capable and purposeful mishandling, the generic smoke detector is transformed into a device for stuttering, glitchy, gloriously broken noise. The shrill sound of the alarm, designed to be annoying so as to cut through all other noises and alert the human ear to the presence of danger, is here rendered raw material for playful, ebullient noodling. As John Zorn is to the duck call, Diamanda Galás to the human throat, and Adrian Belew to the guitar, so is Dylan Sheridan to the smoke alarm.

This all was accomplished through circuit bending, the trial and error process of getting the inner guts of devices to do things they weren’t intended to through experimental rewiring and other techniques. As for the results of Sheridan’s fiddling, they sound alternately like anxious geese (“call_6”), cartoon geese (“call_7”), Morse code (“call_13”), a balloon losing air post-singularity (“call_17”), the world’s most shrill grindcore singer (“msg_9”), and actual video games (“call_8,” “call_14,” and numerous others).

No doubt aware that these sounds might not be all that enjoyable at length, Sheridan has limited them to the dimensions of ringtones. The meatiest of the 26 tracks on the album Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms – Ringtone Collection is just 22 seconds long. The majority are under 10 seconds. And many are so brief that the Bandcamp website registers them at a length of 0.

The album is available for whatever price the user chooses at The above image accompanied the release on Bandcamp. More from Sheridan at (And many thanks to Danny Clay for recommending this album to me.)

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