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.

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What Sound Looks Like

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


The mystery of apartment 835 persists. One day this building was a modest, three-family dwelling. The next day a smudge had infected the neighborhood’s collective memory. To this day there is no consensus in the local community. The Old 35ers still gather once a month at a nearby cafe to debate the building’s comings and goings. The Voiders meet less regularly these days, only when some bit of 35er quasi-evidence requires a little actual effort to be refuted. The Voiders haven’t yet failed to rationalize every shadowy visitor, every piece of mail marked return to sender, every arrival of a public-utility vehicle. Neither have the 35ers failed to feed the Voiders’ sense of purpose. Tellingly to both sides, the building’s remaining residents haven’t pledged allegiance to either point of view. The bachelor dentist in 831 has kept mum, the Voiders presume, simply to preserve his business, unlike the tiki bar on the main drag that features a somber 835 flag on the roof and a Never Forget cocktail on the menu. The 35ers insist on a nefarious pact between the dentist and … well, there are splinter groups as to whether the landlord, the unidentified former tenant, or some other party entirely has scared 831 into silence. As for the ancient widow in 833, she speaks only a near extinct dialect from a remote region that neither China nor Russia have bothered to lay claim to. The Old 35ers and the Voiders agree on one thing: both groups focus their canonical teachings on the mysterious scribble next to the bottom button. The 35ers point to the consistency of the color with the other addresses. The Voiders early on brought in a paleolinguist from the city college to testify. She felt that the indent and shorter “x height,” among other Talmudic marginalia, firmly distinguished the markings from the other two. If anyone does still live in what was or wasn’t 835, they may very well have disconnected the button, as it’s the favorite dare among students at the neighborhood’s four elementary schools.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

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


When the universe knows you’re giving a talk on doorbells tonight and wants to pitch some potential material.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

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


An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

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


This photograph was shot in New York after I landed at JFK a few weeks ago for a short visit from San Francisco. We touched down late, later even than planned, and so my memory is a little foggy. I’ve pieced together the first stages of the itinerary from the timeline that is automated Google photos backup (a fairly dependable course of action in such circumstances). The timeline exception is when photos are added from other services, like those edited in Instagram or another app, or transferred over from SMS or email — and those would only appear reverse-anachronistically later in the timeline, anyhow, not earlier. In any case, I’m fairly certain that this was shot not on the intra-JFK train that shuttles you from your arrival terminal to where you gather your bags and head out into the world (maybe such a thing doesn’t even exist — like I said, I was pooped), but on one of the city’s subway trains. This shot is a closeup of a well-worn sticker fixed next to an older, larger, metal speaker/button combo labeled only in all-caps English: “Emergency Intercom,” with the additional instructions “To Talk / Press and Release Button / Wait for Steady Light.” (That last bit suggests itself for poetic treatment.) This instructional infographic — instructographic? — does a good job of connecting speaking to pushing, thanks to the red color coding, though I must note that in real life the red button is a far darker shade. The little bright green light does its assigned job of reaffirming the text, which is to say it’s just as confusing, especially in, you know, an emergency. What seems to be missing from the image is any sense of, well, emergency. The demeanor of the cartoon human seems to be that of someone serenading a favorite device (Her: The Musical, now on Broadway), not alerting authorities to the existence of a suspicious package. Also worth mentioning: the red, waveformy, RSS-logo-ish speaking pattern seems to treat the microphone (below) and speaker (above) as equals.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

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


This is the doorbell of a friend’s home, where I managed to crash on the couch a week or so ago while traveling. My friend wasn’t present the entire time, so I didn’t have to ring the bell when I arrived. I just used the key that had been left for me. This is an apartment I’ve visited many times, and rarely ever have I had to actually ring that bell. Usually by the time I’ve made my way up via elevator, the door has been left open a crack, my arrival having been preceded by an announcement from the doorman. On occasion I have rung it, but each time it felt like I was expressing an impatience I didn’t actually feel. I did once ring it purposefully, many years ago. Someone else, by all evidence a resident, was lingering in the hallway, and I got the sense that I was being viewed with suspicion. Pushing the doorbell provided a signal of belonging, sufficient enough that I sensed my onlooker begin to relax. I spent three nights here last week, and by the end felt a bit like a resident myself. No one visited me during my stay, so I never heard the doorbell ring. When I finally left, I had been instructed to put the key under the door. I did so and then, after a moment’s consideration, pushed the doorbell and listened as it resonated in the rooms that I was fully aware were entirely empty.

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