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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The Extended Gap

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Walking at night to the ocean and back feels ominous. There may be no need for another, more specialized or nuanced word. Virtually everything in the city that isn’t shut down shuts down early these days, so there is little reason to go out at night, except to walk to the ocean and back. Very few cars come and go because there are very few places to come to and go from. It’s quiet in a deeply unfamiliar way, the widespread societal inactivity all the more so. Few if any planes fly overhead. You can walk a quarter mile and not see another human. It’s dream-quiet, movie-set quiet. Until it isn’t. A simple sound carries further than usual. The thud of dinner being delivered outside someone’s front gate a block away registers hard. The extended gap in time between the thud and the sound of the gate finally being opened does, too.

Walking during the day is its own kind of ominous. People move about with their respectful distances fairly well sorted; we’re flour put through a sifter, all evenly distributed. The placidity of that metaphor belies the underlying tension. You see someone you know, and you each nod at a block’s distance, and the nods contain a mutual acknowledgment: we’ll both keep going; chatting at the distance of six feet holds little appeal at the moment. You pause in front of one of the neighborhood’s countless locked gates. The six cavities where once there were doorbell buttons are, of course, mere coincidence. But when socializing in close proximity has become so unwelcome, the gate’s blank face feels like another sort of distancing nod.

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The Way Temporary Fixes Become Permanent

An ongoing series cross-posted from

It isn’t about the arrow, though of course it’s about the arrow. The arrow is what catches your eye, gets you to pause, to ponder, to elect to take a photo in the first place. It also isn’t about that shallow, yellowed old doorbell mounted perpendicular to the right of the gate, though that doorbell is certainly what the arrow is about.

No, it’s about the tape, all that excess tape around the arrow. If the arrow tells us to look up and to the right to locate the doorbell, which it does, then the tape is more of a wink. The tape tells us that this arrow isn’t the first attempt by a resident of this home to direct the visitor’s eye, and index finger, in the desired direction.

If the arrow is intended to divert the eye, the tape draws the eye in toward the collage-like mass, to the assemblage of paper that’s molded around what must, at some point, itself have housed a doorbell, and to the haphazard duct tape that strives to keep the paper in place, and to the tape fragments themselves, which hint at prior signage efforts, and then further out along the surface to the mangled gate front that summons up thoughts of other forms of wear, that potent combination of environment and neglect.

As with so many after-market jury-rigged corrections to suboptimal doorbell fixes, this one is a treatise on numerous topics, all at once. There’s the failure of the original device, the problematic placement of the replacement, the covering up of the discarded ringer, the need to bridge the gap from old to new, the way temporary fixes become permanent ones. And hidden in the background, there is the source of so much of the visual confusion: the gate, of course, which further separated visitors from the front door sometime after the house’s original construction. Which is to say, the arrow was fated. Once the gate was introduced, the home owner (or landlord, or property management firm) had already effectively pointed an arrow in another direction.

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Take on the Quiet

An ongoing series cross-posted from

The sun’s down, and the city is quiet. Quieter than usual, for obvious reasons. Hunkered down, you find online connections more important than usual. You download the alpha version of a new piece of audio software, install it, and take on the quiet, a few looped notes at a time.

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After Dinner

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Took a walk to the ocean and back last night after dinner. Listened to Prince’s album Sign o’ the Times the whole way. (Kinda had forgotten the first track is about life under threat of AIDS, drug addiction, and nuclear war.) Saw several signs of the times, notably this one.

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Extreme State

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Might someone take this literally, and imagine that you have three options: buzz 4512 times, or 9028 times, or, well, “just ring the bell”? On the one hand, no one is going to actually read this and think that’s what it means. On the other, it does helpfully present an end to the continuum of poor doorbell instructions. It is, perhaps, the extreme state against which other doorbell fails could be judged.

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