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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Current Listens: Special Instagram Edition

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

An ongoing series cross-posted from

This is my weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. In the interest of conversation, let me know what you’re listening to in the comments below. Just please don’t promote your own work (or that of your label/client). This isn’t the right venue. (Just use email.)

There’s always chatter about how various streaming services size up next to each other, and how services like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and YouTube, among others, fit into the mix. The fact is, a good amount of my “discovery” happens on Instagram, so this entry in the weekly Current Listens series focuses on some examples. Now, Instagram videos tend to be short. You have click through to IGTV to see longer versions, which I only do on occasion. My listening/viewing experience tends more toward seeing bits of performance clips in a row, and then heading over to the respective musician’s longer-form work elsewhere. These three artists, from up and down the West Coast, are among my numerous favorites.

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NEW: Recent(ish) arrivals and pre-releases

The musician who goes by Scanner Darkly is a Jedi knight of firmware upgrades and modular-synthesizer ingenuity. This here is a piano phase work in the style of Steve Reich. Scanner Darkly is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Arckatron is a master of the MPC, though he also stretches out on the SP-404. Here’s a taste of a work in beatcraft progress. Arckatron, aka Shawn Kelly, is based in Los Angeles.

This is a glimpse at Patricia Wolf’s multi-cellphone piece Cellular Chorus, engineered by Jared Herad. Wolf is based in Portland, Oregon.

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What Was Then the Future

An ongoing series cross-posted from

I’ve always taken this Lego figure to be a boombox, but I’ve come to recognize that the handle is a phone, and the screen interface on the front seems to be phone-like, as well. Perhaps the pieces were repurposed from other initial uses? Perhaps it’s a prototype for the boombox phone of what was then the future.

(In unrelated news, that is, indeed, ash from the NorCal fires on the window ledge.)

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0HP 4Life

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Modules from the Eurorack format of modular synthesizers are measured, in terms of width, by what are called “HP.” The letters stand for “horizontal pitch,” which equals a fifth of an inch. Modules are placed alongside each other in cases, and some ingenuity and space-consciousness can be required when putting together a system. You can see such standard modules, out of focus, in the background of the above two photographs. Functional modules are generally between 4HP and 30HP, but start as low as 1HP and seem to get both wider and narrower with each new release, pushing both ends of the spectrum. On the low end, there’s a wide range of 2HP and 3HP devices.

However, the modules can get smaller still. There is a growing number of modules not intended to be in a rack at all, but instead to hover above the rack, held aloft by the very cables that are plugged into them. These are so-called 0HP modules (that is: zero HP). Pictured here are two such ones I recently obtained. On the bottom, from the small company, is the Gerridae, which is named for the water strider bugs. The one up top, from Error Instruments, is named the Flying Attenuator. There’s a company called Mystic Circuits that specializes in 0HP modules. Whether floating or soaring or on the spiritual plane altogether, these add handy functionality without taking up any precious room.

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Projecting Back

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Dug this out of storage. Projected close on a wall, its images are so sharp as to challenge description. The high level of detail hovers somewhere between a printed image and a televised one, between page and screen. It has the proto-hyperreal quality of the latter, yet even given the sheer force of the slide projector’s light, it lacks the screen’s directive presence, how the screen shines its light at you, into you — how you are the thing onto which the image is, in a sense, projected. In contrast, light experienced from the projector is reflected, diminished, softened.

Still, the slide projector’s end result is brilliant and illuminated, in a way that a printed photo simply isn’t. One thing they have in common, though, the slide image and the printed photo, is texture. The wall’s surface becomes part of the image’s appearance, much as a photo owes some of its quality to the material on which it is presented.

And then, of course, there is the sound. The machine’s motor and fan vibrate with an industrial intensity, the density of this metal device so unlike commonplace 21st-century household gear. The click of each slide swapping in for the previous one announces with a multi-syllabic gesture, several clicks bundled into one. There are steps to the process: the wheel turning, the metal guide entering and retreating, not to mention the plastic impression of the button setting things in motion at the narrative juncture between each observation period.

None of these aspects were experienced as quiet way back when, but they’re especially loud now. Not just loud, they are part of the viewing experience, rather than detritus. Rather than byproduct, these are sonic part and visual parcel. In an art gallery, the slide projector today would have to get credit as “single channel audio,” or some such. But even that wouldn’t do it justice. Each sound comes from a different part of the machine. The sound of the slide projector is as three-dimensional as the resulting image is flat.

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Listening to Colossus

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is very much my jam.

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