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: live-performance

Disquiet Junto Project 0338: Imaginary Quartet

In collaboration with Naviar Haiku, make a four-person band from the provided four live solo recordings.

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 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, June 25, 2018. This project was posted around noon, California time, on Thursday, June 21, 2018.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0338: Imaginary Quartet
In collaboration with Naviar Haiku, make a four-person band from the provided four live solo recordings.

Step 1: First, major thanks to Neil Stringfellow (aka Audio Obscura) for proposing this collaboration between the Disquiet Junto and the Naviar Haiku series, and for the support of Naviar’s Marco Sebastiano Alessi. We’ll be making music based on segments of recordings by four musicians from the May 25, 2018, Naviar Haiku Fest. Get the four recordings here from the Zip file:

http://bit.ly/juntonaviar

Step 2: Having downloaded the four tracks (by Ikjoyce, Audio Obscura, Subsepai, and sevenism), listen to them. Each is a single minute from longer solo performances. Imagine how they might work together.

Step 3: Create a new track employing material from all four (and no other external sound sources, though processing is OK) that suggests the existence of a quartet performing live.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0338” (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 “disquiet0338” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation 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-0338-imaginary-quartet/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, June 25, 2018. This project was posted around noon, California time, on Thursday, June 21, 2018.

Length: The length of your track is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0338” 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: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 337th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Disquiet Junto Project 0338: Imaginary Quartet / In collaboration with Naviar Haiku, make a four-person band from the provided four live solo recordings.) at:

https://disquiet.com/0338/

Major thanks to Neil Stringfellow (aka Audio Obscura) for proposing this collaboration between the Disquiet Junto and the Naviar Haiku series, and for the support of Naviar’s Marco Sebastiano Alessi. The audio employed as raw material in this project is from live recordings by Ikjoyce, Audio Obscura, Subsepai, and sevenism. More on the Naviar Haiku at:

http://www.naviarrecords.com/about/naviar-haiku/

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-0338-imaginary-quartet/

There’s also a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet to join in.

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Live Coding the 100th Ambient Performances Video

A hand-typed drone sequence from musician Charlie Kramer

This video, a five-plus-minute exploration of pinging drones by musician Charlie Kramer, marks the 100th video in the ongoing playlist I’ve been maintaining of live performances of ambient music. The entry marks a milestone, and also a deviation, more about which in a moment.

First, a bit about the playlist itself. It began in April of 2016 “A YouTube Playlist of Ambient Performances,” front-loaded with a handful of pieces by such musicians as Andreas Tilliander, Christina Vantzou, Ryuicki Sakamoto, Nils Frahm (as a member of Nonkeen), and Jon Hassell. At the time I started it, I listed the following rules for its existence:

This “Ambient Performances” set is a playlist-in-progress of live performance videos on YouTube of ambient music by a wide variety of musicians using a wide variety of equipment.

Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.

Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.

Rule #3: By and large, the new additions to the playlist will simply be, reverse-chronologically, the most recent tracks added, but I’ll be careful to front-load a few choice items at the beginning.

Those rules summarized the filters that lead to video selection, but they don’t touch on the reasoning behind the playlist, nor did the initial post announcing the playlist’s existence. The underlying reasons included, certainly, curiosity on my part about how such music was made, and in particular about the creative tension at work in which effort was required to make music that seemed, by its categorical nature, to eschew the notion of effort — ambient music, that is.

But there was another reason, which was simply that the majority of videos featuring technology I found interesting (tutorials, live sets, peeks inside people’s studios, behind-the-scenes footage) had music I couldn’t stand listening to. This playlist of mine was an attempt to focus on the rare material that satisfied my ears, my eyes, and my imagination.

One hundred videos later, something had been surfacing in my thoughts, which was that while the videos all adhered to the initial rules, they had also come to focus often on mechanisms, along with video production, that was as beautiful as the music itself — synthesizers on fields and beaches, keyboards amid flowers and carefully placed objects. It’s no surprise that musicians who can achieve a certain aesthetic in the sonic realm might also be capable of carrying it over to the visual realm. However, I had come to wonder if I’d fallen for beauty, and if visual beauty had become something of a magnet rather than a mere byproduct of what I was after.

In any case, it was with that in mind that I began to actively pursue less visually compelling videos that still satisfied the rules that launched the playlist, and in the process I came to narrow and lightly edit the rules, since the third one only really applied at launch, yielding this amended list, which still applies to all the videos added to date:

This “Ambient Performances” set is an ongoing playlist-in-progress of live performance videos on YouTube of ambient music by a wide variety of musicians using a wide variety of equipment. There are two rules for it:

Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.

Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some meaningful sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.

Note: The list appears in reverse-chronological order, which means that the video listed as #1 is the most recent. When a new video is added, the current #1 becomes #2.

Which brings us to Charlie Kramer’s piece. While all previous videos in this playlist involved physical equipment, with an emphasis on modular synthesizer, Kramer’s recording is a document of live coding — of computer programming as performance practice. The only instrument is his computer, seen here in footage of his screen. What he is doing throughout the piece is manipulating computer code in real time. As with the previous videos in this playlist, there is a direct, informative correlation between what Kramer is doing on screen — we don’t see his hands, but we see keystrokes being entered, and a mouse moving around — and what our ears are taking in. When he fixes some indents, as he does around 1:03 in the video, there is no commensurate change in sound. However, when, later, some integers are changed, we hear variations on what was sounding out previously.

As Kramer explains in the accompanying note, this piece is composed — is coded — in the language Chuck. Each time he hits the Add Shred button at the top of the window in which the Chuck code appears, the current instance of that code begins to be executed: new variables and new commands bringing to life new musical directions. When Kramer does so, a giant green plus sign appears briefly on the screen. That giant green plus a perfect depiction of the connection between precise action and subtle sound that this playlist was intended to explore.

Kramer’s track was recorded as part of the most recent weekly music compositional prompt project in the ongoing Disquiet Junto series. Kramer, who also goes by NorthWoods, posted the video and the code, along with some background on the piece, to the llllllll.co message board, where it’s still available for perusal.

The video is hosted at Kramer’s YouTube channel.

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The Koto of the Future

In a live video performance by Ann Annie

“North Wind” is a live ambient music performance on modular synthesizer by Ann Annie. The track is built largely around the sound of a simulated plucked instrument. The strumming and tuning of that plucking bring to mind in particular a Japanese koto, though the overall sci-fi feel of “North Wind” makes that more along the lines of a koto as depicted in some majestic futuristic cybernetic Ghost in the Shell anime. It is echoed, in Annie’s machine, to infinity, or looped back on itself. At times fragments of momentary string sounds flit into glitchy motifs, and at others they nearly evaporate as they become gaseous effects. Throughout, Annie’s tracksuit-covered arms manipulate the synthesizer. For those playing along at home, generously detailed patch notes provide some background on the equipment employed.

This is among the most recent videos I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Ann Annie’s youtu.be channel. More from Ann Annie, who is based in Portland, Oregon, at annannie.bandcamp.com.

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A Harp Goes Against the Clock

What happens when you bring a harp to a digital-workstation fight?

What happens when you bring a harp to a digital-workstation fight? Watch this video of Mary Lattimore in the magazine Fact‘s Against the Clock series to find out.

Fact’s long-running series pits one musician at a time against themselves. In each edition (there are 150 or so as of this writing) of Against the Clock, the featured musician makes a track in one sitting of 10 minutes or under, recorded and presented uncut. The overwhelming majority of videos are from the fields of techno and hip-hop, and related beat-driven music. Even when a seeming outlier such as James McNew, representing his band Yo La Tengo, shows up, as he did in a video last month, the result is beatcraft, not necessarily the indie rock a Yo La Tengo might expect.

Just yesterday, Against the Clock featured the harp player Mary Lattimore, who in ten minutes is seen looping her harp atop itself over and over. What the session yields is a beautiful track, but not until Lattimore, who records for the Ghostly International label, has eked all manner of sounds from the beast of an instrument. Not only does she send cascades of plucked strings against themselves, plotting out deep spaces with varying volume levels — a cathedral made of sonic pixels — but she bangs against it with a metal ring and scrapes the strings, among other techniques, to make the most of her singular tool. At times she puts aside the harp and concentrates directly on the looper in which she is collecting and collating elements of her live playing.

Video originally posted at Fact’s YouTube channel. While the response so far has been largely positive, not every beat-oriented Aginst the Clock watcher was a fan (“i’m not watching this vid series to see someone play the harp for 10min….. jeeez” wrote one commenter). More from Lattimore, who lives in Los Angeles, at marylattimore.net and marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com.

By the way, the only reason this video isn’t included in my ever-expanding YouTube playlist of fine live ambient performances is because toward the very end there is a brief interview with Lattimore. The interview is informative. It’s just that including a video with dialog would break the intended flow of the playlist.

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Slow Awakening

A live ambient performance video from r beny

This lovely video by r beny is a single musical object put to subtle use. The ambient track, bearing one of beny’s trademark naturalist titles, “Western Sycamore,” moves from slowly undulating formless pads to gentle streams of soft percussive tones. The latter are loops of notes rotating through with the momentum of a slow awakening. The note patterns don’t just lend contrast to the track’s longer tones. They give them shape, revealing the pads as akin to a string section that goes at its own pace. Throughout we see, on occasion, sometimes more than others, beny’s hand enter the frame to turn a knob or hit a button, not so much playing an instrument, in the broadly understood sense of the term, as coaxing something along.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at r beny’s YouTube channel. More from r beny, aka San Francisco Bay Area resident Austin Cairns, at rbeny.bandcamp.com, soundcloud.com/rbeny, and twitter.com/_rbeny.

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