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: recommended stream

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Lockdown Uploads

A musical statesman rises to the occasion

Moon above the horizon, strange bulbous flickers of light in the foreground. This is what the screen emits while Ryuichi Sakamoto’s latest lockdown upload plays. Sakamoto, not unlike the slightly elder Robert Fripp, has experienced a calling during what the former terms “these times when things are not ‘normal.'” Both are sending subtle, quiet music out into the world when the world is veering back and forth from unwelcome solitude to public violence. A musical statesman — a statesman employing music — Sakamoto has been an active, visible presence during mass mutual self-isolation. In the past month, he has shared nearly 30 videos of subdued, exploratory sounds, from moaning solo guitar to collaborations with the likes of Christian Fennesz and Marcus Fischer. Those team-ups are being collected under the rubric “incomplete,” the most recent of which, “Stealing Time,” features guest Kung Chi Shing, a Hong Kong-based violinist and activist. The music matches the imagery, which comes courtesy of Zakkubalan. There is an underlying dread, a droning substrate, as well as a surface of brief presences, pizzicato pluckings that come to merge with the background sounds.

Video originally posted on YouTube. More from Sakamoto at More from at Kung Chi Shing at More from Zakkubalan, the duo Neo Sora and Albert Tholen, based in New York, at

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Lauri Wuolio’s Drones and Percussives

Helsinki, Finland

When a track begins so quietly, and at such a length, that you take time to confirm it’s actually playing something, surprise is built in. The ears have perked up. The attention is focused. Slow wafts of drones build and fade, and then from way down deep amid them issues a bubbling, metalloid rhythm, one that dances atop the drone. The ear listens for correlations, how the warp and weft of the underlying current has some parallel in the speed and volume, the vibrance and shape, of the percussives. And then the metalloid presence begins to dim, and the ear traces it as it fades.

Track originally posted at Kumea is Lauri Wuolio of Helsinki, Finland. More at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0439: Hybrid Self

The Assignment: Compose music combining the styles of two musicians you admire.

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, May 28, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, June 1, 2020.

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 0439: Self Less
The Assignment: Compose music combining the styles of two musicians you admire.

Step 1: Think of two musicians, preferably ones with different styles, whose music you admire.

Step 2: Consider ways elements from both musicians might be combined. Elements doesn’t mean copyrighted material. It is intended to mean stylistic. (Yes, recent legal decisions have, shall we say, blurred these lines. Try to put that thought aside.)

Step 3: Compose a piece of music exploring the combination (the grafting, the hybridization) of styles you considered in Step 2.

Step 4: You may when posting your track elect to identify the musicians that served as inspiration, or you may choose to keep it to yourself.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0439” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0439” (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 tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your tracks in the following discussion thread at

Step 5: Annotate your tracks 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, May 28, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, June 1, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. This may be the rare circumstance when longer is better.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0439” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, 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: Given the nature of this particular project sequence, it is best to set 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 439th weekly Disquiet Junto project, Disquiet Junto Project 0439: Hybrid Self — The Assignment: Compose music combining the styles of two musicians you admire — at:

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.

Image associated with this track is from Vega A, used thanks to a Creative Commons license and Flickr. The image has been cropped, colors shifted, and text added.

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The Generative Tuba

The glorious web video series of id m theft able

There’s a running series on the YouTube channel of user “id m theft able” that is one of my current favorite things on the internet. (I put quotes around that name simply so it’s clear where the name begins and where it ends, and also so it’s clear that the sentence constructed around the name isn’t disintegrating as you read it.) Each of the user’s videos in this series places a tuba somewhere, “with a microphone in it,” as the description always points out.

We then hear both the sound of where the tuba has been placed — along a river bank, adjacent to a waterfall, in the wind and rain, in the snow — and that sound echoing inside of (tracing the contours of, limning the deep recesses of) the tuba itself.

The footage generally runs, uncut, for about an hour. Which is to say, it doesn’t blink. YouTube is filled with nature footage. And if you spend time in the realm of ambient electronic music, there’s a lot that’s shot of battery-powered setups out in the wild. But the generative tuba is the rare drone music video that is, truly (an oft misused term), of nature.

There are 11 videos thus far:

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The YouTube Étude (Loop Edition)

Courtesy of Amulets (aka Randall Taylor)

A lot of YouTube videos of music (in contrast with “music videos,” a term that brings to mind a dramatized or play-along format, à la classic-era MTV) focus on specific instruments. These can feel salesy, and given the prevalence of affiliate links might even be salesy, but many of them are simply evidence of musicians focused on their tools. Some are about trying out new things, while others are about dedication to a thing. Many of the musicians who make these videos are experts in their craft, and their videos are the études of streaming life. Such is the work of Amulets (aka Randall Taylor), whose tool of choice is the tape loop. He is a prolific utilizer of loops, and an activist in promoting their utility (his how-to video is approaching 150,000 views). His latest, posted this morning, is a timely one, a roughly nine-second loop, seen rotating in plain view, as a warped vocal goes round and round. The table on which the player-recorder rests is festooned with the little plastic reels of past and, no doubt, future experiments. In a brief accompanying note, Taylor connects the maudlin yet beautiful sound to our current circumstances:

I just had this super simple video idea and decided to make it in quarantine. It’s really nothing more than a repeating tape loop, but I think it’s definitely a reflection of the monotony of quarantine life and our daily existence. These days are on loop and no one really knows when its going to end…

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

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