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

The Self-Education of Synthesist Emily Sprague

A great podcast interview on Sound + Process

Emily Sprague patches her modular synthesizer, sets it running, and checks in on it hours, even days, later to figure out where the generative invention has meandered and matured, what strange familiar-yet-unfamiliar music it’s gotten up to. She initiated her relatively recent self-education by mainlining module manuals and studying the videos of a handful of people (notably Lightbath and r beny) whose aesthetic and approach appealed to her (i.e., largely ambient, if gently melodic, and lacking a fixed rhythm). She says she likes tap tempo, for the organic feel, and certain filters, for their ability to self-oscillate. She began to share videos of her own work in part to replenish the well from which she’d drawn, and also out of an awareness that modular synths are a male-dominated thing.

Here’s an early such video, from May 2016:

And here’s a gentle, burbling track from about a year ago:

These are just some of the things we learn in the excellent eighth episode of the Sound + Process podcast hosted by Dan Derks. Interspersed in the podcast are demos of the music that will appear on her forthcoming solo modular synth album. Sprague, who also is part of the folk-pop band Florist, talks about gaining fluency with patching by buying and selling modules, seeing what works for her and what doesn’t, and how warm and welcoming the synth community, in particular on the llllllll.co (also known as Lines) message board, has proved to be.

And after listening to Sprague speak for an hour, you also can check out some of her band Florist’s music, and hear that same voice sing. This track is “What I Wanted to Hold,” off the forthcoming Florist album If Blue Could Be Happiness, which is to be released on September 29, 2017:

More from Emily Sprague at soundcloud.com/mlesprg and twitter.com/emyspraguemusic, and her YouTube channel. Subscribe to the Sound + Process podcast via iTunes or RSS.

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Live Classical Remix

Snatched from the radio, rendered on a Digitakt

What might be a bowed cello or, perhaps, a deep horn opens this track solemnly. The quick initiation of a repeating fragment, the appearance of an audible seam where a loop ends and then again begins, makes it clear this is a remix. What it is is the musician taking a bit of classical music recorded off the radio, and through improvisation in one sitting layering and reworking it into something else entirely.

It is literally one sitting, which we know because the track appears as a video, documentation of a musician coming up to speed on a relatively new piece of equipment. The instrument is the Digitakt, a drum machine and sampler from the company Elektron. You don’t need to know the Digitakt’s interface in order to correlate some of the live actions with what we’re hearing. Often it’s self-evident, as when, around the 2:00 mark, one sample is slowed ever so slightly, or at the end when the volume decreases for a slow fade out.

The strings are the majority of the piece. They are sequenced to avoid any easy sense of metrical certainty, and they are copied and pasted well beyond the number of players present on the original recording. Remixing is like magic: smoke (filters) and mirrors (sampling). The result is a digital fantasia, material mixed as the memory might, favorite snatches on repeat, connections and contrasts between formerly sequential elements emphasized through simultaneity.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted on the corduroyfarmer YouTube.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0299: 10bpm Waltz

Make super slow music in 3/4 time.

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.

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, September 25, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, Denver time, on Thursday, September 21, 2017.

Tracks will be added to the above playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0299: 10bpm Waltz
Make super slow music in 3/4 time.

Step 1: This project is intended as a way to contribute to the 10 BPM Dance Club announced at tenbpm.tumblr.com and twitter.com/onetakerecords. Tracks submitted to One Take Records will be included at an inaugural event in Copenhagen at the end of this month, September 2017.

Step 2: Consider what 10 beats per minute means, what the pace of 10 beats per minute feels like. Think about the instance of the down beat. Think about how 10 bpm differs from, say, 20 bpm, or from 40 bpm.

Step 3: Think about how 3/4 time differs from 4/4 time, and for that matter from 6/8 time. Think about what 3/4 time means when slowed down extremely, all the way down to 10 bpm.

Step 4: Having reflected on the concepts described in Steps 2 and 3, proceed to compose and record a piece of music that is 10 bpm and in 3/4 time.

Step 5: Share your track with the Copenhagen event by sending it to [email protected], per the instructions at tenbpm.tumblr.com.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If your hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0299” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0299-10bpm-waltz/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, September 25, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, Denver time, on Thursday, September 21, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0299” 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 299th weekly Disquiet Junto project — 10bpm Waltz: Make super slow music in 3/4 time — at:

https://disquiet.com/0299/

Thanks to all the folks in the Junto Slack for proposing and helping to shape this prompt.

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-0299-10bpm-waltz/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

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Andrew Weathers’ Psychedelic Amalgams

And one particularly quiet track off the often ecstatic new Andrew Weathers Ensemble album, Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall

With a guitar-driven album that at times echoes such minimalist composers as Terry Riley (in its tonal psychedelia) and Steve Reich (in its percussive patterning), the Texas-based musician Andrew Weathers continues to build a body of work that mixes rigor and wandering, exactitude and ease, ambition and intimacy, grandeur and isolation.

The album is Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, credited to the Andrew Weathers Ensemble and released on his Bandcamp page. Weathers has a composer’s desire for concerted expression and a seer’s hunger for wisdom. His homespun vocals reach full force amid evocative, densely orchestrated settings. Sometimes the music is rhythmically momentous, like “We Already Exist Forever (We Will Eat),” while at others it drones as an extrapolation of Indian raga, for example “The Light Pulse Earth Grid is a Channel.” The result is an amalgam, in the sense of a rich composite, the parts inseparably intertwined but still recognizable. It’s music that, and this is meant as a compliment, suggests signifiant effort, the effort of making something vital, something not just new but trenchant and meaningful.

The songs on Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, per Weathers’ description, took as their origin point material from The Industrial Workers of the World Little Red Songbook. That period mix of progressive fervor and community action finds an outlet here in the sheer ecstasy of a track like “Astral Swords (Seven – A Past That Folds Over),” in which his voice is just one rough-textured element among many.

And then for one brief ambient track, texture is given its momentary, quiet primacy. The piece is “The Dream Body Does Carve (Green Grave).” In it a dense sine wave of a guitar line undulates between threadbare piano playing and tiny little glitches of synthesizer whimsy. It brings to mind the gestural rural atmospherics of the great Scott Tuma. The association makes particular sense, in that at times Weathers’ voice suggest favorably the vocals of Scott Tuma’s former Souled American bandmates, Joe Adducci and Chris Grigoroff. If the idea of Souled American regrouping in order to record an album of Steve Reich covers sounds appealing, then Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall is the album for you.

As for the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, it isn’t precisely a band, except perhaps in the Steely Dan sense of the word: nearly 20 musicians are listed in the credits, including Kyle Bruckmann on oboe, Brendan Landis on electric guitar, and Erik Schoster on Pippi computer (that’s Schoster’s music-making software coded in the language Python), just to name a few.

You know that joke in The Blues Brothers movie where Elwood asks the bartender, “What kind of music do you usually have hear?” and she replies, “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western”? Well, Weathers only has western — it’s a useful descriptor for how he draws from aspects of rock and folk, bypassing country almost entirely, as he heads out toward vast hypothetical expanses.

Get the full album at andrewweathers.bandcamp.com. More on Weathers, who is from North Carolina and lived and was educated (at Mills College) in Oakland, California, before recently relocating to Littlefield, Texas, at andrewweathers.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0298: Dungeons & Drum Machines

Make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die.

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.

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, September 18, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Tracks will be added to the above playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0298: Dungeons & Drum Machines
Make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die.

Major thanks to Jason Wehmhoener for initiating this project, and for plotting it with me.

Step 1: Download the chart at this URL: https://goo.gl/Gew88N

Step 2: Note that there are two columns: one for melodic segments, another for rhythmic segments.

Step 3: Roll a 20-sided die once to be assigned a series of pitches. Roll the die again once to be assigned a series of beats.

Step 4: You will play each pitch for the duration represented by the corresponding beat. When you run out of beats or pitches, you wrap around to the beginning. In this way, while both pitches and beats are looping, the phrase itself takes longer to repeat.

Step 5: Use the result of Step 4 as the foundation for a track. This might mean one of several things. (A) This might mean employing it as an underlying foundation and improvising on top of it. (B) This might mean using it for part of a track, and alternating it with other material. (C) This might mean combining a programmed and live rendition atop each other. (D) This might mean inserting slight variations to introduce phasing and patterning. (E) This might even simply mean letting it play for awhile unto itself. (E) Or you might have some other take on it.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If your hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0298” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0298-dungeons-drum-machines/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, September 18, 2017. This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0298” 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 298th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Dungeons & Drum Machines: Make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die — at:

https://disquiet.com/0298/

Major thanks to Jason Wehmhoener for initiating this project, and for co-plotting it.

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-0298-dungeons-drum-machines/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Image used thanks to a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Konstantin Lazorkin:

flic.kr/p/4TvmQb

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

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