New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

tag: recommended stream

A Meta-Excursion into Ambient Audio-Video

Which is to say, chill


This isn’t a scene from Cyberpunk 2077, apparently. It’s an original audio-video environment posted from the Cozy Dreams account on YouTube. It depicts a rainy night in a post-Blade Runner noir city, the small crowd lingering outside a cafe for an unlikely two and a half hours (the length of the cut, purpose-built for studying or otherwise chilling), but the urban street noise, filtered through the pitter-patter of rain (note that as viewers, we’re on the other side of the glass, which serves as both a window and as our own screen’s surface at once), and the welcome absence of what we learn in film-class to call non-diegetic sound (which is to say, there’s no score, no music, no sound not believably emanating from the other side of the glass), lends it all a solid sense of scenic coherence.

As a longtime listener to ambient music and, more broadly, ambient sound, I welcome the audio-visual equivalent as a form of cultural production and self-expression. YouTube is filled with this sort of material, and exploring the accounts and videos, as well as the threaded conversations on such posts, is itself an excursion, a meta-excursion into these myriad fictional excursions.

Video originally posted at YouTube. Cozy Dreams’ YouTube account lists Belgium as its place of origin.

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ASMR + Zoom Backgrounds = Star Wars: Biomes

It's May the 4th, didn't you hear?

Today was a holiday in the most commercial of senses. May the 4th is the punny annual rite in which people around this globe praise the franchise that unfolds a galaxy far, far away — and they do so with no small amount of support from the … what’s the correct reference? The mothership? No, that’s Close Encounters. The mother lode? That’s more Indiana Jones. Let’s just say that Lucasfilm and Disney do not disappoint. This year this meant the debut of a new animated series, and a one-off Simpsons tie-in, plus various toys and online activities.

Among the latter is an 18-minute video — more to the point, an audio-video feature — that is among the most rarefied artifacts ever produced as part of Star Wars. Titled Biomes, it is a sequence of CGI scenes from various settings, among them Hoth, the ice planet first seen in The Empire Strikes Back; Tatooine, the twin-sunned desert that Luke Skywalker fled in what later became known as A New Hope; and Crait, the red-streaked salt fields that made for a picturesque battle in The Last Jedi.

The sequences are all atmosphere, which is to say they are devoid of plot, and to a good regard of action, as well. We hear no voices, at least not intelligible ones, though there are some beeping probe droids passing by in the opening scene and, later, some noisy tauntauns, heard from far above. When we get to Tatooine, we witness the stranded R2-D2 and C-3PO before they’re separated, and R2 does let off a little trill.

The point of view is entirely that of the director. There is no character, no vessel, whose experience or vantage the scenes depict. There is just landscape and figures, and there is sound. Each sequence is rich with its indigenous noises: wind across the desert of Tatooine, birds and beasts around the village on Sorgan from The Mandalorian, porgs squawking above the ocean world Ahch-To. This gets at the “biome” aspect of the scenes. These aren’t quite full-on naturalist National Geographic scenes, because they do feature key moments from the stories that have been set here. For example, we don’t just see Ahch-To; we see see it as the Millennium Falcon takes off. We don’t just hover over Crait; we do so amid the battle.

Likewise, we don’t just hear the noises inherent in the places. We also hear bits of the musical themes familiar from John Williams’ scores. These aren’t triumphant. They work hard not to do what the scores usually do so exceptionally, which is to telegraph story and to build momentum. Here, they’re all transitional themes, interstitial ones. They are, in other words, as close to environmental sounds as the music might get.

It would have been great if Biomes had gone full biome and dispensed entirely with music. As it stands, though, they are a beautiful thing to behold, and an interesting development, seeming to have resulted from a recognized kinship between the phenomena of ASMR (which has trained audiences to appreciate closely heard sounds) and of animated Zoom backgrounds (which have let people transport themselves to other places during conference calls). Biomes is more than a collection of screensavers, thanks in particular to the immersive nature of the audio. These are environmental set pieces, like an expanded version of the Ralph McQuarrie portfolio from the first Star Wars movie. They are part of the beauty of the Star Wars storytelling mode, with the story itself kept at a remove.

Star Wars: Biomes streams at disneyplus.com.

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Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis in Mutual Exile

The latest in a year-long, long-distance collaboration


Laura Cannell, from England, and Kate Ellis, from Ireland, are a pair of musicians collaborating at a distance on a year-long project in mutual isolation. Each month they release a new collection that pairs the former’s violin with the latter’s cello, along with other elements, notably Cannell’s angelic voice and light production techniques, such as a deep, unresolved echo. In combination, the dozen months of this work-in-progress are titled These Feral Lands – A Year Documented in Sound and Art. The final track of the March edition of Feral Lands came with a mention that it was the first time the duo had recorded simultaneously, and that they did so over the phone, which circumstances suggest that all of January and February, as well as the lion’s share of March, were accomplished with overdubbing: one musician supplying the other with material to subsequently complement. The April set is another batch of charactertistically verdant wonder, with Ellis adding double bass to the kit and Cannell’s voice taking on a shoegaze-like ethereality.

Album originally posted at brawlrecords.bandcamp.com. More from Cannell at lauracannell.co.uk and Ellis at kateelliscello.com.

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Current Favorites: Raw Material, Black Samurai, Deft Esoterica

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A 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. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.

▰ Raw material is often some of my favorite listening, and so while these short loops (collected as Field Notes 02) by Simon James French are intended as source audio for music-making, in fact the ambient tones, field recordings, and general droning-goodness are fine just unto themselves.


▰ Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) scored the new Netflix anime series Yasuke, about an African-born samurai, and while the soundtrack album has plenty of cinematic instrumental hip-hop (“Using What You Got” is a particular fave), it also has chill for days (check out “Shoreline Sus” and “Enchanted”).


▰ Claude and Ola Aldous publish the zine Deft Esoterica, and they also make their own deftly esoteric music, on display on vol, nine tracks of rangy experimentalism, with an emphasis on noisy field recordings, fragile piano, and old-school scifi synthesizer.


▰ As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve never actually played Cyberpunk 2077, but I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with YouTube videos of its ambient street noise playing on loop. This video is a good example, though the title is a bit ambiguous, so possibly not all the sound is from the game itself:

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Disquiet Junto Project 0487: Carillon Quotidian

Assignment: Turn a recurring sound from your life into music.

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 the end of the day Monday, May 3, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0487: Carillon Quotidian
Assignment: Turn a recurring sound from your life into music.

This project was developed by Marty Petkovich (aka K Joule) as part of the celebration of the upcoming 500th consecutive weekly Disquiet Junto project.

Step 1: Identify a recurring sound in your daily life that isn’t generally considered musical. Try to locate a sound that you would normally ignore: the hum of the dryer, or the way the car trunk resonates when you drop it closed, the sound your boots make on certain stairs, the sound of the water coming out of the kitchen tap, etc.

Step 2: The goal is to explore the innate musicality of the sound you identified in Step 1. When recording the sound identified in Step 1, please keep in mind the effort may require some production techniques, because you want to try to isolate it as best as possible.

Step 3: Make an original piece of music employing the sample you recorded in Step 2 of the sound you decided upon in Step 1. Transpose the recorded sample and compose a short theme to use as the central voice in your composition. Complete your piece with other instrument lines as needed.

Background: Invented almost 500 years ago, the carillon is one of the first attempts to take a quotidian sound, the bell, and transpose it into a scaled instrument (which comprises a keyboard that mechanically works 23 bells of different sizes). It is also one of the loudest instruments, designed to broadcast music across an entire village. Before the carillon, the most important role of the bell was to announce the hour (functioning at its most basic level) or the beginning or ending of some event, spiritual or otherwise. The carillon instrumentalized the bell, much as samplers can instrumentalize any recorded item. In honor of the impending 500th Disquiet Junto project, this week’s challenge is to revisit the 500-year-old process of taking a common sound that resonates in your life and instrumentalize it in order to craft a piece of music. Your “carillon” should be the central voice in your piece which can then be embellished as you wish with other instrument lines.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0487” (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 “disquiet0487” (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 llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0487-carillon-quotidian/

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 the end of the day Monday, May 3, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

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

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0487” 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: It is always 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 487th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Carillon Quotidian (Assignment: Turn a recurring sound from your life into music) — at: https://disquiet.com/0487/

This project was developed by Marty Petkovich (aka K Joule) as part of the celebration of the upcoming 500th consecutive weekly Disquiet Junto project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0487-carillon-quotidian/

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

The image associated with this project is by Jade, and used thanks to Flickr and a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:

https://flic.kr/p/2sThNR

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

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