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: science-fiction

The Wall Behind My Synthesizer

Or an atlas of my brain?

There’s heaps more old paperbacks on other shelves: Le Guin, Heinlein, Egan, Bear, Butler, Disch, (Spider) Robinson, Vonnegut.

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Listening to The Lawnmower Man

The digital future according to the filmed past

Been re-watching some old cyberpunk (and “cyberpunk”) movies lately, among them The Lawnmower Man (1992). As someone who does record an audio journal most nights before going to sleep (and auto-transcribing it so that I can read it in the morning over coffee), I enjoyed feeling called out at this moment, when the scientist played by Pierce Brosnan dictates the findings of the day from his underground experiments. (That’s not my reflection in the screen. That’s another scene fading with the current one.)

And there’s this bit, which is in the Blade Runner mode of Roy Batty’s “tears in the rain” speech (from a decade earlier), straining for a bit of singularity grandiosity. The title character, recognizing his digitally enhanced ascension, proclaims, “Once I’ve entered the neural net, my birth cry will be the sound of every phone on this planet ringing in unison.”

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Forensic Sci-Fi

Looking back to the future before Star Wars

Very excited to be writing a piece for the hilobrow.com series Klaatu You, in which contributors were invited by website editor Josh Glenn to “revisit their favorite pre-Star Wars sci-fi movies.” I’ll be writing about Colossus: The Forbin Project, the 1970 film directed by Joseph Sargent (perhaps best known for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three). Up top is a photo of some of the accumulated old paperbacks that sit behind my synthesizer, including the original D.F. Jones novel and one of its two sequels. And here’s the list of Klaatu You entries (some already published, many scheduled for the rest of 2020) as it stands:

Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Wayne Chambliss on THEM! and PHASE IV | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | J.C. Gabel on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS | James Hannaham on FROM HELL IT CAME | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Alison Fensterstock on ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON | Kevin Obsatz on DEATHSPORT | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

Check out the series at hilobrow.com. I’ll note here when mine goes live.

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Serial Sound

Ninth Step Station and the intersection of sound design and everyday life

I was taking long walks at night until I began to find them unnerving. I’ll start again at some point. The last time I took one coincided with the first episode of season two of Ninth Step Station (created by Malka Older, serialized by Serial Box). That must have been five weeks ago tonight. I stepped out onto the sidewalk after dark and thought, “Yeah, this is what I need. To visit future-Tokyo – you know, even if it’s one plagued by violence and broken into pieces following a devastating war.” I wondered how the sound design would contrast with my walk.

Within a few minutes, I heard something drop behind me. Fully knowing I was listening to a show (it opens in a bar), I looked around. Then, even though all the more aware of the overlap of everyday sound (I was wearing headphones but not noise-canceling ones) and the serial’s sound, I became conscious of a fight in the distance. I got anxious immediately. And again, it was merely sound design experienced on an otherwise empty street. Actually, not “merely.” The opposite of merely. Viscerally.

As the show proceeded, and my experience of the episodes moved from outdoors to indoors, I came to focus on other elements. Indoors, things like bar fights don’t alert me. Indoors, it’s the ambient electronic noises of devices that make me look up, check my phone, tap my earbud.

Note: This is a slight variation (changed to “tonight” from “tomorrow”) of something I published last night in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, and adapted from something looser I’d posted to Twitter awhile back. Twitter being my public notebook.

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Day Ten of Ten Days

Some fiction-in-progress I contrinuted to HiLoBrow

“Slowly, a brace of air coalesced around the wand. That’s the only way I can describe it. I know more, today, about what was happening, but I’m trying to describe what it felt like at the time, which isn’t terribly difficult because the mix of shock and elation I experienced is still with me to this day. This was magic, plain old simple magic, something I historically couldn’t have cared less about, any more than I did about symphony orchestras or French cuisine, and yet I was entranced, fixated, engrossed.”

Last week I plumbed the then-in-progress modern Decameron at hilobrow.com for its sonic content, from field recordings to overheard conversation to the sound proximate to the shore. I had a vested interest in that trajectory because I was, myself, slotted to have something appear in the Covid-era series a few days later. Edited by Peggy Nelson, the Ten Days sequence at HiLoBrow introduced, once per day, a piece by a different individual (and in one case creative team), not just tales and poetry, like the original Decameron back circa 1353, but sound, and image, and memoir, and more. The contributors included Vince Keenan, Scotto Moore, Puzzlepurse, Vijay Balakrishnan, Jimmy Kipple, the duo of Russell Bennetts and Colin Raff, Joshua Glenn, Andrew Sempere, and Tom Nealon. My piece (excerpted above briefly in italics) doesn’t have a lot of sound or music in it, though music was very much on my mind in its development. The material I published last Thursday at HiLoBrow is the opening roughly 5,000 or so words of a novel I’ve been working on. It’s a story that occurs in a world where most people, especially young people, consider magic to be old-fashioned and utterly boring, and about a teenager’s chance apprenticeship and cultural awakening. Read it at hilobrow.com.

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