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

Lindelof’s Forge

A sonic moment

On a totally separate note, while watching Watchmen last night I wondered, What if Damon Lindelof wrote a comic? And then remembered he had: the six-issue series Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu. Didn’t find much that would provide insight into the Watchmen adaptation, but did come across this sonic sequence.

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Looking for the Comic in Watchmen

Can TV be as structurally rigid as the original comic?

I caught up with the Watchmen series on HBO last night, episode three. Easter eggs and character references aside, it remains very much a Damon Lindelof creation, which is to say, like Lost and The Leftovers, it’s very much in the early-stage process of flooding the screen with mysteries that will, over time, be sorted out, presumably.

I’m old enough that I read the original Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, when it first came out. That 12-issue series was, combined contemporaneously with The Dark Knight Returns (written by Frank Miller), the comic that got me back into reading comics during college, after I took a break from them toward then end of high school. What really captured my imagination in Watchmen the comic wasn’t just the story, or the critique of superheroes, or the meta-narrative, but the structure on the page. Its famously rigid grid and the use of visual motifs, most notably the blood-specked smiley face, gave it a formal self-consciousness unlike any comic I recall having read before. By the time I read Watchmen, I had ditched computer science as my college major and focused on English, which is to say literature. Watchmen was a playground for a mind currently being trained to observe how texts function.

I came to the Lindelof sequel (extrapolation? spin-off? fork?) wondering how that formal quality would carry over. The HBO series has story, and critique, and meta in spades. The structural features, however, haven’t been anywhere near as present as they were in the comic. Sure, the first episode had lots of circles (reminiscent of the smiley-face pin), and the third episode connected the shape of a certain Dr. Manhattan device with the shape of vestibules that people enter so as to send messages to Dr. Manhattan (in other words, insertion goes both ways). But the show is, ultimately, a TV show. It hasn’t in any way reduced or simplified its storytelling devices the way the original comic did. If anything, it draws fully from the peak-TV toolkit: big name casts, movie-grade camerawork, an utter dismissal anything episodic.

All this was on my mind last night as the episode (“She Was Killed by Space Junk”) played. The world outside my window got darker, and the street quieter, and thus the show louder. I lowered its volume, and eventually turned on the captions. Which is when quite suddenly, Watchmen, for the first time, really reminded me of a comic book:

I was already a bit soured on the extent to which the series is, in any way, wrestling with the formal qualities of the original comic (credit shared by Dave Gibbons, its illustrator). Now I wonder how the show might, creatively, engage with captioning, not merely as a point of connection with comic-book techniques, but as a relatively untapped element of TV narratives. I feel like if Alan Moore (long story, yeah, never happening), or Denis Potter (well, dead), or Terence Davies (OK, it’d be a little slow for the intended audience, but I’d love it), or Jane Campion (aside: just imagine the Michael Nyman score), or Peter Greenaway (ditto) were tasked with adapting Watchmen for TV, captions would have been embraced before the first meeting of the writers room broke for lunch.

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Ballard Variations

From the intro to a RE/Search volume

I love this qualification from V. Vale in the introduction to the book J.G. Ballard Conversations, published by Vale’s long-running RE/Search imprint.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0407: Dark Pitch

The Assignment: What do you hear between stations on the radio dial during a drive in the middle of night?

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, October 21, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0407: Dark Pitch
The Assignment: What do you hear between stations on the radio dial during a drive in the middle of night?

This project has one step:

Step 1: It’s 3am. You’re driving across a very dark, very flat territory. There are no other cars in sight. The radio signal begins to fade. You turn the dial. You hear something strange between stations. You grab your phone to record what you’re hearing. Now share that recording.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0407” (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 “disquiet0407” (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 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-0407-dark-pitch/

Step 5: Annotate your track 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, October 21, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0407” 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: Consider setting 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 407th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Dark Pitch / What do you hear between stations on the radio dial during a drive in the middle of night? — at:

https://disquiet.com/0407/

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-0407-dark-pitch/

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

Image by the Flickr account of the-difference, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/9bHnUo

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

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Daredevil Is in the Details

New creative teams stake their claim to the rare blind superhero

Whatever comics commentary I may have is generally going to be lagging behind fresh releases. In particular, my Marvel Comics reading is almost always off by six months or so, since that’s about how long it takes, I believe, for a comic to make it from the newsstand to Marvel Unlimited’s digital subscription service. A new Daredevil series just popped up, story by Chip Zdarsky, art by Marco Checchetto, and color by Sunny Cho. Any time there’s a new Daredevil creative team, there’s the opportunity for a new take on this rare blind superhero (with heightened hearing, among other senses).

In this early scene from the first issue, just two pages in, Zdarsky gives us a glimpse of Daredevil’s own perception of his super-senses. (Origin story in brief: as a kid, Matt Murdock “lost his sight in an accident involving radioactive chemicals,” and rather than dying of cancer like the rest of us would, he became an infamous New York City vigilante and, by day, a crusading lawyer). The pills depicted are pain medication for a recent injury. (I don’t know if there’s an addiction plot line coming, like the classic Iron Man alcoholism one, “Demon in a Bottle.” I’ve only read this first issue.) His comment gets at the diminished role that listening plays in dark, loud places (he’s in a dive bar at this moment, perhaps the last dive bar in the Epcot for aesthetes that is modern Manhattan), how it levels the sensory playing field. I especially like how other senses are of particular use in such situations, how “the smells fill in the cracks.”

Now, when he says, “Places like this are a picture,” he’s saying one thing to the woman he’s in the process of picking up, and something else entirely to the true-believer reader. To the woman, it’s an artful observation. To the reader, it’s a consideration of how echolocation gives Daredevil a sense of whatever space he’s in, a detailed sense, a “picture” as it were, due to his superpowers.

While the “picture” is largely inside Daredevil’s head in the comic, it becomes fairly literal in a tasty little treat in the back of the book, where there’s a four-page comic, both art and story by Zdarsky.

For example, spend a moment with these three panels:

And then compare that sequence with this one:

See how the first is a sound/echolocation depiction of the “visual” sequence? See how the tiny, lowercase (i.e., quiet) sound effects in the second sequence are dwarfed by the larger, all-caps effects in the first sequence? This back-section, four-page comic in Daredevil is actually two pages repeated twice: once as visual, and once as sonic. Interestingly, all four pages are not depicted from Daredevil’s point of view. The depiction is omniscient, with Daredevil in the frame. There are two standard pages, which is to say: two pages drawn as a sight-normative narrator/reader would experience the activity. Those pages then alternate with the same sequence as if the narrator/reader were viewing it in Daredevil’s blind-yet-enhanced state.

These distinct reproductions of the same sequence bring to mind Matt Madden’s excellent book 99 Ways to Tell a Story, while the focus on disability, as always, stirs memories of the great “deaf Hawkeye” work by Matt Fraction and David Aja, not to mention such characters as Alicia Masters, the blind secondary figure in the Fantastic Four comics, and Black Bolt, the nuclear-voiced Inhumans leader, and … well, the list goes on and on. Sound and comics, it’s a thing.

Anyhow, that’s just a peek into the way sound is depicted and employed in this new(ish) Daredevil series. I’m looking forward to the next issue.

. . .

After posting this initially on Twitter and then to my This Week in Sound email list, I was reminded of some earlier, related posts I’ve made in to Instagram, from two other first issues of Daredevil runs. This panel is from a 2014 issue of a different Daredevil #1, written by Mark Waid, drawn by Chris Samnee:

And panel this is from the 2016 Daredevil #1 issue from writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney:

This post is lightly adapted and expanded from a version first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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