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: science-fiction

Novels Read in 2021

That is, the ones I finished reading

A year in other people’s pages: To say 2021 was a tough year would be an understatement. I read a heap of books, which helped, what with what was going on more broadly in the country and the world. I read a lot more than novels, but here is a list of the 24 novels I finished reading. (I started a lot of books that I didn’t finish. Those aren’t included here.) It’s pretty much all what could broadly be described as “escapist” stuff, which makes sense (since who didn’t want to escape 2021?). I’m guessing I left one or two off by mistake, since I’m not great about updating my Goodreads account.

These novels are listed in reverse chronological order. I’m pretty sure I won’t finish reading the novels I’m currently reading until the start of 2022, but there’s still plenty of vacation days ahead, so who knows? (The better of them is Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee, and so far I am really enjoying it, as of 43%. It’s the third and, sadly, final book in her Jade series.) The ones with + signs are the ones I particularly recommend.

Technically I finished Time War at the very very end of 2020, but the book still felt fresh at the start of the year. It’s pretty revealing to look back at a year of reading, and to observe how some books feel quite recent, while others don’t. For example, I finished Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice before January 2021 was half over, and it feels like much much longer ago, whereas I finished Kay Larson’s truly excellent Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists in May, and it feels like yesterday. (Neither of those are fiction.)

With almost all of these novels, I have a sense of where I was when I read them. That’s more complicated during pandemic life, since every day has pretty much been the same (excepting a trip to New York, to see my family, during which I didn’t read much at all), but still these are breadcrumbs that trace the path I took.

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson
Silverview by John le Carré
+Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine
The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer
The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace
The Atrocity Files by Charles Stross
This Is What Happened by Mick Herron
Duchamp Versus Einstein by Christopher Hinz
+Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein
+A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes
Nobody Walks by Mick Herron
+Slough House by Mick Herron
Why We Die by Mick Herron
The Last Voice You Hear by Mick Herron
Down Cemetery Road by Mick Herron
+Joe Country by Mick Herron
+Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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twitter.com/disquiet: Meta Feta

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating most of the tweets I made the past week at twitter.com/disquiet, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up in expanded form or otherwise on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

▰ That tweet about my favorite living ambient(ish) guitar players led to to a heap of great recommendations.

▰ I’m now getting Instagram ads for soldering equipment.

▰ I’m reminded on occasion that the musical saw is an analog theremin.

Following Twitter feedback, make that an “acoustic theremin” rather than an “electric theremin.”

▰ What are your favorite VCV Rack 2 modules that aren’t in the app’s library?

Among mine are these ports of the Monome Teletype, other modules, and Grids:

More at github.com/Dewb/monome-rack.

▰ My Twitter #protip is to make an unintentionally bad joke at the start of the day, and to then appreciate the informative conversations that follow it up.

▰ Folks asked about fave LPs by the 6 guitarists I highlighted recently and now all I’m listening to is Eivind Aarset in quiet electronic collaboration with Michele Rabbia (percussion) + Gianluca Petrella (trombone) on the 2019 ECM Records album Lost River.

This will sound like high praise because it is, but there are days when this album is precisely everything I want in music, locating as it does a rewarding balance between familiar/remote, lush/arid, soft/glitched, live/processed, hermetic/communal.

Person of Interest rewatch continues. The show is even better than I recalled. Expertly internecine, patiently and rewardingly plotted, and funny as heck. I always think of it as excellent Colossus: The Forbin Project fan fiction that overshadows its seeming source material.

And the songs used are a great big beat / trip-hop / electronica flashback, so much Unkle, and Lo Fidelity Allstars, and DJ Shadow (among other acts and types of music), plus Ramin Djawadi’s score.

It’s fun to see Leslie Odom Jr. (later Aaron Burr in Hamilton) as the recurring leader of an anti-surveillance, quasi-nationalist crew (name: Vigilance) who add 1776-era flourishes to their violent acts. Bonus: Chris Jackson (aka Hamilton’s George Washington) has a tiny role.

Foremost there is the beautiful glitch aesthetic at work visually and, to a degree, sonically. It’s often like if Oval, Trevor Paglen, and Herman Kolgen teamed up. Gorgeous stuff.

▰ “I’ve got an arrow here. / Loving the hand that sent it / I the dart revere.”

Starting to watch Dickinson after first catching up with Hawkeye can be a bit confusing, in a dream-state crossover sorta way.

▰ My brain is so on holiday time, I almost sent the Disquiet Junto project out a day early. :)

▰ I love my neighborhood: The local movie theater is hosting live music, not that I’m attending live music indoors yet, or going to movies (48hills.org).

▰ Late afternoon quartet for TV audio bleed from next room, revving gearhead sports car, passing bus, and bare footsteps on nearly century-old wood flooring.

[As Heard Through Earbuds While Transcribing Text for Longform Writing Dub Mix]

ft. Gate Slam

▰ Starting one New Year’s resolution early, which is getting the Disquiet Junto projects out earlier on Thursdays.

▰ Wasn’t expecting those Pokémon in the Matrix sequel

▰ Went for a walk. Got dark. Then very dark. Then realized there’s a power outage in the Outer Richmond.

▰ Well, that was a lot of firetrucks going by. Blackout in the neighborhood last night. No idea what’s happening west of me at the moment. After those sirens, when cars zip by afterward they sound like little children keeping up with the big kids. And another siren. The sound’s passing is especially striking in its east-to-west fluidity because it’s clear the car carrying it is not stopping at any of the stop signs or lights.

▰ Scene report

▰ Scene report

▰ And, finally, it’s unusual that anything I post on Twitter gets particular traction, but the following blew up quickly, at least by the modest parameters of my social media activity. As of this evening, this actual screenshot detail from a local restaurant’s web delivery page had over 330 likes, 30 retweets, and 20 comments, a day and a half after I posted it.

My initial instinct when posting was to use this image as a way to comment on the fourth Matrix movie, which is heavy on the meta (I had a bad “feta” pun in mind), but I kept it simple. It read just:

Was gonna order some food. Not sure which of the two Greek salads to get.

(For the record, ended up getting sausages at Berliner Berliner in the Lower Haight instead of a Greek salad.)

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twitter.com/disquiet: Shakespeare, Tate, Metadata

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating most of the tweets I made the past week at twitter.com/disquiet, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up in expanded form or otherwise on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

▰ Yeah, I’m digging The Last Tourist by Olen Steinhauer OK.

▰ There’s an alternate universe where Fringe ran for a decade, and a simulation where Person of Interest is still unfolding weekly, and I’d love to visit both places.

▰ RIP, Greg Tate (October 15, 1957 – December 7, 2021). I only spoke with him a few times. He did a bit of writing for Tower Records’ Pulse! magazine when I was an editor there. Last time Greg and I spoke, in the early/mid-1990s, he was gonna write for us about Anthony Braxton’s covers of standards. I sent him the vinyl, which I’d found used at Amoeba, but then he never finished the article, which is totally fine. Life happens. I’d hoped to run into him someday and joke about it. Now that’ll never happen. His was a strong, learned voice. Glad so much is on paper and online.

And here, ’cause it’s great and now it’s on my mind, is Anthony Braxton covering John Coltrane’s “Impressions”:

And via The Wire: “By way of tribute to the author and critic we have made a number of articles Greg wrote for the magazine free to read in our online archive for the next month.”

▰ Again, nothing’s happening on the 25th anniversary of Disquiet.com. I’m just enjoying the reflective process of counting down from the start of December until the actual anniversary. I had plans. But then: pandemic. It’s OK. Stay healthy. Do your thing. Rest.

▰ So, the YouTube Music (which if you use it regularly you likely think of as Music YouTube, since the URL is music.youtube.com) soft-boiled approximation of Spotify Wrapped came out, and apparently pretty much all I listened to was the Michael Clayton soundtrack on repeat.

▰ I admit I’m no instinctive list-maker (best this, top that), or one to gauge album against album. My disinclination may relate to my disinterest in competitive sports. But I read what Marc Masters said, and I agree end-of-year lists do serve a purpose, so I’m getting one together. (That may count as whinging, but in the service of getting past it.)

Update: Or at least trying to get one together. It’s not entirely my thing.

▰ I don’t think I recognized until last night that with the gain raised high enough, an electric guitar can be plugged directly into the ER-301.

▰ Inspiring motto on the package from the company that makes little rubberized caps to put over the blunt stiletto that emerges from the bottom of a cello.

▰ Only good thing to come of today’s news is Sly & Robbie’s music will flood the internet in the collective act mourning. Here they are with Nils Petter Molvær, Eivind Aarset, and Vladislav Delay:

“Rhythm Killer,” produced by the inimitable Bill Laswell, plus a Material who’s who (D.S.T., Bernard Fowler, Robert Musso, Nicky Skopelitis, Henry Threadgill, Bernie Worrell)

And with DJ Krush “The Lost Voices,” off The Message at the Depth:

One* more, Grace Jones’ “Nightclubbing”

It’s weird, ’cause just last night I was listening again to the latest Aarset & Molvaer albums, and in the process I was thinking about their work with Sly & Robbie.

*Who am I kidding? More to come.

“AI spokesman, avatars enter election campaigns” is the most William Gibson headline I have read this week.

▰ Occasional PSA to musicians releasing music for download on Bandcamp and elsewhere that metadata is sorta important. It’s, like, floss-your-teeth important. Speaking of which, I just typed “yumload” instead of “download” and that’s alright with me.

▰ One of these makes for a quite different morning than the others.

▰ Today in #FreshMundaneHells, what keyboard sequence did I accidentally hit that flipped my audio to just the left side? (Which took a while to sort out.)

▰ There are four Disquiet Junto projects left in the year.

▰ Honk if you watch guitar tutorials on YouTube at half speed so they’re still in tune, just an octave lower.

▰ The press prerelease copy of the score to the upcoming Matrix movie went straight to my email spam folder, which feels like a truly mundane enactment of Matrix cyber-hijinks.

Spoilers: based on a first listen, this movie will have a lot of action sequences.

▰ There he goes: “Michael Nesmith, Monkees Singer-Songwriter, Dead at 78”.

Quickly rising to top of the playlist:

▰ “This album was mastered in analog utilizing the 20-bit K2 Super Coding system.”

▰ Listening to the background sounds of apps like Calm and Audible Sleep. Making the background sounds present. Paying attention to when sounds of labor, like the threshing of a harvest, or that are threatening, like the soundscape of Dune, become comforting, lulling, transportive.

In the novel Dune, we witness Paul learning to listen by observing his mother listening. As readers, we listen with her:

“She probed the farther darkness with her trained senses.

Noise of small animals.

Birds.

A fall of dislodged sand and faint creature sounds within it.”

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Disquiet.com 25th Anniversary Countdown (10 of 13): The Past of the Future

An archival ambient advent calendar from December 1st – 13th, 2021

It’s day 10 of the 13-part Disquiet.com 25th anniversary countdown. Or, that time I got to ask novelists Richard Kadrey, Pat Murphy, and Rudy Rucker, “Where did the future go?”

Shortly after I moved back to San Francisco from New Orleans in 2003, I sat down with the three science-fiction writers to talk about two parallel topics, how both San Francisco and science fiction — the two “SF”s — had (at the time) hit a glass window called reality.

For the city at the time, it was life post-boom, after the internet bubble had collapsed. They joined me for Memphis-style barbecue in the Lower Haight to discuss earthquakes and cyberpunk, Sputnik and the Holodeck, the Gold Rush and bioengineering.

Murphy: I think when you’re writing fiction you’re aware of, like, 10 percent of what you’re doing. You might be aware you’re doing 10 percent, but the other 90 percent you realize when you look at it 20 years later.

Rucker: One of the interesting things to try and do is imagine an art form in, like, one thousand years, that would be something people might be doing instead of writing novels.

Kadrey: Science fiction is dealing with daily life stuck on fast-forward. We’re rewriting both the map of the world and our own genes. How can you write about life 20 or 100 years from now when you know that by Christmas some event or research is going to shake up your worldview?

This was for a magazine called Big, a single, special-issue shindig masterminded by David Peters and Rhonda Rubinstein.

At Disquiet.com, a few years later, I posted a longer version than fit in the magazine: “Lique-fiction.”

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A Glitch in the Canyon

Taking cues from the Algorithm

It was only there for a moment, but scrubbing back through YouTube is so simple as to be an inherent part of the viewing process. For a moment, the album cover is in view, and there it is. In The Matrix, the appearance of a black cat, the experience of deja vu, is evidence of being in a simulation; the glitch in the matrix is a short circuit, flubbed data, a sign of the system failing to maintain perfect verisimilitude to real life.

Back up a week. A walk in the park. My interlocutor tells me that Joni Mitchell’s album Ladies of the Canyon has only one good song on it, “The Circle Game.” Not looking for an argument, I just politely note that the album has at least four other excellent songs (“Morning Morgantown,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “For Free,” and, of course, “Woodstock”), and arguably more. Two days later, I bring up the conversation opener with someone else, who says the same. I bring up the other songs, and my second interlocutor is astonished, not having remembered many of them were even on the album. I search and put my cellphone up the screen as evidence: one screen against another screen, to be displayed across town on a third screen. This is not an argument. It is not a debate one wins. One simply opens the window, points to the clear sky, and everyone agrees the sky is clear, no matter what they had thought previously.

And then, today, YouTube recommends I watch a short video about a small apartment in Paris, around 350 square feet. I live in a small home, but by no means that small, and I occasionally watch small home videos to marvel at and even take tips from the organization and design. At 7:10 in the video’s nearly over timeline, I pause and scrub back. Something looks familiar as one of the residents is giving a tour, at that moment of how the home stereo system is secreted behind plain panels. A home this small must have only the essentials. What is true of furniture is true, as well, of books, and of record albums. You see where this is going. And yes, there, briefly in view, is the sliver of an image: the cover of Ladies of the Canyon.

I’ve been rewatching the TV series Person of Interest lately, and doing some writing about artificial intelligence, so these things are on my mind, key among those things: the way a nascent intelligence might make its presence known. I thought I was watching a “small home” video because I’d watched a few in the past. I came to wonder if it had been recommended because of some searches I’d done of a record album nearly a week ago, something then viewable for a second or two, and even then just as a tiny image beneath someone’s arm. I came to wonder if by pausing the video to confirm, I had now further encouraged the Algorithm to send future messages through barely visible snips of relevant cultural artifacts.

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