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

Personal Soundtrack 3.0

More from Neal Stephenson's Fall: Or, Dodge in Hell

Raising the bar for adaptive video-game music: Your favorite composer is digitally resurrected near you in the Singularity, and proceeds to improvise a score to accompany your avatar’s actions. This passage connects with one much earlier in the book, when we first come across the music of a band called Pompitus Bombasticus, and the story digresses into various examples of how the music we listen to informs our perceptions at the time we are listening. This is the opposite of a spoiler. There was zero doubt at the moment Pompitus Bombasticus was introduced into what the book calls Meatspace that a parallel, or mirror, rendition wouldn’t surface later in the virtual/digital world. (From Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Fall: Or, Dodge in Hell, at roughly 55% of the way in. I’m occasionally collating observations about sound in the book as I make my way through its nearly 900 pages. See, previously: “The Hell of It.)

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The Analog Singularity

A phrase for our transitional time

The phrase “First Posthumous Track” feels uniquely 2019. It also feels like some analog process akin to the Singularity, witnessing celebrity as it beatifies into its purest form. I’m reminded of the extended period of time when I used to dutifully report to Twitter each morning every music/sound-related obituary I came across. I felt like once someone dies, their music becomes electronic music by definition.

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The Hell of It

Listening to Neal Stephenson

As I type this, I am 43% of the way through the new novel by Neal Stephenson, Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell. It is a Singularity story, which is to say it tells of someone whose brain is scanned and uploaded to a computer system, and what happens as a result. (Side note: It’s always “uploaded,” isn’t it? The word suggests a higher plane of existence is assumed for post-human experience. As the book’s subtitle seems to imply, however, we may be wrong about such linguistically entrenched correlations.)

There is a lot of sound in the book, like when, while still on this mortal plane, the protagonist asks himself: “if there was an afterlife, either old-school analog or newfangled digital–if we lived on as spirits or were reconstructed as digital simulations of our own brains–would we still like music?”

Or when exploring the nuances necessary in producing political disinformation: “Whoever had produced this counterfeit had completely nailed the sound: you could hear chairs scraping, shutters clicking, fingers pounding laptop keyboards, people’s cell phones going off, all conveying the sense that a hundred journalists were crammed into the room.”

Or an extended sequence exploring how the music we listen to on headphones alters our perception of reality. The subject is an imaginary band with the awesome name Pompitus Bombasticus. (It brings to mind William Gibson’s 1989 “Rocket Radio” essay, about how “The Walkman changed the way we understand cities.”)

Or what his newly digital avatar experiences upon awakening for the first time in the brave new world of the computer: “to the extent he was hearing anything, it was just an inchoate hiss.”

Of course, the key word there is not “hiss” but “inchoate.” I still have 57% of the book to go. We’ll see what comes of it.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0383: Interstellar Ambience

The Assignment: Record the sound of an apartment on a large interstellar ship.

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, May 6, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

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

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0383: Interstellar Ambience
The Assignment: Record the sound of an apartment on a large interstellar ship.

Step 1: The goal is to record an artificial rendering of background ambient sound. The inspiration is, if you’re familiar with them, those YouTube videos in which people have stitched together loops of ambience extracted from movies like Blade Runner, anime like Ghost in a Shell, and TV shows like Star Trek. The issue to consider is that many (though not all) of those YouTube future-ambience videos consist of short tight loops that repeat for hours, which isn’t how actual ambient sound generally proceeds. There are elements to a given place’s soundscape that ebb and flow, shift and morph, as time proceeds, and many of the YouTube sci-fi film-ambience videos lack that quality.

Step 2: Create and record the sound of a future interior space, specifically an apartment on a large interstellar ship. Make the recording fairly long, half an hour if possible. Imagine it will be played on loop for a longer period of time. (The word “apartment” is being used instead of “compartment” to make it clear this is a personal space.)

Bonus Option: You needn’t create your work as a fixed recording. If you have the means to code a generative system, that is certainly an option.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0383” (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 “disquiet0383” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation 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

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, May 6, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you. The longer the better, in this case (a rarity for a Junto project).

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0383” 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 383rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Interstellar Ambience / The Assignment: Record the sound of an apartment in a large interstellar ship — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

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

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo credited to Pedro Moura Pinheiro:

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What’s in a Name?

An ongoing series cross-posted from

In Grant Morrison’s comics, even the tiniest thing is extravagant — unfolding in hyper-dimensions to reveal internecine complexities of psychedelic detail and epic ramifications — and this was apparently the case as early as his first serialized series. (This panel is from the first collected edition of Zenith, with art by Steve Yeowell, from characters designed by Brendan McCarthy. I’m catching up with very early Morrison comics, thanks to a friend’s recommendation. I’ve read much of what came after Flex Mentallo, but I’d never read Zenith, which was serialized in 2000 AD beginning in the summer of 1987.)

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