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: score

This Week in Sound: Deepfakes, Subways, NSFW

A lightly annotated clipping service

It’s been a while. Best way to dust off the This Week in Sound apparatus is to kick out a new issue, which I did last night (subscribe at tinyletter.com/disquiet). Things have been busy. A lot of writing, a lot of working, a lot of pandemic-era living. As always, tips on topics related to sound are always appreciated. Send them my way, please. They’re in no short supply, but the best examples often originate from sources deep into a seemingly non-sonic topic that ends up having unique sonic components.

There’s a company called Pindrop that was created to pinpoint the presence of deepfakes. They think they’ve sorted out which bits of the recent Anthony Bourdain movie, Roadrunner, were created artificially. The director, Morgan Neville, had said they would be “undetectable,” writes Tom Simonite, when Neville elected to have machines impersonate Bourdain to record things the late author and television personality had written but never spoken. Pindrop (and various online commenters) now think otherwise. As for the filmmaker’s ethics, this section of Simonite’s Wired story is especially solid: “[I]t is still possible to inform listeners about the source of what they’re hearing. At one point in Roadrunner, a caption advises viewers they are hearing ‘VOICE OVER – OUTTAKE.’ It’s not clear why Neville didn’t use a ‘synthetic audio’ caption for his AI-generated clips — or if disclosing them in the film, not just interviews in which he boasted they were undetectable, would have softened the backlash.”
https://www.wired.com/story/these-hidden-deepfakes-anthony-bourdain-movie/

I can’t remember the last time an article was shared with me more often than the recent New York Times online piece, complete with audio selections, about the sounds of subways around the world. It’s filled with choice details, such as how the “synthetic ‘doo-doo-doo'” of the Montreal system has its roots in a sound that was a byproduct of the circuitry. And with nuances regarding the employment of sound: “It seems to a layperson like a door chime is innocuous, but it’s a really critical part of keeping the capacity of the subway up,” reports a New York City Transit conductor. (Article by Sophie Haigney and Denise Lu, design by Gabriel Gianordoli and Umi Syam.)
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/08/13/arts/subway-train-sounds.html

Without quoting it directly, I will simply say there is a NSFW and highly satisfactory anecdote in Rebecca Mead’s profile of Jesse Armstrong, writer and creator of the HBO series Succession. I recommend reading the whole thing, but you can also just search for the word “slapping” and learn about the role of music in masking the sonic byproduct of certain group activities.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/30/the-real-ceo-of-succession

R. Murray Schafer, to whom we owe the modern concept of the “soundscape,” has died at age 88. “In a way, the world is a huge musical composition that’s going on all the time, without a beginning and, presumably, without an ending,” he is quoted by Robert Rowat in this obituary. Schafer died a little under a month after his birthday, July 18, which has served, in his honor, as the date of the annual World Listening Day.
https://www.cbc.ca/music/r-murray-schafer-composer-writer-and-acoustic-ecologist-has-died-at-88-1.5404868

Quiet Parks International (quietparks.org) is identifying the “last quiet places” on our planet, ranging from the rural, such as the remote Zabalo River in Ecuador, to urban ones, such as Hampstead Heath in London. According to Nell Lewis, the organization has identified “260 potential sites around the world.”
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/quiet-parks-quiet-places-noisy-planet-spc-intl/index.html

Hans Zimmer has written music for numerous movies, and now he’s added a book to his resume, alongside providing sounds for everything from apps to cars. He hasn’t written a book. He’s written music to accompany a book, specifically a limited edition art book on Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel Dune. Zimmer also scored the film, of course. And don’t fret the “limited” situation. Abbey White reports that it will be available for streaming and download.
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/hans-zimmer-second-dune-score-film-companion-book-1234997876/

Windows 11 is due make users less “jumpy” thanks to a new suite of sound cues produced by sound designer Matthew Bennett. “The new sounds have a much rounder wavelength, making them softer so that they can still alert/notify you, but without being overwhelming,” according to a company spokesperson. Bennett shared some examples, including default beeps and calendar notifications.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/22/microsoft-delivers-calm-system-sounds-in-windows-11.html

The “quiet” of the title locale in journalist Stephen Kurczy’s new book, The Quiet Zone, is not literal. The town is Green Banks, West Virginia, and the “quiet” involves restrictions on “devices emanating electromagnetic emissions,” writes Don Oldenburg. This is all so as to not interfere with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. And as it turns out, this town is in many ways the opposite of quiet.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/books/2021/08/04/stephen-kurczys-the-quiet-zone-explores-town-without-cell-phones/5471413001/

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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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Inside Man

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Listen to the Michael Clayton score too often on your phone and it’s inevitable that you’ll look down to find this staring back at you.

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10 Favorite Ambient/Electronic Albums of 2020

Plus film/TV scores, and some additional albums, and some hesitations

This is a list of my 10 favorite ambient/electronic albums of 2020, plus some extras. These are the ones I returned to again and again as the terrible year persisted. As I’m not much of a list-maker, I need to note that the concept of a top 10 list becomes ever less meaningful to me as time progresses. The fact is, much of the music I enjoy takes other forms: one-offs on Bandcamp and SoundCloud, videos on YouTube and Instagram, live sessions on Twitch and elsewhere, not to mention in-context music as a part of television series, movies, and video games. Much as rock, which once upon a time largely defined popular music, is now just one small genre among others, the LP itself is just one format among myriad. Many years I don’t even make a list of favorite albums, but this year I did. There was too much music, and I recognize that whittling it to a list of favorites is of use to people trying to make sense of the embarrassment of riches (cultural if not economic) that is the post-Bandcamp recording industry. The first two records below are my favorites of the 2020, and the other eight appear in alphabetical order by artist, and then there’s a list of other albums that were highlights of the year, and then some scores (TV and film). And I may add a few additional favorites before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Snow Catches on her Eyelashes by Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang. What could be the film score to a slow-burn science-fiction noir, all otherworldly tonalities transmuted through digital processing. Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet) is among the guests.

Drift by Underworld and the Necks. Available as a standalone album, this deep, subtle groove of a set was a highlight of Underworld’s recent Drift box, and of the expansive YouTube video series from which it originated.

Cantus, Descant by Sarah Davachi. A collection of experimental, atmospheric music for organs, recorded on a variety of them in Amsterdam, Chicago, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Los Angeles.

Third Album by Markus Floats. There is a propensity for joy on Floats’ Third Album that is absolutely intoxicating, notably on the the bubbly “Always.” What makes such moments all the more striking is the mass-like seriousness that comprises the majority of this rich, wide-ranging, deeply rewarding collection.

Harbors by Ellen Fullman and Theresa Wong. With roughly 50 strings between them, Wong (cello) and Fullman (Long String Instrument, accounting for the remaining lion’s share) make resonant music together.

Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) by Jon Hassell. The Fourth World master returned with his unique blend of sensuously digital set pieces, a sequel to 2018’s Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One).

Silver Ladders by Mary Lattimore. At once lush and austere, fragile and full-bodied. Such are the wondrous contradictions in her hypermodern (improvisational and digitally enhanced) employment of the harp, an instrument generally associated with dusty antiquity.

Double Bind by Geneva Skeen. Rather than intimate drones for their own sake, this album uses them as the foundation for often orchestral-scale pieces that explore anxious minimalism, urban tension, and intergalactic exploration.

Stolen Car by Carl Stone. The master sampler rips source material to shreds and then reformats the ribbons of the originals into entirely new, ecstatic works.

We Have Amnesia Sometimes by Yo La Tengo. The long-running indie-rock band dug its way out of quarantine with a series of instrumental explorations.

Other favorite albums from 2020 included: Loraine JamesHmm. ▰ Ana Roxanne’s Because of a Flower. ▰ r beny’s Natural Fiction. ▰ Scanner’s Warp & Weft, made with sounds from Jogging House’s Reel Feels sound pack. ▰ Jeannine Schulz released a lot of ambient music this year, and it’s hard to single out one set in particular. There’s a bunch at jeannineschulz.bandcamp.com, plus Ground . The Gentle, on the Stereoscenic Record label. ▰ Lloyd Cole’s Dunst. ▰ Thys and Amon Tobin’s Ithaca. ▰ Nils Frahm’s Empty.

And there were a lot great scores this year, key among them: Devs (credited to Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow, and the Insects, aka the duo of Bob Locke and Tim Norfolk, and benefiting from pre-existing tracks by Steve Reich, as well as Jan Garbarek in collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble). ▰ Rutger HoedemaekersNo Man’s Land (he’s best known, perhaps, for his work with Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Guðnadóttir on Trapped, and definitely check out The Last Berliner from 2019). ▰ Warren EllisThis Train I Ride (the rare film he’s scored solo, rather than in collaboration with Nick Cave). ▰ Ammonite by Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelmann (they also collaborated on The Old Guard). ▰ ZeroZeroZero by Mogwai. ▰ Industry by Nathan Micay.

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Current Favorites: Maraš, Buckley, Ristić, Hoedemaekers

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. (This weekly feature was previously titled Current Listens. The name’s been updated for clarity’s sake.)

Svetlana Maraš’ Ear I Am is an ever-shifting survey of antic sounds, industrial mechanics, and playful noises, all with a sense of rhythmic flow, even if that rhythm is, on occasion, purposefully quite subtle. The six-track album is a live recording, taped back in 2017 on the first of February at the Ear We Are Festival in Biel, Switzerland. She is based in Belgrade, Serbia.

Linda Buckley’s “Loom” is a ferocious heave of mechanical trance state, until it isn’t, until the gear gnashing briefly disappears and all that’s left is the trance itself. And then the burners power up, and the machines go at it again. Thrilling. She is based in Dublin, Ireland.

The 17th album in the great 20×20 series is another set of 20 tracks, each 20 seconds long. This latest, Do Not Go Gentle by Manja Ristić, alternates between degraded recordings of Dylan Thomas poems with snatches of string instruments, rattly percission, and field recordings. She is based in Belgrade, Serbia.

Rutger Hoedemaekers’ music for the TV series No Man’s Land is a beautiful expanse of tension-laden stillness. He’s probably best known for his work, with Hildur Guðnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, on Trapped. I can’t find much of this excellent score in embeddable form on non-commercial streaming services, but it’s at music.youtube.com and spotify.com. (If those links fail, please let me know.) Also recommended is his The Last Berliner score, which I’ve had on repeat the past few months. Hoedemaekers, originally from the Netherlands, is based in Brussels, Belgium.

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