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

Current Favorites: Tape, Score, Wind

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

Trying to get back in the habit of my 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:

▰ As of this writing, three tracks currently preview the upcoming (May 6) release of Sanctuary, an atmospheric collection of tracks by Daou (born in Beirut, based in Paris) that all emit the melancholy warble of tape loops set on decay mode.

Isobel Waller-Bridge’s scores (Fleabag, Vanity Fair) are always worth listening to, and just check out the submerged-orchestra wonder of “The Woman Who Ate Photographs,” a cue from season one of Roar.

▰ Google Translate tells me that “lye” is the translation of “灰汁” — that’s the title of the latest snippet of transmogrified field recordings from prolific Japanese noisemaker Corruption, who here bends wind to their will.

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The Sonic Set Design of Kimi

Cliff Martinez's new score is killer.

Cliff Martinez, one of the essential soundtrack collaborators of movie director Steven Soderbergh (ever since Sex, Lies, and Videotape back in 1989), has scored Kimi, Soderbergh’s most recent film. In it, Zoë Kravitz plays a remote tech worker who stumbles on what appears to be a violent assault while doing her desk job, which involves listening to audio recorded by domestic digital assistants. Kimi is not the name of Kravitz’ character. She is Angela. Kimi is the feminized brand of devices — à la Alexa, Cortana, and, of course, Siri — that drives the film’s plot.

Kimi is very much inspired by classic Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, notably Rear Window (1954), though rather than a physical injury, it’s a kind of agoraphobia that keeps Angela stuck at home in Seattle. (The name Kimi seems like a nod to Kim Novak, the actress who appeared alongside Rear Window star Jimmy Stewart in 1958’s Vertigo.) Angela’s home is a brick-walled industrial loft from which she keeps a wary eye on the pandemic-era outside world. Soderbergh explores the physicality of the residential space throughout the movie, right up to almost the very last minute. Angela’s loft resembles the workshop of Harry Caul, the investigator played by Gene Hackman in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation, which was also obsessed with technological eavesdropping. (It’s almost a joke that a building that felt low-rent in 1974 feels downright enviable today.) The camera guides us through the open plan while Martinez’s music alternates between narrative tool, window into the emotional state of Kravitz’s character, and pure sonic set design.

This is one of Martinez’s best scores. It beautifully merges a chamber orchestral palette (actively engaging with the legacy of Bernard Herrmann’s famed Hitchcock cues) with synthesized lines, making the most of the quietude allowed by modern digital production — the same digital realm that allows a device like Kimi to exist in the first place.

My favorite cue from Kimi is “Watch the Spray,” in which what at first seems to be a violin solo quickly reveals itself as a synthesized melody, one that remains expertly intertwined with the underlying symphonic bed. If there’s something eerie to that combination of strings and synthesizer, it’s arguably because the machine-made sounds of Martinez’s score serve as a parallel to how the Kimi devices are insinuated into people’s everyday lives.

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The Everyday Musicality of Autumn de Wilde’s Emma

And especially of Johnny Flynn

I really dug the recent(ish) Jane Austen adaptation, Emma (2020), with Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role and Johnny Flynn as (I’m about to risk a 170-year-old spoiler) her belatedly betrothed. What I only realized during the end credits is that’s the same Johnny Flynn who did the great theme song for the great TV series The Detectorists (for which he also co-wrote the score).

Emma itself did right by music, too, start to finish. There’s plenty of pop culture out there, from Riverdale to Downton Abbey, where everyday (“amateur,” horrid* word) musicianship is part of how communities gather around each other, with the roles of performer and audience ever in flux. In Emma, this topic is particularly well handled, how we witness the title character, plus Flynn’s George Knightley (in a duo with Jane Fairfax), performing in front of friends, frenemies, and family. Bonus points for how centuries are bridged with covers by Maddy Prior and June Tabor, and by the Watersons.

And yow, how the playfully genteel score by David Schweitzer and Isobel Waller-Bridge fills each moment that the film’s director, Autumn de Wilde, leaves for them. The music choreographs the internal reactions of characters, to always affectionately comic ends. It’s like emotional ballet.

Coincidentally, I’ve been re-reading a lot of Dennis Potter lately, and it’s no surprise Emma’s director came from pop music (via videos and photography). Like Potter, de Wilde gets (and gets at) how singing other people’s music is form of self-expression.

* “amateur” having become a near-synonym for “dilettante,” both words having lost association with their origins (love and delight, respectfully)

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Current Favorites: Score, Drone, Cover

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.

▰ The score to a short film, Jim of Earth, composed by Coma Calling, aka Kyle Cramb of Wichita, Kansas. Some richly suggestive atmospheres, full of tension and narrative.

▰ Three tracks by mora-tau, aka Takenori Iwasaki of Utsunomiya, Japan, comprise the album Memorial. The key track is the opening one, “Into Secret,” an 18-minute drone with varying textures.

▰ A synthesizer cover of Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” by Perplex On (based in Munich, Germany), with a musicbox-like quality to it:

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Current Favorites: Four Turntables, Eight Needles

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.

Maria Chavez reworks recordings of singing bowls on four turntables, each equipped with remarkable “double needles,” meaning we’re hearing two different parts of each record simultaneously, for eight separate lines of audio:

▰ Christopher Hanlon submits deeply lofi, nostalgia-rich, crackly instrumental hip-hop in supreme slow motion with “Old Blue”:

▰ Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine’s superb score for the series Scenes from a Marriage deserves a listen as close as the microphones were placed to the instruments, which by all appearances was quite very close, indeed.

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
    • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
    • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly (aaassembly.org) at Gray Area (grayarea.org).
    • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
    • A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)

  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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