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: software

Space for Context

One more note about SoundCloud's new annotated repost feature

Yesterday I noted a new feature on SoundCloud. Listeners reposting a track from another account can now annotate the repost. That’s great, in that it adds context and may even reduce the number of rote (un-annotated) reposts. However, the space allotted for comments is quite small, just 140 characters, diminishing the utility. Over three years have passed since Twitter acknowledged that length as insufficient, and went ahead and doubled it. Ironically, as the two posts here show, even the explanatory text that SoundCloud itself uses to explain how to comment when reposting is longer than the limit the company has set. It’s 142 characters.

Here’s the pop-up that appears when the feature is introduced to users:

Here’s that announcement text placed (unsuccessfully) into an attempt to repost a fine ambient track from the prolific Kyoto-based musician Michiru Aoyama:

The feature is a great addition to SoundCloud, but a little more space would be helpful. (And, yes, the same could be said for the number of accounts a user is allowed to follow. It remains capped at 2,000.)

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The Context of SoundCloud Context

A feature upgrade for reposts

There’s a new feature on Soundcloud, the prominent audio streaming and distribution service. Listeners have long been able to “repost” tracks by other users. Now when reposting, they can add a comment. The length is up to 140 characters, same as an old-school tweet, which seems like an esoteric choice, but so be it. Context is always better.

This upgrade correlates with Bandcamp’s long-running feature that let’s a purchaser of a release choose a track and comment on it. Those comments selectively appear on the webpage for the release:

The new SoundCloud repost upgrade also connects to Twitter’s recent tweak that encourages retweeters to add a comment before posting. Again, context is always better.

There was a time when the soundcloud.com/stream page on was the default for a logged-in user. There’s still a /stream page, but the default is the soundcloud.com/discover page, which is a mess: a few things relating to your own listening, followed by endless generic lists, so bad as to make you miss your algorithmic overlord.

This expansion of the repost feature may be a sign that SoundCloud is re-emphasizing /stream, which shows things have been posted (or reposted) by accounts you follow, in simple, reverse-chronological order. If so, it’d be nice to have a toggle option for reposts, because they can clog up /stream. I’ve unfollowed some repost-heavy accounts.

In addition, SoundCloud has grown over the years. What hasn’t grown is the number of accounts you can follow. The number remains capped at 2,000, which is low. SoundCloud also provides no practical tools to efficiently cull the accounts you do follow (like, say, see who hasn’t posted in x number of years). Any time I want to add a new account (I follow 2,000, and am followed by five times that number), I have to first delete one.

All things said, I do hope people take advantage of the new comment option for reposts of tracks on SoundCloud, to provide some framing context for why they’ve reposted. I also hope the new feature leads some repost-happy accounts to chill out a bit.

Postscript: When I first posted this, I neglected to link to the track depicted up top in the screenshot detail. It is “Fog” by Abstract Machines (aka Andrzej Koper of Wroclaw, Poland): soundcloud.com/abstract-machines.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0457: System Alert

The Assignment: Compose sounds for an OS.

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 the end of the day Monday, October 5, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, October 1, 2020.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0457: System Alert
The Assignment: Compose sounds for an OS.

Step 1: There’s an operating system called Haiku. It’s open source. Learn more at haiku-os.org.

Step 2: The OS is currently running a contest for System Sounds. Read the details at the subpage on haiku-os.org.

Step 3: The due date for our Junto project is this Monday, October 5, though the due date for the actual contest is November 25th. Regardless, please read through the instructions and create sounds accordingly. In terms of posting the sounds as part of this Junto project, please create a single track with each sound in sequence.

Thanks to Erik Schoster for suggesting this project.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0457” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0457” (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 tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your tracks in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0457-system-alert/

Step 5: Annotate your tracks 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 the end of the day Monday, October 5, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, October 1, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Alerts tend to be brief.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0457” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, 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: It is always best to set 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 457th weekly Disquiet Junto project, System Alert (The Assignment: Compose sounds for an OS), at:

https://disquiet.com/0457/

Thanks to Erik Schoster for suggesting this project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0457-system-alert/

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

Image associated with this project is by Stanley Zimny and used via Flickr thanks to a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:

https://flic.kr/p/hMAXaC

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

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Putting TikTok to Unintended Use

An ambient piano quartet by Lullatone's Shawn James Seymour

In this sweet little video demonstration, Shawn James Seymour (half of the husband-wife duo Lullatone, along with Yoshimi Yomida) shows how he used the TikTok video social-media app — in particular it’s feature-not-a-bug looping mode — to make a simple ambient track out of piano loops. He set all the loops, four total, to different lengths, and then let them play out on repeat, so that the notes overlap in different combinations. This “criss-cross” is, as he notes in one of a sequence of cards he displays by hand during the video (those hands colliding elegantly with the ones visible in all four of the devices laid out across the table), along the lines of how Brian Eno composed Music for Airports.

Last year, the influential and crafty artist Christian Marclay teamed with Snapchat, another social-media network, for an exhibit that mined user data to create all manner of sound art projects (see: latimes.com). The scale and scope of what Seymour is up to is, of course, quite more modest in comparison, but it also uses the app itself to achieve its goals. As Seymour says (well, displays on a card), inspirationally, in the video: “twisting technology to make something new is usually more fun than just browsing on it.”

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended fine live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at the Lullatone YouTube channel. More from Lullatone at lullatone.com.

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Live Coding “Avril 14th”

Aphex Twin fan Lil Data trades the piano keyboard for a computer keyboard

It’s April 14, which is just another day on the calendar, unless you’re an Aphex Twin fan. If you’re an Aphex Twin fan, then today is like your other favorite holiday, and your birthday, and an idealized version of Record Store Day all wrapped up in one. It’s the day when musicians celebrate the Aphex Twin song that takes its name from this date, “Avril 14th” (off the 2001 album Drukqs), and do their thing to and with it. Today there were numerous versions, as always, but the one that stole my heart was this live-coding version by Lil Data, who committed it in the open-source language TidalCycles. Screenshot above. Click through to Lil Data’s Instagram or Twitter accounts to witness it in all its monospace beauty as Lil Data brings the song to life one typed character at a time. “Avril 14th” is a solo piano piece, and it’s always a pleasure to watch the attention performers pay to it, such as Josh Cohen, whose YouTube video has racked up well over 300,000 views since it debuted in January 2017, and Kelly Moran (a Warp labelmate of Aphex Twin’s), who posted a version to Twitter today. But watching as Lil Data trades a piano keyboard for a computer one is next level. And in the opens-source spirit of the software, Lil Data posted the code-cum-transcription on GitHub. More on TidalCycles at tidalcycles.org. In the days leading up to April/Avril 14, Aphex Twin rebooted his soundcloud.com/user18081971 account (the seemingly generic name is, in fact, his birthday, August 18, 1971) and began posting new music, including a beautiful ambient piece, “qu1”:

Major thanks to twitter.com/rbxbex for having hipped me to Lil Data.

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