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: sound-art

Speaker Cone and Seed Pod

Documenting Marcus Fischer's "Multiples" installation

Awhile back I began collating a YouTube playlist of live ambient performances. The assortment, now numbering well over 100, quickly took shape as a collection of videos in which the techniques of the performer were evident to the viewer. The idea was to locate and celebrate instances of the action required by the performer to accomplish the seeming inaction — the stasis, the aesthetic limbo, the attenuated sonic pause — that so much ambient music telegraphs.

In time, the definition of “performance” expanded — well, it didn’t so much “expand” as that the word’s interior features became more detailed. Nothing as the playlist of included videos proceeded contradicted earlier interpretations of “live performance.”

This video, from an installation by Marcus Fischer, pushes the definition further, while staying true to the initial curatorial impulse. The audio is one take, while the video is a collation of elements. In other circumstances, that disconnect might be an issue, but here it makes perfect sense. The installation, titled “Multiples,” was set up at Variform in Portland, Oregon, last month, in a show curated by Patricia Wolf. The core of it is an array of naked speaker cones, each containing fragile little seed pods. The speakers both emanate sound and, as a result of the vibrations resulting from that sound, rattle the seed pods, each a tiny, nature-made maraca. We hear both the melty drone of the music and the waves of percussion that accompany it, and we experience the correlation between the two.

The causality between visual and sonic instance is less necessary here than in other sorts of live performance, because what we’re witnessing is more a system at work than a performance. If you watch a video of a train and hear audio of a train, even if the two weren’t sourced at the same time, you get that they are both simply moments in a much larger system, something that couldn’t be documented in full. Likewise, here we get the high-fidelity rendering of the audio, and the glimpses of the various facets that make it run.

As the video shows, there is still more at work than those speakers, including the reel-to-reel machine on which the audio is unspooling, and at least one additional seedpod hanging midair, still affixed to a branch, not to mention the full geometry of the work, which sets a visual stage for the sounds we are hearing. Above the speaker array is a series of parallel fluorescent bulbs, a grow-room aesthetic suggesting artificial light for artificial life.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Fischer’s YouTube channel. More from him at mapmap.ch. I’m proud to have worked with Fischer on the sound design and score to the science fiction short Youth. He will be exhibiting in the Whitney Biennial this year, from May 17 through Sept 22.

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46 Seconds in Heaven

Amid a recent Zimoun work

A new glimpse of an installation piece by the artist Zimoun is always a cause for attention. His work often achieves a mix — a contrast, more to the point — of sizable dimensions and aesthetic intimacy. This balance is thanks to his frequent combination of inexpensive materials and the lulling repetition of speedy mechanical activities. The effect, as witnessed here, is a robot lullaby at an industrial scale.

This work, a video document of which appeared in the past week, consists of “99 prepared dc-motors, felt balls, 297 m steel wire, 2018” (such is, in effect, the title of the work — a plainness that matches the materials). The result is a mix of fierce geometry and sympathetic droning, of rapid motion amid an otherwise static field.

The vertical lines are like grid-minded painter Agnes Martin paying tribute to Richard Lippold’s wire sculptures. The base is like the structure of one of Bruce Nauman’s fluorescent bulbs — which emit their own drone byproduct — repurposed as a support mechanism. The video lasts just 46 seconds, seen from various angles. It’s intriguing to consider whether the audio perfectly matches the image, or if it even matters, given the mechanical nature of the proceedings and the extremely narrow — imperceptible, likely — range of variation therein. And then you hit repeat.

Video originally posted at Zimoun’s Vimeo account. More from Zimoun at www.zimoun.net.

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What Sound Looks Like

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

I pushed this button. Nothing happened. I wondered what I did wrong.

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

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What Sound Looks Like

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

If you arrive at the farmers market late, you can hear the sound art.

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

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Disquiet Junto Project 0292: Eclipse Music

In coordination with St. Louis Art Hack Day, make some solar-inspired tunes.

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.

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 7, 2017. This project was posted in morning, California time, on Thursday, August 3, 2017.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0292: Eclipse Music
In coordination with St. Louis Art Hack Day, make some solar-inspired tunes.

Step 1: There’s a solar eclipse coming to the United States on August 21. This is the first full solar eclipse in the U.S. in a long time, since June 8, 1918. The next such eclipse in the U.S. won’t be until August 12, 2045. Ponder the eclipse, and that time frame. Take note that this project is being done in coordination with the upcoming Art Hack Day in St. Louis. If you’re in the area, consider joining in in person. If you’re not (true for the vast majority of Junto participants), your resulting Junto music from this project will be played as part of the St. Louis art showing on August 19. (And certainly you can opt out of that last bit, if you’d like.) Major thanks to Tyler Mathews and Jon Phillips for encouraging this project. Details here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-hack-day-st-louis-eclipse-tickets-35500853007

Step 2: Think about the constituent elements in (the various facets of) an eclipse, what it means in terms of sensory experience — in cultures ancient and contemporary.

Step 3: Record a piece of music that that is inspired by the sense of the eclipse that came out of Steps 1 and 2.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If your hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0292” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track. (If you don’t want your music played at the Art Hack Day event, please note so in the public field associated with your track, or email me at [email protected] to let me know.)

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

https://llllllll.co/t/make-music-for-a-solar-eclipse-disquiet-junto-0292/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 7, 2017. This project was posted in morning, California time, on Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Length: The length is entirely up to the participant, though three to five minutes is suggested.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0292” 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: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information, along with details of your source audio, including links to it:

More on this 292nd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Eclipse Music: In coordination with St. Louis Art Hack Day, make some solar-inspired tunes — at:

https://disquiet.com/0292/

Major thanks to Tyler Mathews and Jon Phillips for encouraging this project. Details on the related August events here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-hack-day-st-louis-eclipse-tickets-35500853007

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

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

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/make-music-for-a-solar-eclipse-disquiet-junto-0292/

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

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