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: video-games

An Arcade of Reflection

Music for a secular service, played communally on PlayStation controllers

The composer Bryant O’Hara participates in the Sunday Assembly — a kind of non-religious church, as it were — in Atlanta, Georgia, where some aspects of the secular service involve music. He wanted to think of another means to introduce music into the communal activity, and came upon the idea of a collaborative video game system that uses game controllers to collectively build a composition in real time. As he describes it in some extensive documentation of his process, which also goes into his choice of programming languages, among other details:

I started thinking about this project after attending the first two meetings of Sunday Assembly Atlanta. There were several parts of the meeting where we did karaoke, and I was wondering whether there was another form of musical interaction ”“ perhaps even unique to the organization ”“ that we could do as a body. That got me thinking about new ways of looking at how music could be made and how it could be experienced.

This “shared” instrument, as he calls it, involves PlayStation controllers, and he has posted the above audio recording of a nearly half-hour performance, which dates from the end of last month. The result is a kind of meditative game parlor, an arcade of reflection, the steady beat layered with an ever-changing amalgamation of colorful beeps and bloops, whirry static, and other largely percussive sonic elements.

Here’s some silent video of the interface in action:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/bryant-ohara. More on O’Hara’s project at intimateandintricate.wordpress.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

Create music for a fake movie whose plot is "Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph."

20140501-8bET

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com 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.

This project was published in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, May 1, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, May 5, 2014, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

This week’s project is fairly open-ended. The essential thing is that your music has an “8bit flavor” — define that as strictly as you wish.

You will write the opening theme music for a movie that doesn’t really exist. The film is a horror flick. The elevator pitch of the movie’s plot is “Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph.” The opening sequence involves a housing development being constructed on the site of a former city dump. The construction crew discovers the burial site of one million cartridges of the ET Atari video game. The developer decides to pour concrete over the ET cartridges and continue building. But something has been awakened. Hundreds of thousands of 8bit ETs cannot be kept down!

Your music will accompany a film montage (again, this is entirely imaginary) covering the above description, which should last between two and four minutes.

Deadline: Monday, May 5, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your recording should be between two and four minutes.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0122-8bET” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

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, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 122nd Disquiet Junto project — “Create music for a fake movie whose plot is ‘Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph'” — at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

The Disquiet Junto Project List (0001 – 0279 …)

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

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Life After Nintendo

Shiny chiming jangles made in Nanoloop

20131206-nanoloop

There are several dozen tracks thus far in the “sound diary” credited on SoundCloud to Corruption, who gives as a residence Funabashi, Japan. Many are noisy escapades, tagged simply as “sound diary,” while the one dated “2013.11.19” and given the subtitle “like a moth to a candle” bears a second tag: Nanoloop. That’s the name of a popular piece of electronic music software that originated on the Nintendo Gameboy and has been since ported to iOS and Android. What was, back in 1998, an esoteric dream of handheld music-making has become pop culture, an everyday activity. In Corruption’s hands, Nanoloop makes sequences of shiny chiming jangles that ebb and flow like a low-resolution tide. There’s a glitchy quality to it at times, lending the work a welcome complexity, a dark undercurrent to its slow pace. Corruption does not identify which edition of Nanoloop is employed.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/corrption. More on Nanoloop at nanoloop.com. The above screenshots are from the Android version.

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disquiet.gizmodo.com

On Disquiet.com now participating in the Gizmodo ecosystem

These are two things that I think Geoff Manaugh, editor-in-chief of the technology and design blog Gizmodo.com, didn’t know about me when he asked if I’d consider bringing Disquiet.com beneath his website’s expanding umbrella.

1: My “to re-blog” bookmark file has been packed in recent months with scores of items from pretty much all of the Gizmodo-affiliated sites — not just Gizmodo, but io9.com, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Gawker, and Kotaku. Probably Jezebel and Deadspin, too, but the file is too thick for me to tell.

2: Pretty much the first thing that I read every morning with my coffee — well, every weekday morning — is the “Morning Spoilers” at io9.com, the great science fiction website that is part of the Gawker network that also contains Gizmodo.

I knew Manaugh’s work from BLDGBLOG and, before that, Dwell Magazine. He’d previously invited me to involve the weekly experimental music/sound project series that I run, the Disquiet Junto, in the course on the architecture of the San Andreas Fault that he taught in spring 2013 at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture. And I am excited to work with him again.

And so, there is now a cozy disquiet.gizmodo.com subdomain URL where I’ll be syndicating — simulposting — material from Disquiet.com, as well as doing original straight-to-Gizmodo writing. I’m hopeful that members of the Gizmodo readership might further expand the already sizable ranks of the Disquiet Junto music projects (we just completed one based on a post from Kotaku), and I’ll be posting notes from the course I teach on “sound in the media landscape” at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco.

For new readers of Disquiet, the site’s purview is as follows:

* Listening to Art.

* Playing with Audio.

* Sounding Out Technology.

* Composing in Code.

I’ll take a moment to break that down:

Listening to Art: Attention to sound art has expanded significantly this year, thanks in no small part to the exhibit Soundings: A Contemporary Score at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. That exhibit, which ran from August 10 through November 3, featured work by such key figures as Susan Philipsz (whose winning of the Turner Prize inspired an early music compilation I put together), Carsten Nicolai (whom I profiled in the new Red Bull Music Academy book For the Record), and Stephen Vitiello (whom I’ve interviewed about 911 and architectural acoustics, and who has participated in the Disquiet Junto). But if “sound art” is art for which music is both raw material and subject matter, my attention is just as much focused on what might better be described as the role of “sound in art,” of the depictions of audio in various media (the sound effects in manga, for example) and the unintended sonic components of art beyond sound art, like the click and hum of a slide carousel or the overall sonic environment of a museum. Here’s video of Tristan Perich’s “Microtonal Wall” from the MoMA exhibit:

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Playing with Audio: If everything is, indeed, a remix, that is a case most clearly made in music and experimental sound. From the field recordings that infuse much ambient music to the sampling of hip-hop to the rapturous creative reuse that proliferates on YouTube and elsewhere, music as raw material is one of the most exciting developments of our time. Terms like “remix” and “mashup” and “mixtape” can been seen to have originated or otherwise gained cachet in music, and as they expand into other media, we learn more about them, about the role such activities play in culture. And through the rise of audio-game apps, especially in iOS, such “playing with sound” has become all the more common — not just the work of musicians but of audiences, creating a kind of “active listening.” This notion of reuse, of learning about music and sound by how it is employed after the fact, plays a big role in my forthcoming book for the 33 1/3 series. My book is about Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and it will be published on February 13, 2014, just weeks ahead of the record’s 20th anniversary. As part of my research for the book, I spoke with many individuals who had come to appreciate the Aphex Twin album by engaging with it in their own work, from composers who had transcribed it for more “traditional” instruments (such as chamber ensembles and solo guitar), to choreographers and sound designers, to film directors.

Sounding Out Technology: A briefer version of the Disquiet.com approach is to look at “the intersection of sound, art, and technology.” The term “technology” is essential to that trio, because it was only when I learned to step back from my fascination with electronically produced music and to appreciate “electronic” as a subset of the vastly longer continuum of “technology” that connections became more clear to me — say, between the sonics of raves and the nascent polyphony of early church music, or between creative audio apps like Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’ Bloom and what is arguably the generative ur-instrument: the aeolian harp. With both Bloom and the aeolian harp, along with its close relative the wind chime, music is less a fixed composition than a system that is enacted. As technology mediates our lives more and more, the role that sound plays in daily life becomes a richer and richer subject — from voice-enabled devices, to the sounds of consumer product design, to the scores created for electric cars:

Composing in Code: Of all the technologies to come to the fore in the past two decades, perhaps none has had an impact greater than computer code. This is no less true in music and sound than it is in publishing, film, politics, health, or myriad other fields. While the connections between mathematics and music have been celebrated for millennia, there is something special to how, now, those fields are combining, notably in graphic systems such as Max/MSP (and Max for Live, in Ableton) and Puredata (aka Pd), just to name two circumstances. Here, for reference, is a live video of the Dutch musician and sound artist Edo Paulus’ computer screen as he constructs and then performs a patch in Max/MSP. Where the construction ends and the performance begins provides a delightful koan:

All of which said, I’m not 100-percent clear what form my disquiet.gizmodo.com activity will take. I’m looking forward to experimenting in the space. I’ll certainly be co-posting material from Disquiet.com, but I’m also planning on engaging with Gizmodo itself, and with its broader network of sites. I’ve already, in advance of this post, begun re-blogging material from Gizmodo and from Gizmodo-affiliated sites: not just “sharing” (in the UI terminology of the Kinja CMS that powers the network) but adding some contextual information, thoughts, tangents, details. I’m enthusiastic about Kinja, in particular how it blurs the lines between author and reader. I like that a reply I make to a post about a newly recreated instrument by Leonardo Da Vinci can then appear in my own feed, leading readers back to the original site, where they themselves might join in the conversation. Kinja seems uniquely focused on multimedia as a form of commentary — like many CMS systems, it allows animated GIFs and short videos to serve as blog comments unto themselves, but it goes the step further of allowing users to delineate rectangular sub-sections of previously posted images and comment on those. I’m intrigued to see how sound can fit into that approach. (It’s no surprise to me that Kinja is innovative in this regard — it’s on Lifehacker that I first learned about the syntax known as “markdown.”) I think that all, cumulatively, makes for a fascinating media apparatus, and I want to explore it.

While I typed this post, it was Tuesday in San Francisco. I live in the Outer Richmond District, just north of Golden Gate Park and a little over a mile from the Pacific Ocean. The season’s first torrential rain has passed, and so the city sounds considerably more quiet than it did just a few days ago. No longer is the noise of passing automobiles amplified and augmented by the rush of water, and the roof above my desk is no longer being pummeled. But where there is the seeming peace of this relative quiet, there is also an increased diversity of listening material. The ear can hear further, as it were — not just to conversations in the street and to passing cars, but to construction blocks away, to leaf blowers, to a seaplane overhead, to the sound of a truck backing up at some considerable distance, and to the many birds that (unlike what I was accustomed to, growing up on the north shore of New York’s Long Island) do not all vacate the area come winter. It is shortly past noon as I hit the button to make this post go live. Church bells have sung a duet with the gurgling in my belly to remind me it is time for lunch. And because it is Tuesday, the city’s civic warning system has rung out. 

Dim sum, anyone?

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Disquiet Junto Project 0099: In the Key of X

The project: Compose an 8-bit melody based on the "E G D" startup sound of the Xbox One.

20131122-xbox

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com 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.

This assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, November 21, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, November 25, 2013, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0099: In the Key of X

This project investigates video game sound — not the sound of video games, but the sound of game consoles themselves. The newly released Xbox One has its own distinct startup melody of just three notes: first an E, then a G, then a D. The project this week is to imagine those notes being the core of an original piece of music: What if the theme of the Xbox One were a song, and a lo-fi one at that?

The project instruction is as follows: Record a piece of music with an 8-bit flavor. It should begin with a replication of that same three-note Xbox One pattern (E G D), repeated several times, and then veer off into whatever direction you desire. As the track goes along, feel free to add common video game sounds like explosions, karate chops, crowd noises, engines revving and so forth. Try to keep the whole thing under 90 seconds.

Deadline: Monday, November 25, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your track’s length should be between 30 seconds and 90 seconds.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: Include the term “disquiet0099-EthenGthenD”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Please consider employing a license that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

More on this 99th Disquiet Junto project (Compose an 8-bit melody based on the “E G D” startup sound of the Xbox One) at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0099: In the Key of X

Background: This project was informed by a post on Kotaku.com by Kirk Hamilton:

http://goo.gl/OpjWSg

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

Associated image found via:

http://goo.gl/OpjWSg

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