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: voice

The Conference Call v. Acoustic Literacy

An interview I did with the Article Group

It was a pleasure to have been interviewed for an article about the contentious and ubiquitous sound technology known as the conference call, especially because the article’s author, Rae Paoletta, sets the correct tone right from the start. The article begins: “The conference call is a gangrenous finger on the clammy hand of human achievement.”

After speaking with Paoletta on the phone (not a conference call, just two humans on a shared line, very old-fashioned and convivial), I was a bit concerned with how harsh I was about conference calls, specifically the often non-technological reasons for why they so often fall short of their purpose. How I put it is: “In a broad sense, people are ultimately kind of lazy,” but even before the article gets to my concerns about what I refer to as a societal lack of “acoustic literacy,” someone else says it more directly: “generally people are selfish dickbags and this translates to terrible conference calls.”

In advance of speaking with Paoletta, I sketched out a list of conference-call grievances, key aspects of the conference call, both as a technology and a site of human interaction, that are susceptible to failure. It played out like this:

  • voice quality
  • background noise
  • voice menu commands
  • hold music
    • signature brand sound
    • signature cues
    • signature hold music
    • option for no music
    • options for music
    • misreading digital silence
  • spatial orientation
  • visual orientation (cues on screen)
  • politics of being on hold pre-call

Paoletta’s piece, which also quotes Dr. Julie Gurner, is available at medium.com/article-group.

Not so much ironically as inevitably, I has several conference calls in the wake of speaking with Paoletta, including on the morning the article came out. I imagined this was a jinx, and the call would utterly fail. It didn’t, fortunately. My main observations of the call, in my heightened state of awareness due to the Paoletta conversation:

  • sonic moire/cutouts (from cross-talk)
  • squelchy feedback
  • uneven volume levels
  • Max Headroom vocal glitch
  • cicada-like atmospheric noise
  • background construction noise

I posted that list to Twitter. A friend joked in reply, “The way you describe it, I’m like, where can I find that track on Bandcamp?” This made me realize something: The exact same sonic issues that I abhor in conference calls I seek out in electronic music.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0384: Breath Beat

The Assignment: Explore breath as a resource for rhythm.

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 Monday, May 13, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0384: Breath Beat
The Assignment: Explore breath as a resource for rhythm.

Just one step this week:

Step 1: Record yourself breathing, and make that the pulse of a piece of music.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0384” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0384” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

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

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0384-breath-beat/

Step 5: Annotate your track 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 Monday, May 13, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0384” 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: Consider setting 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 384th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Breath Beat / The Assignment: Explore breath as a resource for rhythm — at:

https://disquiet.com/0384/

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/disquiet-junto-project-0384-breath-beat/

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

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo credited to Victor Morell Perez:

https://flic.kr/p/4M5zUQ

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

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Disquiet Junto Project 0382: Understanding McLuhan

The Assignment: Remix samples of an interview with Eric McLuhan on his father and media theory.

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 Monday, April 29, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0382: Understanding McLuhan
The Assignment: Remix samples of an interview with Eric McLuhan on his father and media theory.

This project is being done in coordination with Fabricatorz Foundation and ONG Record’s O.N.G.2 experiential club night on Saturday, April 27, in Saint Louis. Many thanks to Jon Phillips for having made this project happen.

Step 1: Download and listen to the provided samples of Eric McLuhan, son of media theorist Marshall McLuhan, at this URL. The following samples are made from a radio interview of Eric McLuhan about his father and media theory. The McLuhan Institute authorized use (for this one-time artistic, non-commercial purpose). Have fun!

https://ong.gg/saintmcluhan/junto

Step 2: Create an original piece of music employing one or more of those samples. Consider the theme of “media ecology” as you do so.

Background: Marshall McLuhan developed the concepts of media theory and media ecology in his seminal work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). Media ecology is the study of media, technology, and communication and how they affect human environments. Media ecology refers to the context and the environment in which a medium is used. Marshall McLuhan’s work on media began in St. Louis while he taught at Saint Louis University from 1937-1944.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0382” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0382” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

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

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0382-understanding-mcluhan/

Step 5: Annotate your track 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 Monday, April 29, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0382” 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: When applying a license, such as a copyright or Creative Commons license, keep in mind that these tracks are for non-commercial purposes only, and only for this project.

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 382nd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Understanding McLuhan / The Assignment: Remix samples of an interview with Eric McLuhan on his father and media theory — at:

https://disquiet.com/0382/

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/disquiet-junto-project-0382-understanding-mcluhan/

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

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Aliens Were Among Us

Don't let them fool you. Every day can be Record Store Day.

My lucky find at the record shop yesterday. This full-length album was released, in 1977, because the previous one (note this is “The Second Whale Record”) had sold some 100,000 copies, a surprise hit in its day. The alien intelligence of these voices strains my capacity for description and comprehension. Fascinating to imagine the voices had such a command of the public’s imagination that this translated into actual record sales. A bit like Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (the Bulgarian women’s ensemble) a decade or so later, only this choir is submerged.

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I Was on Darwin Grosse’s Podcast

Talking about art and music and technology (and print magazines, and music communities, and pop music) on the Art + Music + Technology podcast

Just this past Monday, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Darwin Grosse for his excellent, longrunning podcast, Art + Music + Technology, and the episode went live today.

For a sense of the scale of Grosse’s podcast, my entry in the interview series is number 271. I’ve enjoyed Grosse’s interviews for a long time. Past participants in the Art + Music + Technology podcast include frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator Alessandro Cortini, creative technologist Cassie Tarakajian, Monome developer Brian Crabtree, synthesis researcher Curtis Roads, and keyboard legend Herbie Hancock.

Grosse and I talked a lot about the Disquiet Junto music community I’ve been moderating since 2012, about my book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and about my time as an editor at Tower Records’ magazines. One subject I especially enjoyed when listening back to the audio this morning was about the future of music communities online, since the flaws of social media have become widely known in recent years. Here is a quick transcription of that part of the interview:

Grosse: Just to finish up, then, where do you think communities can go. Because it seems like you really enjoy being part of communities and being part of growth environments, right? And introducing people to things and stuff like that.

It seems like in a way we’ve almost hit a point where we’re not sure how to grow beyond that. We’ve seen things that are massive, like Facebook, end up being … not feeling satisfying because it becomes either a place where you can be taken advantage of or a place that’s just plain too overwhelmed with people. Or we have places that are so small that they end up feeling insular.

What do you think is the kind of community growth that can happen that provides an interesting next step?

Weidenbaum: It’s an interesting question. One thing that comes to mind as I’m formulating a response is that when I look at music technology these days, one of the ways I gauge how entrenched it is or how promising it is, is by the quality of the conversation on the forum related to that hardware or software. It’s not always a direct relation because there are sometimes people who are very yappy about things that actually maybe don’t prove that effective, but by and large, I think there is some really interesting information to be culled when you’re considering buying a synthesizer module or considering buying a piece of software or some other piece of hardware, a stomp box or something. You can look at the conversation online, usually on the forum that’s from the website of the manufacturer of that software or hardware, and get a sense of the culture of that content.

I think the issue there, for me, is that, as somebody who writes for a living, I think that writing can be highly overvalued. And I feel that one of the reasons the Junto exists as a model for this is that I feel that musicians communicate to each other through music primarily. And I feel that there’s an opportunity in communities for people to communicate in non-verbal ways.

Instagram is a nice step in that direction, though a lot of the pleasure of Instagram is actually the captions for the image like, “Oh now I’ve seen this beautiful picture; where is it from or what’s the context?” But I feel like one of the things that I’m trying to do with the Junto and one thing I’d like to see more is that it isn’t just a bunch of people chatting about presets and how they use tools, but their actual participation in the community is somehow nonverbal, that through images and sound and code, they’re participating, which is why GitHub is a community but it’s often not considered alongside [others]. … People talk about these massive communities and GitHub rarely comes up in the list alongside Facebook and Reddit and all these other. It’s interesting because GitHub, to me is just as much a community as these others. You know, a pull request is a form of participation.

Grosse: And communication.

Weidenbaum: Yeah, exactly.

You can hear (stream or, for free, download) the full, 45-minute podcast here: artmusictech.libsyn.com. Many thanks to Darwin for the invitation and the great conversation.

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