Are you single?

I'm a box set with previously unreleased tracks

Disquiet Junto 0314 Ice in a glass

"Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it" is traditionally the first Junto each year.

I think this is the seventh time I've followed these instructions and it's still challenging to make music from this material.

Ice in a glass becomes kinda abrasive quickly when listening to short loops over and over again. Those high-pitched transients are sharp even when unbroken.

Naviarhaiku207 – the woman

The haiku this week led me to think about foggy beaches at low tide.

My original inspiration was a sea shanty after reading about shipwrecks, then I MIDI'd the chord progression and brought the shanty in to Live.

In my name

How guitar pedals work

Disquiet Junto 0313 Audio Diary

I'm preempting the Disquiet Junto's annual audio diary with this edit of snippets from some of the recordings I've made during 2017.

When I searched my files I found 100 videos but to keep it simple I selected 60 and gave them a second each.

Recorded music in band breaks

And to think some people complain that pornography creates unrealistic expectations!

Disquiet Junto 0312 Amplify/Magnify

Some weeks the Junto directions fly out of my mind soon after I start recording. This was one of those weeks.

The exploration of the difference between 'amplification' and 'magnification' was straightforward and can be heard in the first and second 30 seconds.

My idea was to use a diaphragm microphone to amplify a quieter sound, then use a contact microphone as I've described them as having an effect like a microscope.

The source here is a candelabra that I liked the sound of enough to buy at an opp shop.

Then the remaining two minutes go off on a tangent, as I repitch and add reverb to create a gamelan-like effect.

I suppose the reverb does kinda invert the idea of magnification but making it sound more distant.

Disquiet Junto 0311 Ceramic Notation

The Junto this week asks participants to interpret this photograph of a ceramics display as a graphic score.

Graphic scores are one of the ideas I've learned from the Disquiet Junto and at times they've led to some great tracks.

This week isn't one of those times but I've still enjoyed the process, particularly for producing something despite feeling lacklustre.

When I looked at the photo I decided the boxed items were notes an octave apart and those in-between were a fifth.

As there are 14 items I decided to make the time signature 7/8 but, while getting the notes in place, decided it sounded better 3/4.

This morning I settled on the key of C# and decided to use MIDI in Ableton Live to produce the track.

Originally I'd thought I might route hardware for the result but once I started adding distortion I knew I'd keep it in-the-box.

Which led to the challenge of producing a video and in this situation previously I've simply filmed the Spectrum effect to visualise the track.

For the video above I filmed Spectrum three times, coloured each take red or blue and layered them.

Disquiet Junto 0310 From Memory

The Disquiet Junto this week asks participants to recreate a sound from memory.

I've chosen a birdsong that I hear when camping in Matong State Forest for Burning Seed.

Watt is love?

Music In Objects

There's a lot to like in this series of videos but making music with a bicycle is especially fun.

When I grow up

Disquiet Junto 0309 Military Matrix Mixer

The Disquiet Junto this week conflates two different matrices, one a military tool for judging radio signals and the other a mixer used for merging signals.

Thinking about distorting signals led me to think of effects pedals, whiles thinking about merging signals led me to think of my Roland TR-707 for its individual outputs.

The result here runs the drum outputs through various pedals, then merges them together again.

I've used a Bass Synthesiser pedal on the low tom and the Talking Machine pedal on the high tom, as well as Space Echo on the high hats and a Lofi Machine on the snare.

That moment

Disquiet Junto 0308 Giving Thanks

The Disquiet Junto this week has a Thanksgiving theme, asking for a piece that expresses gratitude.

I've a lot to be thankful for and spent Friday wondering who or what to focus on. Then on Friday night I visited my friend Alicia Boyd's Tumblr and liked her prose 'Liberation Please'.

While the theme isn't exactly gratitude, it does pick up on a few themes for me. I met Ms Boyd at Burning Seed, an event which has changed my life, and she recently appropriated a line from one of my haiku. So I thought I'd show my gratitude for her interest in my writing by appropriating some of her's.

This morning I experimented with making the words sit on a chord progression and then quickly recorded this take.

Oblique Strategy

Naviarhaiku202 – wind blows its way to sea

Here's my last minute response to the haiku shared by Naviar Records last week.

I was going to a meeting when I heard a chiming sound and identified the source as the flagpoles outside the bowling club.

That evening I returned and made a record, which has been effected in Ableton Live.

I liked the idea that the wind in Leeton continues onto to the sea that is at least 500km away.

Naviarhaiku201 – In the calm stillness

The haiku shared by Naviar Records this week was an opportunity to create a frantic track inspired by flies.

I can't help it

Disquiet Junto 0306 Music in Motion

The Junto this week asks participants to compose and record a piece while traveling.

As far as constraints go, I didn't have plans to go anywhere this week and asked my partner to drive to the op shop while I attempted to make up something musical.

I'm not sure it's successful. My mate Paul pointed out there's a discordant note.

Disquiet Junto 0305 Three Princes

The Junto this week asks for three loops of different lengths drawn from an archive of Sri Lankan music, then made into a song.

My loops came from "Aadarayai_Karunawai" and "Sri_Maha_Bodhimulehi" and "Umba_Kiya_Kiya" but they ended up being relatively in sync.

When I settled on these samples I was using a different percussion part from the last of those songs, which had a 6/8 riff.

Then I got tired of the musical part over the top of that rhythm and found there was a 5/4 break in the track, so I settled on using it.

After doing this I looked at the other two loops, a horn I think and three bell chimes, tweaked their lengths only a little and found they were 20 beats, 10 beats and the drums were 5 beats.

Then I started a drum part to accompany them and realised it was 4/4, which was a shock as the bass part I'd been jamming on was 3/4 and a bit similar to 'Money' by Pink Floyd.

So I played the bass a bit more and found a kinda disco part that seemed good for a chorus.

Press for changeover

Sonification versus musical metaphors?

This video explains some of the frustration I've had with arbitrary sound choices.

For me the question first arose when numerous friends shared this video with me:

I understand the tree rings are triggering the piano but it seemed like sleight of hand when they suggested I was hearing the tree.

Then there are the contact mic apps that use the sound source to trigger a sample. Again it's a somewhat arbitrary process to suggest the object being struck is creating the musical result.

I think sonification is an interesting process but one that would be better described as a musical metaphor. my Slayer?

Naviarhaiku200 – We’ve explored miles

Couldn't let the 200th haiku shared by Naviar Records pass without a response.

Yesterday I took four chords on the ukulele, looped them with a Jamman pedal and fed them into my gated rig.

It was the first time I'd used the effects chain in a while but it seemed appropriate as it's a technique used to interpret previous haikus.

Then I added a bassline and made a couple of edits, before waiting overnight for the video to render.

Disquiet Junto 0302 Gronkytonk

The Junto this week asks for a gronkytonk single, based on the genre described in Malka Older’s novel Infomacracy.

Honkytonk is a style of piano playing that emphasises rhythm and the word 'gronk' suggested something atonal or misshapen.

It seemed like an opportunity to use the recording I'd made of a statue earlier in the year, which was sitting on my desktop along with drums from last year.

I spent a while making loops from my tapping on the statue, then layered them up before giving a structure that built up as it went.

Then I experimented with re-pitching some of the loops and added gates to try and stop it from getting too muddy.

What’s your favorite sound?

C: What’s your favorite sound?
M: I tend to think of sound in context, not alone. I teach a course about the role of sound in the media landscape, and I structured the course that way because I didn't want to do a sound studies project that suggested that sound must be considered in hermetic, theoretical isolation. The brain isn't an anechoic chamber. If anything, it's the opposite. If anything, we as humans are the opposite. Sound occurs in the context of the moment it resounds, in the way we experience it physically, and also amid the non-linear accumulation of personal and cultural associations it brings to mind. All of which said, if I had to choose one sound as a favorite, it would be the sound of ice in a glass. That is, specifically the sound of ice cubes put in a cold beverage, and especially when those cubes crackle and pop as they ever so slowly change composition. That sound is the subject of the very first Disquiet Junto, when I asked musicians to record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it. It was already a sound I liked. I drink a small glass of iced coffee every morning, always with a couple ice cubes in it. But because of what the Junto has become, that sound has become rich with personal meaning and associations, which have in turn reinforced it as a favorite, as a true touchstone. When I did the first Junto project, that sound was the subject of it because I liked the sound. Now every morning when I drink iced coffee, I think in turn of the Junto.

Disquiet Junto 0300 The 300th Project

The 300th Junto project asks for three chords over 100 seconds.

Timing was tricky for this project in a couple of ways. I'd just returned from a week camping and didn't time the length of the chords, so they ended up a bit short.

Delay was added in Live to stretch the electric ukulele, Nashville-tuned guitar and bass to the desired length.

When the DJ drops Thriller

Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet

When I read about Karlheinz Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet it seemed like a concept that wouldn't be realised, yet this version from 2012 isn't the first performance. That happened in 1995, only two years after it was written.


Disquiet Junto 0299 10bpm Waltz

The Disquiet Junto this week asks for a waltz at 10bpm.

Think I ended up thinking about how 20bpm differs from 10bpm than considering what 10 beats per minute means and feels like. Rather than thinking about the instance of how the down beat of 10 bpm differs from, say, 20 bpm,

In the process I noticed that Ableton Live will only go down to 20bpm and the Ohmboyz delay said 80bpm. Ten beats per minute just is. So. Very. Slow.

It took me a while to settle on an approach for this Junto. On Saturday I started reminding myself of a chord progression on the ukulele and ended up playing arpeggios. This helped to pick the six-note sequences on the four strings of my electric uke in 3/4 time signature.

The track was recorded in a single take, then I've added two delays to flesh it out.

The video was shot on Friday morning when I couldn’t sleep. I guess this happens often enough that on the morning I heard the sprinklers and went back to the house to get my camera. I’ve often admired the way the floodlight projects the gum tree onto a screen of water created by the sprinklers.

If I was a music reviewer

Clearly music criticism isn't what it used to be.

When I wrote music reviews it seemed best to try and be objective.

So I'd guess the music critic above has a novel way of listening to albums for the guitar to get that effect :)

Disquiet Junto 0298 Dungeons & Drum Machines

The Disquiet Junto this week uses dice as a compositional tool in the style of rolling character attributes in the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game.

As shown, I rolled a 13 and a 14. Notes were DCAGAF, beats were a half note then two quarter notes.

Then I thought I'd roll four 10-sided dice to determine tempo, getting 99 and 93. That led to 192bpm but the track has a halftime feel, I think.

This track was recorded quickly using a Jomox kick and the 707's high hats through chorus and Space Echo pedals.

I played the chords on my MIDI guitar and ran them through an Oddity pad, before adding a bassline.

The track opens with D minor but I decided to experiment with a bassline in G, as I remembered that I find those two chords hard to distinguish.

The result, like Dungeons and Dragons, doesn't really resolve.

And, again like D&D, I found myself in a daydream every time I'd hit play. If there hadn't been a deadline of Monday night, I mightn't have ever exported this result.

What instrument do you play?

Click on the image for the punchline!

Disquiet Junto 0297 Domestic Chorus

The Junto this week asks for a domestic portrait.

After I found the bathroom door no longer squeaked, I wasn't sure what to record.

Then I remembered the toasted sandwich I'd filmed but had yet to edit. It was waiting for an appropriate track but instead I found loops within it to build a song.

If you haven't seen my remarkable sandwiches, there are more here.

None of the loops have been repitched but I did run one through a resonator and another through a Sinevibes effect.

I seem to have edited myself out of the conversation, probably because I prefer to hear my partner's voice.

A Future In Commons

The Juntos responding to the imprisonment of Bassel have been among the most poignant, particularly the one that drew on his letter from prison in Syria.

Rupert Lally put together this compilation from Junto tracks and all the proceeds go to a memorial fund hosted in Bassel's name by Creative Commons.

His name was Bassel Khartabil. He was a coder and open-source advocate born in Syria, the same country that would later imprison him and execute him. During his incarceration, and during the extended period when his death was presumed but not yet confirmed, his story became a rallying point around the world. His plight inspired essays, and conference sessions, and political statements. And it inspired music. All the tracks in this collection are sourced from different projects undertaken by members of the Disquiet Junto music community to keep Bassel’s story alive.


Just noticed I've now published 1000 posts on this blog.


This cynical comic about the marketing of headphones stirred some discussion among friends on Facebook.

While I've never tried Beats headphones, I have recently bought a new pair of cans.

A friend trumpeted Sennheiser HD650 and Sonarworks Reference software, which uses EQ calibration to correct the sound in the headphones.

This software has been good for my mixing, which has increasingly relied on using headphones since I realised the room I use needs treatment and I was overcompensating the lower frequencies.

Hopefully I've moved on from muddy sounding mixes like this one.

I bought a pair of HD600 after reading a few reviews and decided to draw the line at paying the extra $80.

The Sennheisers are a nice pair of headphones. I found the packaging over the top but there is a sense they provide extra detail, although they aren't as comfortable to wear as my cheaper cans.

The other headphones I have are AKG K240s, which are closed and get a bit hot around the ears in warmer months.

These AKGs are mostly used while recording but provide a very flat and somewhat clinical response, although there is a sense the higher frequencies can vary from how a mix will sound over speakers.

I also have several pairs of Grado headphones, their SR60 and SR60i and a pair of Alessandro Grado that my brother thought were rubbish and gave to me.

I used these last pair lots in recent years and like them for comfort and the flattering warm mid-range.

Thanks Ableton

Ever since I embraced video editing with Ableton Live, it's simplified my workflow for remixing and enabled me to stop using Soundcloud.

For a while there was a drawback in the way Live would shrink video resolution and change the frame rate of footage.

I've written about this previously and was surprised to find it was about a year ago that I wondered whether Ableton would address this in their tenth version of Live.

So I was surprised when I exported a video yesterday and saw a bunch of new options.

It turns out that when I updated to Live 9.7 last weekend that they've started to address my video export wishes.

Thanks Ableton! Wonder if this points to future developments incorporating video into the digital audio workstation?

Casio on Hipsta

Like PC Hipsta, I have a Casio keyboard.

Disquiet Junto 0296 Clustered Primes

The Disquiet Junto this week involves interpreting prime numbers.

I'd had a conversation with my son earlier in the week about composing music that uses overlapping time signatures.

It's one of those techniques that I return to from time to time, particularly using a 4/4 drum beat with a 3/4 bassline.

This song adds a 5/4 drum beat and a 7/8 organ part.

The looped vocal introduces each part. The lyric about three accompanies the 3/4 303-style part, then discusses five as the drums begin, before mentioning seven with the organ.

The lyrics were quickly written and recorded. I think I could spend more time de-essing them though.

Please share this picture


The Sharawadji effect is an aesthetic effect which characterises the sensation of plenitude sometimes created by the contemplation of a complex soundscape whose beauty is unexplainable. This exotic term, which travellers introduced to Europe in the 17th Century from their journeys to China, designates the beauty that comes about without perceiving the order or economy of the object in question. The effect comes about as a surprise and will carry you elsewhere, beyond strict representation - out of context. In this brutal confusion, the senses get lost. A beautiful Sharawadji plays with the rules of composition, manipulates them and awakens a feeling of pleasure through perceptual confusion.Whether in a dreamlike or anxious state, we are sometimes completely deaf to the environment. However while on a walk or on a journey, our spirit can combine availability, attention, perspicacity and therefore become receptive to new things, including sonic fantasy.The beautiful Sharawadji affirms itself in contrast with the banality from which it originates. Sharawadji sounds, as such, belong to everyday life or to known musical registers. They only become Sharawadji by decontextualisation, by a rupture of the senses. The sonic matter that encourages the Sharawadji effect is up to the appreciation of each individual, in a given context, however the soundscape, and in particular urban soundscapes can, as a result of their unpredictability and diversity, favour it. The sonic wealth of nature is also susceptible of creating the Sharawadji effect.

-- Jean-François Augoyard and Henry Torgue, À l'écoute de l'environnement, répertoire des effets sonores (a dictionary of sound effects) , 1995 (translated by Claude Schryer)

John Luther Adams on renewing human consciousness and culture

"Music," Adams said, "has a particular power not just to illustrate or instruct but to allow us to be more fully present in the world. I actually do believe that music can serve as a sounding model for the renewal of human consciousness and culture."

Naviarhaiku190 – Poisoned Waterhole

The haiku shared by Naviar Records this week is the fifth and final in the Crossing Streams collaboration with Western Riverina Arts as part of an exhibition planned for Narrandera this October.

My response employs a technique promoted by my sometime collaborator Garlo Jo, where the wind plays the guitar. See his Vent de Guitares website for more.

The passing traffic worked well to vibrate the strings, then it started to rain and the effect was magic.

It's a small thing but I decided not to edit the recording other than to enhance it with reverb and delay, as well as EQ and compression and re-amping effects as it was a direct recording from the guitar.

So those arpeggio-like notes near the end as the rain falls are the water droplets hitting the strings, which become increasingly muted as the shower continues.

Modern recording

Disquiet Junto 0294 Offline Status

The Disquiet Junto this week continued remembering Bassel Khartabil, a Creative Commons web developer who was killed by the Syrian government in 2015.

Black Sabbath matters

Naviarhaiku189 – Verdant town of trees

The haiku shared by Naviar Records this week is by Narrandera Library manager Sue Killham, who has supported workshops I've held at that venue.

My response aims to sound busy, as the town Narrandera has a wide river flowing past and is on the junction of two highways. It's no coincidence roads follow rivers, as I learned developing a soundtrack to the Reimagining the Murrumbidgee exhibition in 2013.

The result hopes to sound like a jazz sextet with double bass, percussion, drums, clarinet and flute. The video, my 65th responding to Naviar haikus, doesn't present verdant trees because the blossoms of the wattle are much more eye-catching as they announce that spring is on its way.

Disquiet Junto 0293 Emerge/Immerse

Not sure I paid enough attention to the Junto instructions to: "record a short piece of music, up to two minutes, that is about something emerging — something being brought to life, or coming out of a cave, or otherwise coming into being."

My track brings into being a chord progression I've been playing over the last few days.

I've used the Rhodes-style instrument with the MIDI guitar and kept the guitar part too.

It was recorded quickly and you can see at least one edit in the video.

Naviarhaiku188 - A sepia wash

The haiku shared by Naviar Records this week is one of mine.

I've been writing a haiku each day during 2017 and this was from the coldest morning of winter.

The photo was taken as I stopped outside Narrandera on the way to a meeting near the Murray River.

My track uses a Rhodes-style keyboard for a sepia wash and I've kept the vibe mellow because that's how Naviar roll.

Disquiet Junto 0292 Eclipse Music

The Disquiet Junto this week asks musicians to ponder the solar eclipse occurring in the US on 21 August.

I've only seen lunar eclipses, so I pondered the majesty of a solar eclipse for a while and then set about finding ideas on the guitar.

It took a little while and then I worked to record my part before dinner.

There was only time for a single take and at first I thought I'd need to return and record another, but I decided to use the MIDI recording rather than the electric guitar.

Marimba is an instrument that appeals to me for its percussive quality but the low E of the guitar only triggers a few sampled instruments, so I've used tuba and double bass.

There's also bowed vibraphone in the mix, adding resonance in the higher frequencies.

Led Zeppelin primer

Daniel Levitin on composers

“It’s the job of the composer to bring us pleasure through choices we didn’t expect.”

Naviarhaiku187 – flood waters recede

The haiku by Julie Briggs that was shared by Naviar Records this week is the second in a series about Narrandera.

Having seen the flooding in that town in recent years, as well as having been isolated in Leeton during one event, I took the final line "Which way is up?" to reflect turmoil.

My musical response uses a string section for their emotive qualities with plaintive cries from oboe and clarinet.

Disquiet Junto 0291 Lantern Effect

The Disquiet Junto this week asked for a sonic equivalent to "the 'lantern effect' — the way light is filtered through the textured material of a paper lantern."

You can see I've used my MIDI guitar, with the MIDI triggering a vaguely oriental-sounding piano and the guitar fading in over the length of the track.

My idea is that the reverb on the piano part gives the impression of the diffused light, while the emerging guitar is meant to convey the opaque view of the lighting source as you draw nearer to a paper lantern.

Drop beats not bombs