Synthtopia

Two Decades Of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II

This video captures a hour+ discussion at CCRMA by author Marc Weidenbaum on Two Decades of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

Weidenbaum’s discussion focuses on the “cultural afterlife” that the album has experienced in the two decades since its initial release on the Warp and Sire labels in 1994.

The discussion is based on Weidenbaum’s book in the 33 1/3 series, Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

Summary

Faithful to Brian Eno’s definition of ambient music, Selected Ambient Works Volume II was intentionally functional: it furnished chill-out rooms, the sanctuaries amid intense raves. Choreographers and film directors began to employ it to their own ends, and in the intervening decades this background music came to the fore, adapted by classical composers who reverse-engineer its fragile textures for performance on acoustic instruments. Simultaneously, “ambient” has moved from esoteric sound art to central tenet of online culture. This book contends that despite a reputation for being beat-less, the album exudes percussive curiosity, providing a sonic metaphor for our technologically mediated era of countless synchronized nanosecond metronomes.

Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996. It focuses on the intersection of sound, art, and technology. He has written for Nature, the website of The Atlantic, Boing Boing, Down Beat, and numerous other publications. He has commissioned and curated sound/music projects that have featured original works by Kate Carr, Marcus Fischer, Marielle Jakobsons, John Kannenberg, Tom Moody, Steve Roden, Scanner, Roddy Schrock, Robert M. Thomas, Pedro Tudela, and Stephen Vitiello, among many others. His work has been displayed in galleries in Dubai, Los Angeles, and Manhattan. He initiated and moderates the Disquiet Junto group, where musicians respond on SoundCloud to weekly Oulipo-style restrictive compositional projects (as of this writing, more than 420 musicians have uploaded more than 3,000 tracks in more than 110 consecutive projects). He developed the sound design with Taylor Deupree for the 2012 documentary The Children Next Door. Since 2012 he has taught a course he developed on the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, where he lives.