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

This video captures a hour+ discussion at CCRMA by authorĀ 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.


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 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.

7 thoughts on “Two Decades Of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II

  1. I haven’t finished watching the video, but it is pretty interesting so far. However, it’s hard to understand what the speaker is saying 70% of the time due to the room acoustics etc.

  2. For better or worse, Aphex always has done his own thing, and always seems to have worked really hard and been super productive. And despite all the years in the industry, he doesn’t seem to be an ego the wait you might have expected. Legend.

    1. Richard D. James is a good example of a non-conformist, musically speaking. I hate to rhyme, but his sound has no bounds. Hell, I can’t even say “his sound” because it’s not like the man has a sonic signature of any kind. I’ve just always loved that he experiments with machines of all sorts and turns them into very unique instruments. Plus, he has a love for modular synthesizers, which is never a bad thing.

  3. To compare aphex with eno is plain wrong.
    Eno makes music very carefully but aphex makes noise for the most part, while under the influence of chemicals and suchlike

    Connoisseurs do not have fine wine and cheap cider in the same cabinet!!!!

  4. I was mildly curious to watch this until i saw it’s from the guy responsible for the awful 33 1/3 book about this album.

    Anyone who’s read a decent number of the books in that series knows they can be pretty hit or miss, but this was the first one I didn’t even want to finish, and it’s about one of my favorite albums, one I like much better than the subjects of other 33 1/3 books that I’ve enjoyed much more.

    Early on in the book he presents the most sustained exercise in pedantry I’ve ever read over people who describe the album as ‘beatless,’ dredging up and citing every last example he could find and spinning his wheels on a pointless refutation. I wanted to throw the book across the room.

    Maybe it gets better and more insightful after that and maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I certainly won’t be reading that irritating, interminable chapter again! And I don’t think I’ll watch this video, either.

  5. I only watched a little of this video (skipping around to find a good part). The pretentious “intellectualization” made me want to puke!

    A flower is beautiful as it is. It’s not so beautiful when you dissect all its parts and examine them under a microscope. Music is soul, not analytics. This video does nothing to expand the beauty of the original work. In fact, it’s just down right boring. Sorry!

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