A few days ago, I woke up before sunrise (as I always do in the winter) and looked out my window to see some of the thickest fog I've ever seen. Normally at night I see the lights of downtown Houston skyscrapers, but this night I saw almost nothing. As I watched, astonished by the gloom, I wondered if I would even be able to see the sun when it rose. I looked up the exact minute of sunrise for that morning and waited. The gloom grew lighter, but no less obscure. I looked to the east from my balcony and could see no sun. The only light I could see were some headlights from the cars below my window and the large freeway light nearest to me. Normally I can see four of them to the east. The view was inspiring, so I took out my phone and snapped a photo of it which I posted on Instagram and Facebook. The picture I posted had an Instagram filter that made it appear warmer than the raw version.
Above is the Instagram post. Here is the unfiltered photo:
After I posted this on Facebook, I was contacted by Marc Weidenbaum, a friend from the comics world, about it. He texted me:
Howdy. I was wondering, would it be OK if I use your photo for a project? I'll credit you for sure. I have this weekly music community I moderate, and each Thursday I send out a compositional prompt. I'd like to potentially use this image for one.
I responded, "The fog photo from this morning?"
Yeah, that's the one. The project I did online before launching the Disquiet Junto music community was called Insta/gr/ambient, and I gave 25 musicians one another's Instagram images and said, "This is the cover of your next single. Now record it." I think I wanna do that with this image, if that's cool. We usually get 20 to 40 participants from around the world.
I, of course, agreed. Marc posted it on his music blog, Disquiet Junto. And many musicians and composers responded. Their music is almost exclusively electronic, most is wordless, and mostly soundscapes without melody. It is very nice music to play in the background while reading a book on a foggy day. And here is the playlist:
Weidenbaum was an editor at Pulse, the house magazine of Tower Records (remember them?). He later worked for Viz, then the largest publisher of manga in the U.S. Somewhere along the way, he became interested in electronic and ambient music. In 2014, he wrote Selected Ambient Works Volume II for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series of books about notable record albums (in this case, Aphex Twin's album of the same title).
I feel exceptionally proud that my early morning snapshot helped inspire this body of music. But really, the credit goes to Weidenbaum: he's the one who has built up this community who eagerly respond to his entreaties.