tom moody

new-ish vimeos

Have been neglecting my Vimeo account, mainly because I hate video and think there's too much of it in our world. Yesterday I posted a couple of laid-back efforts from late 2014 I had been sitting on:

Ambient Bro Environment

Walk to Liberty

Was sort of briefly interested in the idea of home movies as art -- taking that trope of ultimate boredom and elevating it to festival material, as a form of protest or Dada or what have you. I even went as far as to submit Idyllic Bike Ride to the festival "Migrating Forms" (where it was rejected). What happened was, I get a lot of press releases going back to my years as a pundit. Some are welcome and some go to spam. Migrating Forms sent me an announcement with a call for entries. It took about five minutes to submit Idyllic Bike Ride -- I thought a dude's bike ride might be an amusing break or palate cleanser in several hours of heavy identity exploration. It was rejected, and also lessened my spam traffic because I stopped receiving Migrating Forms announcements! Unlike moi, they do not hate video.

- tom moody

March 23rd, 2017 at 8:10 am

Posted in theory, video - tm

MIDI Users' Group performance

MIDI Users' Group performs at an electronic music event, Oscillate:Pittsburgh 2017 [YouTube]

Travis Hallenbeck tweeted: "my set in Pittsburgh was described by the organizer as like being stuck in an office"

On the other hand, it was kind of refreshing not seeing an Apple laptop or a rack of modular gear. These not-quite-ancient MIDI devices have their own unique sound and seem to have their own mind. Hallenbeck treats them like a flock of erratic sheep, letting them go where they will and savoring their little bleeps and hums as events in themselves. The caretaker approach to (dis)organized sound.

- tom moody

March 23rd, 2017 at 7:41 am

chicken little for real

When lab-grown meat was first announced a few years ago, science fiction fan Paul Krugman (whose economic theories in support of the Clintons have also been called science fictional) mentioned the "Chicken Little" episode in Pohl & Kornbluth's book The Space Merchants. That was P&K's name for a monstrous mound of non-sentient chicken flesh, filling a small underground cavern, flensed off in strips to feed the populace. The meat Krugman was comparing to it was pork, or perhaps nu-pork, but last week the feat was achieved in San Francisco startup-land with actual chicken, or nu-chicken. (hat tip m.po)

Since the source is Business Insider they don't call it Frankenfood, but rather a form of venture-capital-funded disruption. If brainless meat ever becomes economical, the idea is, its various purveyors will do to chicken farmers what Uber does to cab drivers. Or, as BI puts it:

They're all hoping to disrupt America's $200 billion meat industry (and $48 billion poultry industry), by offering foods that mimic meat but are more environmentally friendly.

The details are pretty disgusting, even if you aren't excited by a food that is "eerily similar" to real meat (BI's telling phrase):

...lab-grown meat still requires fetal serum, which comes from unborn calves and chicks, to start the cultivation process. Memphis Meats told The Wall Street Journal in 2016 that it expects to replace the serum with something plant-based soon.

Right, sure. It's the nu-ethics: Disrupting baby cows is bad, disrupting family farmers is OK.

- tom moody

March 22nd, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Posted in around the web

belter history

The cable channel formerly known as the Science Fiction Channel has a new series, The Expanse, which is pretty adroitly done, despite people being killed with guns with as much regularity and emotional impact as Moe slapping Curly. It's based on a book series by two sf late colonizers writing under the name James S.A. Corey. When it's time to borrow, borrow from the best, and the Coreys owe a large debt to earlier writers for their conception of "the Belt" (as in, asteroids) and Belters.

Larry Niven used "Belter" in the '60s, mostly in short stories in his "Known Space" series. Wikipedia's summation:

The Sol Belt possesses an abundance of valuable ores, which are easily accessible due to the low to negligible gravity of the rocks containing them. Originally a harsh frontier under U.N. control,[citation needed] the Belt declared independence after creating Confinement Asteroid, a habitat with spin gravity that permitted safe gestation of children, and Farmer's Asteroid, the Belt's primary food source. Almost immediately a lively competition began between the fiercely independent "Belters" and the technology police of the U.N. Several years of tension and economic conflicts followed, but soon settled into a relatively peaceful trade relationship as the Belt has so many resources that the UN and the Earth need.

C.J. Cherryh also had gritty Belters in her books Heavy Time (1991) and Hellburner (1992). Wikipedia, again:

[The novels] are set in the Sol system at the beginning of the "Company Wars" period in the 24th century. Heavy Time introduces ASTEX, a division of the Sol Station Corporation, ... engaged in asteroid mining for minerals to support the Earth's economy and the war effort. Disputes over mining rights, corporate corruption and economic exploitation are key plot elements in the first novel.

Both Niven and Cherryh depict Belters as scrappy, independent operators, comfortable in tight spaces and hard vacuum suits, mining the rocks and constantly struggling with more sedentary Earth bureaucracies. The whole concept is basically bunk since radiation exposure and bone density loss make it impossible for humans to live in space for long periods, but as long as romantic conceptions are dying hard, might as well acknowledge the early dreamers.

- tom moody

March 18th, 2017 at 10:33 am

Posted in books, films

"Streets of Passive Aggression"

"Streets of Passive Aggression" [4.1 MB .mp3]

As noted previously, I've been working with the Tracktion digital audio workstation, which, amazingly for a commercial DAW, offers a Linux version in addition to the standard Mac & Cheese alternatives. My understanding is its JUCE code is designed to work with any OS, and, on Linux, integrates very well with the JACK audio standard.

I use looping MIDI files quite a bit in my autodidact-ish form of composing -- that is, listening to C2-F3-F2-A2-D3-A3-F3-D#3-C#3 (or whatever) over and over as I write the next part that plays in harmony or counterpoint to that. If I have to keep adjusting the loop markers to keep notes from disappearing -- as happens constantly with Ardour, I get frustrated and go read an e-book or something instead of working on music. Several people on the Linuxmusicians forum noted that Tracktion and Bitwig are "stable" in that regard, so I'm checking out the alternatives.

The good news is Tracktion-on-Linux is incredibly stable for long term editing work with MIDI and audio. It's superior to Cubase and Ableton in its ability to render loops "on the fly" (as they say) and place them in the timeline as you are working. It also has a better browser that allows you to quickly find and move samples from your PC into an open project window, or individual sample players.

The bad news, on Linux at least, is it doesn't handle third party plugins well. They tend to crash, or not have save-able presets. This forces you to use Tracktion plugins -- which are perfectly fine for most effects such as delay, reverb, compressor, limiter, but somewhat lacking for software synthesizer choices. Tracktion has a ROMpler-type sampler, that you can arrange in racks of multiple samplers, and that's what I used to make this track, pulling from my burgeoning, motley sample archive. (Many of these sound files originate "on the internet," including 808 kits, the Legowelt synth collection, and some truly gritty 8-bit "Streets of Rage" samples -- hat tip to kiptok for that last one, I think). The one softsynth used here, Helm (that chirping sound at the beginning and end) is pretty reliable as a plugin as long as you don't care about saving presets -- Tracktion remembers the settings for project, however.

So, for the moment, at least, am treating Tracktion as a self-contained instrument sitting on the PC -- like a virtual Octatrack -- until I get a better handle on the "plugin situation."

- tom moody

March 17th, 2017 at 9:54 am

Posted in linux diary, music - tm

defaced subway poster

zaftig taylor swift clone gets The Treatment
which is worse, the ad or the defacement

- tom moody

March 16th, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Posted in photos - cell

around the web

In praise of cash (Brett Scott, Aeon) reminds us of the not-so-wholesome political agendas behind a "cashless society."

Amazon warehouse workers describe the future of non-elite work in the 21st century (Outis Philalithopoulos, Naked Capitalism -- part 1 / part 2). Read before clicking "add to cart." This is techno-dystopia and it's not a fiction series from Amazon streaming video.

- tom moody

March 16th, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Posted in around the web

"Nova's Elixir"

"Nova's Elixir" [3.5 MB .mp3]

Original title: "Softsynth Interaction." Have been learning the Tracktion digital audio workstation, which has a Linux version. Looping MIDI works there, where it's still buggy on Ardour. Tracktion-on-Linux is incredibly stable as long as you use their house plugins. Instead of an unfortunate limitation, am trying to think of it as fact of life and treat Tracktion as a self-contained instrument sitting on the PC -- like a virtual Octatrack -- that can do some interesting things.

Have not yet gone full-on Tracktion; most of this tune is made in Ardour with a combination of Ardour- and Tracktion-made loops.

The basic beat was done in Ardour with the LSP Plugins sampler instrument. The first two synth voices are also Ardour-made, employing (i) the Calf Monosynth and Harrison reverb running inside the Carla plugin host (which works fine except for the audible pop at the loop point -- the developer hasn't coded for that yet and it only affects monitoring, not the exported audio loop, but it's still annoying) and (ii) Loomer Aspect.

The other synth voices and beats are all sequenced in Tracktion using non-Tracktion plugins, then imported back into Ardour for a final mix. The synths are Loomer Aspect (a different patch), Helm and ZynAddSubFX. I got these working at about the 90% level -- I couldn't save presets or they might crash but it was enough to get some audio saved.

The challenge here was mastering. That beat has a very heavy bass kick that interacts badly with other tracks when you boost the gain for a "CD mix." To get it up to the same volume level as my other tracks without obvious distortion, I had to use the PSP Vintage Warmer on (sigh) Windows, which I was hoping to move away from. None of the Linux limiters I tried (including Tracktion's) could handle the job. If I was a pro mixing engineer I would fix this in the mix but it's beyond my skill set ATM. [/linux diary]

- tom moody

March 14th, 2017 at 7:52 am

Posted in linux diary, music - tm

sorry about your view

AKA "asshole architecture" AKA "the architecture of greed." You got air rights, you gotta use 'em.
This building artlessly shoving up against an existing building recalls a similar striver, in human space:

- tom moody

March 9th, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Posted in photos - cell

linux musings

Dell makes high-end laptops that run Ubuntu -- who knew? It's the only "major" hardware supplier that does, according to Linux Magazine. On the niche side, Think Penguin offers PCs and laptops configured for various Linux distros (as they're called). Highly recommended if you are looking to buck the system, that is, step outside the Apple/Microsoft/Google thought control paradigm. (The ambitious can also remake W10 in a more honest image -- see funfare's instructions). Unfortunately Ubuntu has an obnoxious "unity desktop" that's more user friendly than it needs to be; worse, Ubuntu is managed by a for-profit company, Canonical, that lost some credibility by partnering with Amazon on some customer enhancement whatever (apparently you can now opt out of this). Other distros, such as Mint, avoid the unity and the canon.

In the world of audio-for-Linux, a schism is brewing because some commercial DAW developers are suddenly making workstations that run on Linux, using its super-flexible JACK protocol. Tracktion and Bitwig both offer these, in addition to Apple and MS versions. The problem is plugins. Linux users have developed a range of interesting products using the LV2 standard, regarded by many as superior to the VST protocol developed by Steinberg (of Cubase fame), that serves as the audio industry standard, for better or worse. Neither Tracktion nor Bitwig load LV2 plugins, only VSTs. There are various bridges that no one seems ecstatic about. To take advantage of LV2, you must use Linux-centric DAWs such as Ardour or Qtractor. Unfortunately the Linux DAWs are clunky and crude compared to the commercial ones -- I've had ongoing issues with Ardour's MIDI tracks in Loop mode, and crashing from various plugins. Either Tracktion/Bitwig need to embrace the house standard (not going to happen, it appears) or Ardour needs to get a whole lot tighter (might happen, given time and competition).

- tom moody

March 8th, 2017 at 9:31 am

Posted in linux diary