Archive for December, 2007
Following up on my Googie post, Thor Johnson sent the above photos and this description:
There is a googie style building that until about a month ago was a Denny's here in Seattle. It is a stylized Viking longhouse, a tribute to this neighborhood's heavy Scandinavian population. It was another restaurant in the old days before it became a Denny's, and it was a Denny's for about 30 years. A developer bought the building this past summer and is going to tear it down to build hi-rise condos. The googie Denny's did not go out of business, it did gangbusters business. I never went to the Denny's (don't like the food) but I am sad to see the building go.
My preservationist instincts are limited, and I'm not sure all buildings need to be saved, as long as they're reasonably well documented. Or that every architectural anomaly needs to be preserved. The curves on this one are amazing, though. I suppose in a world not ruled by developer sharks, it could be saved by a benevolent state for a town meeting hall, returning it to its original function. Or a long hut to raise young warriors.
"Krypt 112-115" [mp3 removed -- a revised version of this track is on Bandcamp]
Have been mucking about in recent songs ("Frienemies," "Cribtonomicon," "I Wish I Didn't," "Salsa Science," "Gro-Rabbit 2," "Dark Materials") with the Reaktor instrument Krypt, trying to learn what can be personalized in the wilds of preset-land. Why Krypt out of the hundreds of factory and user-built synths assembled with Reaktor modules? Maybe it's the techno-Gothic typeface. But seriously, it was a personal challenge. The Reaktor library has all these fascinating looking synth/ROMpler/sequencer combos but I have found them mostly hard to use--so much tedious micro-adjusting of tiny dials and sliders, and forget trying to assign controllers. So I picked one that seemed fairly incomprehensible and tried to learn it and at the same time make songs that are "mine."
Composing with it is like wrestling a squid. The designers built so much randomization in it that it seems to morph as you write. Touch the "wrong" button and you can lose a couple of hours of sounds.
But if you resist the urge to use all the features at once, and patiently write sequences track by track you can get some fairly seductive "raw material" (to my ear anyway). I've been saving the sequences I write as audio files and adding other instruments later in Cubase, so the work product isn't all Krypt. The virtual groovebox is just providing a foundation rhythm track to build on top of, as well as some squiggly, mutated textures of a "modern digital synthesis" nature. (Specifically, the instrument is based on an interesting mix of "grain cloud" tech and reverb, where a hundred samples are minced down to sound-grains and fluidly reassembled as everything from echo-y whooshes to sharp bell-like peals.)
This particular piece is "all Krypt" in the sense that the "steel drum" melody is played in a ROMpler with factory samples made with...Krypt. I especially like the whispery hats in the break, which slightly, arbitrarily change pitch in mid-run.
One side of the street (Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ). The Sleep Cheap store has a "googie" facade, a future-looking architecture style of the 5os and 60s. The Valu-Plus logo is a study in minimalism, balloony serif font notwithstanding.
On the other side of the street, stores are being converted to the Main Street America look as part of a civic makeover. In the future the googie will be gone and the whole block will look like the past. The only thing "tech" about these signs is Nail Tek.
Update, March 2011: The blue tile on the sleepcheap facade was removed not long after this post. The metallic swimming pool outline is still there, surrounded by a vague yellowish sandstone texture. Some of the above photos were being hotlinked as some kind of stock photography so I changed the filenames.
This is some of the most beautiful music I've heard all year: [630 KB .mp3]
It's a demo of the VirSyn Matrix vocoder. It makes me think of a priest singing the Eucharist, but with some really wack ad copy for a product I've never heard of.
Sound and video work by desaxismundi called Sound2cartesian[short]: Great synesthetic relationship between the Norman Foster-meets-Sputnik CAD design of the mutating orange blobject and glitchy shortwave radio sounds.
"Frienemies" [4.8 MB .mp3]
This "verse" was working so I opted not to have a "chorus"; the "dropout" is the only concession to songcraft. I might chop it up eventually but right now it is a "steady state" minimal tune that is more about ringing (slight, semi-automatic) changes on one basic riff. The title is a bit dire for the material--it's kind of a happy piece. But I do think a lot about this word and how it arose to fill a need in our discourse. Everyone seems to recognize the type--what did we call them before? Are there more frienemies, or are we just better at spotting them?
(The image is a detail of the score.)
"I Wish I Didn't" [2.8 MB .mp3]
The violin solo at the end (with sequencer underneath) is a faint homage to Tuxedomoon, but the speech synthesis parts are decidedly unromantic.
"Gro-Rabbit 2" [4 MB .mp3]
More pseudo salsa. The "Rhodes sound" is still seductive to me (and everyone else) after all these years.
This is the cover for John Parker's Party Lion CD, recorded under his earcon alias. I did the drawing in MSPaint and Parker designed the type. He tells me that an "earcon" was someone's failed attempt to make an audio icon for the web--failed as in, it didn't catch on. (Just to put it in proper webtrash-appropriating perspective.)
Buy the disc and read the interview at CD Baby, this is real take-no-prisoners manifesto writing. It will convince you to sell your analog gear and old computer from the '80s and start dorking around with some of the current, relatively inexpensive electronic music making tools that are out there.
Notes on the Richard Prince's mid-career retrospective at the Guggenheim (his second--the first was at the Whitney in '92).
1. The signature early photos rephotographed from advertisements grab you with their icy coldness and near-claustrophobic perfection of composition/cropping. They are slightly eerie in their grainy, one-step-removed distance from their subjects, and obsessive in their focus on the banal: labels/logos, product photography (furniture, jewelry), male and female models (looking in the same direction).
2. The show gets worse as you move up the Guggenheim ramp. The photos, joke paintings, and car hood sculptures all get larger, messier, overworked, "painterly" for no particular reason, climaxing with the execrable "nurse paintings" and the even more execrable "De Kooning Women" paintings. Copying the "modern masters" is the kiss of death.
3. The exhibition curator mixes old and new work in apparent attempt to obscure this decline. The rephotographed "girlfriend photos" of biker babes mingle with the boring, Eggleston-lite upstate NY photos of the late '90s. The so-so car hoods are interspersed with the monochrome joke paintings as if to say "See, viewers? Both are minimal. Can you say minimal?" The "gangs" series of photomontages of '86-'87 (groups of related images such as battlefield photos, tidal waves, hair bands, more biker girls) is broken apart and spread evenly throughout the show.
4. Prince's content shifts with the winds of the market. After the Neo Geo era of the mid '80s he switched from photo-appropriation to "hard edged painting" (the joke monochromes). When the art world began embracing large scale photos in the late '90s (Gursky, Tillmans, Billingham), Prince returned to Marlboro cowboys, but larger, and began showing celebrity headshots and memorabilia. When the painting madness returned with the influx of Bush tax cut millionaire funny money, Prince went back to big paintings (cancelled checks, nurses). Of course he worked in multiple media all along, but these are the broad trends.
5. The early work is incisive and perceptive and earned him his "place in history." Too bad about the rest of it--at least it wasn't as horrific as late Johns.