Archive for March, 2014
Am pleased, and yet, humbled, to announce a new LP on Bandcamp: Disc Formation.
10 songs, mostly previously-unpublished but with a couple of older tunes remixed to bring them in line with what I'm doing now.
These songs are less about modular gear (like many modular users, am still reeling from the shocking unveiling of Billy Corgan's vanity synth) and more about softsynths and arrangements on the PC. Experiments with field recordings begun on the 40 Yards from the Machine release continue. Your support in the form of buying the LP or songs would be very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed.
Notes for the Disc Formation LP on Bandcamp. These are mostly tech jottings so I remember what I did. Any thoughts, questions, etc on the music itself are welcome at the email address on this about page.
1. Every Single Person 01:50
The vocals came from a field recording of a recent walk to the local deli and back. Chopped up you can hear "Every single person who comes in on this crew is off tomorrow," me saying "thanks" and "you can keep the penny" to Mr. Lee, and his "OK" in reply. Most of the synth sounds are a Linplug percussion softsynth called Element P, played with Cubase's in-house midi echo and arpeggiator effects.
2. Squeaky Arpeggio (Granular) 01:54
The granular whine running throughout, with and without reverb, was made with the Qu-Bit Nebulae granular synth/sampler module. As accompaniment I wrote a piano part -- quasi-Modernist variations on a quasi-Caribbean theme. For the LP version, I added notes to the piano part and used it as a score for other synths, which replaced the piano almost entirely.
3. The Other James Taylor 02:54
A "groove" made with some scratch samples, drum hits, and various effects on the Octatrack sequencer. The main effects -- delay and comb filter -- are running on Track 8 as a master track.
4. Pernicious Percussion (Massive) 01:29
See notes re: Pernicious Percussion below. This version runs the Vermona file through a mastering effect called "Post Filter," which is a comb filter adding octave jumps to the pitch, among other changes. This is interrupted twice with a mock-chorus consisting of layered softsynth riffs (NI Massive and Steinberg's Retrologue).
5. Titanthropic 01:37
Written and performed entirely in the Octatrack sampler/sequencer. The bass and lead synths are sampler-altered versions of Reaktor Titan riffs I made and loaded in the Octatrack.
6. Snaps and Claps 01:32
More snippets from the same field recording used in "Every Single Person," as well as live recordings of snap and clap sounds from my hands. Synths are Element P and Massive.
7. Frame Jam 03:14
Most of this was done with a granular synth from the Reaktor user library called Frame. Some Massive riffs were added.
8. Tesseract Ranch 2014 02:20
Considerable reworking of a tune from 2007 done with the Electribe rhythm box and Vermona Perfourmer analog synth. Added were an NI Massive riff (the lofty pad) and Element P (randomly arpeggiated bass notes).
9. Pernicious Percussion 02:18
Written and performed on the Octatrack sequencer, using recordings previously made with the Octatrack's MIDI controls driving the Vermona DRM1 Mkii, a vintage analog drum machine. The Octatrack's arpeggiator is triggering random clap, snare, and cowbell sequences at 150 bpm. There is some actual live knob turning in the distorted toms.
10. Calypsum 2014 02:26
One of the first tunes I did in Cubase, nine years ago, "Calypsum 2," completely tightened up and reworked. Was pleased to discover that the original synths (Free Alpha and Kontakt 1.5) are still playable with a little jiggering from the older version of Cubase I used (SE). Am pretty sure this started as a MIDI drum pattern, playing pitched samples in several instruments (if so, a kind of found, accidental melody).
jpeg of MSPaint rendering, 2014
The Windows 7 Paint has a colored pencil tool that's not bad for shading -- I used it quite a bit here in the "gradated" areas.
That "improved" MSPaint now has intriguing contradictions: the new brush-like, pen-like, and crayon-like tools can still be used with old legacy pixel lines.
What I've been thinking of as a creative clash of visual rhetorics may be the endgame or death-throes of a certain type of digital imaging, if Jon Williams is prescient in his call to "End Raster Art Now."
In 25 words or less, web imaging is moving towards a vector model, where angles and curves draw mathematically, as opposed to the raster model, where art is a function of pixels and grain.
Adobe Illustrator is vector, Photoshop is raster. Vector has a tendency to reduce images to smooth gradients, without bite, tooth, or grit. Also, screens are still pixel-based, so vector is ultimately converted back to pixel. That is not efficient or minimal. So I think it's permissible to keep exploring contradictions within raster, using familiar forms from painting (Cubist faceting of space) and pixel art (lines and loops).
Above is the final GIF we'll be rescuing from this GIF-off ladder competition: the humanitarian impulse has flagged along with pageviews, RSS subscribers, and twitter followers as this series has progressed.
Angelo Plessas' Op Art clouds with blinking rainbow "lost" horrifically in the first round after his opponent rallied friends and grandparents to ramp up the vote (OK, likely not true, but we'll never actually know what happened - no hanging chads will be counted). Such an elegant, happy little GIF did not deserve the obscurity. What a lift if this underdog had made it to the final four.
Am not supposed to have these results so soon but as an exclusive for long time RSS subscribers, this is what's upcoming in that GIF competition we've been covering. Here are the final four and the final two:
And a winner:
Garden, by Pitchpot. It's exciting when work you like wins.
Barry Ritholtz on the Facebook purchase of Oculus VR (maker of virtual reality headsets or something equally '90s-retro stupid):
What did the KickStarter funders of Oculus get? Note I use "funder" and not "investor," because investors have a potential for an investment return. These funders, who backed the company three months after the JOBS Act passed, did not. As the Journal noted, they were promised “a sincere thank you from the Oculus team.” And, for $25, a T-shirt. For $300, the dangle of “an early developer kit” including a prototype headset. Total money raised: $2.4 million from 9,500 contributors.
Talking people out of $2.4 million dollars in exchange for zero percent equity is a perfectly legal scam. Then selling the company for $2 billion dollars is simply how this particular crowdfunding works.
Another undeserving also-ran in an ill-considered GIF-off competition.
In his book Untwisting the Serpent, critic Daniel Albright wrote at length on a theory of "gestus," particularly in reference to Brecht/Weill musicals: "A gestus... might be defined as an entity intermediate between a gesture and a narrative; a sort of schematic of a human figure that defines or epitomizes a whole discursive context in which such a contortion might come into play," he ventured.
If we had a theory of GIFs (and we barely do) that would be an important aspect of them to consider: the extent to which they are suited to iconic moments symbolizing a larger story. In the case of Anna Thompson's GIF above, of the three-frame cinema variety, one might well ask what the larger story is. A tale of Brooklyn hipster failed romance set against a background of gentrification. The man is a primal spirit, beating out a tattoo on building sides wherever he goes, but such an airhead. The woman is smarter than that and waves him off, but somehow keeps his nervous energy bottled in a magical hand movement that she can take wherever she goes.
Or whatever. One noteworthy point about this GIF is that while it mimics the pompous style of a cinemagraph, the whole thing is in jerky, spastic motion, adding to the comedy of the arrested romantic development.
You have to admire an artist who goes into arena full of noisy chest-thumpers and does something quietly stupid. Possibly Luciana didn't think this thimble-sized animated Mondrian with an illegible signature in the corner was dumb and that's just a critic projecting an ironic view. On its merits, even given that Mondrian parodies are an entry-level fine art joke, there is appeal to watching this one draw itself. Where will this line go? How many more lines? Which squares will be filled in with color? Will balance be preserved? Surely Piet himself, sitting in his studio of austere rigor, asked much the same questions as he was working.
Saved from competitive environment by GIF Rescue Service.
This Anthony Antonellis GIF was Art F City's "GIF of the Day," but why? It's kind of the standard blitzkrieg of data: approximately 50 GIFs, represented by only a few frames each, that move in space as well as time. But the spatial movement isn't particularly noteworthy -- it goes diagonally down, straight up, diagonally down, and straight up. An uninspiring zigzag gesture, filling up space as it goes. The frames go too fast for the mind to absorb, even on repeat viewings, but we see some obvious net-ish signifiers: Britney, QR code, alien head, a Francoise Gamma (?) gif. What are we left with? More noise, more useless information, dazzling but ultimately joyless.
Some have declared GIFs "over" and yet, this trend never got much of an intelligent airing. There were a few essays, and the show Art F City did where some yelling occurred after one of its premises was churlishly questioned by a participating artist. The point was to have some critical traction for these slippery modern ephemera. Not sure if "GIF of the Day" or ladder competitions do that.
An early casualty of the GIF tournament we've been discussing is this one by Scary Attack (GIFs larger than 300KB go to my "wider blog" for shelter -- this one's an ungainly 3.5 MB).
When you open it up in a GIF program you see it's 99 frames, about a third of which are blank or transparent. The frame rate is set to zero, which means in a GIF program it moves with a stroboscopic flicker. In a browser it moves at one-tenth to one-twentieth of a second, so the eye can see what's going on. And it appears rather simple: a Mondrian-style grid of blue, black, white and pink.
There are a zillion or so Mondrian-style grids on the web but my feeling is you can't have enough of them. It's an enduring form the way certain arpeggiated chords always sound good. Scary Attack makes his erratic and glitchy, kind of the opposite of the obdurate universalism of de Stijl's horizontals and verticals, more like a badly wired neon sign. The pink is something Mondrian would have self-immolated before using. The piece also has a bit of an Ad Reinhardt flavor (except for that pink): very faint sub-grids of smaller rectangles (blue on black, blue on blue) can be seen, much as Reinhardt played with low contrast adjacent values. The main appeal is something Reinhardt couldn't or wouldn't do: the constant cartoon-like intrusions of one rectangle's space into another's. This happens in an unpredictable way, with enough variation over 99 frames to keep the work engaging. Sometimes the little pink rectangles get "stepped on," which is humorously pathetic.