Archive for March, 2016
"Blooming Union (Wavetable Variations)" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]
Speaking of the A-112, it was used throughout this tune; specifically, the sound source is the "Wiard waves," which I was finally able to transfer to the module.
The beginning section is in a non-4/4 time signature; I used an Ableton "groove map" to keep the beats in some semblance of sync with the A-112.
Some bass and synth lines were recycled from "Blooming Union" because I wasn't tired of them yet and that piece is only two minutes long.
Update, June 7, 2016: Revised and reposted. Sped up the tempo (after the intro), added bass lines, and made the beats more 4/4-ish.
This Eurorack module (shown in a bed of eBay carpet), dates back to the late '90s and is still in production. It has two, count'em, two, sample slots. Each slot holds either (i) a 2 second-long 8-bit wav file (that plays as audio), or (ii) a 65536-bytes-long wavetable, holding 256 "single cycle" waveforms of 256 samples each (that act as a synth oscillator when the device is in "wavetable mode"). You can get a sound into a slot by recording it as audio, where it can be played back at different speeds, reversed, used as delay, etc. It can also be played (grungily) in wavetable mode. Theoretically you can also "dump" samples as sys-ex (MIDI) data to and from the device. The original Doepfer MIDI dump software no longer works on most present day computers. Fortunately, talented volunteers have emerged who have written programs that not only dump but allow you to generate or assemble waveforms for transmission to the module. Posts such as this one led me to an obsessive collection of hundreds of single cycle waveforms by Adventure Kid, which can now be used in the A-112 (there is also an Octatrack-friendly collection of the waveforms.)
drawn with Linux MyPaint
from my Gazell.io residency (recently concluded)
Posts keep appearing from the left side of the spectrum noting refreshing Trump heresies. John Feffer at Lobelog quotes the exchange below, on the subject of military bases, which took place when the Orange One sat down with Washington Post staffers. "Trump point[ed] out that South Korea is a rich country and wonder[ed] why the United States is paying for military bases there," Feffer writes. "Charles Lane, the columnist, point[ed] out that South Korea covers 50 percent of the costs." Then this was said:
TRUMP: 50 percent?
TRUMP: Why isn’t it 100 percent?
HIATT: Well I guess the question is, does the United States gain anything by having bases?
TRUMP: Personally I don’t think so. I personally don’t think so. Look. I have great relationships with South Korea. I have buildings in South Korea. But that’s a wealthy country. They make the ships, they make the televisions, they make the air conditioning. They make tremendous amounts of products. It’s a huge, it’s a massive industrial complex country. And —
HIATT: So you don’t think the U.S. gains from being the force that sort of helps keep the peace in the Pacific?
TRUMP: I think that we are not in the position that we used to be. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation.
You aren't supposed to say this in official Washington. The "US as world cop" is the accepted position, whether or not it's a dated paradigm.
As the appalling possibility of another Clinton presidency looms into view, several writers have taken revisionist turns on Trump. None of Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, or Paul Street (in Counterpunch) are apologizing for the candidate's naked racism but all have noted the economic populism in his campaign. According to Taibbi, Trump talks more forthrightly on trade issues than the bought politicians:
[Trump's] pitch is: He's rich, he won't owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won't do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people.
He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. This law, sponsored by one of the most notorious legislators in our history (Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran was thought to be the inspiration for the corrupt Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather II), allows insurance companies to share information and collude to divvy up markets.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats made a serious effort to overturn this indefensible loophole during the debate over the Affordable Care Act.
Trump pounds home this theme in his speeches, explaining things from his perspective as an employer. "The insurance companies," he says, "they'd rather have monopolies in each state than hundreds of companies going all over the place bidding ... It's so hard for me to make deals ... because I can't get bids."
He goes on to explain that prices would go down if the state-by-state insurance fiefdoms were eliminated, but that's impossible because of the influence of the industry. "I'm the only one that's self-funding ... Everyone else is taking money from, I call them the bloodsuckers."
Trump isn't lying about any of this. Nor is he lying when he mentions that the big-pharma companies have such a stranglehold on both parties that they've managed to get the federal government to bar itself from negotiating Medicare prescription-drug prices in bulk.
"I don't know what the reason is – I do know what the reason is, but I don't know how they can sell it," he says. "We're not allowed to negotiate drug prices. We pay $300 billion more than if we negotiated the price."
My residency at Gazell.io (the online component of London's Gazelli Art House gallery) wrapped up this week.
First post and intro/bio
Archive with artists who have participated so far (Laura Brothers, Philip Colbert, Hyo Myoung Kim, Giovanna Olmos)
As noted earlier, the works aren't actually untitled; I left the captions blank on the pages where I posted content, to keep typography on the page to a minimum. But they might as well have been untitled since I stuck with the unmemorable sketch_x# scheme.
Many thanks to the gallery for the post-internet-while-remaining-on-the-internet show. I recycled/remade some recent Linux work and dropped in several new pieces. Sticking to a 640 x 640 pixel format and working in one style for four weeks was good for me -- like yoga, or working with a personal trainer called "the remorseless internet."
John Robb, who advises the military on so-called fourth generation warfare issues and blogs at Global Guerrillas, has this to say about the Trump/Sanders applecart upset:
The American Imperium in Zombie Mode
The policy wonks are up in arms over the NYTimes and WaPo interviews with Trump on foreign policy and trade. They simply can't say enough about how uninformed Trump is on this topic.... but there's something wrong with this picture.
The same wonks who claim to "know" everything have gutted the US economy, gotten us into wars we can't win, and plunged entire regions of the world into chaos & terrorism.
Personally, I like that both Sanders and Trump are isolationists. People profoundly out of step with the demands of an "Imperial Presidency." In my view, the Imperial Presidency beloved by the policy wonks should have died with the end of the cold war.
Yet it's still here, eating our future, in Zombie mode.
PS: What if, and this is a crazy notion, we simply focused on making the United States a success story, rather than a poorly run Imperium?
"Non-interventionist" is the preferred term over "isolationist" but Robb has nailed it here. It should have been swords-to-plowshares after the USSR broke up but too many (self-)important sinecures in the US were at stake to just end all the militarism. As a wise blogger said years ago, the US should be less like the Romans and more like the Swiss. But no.
The passage below from Curtis Roads' recently-published book, Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic (Oxford, 2015), explains why "live performance and improvisation" aren't among the topics covered:
Live performance has a long tradition and is an important domain of electronic music. Recent texts by Borgo (2005), Barbosa (2008), Jordà (2007), Collins (2007), Dean (2009a), Perkis (2009), Tanaka (2009), Lewis (2009), Oliveros (2009), and Pellegrino (2010), among many others, explore the issues that surround live performance, including extensions into network-based interaction.
In the bad old days of computer music, there was no live performance. Algorithmic composition, sound synthesis, and sound processing could not be realized in real time. Today real-time interactive performance is common. I frequently perform with synthesizers and sound transformation tools, even if it is in the studio and not live onstage. Continued technical research in support of live performance is essential. This involves the design of new electronic instruments and modalities of performance interaction.
The risks associated with improvisation onstage can instill a live performance with dramatic and emotional impact. A key to success in such performances is virtuosity, a combination of talent plus rigorous practice. We hear this in Earl Howard’s Strasser 60 (2009), a tour de force of sonic textures played live on a sampling synthesizer. Behind such a piece are months of sound design and rehearsal to prepare the 20-minute performance.
Richard Devine’s Disturbances (2013), which he performed live on a modular synthesizer at UCSB, is another impressive demonstration of virtuosic control.
When I project my music in a hall, another kind of live performance takes place: sound projection or diffusion. This consists of varying the dynamics, equalization, and spatialization of music that is already composed in order to take advantage of a particular space and its sound system. Virtuosity drives such performances, but this is based as much on intimate knowledge of the music being projected as it is on physical dexterity. The key is knowing precisely when and how to change the projection, keeping in mind the resources of a given hall and its sound system. (For a discussion of the aesthetic significance of sound projection as a performance interpretation, see Hoffman 2013.)
The idea of combining acoustic instruments and electronic tape has a venerable tradition, dating back to the early concerts of the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète, in which Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry collaborated to make Orphée 51 for soprano and tape (Chion 1982). Extending this line, many composers, such as my colleague JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, write mixed pieces that combine a virtuoso instrumental score with electronic sound and interactive processing. Mixed pieces pose many aesthetic challenges, and I admire those who master that difficult medium. For more on live interactive electronic music with instruments, see, for example, Rowe (1993, 2001).
In contrast, my compositional practice is studio based. Playing an instrument in real time is central to my studio work, keeping in mind that “playing” and “instrument” go beyond traditional modalities to encompass interaction with software. I record these (sometimes improvised, sometimes planned) performances, and this is often how I generate the raw material for a composition. Due to the nature of my music, however, which is organized in detail on multiple timescales down to the microscale, it is impossible for me to generate it in real time onstage.
Studio practice affords the ultimate in flexibility and access to the entire field of time on multiple scales. The ability to zoom in and out from the micro to the macro and back, as well as move forward and backward in time (e.g., compose the end before the beginning, change the beginning without modifying the rest of the piece), are hallmarks of studio practice. Sounds can be reversed and their time support can be freely modified with varispeed and pitch-time changing or utterly scrambled by granulation. Once the macroform of a composition has been designed, I sometimes finish it by sprinkling it with a filigree of transients—like a dash of salt and pepper here and there in time.
These kinds of detailed studio practices take time. Indeed, a journalist emphasized the glacial timescale of my composition process, which to me is merely the natural pace of the work (Davis 2008). In order to construct an intricate sequence of sound events, I often listen at half speed or even slower. A passage of a few seconds may take a week to design. The process often begins as an improvisation. I try an experiment, listen to it, revise it, then perhaps backtrack and throw it away (deleting the past). I write notes and make a plan for the next improvisation. I reach a dead end and leave a piece for weeks in order to come back with a fresh perspective. My composition process takes place over months or years. Epicurus was composed over the period of 2000–2010. The original sound material in Always (2013) dates to 1999, and the piece was assembled over a period of three years.
Thus it makes no sense for me to pretend to have anything particularly interesting to say about onstage live performance of electronic music. I leave this for others.
Some things I wanted to do with the modular synth required an Apple computer -- I didn't have enough pain in my life so I bought a Mac Mini. This is my first time I've been in the Steve Jobs environment since my Mac SE died around 2002. Spent a couple hours moving things around, getting that dumb "genie" off the dock, etc. The operating system assumes you are a permanent novice, incapable of learning. (And takes steps to keep you in that state, as we'll see below.) Rather than letting you just move files and folders around on your hard drive it has this elaborate, redundant "finder" system. Trying to ignore that and work directly in the hard drive folder tree, the first thing I discovered is the Mac doesn't want you to move files, only copy them. Way to bloat the system with unnecessary data! A quick web surf for a solution took me to a Mac forum page with this interchange:
Apr 23, 2010 4:51 AM
I want to move files to, from and between computer, usb stick and usb hdd and I do not want to make duplicates. What do I need to do in order to simply move the file, not copy it?
Correct Answer -- Solved!
by a brody on Apr 23, 2010 5:22 AM
Caution: It is unwise to only have one copy of data at anytime. Media can fail at anytime without warning.
Patronize much? Or how about this forum page, which devolves into shouting over what should be a simple question. Am still working on this, just wanted to share a bit of existential agony.
As discussed previously, I made some notes on how to configure several Expert Sleepers hardware and software modules for Ableton Live. [PDF]
The relevant modules are the ES-4 (out of production -- prematurely, IMHO), the ESX-8GT gate expander, and the ES-3.
This post is a message in a bottle for any lost soul who is trying to make the gear work as it does in the videos. The PDF is a work in process as I continue to pick up new info-scraps on the modular synth forums.