St Celfer's Step.4D™ instrument

In our recent mutual interview St Celfer (John Parker) explained a new performance instrument he was working on:

...I’m making music in real time (as opposed to tracking and then arranging) by using an instrument, homemade, or more accurately, “gambiarra,” in Brasilian Portuguese, to be played and heard live. I want to transition from an in-studio process to a live and improvised situation. I will be performing or, in other words, responding, in the moment to the actions I am making, rather than looking backwards and taking the best from pre-recorded material and re-composing it. In the 2004 interview I aspired to make new sounds or music, etc. Now I would substitute “explore” for “make.” Trying for “the new” is understood but “how” is more important.

The instrument’s creation is, itself, an exploration. I can never quite wrap my head around it. I am enjoying being lost. I travel step by step, try a decision, usually walk back, then forward again, on each sound generating component. My energies have gone into the creation of the interface between man and machine. It's a monster getting larger by eating itself.

For instance, there are midi converters, which only understand perfectly tuned chromatic input. There is a theremin component, which can be tuned to doric instead of chromatic scale for some added drama. Meanwhile two CD turntables that I scratch are manually wired into the same midi note converters. Cramming two input devices together makes more output unpredictability, with overloaded notes dropped.

The "gambiarra," now called Step.4D™, has reached a stage of completion where Parker could begin performing on it. Recordings (and some additional explanation) can be found on his website. He has been too prolific for me to keep up with all the recorded performances but I made some notes on a single piece, "STC.lives.solo12.2.9.21" [Soundcloud link] to try to convey the flavor:

A lazy description might be dark ambient or punk ambient but I think of ambient as minimal work ("a tint" to use Eno's phrase) and St Celfer's is more substantial.
"STC.lives.solo12.2.9.21" is atmospheric but has structure. There are two distinct movements. The first half could be a loose jazz ensemble (Parker's work has been compared to Bitches Brew-era Miles) riffing on simple notes with digital, time-stretching fillips and enhancements; the second half is more drone-y and builds to a dense, chord-like timbre.
It must be emphasized that this isn't a band and there is no post-production reassembly: it's one person playing a multi-faceted, self-feedbacking instrument, and it's all done with a single pass. Yet it sounds like group activity.

If I had to venture an electronic music precedent I might say Tod Dockstader. The official Kenneth Goldsmith/Ubuweb narrative about Dockstader is that he was music production guy who taught himself tape music in the early 1960s and "was denied access to the major electronic music centres because of his lack of academic credentials." Dockstader self-released his own music and eventually acquired a rep and entered the canon. Dockstader used the term "organized sound" and that's what St Celfer's "STC.lives.solo12.2.9.21" reminds me of. There are similarities in timbres and moods. But whereas Dockstader was all about slow, painstaking studio assembly of multitracked sounds in a continuous-sounding flow, St Celfer makes the work in a single take. The "assembly" is making an instrument that creates its own variables and accidents and conveys an impression of dense multitracking.

m.po memorial list of banal phrases

Sadly reader m.po (short for mashedpo or mashedpotatohead) died last year so I will no longer be receiving updates to his astute list of garbage phrases everyone uses such as "game changer," "optics," "don't go there," and "my bad."
In honor of m.po I will do my best to keep the list alive by adding items I know he would hate such as "baked in" and "in the weeds." Reader suggestions are also welcome.
One phrase from the list that jumps out, added by m.po in February 2017, is "new normal." This appears to an artifact of the early Trump Derangement Era that was repurposed for covid. Either way, it's a dumb thing to say (or write).

around the web

DeJoy Is Hell-Bent on Wrecking the Postal Service — and Maybe Your Life (Lauren Weinstein)

[Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's] 10-year plan for destroying the USPS, by treating it like his former for-profit shipping logistics business rather than the SERVICE is was intended to be — was released today, along with a flurry of self-congratulatory official USPS tweets that immediately attracted massive negative replies, most of them demanding that DeJoy be removed from his position. Now. Right now!

A Biden Appointee's Troubling Views On The First Amendment (Matt Taibbi)

The Cliff’s Notes version of [a thesis of Columbia prof Timothy Wu, recently appointed to the National Economic Council]:

— The framers wrote the Bill of Rights in an atmosphere where speech was expensive and rare. The Internet made speech cheap, and human attention rare. Speech-hostile societies like Russia and China have already shown how to capitalize on this “cheap speech” era, eschewing censorship and bans in favor of “flooding” the Internet with pro-government propaganda.

— As a result, those who place faith in the First Amendment to solve speech dilemmas should “admit defeat” and imagine new solutions for repelling foreign propaganda, fake news, and other problems. “In some cases,” Wu writes, “this could mean that the First Amendment must broaden its own reach to encompass new techniques of speech control.” What might that look like? He writes, without irony: “I think the elected branches should be allowed, within reasonable limits, to try returning the country to the kind of media environment that prevailed in the 1950s.”

Meaning, enforce a balance of viewpoints, presumably, as government did under the old Fairness Doctrine. Taibbi believes Biden's antitrust people don't want to break up big tech companies so much as harness their broad reach. (For good, of course.) Taibbi quotes another writer, Matt Stoller, comparing social media monopolies to Tolkein's One Ring of Power that of course everyone wants. But will the "difficult" voices who are currently being deplatformed in droves be returned to their pulpits under Biden? Not likely, since Timothy Wu's beloved 1950s were a time of top-down control, "fairness" notwithstanding.

guest DJ set list (March 18, 2021) - movie soundtracks

Thanks to ffog for inviting me to guest-DJ again on his weekly internet radio show, Myocyte.
The mix was "simulcast" on anonradio and tilderadio, and has been archived by anonradio (scroll down to "Ffog - Pleasure & Discomfort Myocyte"). An mp3 version of the mix is here: [1 hr mp3]

The mix compiles some favorite movie soundtrack excerpts (and a couple of TV shows), emphasizing sad, minor-key tunes, sequencers and "the '80s."
All but four songs (*) were first heard while watching the movie and hunted down because they were so ear-grabbing. (The films are good, too.)

While the tracks were playing I "announced" via text chat on the #sally and #tilderadio channels on IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Listeners could comment or ask questions. This was an interesting way to DJ, very different from my old FM radio days and a few steps up aesthetically from having everyone's data and souls leeched out on spotify, etc.

Set list and notes for the show:

0:00 John Carpenter - Assault on Precinct 13 - Julie's theme - 1976

01:45 Barry de Vorzon - V: The Final Battle - main or end title - 1984

03:40 *Terry Riley: G. Song, from Le Secret De La Vie - 1976

6:45 John Carpenter/Alan Howarth - Escape from New York (Main Title) 1981

10:20 Pino Donaggio - Body Double (original film version of "voyeur" theme) - 1984

13:40 *Irmin Schmidt - You Make Me Nervous, from Flight to Berlin 1984

17:36 Peter Schickele - Tending to Huey, from Silent Running - 1972

20:04 The RZA - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - the Japanese soundtrack CD includes actual music from the film, unlike the US version, which is a collection of hiphop songs - 1999

21:40 Tangerine Dream - Canzone, from The Keep - 1983

24:20 Goblin - Mad Puppet, from Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) - 1975

28:44 Bruno Coulais - The Party, from Coraline - 2009

31:01 John Carpenter/Alan Howarth - 69th Street Bridge ("a cheap adolescent joke" -- JC) from Escape from New York 1981

33:42 Philip Glass - Candyman - Helen's Theme - 1992

36:49 Ryuichi Sakamoto - Wings of Honneamise (Main Title) - 1987

39:17 John Carpenter - Assault on Precinct 13 - Main title - 1976

42:42 Bernard Herrmann - Murder at the UN, from North by Northwest - 1959

45:13 John Carpenter - Halloween main title - 1978

48:06 *Stewart Copeland - Flowershop Quintet - possibly from The Equalizer TV show - vintage Fairlight computer synth - 1987

51:43 Keith Emerson - Taxi Ride in Rome, from Inferno (Dario Argento) - according to Emerson, this is a version in 5/4 time of Giuseppi Verdi's "Va, pensiero" (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) - 1980

53:54 *Keith Emerson - Godzilla: Final Wars (End Title) - 2004

58:29 The RZA - another memorable theme from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - 1999

adding some bandcamp merch


Have been working on my merchandise page on Bandcamp. CD and tape versions of my 2014-2015 releases have been added.

CD releases after 2015 have a new "gold" design (see above). The white label CD design had to be ditched due to a change in the blank CD product.

I still have 18 more CDs to design, using this new template.

You can have your NFTs -- I'll stick to limited edition physical versions for art and music.

Generic PC (Vol. 1), released in Jan 2017, still sounds good to me -- worth burning to disc, at least, even if CD players become scarcer.