Sunday, June 29, 2008

Michel Waisvisz

I was just thinking about the work of Michel Waisvisz and how remarkable it is that he was so dedicated to developing virtuosity on one electronic instrument. In the realm of electronic music there are so many people who spend time jumping around to different means of performance yet Michel saw the value in following one thing through until his end (June 18, 2008). As a composer, this is something that I respect and appreciate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tristram Cary, Max Matthews and Bill Fontana

I was reading up on Max Matthews life and came across this discussion of Tristram Cary. It was interesting to listen back to some of the electronic stuff and realize that this was probably some of the first "electronic music" that I heard and also something that I refer to mentally but have never listened to in a focused manner. (You can listen on his website). Oddly, I took the electronic music for granted in Dr Who, yet it is something that I listened to a great deal of. I suppose that reflects a change in my life habits, now I am much more conscientious of what I listen to and when I was younger, there was a greater need for a frame. Possibly there is a lesson here for me the composer...

In reading about Max Matthews it was great to find some information about his work with Radio Baton. I did not know about this, I will have to see if I can uncover some audio recordings. There is some great documentation about the Radio Baton on the CSound page. What I like best those are these photos of Max.
1967 (note the light pen)



1998 (this is the radio baton)

I can only hope that in 40 years there are a great collection of photos like this floating around on the internet of me.

Finally, I began today by looking at and listening to some of the work of Bill Fontana. I liked what I heard, in particular the Millennium Bridge project was very interesting. I had been thinking about what to do with the large space that is the main hall at the Tate and I like his solution. I think I would take a different approach, yet I find this approach quite poetic. I like the idea of wavefield synthesis that one can move into in order to experience it, then step back and hear the ambient sounds of the space combine with the quiet level sounds of the sound from the wfs material. As far as subject matter, I could imagine using the original machinery (or facsimiles thereof) as sound sources, just as Fontana uses the bridge. The other piece that I was strongly attracted to by Fontana was the Lyon streetcar sounds. I spent a long time thinking about this and listened to it several times. It reminded me of an idea that I had to use the T in Boston for a piece, but this work was very different. What I fixated on was how pleasing it was to have the suggestion of direction/narrative in going from one station to the next on the train. The narrative is arbitrary in a sense, yet it is simple and direct. This appealed to me and I thought for a long while how this instantly made the piece more accessible, without compromising the sounds. (I feel that often sounds are compromised in order to make the accessible and this simply left them intact and used visual material suggest a narrative). This also reminded me of my player piano piece, mysterioso, which I think works better when I show the Max Patch that I built for it, as a grouping of the pattern is visually obvious and this lends seems to make the piece more successful in my mind.

I have somehow fixated recently on the importance of visual and auditory data in "music." It occurs to me that some things are very simply understood visually and other auditorally. There is often a complaint that laptop performances do not have enough visual stimulation. It seems to me that artists (and many do) can very precisely communicate with visual material what sounds is ill equipped to illustrate. The counterpoint when this is done well is fabulous.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I organized a player piano concert at the end of this year. Luke Taylor was kind enough to post this video of my piece from that concert. It is also worth noting that Lukes piece made the player piano blow a fuse and he was the one who figured it out and fixed it. Good show LTT!

A better audio recording is here.

It seems that NME also reported on this lovely piece of music.

I will upload the updated version of this piece when I finish it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Authentic experience. As Americans we are very excited by the idea of authenticity, possibly because capitalism yields so many cheaters that we are thrilled to find an authentic version. But cynicism aside, I turn to this idea because it seems to be as close as I can come to answer to the question that I have the worst answer for, "What kind of music do you write?" I generally will answer that it is good or that it is chamber music and solo music that combines with my interest in electronic music. But none of this gets at why or what kind of experience I try to create. In the best of situations, my music leads to an authentic experience.

I have been thinking about this because I just recalled that when in Seattle I went to the "original" Starbucks. I thought about what that location means now and what it must have been like before. Now it is a wooden room with piles of burlap bags arranged meticulously and rows and rows of merchandise and long lines of tourists (on my last visit 75% Asian) waiting to get an authentic Starbucks experience. Then I began to imagine what it might have been, first opening years ago, when the store would open early, long before the tourists arrived at Pike Place market, in order to fuel the workforce of merchants selling what they can to make their way. I started to think about Pike Place Market, towards the end and beginning of the day, when the crowds thinned out and the vendors packed up and were bantering among themselves about how they had done that day (either making enough or not). The conversation I would imagine was not so concerned with the image of authenticity that they were creating for the Pike Place Market place, but rather, had they made enough money and how they were making it through life. In times of poor sales complaints and in times of prosperity, celebration. This life of no health insurance, no retirement, no savings and plans simply to find a way to make it big is common to many people in many places. Many of these places are what are visited by tourists, who are hoping to find an authentic experience. The irony of course is that they will never have an authentic experience in such a situation, because they are not part of the fabric and are certainly not witness to the reality. They are simply a means of turning a quick buck so as to continue existing and when striking it big, celebration of a decadent and rejoicing nature. In a life sheltered from starvation and the real struggle to survive, not thrive! authentic experience that is sought in such places will never be discovered.

Turning back to my own work, I think of the concert that I organized on the occasion of my graduation from NEC. This evening was a concert combined with a dinner party. This certainly did not bring the participants any closer to the authenticity of struggling for daily bread, but rather, it brought then closer to what Socrates calls the absolute form of Beauty (I am just finishing The Last Days of Socrates). This was the right event for the people involved at that time, depending on the time and the people, the event changes. But, it is my hope that I am able to create meaningful moments in peoples lives, something that they will carry with them for a long time as a reminder of what an amazing and varied universe this is. It strikes me that the question of authenticity is not a matter of place or context, but rather of an ability to see. Seeing the world around oneself as honestly and practically as possible. After all, it is simply is and everything else is an invention of our imagination.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

61 minutes

I woke up early this morning.

I began listening to music and glanced at the clock, the time was 6:06.

I listened to many different things and reflected on the year a bit.

Then I felt that I had listened to enough.

I turned off the music and glanced at the clock, the time was 7:07.

I feel imemnsly pleased with this occurance.

(note: I just ran the spell check and it seems that the only thing that I spelled correctly was "I" and the numerical listing of the times. Apprently when you are in a foreign country such as the Neatherlands, google recognizes that and adjusts.)

Such simple and elegant pleasures.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


The sound for this was created in SuperCollider and the visual was created in Quartz Composer. The granulated voice is from a recording of Allutiq phrases and the film is from the Monterey Aquarium. For me, these materials seemed to fit together as they both strive to move forward, yet are meditative and rooted in being present in the now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I remember seeing a moose on campus at the University of Alaska, in fact I took a picture of it and posted it here. Now there is a bear on campus here in in SB and the reaction is a little different. This is an email I received and above is the poster that was affixed to the stucco of my hut.

Behalf Of UCSB Announcement
Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 3:48 PM
To: ucsb Announcement
Subject: Bear Spotted on Campus!


June 3, 2008

To: The Campus Community

Fr: Vice Chancellor Donna Carpenter

Re: Bear Spotted on Campus

As reported on KEYT News and in the Santa Barbara News Press, a bear has been spotted several times on campus the past four days. The bear is a California small, black bear weighing approximately 200 pounds. It has been spotted near the Santa Barbara Airport fence line along Mesa Road and near Harder Stadium.

UCSB Police officers and State Fish and Game agents are searching for the bear. If spotted, please do not approach the bear but call UCSB Police at 911.

Thank you.

Actually, it might be a good idea to keep children supervised even when there is no bear present.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


The world is a place of infinite puzzle pieces. The artist simply connects them and invents links, with resolution and grace. Possibility exists.

Hildegard vonPhilidelphia

Blurry, but I love the color and this is what I was staring at during a concert played by David Holzman.

Ok, Hildegard von Bingen in Phili is not really a compelling pun, but I was in Philadelphia for the International Hildegard von Bingen Societies 25th Anniversary Conference where I presented a paper. The first paper that I have presented at a conference at that! The paper was titled Art is in the Ear of the Beholder and I will post the current version below. There are revisions that I would like to make, especially on how I deal with the Critical Band, which is not false, but doesn't account for the entire truth. The paper was well received and it was great to debate it with my former teacher and mentor, Bob Cogan. My presentation of the paper also went well, it felt good to me and I confirmed with others that indeed I did a good job. It was great to connect with old (and new) friends from NEC. There was a wonderful evening spent at a tavern after the conference. While there I got to catch up with the composer Sivan Elder, who will start her studies in California next year, it appears that I am not the only one leaving NEC/BOS for the west coast. I saw the Bell and some of the sites, I really enjoyed the city (contrary to all that I have heard about it.)

Bob Cogan, Michael Gardner (composer, theorist) & some woman who is very spirited

Also, while I was there I found out that I will be attending the Orford Academy Summer Workshop on Sound Art. I am really excited as this will afford me a chance to see Montreal, which I have heard really good things about and I will get to work with Natasha Barrett.

Finally, I got it in the mail today! My official Red Sox Nation Membership Card. Now I am a card carrying member. It also came with a sticker and I can listen to any MLB game, so that is nice too.

As if all of that wasn't enough, Christine graduates this weekend and then we are going on a celebratory trip to Europe. I can't believe that she will be board certified in a week. All I can say is that she is an amazing woman.

Art is In the EAR of the Beholder

Monday, June 02, 2008

A connections from the Past

When I was young I watched wrestling. It was during the rise of the Ultimate Warrior. I just found this video. What is interesting is how all of these people are talking about how he made no sense. Actually, it seems to make perfect sense, he is more imeadiate and in the now than most anyone that I have ever encountered.

Gotta Love PSA's

Then I stumbled upon this.... WOW!