Wednesday, December 30, 2009

in vitro oink

I have completed a mock of in vitro oink, which is for piano, wii controller and electronics. I just finished editing the first complete mock-up. All that remains now is to put the finishing touches on the performance patch. It took a month longer than anticipated, but here it is.


The title derives from the my thinking about this piece being metaphorically connected to genetic manipulation. The basic material is 160 audio files that I created by hand. These are very short and I think of them as the cells, on the microsonic layer. These cells generate a stream of data which is silent until the pianist moves their arm, playing the piano has this side-effect. The movement is captured by the wii (strapped on the are of the pianist) and it communicates this to the computer, where an envelope is triggered, allowing for the audio streams to come through. The mapping of the pianists movement varies throughout the piece. To hear these streams listen to 2 parts mixed and read this earlier post.

It is also interesting to compare pfDINK and pfNOCK with the final piano version, which is my weaving the two materials together. In an email to Keith Kirchoff (the pianist who asked me to write this piece) I articulated some of my thoughts on this piece rather lucidly...

Did I tell you the kidney surgery story? (The story is that Christine told me about how she had to wait several hours for the surgeons to locate a kidney with an endoscope. It turns that we all have kidneys [well most of us] but that they are not always in the same place. The body is organically created and there is a fair amount of local variation).
I am fascinated by the fact that as a human (or any being or living thing) unfolds it is on the basis of a code of make, divide, make, divide, arrange etc... Genetic code starts at the cellular (maybe even sub cellular, I am out of my league here) and when it is done implementing there is a plant or a human. They are remarkably similar to other plants and humans, but they are unique. This is not simply a blueprint enacted by workers, this is a code for the dynamic unfolding of physical structure in time and space. Sound is the dynamic unfolding of sound waves propagated in air moving through time and space, their life span (from what I know) is rather limited (in comparison with the time scale we consider life, based on our human experiences). Your piece is a little closer to the crazy act of matter being arranged into something that is similar but unique, in time and space, with each iteration.

The title seemed to come naturally when I read about in vitro bacon. Can't Wait! Save the piggies. Christine would remind me, "They are so intelligent and have so much personality."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TINK TONK n some

The piano and wii remote piece has been rapidly advancing. The beta patch went to Keith this AM and I was thinking about how to make a recording of the piece and it dawned on me that the controller data could be streamed via OSC over the internet! I was looking into this and got sidetracked by the OSC page. This is a great distraction! I discovered a whole host of things including this video.

"Click for details" by Alessandro Perini (web version) from Alessandro Perini on Vimeo.

While I like the core idea I find that the composition is somehow lacking. The beginning is very strong in suggesting a wide range of spaces, but as the piece progresses, the large points of articulation do not relate to what I had considered the more intriguing material. Rather, there is a sort of giving over to the possibilities of saturation. While this is an interesting space in and of itself, it is not the same space as the opening and for me, constitutes the justification of a separate movement. Wow, I think that is the first time that I articulated the desire for something that I have long held to be a rather outdated and often inappropriately applied convention. Still, I find this piece has merit in the material and several of the points of the manner of execution.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

English Gisberish SOng

This is a fabulous video of Prisencolinensinainciusol, written by Adriano Celentano in 1972. Adriano is Italian and this was written to illustrate what English sounds like to foreigners. Frenly I just like the big thumb/index finder circle.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gun in Bed

I love that they tell you to "get up now and order..." Such fabulously ironic wording

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Random Video

Looking for something on Cage online I ran across this video of Tenney playing Cage's Sonata's and Interludes.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


I spent the night editing audio files, a task that although mentally consuming, it does not engage my creative side. When that happens and it is somewhere around 3 AM I start to formulate notions on how I would like to work out problems that my subconscious has been toying with. While these ideas tend to be about sounds of composition that I am engaged in, this morning I found myself considering the difference between composers sand how that maps to a continuum. This continuum is bounded by;
1. Composers who continually evolve and develop new ideas, morphing between different ideas. They could be said to be going outward (Extroversion).
2. Composers who fixate on one idea and develop that. They could be said to be going inward (Introversion).

The ends of this spectrum helps me to see more clearly the topology of the continuum, although I am certain that there should likely be more than these two ends. It might be that this is a multidimensional space where there are indeed other possibilities.

That all said, I began to consider this framework for the understanding of myself and those around me. I am certainly at a point where
extroverted change is what interests me, both in the ideas that people pursue and the topology (I am thinking of the variety of sounds or media or approaches here) of how they pursue them. This of course is also a statement about how I perceive my own work. I certainly remember a time where I would become very fixated on what I believed to be the greatest manifestation of aesthetics. How I have evolved from allowing fixation and refinement to be a central theme to that of variety I think accounts for many of the reasons that I predominantly compose music as opposed to perform the works of others. In considering this, it occurs to me that I still harness this ability to fixate when working on individual pieces, but it is not the predominant paradigm, rather is a component of the process. I am reminded of something I saw in a movie about Charles Bukowski, Born Into This. There was a moment where his editor (of Black Sparrow Press)showed one of Bokowski's last or recent books, I can't recall now. What was striking was that it was a small (maybe and inch or so) and the text went something like this
"Form takes over where inspiration has left off."
I suppose that my experience as an artist has led me to find a strong connection between inspiration and the manic torrent of work that emits when "the muse speaks." While formal considerations have always seemed like something that are a result of having lived the inspiration out, followed the notion on that wild chase into the depths of the night or the heart of bizarre aesthetic moment and then looking back and realizing that it is organized a certain way.

What brought this all back to mind this afternoon was that I was reading a bit in Ken Wilber's Journals One Taste. I encountered a passage (p.104) where he discusses a contribution that he made to a journal and it reminded me of this contrast between intro and extro artistic practices. What is very important is that he broadens the field and advocates for inclusion of all. This is what I read
"And, well, that's more or less what I tried to do- outline a dozen different fields of consciousness studies, all of which need to be brought together in an integral view. I summarized the twelve main schools: cognitive science, introspection, neuropsychology, individual psychotherapy, social psychology, clinical psychiatry, developmental psychology, psychosomatic medicine, nonordinary states of consciousness, Eastern and contemplative traditions, quantum consciousness approaches and subtle energies research. The point was: 'What I have observed in the field of consciousness studies (as elsewhere), is that consciousness researchers tend to choose one or two of these approaches very early on in their careers, usually under the influence of a significant mentor, organization, or academic department. And, human nature being what it is, it is then extremely difficult for them to embrace, or sometimes even acknowledge, the existence of the other approaches. Evidence that supports their position is avidly accumulated; evidence that does not is ignored, devalued, or explained away.' "
In the end of this quote he alludes to the power of the institutional values which people have aligned themselves with early on in their careers. Here is an excellent discussion of the power (both pros and cons) of institutions.

In particular
  • Institution as enabler (professional class)
  • Institution as obstacle (self preservation of the institution is paramount and inevitable)
Considering all of this I am reminded of a comment that Chris Brown made the other day when I was visiting Mills College. We were talking about Clarence Barlow and myself having arrived at the same time in Santa Barbara and what a culture shock it was for both of us. Chris Brown made the point that Clarence is a chameleon, he is highly adaptive. This idea of adaptation to the current situation is something that Clarence and I share and it occurred to me at that moment. Looking now at this personal trait, I can see how it also manifests in music and other people who I have a respect for as artists and people.

Ken Wilber articulates twelve areas of study and I can imagine these translated into the context of compositional approaches. I can imagine these different leanings being mixed with the faders on an analog mixer, or even better with the 3 dimensional matrix of a wii controller assigned to different oppositions. I will need to work out the oppositions and how they are manifest in different persons.

The other quote that I find resonating in my mind is from Stockhausen.
To paraphrase Stockhausen in his 5 Criteria of Electronic Music "Take one idea that I have had and you can build a career on it."
This is not that moment in the video, but this is the video that I have in mind.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Beyond Equal Temperment.

Here is an article and video on a returnable piano, allowing the pianist a whole tone of deviation from the fixed tuning of the instrument.

Now it is time to make a control device that slides the tuners in real-time so that a piece can move from one tuning system to another without encumbering a pianist with all of the changes needed to move among different tuning systems.

"Edgar Varèse and the Jazzmen" (MP3s)

Today's post is something I stumbled upon in the dark and dusty corners of the Internet, a tape recording of composer Edgar Varèse conducting a workshop of Jazz musicians in the year 1957. Here is the original announcement of the MP3 release of these tapes.

What is really amazing is this post on WFMU, here is the write up on WFMU
Edgard_Varese Edgard Varèse conducts a workshop with jazzmen Art Farmer (trumpet), Hal McKusik (clarinet, alto sax), Teo Macero (tenor sax), Eddie Bert (trombone), Frank Rehak (trombone), Don Butterfield (tuba), Hall Overton (piano), Charlie Mingus (bass), Ed Shaughnessy (drums), probably John La Porta (alto sax)... We don't know who is on vibes...

It might be the first free jazz recording (totally unissued) of History of Music. Varèse might have influenced jazzmen or was he only aware of what was happening on the jazz scene? No matter of the answer, it's a bomb, as this music is 3 years earlier than Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman! We also know Charlie Parker wanted to study with Varèse in autumn 1954 but the composer flew to Europe to conduct Déserts. When he came back to New York in May 1955, Parker had already died. We also know that Varèse used to listen to John Coltrane at the Village.

Between March and August 1957, these Sunday jam-sessions were followed by arranger George Handy, journalist Robert Reisner, composers James Tenney, Earle Brown and John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham. The organizers were Earle Brown and Teo Macero who will become Miles Davis' producer among others. Varèse used certain extracts of the workshop for his Poème électronique.

The original of this tape is at Fondation Paul Sacher.

Take a listen it is fabulous. And there are bits of Poeme Electronic in the mix.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

960 650

I discovered the work of Mattia Casalegno this morning, here is a representative video.

I enjoy the statement on the lead page of his website where he provides his definitions of information, biology and ecology as a point of departure for his work.
Information (in-forms, to give form)
Biology (bio-logos, discourse on living)
Ecology (in the batesonian term) --- I had no clear idea of who Gregory Bateson was, so I looked him up. Which lead to several happy things.
1. This interesting paper on the undertaking of a dissertation by Murial Singer.
2. The discovery of Steps to an Ecology of Mind which has now entered the reading list.
3. Turns out Bateson moved to Palo Alto. So I read the wiki article for p alt
While John Chowning's work at Stanford is certainly an important step in electronic music history, it is really interesting to note
The Lee DeForest laboratory site, situated at 218 Channing, is a California Historical Landmark recognizing DeForest's 1911 invention of the vacuum tube and electronic oscillator at that location.

That sounds to me like the birthplace of electronic music, at least of the analog variety. I suppose I should be more accurate and say the technology that enabled electronic music. I knew there was something that I liked about living on Channing.

Something that has always struck my mind about this place is that p and alt are keys on the computer keyboard. 960 is the ascii both for both of these pressed simultaneously, 112 for just the p. To bad the area code is 650.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Seeing this took me back to my childhood. Listening now I note the fabulous synth tones, somehow I missed it in years past.

And here is some hometown of yesteryear....

And then....

"the Reunions.."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

some together now

The above picture is from the LovelyWeather Project... more to come on that later, but I find it rather pleasing.

This is a audio snapshot of the audio that will accompany the piano. It is being generated in real time from a sound library that I created. This version is faked a bit as the real piece will rely on data from the performer for amplitude shifts of the streams.
2 parts mixed

And here is some of the piano (all-be-it VERY ROUGH) that will be mixed with the above streams of audio. I am in the process of shaping and blending it. Finally working with this stuff in a fashion with less attention to the notes and more toward the larger shape. Need to shape the rhythms a bit more, but the overall gesture is rather in place.

The pitch material for this track is from the stream of audio (above) that sounds like piano notes (after all, they are piano notes).

The pitch material here is derived from knocking the piano. This is the other audio stream in the above mix.