rreplay record release Weds 5/13

rreplay is releasing its second album, live from the uncanny valley, on Weds, May 13, from 6-8 at Manifest in Chinatown.  Eric and I hope you can make it to celebrate.  This will be perhaps our one and only live gig, so don’t miss it!  You can listen to the whole album by clicking preview at the link above.  Rreplay Uncanny Valley002

count weevil will be laying down beats in a chill kinda LA style, and he may keep going when rreplay is on.

For the uninitiated, rreplay is an experimental improv duo.  Rich plays guitar  through the laptop, synthesizing it, granulating it, chopping it up, and sometimes just playing it.  Eric plays fretless bass, also through the laptop, providing melodic and rhythmic grounding and ever leading the improv process into and sometimes back from more adventurous territory.  We both work on the beats, and chop them up some more while playing.  I’d describe the music, but you can listen for yourself above and live next Weds.  Hope you can make it!

Manifest is at 32 North Hotel Street.  They have excellent food and great drinks.  Happy hour is 5-7.

splonkitank

I recorded this a few years ago (2009) and never got around to mixing it, although I listen to it fairly regularly while doing something else. It is a cinematic/ambientish/listen-while-you-are-working kind of groove that develops slowly around a tubby bass line with a tone borrowed from dub and a laid back beat with polyrhythmic cymbals.

The development comes from two places. First, at about 4:38, the guitar gets looped and run through a granulator thingie called splonki, an oldie from Andreas a.k.a. ioplong at SmartElectronix that turns the flangy distorted lead guitar into a gritty organ sound that changes the groove. Then the whole thing gets gradually taken over by manipulating the filters and delay times on (sadly no more) arcDev Industries’ wonderful echo contraption, the echotank, with some midi controllers.
n.b. Andreas’s section of Smartelectronix seems to be down. You might try to resuscitate it from archive.org’s wayback machine if you want the plugin. Arcdev used to be at http://arcanedevice.com/ if you want to try the wayback machine on that.

As usual, FB probably people need to come to way.net to listen.

 

qi last night

I ran Qi again last night on the walls of Kennedy Theater at UH Manoa as part of the preliminaries to the fiftieth anniversary celebration/performance of the dance program. Here is a short video of a few of the people who used it. Don’t miss the little person at about 2:40. I didn’t ask permission from the people in here and don’t know who they are, so if you see this and you are in it and don’t want to be, let me know and I’ll edit you out.

Performance can take some interesting turns. Performativity comes from the idea that your performances and utterances do not just say something but do something in the world. The past two Friday nights, as part of the preliminaries for the fiftieth anniversary dance concert at UH Manoa’s Kennedy Theater, dance professor Kara Miller invited History professor Richard Rath to set up his interactive motion-to-music installation “Qi” projected on an outside wall of the theater before the show on two of the Fridays of the show.

In it, dancers, cars, and passers by “do something” with their motions, namely make music. The results were projected on the side of Kennedy theater and music made by the audience filled the air outside the theater the two nights of the installation. A couple of ideas are at work in the installation in conjunction with performativity. One is that music is often synesthetic, transforming actions in one sense modality, say vision — as in sheet music — or touch, as in the fingers on a guitar, into another, hearing. In this case the transformation is somewhat direct, as music gets made by moving the balls of green energy, the “qi,”around the screen with one’s motions in order to make music. The installation is also meant to break down the distinction between audience and performer, as often times people discover the instrument through being in the picture on the wall that they are looking at and hearing their motions come out as music. In other times and places, especially before the advent of recorded music, music making was something that everyone participated in, without the formal distinction between audience and performer. Qi points to the artificial nature of that divide while looking forward in new ways rather than back to some romanticized version of the past.

Two highlights that I did not capture were a little girl about age ten who just had a blast with it, and an older couple who did Tai Chi, which worked really well. I did not get video of either though.

There has been a great series of articles on motion to music controllers the past week or so over at Create Digital Music. All of them are cool, but they require some extra piece of hardware like an iPhone attached to your wrist or a Leap Motion, or a kinect. Qi is a max/msp patch that I wrote using the cv.jit computer vision modules. the only hardware is the video camera that comes with the laptop (ok, I used a cheapy USB cam so I could aim it away from me, but the onboard cam works too).  People seem to get the idea immediately and have fun doing it, although the occasional detached arm waving in the picture is me giving the two second tutorial: “up for higher notes, down for lower, different synths on left and right sides, bigger circles=louder.”

 

Qi tonight, Kennedy Theater

Just a reminder that my motion-into-music contraption will be making music as long as somebody is moving outside of Kennedy Theater before the performance tonight. UH Manoa. 7-8 PM. Outside stuff is free. If you are around come by. Last week was a blast, come by this week if you can. To get an idea of what it is, see the videos (note to self: smile next time, its fun).

qi motion to music at UH Friday night this week and next

My long term motion to music software, now named “qi” is going to be available for everyone to move to and create music on Friday November 15 and 22. It will be part of the dance program’s 50th anniversary show preliminaries, projected on the wall outside Kennedy Theater starting about 7 PM until the show starts at 8. This Friday and next. Hope you can make it! As usual, facebook people need to come to way.net to view the video I think. Qi motion to music demo

punctuated silence

I’ve been fascinated with a sentence from Miles Davis’s autobiography, “I always listen to what I can leave out.”  Now I am sure that the piece I am putting up today takes that too literally and in a slightly different direction, and I certainly wouldn’t count on Miles’ blessing for it. I probably won’t piss him off as much as others who have glommed on to the phrase, including a purveyor of figuring out short term trends in the stock market and another into the design aspects of fast food.  I don’t know, maybe Miles would be more into them than this piece.  

The music is built around the idea of loops that are endless, so if I let it, it would just go on forever.  But instead of doing that, or having them fade out over time, I punctuate them with rhythmic silences using a foot pedal that does mouse clicks tapped into the loop player so that the clicks erase — or other times, replace — what is happening at that moment.  It produces a peculiar rhythm that plays everywhere but where I am tapping, so that I am quite literally playing the silences instead of the sounds.  The plugin that makes this possible is from Johan Larsby of Shuriken and is called repeatler.

It is almost perfect, but unfortunately leaves those clicking artifacts that you hear.  At least they are in time with the music and I like to think of them as a form of percussion, but it would be nice to get rid of them too.  A summer project will be to figure out exactly how to do that.  It is a weird problem because the button press creates a zero signal instantly.  When you are making sounds, you can put them in something called an envelope that makes the sound start and end on a zero so it does not pop.  Here the thing you are playing — the silence — is already at zero, so you need something like an anti-envelope, a thing that puts the fade to zero outside of the time you spend at zero, at the start and end of the zero, where the sounds still are.  Actually instead of an anti-envelope, think of it as an upside down envelope, going from full volume to zero at the start, and zero to full volume at the end instead of the other way around.  Maybe Johan will update the plugin, but I’m not holding my breath, especially since he is none too fond of Windows which is where I do most of my music (writing this on a Linux box though!).

As always, if you are getting this through some feed other than way.net (I’m talking to you, Facebook) you probably have to come to way.net to hear the music.

control issues.

(n.b., If you just want to see and hear the Hot Hand in action, scroll to the video at the bottom of the page)

I have control issues.  Guitarists have it rough in the all-digital world.  Both hands are full with the playing of the thing.  The foot (two is harder) is useful on stompboxes and wah pedals, but not as easy for the digital world, where effects can be free but seldom come in a box.

Hot Hand
Hot Hand

Enter into the arena the SourceAudio Hot Hand,
a little box about a third of the size of a flash drive attached to a
rubber strap that you can wrap around what you wish, default being a
finger.  It has the accelerometer built in and sends three signals, one
for each axis of the three dimension of the space we live in.  Move it
along an axis and it sends out midi control changes which can be pumped
into the digital guitar rig and attached to anything a midi signal can
control.  It takes some calibrating and “fingering” out to actually
control the thing, but when it works, you can flail your picking hand
around in the air or move it subtly, both of which guitarists have been
known to do, and the midi flows to whatever you hook it up to. I opted
for the obvious here and hooked it up to filter cutoffs (three of them),
resonance (three of those too), distortion amount (one on the Z axis,
which takes the most conscious effort to get off of zero), and filter
attack.

After messing about the whole day I got a mostly good take that
demonstrates some of the possibilities for expression in the Hot Hand.
 The first part sets up a loop with the instruments modulated by the
ring, then some lead over that with some extra expression, and a drum
drop where I use the Hot Hand to mangle the loop full time without
playing guitar, then on to the glorious finish where I heroically try to
stomp out all the loops and drums at once.

I am really enjoying the thing so far, but it will take more
calibrating and more learning on my part to get expressive control over
it.  I relearned what pitch, roll, and yaw are to try to figure it out,
but it does not exactly work on those principles.  Instead it is more
like a carpenter’s level, the little tubes with the bubbles in them, and
I have to figure out how to control where the bubbles float to, all
three at once.

I had much fun, and I hope you enjoy the video!  

Some Background . . .

Expression is my dream, a way of manipulating tone and timbre on the guitar as complex and rewarding as the fingers/ frets/ wood/ amp/ speakers/ ears combo.  Textures, spaces, shapes: I have a little synesthesia in my dreams of expressive control. There is a remarkable amount of expressive power packed into stringed instruments. MIDI controllers, with their one parameter at a time functioning, seem rigid in comparison.  Sure tones can be shifted about, but real expression remains elusive — though not impossible, given that the instrument itself has a lot of expressive wallop already.

I have a couple of useful foot controllers.  One is the venerable Behringer FCB1010, which is a bit of a bear to program and somewhat big to carry around.  If I am going to replace my amp with a laptop, I don’t want a giant floorboard.

SoftStep
SoftStep

I recently got Keith McMillen’s SoftStep as a replacement.  It is small, sleek, and has really neat blue and red LED lighting so you can see what you are doing.  The SoftStep is used to control the drums in the video.  It works well for triggering, though the “steps” are a little small for feet with shoes on.  It has the ability to send several different continuous controller midi signals, but in practice they are not that easy to control with foot pressure.  It does have a plug for a good old expression pedal though.  Both it and the Behringer are pretty involved to program, but I have to give the SoftStep the edge there, even though the software crashes every time you close it and fails to save the midi device it is supposed to send to.

vPedal
vPedal

I also have a vPedal transcription pedal set to spit out mouse clicks.  That works well if you can move the mouse where you are going to click next, which can be tricky, but having a mouse click handy is useful. Its hella loud in the mechanics though.  I have a stealth switch II that is a bit quieter, but does not trigger until you release it, which is difficult but interesting for timing — I have to pull the time out of it instead of stomping it into it.  That gets used for my linux mouseclick needs rather than on the main music laptop — I am one of those odd non-Ableton, non-Mac electronic musicians.  I use a combination of Plogue Bidule with a little bit of Max MSP here and there with a few hundred (not kidding) VSTs in Windows, with Linux when I need realtime kernel and gnarly guitar sounds via Guitarix and Jack. (down to 64 samples latency with this combo on a five year old computer — I can’t hear it so much as feel it.  The low latency makes playing seem a bit more responsive)

I rigged up a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet to spit out OSC and Midi, and it sounds cool and is quite expressive, but the pen takes a hand, so it mostly gets used as its own instrument, a sort of theremin on steroids.  I have a MAX patch that can control MIDI though video gestures, like a Kinect but without all the gizmos, but it is not done yet, and pretty much has to be run by itself.  No guitar signal there yet, though I am working on it.

Envelope followers are helpful but limited, and LFOs sound too regular when they are regular and too random when randomized, even though I use them a lot.  They are prefab instead of expressive.  I have explored some fractal and game-of-life controllers (like in this song), but they are too wild for everyday use.  All of this still sounds more toward the artificial end of artificial intelligence.

stc-1000
Mercurial STC-1000

I have two hand controllers, the underrated and out-of-business Mercurial STC-1000 touch surface and a Korg nanoKontrol, but when I touch the touchpad or twiddle those knobs , I can only play guitar with one hand.  I often tried to work out a way to get an accelorometer attached to a guitar that then produced MIDI or OSC, even buying a WIIMote when I have no Wii in order to get it to send midi via GlovePie.  Never figured that one out in any useful way, and the WiiMote would have to be in a hand or strapped on to the guitar somehow.  An out-of-business company called FreePlayer almost got it right, but they could not get a wireless one to market and it required modding the guitar and a USB cable on the guitar, which was  a no go for me.

As usual, lots more music is on the blog and on the waydio at way music.  Pop it out and listen to it in the background.

dark arts this Friday

Off Art After DarkI’ll be playing at Off-Art-After-Dark this Friday (Oct. 26) from 5 to six with my laptop-computer mangled guitar stuff. I’ll probably then sit in with Laulani and Dave the next set too. Once it is dark, there will be a video projector and I’ll set up my participatory synesthetic music machine thing, the PRISMM, which turns your movements into music.

The trouble with music…

I just finished reading an interesting article and discussion over at Peter Kirn’s excellent Create Digital Music. I was too late to the party to make a comment there, so here ya go. The point of the article is that we are being ahistorical when we consider music piracy as having no precedent, with Peter showing how the record industry itself arose from the partial destruction of the musical performance business that it displaced. I am very interested in this long view (or listen) and am writing about it (among many other things) in a book that is way overdue that will be called either A Brief History of Hearing or Hearing History/History of Hearing so far. It should be out from University of Illinois Press soon after I finish writing it!

A book that covers the first part of Peter’s point quite well is Jim Kraft’s From Stage to Studio. He approached the advent of the recording industry as a labor problem, and it did put a lot of musicians out of work — there was an orchestra or piano player, usually union, in every movie theater before talkies for example. Others are also right that recording did make music – recorded music anyway – accessible to new people while it was putting most musicians out of work. Read the liner notes to the Harry Smith Anthology sometime if you want to see in action how that worked. The business model was to make as few recordings sell as many copies as possible. That one-to-many model has been wrecked by the Internet. For the cultural logic of why that is so, see Jonathan Sterne’s excellent article, “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact” [pdf]. As recorded music rose, it also pretty much killed off the culture of amateur musicianship, which was pretty advanced, really flowering in the nineteenth century in the US among other places. Why bother when you could hear an expert play it? The whole idea of music as something you consume, like a fast food, rather than make, like a sandwich or dinner, is a product of the recording industry. I also know from reading and from my friends in the symphony (now there is a phrase I couldn’t have imagined myself writing thirty years ago) that the technological advances from MIDI onward have had dire effects on the ability of classical musicians to make a living. To give one example, movies seldom use orchestras any more. In contrast, for a musician like me, it has been a great ride. A thousand or two people from all around the world have heard my weird stuff who otherwise wouldn’t have, using the same system of tubes that is “destroying music.” I’ll take it, and so will lot’s of people stuck in “consumer” mode too, obviously.

The print analogy Graham Metcalfe made is apt beyond his point that a lot of scribes got put out of work (repurposed, actually: I think monks had job security even if the pay was not so good).  Not only did it downsize the manuscript “business”  (not everything is all about business and profits, even now) but it took the better part of a century to figure out what had changed, as most of what they printed that first century were Latin manuscripts, only toward the end figuring out that you could write them from scratch in a language everyone in your country could understand instead of just a few monks and scholars.

Same with recording. At first it was all about making the recording sound like a performance. Records were sold for sounding just like Enrico Caruso to the extent they could, and that was the focus of the technology. It took decades to figure out such things as sound on sound and synthesis to get to the point that deadmaus made in the interview: now the “live” show struggles to sound like the recording in commercially focused performance, in fact that is an impossibility without employing recording or sequencing (how is Rihanna, shy of Tuvan throat singing, supposed to sing with herself?). We are still in the period when, as Marshall McLuhan said, the content of the new medium is the old media that it devours. Take Google books for just one example (or less controversially, Amazon OCRing everything but keeping it from us).

I see the present possibilities as heralding a return of the amateur musician (me for example!). Because the expense and distribution problems made access to recording dear, record companies made money. Those problems are solved now, that economy of scale is no more, and all the PR and new laws in the world are not going to put that genie back in the bottle even if the US could extradite Mr Dotcom from New Zealand. It has been a great ride for me, even if Metallica’s world is crashing down around them despite Chris Dodd ‘s best efforts (including, it seems, blocking web sites that notice).

BTW, or perhaps PS, because this drifts off the topic of Peter’s article, whenever music industry shills advocates mention “from the artist’s point of view” (the rest of this is a commentary on that link), I laugh bitterly. “Artist” and “copyright owner” are not synonymous. Those advances that the record companies so generously give so many artists? They go to the recording studio, touring expenses, lawyers, producers, and publicity, seldom to the artist. Tell Robert Johnson that, or any number (nearly all) the artists that the record industry has ripped off blind. Plenty of musicians besides Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) and Vic Chesnutt died young or took their lives even when the recording industry was at its peak, so the idea that piracy killed them is, well you can figure that one out. As the industry knows, it is good for business (oops, they got caught). And the idea that the free culture movement is a corporate plot while the recording industry is for artists, well, maybe if you put “con” before artists. Corporate minds have difficulty imagining that anything can be done by people outside of corporate intent. They don’t actually control the world or the state yet though, though they have in the past. That is called something else, but I don’t want to Godwin myself.

Utterly shark infested waters that musicians used to have to swim in to get heard. I’ve always been playing (forty years now) cause I have stuff to play, just now a few people actually can hear me if they choose. The music business as it was, was never for us musicians anyway. It only takes a few years in it to figure that out out. Protecting content creators my ass. For every musician who makes it, there are thousands as good or better who languish because they never got the breaks. Those musicians now want to understand their own skills and success as special, which they may well be, and in need of protection therefore, which they are not. Artistry has always been about the dance of creative destruction. It has real implications, both positive and negative, which the recording business knows historically.

Dangerous Kitchen

Just posted a loop of Monisha and me prepping and cooking dinner  It is all knife chops, wok sizzle, spoon drops and bowl thunks.  Feeling a need to break out of the soundcloud impression that I specialize in acoustic slide blues.

The title of the post and the sample set is from a Frank Zappa song, Dangerous Kitchen.”  The song is a bit lame, so instead of going there, check out this 1974 made for tv video of “Inca Roads” instead.  Please at least get to the three minute mark where the fast cut claymation brain melt begins along with some amazing guitar. All years before MTV. And he steadfastly claimed he never took drugs to get this trippy.

Not a big Zappa fan but love this.  In the same department of people I like one or two things by is Captain Beefheart’s last musical offering to the world.  Rejected by MTV as too weird, it is now in the Permanent Film and Video Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC according to the vid description.  And if MOMA does not convince you of its value, maybe the fact that I think it might be my favorite video of all time will.  🙂  My description of it would be if Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were slipped some acid, they shot Bob, and dragged the rest out to the desert and then threatened them under death to play the blues for Captain to sing to as if their lives depended on it…but cheerier.

Hope ya like the loop. Lots more music on the blog, and as always, at WayMusic.