Press Release

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Birmingham’s first Network Music Festival 27-29th January.

For immediate release: 24th January 2011

Birmingham’s first Network Music Festival presents hi-tech music performances from local and international artists.

On 27-29th January 2012 the first Network Music Festival will showcase some of the most innovative UK and international artists using networking technology. Presenting a broad spectrum of work from laptop bands, to live coding, to online collaborative improvisation, to modified radio networks, audio-visual opera and iPhone battles, Network Music Festival will be a weekend of exciting performances, installations, talks and workshops showcasing over 70 artists!

Network Music Festival are working alongside local organisations Friction Arts, SOUNDkitchen, BEAST, Ort Cafe and The Old Print Works and PST/Kismet in order to bring this new and innovative festival to Birmingham.

With 20 performances, 5 installations, 5 talks and a 2 day work Network Music Festival will be a vibrant and diverse festival presenting musical work where networking is central to the aesthetic, creation or performance practice. Acts include: Live-coding laptop quartet Benoit and the Mandelbrots (Germany); algorithmic music duo Wrongheaded (UK), transatlantic network band Glitch Lich (UK/USA) and home grown laptop bands BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) and BEER (Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research) as well as many more local, UK, European and international acts programmed from our OPEN CALL for performances, installations and talks.

If that’s not enough, we’ll be kicking off the festival early on Thursday 26th January with a pre-festival party programmed in collaboration with local sound-art collective SOUNDkitchen which showcases some of Birmingham best electronic acts, Freecode, Juneau Brothers and Lash Frenzy as well as one of SOUNDkitchen’s own sound installations.

There’s also an opportunity for you to get involved as we’re running a 2 day workshop on ‘Collaborative Live Coding Performance’ led by members of the first live coding band [PB_UP] (Powerbooks Unplugged).

“Birmingham has a reputation for being the birth place of new genres of music,” said festival organiser, Shelly Knotts. “We’re excited to be a part of this and to be bringing the relatively new genre of computer network based music to Brum. Some of these concerts are going to be epic!”

Tickets are available from Day and weekend passes available £5-£25. Workshop £20.

For more information visit our website: and follow us on twitter: @NetMusicFest. To tweet about the festival use the hashtag #NMF2012. We also have a facebook page:

Network Music Festival // 27-29th January 2012 // The Edge, 79-81 Cheapside, Birmingham, B12 0QH

Twitter: @NetMusicFest Hashtag: #NMF2012



On Friday will be a sneak preview of an excerpt from Act 2 of the Death of Stockhausen, the world’s first ‘laptopera.’

Concert Review: RCM LOrk

Last night, I went to see the Royal College of Music Laptop Orchestra perform in their institution’s main hall. I found out about the concert at the last minute because a friend spotted it on twitter. Until yesterday, I didn’t even know there was a LOrk in in London!
The audience was quite small and out numbered by the performers. There were 6 people on stage and one guy working at a mixing desk, who got up to play piano for one of the pieces. The programme was quite short, with 5 pieces on it. They started with Drone by Dan Trueman, which was the first ever LOrk composition, according to the printed programme. They walked in from the back, carrying laptops and playing from the internal speakers. The tilt of the laptop changes the sound. They then walked around the space, making this drone. It worked well as an introduction and had a good performative element, but I find this piece disturbing in general because it pains me slightly whenever I see anyone shake a laptop. This kind of treatment leads disks to die. Somebody should port this piece to PD and run it via RjDj on an iPhone.
The next piece they played was Something Completely Different by Charles Mauleverer. It was quite short and was made up of clips from Monty Python. Somebody from the ensemble explained that they were playing YouTube videos directly and using the number keys to skip around in the videos and stutter and glitch in that way. This piece was played through two large monitors on the stage. Because all the clips are in the vocal range, using only two speakers made it a bit muddy. Also, the lack of processing the sounds in any meaningful way could become an issue, but the piece was quite short and therefore mostly avoided the limitations of it’s simple implementation.
Then, alas, there was a few minutes pause for technical issues and a member of the group stood up and gave a short talk about what was going on in the pieces played so far.
After they got everything going again, they played Synchronicity by Ellis Pecen, which was very well done. The players were given already processed sounds of a guitar and were playing and possibly modifying those further. The programme notes said it used instrumental sounds “process[ed] to such a degree that it would be difficult to discern the original instrument and the listener would … perceive” the source materials only as “a source of sound.” As such it was acousmatic in it’s construction and it’s ideals but the result was a nice drone/ambient piece. After a few minutes, the sound guy got up and joined the ensemble to play some ambient piano sounds. The result was a piece outside of the normal LOrk genre (as fas as one can be said to exist) and was extremely musical.
Spirala by David Rees, the next piece on the programme, was supposed to have a projected element, but the projector crashed just as the piece was about to start. The piece was apparently built in flash and involved the players turning some sort of crank, by drawing circles on their trackpads. the sounds it made (and perhaps the mental image of crank-turning) lead me to think of a jack in the box. The programme says the piece is online, but I’m getting a 404 on it, alas.
The last piece was Sisal Red by Tim Yates. It relied on network communication, making groups of three laptops into “distributed instruments.” The piece didn’t seem to match it’s programme notes, however, as there only seemed to be four people actually playing laptops. One of the players was on a keyboard controller and another one was playing the gong with a beater and a microphone as if it were Mikrophonie by Stockhausen. This piece used 4 channels of sound, with the two monitors on stage and the two behind the audience. It seemed to fill up the hall as if were were swimming in sound. I’m not sure what sounds were computer generated and what were from the gong or other sources, but I had the impression that the gong sound was swaying around us and was a very strong part of the piece. It certainly harkened back to the practice of putting instruments with electronics and also seemed to be an expansion of the normal LOrk genre. The result was very musical.
According to the programme, this is the only LOrk situated at a conservatory rather than a university. The players were all post graduates, which is also a break with the normal American practice of undergraduate ensembles. All of the pieces except the first one were written by ensemble members. As is the case with most other LOrks, the composer also supplied the “instrument,” so all the players were running particular programmes as specified by (or written by) the composer. Aside from the first piece, there were no gestural controllers present.
I think putting a LOrk into a conservatory is an especially good idea. This will create LOrks that will concentrate heavily on performance practice. In their piece Something Completely Different, they completely de-emphasised the technology and created something that was almost purely performative. However, they obviously still embrace the technical, not only through their choice of medium, but in pieces such as Spirala which required the composer to code in flash.
I was really impressed by the concert overall and especially their musicality and hope they get larger audiences at their future gigs, as they certainly deserve them.
By the way, if you’re in a LOrk and have not done so already, there is a mailing list for LOrks, Laptop Bands, Laptop Ensembles and any group computer performance: LiGroCoP, which you should join. Please use it to announce your gigs! Also, BiLE will be using it to make announcements regarding our Network Music Festival, which will happen early next year and will have some open calls.

My life lately (is tl;dr)

Tuesday and Wednesday Last Week

A week ago Tuesday, I taught my module in Cambridge. The next morning, I got on a train to Birmingham for BiLE practice. I’m a co-founder of BiLE, the Birmingham Laptop Ensemble. We formed in February and we have a gig next week. The technical hurdles to getting a laptop ensemble going are not minor, so there has been a lot of energy going into this from everybody. We have got group messaging going, thanks to OSCGroups and I wrote some SuperCollider infrastructure based on the API quark and a small chat GUI and a stopwatch sort of timer, which is controlled with OSC, so there’s been a lot of that sort of tool writing. And much less successful coding of sound-making items, which will eventually be joystick controllable if I ever get them to work. All my code is written for mono samples and all of the shared samples people are using are in stereo, so I spent a lot of time trying to stereo-ise my code before finally mixing the samples down to mono.
I’m a big believer in mono, actually, in shared playing environments. If I am playing with other people, I’m playing my computer as an instrument and instruments have set sound-radiation patterns. I could go with a PLOrk-style 6-speaker hemisphere, if I wanted to spend a boatload of money on a single-use speaker to get an instrumental radiation pattern form my laptop, so I could just use a single Genelec 1029 that I already own.
Anyway, after the BiLE rehearsal, a couple students gave a group presentation on Reaper, which is a shareware, cheap, powerful DAW. I’m quite impressed and am pondering switching. My main hesitation is that I expect my next computer will be linux, so I don’t know if I want to get heavily involved with a program that won’t run on that OS. On the other hand, I don’t actually like Ardour very much, truth be told. I haven’t liked any of them since I walked away from ProTools.
After that we went out for socialising and instead of catching a train home, I went to stay on the floor of Julien’s studio. He lives way out in the country, up a lane (British for a single-track country road). It’s quite lovely. I would not be a fan of that commute, but I might do it for that cottage.


The next morning, Juju and I set back to campus quite early so he could meet his supervisor. I ran a couple of errands and got a uni-branded hoodie. I haven’t worn such a garment for years, because fabric clinging to my chest in the bad old days was not a good thing. But now I can wear snug woven fabrics, like T-shirts, hoodies and jumpers! It’s amazing! Also, I remember the major student protests about university branded clothing made by child labour, but this was actually fairtrade, according to the label, which is fairly impressive.
Then all the postgrads met in the basement of the Barber Institute to start loading speakers into a truck for a gig. We were moving a relatively small system, only 70 speakers, but that’s still a fair amount of gear to muscle around. Then we went to the Midlands Arts Centre to move all the gear into the venue and set it up. The gear is all in heavy flight cases, which needed to be pushed up and down ramps and down hallways and then the speakers inside needed to be carried to where they would be set up, as did the stands to which they would be attached and the cables that connect them. It’s a lot of gear. We worked until 6 or 7 pm and then went back to the studios at uni to get a 2 hour long presentation from Hans Tutchku about how he does music stuff. I tried desperately to stay awake because it was interesting and I wanted to hear what he was saying, but I did not entirely succeed in my quest.


Then, Juju and I went back to his place, 45 minutes away and then came back to the MAC early the next morning to finish rigging the system. We put up the remainder of the system and then people who were playing in that evening’s concert began to rehearse. I hung around for the afternoon, trying to get my BiLE code working. Kees Tazelaar, who played the next evening came along to see how things were going and recognised me from Sonology and greeted me by my old name. I like Kees quite a lot, but it was a very awkward moment for me and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I spoke to him only briefly and then mostly avoided him later. This was not the best way to handle it.
There were two concerts in the evening. The second of them was organised by Sound Kitchen and was a continuous hour with no break between pieces. The people diffusing the stereo audio to the 70 speakers took turns, but changed places without interrupting the sound flow. It was extremely successful, I thought. The hour was made up of the work of many different composers, each of whom had contributed only 5 minutes, but somehow this was arranged into a much larger whole that held together quite well, partly because many of the different composers had used similar sound material. A lot of them used bird sounds, for example, so that was a repeating motif throughout the concert.


After that, we hung around the bar for a bit afterwards. The next morning was not so early, thank goodness, when we went back to the MAC and then back to the uni for the BiLE hack day. The idea was that we would do a long group coding session, where people could write code around each other and ask for clarification or feedback or help or whatever from band mates. However, it started really late and everybody was really tired, so it was not entirely successful in it’s goals.
Then we went back to the MAC for the concerts. I was sitting in the hallway, trying to figure out why my BiLE code had failed so completely when I got drafted into being in charge of the comp tickets. It turns out that this is actually somewhat stressful, because it requires knowing who is supposed to get comped in, getting tickets for them and then distributing them. Which means approaching Francis Dhomont and speaking to him.
The first concert was curated by Kees Tazelaar and started with a reconstruction of the sounds played in the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels Worlds Fair in 1958. He found the source tapes and remixed them. Concrete PH sounded much more raw and rougher than other mixes I’ve heard. It had a gritty quality that seemed much more grounded in a physical process. I was surprised by how different it sounded. Then he played Poem électronique and a his own work called Voyage dans l’espace. I hope he plays these again on large multi-channel systems, because it was pretty cool.
I was feeling fairly overwhelmed by the lack of sleep, my lack of success with BiLE and getting stuck with all the comp tickets, so I was not happy between concerts. The next one was all pieces by Anette Vande Gorne, a Belgian woman who runs the Espace du son festival in Brussels and who has very definite theories about how to diffuse sounds in space. Some of them are quite sensible, however, she thinks that sound can start at the front of the hall and be panned towards the back of the hall, but sound cannot originate at the back of the hall and travel to the front. Hearing about this had prejudiced me against her, as it seems rather silly.
She always diffuses standing up, so they had raised the faders for her, with one bank slightly higher than the other, like organ manuals. She started to play her pieces… and it was amazing. It was like being transported to another place. All of my stress was lifted from my shoulders. It was just awe inspiring. The second piece was even better. I was sitting in the back half, so I could see her standing at the mixers, her hands flying across the faders dramatically, like an organist, full of intensity as her music dramatically swelled and travelled around the room. It was awe-inspiring. Then I understood why people listened to her, even when some of her theories sound silly. She might not be right about everything, but there’s quite a lot she is right about. This was one of the best concerts that I’ve ever been to.
The last concert was a surprise booking, so it wasn’t well publicised. It was Jonty Harrison, Francis Dhomont and Hans Tutchku. It was also quite good, but I wouldn’t want to play after Vande Gorne. Tutchku’s piece had several pauses in it that went on just a few moments too long. It’s major climax came quite early. It worked as a piece, but seemed like it could be experienced in another order as easily as the way it was actually constructed. I talked to him at the party afterwards and he said that the pauses were climaxes for him and ways of building tension and that he had carried them out for too long in order to build suspense. I’m not entirely positive they functioned in this way, but the idea is quite ineresting and I may look into it. He also asked me what I thought of his presentation for two days earlier, so I was hoping he hadn’t noticed me dozing off, but I think he did.
After the final concert, there was a large party at Jonty’s house. I got a lift from Jonty, so I was squeezed in the back of a car with Anette Vande Gorne on one side of me and Hans Tutchku on the other side with Francis Dhomont in the front. They all spoke French the whole way. I’ve been filling out job applications and one them wants to know about my foreign language skills and now I can say with certainty that if I’m stuck in a car with several famous composers speaking French, I can follow their conversation fairly well, but would be way too starstruck to contribute anything.
Apparently, the party went on until 4:30 in the morning, but I didn’t stay so late. I talked a lot to Jean-François Denis, the director of empreintes DIGITALes, a Canadian record label. He flew from Canada just for the weekend and showed up without anyone expecting him. He is extraordinarily charming.


The next morning, we went back again to the MAC and then there was a long concert with an intermission in the early afternoon. Amazingly, none of the concerts over the entire weekend featured overhead water drops. There were barely any dripping sounds at all.
After the concert, we de-rigged the system and packed all the gear back into cases and loaded it onto the two rented trucks. Then we went for curry in Mosely, which we seem to do after every gig. Shelly was talking about how it was her last BEAST gig and I wasn’t paying much attention until I realised this meant it was my last gig too. I really should have signed up to play something. I thought there was another gig coming later in the year, but it was cancelled. I’m seriously going to graduate from Brum having only played a piece at a BEAST gig one time and never having diffused a stereo piece. That is extremely lame on my part.


Juju was completely exhausted, so we left the curry early, so he could go home and catch up on sleep. The next morning, we all went back to the Barber Institute to unload the trucks and put everything away. Then we, as usual, went to the senior common room to have cups of terrible coffee. Their tea is alright, so that’s what I had, but most people go for the coffee, which could double as diesel fuel. I guess this was my last time of that also.
Normally, I would then gather my things and go home, but I did not. I worked on code and faffed and worried about my lecture the next day and then in the evening, we had another seminar. Howard Skempton came and talked for two hours about Cardew and Morton Feldman and his own music. It was quite good. We all went to the pub afterwards, but that dissipated quickly as people left to sleep it off.


I got the train home, finally and got in after midnight. There’s a large stack of mail inside my door. I woke up early the next morning to assemble my presentation for my module. As luck would have it, the topic was acousmatic music, so I talked about BEAST and played them some of the music from the weekend. I also pointed them at some tools. I was supposed to have them start their task during the class time, but a surprising number of them wanted to show their works in progress, so that didn’t happen.
As I was on the train back to London from Cambridge, I wondered whether I should go out to a bar that night to socialise when I fell completely asleep on the train. Drooling on my backpack asleep. I completely crashed. I woke myself up enough to get the tube home and then thought I would sort out my BiLE code instead of going out, but I couldn’t concentrate, so I just faffed around on the internet instead of sleeping or going out. Meh to me.


Then, the next day, which was Wednesday, a week and a day after all of this started, I got on the train for Birmingham to go to a BiLE rehearsal and to go to a seminar. I got my code working on the train and was feeling somewhat happy about that, but when I got to the rehearsal, it just gave up completely. I managed to make sounds twice during the entire rehearsal, one of which was during a grand pause. When I tried repeating the sound later, it wouldn’t play. Also, Shelly found a crash bug in my chat application, when Juju typed a french character. On the bright side, however, all of the MAX users got all the way through one of the pieces we’re playing next Thursday, which is quite encouraging. Antonio, our graphics guy got the projector sort of working, so I was able to glance at what he was doing a couple of times and it looked good.
We took a break and a bunch of the postgrads were dissing live coding, so I guess that might not be a good goal for the ensemble. They thought projected code was self-indulgent and only programmers would care. I need to link them to the toplap mainfesto. Actually, they were more dissing the idea of live coding, having barely witnessed any themselves. Non-programmers do seem to care and, while it is a movement that does require some thoughtful understanding to fully appreciate it, the same could certainly be said of acousmatic music. I like the danger of live coding, something that I think a laptop ensemble ought to appreciate. It’s a bit like a high wire act.
The presentations at the seminar were interesting and then we went to the pub. I was so tired biking home from the train station that I got confused about which side of the street I’m supposed to be on.


I slept until 2 this afternoon and I was supposed to sort out my BiLE code and fix up my CV and write my research portfolio, but all I did was send out email about Monday’s supercollider meetup and fix the crashbug in the chat thing. SuperCollider strings are in 7 bit ascii and fuck up if you give them unicode, which is really quire shocking and not documented anywhere.
Then I went to Sam’s to get Xena back and I wired up part of the 5.1 system she got for her daughter and sorted out her daughter’s macmini so that she could connect to it with VNC and so it was wired to the sound system and the projector and quit asking for the keychain password every 5 seconds. Then I came home and spent ages typing this up. Tomorrow, I will do my CV stuff for real, because I have to get it done and then work on my BiLE code. Saturday I’m going back to Brum again for a 5 hour rehearsal in wich we sort out the rest of our music for the gig. Sunday, I need to finish and job application related stuff and write my presentation for Tuesday. Monday is the job application deadline and a SuperCollider meetup. Tuesday, I teach. Wednesday, I need to get Xena back to Sam’s and then go to Brum again for a rehearsal and will be there overnight to practice the next day and then play the gig and then get stonkingly drunk. Friday, I go home. And then start sorting out the tech stuff for the next two pieces, which at least are by me and count towards my portfolio. And I need to sort out my stretched piece which is a disorganised mess and start writing a 20 minut piece, which I haven’t done at all and needs to be done very soon because I need to graduate and I have not spent all this busy time working on my own music, although the tools I’ve written should be kind of valuable. All I can think about now, going over and over in my head is all the stuff I have to do. And snogging. That thing about men thinking about sex every 7 seconds has never been true for me before, but it is now. And it’s actually quite annoying except that as the alternative is thinking about everything that I have to do, I actually prefer it.

Show Wednesday (Tomorrow)!

I will be playing tomorrow night at 21:00 at the Plantage Dok in Amsterdam. The show starts at 21:00. Admission is free and the beer is cheap! I’m be playing “electronic noise that you can almost dance to.”
The address is Plantage Doklaan 8 tot 12. See the venue’s website for more information.
I’ve been trying new methods to make fun music. I’ll be using a MiniModular synthesizer, but re-sampled to 8 bit and silly 8-bit nintendo-inspired drum sounds. Hopefully, It will be exciting and fun. I don’t know if you will be able to dance to it, but I hope you try.

Organ Concert Review

The Organ
The Grote Kerk in The Hague is having an organ festival right now, which explains why I keep hearing organ music while walking the dog. Last night, I saw a very small flyer for it posted to the church door and decided to check it out. I really like organ concerts and I can name one organ composer off the top of my head (Henry Brant), but I’ve never written for the organ and don’t know too much about the instrument. As a former resident of the Bay Area, though, I was pretty lucky as there are two Mighty Wurlitzer organs installed in local movie theatres. One is in the Grand Lake in Oakland and the other is in the Castro. Also, Wesleyan University, where I was in 2003-5, has a pretty nifty organ which was brand new when I was a student, so I got to hear a lot of organ music, including a new piece by Christian Wolff. This whole paragraph is a long way of saying: I don’t know much about the organ (factoid: invented by ancient Romans), but I dig it.

The performer last night was Leo Van Doeselaar of Amsterdam / Leiden. There was a pre-concert talk of which I understood nothing and then he went up to the organ loft to play. Church organs are often located in the back of churches, which is the case in Den Haag’s Grote Kerk or sometimes on the side. Almost never does a listener actually face the organ (Wesleyan is an exception to this). However, the chairs were arranged, so the audience sat facing the back of the church and hence the organ. Also, it’s often the case that the organist can’t be seen. They had set up a screen and a projector so that there was a camera pointing at the organist and the image was projected where we could see it. Kind of strange, but also interesting.
This particular organ has two panels of stops on either side of three manuals (keyboards). the stops control which pipes are getting air in them and they’re a bunch of knobs which can be pulled out or in (hence the expression, “pulling out all the stops.”). The organist had an assistant who was a page turner, but also did a lot of stop manipulation. The music would switch manuals without a break and while one manual was being played, the busy assistant would re-set the stops for the return to the original manual. Interesting to watch.
The first two pieces were from the 17th century. Which, alas, is not my favorite century. Also, note in the first paragraph that most of my organ listening has been with theatre organs, which often play a more popular repertoire. So the music just seemed kind of . . . sedate. The organ was not punching through and not filling the space. I could see the performer and I could tell he was playing is heart out, but it just wasn’t translating for me. So I wondered if it was the music or the organ. “Well, they can’t all be Bach’s Toccata in d.” (You know the piece. It’s a very dramatic and cliche organ piece. Nicole associates it with horror movies.)
Even as my mind wandered, certain sonic effects were occasionally interesting and I wondered if I might want to exploit them by writing an organ piece. (Well, why not?) Then, the organist started on the third piece, Gioco by Peter-Jan Wagemans (wikipedia). I do not need to write an organ piece, as Wagemans used all the cool bits that I had noticed and several I hadn’t. The piece was astoundingly amazing. The composer is an organist himself, so he is able to write as somebody who really, really knows the instrument. And as he’s a local guy, it’s very well-suited to the sort of organ they tend to have in Holland. It played off the reverb in the cathedral very well, using short notes played quickly to create textures. There was a section where a certain flourish was repeated a few times and each time there was a note repeated afterwards like an echo. The stops for that note were really mushy sounding, not cutting through at all, so it was hard to tell when it started and stopped. It was more of a presence. And I swear, it sounded like a real echo. One that boldly defied physics: believable and slightly disorienting!
There was no clapping between pieces, but the audience was all abuzz after that one. Organists, take note: you can make people very happy if you depart from the 17th century. There are composers alive today and some of their work is amazing.
Then, alas, we returned to the dusty past. But, much to my delight, the last piece actually was Bach’s Toccata in d. Man, I love that piece. It’s great. So unapologetically dramatic! And it’s got these huge parts that should just, imo, shake the fillings out of your teeth. There’s a piece for an organ, something that fills a space! A gigantic installed behemoth, an ancient roman excess! Crashing and pounding like the ocean! Huge! but. It just wasn’t. Ok sure, it was dramatic. And it had a couple of moments that were kind of big. but. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by Mighty Wurlitzers to expect something too big, too much. Maybe what I expect is gauche and ostentatious and not what Bach had in mind at all. Maybe I’m crass. But crass is great fun but this was restrained and smallish.
I think the organ is just too small. It’s also kind of recessed, which can’t help.
I also think that I just must be crass, because the audience gave the organist a standing ovation and then rushed to the CD table. I do think he was a really good performer (especially the new piece was fantastic), so maybe they’re used to the organ and I’m not? I’m probably going to skip the rest of the series, however it also includes carillon recitals (no wonder the bells have been so interesting lately), so I will definitely listen for those.

Travelin’ / Upcoming Concerts

I will be playing in Berlin on May 18th at Zentrale Randlage as a part of a conference going that weekend. I’ll be playing tuba &/| laptop and Nick Fox-Gieg will be playing computer and doing visuals. It will be cool. Our part will only be about 12 minutes. I don’t know what time, yet or much else, really.

And I will be playing a short set of a larger “show and tell” concert in The Hague on May 24th. The venue is Verhulstpl 17. I don’t know what time yet. I’ll probably be playing some tape music, but might also do some live laptop.
I’m leaving Sunday to go to France for the Joan of Arc festival in Orleans. It turned out to be cheaper to buy something called an interrail pass instead of buying a ticket to Paris and another to Berlin. Theoretically, this means that I can go anywhere within commuting distance on the 21- 23 May or 25-27 May. Realistically, this means: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France maybe Denmark. It would be nifty if I could play some music someplace, since my transit is already paid, but, yeah, it’s way last minute and I’m not sure who to contact.
Xena now has a very official looking pet passport. It’s a little blue booklet with a Netherlands flag and an EU flag on it. Getting citizenship in the Netherlands is so easy for dogs! she can legally travel all over the EU (except for England). I got her a trailer yesterday, so I can pull her around with a bike. The trailer doubles as a crate/ “pup” tent. (ha ha ha). I’m now looking for a human tent. The idea is that camping is cheaper than hotel rooms. The reality is not so clear however.
Long-time readers will recall that last summer, I was planning a bike trip, but got lyme disease and had to cancel it. This year, hopefully, I’ll avoid dread disease. Nicole, Xena and I will be heading out along the Loire, following the route of Jeanne d’Arc on the the anniversary of her having travelled that way. Except she got to ride a horse and not tow a dog. On the other hand, she was wearing armor and had the constant risk of death, so I think it will be more fun for me than it was for her.

Thanksgiving in Paris

Air France is a much nicer airline than US airlines. Rmemeber the old days before everyone was terrified that the person next to them had a shoe bomb and you could stand up and stretch without being eyed nervously and people did crazy things like walk around and stand in line for the bathrooms? Air France is like that and the stewards are polite. Downsides were that they kept waking me up for things like food or to warn me that airturbulence might break my neck is I sleep with me head pitched forward on my tray table. I’ve never heard of that before. Is it because US-based airlines don’t care if I break my neck? Is it a special feature of french airplanes?

Arrived v. tired in Paris. Took a nap. then went out to see the world Priemere of a LaMont Young piece. I don’t know the name of the piece. Christi insisited that we arrive one hour early to listen to the talk. The talk was in French, of course, so I didn’t understand a word of it. “Blah blah blah John Cage blah blah serialism blah blah.” Well, I got a few words. I didn’t mind because I know Christi has extensive experience listenign to and understanding lectures in French about music. But then she slipped out and went to a bar without telling anyone, while I and her mom (who also doesn’t understand French) stood respectfully and listened to the lecture.
The piece was three hours long and seemed to involve a few different tuning schemes, but I couldn’t tell you more than that, as I didn’t understand the lecture. There were drony MAX-based electronic sounds, I think samples of cello and a solo cello player with a couple of pedals. The auditorium was about 90 degrees Farenheit (I come to France and I can’t speak the language and I don’t do metric…) and there was inscence burning and just-intoned drone-y sounds. I fell asleep twice in the first twenty minutes. then was awake for a while, then out for about 40 minutes where I had a dream that I was on an airplane and instead of the big TV screen at the front of the cabin, they had a solo cello performer. There was a while where I had my eyes closed but was not alseep. Eventually, the cellist was playing fast rythms in the sort of the same mode as the piece started out in. The same kinds of gestures were being made, but they were all ornamented with fast notes, also in the same sort of gesture. It was sort of fractal that way. It was exciting, but then it was drony again and I’m afraid I dozed off again. Finally, the peice was over and the cellist just sat at the front and looked stressed and beat. He didn’t do the full relaxing thing that’s a clue that the piece is over. There were tentative claps here and there. People waited. Clapped quietly once, sort of testing if anyone else would join in. For four or five minutes.
Spent yesterday working on SuperCollider project. It crashes the server. Christi and her momed cooked and I coded. Now they’re out doing something interesting and I’m working on my Joan of Arc paper (and updating my blog, of course). Two French folks that Christi is friends with came over for Thanksgiving dinner. They were dubious about the holiday and about American food. But all went well. Christi ran out to get extra tomatoes (ah the convience of celebrating a holiday in a country that doesn’t recognize it) and found a computer out at the curb which has a DVD player and a CD burner, so she dragged upstairs.
I must get back to work

My Weekend

We went out Saturday to see the spot where Ellen’s friend was hit by a car. It was in Emeryville on the part of Powell street that gets really narrow, I think by Vallejo street. People have attached flowers, notes and a poster to a posted speed limit sign – 30 mph, which is clearly being exceeded by quite a bit. It was worrisome crossing the street to get there. Around the base of the sign were candles, a stuffed animal and other memorial items. A flautist was there, sitting on the ground, playing a lamentation. It was very moving. Some other people came. It seemed to make them feel better.
Later, we went to two concerts at the Berkeley Edge Fest. Two concerts in one day is too many. However, George Lewis is an amazing virtuossic trombone player, so I was glad we went to the second concert. Some very hyper composer cornered Sarah Cahill ater the first concert and started on a well-rehersed arts rant. He began by asking her if she was indepenently wealthy. He thinks artists in the Bay Area play too many gigs for free or for low wages. Sarah tried to pass him off to Christi, Ellen and I, bu we escaped. However, on Sunday, he got us again and continued exactly where he left off. He thinks artists should be well paid for theit work, but they should give their work away for free. I think I heard this argument before, as part of the New Economy or something. I’m still not sure how it’s supossed to work.
The Sunday concert was a Lou Harrison tribute. His work is so beautiful. The second half was all gamelan. It was performed on his personal gamelan that Bill Colvig built for him. It’s the first time that it’s been played without him. the last piece they played was the last piece he wrote. I think the gamelan lead may have been crying when the last gong sounded. Krys Bobrowski played in the ensemble. After the concert, she showed us her instrument and explained the notation. She told me to play in the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble, so I will.
We went out for Thai food with Krys, her girlfriend, her other friend who just made some MIDI controlled strobe thing for crystals (I hope to see this thing soon and better be able to describe it), Brenda Hutchinson and her partner, who I can’t remember the name of because I never remeber anyone’s name. Brenda was urging Ellen to move down here and work for the next four years at the Exploratorium.
Then some of us went to Srah Cahill’s after concert party. I sat down next to a guy who introduced himself and then added, “You’re of a generation where that name probably doesn’t mean anything.” okay. He talked about early digital synthesizers and samplers tho, and it was interesting. He gave me advice about school which included working hard and getting mad. Then he left and I saw Steed there, who conducted the Mills Contemporary Performance Ensemble, when I played in it and also conducted two of the Lou pieces in the first half of the concert. I told him that I enjoyed the concert and was surprised that he remembered me from the CPE and asked if I was still playing the tuba. I introduced him to Ellen and he knew he she was, but didn’t know her.
So the big question remains: will Ellen move down here? She clearly digs the social scene at least. And the economy is porbably better here than in Seattle (it’s certainly not worse). christi has offered to construct a shack in the back yard. (Ian says that the homeowners association will have a field day with the CCNRs. Maybe we could call it a gazebo.) The shack would lengthen our space to make it long enough for the Long String Instrument and would provide adequate protection against weather, rodents, theives, etc, while being able to be easily knocked down after two years. uhuh. Clearly, Christi’s dad needs to be involved in this project, or we’re doomed to have rats, water damage and burglary. and lawsuits from our neigbors.
Or we could move the whole operation to Jerry Brown’s warehouse. Krys was just part of a collective of people looking to purchase a shared space, but they couldn’t find anything. Some of those people have bought their own homes, but some have not. Krys is still looking. This space would not require a shack.


So I’ve been having trouble talking to people all week. It seems to be going ok and then suddenly, without my realizing it, things go horribly wrong. My conversations with people have all been social disasters. I have no idea whom I’ve offended (or how) and who I haven’t. Polly packed up really quickly after flute band pratice. Maybe I acted tweaky towards her? I dunno. It’s been a crappy week, but gradually improving since Monday.
Christi’s favorite composer, Ellen, arrived today. She’s staying the weekend and deciding whether or not she wants to rent our place. One of the people whom she was hoping to visit while here died yesterday while biking in Emeryville. It’s very shocking and sudden. She’s unhappy (obviously). He’s being put into the Chapel of the Chimes on Monday.
Ellen showed me some Protools stuff, especially about nudge and grid and one of those funnylooking tools at the top. She also showed me a tuning table and explained it. Tuning people talk about “lattices.” What they really mean is a N-dimensional array. In Just Intonation, you think of notes as fractions. Your starting pitch is 1/1. A “fifth” above that is 3/2. You can create lines of fractions all related by the same distance. Take 1/1 and multiple by 3/2, then take the results of that and multiply by 3/2 and then take the results of that and multiply… and so forth, constructing the circle of fifths out ot infinity. This creates a line of fractions all related by 3/2. Now take 1/1 and multiple by 5/4. Take the result of that and mutiple by 5/4 and so forth, creating another line. Now create another line with 7/3. (the fractions I’m picking aren’t good ones, but the concept holds.) Keep doing this with more fractions. After a while, you have N lines that all intersect at 1/1. Ok, now go to Line 1, Fraction 1 and start making lines through it based on all of your fractions. Then go to the next one. then the next one. And thus an N-dimensional fraction array can be constructed. It can be useful to visualize it terms of a plane, so that one plane may have the 3/2 fractions on the X axis and the 5/4 fractions on the Y axis. This is how tuning people think about it, visualizing it as a “lattice” or related planes. But people who have taken Linear Algebra or too much CS can think of it as an array. Unless I’ve got this completely wrong.
For whatever reason, it’s much easier to talk to people who are very unhappy. I seem to disturb them less.
We went to the Edge Fest. Originally, I was scheduled to play wineglass for Daniel Lentz tonight, but he cancelled, so the whole evening was Terry Riley. He’s cool. Many of the pieces were just intoned and very beautiful. Some of them were not just intoned and very beautiful. Every piece had a extra cool moment in it. In the first one, Cinco de Mayo (1997), the moment came when Sarah Cahill stood up and starting playing a note that involved action inside the piano. The second and third pieces, the Dream (1999) and Baghdad Highway (2003) were not clearly differentiated, since Riley didn’t pause for applause between them. But they were very cool because of the East Indian / Blues fusion he had. Especially on Baghdad Highway. He was playing a really awesome, funky blues bassline on the keyboard, while also playing (improving?) a bluesy-yet-eastern influenced melody and singing in a distinctly Indian style. It all worked together amazingly well. Ritmos and Melos (1993) had it’s best moment when the piece unexpectedly became very staccato. The piano, pizz violin and xylephone all started playing short notes in the same range. They may have been in unison. The change was wonderful, just springing up. The last piece, A Rainbow in Curved Air (1968) was excellent throughout. It has just been reowrked to be Just Intoned. I’m not tuning-savvy enough to say anythign about the tuning, other than the piece sounded really great. The best moments were when Willy Winant was playing jaw hard and when he was playing handdrums. He is an amazing percussionist. The level of musicianship on the whole concert was very high.
Before the concert, we watched a movie about Riley. Long sections of the movie previously appeared in other films that were shown in the Other Minds film festival last year, but much of it was new. They showed a much higher quality print of Music with Balls than Other Minds could get last year. Ohter parts, especially recent interviews were new. The whole movie was very male-dominated. Women musicians, especially Pauline Oliveros, were mentioned as important composers and people that Riley had worked with, but unlike several male composers, she wasn’t interviewed. Other women were given very short screen time. But I had no idea that LaMonte Young was a biker, as I had never seen a picture of him before.
After the concert, we went and got beer with Kris Brobrowski (I knwo I’ve misspelled her name) who had a bunch of leads on jobs for Ellen. Hopefully, some of them will work out.

Concert Review

Last night, I went to see two bands at 21 Grand. My primary motivation for picking this venue was that it’s a lot closer than the other two that were having shows. And it was awesome, so it was a good choice.
The first band was called Glass Bead Game. They’re a female-fronted quartet. the female front sings and plays guitar. Her male backband is drums, standup bass and a guy that doubles on violin and alto clarinet. Their songs are pop-y, but with definite new music influence. there was a high level of musicianship and the singer has a strong voice. some of the best playing came from the bassist who did some arco lines here and there. some of his bowings got didgeridu-like sounds and nice drones. the whole band had a nice improvisational feel, which may be because, as the singer explained, thay haven’t practiced together in a long time and not everyone knew all the songs. They were very entertaining and had good stage presence and banter. anyway, I would go see this band again. And I’m glad I saw them this time, since I was one of five people in the audience and I think christi and I were the only ones not personally known by anyone in the band.
The headline act was Peoples Bizarre. They play tunes based on Balkans and Eastern European folk songs. They have a stand up bass, a drum kit, an accordian, a cello, a violin and a guy that doubles on clarinet and bass clarinet. The clarinetest looks disturbing like The Onion columnist Jim Anchower, but played really well and wrote at least one of the songs, a nice mellow piece that mostly showcased the strings. the band was solidly good throughout, playing songs they composed. When they talked about the songs, they had a tendency to become academic, describing pentatonic patterns used in Albanian songs, for example. I appreciated the infomration, personally. They finished the set with a cover, which I thought was especially brilliant. The stock surf song that all surf bands play is actually a Hungarian folk song. So on their last piece, which had a section that either was that song or was very similar to it, their drummer switched over to a surf beat. It was awesome. I would definitely see this band again. In fact, I’m on their mailing list and I bought their record.
So I think I ought to strive to see a show (that I’m not playing in) at least once a week.