Preparing for Regents’ Lecturer presentation, Part 1

I have been busily preparing this weekend for the first of my UC Berkeley Regents’ Lecturer presentations:

Open Sound World (OSW) is a scalable, extensible programming environment that allows musicians, sound designers and researchers to process sound in response to expressive real-time control. This talk will provide an overview of OSW, past development and future directions, and then focus on the parallel processing architecture. Early in the development of OSW in late 1999 and early 2000, we made a conscious decision to support parallel processing as affordable multiprocessor systems were coming on the market. We implemented a simple scalable dynamic system in which workers take on tasks called “activation expressions” on a first-come first serve basis, which facilities for ordering and prioritization to deal with real-time constraints and synchronicity of audio streams. In this presentation, we will review a simple musical example and demonstrate performance benefits and limitations of scaling to small multi-core systems. The talk will conclude with a discussion of how current research directions in parallel computing can be applied to this system to solve past challenges and scale to much larger systems.

You can find out more details, including location for those in the Bay Area who may be interested in attending, at the official announcement site.


Much of the time for a presentation is spent making PowerPoint slides:

With slides out of the way, I can now turn to the more fun part, the short demos. This gives me an opportunity to work with TouchOSC for the iPad as a method for controlling OSW patches. We will see how that turns out later.

More Upcoming Shows: Instagon at the Luggage Store Gallery, and Mini-Woodstockhausen at Camp Happy

No sooner had concluded my recent performance with Reconnaissance Fly at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento than I find myself with two more shows before next Monday.

Tomorrow, I will be performing with Instagon at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. Instagon is an interesting group whose membership changes for every performance. In addition to founder and core member Lob Instagon, I will be joined by Mark Wilson (Conure), Lena Strayhorn, Martin from Vernian Process, and Alan Herrick (Nux Vomica). I think this description from the group’s bio sums things up well:

INSTAGON is a term coined to describe the SPONTANEOUS FACTOR, the essence of Chaos Theory… everything that happens in this universe changes instantaneously upon its creation… nothing stays the same… everything changes, and is gone in an instant… hence INSTAGON.

And then on Sunday afternoon (1PM-4PM), it’s off to Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains for a miniature revival of the Woodstockhausen. Woodstockhausen was the “tiny festival of esoteric music” that took place every year in the Santa Cruz mountains and then at the University of California Santa Cruz until its last year in 2003. We did plan a revival in 2007, which ended up getting rained out. This time we are having a more modest performance as part of the annual Camp Happy Boulder Creek, which will be going all weekend before and after the couple of hours where we take over with our “weird music.”

CatSynth videos: Cats react to iPhone Cat Piano

Today I specifically wanted to post some cat-and-iphone-music videos. While these don’t quite rise to the level of iggy investigating the iPad, they do make use of the popular “cat piano” app for iPhone.

From luke255 on YouTube:


“My cat Dennis has an interesting conversation with my iPhone!”

And another, from amb0 on YouTube:

The black cat in this video looks a bit like Luna.

I do of course have this particular iPhone app, and have even used it in some shows. Luna has shown very little interest in it, however. She is clearly jaded from gadgets making strange sounds (even cat-like sounds)

Preparing for Thursday’s performance: Luna’s video

Over the last few days, I have largely been absorbed by preparations for my next performance. This one includes a more ambitious element, a 10-minute video entitled 月神1 featuring clips of Luna as well as abstract elements reminiscent of experimental filmmakers such as Stanley Brakhage or Gerhard Richter. The video will serve as a backdrop for live electronic improvisation – it is mostly silent, though I did include some sound at various points so the audience could hear Luna’s voice.

Here are a few example frames from the video:



Some of the video clips of Luna were featured here on CatSynth in the past, including her chattering video, or playing with her blue fish toy. The abstract elements were done is a software package called Processing, a programming language for images, animation and interactions.

Musically, I will plan to focus on a mixture of the Evolver and the Octave CAT synthesizers, along with software on the iPhone and laptop. Indeed, this is the first time I will be using the CAT live, mostly because I am reluctant to move it too often.

Of course, this will only cover about one third of the full performance, so I will be drawing from my repertoire of electroacoustic improvisation to round out the remainder of the time. Although I reuse elements, there is always something new to discover in them.

For those in the Bay Area who may be interested in checking it out, the full information is below:

Full Moon Concert Series: Quickening Moon
Thursday, February 25, 8PM
Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market Street @ 6th Street, San Francisco.

The Full Moon Concert Series is an experimental music series offered by Outsound Presents, in partnership with the Luggage Store Gallery. Each concert explores the traditional lore of the Full Moon, and in January, the second annual “Quickening Moon” will feature new music springing to life. First up will be Amar Chaudhary in a solo electronica set (collaborating with his wonder-cat, Luna), followed by the world premiere of a new work for twelve improvisers by Polly Moller, entitled Genesis.

NAMM iPhone App

I am expecting to see several iPhone applications at NAMM, but this one is particularly handy as I start my tour:

It can be used to map the convention halls, search vendors by name, category and location, and “bookmark” them so you can see on the map where you might actually want to go (and thus avoid getting lost in the endless sea of guitars in the middle of the convention center). I was able to quickly put in some of my own priorities as well as those I have followed on matrixsynth and elsewhere.

Autumn sun, Midnight Monday, and Site Improvements

Well, I am back home at CatSynth HQ in California. That means back home with Luna, of course:

Although she is calm and poised in this photo, it's been all purrs and cuddling today, even while I try to work. Not that anyone is complaining.


Today we enjoyed what I traditionally called the “August sun”, that really deep yellow sunlight that gives everything, but especially green leaves, a rich yellow coloring, that feels warm even as the air cools down. It is difficult to capture in a digital photo, but here is one attempt:

I think I should change “August sun” to “Autumn sun”, since the phenomenon extends well into September and even October. And not only here on the west coast. New York was exceptionally warm and getting plenty of “Autumn/August” sun this past week.


I have been working on several improvements for this site, including upgrading our software. As usual, a few things break in the process (e.g., comment displays were a little off, the “tag search” featured on the highways page and elsewhere was completely broken, our “cats synthesizers music art opinion” slogan was missing, etc.). Those are mostly fixed, and now we can proceed to making actual improvments.

Actually, the main change we need to make is in our hosting service. The good folks at A Plus net (the same people who messed up our domain name and left us stranded in the CatSynth FEMA trailer for a week) let us know that we have exceeded our CPU usage limits (not storage or bandwidth) and will need to switch to a more expensive hosting plan – all in a message from the friendly-sounding “abuse at aplus dot net.” So we could simply upgrade our plan, but since our lease is up on October 7 anyway, it might be a good time to shop around for an alternative. We welcome suggestions from our readers on good and bad experiences with hosts – please leave a comment or contact us. Of course, we have to act quickly on this matter…

CT 11, unfinished projects

Highway 11 in Connecticut is a north-south freeway connecting a major route from Hartford to, well, nowhere. So one moment, you're happily traveling south on a nice country highway, and then the next moment, you better exit before it turns into a large dirt track and ditch. Or at least that's the impression I get, having never been there.

It's quite dramatic, as can be seen in these aerial photos from Greg Amy (we saw a few of his photos before when visiting Yale and New Haven, CT).

It kinda looks like someone just stopped building the highway one day, and forgot to come back and finish. The story, as described on Kurumi's website and other sources, is that the project simply ran out of funding, and then ran into opposition, though it sounds like plans are now in the works to complete highway 11 to the New London area.

However, the details of CT 11 aren't really the focus of this article, but rather it serves as a metaphor for the many unfinished projects here at CatSynth. These include:

Finishing my album 2 1/2. There are a few tracks left from this project last Februrary that need to be replaced before releasing the album. I still think I'd doable by late November, but so far I haven't been able to work much on it during this period of “free time.” Technical problem with my “studio PC laptop” provide at least one excuse.

Although I have been doing work all along on Open Sound World, mostly to support my own music, it's been quite a while since I have done a full-blown release of the software. It's hard to feel motivated when most of the feedback reads like this. However, the core software (minus the old user interface) is really solid and musically useful, and I do plan to announce a new direction for the project “real soon.”

I need to do some revisions to my professional/artistic website. At the very least I need to get the performance schedule updated – fortunately, it is already up at MySpace. The goal is to bring it more in harmony with CatSynth and rest of my websites.

I purchased one of the last Kittenettik Fyrall kits from Ciat Lonbarde, but have yet to assemble it. I guess I've been waiting to find the right “space”, both literally and figuratively, to do this. If I get on it soon, I might have it done in time for Woodstockhausen.

And of course there are several large articles waiting to be completed and published here at CatSynth, particularly CD reviews, film discussions, and travelogues.

But then again, maybe it's not so bad that I'm spending time looking for employment.