Weekend Cat Blogging #116: Luna in stained glass 2007

For the past three summers, I have photographed Luna basking in the glow of the morning light through our stained-glass window. You can see her previous photos here, from 2005 and 2006. Her new stained-glass photos are below:


These were actually taken on separate days, one in July and one in August, which demonstrates not only Luna's fondness for this spot of colored light, but her photogenic nature. I am very proud of her in these photos.

Weekend Cat Blogging #116 is being hosted by our friends at Belly Timber. I really like the new graphics.

The Bad Kitty Cat festival of Chaos will be held by Pet and the Bengal Brats at Pet's Garden Blog.

The venerable Carnival of the Cats will be hosted at The Scratching Post. I like this “busniess case for kindness” thing…

And of course Friday Ark #153 will be where it always is, at The Modulator.

Bad Kitty Chaos Festival #4: The Round up

&cWell, it's Sunday afternoon and time for the round-up of the Bad Kitty Chaos Festival #4. The theme is Music and Cats, and Luna starts us off with a “CatSynth pose” next to a soon-to-be-bent Casio SK-10:

Meanwhile, Willow from sammawow has her own keyboard shot, where she channels the Ramones. Gotta love those 70s haircuts. We will probably feature some more photos of Willow as part of our regular “CatSynth pic” series.

Luna doesn't really play much, she mostly just likes to hang in the studio, as we've seen many times in the past:

For Gree, music is about purrrs. Purrs can indeed be a wonderful musical sound, there are several electronic treatments of purrs in the album I am currently working on entitled 2 1/2.

Next we take a little detour from art towards science. Living the Scientific Life asks the question “Can Animals Predict Impending Death?”, and features the much discussed case of Oscar who seemed to predict when residents at a nursing home were near death.

Oscar is also the subject of this week's contribution by TherapyDoc.

More music (or “mewsic”) can be found at the home of Kashim and Othello, where the boys try their own version of a faux reggae classic.

Meanwhile Victor Tabbycat presents Fursday along with Bonnie Underfoot.

Those Bengals are back, with all the Bengal cuteness, over at Pet's Garden Blog.

Mouse takes on the competition in this slideshow at This, That and The Other Thing (who hosted Carnival of the Cats last weekend). Don't worry Mouse, the toys are no match for you.

“When you?ve gotten bored of attacking your toys, there?s always your own foot to play with…”, as we are reminded at Dophin's Dock. Sage advice.

Have you ever considered a cat's whistkers? Well, you should. And this contribution from the Magick Cat Cauldron will help introduce you this amazing piece of feline machinery.

Samantha says thank you to everyone who helped with her surprise party. Sounds like it was a smashing success.

At Self Help for Cats, Herman Panther likes to sleep cuddled with his humans, “like a lover.” Reminds me of a bit of “kitty live” with our own little panther here, who loves to snuggle up in bed on my left side and fall asleep purring.

Aloysius joins our cats-and-music theme with his epic poem. Sing, Great Cat, the tale of Aloysius, mighty hunter of the line of Pangur Ban!.

Gemini sets off a bit of an argument at Chey's Place. Maybe time for her own blog? After all, there is no such thing as too many cat blogs.

Over at the Cat Realm, Karl dares us all with a challenge. Visit them to find out more. Oh, by the way, nice shades!


Finally, Biscuit has not come home, and Megan and bad kitty cats are losing hope that she will return. This is really sad news for our friends who started this “festival” – we hope that she does defy the odds and return, but our sympathies are with them now.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's Bad Kitty Cat Festival of Chaos. Next weekend, we'll be hosting the old favorite Weekend Cat Blogging.

Bad Kitty Chaos Festival #4

Luna and I welcome everyone to participate in Bad Kitty Chaos Festival, fourth edition. As Megan suggests, we are having an optional theme of Cats and Music:

To participate, you can [strinke] use the handy submission form, or leave us a comment right here on this post. We'll have the big roundup this Sunday!

UPDATE: Megan and the Bad Kitty Cats have another crisis on their hands. Biscuit is missing. We hope she is safe and comes home soon. In the meantime, please leave a comment instead of the submission form.

And lest we forget, it is also Weekend Cat Blogging #113 over at masak-masak, where Ms G the “elusive ginger kitty” hosts. Samantha and Tigger host this weekend's Carnival of the Cats; and of course the The Friday Ark is boarding at The Modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging #112 and Chaos #3: Unemployment Lifestyle

We at CatSynth are still getting used to this whole unemployment thing. For me, this is a very novel experience, not having work. However, there is a lot that cats can teach us about not working:

Our friends Kashim and Othello have a “mess” theme for the Bad Kitty Cat Festival of Chaos, and we have a recent pic that sums up both messiness and idleness:

I leave laundry on the floor, and Luna takes a nap on it. A little guilty non-working pleasure for both of us.

On more serious note our friends at the Bad Kitty Cats are dealing with more difficulties, as Braum has fallen ill and Zed Monster had an accident that severely injured his tail. We hope they both make a full recovery.

Of course, there is more feline fun with a Simpsons theme, D'oh!, at The Weekend Cat Blogging #112 roundup with Kate and Puddy. (I'm always struck how similar Puddy and Luna look.) And also check out Friday Ark , where we are late as always, and Carnival of the Cats at This, That and the Other thing. I think that's it for now.

CatSynth pic: kittennettik fyrall

It's been a little while since I've posted an actual cat-and-synth photo. Here we have a kitty posing with a “kittennettik” instrument called the fyrall. From the website:

fyrall is a multo-jungo-world dialer, it is a freak. Within, it has three electronic wheels, one made out of wigglers, one made out of digital counting temples, and the third reconnects the others. at every move it may be in a state of internal paradox. it is always looking for a state of rest and it can never find it. Experimenting on the fyrall is fun because new rewirings will cause it to spasm in the weirdest ways.

The fyrall and the other kittennetiks use chaotic cicruits for sound synthesis and control. The creator of these instruments has some specs and papers, which are, well, quite interesting. See for yourself.

My interest is definitely piqued. However, I might try looking at one of the “paper circuits” they provide before considering any of the full-blown kits.







The Logistic Function and its Discontents

This article explores the mathematical and more specifically the musical products of a very simple equation. In that exploration, we touch not only mathematics and music, but art, architecture, nature and philosophy; so those who are usually squeamish about mathematics are encouraged to read on.

Most readers who made it through high school algebra should be familiar with quadratic functions and the parabolas described by these functions on the x-y plane. For those who have forgotten, a parabola looks like this:

Parabolas are seen not only in high-school math classes, but often in nature as well. Among the most exquisite uses of parabolae can be found in the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. I had the priveledge of seeing many of his buildings and spaces in Barcelona, including this magnificent example of parabolic architecture:

But (as usual), I digress. For the remainder of this article, we will focus on a particular class of these functions, called logistic functions:

f(x) = ax(x-1)

Logistic functions have roots and 0 and 1, and describe a downward facing parabola (or “water-shedding parabola” in the parlance of my high-school pre-calculus teacher). The peak of this parabola depends on the value of a, and as we will soon see, this is the least of the interesting properties dependent on a.

Now, instead of simply graphing the function on an x-y plane, apply the output of the function back as the next input value in a process known as iteration:

xn+1 = axn(xn1)

This is a fancy way of saying “do the function over and over again.” What is interesting is that for different values of a, one will get different results. For low values (where a is less than one), repeated iterations get closer and closer to zero. If a is between 1 and 3, the it will end up at some value between zero and one. Above 3, things get more interesting. The first range bounces around between two values, as characterized below:

As a increases, eventually the results start bouncing among four values, and then eight, then sixteen, and so on. These “doubling periods” get closer and closer together (those interested in this part of the story are encouraged to look up the Feigenbaum constant). Beyond about 3.57 or so, things get a little crazy, and rather than settling into a period behavior around a few points, we obsserve what is best described as “chaotic behavior,” where the succession of points on the logistic function varies unpredictably.

It is not random in the same way that we usually think of (like rolling dice or using the random-number generators on our computers), but has rather intricate patterns within – those interested in learning more are encouraged to look up “chaos.” This chatoic behavior can be musically interesting, and I have used the chaotic range of the logistic function in compositions, such as the following except from my 2000 piece Spin Cycle/Control Freak.

One can more vividly observe the behavior I describe above as a graph called a bifurcation diagram. As the values is a increase (a is labelled as “r” in this graphic I shamelessly but legally ripped off from wikipedia), one can oberve vertically the period doubling where the logistic map converges on a single value, then bounces between two points, then four, then eight, and so on, until the onset of chaos at approximatley 3.57.

There are tons of books and online articles on chaos, the logistic function, and its bifurcation diagram. Thus, it's probably best that interested readers simply google those phrases rather than suffer through more of my own writing on the topics. However, I do have more to say on my musical interpretations of these concepts.

Given my experience in additive synthesis and frequency-domain processing (if I have lost you, then skip to the musical excerpt at the end, it's pretty cool), I of course viewed this map as a series of frequency spectra that grow more or less complex based on a. I implemented this idea in Open Sound World. using the logstic function and its bifurcation diagram to drive OSW's additive synthesizer functions. The results were quite interesting, and have been used in several of my live performances. I use my graphics tablet to sweep through different values of a on the horizontal axis as in the bifurcation diagram:


Photo by Tiffany Worthington

The resulting sound is the synthesis of frequences based on the verticle slice through the diagram.

Click here to listen to an example.

In the periods of chaos, the sound is extremely complex and rich. Below 3.57 and in the observable “calm periods,” the sound is simpler, containing on a few components forming somethin akin to an inharmonic chord. In true chaotic fashion, small movements along the horizontal axis result in dramatic differences in the spectrum and the timbre. The leads to a certain “glitchy” quality in the sound – one can practice control over time to make smooth transitions and find interesting “islands of stability” within the timbral space.

I have used this simple but evocative computer instrument in several performances, including my 2006 Skronkathon performance as well as my work last year with the Electron SAlon series. I have really only scratched the surface the possibilities with this concept, and hope to have more examples int the future.







getting ready for tomorrow's performance, part 1

Well, it's time to stop fooling around with pictures and get back to using Open Sound World for what is was intendend, making sound. In preparation for my performance tomorrow at the Skronkathon, I have selected a couple of patches that have worked well for me in the past. They are quite robust, and provide a variety of musical gestures and timbres that complement the sound generated by Ron Lettuce on his PVC wind instrument.

First there is my sinusoidal timbre space based on bifurcation diagrams from classic chaotic functions, controlled using my Wacom graphics tablet. If that sounds really complicated and weird, just accept for the moment that it sounds really cool, and that I will post a more in-depth article about it along with sound clips in the near future. The second patch uses a WX7 wind controller to control a set of resonance models and the excitations used to drive them – essentially, a metallic chamber that one plays like a wind instrument (clarinet, saxophone, etc.). Both of these programs were used in my performances with ELSA Productions last year.

Before today, I had been a bit worried about using my Dell laptop for the performance, as it had a tendency to start running the fan at full blast and slowing to a crawl, especially when running a CPU-intensive program like OSW or Emulator X2. Things would get even worse running a program like Poser or Bryce that is both CPU and graphics intensive. I installed the fan control software and cleaned out the internal fans and heat sink as described in this article and others, and while this has helped, it hasn't cured the problem, particularly with respect to graphics. I fear the root cause of the problem is simply that the laptop, which is nearly three years old, is simply nearing retirement.

In any case, I am also the planning to use the Evolver and the feedback+filter technique I described in a previous article. I generally have both a hardware synth and computer running simultaneously during live performances, so that if the computer and software crash I still have something to play. This has paid off on numerous occasions.

And that's pretty much it. It doesn't sound like a lot, a couple of very focused synthesis techniques, but by listening and playing them like traditional instruments, I expect to get a ful musical performance – I often advise such a “simple” approach to live electronic performance when asked by other musicians.

So that's it for now. I'm off to San Francisco for my one “rehearsal,” taking a leisurely trip up Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay and then cutting over to get to the city. More later.