Weekend Cat Blogging #269: Entropy

Another weekend has arrived, and with it Weekend Cat Blogging.

Here we see Luna in the studio in an embarrassing state of disarray. July was a rather busy month – actually most of them are, but this one was a bit different. Between the Outsound Music Summit and all of the associated rehearsals, the various photo shoots and my new job that started last week, there hasn’t been a lot of time for much else. In particular, the studio has a victim of entropy with a lot of equipment being moved out of place for use in shows (like the keyboard and cables) or to make way for new items (the E-MU modules in the back of the picture are being moved because the space is being taken up by the new Pro Tools HD system, but I need them still to be easily accessible). And then there is the never ending torrent of paper. Some of it useful, like the scores from Reconnaissance Fly, the Cardew Choir and Conduct Your Own Orchestra night that can be seen behind Luna. Others, like just about any piece of paper sent by any financial institution, are mostly useless. But they accumulate as one sorts them out.

The new job has also meant less time at home, and less time with Luna. I suspect she spends a fair amount of our time apart napping. It is a moment to reflect on the month that has past, and how it was a chance to focus on things that were of particular importance – my cat, music, art, city life, friends. Hopefully, after the initial change and chaos, things will be begin to come back into balance.

We have also been tardy is visiting our fellow WCB participants over the past couple weeks, and will do our best to make up for that this month.

As for today, we have to start cleaning up a bit.


Weekend Cat Blogging #269 is hosted by Pam at Sidewalk Shoes, with a nice photo of Smudge in the yard.

Carnival of the Cats #333 will be up this Sunday at One Cats Nip.

The monthly Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos will be at Mind of Mog.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Quickening Moon Concert

Sometimes things linger undone for a quite a while. And that is the case with reviewing the Quickening Moon Concert, which I am finally getting around to doing as the next Full Moon concert is about to happen. Basically, the process goes like this. I wait a few weeks to look at the video of my own performance with a fresh perspective. I review the videos. Then post them online. Then a few more weeks pass as life intervenes. So here were are, finally getting to it many “moons” later. Memories of course fade over time, but even going by my own recollections, there is much to recall fondly. Bottom line is that it was a really good performance, in fact I would consider it one of my best solo electronic sets to date. This was in no small part to the advance preparation, but also to the audience, which filled to the Luggage Store Gallery to standing-room only capacity!

This was also one of the larger setups, featuring the Octave CAT vintage analog synthesizer, E-MU Proteus 2000, DSI Evolver, Korg Kaoss Pad, a Mac laptop running Open Sound World and Max/MSP, and the Monome controller, along with an array of my folk instruments from China and India. Even the iPhone made an appearance as an instrument.


[Click images to enlarge.]

Of course, the highlight of the set was the premier of 月伸1, featuring improvised electronic music set against a video of Luna. Musically, I focused on the Octave CAT (seemed appropriate) with the other electronic instruments in a supporting role. You can see a full video of the performance of this piece below:

The music was improvised live, with some prepared guidelines. In this way, it was reminiscent of the live music performances from old silent films. I kept the music relatively sparse and maintained the focus on the visual elements, which moved back and forth between clips of Luna and abstract visual elements (you can read more about the video production here). The audience clearly responded to the video of Luna and the music, and their laughter at very points reminded just how funny a piece this was. It was easy to lose sight of that in the hours of very detailed and very technical preparation, and one of the delights of playing in front of a live audience. I also heard from people that could tell they were able to sense the affection for Luna that came through in the video, though the long shots and the breaks in the otherwise silent video where her voice came through.

The balance of the set leading up to 月伸1 featured various combinations of electronic and acoustic instruments. The monome was my main controller in several of the other pieces, including the opener that focused and live sample loops and patterns from the folk instruments.

I played the instruments live, and then replayed the samples in various patterns on the monome to create complex timbral and rhythmic patterns. I also used the monome in a later piece to control some very simple but musically interesting sound synthesis, as can be seen in this video.

The lights on the monome are visually compelling, but also provide a link for the audience between the actions (which are really just button pressing) and the music.

Several of the pieces including strong rhythmic elements, which helped propel the set forward – I even saw at least one person “grooving out” to one piece.

I replayed several of the pieces (but not the video) in another performance a few days later at the Meridian Gallery. I certainly hope I will have an opportunity to the video again as well.


My performance was followed by the premier of Polly Moller’s Genesis. Genesis is “a musical experiment in which the M-theory of the 11-dimensional universe combines with the inward and outward spiral of the Western magical tradition.” The 11 member ensemble represent the 11 dimensions (which include Universal Time, the three spatial dimensions, and seven others) who combine to bring the “New Universe” into being, as portrayed by Matt Davignon on drum machines.


[Photo by Tom Djll.]

Polly Moller conducted the piece, not from the traditional podium in front of the ensemble, but rather by walking in an inward and outward spiral among the performers. As she walks by, wind chimes in hand, different performers enter or exit. As the New Universe comes into being, Matt Davignon’s electronic performance emerges, culminating in an extended solo as the 11 performers representing the “parent dimensions” fade out.

Quite fortuitously, someone turned my video camera to face the ensemble, so I was able to capture some video of the performance. In the clips below, one can see the conducting by walking in a spiral, as well as parts of the New Universe solo.

Reconnaissance Fly at Studio 1510, Oakland

A few photos and thoughts from last Friday’s Reconnaissance Fly performance at Studio 1510 in Oakland.

I knew that Studio 1510 had a great acoustic piano, which I wanted to take advantage of particularly for our piece Emir Scamp Budge which features an extended jazz piano solo. But it turns that they also now have an actual Rhodes Stage Piano Mark II. I could pass up the opportunity to appropriate it for our set. Here is the Rhodes with the E-MU Proteus 2000 and Korg Kaos pad conveniently perched on top:

Together with the acoustic piano and MIDI keyboard for a rather massive keyboard setup:

Click the above picture to enlarge it and spot the cat!

Here we are getting ready to play the first note of our opening piece “Small Chinese Gong”.


[Photo by Tom Djll.]

The set went well from that point. I have not yet heard the recording, but I thought the first piece, as well as “One Should Never” (which was about as tight as I have heard us play it), “Ode to Steengo” – with the interplay of the text, the Kaos Pad, odd drum beats and Tim’s live electronic processing – and “Emir Scamp Budge” went particularly well.

Matt Davignon opened for us with a solo set featuring a live performance on drum machine and effects processors.

This was nominally a performance marking the release of his new CD Living Things, although none of the pieces in the performance were actually from the CD. But that was OK. I particularly remember the last piece in the set for a variety of reasons, including but limited to the subtle effects in the music.

Thanks to Scott Looney and Studio 1510 for hosting us!

Reconnaissance Fly at KUSF

Here is the first photo of the current Reconnaissance Fly lineup, taken after our performance on KUSF today.


[Photo by Bryan Chandler]

Thanks to our host Bryan Chandler for the photo, and of course for the opportunity to play.

Here is a photo I took at the start of the set.

You can see the score for our opening piece “Small Chinese Gong” laid out behind the keyboard. This is one of the graphical scores that I have mentioned in a previous review. This is also the piece that fell victim to the “rebellious blue cord” that left the performance bass-less. Fortunately we were able to correct that and the rest of the set went quite smoothly.

You can listen to an audio archive of the performance. I thought the later pieces, in particular “Canada”, “Ode to Steengo” and “An Empty Rectangle” came out quite well. We are definitely looking forward to our live performance tonight at Studio 1510.

For those interested in the technological aspects: I was using my trusty Korg mini-Kaos Pad, E-MU Proteus 2000 (with Vintage Pro and Mo’Phatt), and a Voce Electric Piano module. Tim Walters was also performing live custom electronics programmed in Supercollider.

Acxel Resynthesizer and Rhodes Chroma

From Kevin Kelly of The Audio Playground Synthesizer Museum, via matrixsynth:

The Technos Acxel is an interesting synthesizer, based on manipulation of spectra in the frequency domain. This is something several of us have been doing in software for quite a while.

In addition to the Acxel and the Rhodes Chroma, I see an E-MU EMAX in the background.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Desaturation

Our first Weekend Cat Blogging of 2010 begins in grayscale:

Luna is on her favorite beanbag chair in a relatively clean studio. Nearby is a crate full of old audio interfaces – it seems we have quite a few E-MU, M-Audio and Digidesign interfaces, some in various states of disrepair or obsolescence.  We rely on one or another of these portable interfaces for live shows.

Meanwhile, Luna drifts off to sleep…


Weekend Cat Blogging will be hosted by Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at Mind of Mog.

The monthly Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos will be hosted on Sunday by Samantha and The Orange Kitty at Life from a Cat’s Perspective.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging #231: at home in the studio

A day when I was feeling mildly ill turned into an incredibly creative and productive day, including lots of time in the office/studio.

Here we see Luna sitting on the ledge that borders the studio area. In the background one of our main workstations, with Pro Tools running on the computer, and the trusty E-MU Proteus 2000 module off to the side (it’s back in its rack after the recent Reconnaissance Fly performance). One of several photographs by our friend Luxe hangs in the back.

The studio ledge is the highest point in CatSynth HQ, which makes it attractive to cats. There is also another workspace against the ledge where I often sit, so she likes to be nearby.

Note that the duck is actually musical instrument that I have used in several live shows :).

I do sometimes feel a little nervous when Luna gets up the ledge, given how high it is above the floor below. But I am putting my faith in her feline balance and dexterity. Eventually she comes done into the space itself to curl up for a nap, often on her favorite beanbag chair:


Weekend Cat Blogging #231 is being hosted by Diamond and Tristan over at digicats. Do check out their cool graphic featuring another black cat with green eyes and a human “cat woman” companion.

The Carnival of the Cats will be going to Nikita’s Place this Sunday.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.