RPM finished!

Well, it's been a pretty intense few days finishing up the RPM challenge, but we made it! Finished recording on Feburary 27, did some very cursory mastering and CD artwork on Feburary 28, and today, March 1, assembled the finished goods:

The final title was indeed “2 1/2”, and the final track list was as follows:

01 Prologue – Jerry Gray (1951)
02 Fragments in Gray
03 Twista Dilemma
04 Trieste 116
05 Four Days
06 ghanaplasticity
07 microkitty
08 RPM Filler Track
09 pique
10 Happy Machine
11 Epilogue – Count Basie (1953)

Musically, it's a fairly mixed result, some tracks were exceptional, others need a fair amount of work, which I can do at my leisure outside of the RPM challenge. But it is still a fairly good result for what was really just 2 1/2 weeks of solid work amidst the various other dramas of this past February…

At 11:30 this morning, I mailed it out from the post office in Scotts Valley, California. And with this simple act, it is done.

You can read some more detail of the last week on my rpm blog. As for me, it is time to rest.

WCB and RPM collide this weekend

While the RPM challenge continues to dominate life here at CatSynth, there's always time for Weekend Cat Blogging. Indeed, Luna has been helping out quite a bit in the studio the past few days:

Take a break with us from the struggles of art to visit Kate, Bustopher and Harmon who are hosting Weekend Cat Blogging 90.

RPM update: Trieste 116

Yes, this is the second RPM post in a row, but the project has been dominating my outside-of-work life the last few days, at least the parts not taken up with eating, drinking, sleeping and playing with Luna.

Even though I didn't spend a huge amount of time this evening, I think I produced my best track to date, as I described earlier on my RPM blog:

Well, this is the first recording I have made for this project that felt truly inspired – even as I was working on it, I had the feeling “this is going to be really good.” So even if I never release the RPM album to the public as a whole, this piece will be released in some form no matter what.

It is called Trieste 116, and splices together an improvisation done with my favorite custom patch “116” on the DSI Evolver, with excerpts from a live recording of a jazz combo with pennywhistle at Cafe Trieste in San Francisco (yes, that's the famous Beatnik hangout). The Evolver patch features non-linear feedback and filtering only (i.e., no traditional oscillators), and has an unstable flute-like quality that I attempt to blend with the pennywhistle in the Cafe Trieste clips. It all works together, at least for me. Additionally, the track opens with a quiet recording of a Dixieland band, an element I wanted to use somewhere in the album as a New Orleans tribute.

The Cafe Trieste recording as well as the Dixieland band were obtained from the freesound project and released on the Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.

Once again, a demo track is available to RPM participants (do any RPM participants read this forum?) via the Sample Engine, just look for “Amar” in the Author column. One can also get a pretty good idea by listening to the October 14, 2006 podcast, which also featured an improvisation using my Evolver patch “116.”

UPDATE: Trieste 116 is up on the front page of RPM today!

I also recommend checking out “Angie Fights Crime”, I had coincidentally looked at them yesterday, too.

RPM continues

I actually had a very productive day working on the RPM Challenge. I now have three “completed” tracks, one half-baked, and the prologue and epilogue tracks done. However, that is only about 12 minutes, one third of the required length (35 minutes). Here's a little from the latest RPM blog entry (and this one is relatively optimistic):

Well, it looks like I managed to finish another track for tonight, it's entitled “ghanaplasticity”, named for the demo on a hacked E-MU Morpheus that I used as the original source. I then imported the source into Emulator X2 and performed it using the keyboard to process the original in a variety of ways.

Compared to the previous tracks, this one was remarkably quick to produce, and quite a pleasure to create. It was more like a live performance. I can listen to the seemingly strange timbres and rhythms and intuitively find something to enjoy in it, much like I do in abstract visual art.

So this one feels right, while the more structured tracks feel half baked at this time, which is why things have dragged on this long. So the question becomes, do I give up on structure and composition in order to “get this thing done?”

Other RPM participants can hear the works in progress using the Sample Engine. Everyone else will have to wait until at least next podcast, which is probably this coming Sunday.

RPM update

I haven't posted an update lately on my RPM challenge album. Needless to say, it hasn't been going all that well, you can read some musings/whinings on my rpm blog.

I'm hoping that getting restarted with a new more deliberate overall sketch of the album structure and energy, and a return to more experimental timbral-based tracks similar to my recent music for Dorian Grey, which is in a lot of ways the most inspired piece of done in a while. Can it save RPM? We'll have to wait and see…

Dorian Grey's Box: Art Installation at Pajaro Valley Arts Council

My sound art installation described in previous posts is now on display at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council as part of the current exhibition “The Human Condition: The Artists’ Response.” The exhibition is “an artistic articulation of the connection between
the individual and world challenges, the exhibit
brings together artists responding to political and social tensions in today?s world”, and features 22 artists (according to my best count). The pieces in the exhibi are all of great quality when compared to recent gallery exhibits I have visited. Many are overtly political or social, dealing with many of darker subjects in current events and recent history. Some are quite realistic, others more abstract.

Dorian Grey’s Box, the piece on which I collaborated with local artist Michael Carson, is one of the more abstract in the exhibition. The main element is a large black cube with newspaper clippings in various patterns and sections of redder coloring. Surrounding the main cube are several small wooden “alphabet blocks”, some of which have also been painted black.

The sound (my contribution to the piece) is on a continuous loop that visitors can hear via headphones. The material is primarily ambient noise, gitches, percussive effects and sounds that only “hint” at speaking voices, arranged in a collage inspired by the sculptural part of the piece.

]The exhibition continues through March 4, and I strongly encourage anyone in the greater Bay Area during this time to check it out. It’s great to see such quality contemporary art locally (Santa Cruz-Watsonville-Monterey area).

I have posted an excerpt from the sound installation on the podcast for those who are interested in the piece but unable to visit in person.

Preparing for January art installation: Part 2

Looks like things are good to go for the upcoming art installation at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council. We took the sound track that I produced last saturday as is ( see part 1) and the entire piece is being installed the gallery today. It's nice when something comes together without a lot of stress or last-minute scrambling and compromise. It's also a welcome change to have something that “presents itself” via pre-recorded matieral – again, no stress, no preparing for live computer problems, etc.

The exhibition, entitled The Human Condition: The Artists' Response will be at the PVAC gallery in Watsonville, CA from January 10 through March 4.

New Podcast: Geeetar Improv 1

At a christmas party last monday, I participated in a free jam with some of my musician friends – I played a bit of guitar during the jam and that gave me the impetus (could I really use “kick in the tuchus” two posts in a row?) to get my own recently-acquired guitar in shape. In particular, it needed stringing – fortunately, there are plenty of online guides to guitar stringing and how to do it well.

Now that I have a working guitar, I have been noodling around a bit the last few days, mostly playing through effects and other signal processing on the computer. This release is a short improvisation I did with the guitar and various effects on the E-MU 1616m. Like most of my releases, it is fairly experimental/abstract, but it does contain a fair number of guitar cliches in the mix.

Preparing for January art installation: Part 1

I am collaborating on an art installation for an upcoming exhibition in January at the The Pajaro Valley Arts Council Gallery: the piece has both a visual (sculptural) component and a sound component, the latter being my contribution.

I've been doing bits of it over the holiday break, but finally gave myself the proverbial kick in the tuchus to complete at least a full draft today. I am making things simpler by using only sounds on the computer, not external synthesizers – and also focused on two sound libraries I purchased last year but have made only limited use of until now. The libaries focus on highly processed organic sounds (animals, environment, etc.) and modified analog synthesizers (including some circuit-bend instruments).

The “composition process” was simply auditioning various sounds from this library and assembling them into a continuous sequence – a collage – that works with the visuals. The material is primarily ambient noise, gitches, percussive effects and sounds that only “hint” at speaking voices.

Next step, after any additional changes and mastering, will be to put it together with the sculpture, presumably sometime next week…

After radio performance

It seems like the radio performance went well, and it was a good experience. In addition to my live performance of the Wooden Fish, we played two selections of the CD and I participated in an interview with regular WTUL electronic-music host Conner Richardson and guest-host-for-the-day Kristine Burns. The show actually took place outside in a courtyard, with our audio feed relayed to the studio via internet:

A small number of people from the conference, as well as one or two other curious indviduals, did stop in the courtyard to watch for a bit.

The setup and soundcheck went smoothly, and as can be seen below, the rig was nicely laid out:

Thanks to Kathryn Hobgood of Tulane University Communications for these photos.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the live performance, nothing went particularly wrong, and Conner noted it was quite an unusual piece. The interview, conducted mostly by Kristine Burns, focused on the pieces themselves, both the musical ideas behind them and the technology used to realize them – of course we talked about the CD – also about my musical background, including my having studied with Ruth Schonthal. Because the next participant was a no show, we had more time for both discussion and music.

Hopefully I will get a recording of the event, and if so will make a link available here.