Yom Kippur 2017, Meditations and Reflections

Star of David

Fast, reflect, and question. These are our personal mandates on Yom Kippur this 5778 (2017). Fasting is pretty self-explanatory – I don’t do it every year, but this year it feels important to do so. Sam Sam does not have to fast. The questioning centers around “what does it mean to be Jewish in this time and place”, an especially complicated and treacherous question for those of us who are secular Jews. Yom Kippur is described in Leviticus, the one book of the Torah that I have not been able to get through in its entirety (mostly because it’s extremely dense and about as riveting as the phone book). But I still celebrate independent of that, based on heritage and family tradition. You are a Jew if your mother is a Jew, end of story. I extend this rule to my cats.

Sam Sam enjoys a snack on Yom Kippur
[Sam Sam is exempt from fasting]

For an excellent read on the topic of secular Jews on Yom Kippur, especially secular Jews committed to activism and social justice, please read this article by Dania Rajendra [Full disclosure: Dania is my sister-in-law.]. For me, part of my plan for this holiday was to compose a track based on sounds from a short-wave-radio synth module an, idea I formulated during a reflective moment last night.


[Cover image taken during Yom Kippur 2016, see this article.]

The track was recorded as a meditation of sorts, getting into a heightened, focused state while turning the knobs of the Eowave short-wave module, tuning into stations that aren’t there. The other “master” of the track was the Wiard/Richter Noisering, which I let control the Rossum Electro-Music Morpheus module. Both focus on chance and working with elements very much outside my control. I also did not want to spend much time outside the meditation-recording process itself. There is no editing save for some tapering at the beginning and end of the track and the obligatory EQ and compression.

I am both doing too much, and too little at the same time. I can’t save all the shelter cats; I can help everyone suffering through one disaster after another in North America and Carribean. But I can try to make a little bit of a difference in each. When I focus on all things “CatSynth”, sometimes my music suffers – I’m overdue booking new gigs for my band CDP and I do feel a need to atone for that. In short, the challenge in 5778 and beyond is to find a way of doing all the things that matter most while minimizing time and resources on the things that don’t. No easy task for someone who tends to say “yes” to everything, hates to disappoint others, and has a difficult time letting go of things. But that last one is another aspect of this holiday, and so it is as good a time to begin as any…

re:BOUND, visual and performance art at Live Worms Gallery

Two weeks ago I participated in a two-day opening with visual artist Yong Han and performance artist Jacqueline Loundsbury Live Worms Gallery in San Francisco. Together, we created an experience combining sculpture and two-dimensional artwork with music and performance art.

The overall show was anchored by Yong Han’s sculptures, paintings and drawings. The sculptures, which range widely in size, use a combination of metal, ceramic, beeswax and other materials. The two dimensional pieces were a combination of ink drawings and paint.


[Image courtesy of Yong Han.]

There are elements that are common in his work across media, including graceful geometric curves and lines with organic shapes and patterns seamlessly integrated. Indeed, some of the two-dimensional works appear to the shadows of his sculptures.

What particularly works for me in these pieces, whether two dimensional or three dimensional, is their simplicity. The lines and curves form repeating patterns and leave empty spaces; and the areas of color are simple and well-deliniated as well. Many of the pieces have a very delicate feel to them, but some of the more recent ones are very densely packed and suggest strength.

The basic structural theme of thin metal and curving lines carried over from the visual art to the performance aspects of the event, providing a level of continuity between the two. The first night featured Jacqueline Loundsbury in an improvised performance piece called re:BOUND where she wrapped her body in steel wire bindings. Large rolls of steel wire were placed around the performance space where she stood and visitors were encouraged to participate by taking pieces of wire and wrapping them around her bare body. Throughout this performance, she was quite exposed and accepted the risks of not knowing what participants might do – something taken to much more dangerous extreme by some of the early performance artists in the 1970s. Indeed, the resulting “wrapping” was less of a cocoon and more an overwhelming array of adornments, such as headgear and other decorative elements, some sexually charged. And the whole amalgamation of wire seemed quite heavy and uncomfortable. But she successfully completed the performance and the resulting embodied artwork fit well with the existing sculptural pieces. After extricating herself from the wire, some of the pieces themselves became independent elements (along with the unused wire) for the presentation on the next day.

The second evening featured my live improvised electronic music in the space with the artwork and a video projection of Loundsbury’s performance from the previous night. For the set, I used several iPad apps including Animoog, Bebot and iMS-20, along with the Dave Smith Evolver and a couple of newly acquired analog synthesizer modules, the Wiard Anti-Oscillator from Malekko Heavy Industry and the E350 Morphing Terrarium from Synthesis Technology. Overall, I intended the sounds to reflect the wire theme that was present in the sculptures, drawings and the performance, with sounds that were metallic, continuously curving, or otherwise reflecting of the other elements. You can see a short clip below of the video projection and the music-gear setup in action.

re: BOUND, with Yong Han, Jacqueline Loundsbury and Amar Chaudhary from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The improved music continued for the whole evening, about four hours in all, with breaks for selections from my CD Aquatic.

A decent number of people came through the show over the duration, a combination of people who knew advance from announcements as well as some who wandered in from the surrounding North Beach neighborhood and enjoyed the experience. I am glad I was able to participate, and look forward to working with both artists again in the future.

CatSynth video: Donna 6/8

From Ebotronix on YouTube, via matrixsynth.

“4ms Peg V4 RCD
Analogue Systems RS 100 RS 110 RS 360
ARP Odyssey 2821 Noise
Doepfer A 143-9 A 134 pan by Moog MP 201
Flame Chord Machine Talking Synth Modul
Make Noise Brains PP Maths Moddenix Optomix QMMG Wogglebug
Malekko 4x Oscillator 4x Anti Oscillator
Moog 2xFreqBox
Oberheim Sem
Roland System 104 Sequencer
Toppobrillo Quantimator Sportmodulator TWF
Master Clock Logic via Kenton Pro 2000II and 2x 4ms RCD.
Drum Logic Ultrabeat 12/8 ohm force Compost”

Malekko Heavy Industry at NAMM

This year, Malekko Heavy Industry had their own booth at NAMM. It was actually a bit of a challenge to find, all the way in the back of Hall C past the endless walls of guitars and celebrity-induced traffic jams. But I did find them, and was treated to a tour of a Malekko-only modular system:

In the above image (which admittedly isn’t the best quality), we see a simple patch that was focused on the Wiard Anti-Oscillator and Borg Filter, both of which I was particularly interested in. The Noisering was quite interesting as well and offered a lot of possibilities. The Wiard Jag (Joystic Axis Generator) was very pretty and intriguing, but I couldn’t immediately envision it’s use in a musical performance the way I could with the Noisering.

The system being shown is quite complete, with a host of VCOs, filters, modulators and utility elements. Indeed, one could build something just from their modules alone. But I do think it is most creative to mix and match with our manufacturers.

CatSynth pic: Monsturo: modular set-up

From Analogue Haven on flickr, via matrixsynth:

“Beautiful photo of a nearly full Monorocket Lexington by Monsturo. Nice selection of modules from a variety of manufacturers. Lots of oscillators, multiple filters and several sequencers for control. The Harvestman Stilton Adaptor is used for integrating external effects. LINK: www.myspace.com/monsturo.”

I have tagged some of modules I recognize (e.g., from NAMM).  Click on the tags for other pictures, info and articles.

Analogue Haven

Our last post from NAMM 2010 features more images from the Analogue Haven booth, where I spent a fair amount of time.

First up, a modular from Make Noise:

I was particularly intrigued by the two-dimensional sequencer module (in the lower left). A wide variety patterns can be generated along the X and Y axis and modified by selectively removing elements or subsections.

This video probably doesn’t do it justice, but it at least provides some atmosphere:

A portable modular rock (from Analog Rocket) featuring modules from The Harvestman, including the Hertz Donut and Piston Honda:

If I put together a modular system anytime soon, I would want that monorocket case.

Livewire modules, also some remakes of Wiard modules by Malekko Heavy Industry:

Of course, there are a splattering of Doepfer modules in many of these setups.

A compact modular setup from Tiptop Audio: