ICMC late concert on election night

Imagine yourself an ordinary New Orleans bus driver, doing your normal night route on St. Charles. Just two or three passengers, quiet. Maybe even a little quieter than usual given that many people are home watching election returns. Then suddenly you come to stop where twenty or so weird people with laptops and beeds get on the bus. That’s what happened to a bus driver last night when participants at the ICMC conference boarded to attend the offsite late-nite performance at the aptly named Columns Hotel.

The election so far went as well as one could expect at 11PM, with headlines suggesting things are about to change for the better – a takeover of the House, Virginia is the new Florida (with George “macaca” Allen trailing), and social conservatives (i.e., the littering religious right) lost a trifecta on abortion, stem cells and gay marriage. Plus, I get to watch all of this from the home (and district) of William “Frozen Assets” Jefferson.

So what better way to celebrate than with experimental electronic improv music in an old hotel parlor? First on the program was Pink Canoes, who hail from the Bay Area. I was acquainted with several members of the group by name only (and vice versa), so it was quite ironic to meet in person in New Orleans. Musically, they played free improvisation with guitars, effects pedals, analog synths and circuit-bend instruments, similar to some of the group improvisations I have done with friends in Santa Cruz. I get the sense that many of the academics at the conference hadn’t heard much of this sub-genre of electronic music. Personally I would like to see more hybridization among free electronic improv, traditional computer music, and even things like the jazz duo that was also playing in the hotel at the same time.

Pink Canoe was followed by the due Andre Castro + Martin Aeserud, featuring laptop and “prepared” acoustic guitar. I found the guitar quite interesting to watch as well as listen to, and gives me some ideas for projects with the guitar that’s sitting in pieces on the floor back home.

More on the conference later.





Weekend in New Orleans Part 2: City views and Scultpure Garden

My second excursion focused on walking, art and photography. I began by heading downtown from the hotel along St. Charles Avenue, following the inactive streetcar route. The hotel clerk later advised me that this may not have been the wisest action because of some rather sketchy blocks along the way. Personally, I don't think there was much of issue during the day – a lot of times such concerns are exaggerated. In addition to the “stately mansions” of the Garden district and the occasional boarded-up business, the walk along St Charles affording an opportunity to sample some of the local politics. Something called “Amendment 7″, which I gather has something to do with assessors, seems to be a big deal in this neighborhood. And of course, there are reminders that depite some of New Orlean's reputation, we are still deep in the south and “red America”:

Apparently “fundamental values” don't include keeping the streets free of litter. These flyers were scattered all over the sidewalk, and probably made a nice paste in the rains on Monday.

St. Charles passes under Highway 90 and empties out onto Robert E. Lee square. I'm guessing this was a significant central point in the past, but it seems to be a rather seedy area on the edge of downtown. I kinda like the irony of that. One notable landmark is the Circle Bar, which I hope to visit before the end of the trip. Moving west, one enters the “arts-warehouse” district that attempts to be the downtown of art galleries and clubs one finds in other cities. Not a lot seemed to open early on Sunday, it is good to see alternatives to tourist center of French Quarter getting built up. Here we see a Cat Noir, a cabaret-style club compete with one of my favorite of the old Toulouse Lautrec posters.

I did finally locate not only a source for the transit day-passes, but also a working streetcar on Canal Street. Here zip and I catch a ride:

Actually, these are the historic cars from the non-functional St. Charles line, but moved over to the new Canal Street line because its cars were flooded.

Heading up Canal street, more of the damaged and closed businesses can be seen. On one block will be luxury hotels or appartments, on the next a boarded up department store or theatre:

As the streetcar continues north past the I-10 overpass, more severe physical and social damange becomes apparent, with shuttered businesses and entire blocks empty or in ruins:


Click on the lower photos to view them in more detail. Notable on the lower right are the ubiquitous spray-paint symbols indicating that the house was checked after the storm, and the first roaming kitty cat of the trip.

Our ultimate destination was the city park, home to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the city sculpture garden. The city park is close to Lake Pontchartrain and the Lakeview neighborhood, and suffered extensive damage, from which it is still recovering. However, the museum weathered the storm with little damage, and reopened in February.

One scultpure in the garden was topped during the hurricane, is is currently being repaired by the artist. Otherwise, it faired well and reopened last December. They have an impressive collection of modernist and contemporary figurative works. I have included a few of my photos here. (A few of the best photos from the garden and the trip in general will be included in my photography section when I get a chance to update it). Again, you can click on any of the photos below for a more detailed view:



I think the wedding photo session on the bridge adds a nice contrast to the tower of violins in the lower right.

In addition to finding good art within the city, I also sought and found good music outside the main tourist destinates. My brief experiences with music and nightlife will be explored in part 3…











Weekend in New Orleans Part 1: Zip visits the French Quarter

Before the start of the ICMC Conference today, I spent the weekend exploring a bit of New Orleans. Zip of course came along for the ride and photo ops.

In this first article of several, we make the obligatory trip to the French Quarter. This area largely survived the devastation last year and was quick to reopen as the “adult Disneyland” that people associate with New Orleans. Just outside the quarter on Canal Street, damaged downtown buildings being repaired and closed businesses are a common sight – a little eerie in spots. but inside things have the appearance of being back to normal. The bars and restaurants are mostly open, music and neon lights are everywhere. Tourists are in abundance (perhaps not as many as before, I have no way to gauge this), and there were plenty of people and vendors around the major sites, such as Jackson square and the cathedral(?) of St. Louis:

Churches are fine, but there are also monuments a plenty to one of the town’s real religions: jazz. Here Zip poses with famed jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain:

We also took in some live jazz at the New Orleans Jazz national park in the French Market along the rivier:

The famed architecture of the quarter is exactly as one would expect:

Again, most places seem to have weathered the storm or been repaired quickly, and many that are not hotels or business are up for sale as condos. There are still plenty of signs of the last year’s events, such as ubiquitous blue dog, here decked out for Mardi Gras (or pretty much any day here, it seems):

A few pleasant breaks from the stereotypical tourist fare could be found in some of the small specialty shops sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, including a rather intruiging shop dealing in occult products, including “black cat fur.” No cats were harmed in the collection of this fur, one hopes… Also some craft stores, a modern art gallery that didn’t give in to insipid tourist tastes, and a cool little shop that used the mason’s “Pyramonster” as it’s logo.

Another welcome addition to the day was a performance art troupe Wild Animus, who performed part of their piece on the riverfront near Jackson Square:

Apparently, the artists responsible are part of a San Francisco art collective, go figure. Several performers were handing out free DVDs, which I have yet to review, but I am curious about this work.

There was a particularly surreal moment as a wedding processing, complete with Dixieland-style band crossed paths with Wild Animus. I have a little bit of that on a video, which I will post as soon as I get a chance.

Having had enough of the French Quarter, I went in search of what is apparently one of post-hurricane New Orlean’s best kept secrets: where to get tour passes for the bus system. After several attempts, I finally found a tourist info agent who pointed me in the direction of a kiosk in one of the shopping centers, but when I got there I was met only with a sign that said “Back 30 minutes after the hour.” I believe it was about 2:45 at this time. A little annoyed, I headed back to Canal Street anyway to catch a streetcar (and pay full fare) towards the city park, where the city’s main art museum and sculpture garden is located. Of course, the streetcar would be out of order when I got there, and the busses running in its place were nowhere to be seen. The changes of making it out to the park before the garden closed to visitors at 4pm seemed pretty slim. But instead of stewing in my frustration, I headed with Zip back into the quarter for a more local kind of stew and a local brew:

This is definitely following the traveler’s rule “When in Rome…” In addition to gumbo, we sampled some of the ever popular oysters, cooked in this case:

And with this, the first of many tasty meals and refreshing beverages to come (too many?), we conclude this part of the story.

Be nice or leave.

Weekend Cat Blogging #74: Preparing for New Orleans radio performance

Lali at Lali et Cie is hosting Weekend Cat Blogging soixante-dix quatre (I never could get the hang of French numbers). And how appropriate to be blogging this weekend from one of America's great cities with French heritage, New Orleans. I am here attending the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), and will be performing a piece live on local public radio WTUL FM. For anyone interested in listening in, it will be streaming live online, next Friday at 1PM CST US (check out my main site for more info.

Needless to say, I've been scrambling a bit to get ready for the trip in general, and the performance in particular. I'll post more about the music and technology later this weekend, but for now it's enough to appreciate that Luna has been keeping me company in the studio as I work out some nasty bugs in the software for the piece:

She seems to enjoy sitting on my lap while I work. And it's great to have her sharing in some small part of the creative process.

I think this closeup qualifies as a “catsynth pic.” Luna poses with laptop, E-MU Xboard, E-MU Vintage Pro and circuit-bent VTech toy phone.

In my absence, Luna is being well cared for courtesy of Ronni West's Happy At Home Cat Sitting.