Some sad news via matrixsynth. One of our frequently featured synth cats, Charlotte, recently passed away.
Charlotte appeared in many photos featured on this site, often showing disdain for the synths. You can see a few examples here and here. She lived a good long life of 18 years, but it is still sad to lose a beloved pet, and our thoughts go out to her family.
The post on matrixsynth also featured some cool filtered images of the Korg Mono/Poly.
Today, we visit the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to mark the passing today of former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The bridge, which carries New York State Route 25 from Queens to its terminus in Manhattan at 2nd Avenue, is known locally at the “59th Street Bridge.” It’s actually over 100 years old, having opened in 1909.
The Queens side connects to a tangled nexus of ramps that are mixed up with elevated subway structures. And as these structures are all aging, they become interesting photographic subjects. The bridge was named in honor of the former mayor in 2010.
Here is cute video that has been circulating today, in which Mayor Koch welcomes passersby (including the current mayor) to “my bridge”. (You need only watch the segment until about 2:00)
It’s very typical of his style, being a larger-than-life character but also a bit self-deprecating. It is quintessentially “New York”. From the New York Times obituary:
…out among the people or facing a news media circus in the Blue Room at City Hall, he was a feisty, slippery egoist who could not be pinned down by questioners and who could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother.
I did have the opportunity to meet him twice on visits back from Yale to New York City, as part of the Yale Political Union. Although my colleagues seemed to treat him rather coldly, I was quite happy for the experience.
Luna always loves the patches of sunshine that pour into CatSynth HQ in the morning. On this particular morning we see her posing regally in an Art-Deco-patterned sunshine spot. The shadow is cast by the table just behind her, a piece that dates back to my graduate-student days in Berkeley but still fits the overall style of our current pad in the city.
On a sad note, we learned that our friend and fellow cat-blogger has passed away. We send her family our thoughts.
We at CatSynth have been absent for a few days. Most of my time that wasn’t spent at the day job was devoted to preparations for last night’s Night Light Multimedia Garden Party at SOMArts here in San Francisco. All the work paid off and the show went quite well, and I will be talking about that in a later article. But the combined silent-video-and-live-improvised-music piece featured several clips of Luna, including this one that is perfect for a combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt with theme texture.
This is a fun clip that combines cats, abstract digital imagery, and even highways with our I-80 sign in the background. You can see the short segment that appeared in the video below:
A sad note this week, our friend Meowza passed away suddenly last week. It was unexpected when we read of his passing in the comments for our Carnival of the Cats last week, he was so full of life. We remember him through the many images of him rolling around in the dry Arizona dirt:
We send our thoughts to Mog and all of Meowza’s family on their loss.
I received some sad and sudden news this past Saturday that Richard Lainhart had passed away on December 30. It was only the day before that I had posted about our show in November at TheaterLab, in which I had played in the his project, the “Orchestra of the Future” that improvised a score to his film “The History of the Future.” I don’t know whether this was his last performance, but I am honored to have had the chance to share it with him. My condolences go out to his family.
Richard Lainhart had a long history in electronic music as well as more traditional jazz and rock idioms. He was deeply involved in the resurgence of analog synthesizers in contemporary electronic music, and I had seen him bridge old and new technologies with a Buchla synthesizer, Haken Continuum keyboard and laptop. His music had a richly textured minimal feel to it, but with a lot of timbral detail that comes from practice with electronic musical instruments. (Listen to (soundcloud tracks for examples.) He also was involved in animation and filmmaking, combining his electronic music and animated films at major festivals.
Below, are two videos. First, his duo with Lucio Menegon at the TheaterLab performance, and in 2010 at the Omega Sound Fix.
We had first met in person at the Omega Sound Fix. He was friendly and open, and has been supportive of my music and of this site. He will be missed. His Facebook page continues to receive messages from friends and admirers. And matrixsynth has a full article in remembrance of him and electronic musician Mel Morley (midimel) who also passed away recently. Of Lainhart, he says “Rest in peace, Richard, you were one cool cat.” I think that statement would apply here, too.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, working at Bell Labs, Mr. Ritchie made a pair of lasting contributions to computer science. He was the principal designer of the C programming language and co-developer of the Unix operating system, working closely with Ken Thompson, his longtime Bell Labs collaborator…
It was only a week earlier that we were marking the passing of Steve Jobs and noting the contributions he made to Apple via NeXT. The operating system of NeXT which became Apple’s Mac OSX are Unix systems. Similarly, the much of the heavy computer programming from large-scale servers to iPhones is done with C and its descendents C++ and Objective C.
“The tools that Dennis built — and their direct descendants — run pretty much everything today,” said Brian Kernighan, a computer scientist at Princeton University who worked with Mr. Ritchie at Bell Labs.
A great many of us who studied computer science and practiced computer programming have the classic text that Kernighan and Ritchie co-wrote, The C Programming Language, known affectionately as authoritatively as “K&R”.
C is at hits heart a “systems programming language.” It’s a small language, structured in the imperative programming style of Algol and PASCAL, but the individual functions and operations are close to the machine language, simple bit-shift, arithmetic and memory location (pointer) operations. As such, it is very unforgiving compared to some of its predecessors, but it was efficient and simple and has enough expressive power to build operating systems like Unix, scientific computing, and the inner works of most software applications through the object-oriented successors, C++ and Objective C. Much of my software work has centered around these descendent languages, but when it comes to doing actual computation, it’s still C.
“C is not a big language — it’s clean, simple, elegant,” Mr. Kernighan said. “It lets you get close to the machine, without getting tied up in the machine.
Higher-level languages, like the PHP used to build this site, are ultimately implemented as C and C++ programs. So both this website and the device you are using to read it are products of Dennis Ritchie’s work.
Like so many others, we are marking the passing of Steve Jobs. But one thing that is often overlooked in the many tributes is his leadership at NeXT.
I first came across NeXT in 1989, as I was starting to explore the world of computer music. It was an ideal machine for its time for music and media work. It had a powerful operating system, it had a programmable DSP, it had SoundKit and MusicKit libraries specifically designed for music programming. And the original NeXT Cube was quite a striking physical object.
I had even written a couple of letters and formal research proposals to NeXT and directly to Steve Jobs to support my incipient research work in high school. Of course, nothing came of it, but it was an interesting exercise in learning how to write a proposal. And my opportunities to try out the system (via various institutions) game me a sense of what a more ideal computing environment could be like. As a music and computer-science student at Yale, I did in fact have the opportunity to do work on NeXT systems, but by that point the computing world, and the computer-music world, were moving on.
Apple acquired NeXT in late 1996. In the process, they reacquired Steve Jobs, whose return marked the Apple that we know today, and also the NeXTSTEP operating system, which lives on to this day as the foundation of Mac OSX. Every contemporary MacBook and MacPro is in many ways a late model NeXT computer. Indeed, it was only after the introduction of OSX that I purchased my first Mac (an iBook) in 2003 and gradually shifted into being one of those annoyingly obsessive Mac/iPhone/iPad users. All of my music and photography work is done on these devices, as are all posts to this blog and updates to our Twitter and Facebook streams. Even my day job is intimately connected to the technology from Apple. We associate these technologies and designs with Steve Jobs, but much of it can be traced back to what he and others pioneered at NeXT.
Ketzel, who won a prize for piano composition in 1997 and went on to be featured in a book, “The World of Women in Classical Music,” died Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 19 and lived on the Upper West Side.
Ketzel was a black-and-white cat.
In the article you can see a picture of Ketzel (whose name means “cat” in Yiddish), and a recording of her one composition, Piece for Piano, Four Paws. It is descending pitch-wise, but has a good sense of timing with a “beginning, middle and end.” The work was transcribed by one of Ketzel’s humans, Morris Moshe Cotel, who retired as chairman of the composition department at the Peabody Conservatory in 2000 and became a rabbi. It would be interesting to see, and even perform the score of Ketzel’s piece at some point.
Her piece one an award in the Paris New Music Review’s One-Minute Competition, and led to exchange between Professor Cotel and Allan Forte, with this observation:
long the way, Professor Cotel said he realized that Ketzel’s “exquisite atonal miniature” used only 10 pitches of the chromatic scale. “The two missing pitches are G natural and B-flat” — the opening notes of Domenico Scarlatti’s famous Fugue in G minor, known as the “Cat’s Fugue.”
Our thoughts go out to Ketzel’s surving human, Aliya Cheskis-Cotel.
This weekend, we have another combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt. The theme this week is square. Geometric shapes, including squares, abound at CatSynth HQ. But with the exceptionally gorgeous weather, we turn our attention once again to the patio:
The patio is covered in square slate tiles on which Luna enjoys rolling around. We are still doing some work to fix things up for spring now the construction is in the past. New design ideas to emphasize the industrial and geometric aesthetic.
As we have made more friends online, so we have also lost many friends. We said goodbye to Mickey only a few weeks ago. Last year, we lost DJ Kikovas, the feline companion of our friend and fellow electronic musician Vivi Pedraglio. We also said goodbye to Tali and Sniffie. It is interesting to look back and see the diverse collection of people, mixture of musicians, engineers and cat lovers, who cross paths in these stories. We have also lost many heroes in music, art and mathematics in this same period of time; and some personal friends. We remember them as well.
Our thoughts for all our friends who lost love ones (human and non-human) over the past year, and for those who are struggling in the current storms in southeastern U.S., recovering from the disaster in Japan, and living through the seemingly greater number conflicts around the world.
Yesterday morning I received the sad news that Max Mathews, considered by many of us to be the “father of computer music”, passed away.
Not only was he among the first to use general-purpose computers to make music, but his work spanned many of disciplines within the field that we know today, including sound synthesis, music-programming languages, real-time performance and musical-instrument interfaces.
He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a Sc.D. in 1954. Working at Bell Labs, Mathews wrote MUSIC, the first widely-used program for sound generation, in 1957. For the rest of the century, he continued as a leader in digital audio research, synthesis, and human-computer interaction as it pertains to music performance. [Wikipedia]
The “MUSIC-N” languages have influenced much of how we still program computers to make music. It has direct descendants such as Csound, and has also influenced many of the other languages for composer, perhaps most notably Max (later Max/MSP) that was named in his honor.
His rendition of “Daisy Bell” (aka “Bicycle Built for Two”) is one of the early examples ofphysical modeling synthesis. Sections of the vocal tract were modeled as tubes, and sound generated directly from physics equations. His work inspired the version of “Daisy Bell” sung by HAL9000 in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (though he did real at a talk in 2010 that the version in the film was not his recording.)
Mathews continued to expand and innovate throughout his career, moving into different areas of technology. In the 1970s his focus shifted to real-time performance, with languages such as GROOVE, and then later with the Radio Baton interface, which can be seen in this video below.
I had the opportunity to see and hear Mathews at the ICMC 2006 conference and MaxFest in 2007, both events that honored his 80th birthday and five decades in music technology. At 80, it would be relatively easy and quite understandable to eschew the latest technologies in favor of earlier technologies on which he did much of his work, but there he was working with the latest MacBooks and drawing upon new research in connection to his own work.
[Max Mathews at GAFFTA in 2010. (Photo by Vlad Spears.)]
More recently, I saw him give a talk at the Gray Area Foundation For the Arts in 2010, where he introduced the work of young artists and researchers, something he continued to do all the way to the end. He was at the Jean-Claude Risset concert at CCRMA (and I later found out, gave the introduction, which I had missed.) I have also heard comments over the past day that he was still involved in email and discussions over current projects up through this week, a testament to his character and his love for this field and for the work that he pioneered.