Analysis of Kevin Baldwin playing Grab It!


Some interesting ideas here:

  • A set composition which is moved forward by live triggers.
  • Using an acoustic instrument as a controller. Possibly using pitch detection.
  • Using video, text and spoken word for “conceptional content” in combination with the abstraction of music/sound.
  • Integration of poetry medium was nice.

I wasn’t so much impressed with the actual choice of content of the piece but the delivery and the fast pace of the musical style combined was very effective. I imagine live it would have a great impact assuming you were standing close enough.

He seemed stuck behind the instrument and sheet music so would be physically constrained in meeting the audience and thus have less options with engaging them.

Ideas for future directions from here might be:

  • Gesture recognition, i.e. series of notes, a “music phrase” as triggers for navigating the composition, perhaps allowing for non-linear compositions. Also for triggering smaller sequences of visuals/spoken-word
  • Different interface to make music which allows more interaction with the audience. Perhaps wireless sensors.
  • Noise!

Composition is like Gardening which is like Surfing slow-mo

Brian Eno is famous for his generative approach to composition and in this talk, Composers as Gardeners, he talks about how he arrived at this idea. The main jist of it is that he was influenced by the book The Brain Of The Firm, The Managerial Cybernetics Of Organization in which Stafford Beer talks about what we call today Emergent Behavior

What happened in Stafford’s work was that he was talking about organization and how things organize themselves in this new way. And there was one sentence in the book which I think I still remember, he said ‘instead of trying to organize it in full detail, you organize it only somewhat and you then rely on the dynamics of the system to take you in the direction you want to go.’ And this became my sort of motto for how I wanted composition to be.

This all reminded me about a video interview with Curtis roads in which he talks about a book he was reading on landscape gardening being really about composition.

What I find inspiring about what Eno is his discovery of the “talent to surrender”

And another way I can translate that is to say it’s a repositioning of ourselves on the control/surrender spectrum…What we’re not so used to is the idea that another great gift we have is the talent to surrender and to cooperate. Cooperation and surrender are actually parts of the same skill. To be able to surrender is to be able to know when to stop trying to control. And to know when to go with things, to be taken along by them. And that’s a skill that we actually have to start relearning.

Steve Reich had a sort of orthogonal idea of Music as a Gradual Process in that he would design a generative process that would operate by itself.

Musical processes can give one a direct contact with the impersonal and also a kind of complete control, and one doesn’t always think of the impersonal and complete control as going together. By “a kind” of complete control I mean that by running this material through the process I completely control all that results, but also that I accept all that results without changes.

When looking at performance that involved generative elements i always saw this as a lack of control (and perhaps imagination). Now, instead, i see it as the skill of going with the moment, sort of like surfing on a giant chaotic wave.

Zombies in the pool…

This summer I hung out in the Czech Republic in the lovely town of B?ha?ov with Sonya. Tina and her boyfriend Phill dropped by and Julia so, inspired by the movie Zombie Lake (1981), we decided to make a music-video called Making Fools, which is now up on Sonya’s website. It is my first completed track (so far, and not really indicative of what I’m into but it was made in one day with on a nasty hangover).

Th Laptop-orchestra and the nature of live performance

Laptoporchestra Berlin
I just got back from MAGISTRALE Kulturnacht‘s Medialounge in which a good friend of mine has some photos on exhibit. There was a series of laptop audio performances by various artists which climaxed with a live performance of the so called Laptoporchester Berlin. Seven guys on laptops nodding their heads.They opened with a couple of pieces that were lead by a guy on a cool seven string electric guitar which had a body that was just snap on bars in the shape of a traditional guitar (see picture). They then ended with a cover of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ which I’d only recently discovered being a big fan of Steve Riech.
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Slagsmålsklubben @ Station Park, Berlin

Station park flyer

Went to this gig at Station Park last night. Was a bit of a fizzer, as far as Berlin gigs go. It was 9 Euro which is a bit pricey for most students here and there are plenty of other things happening on a Friday night in Berliner town. Otherwise there was a lot of potential as the live acts they lined up were quite good.
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Why Sharing is Caring

The music industry is going down. The Label executives are going out kicking and suing but we all know its over. The music production model has changed and there is no room for them anymore.

In Michael Calore blog post on Wired, The Web’s First Rock n’ Roll Success?, Michael touts proof of what everyone has know since Napster started up: File sharing of MP3s is good for the consumer and bad for the old school Record Industry:

“Their story is remarkable because of one fact: grassroots communication channels like MySpace and P2P file trading networks worked better than the major-label hype machine. The Arctic Monkeys became hugely popular because they wrote good songs, made them available to their fans for free, and encouraged them to share the MP3s with their friends.”

The Arctic Monkey, after this sort of promotion realised “the fastest-selling independent debut in UK history”. The article/post goes on to say “The major labels are still scratching their heads wondering why the kids aren’t buying records they way they used to.”, and the answer to that is, I say, is because the stuff the record companies have been pumping out is not art, its manufactured shite.

The old way was Big Label X spends Y million on PR and more than double their money before the teeny boppers figure out that Album Z is shite. Now, the teeny boppers are downloading The One Song promoted form the album and realising the rest is garbage and so before they go out and buy McFad Album (if they still intended to) the next fad hits them and they have forgotten about what they were just listening to.

I noted an article back in 2004 called The New Economics of Music: File-Sharing and Double Moral Hazard in which the same argument is put forward but using economic theory:

Fundamentally, I’m going to argue that consumers download music, as much to derive extra value from getting something for free, as they do because they want insurance against buying something they didn’t want in the first place. File-sharing is as much about risk-sharing as it is about the ‘theft’ of value. Technological changes have made this possible – but the way the business model of the music industry is at odds with the implicit contract it signs with listeners is what makes it probable.

Ultimately it means that the record industry has to start finding real artist rather than manufacturing fads. Good for real music artist, good for us the consumers. Everyone wins except the fat middle men.

Maybe the internet can eliminate all the middle men of the world. I hope Real Estate agents are next.

Jamie Lidell @ the Sydney Festival

Milan 2005 pic-Arianna D'Angelica

I went to see this amazing act last night as part of the Syndey festival: Jamie Lidell, who is a vocalist that uses looping software (MAX/MSP) to loop his voice. He beatboxes, then loops it and then keeps adding layers on top of it mostly with just his voice. He has a sampler and adds in the odd artificial sound as well. He built up a techno track form scratch in front of us. This live aspect to his electronic music gave his performance an energy you don’t usually get with pre-programmed sets or DJ’ing.

He also did a number of straight soul numbers that were OK, he has an amazing voice and energy, but I found them to be slightly over done and a bit passé in content i.e. not adding anything new to the genre. Still, its interesting to see electronic based music side by side with more traditional styles of music. Particularly coming out of the one musician!

The only real complaint I had was that the show was a bit short (maybe just under an hour) and there wasn’t enough to dance to. Also he stopped between the more techno based tracks and this is annoying when your into the dancing.

Overall an entertaining evening and worth seeing again.