June 29, 2005
maybe it's not so bad...
This week's Supreme Court decision in the Grokster case was disappointing for sure. But I still contend that truly useful technology will find a way to be used no matter what the robed nine say. There are plenty of people out there who will never stop innovating their way around both the good and the bad laws. Jon Pareles agrees with me and does it much more convincingly:
the age of generosity
It is fascinating to read an article like this:
in today's world.
Some companies are realizing that the culture of sharing can be not only beneficial to society, but profitable as well. Others, as we know, are doing everything possible to clamp down on this sort of sharing, isolating the creators from each other and separating even more the haves from the have-nots.
It feels like we have two societal factions racing at breakneck speed in opposite directions. How is it going to reconcile?
June 27, 2005
help me test by sending me an audio comment. tell me anything other than "testing 1, 2, 3. testing."
I like the idea of effectively having gained the ability to record audio anywhere in the world where there is a computer with internet access. This opens things up even more.
June 17, 2005
As I start to dive more into a broader array of music around me, I realize that, unknowingly, I have a lot in common with Djs and the whole Dj culture. This feels quite odd to me because I have always thought of myself as a musician who plays 'real' instruments - drums in particular - and have approached what I do from the more traditional place that rock musicians, classical composers and the like come from: melody, harmony, and yes, rhythm. I have nothing bad to say about Djs at all; it's just that I have been incredibly ignorant about what they do and how they approach their craft. Or at least how their craft can be approached.
I have been feeling my mind opening up recently and it has been really exciting as well as overwhelming. I think that I have always had an open mind in most regards, but no matter how open you are, if you don't come in contact with certain thoughts, expressions, ideas, they will still never enter your mind. An open mind in a vacuum is no different than a closed mind in a highly dense swirl of information, in this sense. I almost feel like there is so much out there to explore and absorb that I can't even begin. Of course, I began a long long time ago, but as I am now looking around corners I never did before, the world is opening up before me as a much vaster place filled with many more people doing things that I identify with than I had ever imagined. In some ways, I feel lonelier in my work because I am no bigger, though my surroundings have grown immensely. But in other ways, it is incredibly affirming to hear of all these creative people out there who are following their personal beliefs and are doing things that are right up my alley. I have this insatiable desire to meet these people; to let our thoughts co-mingle; to support and be supported by them; to find a community. I don't know the best way to do this, but I will try. I have confidence in my resourcefulness.
So back the the music. The whole notion of sampling, using and re-using audio information in different ways is at the core of what a Dj does and is also at the core of what I do. I suppose the big difference is that not only do I write original music to accompany the voices, but all the voices I collect are in some sense 'original' as well in that they are collected explicitly for my purposes and I am the one recording them for the first time. In so doing, I exhibit a certain control over them, at least in terms of how they are collected and the general topics that are spoken about. So I think things diverge fairly quickly, but this connection, though obvious to many people who have heard my music, is coming into focus for me now.
June 16, 2005
my organization wall
no, I have not taken to writing on the drywall. I have been meaning to set this up for some time now and it feels good to start to organize my thoughts and plans for this new life I am undertaking. thankfully my new life is not that of a photographer as this shot would not bode well for future success...
ironically, I have absolutely ZERO interest in laying out a neat and organized grid on this whiteboard. my, how I have changed...
June 15, 2005
tuning my life
I've had a lot of things break recently. I hate it when things break. I have the unfortunate sort of personality that not only obsesses over trying to fix things myself, but also won't just let the problem go and focus on something else. These things eat at me and drive me crazy until they are fixed. It got to the point where I had so many things that needed to be fixed that I broke down and called in the professionals for a number of them. First, here's the list of problems:
- Digidesign 002 power harness busted (fixed myself with replacement part from Digi)
- vacuum cleaner (disassembled and determined which part was broken and ordered new part today from Sears Parts Direct)
- lawn mower (cleaned gas and replaced air filter; then mowed lawn)
- clothes dryer (no heat! unable to re-light pilot and afraid to mess around with gas appliances TOO much)
- chimney in need of cleaning (no way in hell I'm going to try this one)
- two horribly out of tune pianos, including one with a number of action issues (I have too much respect for these gorgeous instruments to attempt anything on my own)
So today I am getting things fixed. Despite the significant outflow of cash, it has felt really nice getting things back into working order. It's almost like my whole logistical life had gone way flat and as the tuner cranked his wrench and the pitch raised, life feels better and seems to make more sense.
Here it is, sped up for your consideration:
one minute tuning
On a related note, it cost me just about the same to get a piano tuned as it did to get my chimney swept. The piano tuning took about an hour and a half of highly trained, musical attention for each piano. The chimney sweeping took 20 minutes of grunt labor with no special equipment. This world is so backwards!
June 14, 2005
BYOV at Yale
I have posted a summary of the BYOV event at my 10th year reunion. As always, there are pictures and audio clips. This time the weather was much nicer than last time.
June 13, 2005
James W. Newton is a greedy ass
This is good news:
June 12, 2005
am I a rhythm scientist?
I am not sure, but I am enjoying Paul D. Miller's manifesto on the subject immensely.
"Recording the voice proposes an ontological risk. The recorded utterance is the stolen sound that returns to the self as the schizophonic, hallucinatory presence of another. But today, the voice you speak with may not be your own."
"What would remain to me if this art of appropriation were derogatory to genius? Every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons; a thousand things: wise and foolish have brought me, without suspecting it, the offering of their thoughts, faculties and experiences" - attributed to Goethe
"Any shift in the traffic of information can create not only new thoughts, but new ways of thinking"
June 09, 2005
I'm in another one of these situations where I am having a hard time getting this particular song going. I have many other things to do, but I really want to work on the song, though there has been something preventing me. I wasn't entirely sure what it was until ten minutes ago when I finally started to work on it again after a week of not listening.
This song is deeply emotional for me. It dives into a topic that I have been struggling with for most of my life and is very meaningful to me. And it is quite beautiful, in a melancholic, simple sort of way too. As I was listening, trying to get myself re-familiarized with where I had left off, I couldn't really do much other than listen over and over. I get caught up in how the song makes me feel and that leaves me in a place where it is harder to actually make progress. Of course, I want the song to elicit strong emotions from me, but this is an obstacle as well. When I start listening, all I want to do is sit there, staring at nothing, hearing the half-formed bits of song and feeling years of internal struggle all at once.
If I can manage to finish this one and it makes anyone else feel one tenth as much as I feel, I will be extraordinarily happy. Wish me luck.
now I really need that translator...
I just received a copy of the audio that was broadcast on Experimental Radio in Germany a few weeks ago.
You'll be able to understand me and hear some music excerpts, but I'm afraid all the voiceover, intro etc is in German. German speakers, help me out! Does he say good things about me or say that I am an idiot?
June 08, 2005
Alex Ross has written a wonderful article in last week's New Yorker about the history of recording technology and its effect on how music is played and consumed nowadays.
Among many other things, he speaks of how musicians and composers modified their methods and creations to satisfy the technical requirements (deficiencies/drawbacks/advantages?) of new technologies. Violinists began to use vibrato almost exclusively as the phonograph picked up this 'warbling' sound much more effectively than the more straight-forward solid notes. Stravinsky wrote pieces of music that were of appropriate length to fit on an LP.
But in a fascinating reversal I seem to recall, the reason cds are 74 minutes long is because the head of Sony Corp during the development of cd technology, Norio Ohga, mandated that whatever new technology replaces cassette tapes must enable him to hear the entirety of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony without pause. This clearly shifts the directionality of the influence, and this is what I am curious about. Art influencing technology seems to be a much lesser accepted and perhaps less realized phenomenon.
My music is firmly based in technology. I would not be able to create it without computers, recording devices etc. My studio is effectively my instrument at this point. I write while I record; I record while I write. This is the only way it works for me and it feels perfectly natural and acceptable. I set up my studio with proper hardware, software and instruments to support the way I work. And it is pretty effective, I think, though improvements can always be made. So does this all mean that I am hopelessly dependent on technology to be creative? Or does it mean that I am cleverly taking advantage of the tools of modern living to enhance my creativity? Like most things, there is probably some of both, but I hope the balance is tilted towards the latter. Was Mozart hopelessly dependant on string instruments and clavichord?
It seems that some composers create music so that it can be recorded, and others, myself included, record music so it can be created. It goes both ways.
I do not pretend to know what drives music technologists to invent new cool stuff, but I imagine that they derive a pretty significant feedback stream from musicians themselves. It seems to me that every little improvement in technology leads to musicians employing it in intended and unintended ways which leads to them suggesting/needing/wanting for the technology to move in a certain direction which makes the developers make these changes and so on and so forth. This iterative process between these two types of creative people - musicians and technologists - is pretty exciting.
Though Mr. Ross warns us of the 'seductions and sorrows of the art of recording', he mainly does so in terms of recordings replacing live performance. I firmly believe that nothing can replace the imperfections and unpredictable excitement of live performance, but the complement of recorded music fills out my personal musical life quite nicely.
For me, music and technology - for that matter, any art and technology - will be closely linked and will influence each other in a mutually beneficial way overall. Both music and technology will always continue to push forward into uncharted realms - many good and hopefully far fewer bad - and will be holding hands all along the way, whether we like it or not.
June 05, 2005
The month of May proved to be my biggest download month ever (3.3G), which is exciting, but what is even cooler is the number of countries that had significant downloads. Here's a list of all the countries that had more than 10 megabytes of downloads in May:
The internet is a good thing. So is sharing.
June 03, 2005
halsey and cdbaby love each other
I have joined the ranks of CDBaby, the largest online purveyor of independent music in the world. Here is my personal page:
Not terribly exciting yet, but I hope to make some adjustments soon. Of course, people can buy the cd on my site too, but CDBaby lends more legitimacy and also they have cool 'if you like this, check this out as well...' sort of recommendations for finding new music to listen to.
June 02, 2005
to gimmick or not to gimmick
I went to the final BMOP concert of the season last Friday. It was a Takemitsu tribute and included pieces by the man himself as well as ones influenced by him. The latter were a premiere from a local Boston composer, Ken Ueno, and Tan Dun's Water Concerto. As always, the concert was very well done and I enjoyed each of the pieces for different reasons, but the Water Concerto in particular got me to thinking.
I found the piece fascinating throughout, but let me explain a bit first. What on earth is a water concerto anyway? I wondered the same thing until I entered the hall and saw some of the equipment that was setup. I guess I should call them instruments, though they resembled equipment more in their non-traditionality. There were huge glass bowls of water lighted from underneath, long tubular devices, various gongs, wooden bowls, and a slew of un-nameable objects that proved to all make some sort of weird sound when hit or dunked. The coolest thing was that there were plastic tarps covering all the standard recording equipment. This does not happen often at a classical music performance. So this water concerto was exactly what it sounds like: a concerto for water. Truthfully, it is a concerto for percussion, which, in this case, consisted exclusively of percussion that involved water in one way or another. I think that percussion is somehow the default instrument classification for anything really weird - just make the percussionist play it!
I ended up liking the piece because of it's rhythmic inventiveness and for the amazing variety of sounds that were conjured up by Robert Schulz, the solo percussionist.
But what really got me thinking was that in certain ways, the piece was a total gimmick. I mean, how silly is it to write a full-on 30 minute piece of music for some dude splashing water all over the place and generally flailing around like a kid during his first swim of the season? So yes, this was a gimmick, and usually gimmicks annoy me because usually they do not have any depth to keep one's interest past the initial WOW factor. But this piece was different for me. I think I would have liked it even if traditional instruments were substituted for the water. In some ways, I had to get past the splashing to enjoy it. Tan Dun composed a lovely piece of music and it was performed well.
I often think that I have a music gimmick too. And it worries me sometimes. I'm the weirdo who sets up this crazy plywood booth and convinces people to go inside it and record themselves speaking and then turns the results into 'music'. This is a gimmick, for sure. But for me, it's all about the end result, not the process. I do enjoy the process tremendously, but if the music sucked and I wasn't proud of it, who the hell cares how I got there? I guess my point is that gimmicks aren't inherently good or bad. Sometimes they can attract positive attention to lots of solid creativity that might otherwise go unnoticed, and other times they can distract listeners from an unfortunate lack of creativity. There's nothing wrong with the former. Enough defending me and Mr. Dun.
Well, I've been on a boat for the past three days, and now I'm stuck in a parking lot highway due to some fugitive shootout that occurred half a mile ahead of me in southern Maine. It sucks to be stuck for hours, but it would be much worse to have been involved, so I am thankful.