Behold the power of the Web: composition ideas become a tool, a tool becomes a means for even casual users sharing musical sketches, and a browser toy can be a window into a Turkish sound artist breeding musical DNA like some people breed strains of flowers.
Otomata is a simple generative online grid-based sequencer, owing to a number of step sequencers and Toshio Iwai’s Tenori-on, with some beautiful circular visualizations of the resulting sounds. I’m late in posting it, but in a way, that’s a good thing – in the time that this sequencer has spread around the Web, it’s spawned a small army of casual musicians producing their own videos and patterns.
And that brings me to an observation. In all the discussion of “apps” versus the Web – a discussion as old as the network itself, having appeared as “cloud computing” and various other forms before – people may be missing the point. Right now, Otomata is not an app, though iPhone/iPad and Android versions are reportedly in the works. It runs as a Flash file, which gives pretty much anyone access to it (including the majority of people on the planet who still don’t have either an iOS or Android device).
“This should be an app, bro,” says a Facebook commenter. But app or browser window, it doesn’t matter: the Web is what makes new ideas spread. Otomata running the browser.
But it’s Web sharing that’s already making it powerful – people sending around links, sharing creations, and showing friends. App or not, the Web is what makes software successful these days, through YouTube views, blog posts like this one (ahem), and even casual “look what’s on my screen” sharing that results in the exchange of a URL anyone with a browser can run. Flash may not be the best rich tool the Web has ever seen, but it’s only the means to an end – the end being getting things in a connected browser.
Great design, embodying musical sense in the structure of the tool itself, makes this a hit. And for that, you can thank “computational sound artist” Batuhan Bozkurt of Istanbul. His musical expression is generally procedural by nature, expressed as a set of rules in compositional form. Check out his terrific video on this work, as built in the open source tool SuperCollider.
If you can tear yourself away from playing with this wonderful toy, you can get deep into genetic code for musical composition and spectacular SuperCollider creation.
Rapid iteration? Quick contagian? Generational evolution? Hmmm… sounds a bit like what’s happening on a larger level as creations like this spread around the Web. But it’s a heck of a lot more fun than genetic engineering … or the plague. So play away, Internets.
We are, as every generation, part of a planetary history that’s bigger than anyone can really comprehend, but of which we’re a part. So, music isn’t terribly good at making specific policy prescriptions, or solving tangible problems, or feeding people – all vitally important things. But nothing can express hope or feeling like music. New York’s public radio station WFUV plays on their live stream today songs of peace and a nice set by John Lennon, which I’m listening to at the moment.
I’m curious to hear readers’ favorite music that expresses hope for peace. You can take that to apply to whatever news story there is in the world at the moment – really, absolutely any story. You can do it in a way that transcends any ability to editorialize or analyze. And that music can include electronic and instrumental pieces, as very often those pieces are forgotten, but I know have been comforting and inspiring to me, or I wouldn’t do what I do. Readers, chime in in comments.
Unlike news or editorials, I do believe music can speak to something deeper than any one day’s headlines, to the way we feel about being human. I spend a lot of my time with words, but music still says things I can never put into words.
!K7 would like to hear your best 20-30 minute "mixtape for the brokenhearted". To enter simply start and end your mix with your favorite !K7 tracks that you feel best represents this theme and upload it to Mixcloud.
“This sounds crazy. I want to see this. I think I may have to see this to understand what you mean. But I want to see this.”
David Dodson, journalist, writer, and electronic musician (“Primus Luta” and, most recently at our Handmade Music series, Concrete Sound System), has just told me he wants to cover New York’s Unsound Festival, the Polish-based electronic and “advanced” music festival.
Only he wants to cover it … fictionally.
There’s a love story. There’s drama. There a bits of review, interwoven with a story. In place of the usual omniscient narrator that we find in music journalism, delivering pronouncements about the State of Music from on high and dissecting the programming, we hear reflections on the work the way you do when you’re actually there – snippets of commentary from friends outside the venue, internal monologue in your head. But these thoughts come out of the heads of made-up protagonists, who then rub shoulders with the real characters spotted at the event. (Warning: if you were at Unsound, you might make a cameo.)
It’s trippy, disorienting, frequently comical, and for me, at least, leaves me half-guiltily aching for more.
It’s worth reading all the excerpts in order in the blog format in which we’re able to present them, but a few examples to whet your appetite (or, if I’m lucky, give you some idea what the heck I’m talking about):
There are drops of sweat on her lashes when Gisella finally opens her eyes. She looks at Lil’ Man who is smiling like a man who knows he’s done good. She smiles back licking the presperation off her upper lip only slightly suggestive. Lil’ Man notices but turns to give an nod to Chancha for keeping her there with him on the dance floor. Only two other ladies, who probably arrived with Chancha, could keep up with the cumbia influenced rhythms. It didn’t keep others from moving to the beat, but even with her eyes closed, Gisella knew they had been the center of attention.
“Let’s go get some air,” she says into his ear before leading him through the crowd.
As they walk down the corridor where people are still waiting to get in, Lilo comes behind them from the back room.
“Oh my god,” she says. ”I don’t know who’s on now, but whoever was doing the last set in the back room just made my night.” There are more people outside waiting to get in and small groups gathered in nicotine circles. ”You missed him playing Madonna.”
“No way,” Gisella replies as they walk toward the curb where she recognizes Praveen and Sougwen.
“But did you see Dave Q voguing behind his laptop?” Praveen asks over hearing Lilo’s enthusiasm. The guy standing next to him responds by striking a pose.
“Do you know Dave?” Sougwen asks Gisella.
“Only by reputation,” Lilo says extending her hand.
Morton Subotnick at work in 2011. Photo: David Dodson.
“While I don’t feel cheated,” Lilo says between sips of wine, “I do feel like I missed something. I mean it was Morton Subotnick, the Buchla was there, and he performed Silver Apples on the Moon, but something was missing.”
“He didn’t patch live,” Lil Man says.
“Yes, that is it isn’t it?” Lilo thinks about it taking a sip. ”It’s funny how laptops throw everything off.”
“You couldn’t really see what he was doing,” Gisella chimes in. ”You could see it all working but you couldn’t see the work.”
“He had a controller near the laptop,” Lil Man notes. ”He was doing something with that.”
“Yeah,” Lilo says after another sip. ”I mean you have to think, why wouldn’t he use a laptop? Can you imagine how hard it must have been to create Silver Apples back in the sixties, let alone perform it. Even now with the technology we have it’s an amazing achievement.”
“Most def,” Lil Man affirms.
“But I do wish he had pulled at least one patch cable,” Lilo adds before finishing the glass.
The sound of an ambulance trails off behind her. Suddenly a female voice moves in only to be accompanied by at least ten different iterations of the same voice. They are all being manipulated diferently and floating around the space. Gisella closes her eyes and could see the voices sweeping, like ghosts in a haunted house. It was clearly the Pamela Z piece, but the description didn’t really do the effect of it justice. The title and even the description made it sound out of place. What did “The Star Spangled Banner” have to do with horror? But listening to Pamela Z’s deconstruction and recomposition of voice in the surround space, at this point Gisella recognizes, Pamela is the first artist to truly create a scene from a horror movie. So why was she thinking about sex?
Author David Dodson explains the project:
I’ve been thinking of moving back into fiction writing for a few years now, but fiction that deals with real historical places and events. A few years back I wrote a novella entitled “The Moshi” which placed characters in the middle of New York during the black out of 2003. When working with fictional characters it’s always interesting to think about how they respond to ‘real life’ situations.
For “Above the Threshold” I wanted to really embrace that. Rather
than create a world in which the characters can do whatever I saw fit, I decided to create the characters and place them in our world to see what they’d do. I started out with a very simple premise – a female lead working in the music industry attends the 2011 Unsound festival. I then attended the festival myself and ‘observed’ how my characters acted within the settings that the festival presented.
During the course of the festival I penned over 50k words of this
storyline, and in essence watched the plot unfold. It will be some
time before the full piece is ready to go to print, but I’m offering
up some excerpts from it on the CDM partner Noisepages site. These excerpts may or may not end up in the final draft, but will give some glimpses of the characters, the festival and how the two came together.
I only wish fictional characters could inhabit all the events we attend. I suppose, in fact, they could.
Timo Garcia needs no introduction, having given us a wealth of major club bangers over the years. Now, moving beyond his mind-bending blend of electro, progressive and house productions, he takes a new musical direction and a new alias to match: T_Mo.
The creation of Garcia's T_Mo alias was born of necessity. The lifestyle of a traveling DJ can be grueling, so when Garcia returns to the studio, he rinses his mind of the throbbing kicks and strung-out synths still ringing from the weekend gigs and jumps on an upright piano to write full-length melodies that are then worked into soothing, chilled-out electronic grooves.
Margaret Dygas the DJ, and more recently conceptual techno artist, is to release a ‘mini-album’ through Perlon. Self-titled and just 45 minutes long the album will be available on both CD and vinyl and like (almost) all Perlon releases will feature Double Standard‘s iconic text based artwork.
After earning her stripes as an in demand DJ (she was a Panorama Bar resident) Dygas released her debut LP How do you Do? on Powershovel Audio earlier this year. Inspired by the Desmond Morris book People Watching, it was an assured and smart debut, that worked both with and against the constraints of a techno full-length.
We are intrigued and excited to hear what she does for Perlon
UK singer-songwriter Neon Hitch has just unveiled a brand new cut from her forthcoming debut called ‘Silly Girl’. The pop princess’ newest track – which was produced by Switch and Benny Blanco (Ke$ha, Britney Spears) – is an electro-pop workout with a reggae flair, funky audio effects and rap-style vocals. Things are about to get dirty. Again.
“I’d just got off tour and I went in the studio with Switch,” Neon Hitch said about the slow-bubbling dubstep groove. “We partied all night and happened to lay a few melodies. A month later Switch got in the studio with Benny Blanco and played the demo. Benny loved the scratch demo so much that we didn’t really change the song at all.”
Back in 2007, Neon Hitch signed to The Streets’ indie label; The Beats Recordings and went on tour with Mike Skinner. Since then she has been busy putting the finishing touches to her debut album Beg Borrow & Steal due out later this year. According to some snippets we listened to, it’s going to be a mixture of jazz-inflected vocals kissing eclectic pop melodies and hip-hop beats. We can’t wait for the release…
Hirsty! Wayne Coyne and friends of The Flaming Lips have decided to release four new songs on a USB drive that has been encased in a life-sized brain made of “edible gummy bear stuff,” which in turn has been placed inside a life-sized Gummi-skull. $150 may seem too much for some, but these are apparently going to be quite limited. This is – until now – the most absurd release of 2011. Whatever works we guess…
The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne said, that he wanted to release the band’s new songs in unorthodox ways this year, rather than working on a full album. I guess this presentation shouldn’t come as a shock after we have learned that Coyne was making posters with his own blood or hand-delivering unique record pressings.
Below you can stream all four of the songs that were included in the USB: ‘Drug Chart’, ‘In Our Bodies Out of Our Heads’, ‘Walk With Me’, and ‘Hillary’s Time Machine Machine’. Very Flaming Lips.
Producer, programmer and sound designer extraordinaire, Amon Tobin releases his new audio project
Isam this week on Ninja Tune. The album features his characteristic mixture of darkly textured soundscapes, abstract beats, and a touch of dubstep rhythms; to promote the record, Amon walks us through his intricate studio techniques in this accompanying video.
Even though in Switzerland he is not a pop star he is probably one of the best known Swiss musicians abroad. He regularily tours in the U.S., in Japan, in Russia and all over Europe. At the moment he plans a tour to New Zealand. His music is global, a global kind of trash blues rock’n’roll, but Beat-Man somehow sees himself as a typical Swiss guy:
Swiss are being seen as perfectionist. Whether or not this is just a cliché Beat-Man believes that this is a true Swiss thing about him and his way of being a record label owner:
The Voodoo Rhythm label exists since 1992. Since then Beat Zeller a.k.a. Beat-Man has released dozens of records from bands or musicians such as King Khan and His Shrines, Zeno Tornado and the Boney Google Brothers, Bob Log III, Delaney Davidson, Dead Brothers, The Watzloves, Pussywarmers, Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle, Mama Rosin just to name a few.
Reverend Beat-Man also has a lot of followers from other arts than just music. Such as lovely burlesque dancers, crazy silk print artists or passionate filmmakers who keep contributing video clips for the growing Beat-Man worshipping community:
Beat-Man can barely survive by running his record label. But he can rely on a fanbase in every corner of the world. There are fans who even tattoo the logo of the Voodoo Rhythm label in their skin. Sometimes he is surprised how far his fans go to show their admiration:
Slumberland Records has signed Atlanta’s Gold-Bears, who will release a full-length album titled Are You Falling In Love? on May 17. They'll fit in nicely with the label's sound aesthetic. Check out an MP3 and a video and learn more.