Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tocante and Solar Sounders Workshop, Oberlin College

On the occasion of John Talbert's retirement from Oberlin College, the TIMARA dep't decided to celebrate his service to the aid of electronic and computer music. Tom Lopez phoned me and said he wanted to program the event with a wide variety of concerts, lectures, and workshops. Always on the hook for a visit to rural Ohio (seriously, I love the windy empty feeling in the fields, and the deep hidden rivers cut into the landscape), I proposed two workshops involving solar power. As he was my electronics and soldering teacher, I could really relate any project to John Talbert's original guidance. However, the tocante instruments and solar sounders are especially appropriate as the conservatory abhors strange tunings, and that it always seeks eco-musicality.

On two snowy days (3/2/17 and 3/3/17) we gathered in the SKYBAR which joins the older practice rooms and the high-newness jazz building. Mr. Talbert recommended the SKYBAR, and it did in fact have great light, acoustics, and work spaces. Twelve students built twelve tocantes, and the same amount built twelve solar sounders. The snow cleared the day after and we had clear skies to test the instruments and concertize with them.

I'm proud to be a member of TIMARA millenial faculty: (L to R) Aurie Hsu, Gary Lee Nelson, Lyn Goeringer, Peter Blasser, Tom Lopez, Joo Won Park, John Talbert, Julia Christensen, Peter Swendson. Not Pictured: Per Bloland
Opening the tocante presentation, I would lay the circuit boards out, along with cases, batteries and other stuff.
Then I might try to demonstrate scales and timbres while snow swirled the cupola.
Mister Talbert would distribute the precision strippers, nippers, and pliers.
Begin stripping one triplex wire and three duplices.
I'll show you how to tack the inductor and then whet under its feet.
John Talbert, circuit artist, teacher, and engineer.

The next day I rolled out a cart of capacitors for making our birds, monks, and trains.
Soldering, we used lead. Don't worry about it; musical instruments sequester lead, like the pipe organ, to speak Godly tones.
Elie and Patrick prepare solar sounder boxes.
A solar sounder having its capacitors installed, it becomes alive in time.
After a quick battery test, it is tethered to the sun by silicon for its life.
John Talbert, Travis Johns
Stacked solar sounders, color coding by Mary Lilith Fischer, who also took these pictures.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Abiotic Probiotic by Petroleum Bottle

Had a dream, vis. the Soviet theory of abiotic petrogenesis @ Akademgorod.  Faced with the final, inevitable demise of oil reserves, U.S. hires a Soviet theorist to check the old theory that petroleum is not dinosaur bones but actually a natural process underground which only needs jump-starting.  To jump-start, I went to a now derelict derrick in the desert, and using the tube connection to deep underground, I poured in the $2 coffee I just bought, as well as the head of my best friend Daniel (he had two).  Several hundred years hence, when the derrick had receded into an underground chambre surrounded by expectant Soviet chemists, I addressed them: "What you see here is an experiment in petrogenesis.  I have poured my coffee and severed head of my best friend here into this well in the hopes that, without dinosaur corpses, we can kickstart the process of petrogenesis deep underground using the natural heat of the Earth's core."

Refer to: Rudolph Steiner's use of cow head in brewing probiotic wine...

Rainforest Airport

The 2014 proceedings of SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States), at Wesleyan University, offered several alternatives to traditional concert-hall diffusion of tape pieces.  One such alternative sought sonic contributions for an installation of David Tudor's Rainforest, in the sleek and modern Zelnick Pavilion.  The piece, simply, explores the resonances of found objects by exciting them with transducers, controlled by a multi-channel computer sound system.

Zelnick Pavilion is an interesting choice for sound installation.  The architects Robert Olson and Associates conceived of it to provide seamless accessibility between the two oldest, neighboring buildings, the Memorial Chapel and '92 Patricelli Theater.  Zelnick also serves as reception space and ticket-booth for the traditional concerts held there, and it hides air conditioning and other utilities for the buildings, thus linking them to a core of modernization.  Its function is immanent in its form; the pavilion lacks any sort of performance stage, theatrical equipment, or religious accoutrements, deferring these to the neighbors.  It has a wonderful, metallic tower that exists solely for elevator access to second floor of the chapel.  However, the space is useful in itself; the completely glass structure with generous eaves is full of even daylight, with arching columns and granite surfaces provide a decentralized art-space usually patronized by theses presentations and photography hangings.  
gothic chapel glass pavilion
The space is not unlike a mini airport in its angles, which jut out, reminding one of Dulles International in Chantilly, Virginia.  Our original plan for hanging the objects of Rainforest specified aircraft cable hung between the upper pylons of the space, with guy wires suspended down to the individual pieces.  The rigging material was quickly downgraded to nylon ropes and a series of temporary knots and wire ties that made the installation's aerial web into a postmodern (read eclectic, messy as if with manifesto, and finally, elements of home depot) visual element.  The objects were activated with various sounds during the couple days of SEAMUS, and at night, as "lobby music" for the formal concerts in the chapel.  It is often noted that David Tudor was an alcoholic, and the strong drink grappa featured heavily at Rainforest performances; coincidentally, the cash bar of SEAMUS inhabited Zelnick Pavillion along with the installation.
Rainforest in the airport-like pavilion.

Rainforest is a collection of found objects, each made into a loudspeaker by transducer.  Many of the objects have a resonant frequency, but this is not a universal condition; some have subtler spectra but louder non-linear noise, such as the gourd, whose seeds rattle at many frequencies.  Thus a Fourier analysis of the situation can be complemented by other sonic identities such as rhythm, space, noise.  My first foray into composing for Rainforest was a 24 channel Supercollider program that attempted to mimic the animal sounds of the jungle; it was a lyrical interpretation that did not rely on scientific analyses, rather it was to get the objects going with a variety of arbitrary birdsong. 

Memorial Chapel: Traditional Gothic Structure, Wind Organ.
How to approach composition for the midi organ: usually some approach is to play really fast stuff, unplayable by human. the console is interesting because it is cybernetic interface: the physical part of the organ is abstracted away and controlled at console, somewhat like Rainforest. There are two dimensions to controlling the organ: by stop and by note. There is a third, which is opening and closing expression shutters to control a little bit of dynamics. The pipes you see in front are diapason pipes, but hiding behind and in the shuttered chambers are a variety of timbres and voices.

Since the organ is played with air, and we are mentally porting rainforest to it, it is rainforest airport.
a paradoxical quest is how creativity is introduced into the endeavour; the rainforest installation was in close proximity to the chapel due to unique architecture of the complex, so a natural urge during installation process was to 'counterpoint' the installation and use the organ as part of it.  but what materials and how to port them?

  • the gestures of the supercollider tracks: undulations, pulses
  • idea of excitation signals
  • musicality, manually making music that works,
  • using resonances, difference tones between midi and the natural resonances derived...
  • exciting speaking tones, just the airy inception of each pipe.
  • playing the resonances as midi notes
  • a list of alcohols and liquors:

Quantus Barney: Secluded Residence @ Radio Shack, Parts III and IV

"Bing Zi eats noodles most loudly, but he does it away from the main table, sitting hunched like he's pooping.  It seems he thinks the sound of eating is vulgar and he is embarrassed by it as if it farts.  The elves and Cold Lake and the other traditional musicians, however, had much merriment at the great table that Quantus Barney provisioned with his simple monk's meal.  That is how we supped in anticipation for the great day of symbolic music ahead of us."

That night, Monkletto brought casks of wine and had arranged a delivery of feminine zithers, arched and clothed in silk.  The monk wishes his city friend would not visit him here, at the secluded transmitter, but he tolerated Monkletto's patronage and had the wine placed in the basement by the dog, and he put the kotos up in a rack above the transmitter.

As he was leaving, Monkletto prepared a black hole mouth and white noise eyes. He showed this to Bing Zi and the elves, who were tending the ceremonial fire in the courtyard.  The white noise eyes meant that Monkletto was to upset the Confucian orderliness of the ensemble with his debased and confused city ways; the black hole mouth meant they should wait for the right moment to wild out but until then, play lute and flute.

The pines grow well here because of the sand in the soil and the windy location.  The pines thrive on wind but my microphones do not; this is a thought in the monk's head.  Fortunately in the morning, it was bright out and quite still, and little birds chirped the air.  A perfect day for lutes, chimes and winds.  The visiting musicians played from dawn to dusk, with a break in between to get ice cream, kimchi, a hard premade bun, and chips whose bags have many morals.

The musicians made perfect music, in that mistakes were accommodated by improvised harmonization.  They were transmitted well by the 800 watt antenna that day, and I received it in my kitchen, cooking and sitting with my son.

That night, Monkletto arrived again as headlights approaching from far away in the fields.  When he crunched up the gravel driveway, Bing Zi and the elves were known to jump up.  Monkletto had brought women to play the kotos and the cask of wine was broken open.  Laughing in the firelight of the lodge, the women with jagged teeth first allowed the men to stroke their straight zithers, then commenced to play chirps and squeaks and also deeper bendy moans on their kotos.  Bing Zi and the elves were blowing lackadaisically on panpipes when some of the "lesser" women approached them and as was prescribed by Monkletto, these women were seduced. 

In the next installment of "Quantus Barney: Secluded Residence,"
What is the aftermath of Monkletto's debasing incision, especially in the receptive sensorium of the dog?  A note on the video practices of the overarching institution of the Temple.

Bing Zi and the elves were blowing lackadaisically on panpipes when some of the "lesser" women approached them and as was prescribed by Monkletto, these women were seduced.  While they were out in the courtyard bonking, Quantus Barney was playing "At The Watertower" on his zither.  The song's simple hot urban rhythm and funky harmonic effects wafted the courtyard the music of patchouli and other sonic desert scents.

His dog remembered a past life as a "desert dog," napping by day in the cool shade of a cistern, and prowling in the sagebrush at night for lizards, crickets.  At twilight, his master, a leathery human, came out in the courtyard, and with fallow glistening beady eyes, rubbing his crotch, on a lady, on a cactus, in a video still...

You see, Quantus Barney was documenting the whole "scenario" with the video cameras provided by the Temple that, of course, sponsored his residency at the transmitter.  The documenta was for his secred "monx-filez", a bunch of tapes labeled in sharpie with various mitigating quotes from the literature: "Andy Warhol- no touch monk", "Monks exercise every organ"...  He fast forwards the tape to the part where Monkletto is pointing his tongue to her anus.  It flits on the musk and she jumps like electricity but he pursues her with his triangle tongue.

Sensors and a discussion of microphony in the Pavilion
"The pavilion has a snake running from it to the radio shack, where various microphones are mixed into an ensemble for broadcast. "

When the monk plays alone, as often is the case, he puts his zither down on the resonant pine table inside the radio shack.  There he can sit for hours on a short stool, with a ceramic bowl of bitter tea by his sides.  He is playing alone in this shack because that is the proper way to play the zither, out here in the pines, where the corn-cob-pipe men grow corn and listen to his station, which tries to be virtuous, although all sorts of people do come through, even Monkletto and his women, which have much to offer the fine airwaves with their multiplicitous plucking and subtle singing close into the condensers, where farmers can hear their whistling breath and glottal wordage. 

The monk not only samples his favorite selections from the repertoire, but as part of his mandate from the temple, he is to discover new pieces and indeed new configurations of his zither in the secluded residence.  His dog knows that he puts wires inside his zither to pursue the CHAOS arts along with the speakers in the radio shack.  The wires bring out something unseen from the air, while the zither provides a physical basis, a body for the monk to work on.

Something is going on around the wood body, and the dog can only hear the ultrasonic result of this radio process.  It sounds like the bats which are cultured near the temple, but much louder and much more synthetic in tenor.

In the next installment of "Quantus Barney: Secluded Residence,"
The dog is gaseous and shaggy.  What is the power of the zither, and how to use it properly?  Monkletto scores as electronic music is used for torture and war.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Hi Jeff, thanks so much for your neighborly help in my mathquest! I must say, I have no idea how to apply what you said about derivative of the square root and step-wise arc-length! I rely on tools like equation solver and Desmos to visualize and code these things. The Persian tar embodies two cardioid chambers. I found the Lemniscate of Gerono (LOG) on Wolfram and thought it would be usable. Now I realize I should have started with the polar form, but let me explain how I've been programming my CNC: by hacking. Every shape is churned through various empirical script-classes (Bot, Jacksloon, Okuda, Plumpott) that spend as much time thinking about woodworking as math.

 So I visualized the eight curve on Desmos and just tweaked it till I thought it was right. Turns out, I cut it and it feels great. I'll show you. I've been musing on luthiers who make big instruments and how it boils the whole art down to phallic magnification. I'm excited that this equation can represent the Persian tar as well as a comfortable laptop guitar shape in a diminutive form factor. Here's the desmos link: :it's the top equation, using the z slider to represent the different terraces. The essential LOG involves x squared and hypercubed as well as y in those exponents, but I also added x cubed to make the left side smaller than the right as in the tar.

I've always appreciated small instruments for the same reason I appreciate Miles Davis: you gotta be cool, and be boss. Bring a brass trumpet and summon your players to the jazz; bring a little synth and have a big sound. Although I applaud any friends who lift heavy weights for their art... A boxer does that too, but in the ring he's naked.

The third variable, Z, is the depth of the bit, so it traces a three dimensional, waisted and rounded shape. When I type it into equation solver (and I don't know how it does it) I can solve for y, in a very tight form: My first prototype cut great at the waist, in horizontal or diagonal waters. But the vertical segments should have precise and tight code because they are the end-grain and can hold fine woodwork. So I said, well then, instead of a left to right traversal, I want a spinner to cut the layers of this object. I attempted to substitute r*sin(t) for x and r*cos(t) for y and asked equation solver to solve for r, but the answer seems to go on forever: yield to stump.

One thing I thought of in the shower, was to do the waist in y's, and at the whim of an if..then (the hacking power of code doth insult the purity of math!) statement switch to the x solution and go up and down across the "butt" of the instrument. I conceive of the contour cuts in two separate parts, or regimes. First a planer rough cut, a terracing of the work piece. Then, a smoothing cut goes up and down in the z axis, and also should traverse the perimeter of the piece. It's a triangle wave that works so well from a woodworking standpoint. So I like it, but it is problematic without a polar representation.

So polar is the grail because the triangle wave could better follow the perimeter.

I got stumped trying to convert the equation to x and also to polar in radius. Turns out that it was the x cubed term that was screwing up the polar solution, or somehow spinning it out into an infinite series. I poked at removing it, and the equation simplifies well into polar with only the even powers: x and y, squared and hypercubed. The desmos graph without x cubed.

You said an artist wants to control his materials. I said I'm not an artist but you said I am. I said that I just listen to the equations when they want to tell me something. This equation seems to be telling me: release asymmetry, since it solves for radius so well:

BTW all the equation solves are by NUMBER EMPIRE"S EQUATION SOLVER>

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shbobo Shtar

I'm working on the "Shtar," for Shbobo. This string instrument connects frets to an ARM Cortex to generate computer music sounds and effects for combination with the strings.

I've been making string instruments since seventh grade wood-shop, when Mister Scango enabled me to use the band-saw with an awareness for safety first. Obsessed with ancient Latin and Greek, I wanted to build a lyre, but I had no tortoise shell, so I built the more esoteric, kithara. An Altavista web-search for "kithara" yielded Harry Partch's tome, which taught me tuning, but I never produced stringed instruments for business.

Also on a late-nineties Altavista instrument search would be Lark in the Morning, a San Francisco music shop specializing in strings from around the world. Yearn for a cumbus–a potbelly African banjo–or admire the mulberry body of the Persian tar. The shtar employs an equation called the Eight Curve (or lemniscate of Gerono) to sculpt a computer-age tar body.

The tar-body is interesting because it has two chambers. The larger one supports and resonates the bridge, but the smaller one also senses pressure gestures. Knobs are customary for the classic electric guitarist– add those too.

Back to tuning–the shtar shall divide the octave into seventeen equal parts, for 33 total frets. Fourths, fifths and octaves have the customary pearl marker as power spots. Neutral seconds and thirds also have a marker for modal playing. Three strings–a fifth for strumming and an octave for soli. 

The fret-board is the circuit-board. I hope to bend brass wire frets to solder into the board. Hope it works! Think it will! If it does then the ball's in the park! Look forward to see more!

Meters to Inches

I love this topic and I plan to hit it up as often as possible. The general jist is that a foot has twelve inches, which gives you thirds and quarters, while the esperantoes at metropolis gave you this dainty measurement that only factors by quints.

I grew up with inches so I naturally think in them, but if I ever need a scarlet wildcard, I will whip out the centimeter. I guess I have learned to live comfortably with both and their irrational relationship! In the shnth, I factored the barres as a dainty centimeter rather than the studworth half-inch. On the shtar, it looks like we'll be using 2mm brass rod for the frets.

Thinking about brass rod (btw the chapman stick uses rod frets). Eighth inch was too thick, and 3/32 too. 1/16 was wonderful to work with but I would worry about it's long term stability. I already use 2mm for a fine engraving bit on the CNC so it wasn't too much of a stretch to specify it as the perfect compromise between mass, workability, and stability.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Post Metallic Thousand Years

Imagine a young art historian at a vernal college, studying the gradient of art movements that led through modern art. The art historian would say that after the post-modern, we will continue progress through hypothetical trans- or hyper- modernities. I propose that the post-modern is more akin to the medieval, a long limbo full of organic development, lacking massive organizational inventions such as the roman empire or electronics.

Examine the modern, a time when the world learned of itself as metallic inventions flourished in the humanosphere. Jesus was importantly placed at the beginning of the Roman Empire, as its interrogator. To me, Rudolph Steiner was messiah for the 1889 metallic inventions, such as the steam locomotive and electric generation.

Does rich metallic invention imply a continual fracturing of media from here on out? Does this constitute continual moore's law for inventiveness? Or is it a middle ages of people re-working the standard tool–a computer–for a thousand years!

The self-steering car does not violate Butlerian Jihad, as the car imitates itself.
Paul Virilio _ an accident museum for the google car. So many screaming crashes.

Interested not in progress, but how can we view these thousand years of re-hashing as a holographic crystal until we stumble upon a new effect. A medieval that isn't that, rather a post-metallic epic, for a thousand years!