Sunday, September 29, 2019

Quantus Barney: Secluded Residence @ Radio Shack, Part XI

Quantus called out to you, "come here, you bald trombonist, my friend! Hey, come into my video booth, where I am having tea, would you like some?" You bring your trombone into the darkened room, its walls painted black. The red power lights shone on the monitors.

"I am beginning a new project, interrogating the product of video-graphic work. More specifically, why do we videotape actions and then play them back after some editing? Does it have to be a deliverable via TV, or could it be some sort of jazz performance? I am bringing you, a visiting improvisor, into my clandestine video booth, to watch these debaucherous scenes and improvise along. No I won't let you use your favorite video editing software, just your trombone!"

The party was videotaped secretly, using a cluster of the audio bus wires to feed a panoptikon of all rooms in the compound to the radio shack, where Quantus was having tea. He had duct-taped black cardboard all over the walls which originally were porous, giving it a dark, pervy feeling.

"We are going to improvise a lyrical piece, and I might even write some lyrics on the spot. The microphones are on in the radio shack, and our improvisations will be broadcast live to all corn-cob-men in Ohio."

Quantus clicked the red glowing lozenges on each monitor and they fired up with an ultrasound zap! "Let me explain myself as an artist. I follow Andy Warhol's maxim 'watch, but don't touch.' As such, the entire events of this compound become potential materials for improvisation."

"For example, there is an orgy going on right now in the temple, but also my friend Chris Peters is patching a synthesizer in the studio. I put the webcam of sexual penetrations on monitor A, and I feed imagery of the banana wires jacking and unplugging into monitor B. Now I can explore various transmutations with this slider: a crossfade, dissolve, hard cuts. Now I think you know what to do."

You blow some air into the trombone and get the mouthpiece wet. It is cool but brandishing warmth at every breath. In the sexual webcam you immediately see some gestures that are easy to transfer to trombone: pistoning, flopping, up and down glissandi. But you want to start it cool, for the radio drama of the piece. You look over at the synthesizer patching. Chris Peters is slowly rotating a knob. That makes you think of your own, cool breath in and out, cool but warming deep inside the pipes. You blow a breath sound not unlike the wind in the pines.

"You are the composer, the improviser, the multi-instrumentalist! I may broadcast some of the videotaped sounds, but most of it is either too explicit or too experimental; you are the bridge, my friend the bald trombonist! What we're going for is a complete loss of the original data, be it pornographic or experimental music, enabling the improvisor to step in and reconstruct the party as jazz."

"I've always loved the CDs that you can buy in the store of Ancient Greek and Roman music. Who made these CDs, a digital recording from ancient times? How were they recorded? A music goes unrecorded, only to be spoken of by various shady and misty authors, and then becomes sound data on a CD. It's like a legendary party, that leaves no record."

"The recording of Ancient music is like the symmetrical opposite of what I'm trying to accomplish here: starting with a recorded stream, and then using ancient instruments to channel the data, and thus removing the original data. It's a way to deal with data waste, my bald trombonist."

"Then we have my friend Bingzi who mostly hangs out in the kitchen. He has such a nice ordering of the space, and disciplined about cleanliness, we rely on him for food and as far as recipes, we just let him go. He cooks great Asian fusion food, like take his cold noodles, which I know secretly through a webcam, he is eating right now. I wired the kitchen with high-gain microphones; avoiding drafts from steam and ventilation fans was a challenge, but the main fan motors are baffled outside the kitchen on the roof. So it's actually quiet enough in there right now to hear him eating. Actually you could hear him eating over a truck; he's sucking them and slurping them so loud as is the custom."

Making slurping sounds is an audio manifestation of basically using your lips as a swirly blender, to mix some oxygen into the noodles and thus bring out the flavors by oxalysis. Quantus would be extremely at unease with the intensity of Bingzi's slurping, but he was much more comfortable hiding in a video booth during such a party, drinking tea and composing.

"Now we're listening to Bingzi through ultra-sensitive microphones and I can mix them, the noodle slurping takes on different timbres throughout the room, anyone can hear that. I think a lonely noodle slurper in a metal cafeteria: that's a great score for a trombone improvisor. Just follow the swoopy movements and noodly forms, and the noise sounds are great take-off points for extended technique on the trombone. We might even get to the gurgly sound of spit moving through its pipes. The dinking of soup spoon on ceramic bowl would make me crazy in real life, but here it becomes a wonderful percussive ring within an improvised piece."

From now on, when Quantus addresses the second person, imagine that you are a bald trombonist with a penchant for extended technique and ridiculous sounds, but you can blow hard too. You have learned to improvise to the videostream of an orgy, and someone eating noodles, and these sounds were broadcast over the quiet Ohio farmscape.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Post-Electronic Manifesto

Handmade Electronics

The synthesizer maker creates a fiction that musicians play with and make real. The electronic instrument enables the musician, just as silicon transistors and plastic capacitors enable its maker. Synthesis, or putting together, applies to music as well as electronic materials.

Synthetic materials are chosen for electronics to isolate fundamental properties such as resistance or capacitance. Organic materials are not perfect or ideal in this sense, but contain a variety of electronic properties. When paper and wood become part of a circuit, they change it in an unknowable way.

Sometimes I make a circuit board out of paper, encase the circuit in wood, and the device becomes doubly handmade. In a world where electronics are easily made by machine, why make them by hand at all? Because time spent soldering is time spent philosophizing on the nature and purpose of craft.

As a meditation consider four objects crafted from electronics materials:
  • a rounded envelope of Alaskan copper. A geometric thorax shape sits above a T-split waist. Some have told me it resembles a fillet of salmon. The copper shield embodied wealth in potlatch culture.
  • a spiral wrap of kapton, a plastic tape used in aerospace electronics, and anti-static mylar, for packing-protecting sensitive electronics components. A tiny crescent hook forms its armature. A single strand of copper wire gives its abdomen an insect-like striation. The synthetic sheen of the materials fools trout to imagine it as a pupal midge emerging from the deep.
  • a small basket woven out of colorfully insulated strands of wire, salvaged by its maker from telecommunication installations in South Africa.
  • a thin acoustic housing of wood around a resonant airspace containing two speakers and a paper circuit. It emits primitive and noisy sounds, perhaps an instrument to scare animals away? 
Four objects handmade from electronics materials

The copper shield embodies a principle of hacking: its owner broke it into pieces, distributing them as gifts to guests at the potlatch, each of whom brazes a new copper shield. Copper, a fundamental component of electronics, is a spiritual material because of its elemental nature of repeatable re-melting. Its hackability arises from this inherent physical property. The copper shield held a revered ritual place in traditional Potlatch culture, representing animal spirits, thus interacting with the dreams of guests at a ceremony.

Spiritual science examines the invisible subconscious motivations and dreams behind human manifestations. For Rudolf Steiner, looking for “spirit” of an object involves taking a natural object and a perfect facsimile of it and trying to discern which one is living. Do electronics, especially musical ones, deserve only a physical analysis, or can we speak about the spirit of electronics? Spirit is recorded, crafted into the copper of the shield. The copper is dream putty: it can imitate the form of natural life, as perceived through the dreams of its maker.

There is something compelling about an object that synthesizes artificial and natural elements. It must have been handmade, fitted together; it is a sign of human touch. Think of what the tension between organic and synthetic messages to the end user. Plastic cases strike a subconscious chord of disposability. Even though wood is more biodegradable, users treats it more indispensably, because of how it looks, feels, and the sound of it. Protected by nostalgia, it is un-obsoletable: a musical instrument

Thousand Years Post-Electronic Medieval Times

You wander the woods with your handmade electronic unit, but why did you make it? The bear following you wonders too at the strange sounds and its nightmares scare it from you- it's like dream putty. A media device would have captured you in its own dream state, and you would become too entranced to notice the bear sneaking up behind you. The primitive noisemaker yields psychic agency to its player who emboldens to face the bear.

What whimsical talk about hipsters and wild ones! It may, however, become relevant 500 years hence in the middle of the thousand years post-electronic medieval times. Then, media is not the dazzling promise it was at the beginning, but electronics has continued to develop as a craft. The bell of innovation has rung and decayed; Moore’s law did not curve upwards forever, but plateaued for many generations. The twentieth century was a crisis at the beginning of this bell-shaped acceleration, but now we know what we’re doing. My job as builder of analog synthesizers is to resonate with the original innovation of electronics itself. 
Look at the development of bronze and other new industries that enabled the roman empire, a dizzying expansion and invasion. Bronze was immediately sequestered by powers into swords, but did new technology increase exponentially from there? No, it plateaued for a thousand years of middle ages, passing through many hands to be reworked, to develop as a craft. Electronic craft shall follow a similar path; initially developed for war, then realizing a latent potential for art over the thousand years post-electronic medieval times.
Moore's Law as a series of bell-shaped accelerations and technological plateaus.
The thought of passing synthesizer artifacts through generations informs my prophecy. During this period of time, we will seek to fully understand our relationship with electronics. Do you think that we really only had analog synthesizers for a hundred years and now they're dead? Do you think that's what we thought when glass was discovered? Until some distant human evolves a brain organ that understands the relationship between quantum physics and general relativity, we will inhabit this new plateau, the electronic limbo. 
Here's a note about ego during the twentieth century. At times of acceleration, people are thought of as inventors. In technological plateaus, however, they are more like resonators, fitting into a multi-generational continuum. Summoning spiritual electronics is our shared task during the thousand years post-electronic medieval times. After so many years of co-existance, electronics subsume into our subconscious, where dwells spirit. Focus not on the media, but the medieval; record spirit in dream putty, hack an electronic artifact and pass it along as a memory of your craft: a musical instrument

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Solar Sounders busk log, 8//19

The goal of the day was to bring Solar Sounders and an aluminum bucket (Car Brand) to the farmer's markets, starting at the local one. We had test busked in the square last afternoon. When the sun fully struck the Solar Sounders they blazed frequencies, but there was much traffic coming from the bridge to drown the them, and very few pedestrians of the clientele sort. By mentioning clientele I refer to my son's quest for gold, for busking would earn him dollars to buy candies with. My quest was to experiment with social interactions and explain Solar Sounders to strangers.

On the test-busk I only spoke with one stranger named Jim, who is not a bum but had walked the streets, been chewed up by them and had a dog named Max. He is studying to be a pastor and I offered the a dove (sounder) for his church but he corrected me: his sort of pastor walks the streets and helps others. He wanted a dove to freak out his neighbors and offered to buy it. I repeated they were not for sale as he cradled it sunward in his arm. "Well then," he said and picked through a handful of minor change, dropping some in the aluminum bucket. It clinked, the boy smiled. He brought the coins to the Thai shack for some tamarind iced tea.

I bought the boys some Pad Thai too, and while we ate I noticed a bicycle-mounted bum circling near the Sounders which leant against the brick semi-wall near a cardboard bum-bed. He skirted us sitting in the shady Thai restaurant patio. "Do you want us to move those away?" I asked. "No worries! They're really trippy." Thus he was copacetic which I could not have told from his hollowed eyes. He smiled a bit. "Good weird, right?" "Sure!" As the test-busk wound down, I confided my trippy sounds in the open-mindedness of bums, and that quarter would be safe. Jim did have a weird moment when he started walking away with the dove, and I had to snatch it back.


Today we started early, Kiri and I. I thought we might leave in the truck with an extra battery of four Sounders, but we had become hungry so Kiri convinced me to bike. We left with two full backpacks (two monks, one dove, and three cicadas) and the aluminum tip bucket. I joked, "I usually wear a helmet but today a stylish Irish beret." We biked to the same square that held the test busk but today, the Farmers Market. I'm friendly with the man who runs the stage there, even though I flaked on him once. I respect the stage but I can't really even compete with it yet, so everything's copacetic with my strange peripheral busking. In Portland I've never had trouble with the authorities, me and my solar powered sound. But today was different; there was a loud generator and a camera crew. We ordered some crepes which arrived promptly. As we ate a Japanese production crew supervised an American film crew. It became clear that we would not busk, for the extra bustle and the loud sound of their generator would easily drown us out. We started biking home, but stopped halfway, and congealed a plan to load our bikes onto the 16 bus toward downtown Portland and the main Farmers Market.

The bus took us to 6th and Oak, we got out and removed our bikes. The glazed, wide, brick sidewalks, somehow shady in the urban canyon, mostly deserted except near the market. We biked south and west uphill to Pioneer Square, the glazed brick cascade of steps baking in the Sun. A young tour guide babbled in the shade of a solitary oak. The courthouse sat silently across the street. The brick steps form a large acoustic lens throughout the park but there also sits a smaller recessed lens near Starbucks. A young, vaguely homeless couple clustered on some cardboard in the shade. We set up in the middle of the lens, resting Sounders against the bricks, angling them towards the Sun. Then began our first encounter with the lady in a wheelchair holding a dog, and her friend a bearded lady. She and I both wore pink shirts and our conversation was pleasant, and they expressed true interest. I'm open to all forms of sexuality and they were all open to all forms of electronic music. So naturally solar Sounders are healing; their day-tripping sounds present an alternative to mainstream electronic music. They inhabit Sunny baked spots of midday sun, reflecting the weirdos' baked mixed feeling of boredom and paranoia. Most people in the world don't have ears. They sit there too, baking in the sun. You can be certain that most people will stroll by and not even notice the weird in their ears. That knowledge helps me focus on particularly meaningful interactions with weirdo strangers.

Dwelling a little bit longer in Pioneer Square, we moved the Sounders twice within that massive glazed amphitheater. Moving on, we packed up the Sounders and the aluminum tip bucket. Pumping farther up south and west we arrived at the strip of park that begins the main Farmers Market, and locked our bikes at the edge of it. Because it's big we hiked around it first, arriving at the top of the hill. There, I placed the Sounders on a patch of sunny dirt, with the tip bucket barging onto the sidewalk. One lady asked me what we were doing and I answered "we are busking." Kiri and I had agreed on this answer the night before in a discussion. I gave him some money to get ice cream and pizza, then sat down in the shade to observe pedestrians, their shadows, and a very small percentage of interested people: babies, three older men with caps, one bum who said it sounds trippy, the lady in the wheelchair with the dog and the bearded lady. I think one girl dropped a micro-coin in the bucket by mistake. The three older men were separate, Smiley, and wanted to see under the hood. I responded in kind, showed them the simple circuit board and speaker cone shrouded by the solar panel. To each man I worked my mouth around a manifesto, explaining that I made synthesizers for sale, but these are not. It's an experiment. I'm interested in using solar for something in the moment, like electronic sound. That's why they don't have batteries and shadows mute them. To another stranger I explained the palette: two monks, a dove, and three cicadas. "They're fixed at these sounds, there are no knobs, it's art!" I persisted. The sunny corner had good traffic but an inner glade was quieter and harbored  relaxing individuals and a small patch of sunlight wither removed the Sounders.

From this part of the day on we met no more strangers and descended back down hill to meet the bus back home, which cradled our bikes. I thought of Kiri quietly singing with the dove and realized this is a possible avenue to generate more gold: performing an imitation of the sounders with our voices. If I throat sang with the monk, then I would become what it was imitating and thus a musical loop of inspiration. That's generating a performance greater than just some cardboard boxes making trippy sounds for bums. I mean for some real clientele, we could have accented the sound, with our own voices, like a band. Well I did get a paper bag of fragrant basil stuffed in the aluminum pot.

Today I learnt from a combination of bums and smiley gentlemen. I need to implement "Tuba Car" ASAP. It is the thumping trippy bass of the sounders, installed in my shingled Tool Shed as a twelve inch woofer, a sixty watt solar panel, over-driving unbeknownst a seven watt car amplifier chip on aluminum heat-sink. I will need to experiment with a range of panel wattages down to ten, to discover what causes the wonderful distorted tuba sounds. I shall recreate the shed on elf scale with fine cedar shingles, a corrugated plastic roof, like a dog house for the woofer and the circuit. I think the the tuba sounds truly may only have one cause: current interactions on the supply caused by extreme amplification. I include a chaos knob in the fine electronic organs which I sell, to give them sophisticated sounds of very fine granularity. A Solar Sounder is different, it gets all the chaos it needs from the panel interacting with the environment of light, and a secondary action is just as nonpareil. That is, the current relationship of the panel and the speaker amplifier, mediated by the main bypass capacitor. Thus tuba car thumps beats in a rhythm controlled by its amplifier gain. Simple circuit bending knowledge, thanks Jessica Rylan, Todd Bailey, David Tudor, whomever else you should comment below!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Plumbutter Test Procedure

Plumbutter Test Procedure

test kit: 2 bananas, one mp3 player into stereo-mini cord,
and another banana for the steam. 

deerhorn: it is traditional to choose a pitch relationship
and leave it for the whole piece,
to create a drone fro the listener.

red, white and purple bruised deerhorn.

gongue-check, end in bass on the deer.

avdog check

noise break- ultrasound to self-modulate.

rolls- this is going to be boring.

berlin snare at full

steam beats

hearing check- ultrasonic errors

ultra-steam is the subtlest, a stereo error field. 

media-processor: gongue
media-processor: avdog
media-processor: deerhorn

it is traditional to wait for silence,
then reach around and pull the plug.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Increase Erectile Dysfunctional Weirdness

TEXT FISH NEWS is a social patch sharing platform like MASS SHNTH BOG. But it is also a tactic to avoid scams; only code conforming to the rules of fishiness may pass to the post. So you may be able to post spam textes such as (horn finger (dust (salt horse 2018))), if that means anything to your company.

An attempt at a spam-like patch

The rules of fishiness:
  • comments are a bare newline, or that begun with semi-colon ;with stuff in between
  • balanced expressions: fish () soup {} tank [] boat <>
  • guts are numbers or a magical word from the shlisp dictionary
What to do about spam? As an experimental technique in the future, we may incorporate spam into the opcode matrix philosophy, and such spammy expressions manifest:

;(increase erectile dysfuntional weirdness)

About Hacking

It's funny to me, I felt like I was hacking, but to a set, non-hacking result, a formal language definition. In Perl, I had to learn how to bless data as a class, to achieve polymorphic results. The parser is simply a regex:

while ($texte=~ /(\n|;[^\n]+\n)|([\{\(\[\<;])|([+\w-]+)|([\}\)\]\>;])/g)

So there is an interesting overlay of duck-typing, magical escaping, and OOP. My Javascript employs all the natural functions that already exist for drag and drop, so you could even edit it on the site before you upload it.

To this point I've created the shlisp opcodes in ARM assembly, coded command-line interpreter in c, programmed an editor uploader in C++, created sound games in SDL. Now, add to that list a dummy interpreter for the sake of editing in Javascript, and a dummy interpreter in Perl, for the sake of security against bots.

Comparison of same patch in editor and web

Friday, November 16, 2018

Interview on Solar Sound

I was contacted by Alex Nathanson, a graduate student in New York, for some questions relating to his project, Solar Power for Artists, and with his permission, what follows are his questions and my answers.

When did you start working with solar power and what drew you to working with it?
In 2014, I finally had a chance to design a long-running line of solar-powered touch instruments called Tocante. They work by storing solar power in a battery, and run anytime including night. They are normally off, saving battery power, until a slight touch on the surface activates them. Furthermore, playing electronic music by touch works so much better by battery, because the grounds are isolated and you get a really clean tone. You see, the whole concept of touch and battery power goes hand in hand, and battery power desires a little solar panel as source of what we call trickle-charge, a constant renewal of its chemistry during the day. Later, in 2016, I decided to use solar panels as a source of raw and immediate energy for Solar Sounders, which are essentially a larger 9v panel, an analog circuit, and speaker amplifier, all in a self-contained box. They are best in an ensemble, where overlapping voices in the same range create difference tones and interlocking melodies. Because each voice uses its own solar panel and speaker, they can be separated in space, and also their electronic responses to the solar environment can be unique.
Where did you learn the technical skills necessary for this work?
It's really simple, you just get a solar panel and try powering things with it! I've been trying to make my own cellphone charger for a long time, but cellphones are actually very picky about what voltage input they take. We'll get into this pickiness later.
What are your design criteria in regards to solar powered artwork?
It should work. And that means if there are separate mechanisms they work independently as power is starved, unless it is intended for strange behavior to arise during this starvation.
How has your process evolved over time?
The typical narrative of “becoming cooler as a materials artist” means you may use the resource for a specific task at the beginning, and then learn to design for the resource itself, use its quirks.
Do you consider the visual aesthetics in addition to the audio aesthetics?
Sure, but I listen to sound more. I'm a synthesizer maker so most of my time is spent critiquing sounds, but also, realize that solar sound art is usually outside, and its sound-mark extends over a farther range than its physical presence. It's like asking if the bird considers calls or plumage more important. Birdcalls signal danger or food, but plumage is basically for sex.
When I was talking with Daniel Fishkin, he talked a lot about the impact your solar circuits had on him. Could you describe your approach to designing circuits?
I'd like to point you to an article I wrote on designing the Solar Sounders for eContact! It's called Bird,Monk, Train: Three Approaches to a Solar Sounder Workshop. It is about emulating the calls of those three things for a solar sounder piece to interact with the long-term outdoor environment.
What resources do you wish were available to you when you started building PV based art?
I think electronic sound engineers and composers could work with outdoor metal artists more, because they have the facilities to cast a case that is weather proof. I keep my solar sounders in windows to protect them, and really my shed in the backyard is like a meta-case for the ensemble, but the fact is that most electronic sound engineers don't think about weather proofing because it is assumed for good reasons that their work is conducted in climate controlled, indoor environments.
What are misconceptions you encounter when you present PV art to the public?
Let's talk about any conceptions at all, I mean I think it's pretty unknown still. Most artists like to think of their art as permanent, solid, and thus would prefer to think of it as powered by the wall. That's a misconception right there, is wall power more permanent than solar power?
I don't think of an audience for solar sounders, they are just there. In my yard, I have them in a small potting shed painted red. I polished the windows and put a shelf in them so solar sounders can sit there and absorb the south-western sky. The shadow of the neighbors' cedar tree is a sort of pause in the morning ritual, especially on bright summer days. But don't underestimate the solar-power qualities of a snowy landscape, even on a cloudy day. Actually, I do think of the audience, but I'd like to expand that idea to crows, my neighbor raking leaves, and especially kids playing on a sunny day; isn't that a fresh ear for electronic music? I work directly adjacent to the kindergarten playground. I don't think most kids notice the sounds because they are a constant in their experience of the playground, but that's because they only play on sunny days. There's a whole other time of darkness, where the solar sounders are off, and the audience experience is more subtle then: a dog-walker hears silence. Actually this doesn't just have to do with solar powered synthesizers; when any synthesizer is off, is it dead or sleeping?
Are there concepts that solar power allows you to explore and/or express that other mediums would not?
Let's say for the point of the answer, that there are two kinds of solar power for art: regulated and unregulated. You can see where I'm going here; I'm interested in unregulated because it swings dramatically according to the movement of the sun and the weather. That said, I'm not interested in solar power as a gesture controller; I have made gesture controllers that I feel are more intimate and musical. Also the solar power is a great direct connection between light and sound; in solar sounders I don't use it to charge batteries, but there is a big capacitor that you do need if you want to drive a speaker and not jack the circuit. In regulated solar power, you would make it solid, or steady, for most of the range in full sun, but it would turn off or disappear when under-powered in dim light. I like to explore that lower range, and listen to the variations of nature with the naked power supply unregulated. My favorite are when the clouds are granular with spaces of clear sky between, and also the swaying of tree shadows in the wind. With multiple solar sounders, you can chorus and leverage these luminous effects.
Are there challenges which are unique to solar power or sustainable energy systems more generally that you have encountered while working with this material?
The solar sounders are some of the lowest hanging fruit available out there: just pick a simple electronic circuit and make it sing nicely at all light levels, think about voicing it. It's more of a resource and you can focus on your compositional problems, like voicing highs and lows, timbre, and pitch movement. The power transfer is direct. With Tocante, I designed a solar battery charger that works in all light by using an inductor to boost any energy and dump it into the battery. With that I feel like it was more of a challenge because I wanted to get the most efficient energy transfer and have it work in all circumstances. I remember doing a Tocante workshop in San Diego, and we tried to charge them in some really harsh California light, and they conked out at the brightest. We eventually switched out the inductor values and that fixed it, but it shows how doing a specific task with a variable energy such as solar is more challenging than just saying, “what can I make with a variable power source?”
What resources do you turn to when designing a solar power project? How do you problem solve and troubleshoot?
You should pick your panels first. I think the questioner here knows about that. On your website you seem to be working with interesting “shards” of panels, and micro-wiring them together. It's a comment on the waste materials of electronic industry, which can either go into the ground or we can try to keep up with them... Once you have your power supply, everything else seems to come from that, you put a motor in, I just used some of my work already with analog synths. I am interested in older, more primitive circuits and solar power was a great venue for that. My friend Dan Conrad gave me a toy phaser from the 60s. By listening to its little electronic sound, I could tell that it was made with discrete components, transistors, and it was analog. This is because of its action; on depressing the trigger, it swooped up with a little organic startup sound, and upon releasing, it did not immediately stop but made this wonderful sighing fade. The designers gave it this boinginess by putting a capacitor on the power supply, essentially making it variable like a solar panel on a cloudy day. So people have been using this variability since the 60s at least, and the circuits are out there; listen to the internet and click on your friends for help!
Do you have a sense of how many artists are working in this space? What does the community around solar power art look like?
Lucier did something in the 70s, and I think it used regulated power, even batteries. I've seen other solar art used in this regulated way, sometimes just an amplifier playing samples. To me, that didn't quite question the medium enough. I have a concept, called the “interrogajoke.” it is both an interrogation and a joke on some conception. Here, the interrogation should be about why hasn't anyone treated solar power as fundamentally different from wall power? The joke, for me, is about taking ones-self seriously. When I think of my skills at emulating a bird or a Tibetan monk with a transistor circuit, I do chortle to myself, but I'd rather poke around at the strange sounds that result than try to plan a piece from the beginning according to my own expectations. I want to see more people playing with the power supply, making jokes or whimsies with it, rather than composers or artists trying to own it with a definitive “piece.”
Can you describe the type education projects you're involvedd with? Who are the students?
I did a workshop tour last November, in Europe, where we assembled solar sounders as community arts projects. The thing about November in Rotterdam is that there's a lot of gray sky, however I did find one moment in the day where I could project some sounds into the Dutch alleyway. Also, in Stockholm it was dark by the time we finished but I checked them with some strong lights inside the electronic music studio. That was an interesting turn for me, I realized due to the contingency of the solar medium, that I won't actually be there for the interesting sounds, in the summer. I can remove my self that way.
Do you have a particular teaching philosophy or method?
The idea for the solar powered workshop tour was twofold: to have a capitalist part and a community part. The solar sounders are kept in community studios, such as Worm in Rotterdam, EMS in Stockholm, and Patch Point in Berlin. They are like a library, or part of an instrument library; if it's a nice day outside, members can check them out and put them outside, usher them around town to find some really interesting places for an intervention of solar art. The capitalist part was about individuals assembling Tocante kits to take home, a nice synthesizer for your art and collection.
How do you define learning objectives and successful projects?
Since the feedback is not immediate, such as I explained in the European winter for solar sounders, it takes time to trickle in. So, it's actually an open-ended project. Ideally though, the library of instruments should be protected, repaired, there should be stewards. Luckily there are some really good stewards in all the people who maintain their own or community electronic music studios.
Are there particular challenges when teaching projects that incorporate solar power?
Just what is evident about the relationship between the electronic music studio with its healthy complement of night-people, dramatic dim lights, and the outdoors, sunshine and weather.
In addition to the academic aspect of my research, the main public facing components I'm working towards are 1) a user friendly online archive of artists and creative projects involving solar power 2) a framework for solar power design 3) instructional resources for artists and designers interested in working with solar power. Would resources like these address gaps in available information in this space? Would resources like these be of practical use to you, other artists or your students?
I would just like to point out one thing, that at IRCAM in its heyday, whenever that was, they had a "diagonal" department, which cut across all the fields represented in the basement, computer music, composition, art, and engineering. The diagonal also represents a line of flight in the Deleuzian sense, that seeks to escape the constraints of stratification; it may incorporate other fields such as landscape design and sports, and other activities involving a sunny day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


For sale this Esoteric Friday, 11/23/2018, are four new SHBOBO SHTARS. This instrument is a lot of work to get right, but I wanted to challenge myself to bring new users to it, at HALF PRICE!

Since I machine the acrylic face-plates out of milky plastic and smoky plastic, there are four permutations: smoke/smoke, milk/smoke, smoke/milk, and milk/milk.

The SHBOBO SHTAR is a "Computer Music Persian Tar," respectfully blending the concept of neutral intervals, USB gesture controllers, and everything else you would expect from pieces this beautiful! SHBOBO WEBSITE

Woods include the traditional walnut and mulberry, as well as osage orange, madrone, maple, and catalpa.

My goal was to build them at half price, but there are also some deeper discounts due to cosmetics. All instruments work and play exactly as new, but the smoke/smoke and smoke/milk are discounted 50% AND $200! Details: smoke/smoke has slightly tarnished frets because I was still learning how to solder stainless steel correctly, smoke/milk has a re-calibrated tailpiece because of an offset in string alignment but as I said it plays perfect.

Included in the package are extra bridges of various plastic colors, and an extra-long USB cable. Shipping is $25 in US and $35 outside.