January 31, 2010 Comments Off

Gig This Wednesday, Feb. 3

Jazari premieres Wednesday, Feb. 3 at CodeSpace, 2913 Harriet Ave. S. I’ll do two sets, one around 8:45 and another around 10:15. DJs, beer, and robots are provided, but BYOB is recommended.

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January 21, 2010 5 Comments

Djembe Machine


Every home should have one.

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January 20, 2010 Comments Off

Video Shoot This Sunday

The Djembe Machine

Jammed all night to get ready for the shoot. Realized I need a couple hours of warm-up to really find a groove.

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January 20, 2010 Comments Off

Juvenalia

As a grad student, I was interested in what’s called “style modeling” in the business–using computers to generate new music in an older style. Other people have already done this, and a few have done it very well–David Cope and Brad Garton come to mind. Unlike Cope, who aims to (re)produce original music in the older style, I wanted to warp the output of my algorithms and control the generative process live. These are a few of the results of that project:

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These tracks are pretty rough around the edges, but each one has some compelling moments. The Slayer song and “Softly” had their pitches remapped to microtonal harmonies, which I think works particularly well with the Slayer. Microtonal metal is an under-explored avenue.

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January 3, 2010 Comments Off

Solenoid Meltdown

For months I’ve had a problem with the Arduino turning on one or more of the solenoids at random and leaving it on. If I’m not around to turn of the machine or don’t notice that one of the solenoids is stuck in the On position, the solenoid will heat up, burn itself out, melt electronics, and possibly burn my apartment down. This has actually happened (all but the last part, anyway) while I was out the apartment for a few hours.

You would think that would have spurred to fix the problem, but I had no idea where to begin investigating the problem. It could be EMFs that are somehow picked up by the MIDI cables or the Arduino, or it could be a bug in the audio interface that generates random MIDI commands, but how do you test that? So I didn’t address the problem beyond resolving not to leave the apartment with the machines on.

Tonight though, two of the djembe solenoids and five of the hand percussion solenoids turned on spontaneously. I didn’t notice that the hand percussion solenoids, the agogo solenoids, as it happens, were stuck until they were all extremely hot (I burned my hand slightly when I touched one). After I turned them off and let them cool down, I tested them again, and fortunately, all of the electronics still work. Unfortunately, the plastic cylinder inside one of the solenoids melted and I had to replace it.

Considering that I could have destroyed five solenoids and their electronics, I was lucky. But the episode was enough to prompt me to build a feature into the Arduino code that periodically sends off signals to the solenoid controls if no MIDI command has been received in the last second. If a solenoid is spontaneously activated, it will remain on for no more than a second.

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January 1, 2010 1 Comment

Thoughts on Phase-Shifting

One of the features of conductor mode that has already proven a useful tool for varying and generating interesting beats is phase-shifting. Finding a best or simply workable phase relation between two loops in the bongo and the djembe is not unlike tuning in to a radio station; some phase relations lock into a good groove and others wobble awkwardly. The awkward ones are excusable, even useful, if they are part of a larger process, as in Reich’s music, but that’s not really the purpose here. I’m looking more for variety amid consistently interesting and funky textures. The weird moments could take listeners out of the moment–especially if they’re dancing. The challenge for me, if I’m going to phase-shift material in loops is to find material that is interesting regardless of phase relation or somehow know in advance which phase relations to avoid.

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January 1, 2010 Comments Off

Video Shoot is On

Schuyler and I have scheduled January 17th to shoot the video. I called it a music video in my email to Schuyler because I don’t want to produce a sterile point-and-record document of a performance; I’m looking for a well-crafted video piece with multiple camera angles and editing that matches the energy of the music. Schuyler, sensing the trajectory I was on, took the idea bit further and offered to do “MTV-style bleach effects.” I passed. Maybe in the next video when we can get time in front of a green screen, but for now, no bleach effects.

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January 1, 2010 Comments Off

The Joys of the Retrograde Button

I’ve been playing the machines in conductor mode for a couple weeks now, but for some reason I had forgotten about one of the features I’d been most excited about when I coded conductor mode: the retrograde button. As the name implies, the retrograde button (the A button on a Wii in conductor mode) plays a loop backwards. In multi-measure loops, the order of the measures is preserved, but material within each measure is played backwards. Because it was the simplest manipulation to program, I coded it first and subsequently forgot about it. While practicing conductor mode today, I found myself staring at the Wii and thinking, “I wonder what the A button does?”

When I remembered, I tried retrograding a loop that would be easy to distinguish from its backwards variant, and it sounded great. The retrograde button is now slotted to be the first manipulation performed during the show.

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