May 30, 2010 Comments Off

I Need You For a Mission: NYC Edition

On June 15, I will join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of other skinny white guys in over-priced denim who want you to go to their show in New York. But mine is better! Because I have robots and they don’t.

Even if you’re not going to be in New York City on June 15 because you’re in the Hamptons or possibly because you, like most of humanity, live elsewhere, you probably know someone in New York who would enjoy hearing cyborg percussion music in a casual but tastefully furnished bar. Your uncle Bruce, for example, or your former roommate’s super hot and extremely nerdy ex-girlfriend who now lives in Park Slope. Well, now there’s an easy way to send them to my show.

This is a link to the event page on a well-known social networking site. There’s a Share button in the right column. Use it! The resulting street cred will impress your friends, make your co-workers jealous, and cut velvet ropes the world over.

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May 27, 2010 Comments Off

Avoid the M-Audio Mid Air

When I designed my springbok controller (for those of you new to my work, that’s a controller made from springbok horns not a controller of springbok) I planned to make it wireless. Why be tethered to a computer when you could be free to run around, stage dive, or order drinks while performing? It looked like the technology was available to support DIY wireless: Sparkfun offers Bluetooth modules that allow for the transmission of serial data, which is what the Arduino transmits, and there is plenty of software that allows for serial communication between applications and a laptop’s Bluetooth module (the rxtx Java API, the MAX serial object, etc.). I did get the controller to communicate with my application via Bluetooth with rxtx and the MAX serial object, but ultimately neither worked for musical performance because of unacceptable latency. Testing showed worst case latencies of up to 50 ms, which is an eternity in musical performance. Improvising with this controller was like pushing a shopping cart with a sticky wheel. I later learned that this latency is built into the Bluetooth SPP protocol, and that to get the lower latency achieved by the Wiimote, I would need to use the HID protocol, which in turn would require a different Bluetooth chip. It also means I wasted > $120 on two Bluesmirf modules. Hooray for learning!

So I turned to a commercial solution: the M-Audio Mid Air, which theoretically pipes MIDI data through the ether. I built a MIDI Out port into the controller and planned to send MIDI data from it to my Traveler interface. The first Mid Air that I tried burned out seconds after I turned it on–literally. I smelled melting electronics. The online retailer where I purchased the product, The Midi Store, was helpful in replacing it, but unfortunately the replacement, while it hasn’t burned out, simply doesn’t work. The transmitter and the base unit don’t connect. The device is MIDI’s answer to Samuel Beckett. Avoid it.

Filed under: Machinery

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May 26, 2010 2 Comments

Man Bites Dog and Minnesotan Negotiates

One thing I miss about New York is haggling. When I arrived in NYC as an 18-year-old freshperson, I followed the Midwestern negotiating protocol of nervous side-glances, conversational lulls, and indecision masquerading as refined fickleness. After being played for a fool in a fake ID scam and being ripped off by hard-charging, Italian orthodox Jews on the Lower East Side who played good cop/bad cop after locking me in their haberdashery, I wised up a little. Today I was shopping for a microphone and a pair of monitoring headphones, both of which I knew I would have to buy at Guitar Center. I used to dislike Guitar Center for its decibel levels and the charmless atmosphere, but I have to revise that opinion, or at least add to it. Before driving out to the ‘burbs, I called ahead and to try to haggle down the price of the headphones to match a lower one I found at an online retailer.

And Guitar Center agreed. Without protest. I saved 20%…just by asking for it. It’s almost enough to make me want to buy another van.

Filed under: Machinery

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May 25, 2010 Comments Off

Radioland

I just finished a great conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer on her show Pam Without Boundaries on KFAI. Thanks again to Pam for having me on.

Pam made a somewhat mysterious reference to a show I’m playing this Sunday at Room Zero. She didn’t offer details because the location is a little hush-hush, but you can get the location, pass code, and secret handshake by emailing shield.your.eyes[at]live.com. Also, all three of the tracks Pam played are available at iTunes and for the Steve Jobs averse, Amazon.

During our talk, I alluded to some still vague plans to incorporate speech recognition software into my setup. This idea is still in the research phase, and to be honest, I’m not sure it’s even possible. Commercial speech recognition software can perform poorly in the relative quiet of a home office. It’s uncertain that even the most advance algorithms would handle the noisy atmosphere of a live stage show. But I’m going to give it a try. The recognition API I’ve been looking at is Sphninx 4, developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Since Java is what I know best, I’ve been looking at Java APIs, but I’d welcome suggestions for other APIs. I also have the impression that Hidden Markov Models, which is what Spninx 4 uses, are slightly dated, and the state of the art uses Conditional Random Fields. I was wondering if anyone has a perspective on the relative merits of these models.

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May 20, 2010 Comments Off

Nick & Eddie, Mon. May 24

Usually when I’m at Nick & Eddie, I sip vodka tonics to the pulse of minimal techno. That could still happen on Monday, but probably not until after I play at 10:30.

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May 17, 2010 Comments Off

Room Zero, May 30th

I’m playing Room Zero on Sunday, May 30th. Doors open at 8, first set at 8:30. Location is in NE Minneapolis. Email shield.your.eyes [at] live.com for directions.

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May 17, 2010 Comments Off

Hooliefest Recap

Playing Hooliefest at Shuga Records turned into a much bigger gig than I anticipated. I played Saturday indoors in the early afternoon, the first time I’d ever played on a amplified system. Wow! Hearing the low tones of the djembe boom from the PA was an awesome experience. The set was highly improvisatory, which always carries a lot of risk. Some sections will be stronger than others, but in general, I think I managed to keep the set consistently high-energy while varying textures and rhythmic and melodic materials.

The staff at Hooliefest liked what I did so much that they invited me back to perform on Sunday on the main stage as the last act. That was a great opportunity, and I have to thank the owners of Shuga Records, Adam and Danielle, and the booker of the festival, Jonah, as well as all of the other staff members for making that possible. They kept everything running smoothly and on time so that they could fit me in, which was an impressive feat of logistics.

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May 5, 2010 1 Comment

Gig on Saturday, May 15

I’m playing Saturday, May 15 at Shuga Records in NE Minneapolis as part of Art-A-Whirl (map). 2 pm is the time slot and there’s no cover.

This will be the debut of my springbok horn controller, which probably–going out on a limb here–represents the first use of animal horns in a gestural music controller EVER. Come witness history of sorts.

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