One of my favorite memories of listening to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew is reading the stream-of-consciousness liner notes by Ralph J. Gleason. They’re very much of the era, with their run-on sentences, digs at the man, and confidence in the incipient unfolding of some glorious electric new age, but to me the first paragraph still stands as a timeless description of what I love in a lot of music.
… so much flashes through my mind when i hear the tapes of this album that if i could i would write a novel about it full of life and scenes and people and blood and sweat and love.
Ecology and narrative: those are the qualities in Bitches Brew that left me awestruck. The sensation that you’ve been sucked into a wormhole and deposited into an alien place with half-familiar beings who move about their lives–that impressed me and seemed so much grander than just expressing emotions. (more…)
The first track on The Human Element is getting a video treatment with thousands and thousands of particles rendered in Processing. This is a still from one of the clips I’ve generated today, which is a bit more subdued than the others. Most of the clips have a psychedelic, cortex-melting flair, but this one had a cooler, impressionist look that I like.
I’m really looking forward to this gig. The Future Music Summit is an experimental music concert series and conference at the Round Top Institute near Austin Texas. On May 12th, I’ll be talking about cyborg musicality and opening for Mari Kimura and DJ Spooky, who is playing Steve Reich remixes with the Telos Ensemble. More info at http://futuremusicsummit.com/
While known for its lakes, Minneapolis is also blessed with an abundance of unnatural resources like the experimental public access TV show Freaky Deeky. As a program that defies description, taste, and the better interests of epileptics, Freaky Deeky offers an ideal platform for tribal techno of the robotic variety, which is what Jazari will be serving up as the house band on Nov. 27 at 10 PM CST. Sear your retinas here: http://freakydeeky.tv/.
At Friday’s show at The Project Lodge in Madison, I’ll debut some of the new electronic elements that I’ve been working on this summer. These are mostly software synths built in MAX/MSP that I control with the horn claw–something I’m still learning how to do. The control scheme is fairly intuitive (I’ll do a post on it in the future) but it still requires some practice. So the show is going to have something of a workshop feel. Periods of face-melting semi-acoustic robo-techno will give way to paralyzing confusion that gives birth to happy accidents that mutate into alien breakbeats. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Live-looping mbira and agogo maestro Asumaya is also on the bill (doors at 7:30). I just listened to the new Asumaya EP on bandcamp and really enjoyed it. Check it out.
After festival organizers rejected my bid to compete in the robo-sumo competition (I offered to gain weight and replace my knees), they were nice enough to offer me a speaking slot on Saturday, April 16th. The symposium starts at 2, and features a line-up of other people who are actual experts in robotics talking about their work. I will be premiering a new track and video and giving a short talk. Check out the whole event if you’re in the Bay Area!
The Twin Cities Makers are throwing a human-centered but robot-friendly Maker Faire and party Saturday April 9th. Jazari shares the stage with Duluth-based instrument builder Tim Kaiser; doors at 6, music at 7. More info here.
Jazari is going electric. At my March 19 show at Tarnish & Gold Nick & Eddie, the bots will compete with vocoders and software synthesizers for sonic real estate. Bob Dylan caught flak for a similar move a few decades ago, but I’m not too worried; people who dig the idea of robots making music probably don’t want to see me adopt Leadbelly records as a technical-stylistic lodestar. Still, there was a purity to producing all sounds on acoustic instruments struck by machines, and I’m losing that. Maybe in a few years, after I’ve extruded millions of precision sinusoids from the phase vocoder, I’ll get nostalgic, retire to a North woods cabin, and record an all acoustic robot album that speaks to love and loss amid gently fluttering solenoids. For the moment, though, I’m excited to explore gnarled spectral freezes and nasty vocoder bass burps.
The introduction of synthesis moves Jazari closer to the stylistic goal I’ve envisioned from the beginning: improvisatory Afro-Baroque electro house with a heavy dose of spectral harmony, played by machines. I’m still missing the Baroque component, and the spectral harmonies are in their infancy; implementing both will require a lot of R & D and coding, so I’m probably a year or more away from having a working prototype of the full style. Until then, I’ll enjoy the genre-splicing that falls out of working towards that prototype, like djembe-driven robo dubstep with six-part vocal harmonies. Should have that one polished by the end of the week.
That’s “tri” as in three hues of wood, not the musical interval; my drums don’t play pitches, yet. The three woods on display here are African padauk (the reddish orange wood), mahogany, and a little bit of ebony that holds the sticks. I used a combination of mahogany and padauk before in my hi hat machine, and I wanted to preserve the materials and the style across all machines that play the drum set. That meant, besides wood selection, adhering to a modern, Scandinavian style. My woodworking is too amateurish for me to count the greats of the craft as influences, but I will say that I looked at pieces by James Krenov and George Nakashima before and during this project. Krenov’s “box-on-stilts” style is partly echoed in the number and placement of the padauk crosspieces and the open space between the legs and body of the machine. If I can create echoes of Clyde Stubblefield in the music it makes, then I’ll really have something.
If you’re in the Minneapolis area, you can catch the machine’s debut at Tarnish & Gold Gallery on the evening of March 19th. I don’t have the details of that performance yet, but I’ll post them as I receive them.
I recently performed at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor at the invitation of the Center for Engineering Diversity Outreach, who did a great job of putting together a one-day residency with technical talks, a master class, and a concert. I’ve uploaded a few clips from the concert to my YouTube channel. Check them out!