Charles Shriner (aka dRachEmUsiK) and I collaborate as Side Dish Side Affect. We released an album in May 2014, and I am very happy with the result. Below is a track in the album called Fermented Stingray.
Charles probably has been performing electronic music before I even got my first synthesizer. He is a multitalented musician who runs a record label, produces albums, tours as a performer, broadcasts a weekly radio show, and runs an electronic music festival (check out charlesshriner.com for his credentials). If you need a music tech guy in Indianapolis, I strongly suggest that you contact Charles.
I first met him at Electro-Music Festival in 2009, and became friends ever since. I particularly remember his excellent improvisation workshops and open-mindness to all kinds of music. Charles and I also share love of good food. We named our group after a homemade Korean dinner at my place. I still remember the taste of an oxtail dish I had at Charle’s place during the recording session. Even our track names in the album are crude translation of Korean side dishes.
Please join Side Dish Side Affect when we come to your town for a gig. Let us also know a good restaurant in your town. Meanwhile, dRachEmUsiK + Onewayness is starting a tour next week. Check them out!
I met John Oswald when I attended Orford Sound Art Workshop in 2006. Initially, I was quite nervous about meeting the composer I read in the textbooks. Like other participating students, I was tense and eager to show how good and serious I am about learning sound art.
After spending two weeks with him, I learned that my imaginations about famous artists were quite different from their real personalities. I think the photo below exemplifies what kind of “workshop” I had with him.
In addition to an impromptu swimming in the lake, John led a contact improvisation (for a bunch of music tech people), organized a field trip to a Gregorian chant-singing monastery, and shared good foods and drinks. I went to the workshop to work 24/7 on electroacoustic techniques, but John inspired me to have fun doing music. His music is playful but not silly. His compositional techniques are often transparent, but virtuosity and hard work are definitely present. When listening to his pieces, I smile and learn at the same time.
I guess I had my Karate Kid moment with him. Instead of wax on wax off, I swam, danced, and got drunk to be a better musician. After a few discussions with John, I decided to make a sound palindrome for the final presentation. The idea was to make a piece that sounds exactly the same when played forward and reversed. The piece is not plunderphonics, but I liked what I did (click here to read and listen). A year after the workshop, I worked a little more on the palindrome idea and made a longer piece (click here to read and listen). I like it even more.
PS: If you are not familiar with John Oswald’s work, search for his plunderphonics pieces as a start. He’s easily found at Google and Youtube. For me, plunderphonics goes beyond remix or remake of a song. Have a listen.
PSS: John was great, but I also met other inspiring composers in that workshop. Expect separate posts about Yves Daoust and Ake Parmerud in the future.
I love Alvin Lucier’s music. I still remember the strange mental state I experienced when I heard I Am Sitting in a Room for the first time in 2000. Watching No Ideas But in Things, a recent documentary about Lucier, reminded me that, but also taught me a few new things about his work ethics and aesthetics:
1. Lucier knows, thinks, and composes acoustics. He is fond of how sound affects rooms, ears, electronics, and everything around. He is fond of converting invisible or inaudible things in our world into sounds. I resonate with his approach on music more than ever because I struggled to teach Musical Acoustics last semester.
2. A significant amount of his pieces are written for him, or other non-virtuoso solo performer (or no performer at all). I was happy to realize that I am following his path, as I am interested in developing solo electroacoustic repertoire for the past few years.
3. He is a good and experienced teacher. I know that there are few things that I could only have learned and understood through teaching. I wonder what Lucier has learned from his students during his years at Wesleyan University.
I have met Lucier twice. The first was at a conference in 2006 where he was a featured artist. I was fortunate to talk to him at the hallway and get a sign on my I Am Sitting in a Room CD.
The second instance was purely coincidental. I was at my favorite Chinese Restaurant in Philadelphia, and I found him eating a meal by himself a few tables away from me. I approached him and thanked for all his work, and he informed me that he is visiting Philly to present a concert. I cancelled all my schedules and went to see the concert where he played Opera with Objects (the first piece you see in the DVD trailer.
To end this post, I would like to share my take on I Am Sitting in a Room.
I am in the process of making a new solo set. My solo concert in the past two years involved a lot of found objects processed with computer.
Then, I fell in love with no-input mixer and analog synthesizer while I was doing the 100 Strange Sounds project. As I got more acquainted with analog instruments, it felt natural to try a performance involving more circuits and less objects.
The first attempt was done at the Asheville Electro-Music Festival in May 17. The “premiere” was exiting, but also revealed things to improve. Let me share what I observed and learned from the recording made by Project Ruori.
- The second half of the performance is better than the first half. Beside the sounds, compare my posture at 4:00 and 14:00. Fourteen minutes is a long time to get into the zone. I need more practice and confidence.
- I should use stage monitors in large rooms. For found object performances, I turned off the monitors for feedback issues. I realize that doing the same is not good for this kind of performance. The electronic instruments sounded too far and muffled.
- Ditch the speech intro. My intention was to gradually change my speech into music, but it did not work. I tried this in other occasions, but it did not work well, either. As my undergrad teacher advised to me, start the show with music.
- The cabbage intro needs more preparations. I was expecting this kind of visual and sound, but the vegetable did not crush well due to the poor choice of the cabbage and limited table space. Perhaps I should cut the cabbage a little bit prior to the performance?
- Electronics part could use a better dynamic change. Some transition to softer part sounded as mistakes. Perhaps this problem is related to my observation 1 and 2.
- According to the audiences I talked to, the offstage melodica ending worked well. I should try to end the set by eating the mutilated cabbage in smaller venues.
Please stay tuned for videos of my future performances. Feel free to comment/mail your suggestion to improve the sound and visuals. I expect to become comfortable with this set by the third or fourth show. I will prepare and practice, but some things are only learned from performing on stage.
I’ll be teaching a course in algorithmic composition in Fall 2014. To prepare for this course and other projects, I decided to reread books on the subject during the summer. The first book I am revisiting is Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture by Reas, McWilliams, and LUST.
I learned about the aesthetics of generative and code-based art from this book. I enjoyed applying the ideas and concepts I have learned to my music. The book taught me how to think about composition in numbers and codes.
I am thinking about requiring students to read at least the first chapter of the book. The summary of the chapter includes some great sentences:
“Learning to program and to engage the computer more directly with code opens the possibility of not only creating tools, but also systems, environments, and entirely new modes of expression. It is here that the computer ceases to be a tool and instead becomes a medium.” (p25)
The chapter also mentions that using a computer in art reduces the production time, so the artists can use the extra time and energy to explore the procedure and structure. Coding in art also enables a person to customize and “hack” the tool. These ideas are easily applied to computer music.
I also like the chapter because it gives succinct definitions on algorithm and code. Algorithm is a specific instruction to do a task (p13). Code is an algorithm written in a programming language (p15). Thus, an algorithmic composition is a process of making music with specific instructions written for computer.
Here’s a simple example of such algorithmic compositions. Introvert has algorithmically generated computer accompaniment for live melodica player. The computer part generates same chord progression, but the timing, volume, and octave position of each notes are chosen by the computer. This makes the computer part somewhat unpredictable, and makes the part unique for each performance.