Thursday, August 31, 2006

VALIS coming up Saturday 9/2...

Writeup in Balitmore Sun a very cool article by Sam Sessa, who covers Baltimore nightlife.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Triumph, disaster, despair, anticipation, anxiety, resolve...

and, er... whatever.

Have not blogged because, again, this writer is not a hardcore blogcrophiliac. But this will be a long post. Here are some things that have happened:

Played at Paloma's in Baltimore again this past Friday (8/25) at "Beep", a kind of anything goes electronic night. Somebody did some really good promo work, there were a lot of people there. The Last of Us started off the laptop performances. His stuff is very good, beat-centric, always intricate, fast moving and interesting. Utenzil was up next.

Now, I really dislike blogs where people say "I I I IIIIII..." in every sentence. If I was reading this blog, I would not like it much, but because this is titled what it is titled and it is told in the first person (because, really, the third person would be kind of creepy, but which will be done in places to add objectivity), and it attempts some level of veracity, it is hard to get around that. Every attempt will be made to avoid the use of that pronoun, but this is going to be a long post and it will be unavoidable, because...

The 'adventure' has let me learn alot about myself. My near-pathological shyness works in strange ways for me. I can be in a large group of people I do not know and be assured that I do not belong and that there is little chance of belonging really occurring. Therefore, I am generically uncomfortable around any group. If I am too old, too rich, or too poor, or too one color, or too young, or too tall, or too fat, or too thin, or too arrogant, too liberal or too conservative, or too humble in comparision to the group, it Does Not Matter.

There is a concept in the social sciences called Deviance. In short, deviance is defined as not conforming to the norm. The larger group defines the norm. Anything other than conformance is deviance. There is a little chart, a simple matrix, with two attributes "The Means", that is the methods or processes used to achieve something, and "The Goals", that is, the something that is achieved.

So, if, in comparison with the larger group, you concur with The Means, and you concur with The Goals, you Conform. If you disagree with the Means, but you concur with The Goals, you are Innovative. If you concur with The Means, but not with The Goals, you are a Ritualist. If you concur with neither, you are a Retreatist.

Now, one would guess that there is "positive innovation" (discovering a way to turn common metal into gold) and "negative innovation" (stealing the gold as opposed to earning it). But, in any case, if you don't agree with the way that everyone else does something and do things differently, you are innovative, and (by definition) you are deviant. Isn't that strange?

A large number of other people my age (that is, the 'larger group') and even younger than me, spend their free time doing things for fun, that are not done by me. Playing golf, for example. I understand the appeal and the notion of golf, I cannot see ever having the time or overriding will to do it. I cannot see having the time to do much of anything other than making a living, going to and from making a living, having some time with my children, and having some time making music on the computer. So, I concur with the larger group with respect to The Goal of having fun in one's spare time, but I do not concur with The Means of the larger group.

Judgement is wasteful. Judging other people, and being judged by them, is wasteful, because people make judgements based on insufficient input. Avoiding people avoids false judgement. In addition, even correct judgement in one's favor is often impotent: "yeh, you were right, but...". Again, avoiding people avoids this. What to do about this?

It doesn't have an answer, so play electronic music. That's what to do about things that don't have an answer. Which brings me to the point where Utenzil is next after The Last of Us...

Utenzil takes his place to set up alongside The Last of Us. There is actually a nice larger area to set up in this venue, about three feet by two feet of tabletop space. There is some water spilled in one corner, Utenzil has nothing to wipe it up with, unfortunately, but still ample room to avoid this. Utenzil sets out laptop, and computer interface, a small black metal box with a backlit LED display. This are plugged in to power strips below the DJ stand, which are full of things plugged into them, just a couple of open plugs.

The Last of Us has the cables to use as input. The process for switching inputs is to start sending audio from the 'between sets' music, disconnect cables from the previous performer, connect cables to the present performer. This is done with ease.

But something very strange happened. Somehow, there was current running through those audio cables. It is not clear why that should be, there are various theories regarding grounding etc, but there was significant hum through the sound system at that juncture. The host of the event is called over, to try to figure out what's going on. The plugs are plugged into the small metal box that is the interface. There is a flicker of the lighting, popping/sparks-- Utenzil says "something very bad just happened". The small metal box no longer appears to be working. This piece of equipment is important, and it is seems now to be ruined.

There is another piece of equipment that can be brought to bear, and this is connected, Utenzil is able to keep playing and does, the night moves forward.

Was it a 'good' set? It was not what was planned, it was not as good as Utenzil would have liked. Could the whole affair have been handled better, more seamlessly? Yes, there is always room for improvement, but it is not the sort of occurance one wants to practice.

Now, here is something very amazing: The Baltimore Sun will be running a story on the second VALIS night coming up 9/2. Utenzil was interviewed by the author of this article and it was very nice of him to take the time for this: I've read other things he's written and his style and inclusion of fact and detail are good, we are hoping for a good article.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Played Ottobar last Saturday night, part of an experiment called VALIS ("vast active laptop intelligence system", apologies and a grateful head nod to pkd) where six laptop artists did experimental drum and bass-esque improvisation, attempting to sync across multiple systems. The sync was not ideal, some were MIDI connected and some were just setting metronome to the agreed upon value, where the agreement was not necessarily homogenous... hoo boy... hee ... it was fun: there were some really wonderful sounding sections, and some more disjointed messy ones, so it ran the gamut from flashes of beauty and brilliance to sonic mayhem and murk and back.

In general, as far as continuity and in-time rhythm are concerned, when multiples of us 'convene' and we go one laptop music electronicist at a time, beats/sounds are more coherent and contiguous. But as far as variety and depth and spontaneous creations are concerned, this was a very fun experiment with some really interesting and promising results, and there are plans to get this to occur monthly.

My new controller is a very interesting instrument. I have been working with it and in conjunction with Ableton Live it is very powerful. A sort of 'avant garde symphonic' sound is possible, the buttons allow me to select between synths. There is so much that the software and hardware will do for me, now that I've got a midi controller layout where I have deep familiarity with the note positions I'm thinking a lot about what I want to do with all of this. I've been fortunate enough to play in various places with people who put up with me, that's good. But I haven't really gone out with what I think is my very best at this point.