Monday, June 14, 2010

My setup in the near future (?)

I am currently using Vista 32-bit Home Premium because it came installed on the notebook. I did have some issues with this, that seemed to relate to the video drivers, because Ableton support gave me an options.txt entry that solved the problem, which involved pops and clicks when parts of the interface were moved around.

Here is a video of what happened prior to this fix, and you'll hear some crackles fairly loudly around the 2 minute mark.

However, the optional switch fixed it completely.

At any rate, if I make a near term change it will be to upgrade to Windows 7.

Now, what about upgrading to another notebook. Let's say I would want to, although I am neither inclined nor materially positioned for such an upgrade.

I'd have to really think about that, because it seems like only really expensive notebooks are coming with firewire (IEEE 1394) and my audio/midi interfaces are firewire.

I do not know why so many notebook manufacturers have decided to forgo the firewire port, doesn't seem very smart. But anyway, I would follow my own advice here in the previous post if I were to upgrade, and avoid upgrading my notebook until solid USB 3.0 interfaces came out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Setup as of 06/2010

I am running Windows Vista 32bit home premium on a T7200 based HP 17" notebook with 2GB of RAM and 250 GB of 7200RPM disk space.

My primary music application (DAW) is Ableton Live 8.1.3.

My audio/midi interface is a MOTU Ultralite "mkII" (I quote this because the most recent is a mk3, and it was the one before that), this is a Firewire only interface.

I have several MIDI controllers that I can use, and some of those I typically use.

The one I typically use most all the time is the MIDI Guitron shown here in very poor quality video with subtitles that I think made some people believe I was deaf. In fact, I was recording directly into the camera with inadequate impedance matching, which results in a horrible buzz if there is not any input to mask the sound, and I thought it would just be easier for people to read the words anyway. People either think it is great and say nice things, or they think it is ridiculous and ridicule me.

Then, I use a Frontier Transport. This gives me "navigational" control over Live, scrolling, scene triggering and track selection.

I also have a nanoPad, nanoKontrol, nano Key to use when i want to use something USB for a quick setup. Also, an FCB 1010, and an old MPD drumpad to use as a footswitch.

Lots of people want to know what sort of setup to buy, type of computer, interface, software, etc..

My advice is always this (and I am writing this blog post so I can link to it from now on when people ask):

The first thing you should ask is, do I ever want to play out using a computer? That includes "laptop battles", mobile DJ, etc.. If the answer is yes, then you will need a notebook or laptop. If the answer is no, then you can save a lot of money by getting a desktop. A very powerful desktop setup include an adequate video monitor can be had for the price of a less powerful notebook. Plus, if you decide you want to play out, you can get a notebook to play the productions you do on your desktop (although that is less "live improvisational computer-based electronic performance", and more on that later).

Then, they might ask "how much should I spend"?  I remember reading somewhere that the closer you spend to $US 3000 for a system, the less long term value you get for the money. Three grand is a lot, especially for a notebook, and it likely means you are buying a system with the highest-end CPU available.

But the highest-end processor available is the one that will drop the furthest in purchase price with the advent of the next year's CPU offerings, so a system with a set of specs that runs you $3000 one year will run you considerably less for the same set of specs the next year.

However, if you skimp on processor, you will have problems if you are using music production tools. You want as high end a system as you can afford, without going overboard.

I've been using Ableton Live software since 2004. They come out with a new version each year that adds more new features and more creative flexibility each time. In addition, I have amassed a collection of VSTs that I have purchased, downloaded for free, and made myself that I continually consider pruning and continually convince myself it wouldn't be worth it.

Because I like to play live, during that time I have bought 2 notebook computers specifically for music, and one for visuals projection. Each time I have put together specs "one or two notches down" from the fastest processor, and gotten the fastest discs and additional RAM. Also, these are 17" notebooks for the music systems, because I like the ability to put a large number of tracks onto the screen.

Then there is "Mac or PC"? And of course the Mac is a "personal computer" but of course there has been some morphing of the terminology so now it is Mac or PC.

What I'd say is, choose the one you are most familiar and comfortable with. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and they will be more and more competitive as time goes on.

The oldest notebook now runs Live 6 perfectly (under XP), and the newest notebook runs Live 8 perfectly (Vista 32bit). If I upgrade the newest one to Windows 7, then I expect to be able to do more with the same system.

And when i say "runs perfectly", I mean this:

I am able to drop instruments and clips onto tracks, on the fly, without clicking/popping artifacts.I am able to mute/unmute and arm/disarm tracks on the fly, change patches on the fly use the midi controllers I chose, trugger clip, basically to do the things I want and to route midi with "midi yoke" add on software however I want *AS LONG AS I KEEP AN EYE ON THE CPU*

You have to keep an eye on the CPU, to make sure you are not pushing into a "lockup" scenario. Think of it as having a limited stage on which you can fit performers. Improvising on the fly with a computer is like having a limitless cast of instrumentalists that you can bring on stage, where you can magically toss a musical phrase to play to each one and they play it, and then you can modify what each one plays however you like, by changing the phrases and/or by adding more effects.

This is what I mean by "live improvisational computer-based electronic performance", you are building a track from an empty or limited set of elements, choosing rhythms, instruments and musical elements before an audience's very ears on the fly.

But there is always only so much space on the stage (or in your recording studio). So what you are buying when you spend more on CPU is more space on the stage, or more tracks on your board, and more capacity in your effects racks.

Having said all of that, there is really only so much that you can do at once. If you are looking to create soundtrack type orchestral pieces, or intricate layered rhythms and other patterns, then you need a fair number of tracks.

So I think you don't want to be "on the bleeding edge" when you buy your initial technology, but a safe step behind it. Look at the *fastest CPU* that is available on your build and buy, then look at the ones a little less racy. There is a definite "fall off" in price, a couple few hundred bucks, very often, but the difference in actual speed might be only 0.0x GHz.

The above advice is meant to be "timeless"-- as things progress, it should be as valid. However, as of this writing right now, the advent of USB 3.0 is a really big deal. Also of this writing, there are not any audio interfaces that are offering USB 3.0 speeds. But, when there are, having a USB 3.0 port will be important.

Friday, June 11, 2010

UEMA gets a new look

I hardly ever refer to this blog in this blog but when I do i usually say "UEMA" because it is too much to write otherwise. This is very bad web-sensibility, because if other people start calling it UEMA then new people might start trying to go to "" which is owned by a squatter, but then if you know that it is not what I call it but that it is what it is then you are cool and they are not, so maybe that is best overall.

So, it is for you, dear reader (and the singular is probably literally accurate) that I largen the fonts and brighten the colors somewhat overall, and re-arrange some things that did not work so well. Other links to other things will be added as well in the sidebar, also.

Also, soon exciting news about a gig in a major east coast metropolitatn area will be posted. It will of course be on an "off" night in wonderfully yet nattily bohemian location.

And those are your clues.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Some music, rambling and such

As noted several times, I am an awful blogger. There are very few pictures, and not too many links of interest in my posts, there are spelling errors and run on sentences and poorly articulated concepts and semi-pretentious phrasings. I read some really stupid stuff that I've written, and don't go back to change it, also.

So here is a link, to music i've been working on, so this post has a link.

I've been reading about a lot of things recently that kind of fit together. For example "outsider art" or "Art Brut" or "Naive Art", where people with very little or no training execute works that are considered as actual art by the people who consider those things. Then read an article about Adolf WÖLFLI who sounds like he had a horrible life and did horrible things and went horribly insane, but created these amazing artworks.

And then I read about William S. BURROUGHS who had a pretty good start in life but then it went horrible and he did truly horrible things and wrote stories that had horrible things in them that garnered great critical acclaim. He either squandered a perfectly good upper class existence so that he might ruin himself as a result of some psychological turmoil, or he suffered greatly having to be someone he did not value and so sought value in actions and places that were risky, bold and daring although ultimately fairly horrible and self-destructive.

Wölfli and Burroughs were very dissimilar in their upbringing. Burroughs was born into a situation where he was highly trained and educated, Wölfli was a peasant who was abused, neglected and scorned. They both became criminals. Burroughs fomented a psychological condition through self-administering illegal substances, Wölfli's psychological condition seemed to be a result of his experiences and he commited sex offenses.

Both of them end up finding their way into very difficult conditions that brought them into an inescapable state. Burroughs unintentionally shot his wife dead while playing a foolish game and managed to escape the legal/physical consequences but could not escape the psychic impacts. Wölfli was confined to a psychiatric hospital because of repeated sex offenses, and because he was violent: he could not escape the legal/physical consequences, and seemed to be composed mainly of psychic impacts.

Each of them attempted to "artist" their way out of their predicaments. Burroughs said that he had to write himself out of his situation. Wölfli seemed to think he could write himself into a new situation.

Burroughs discarded what could be considered "traditional opportunities for success". Wölfli never had any.

Both were first widely regarded as having produced work of dubious, if any, value.

Burroughs was highly educated and trained, but was a naif after his situation had become horribly disturbing. Wölfli was a naif at art but very experienced at being disturbed.

Now of course I had heard/read about Burroughs but had never heard/read about Wölfli until recently. I am very likely misusing terminology re: "naif" but the point is still that "moment of cognition" and the effect thereof on the psyche renders one childlike. The expression of the impacts of those moments ends up being a need.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Die Antwoord is very interesting i think

I have been stricken by this South African rap rave project called Die Antwoord for a few reasons:

1) They use a "pc computer" to produce as indicated here.

2) They have a great sense of humor too.

3) They have done the viral internet thing very successfully.

4) They are 'putting it on' at the same time as 'being real'.

5) They are not US or Europe based, but South African, which is interesting.

6) They have that "serious not taking themselves seriously while being serious about what they are not seriously about" transcendant quality.

Because I am something of an anti-blogging blogger, I am going to summarize what I've read without really linking to cites, but you can find all this stuff by searching for Die Antwoord.

The "main character" in the project is Ninja, who is a performance artist who has been active in South African hip hop for some time whose real name of course is something else.

He has re-made himself into this image that he wants to emanate. He is intentionally vapid in that rockstar-ish way, being irritating when never really saying what his music is all about in the way that shows contempt for people who seem to feel like they are entitled to that sort of information, but it is clear that a lot of thinking and good production sense has gone into this project.

In one interview Ninja mentions the "filters" that exist between subconscious and conscious, and how the art he feels is most worthy is the art of children, madmen and criminals, because their filters are either weak or distorted in a way that allows those things that the rest of the world "filters out" to be made apparent.

I like this because it is Jungian in a way, it recognizes that creativity is something that is not controlled but "channeled" or guided out of some unseen part of us.

What I admire about this project is their success in the realization of their vision, and their use of the things around them. Their videos shot in South African sunlight, where the colors are so intense. Other people in the project, Yo-Landi Visser, who is beatiful, shrewish, angelic, demonic and... well, vuilgeboost all at once. DJ Hi-Tek, an amiable giant couch potato-esque everydude. Appearances in their visuals and videos by friends, including an unusual artist who brings an otherworldly aesthetic to their visuals.

Somehow they bring to light the "next level" surreality from this weird meld of bizarre and mundane and it is exactly what they are aiming for.

Friday, June 04, 2010

not so good things and worse things.

I have an HP 17" notebook, a dv9000, which is a little less than 3 yrs old. It is my primary music notebook at this point, it is currently running Windows Vista Home Premium 32 bit. The system started running very hot one day and it froze, then it would not reboot, then the LCD display went blank.

Now, I do music and play games on this notebook-- the hard drives are nearly full with Ableton project related files and saved games the two largest consumers of disk space, followed by VSTs and video. I use the notebook continualy several hours each day, and my dwelling is not highly humidity/temperature controlled, and it has 7200 rpm drives as opposed to 5400, so it runs a little hotter.

I attached an external monitor, per some troubleshooting steps on the HP support site. The external monitor showed that the system was failing to initialize the video card, BSOD BCCode 116.

This was bad, so I engaged HP online support, they have a 24x7 chat. My interactions were good, they of course wanted me to do all the things I had tried already (boot in safe mode, install latest nVidia driver) and then some of the tedious, drawn out things that support people ask people to do as a matter of course (run a HDD test via bios, reseat the RAM). But all in all the things were reasonable and led up to finally backing up everything and sending the notebook in for repair. It was of course out of warranty, and the price to repair was low enough to be far cheaper than a new notebook of comparable capabilities but high enough to be pretty painful.

The support supervisor indicated I should back up all data and programs. I had backed up some things, but really to do it perfectly correctly would've been a nightmare of tedium, so I asked him if I could just take out the HDDs and he was amenable to that-- they would put in a test HDD to run what they needed anyway.

The turnaround was fast, I was impressed. I sent it to them on May 27, prior to the long weekend, and it was shipped back to me on June 3. They send a box and a fedex slip to send it back, with packing instructions and a form to fill out. So although it was an expensive, unexpected repair, it was done quickly and well and I was happy to see how many parts they replaced.

It is interesting that I read HP is downsizing its workforce and seems to be having some problems-- their product and services have been good to me. However, their latest comparable models, the 'newer generation' to the one I have, seem to lack Firewire ports, which are kind of useful for music and really essential for digital video.

Meanwhile, the worst thing ever seems to be unfolding before our eyes.

Horrible horrible stuff, the entire coast of the United States from Texas to Long Island would appear to be threatened by this. Wonder what happens when the storms blow in? The rains from those storms come up from the Gulf and into the agricultural areas of the southeast and mid-atlantic.

In the latter 20th century, the scary scenario was acid rain. It still is, and it hasn't been eliminated, but regulations controlled the causes. Now, can we expect "petro rain"?