Thursday, September 11, 2014

Untold Brainardsville Oblivion #002

Oblivion Quarantine Session 002 by Esotronika on Mixcloud

This set will stream on the "Oblivion Quarantine Sessions" internet radio show on Fnoob Underground Radio on 16/17 September, 2014, at 20:00 EDT (01:00 in the UK on the 17th).

There are three works I created using HUNSMIRE, a "robot" program I designed using MAX from about 1991 - 2001. Back then I was running MAX on a Macintosh Plus computer, using my AKAI EWI 1000 wind controller with a Casio CZ-1 synthesizer and a Yamaha TG-33 12-bit sound module. All three works are "live", meaning everything was improvised. One evening my friend Yaz Shehab invited me over to test out his new digital recording setup, so I brought over my EWI and the HUNSMIRE program on a disk. The previous weekend he'd been sampling sounds from his kitchen and house (bouncing ping ping balls, kitchen appliances, doors slamming, etc.), and had been playing them using his Yamaha percussion controller. We spent a few hours setting everything up and getting it to work, then we played for a few more hours and recorded everything.

The basic idea behind HUNSMIRE was to use live improvisation to generate MIDI signals; this information was manipulated in MAX to create a real-time musical accompaniment. During the evening, each of us took turns manipulating the program. Later on, Yaz used some of what we did for a work featuring live dancers, entitled, Rock Walk; I used some of it for a work entitled, Last of the Barkeaters that was commissioned by UIUC EMS director Scott Wyatt for a CD commemorating the 25th anniversary of UIUC's Electronic Music Studios. The funny thing is that we both happened to use some of the same segments, although it was unplanned.

Recently, I've been playing around with a somewhat new idea that's manifested as I explore a piece of new software, Native Instrument's Traktor software. In the old days of "tape music", one would go in the studio, spend hours generating sound, spend even more hours editing with a razor blade and splicing tape to create your next masterpiece, and finally, mix it down to a master tape which was basically fixed, i.e., once you created your composition, that was it -- it would always be the same. Forever.

I was always fascinated by composers like C.P.E. Bach, who would "fiddle" with their compositions -- it was evident to me for C.P.E. Bach, improvisation was a huge factor in his work, and there were multiple versions of his works. Coming from a jazz background, as well as having done a fair amount of avante-garde live improvisation, and finally, having been tremendously influenced by composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who used indeterminacy as well as serialism as structural determinants in their music, I've always pondered the "fixed" aspect of electronic music, and in particular, works for electronic tape. Early on, I composed something entitled, Piece for 2 Percussionists and Tape in which the live performers were able to utilize indeterminacy as well as improvisation, which allowed for some degree of openness in an otherwise fixed structure.

Therefore, during the creation of Untold Brainardsville Oblivion #001, quite by accident, I started messing around with some synchronized beat matching in the "Jack Kerouac" work, and wound up using some trip-hop beats during the 1-hour mix. Since this set, for the most part, doesn't utilize "beats" or a "pulse" concept (for the most part), I experimented a little with some slicing/dicing features using Traktor, and was able to create a new version of Burble as well as throughout the next piece in the set.

Thus, using the magic of modern digital technology, moldy oldies may indeed get new life.

Whilst attending grad school at the UIUC, composers would argue about whether it was OK to mess with a system that you'd created. Because these conversations sometimes became so heated and certain individuals held such entrenched views, I decided that since I really didn't give a fuck, that it was OK to interfere in your system -- some of us were fortunate to be encouraged by Sal, who delighted in turning everything proper on its head and created masterpieces. In fact, one of the entrenched individuals, whom I asked to on my doctoral committee that I attempted to put back together after my mentors Salvatore Martirano and Paul Martin Zonn sadly passed away, more or less blew me off and never showed for the appointment I made with him to discuss being on my new committee (something I've never before shared with any of his colleagues, or really, with anyone).

This set is dedicated to the memory of Alex Martirano.

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