↬ Twenty-one – 05
I’ve added another video to my Partch series (and there’s another in the pipeline). This time demonstrating using my Sensel Morph 43-tone overlay with the ID700, a modern (iPad) interpretation of the Buchla 700 – a very interesting (and rare) synth in and of itself. (Benge’s Chimeror album gives an idea of the kinds of sounds the original could produce.)
The video covers getting my overlay to talk with the ID700 and takes a further look at how the symmetries of the scale and layout can be useful to keep in mind when navigating it. How major when mirrored becomes minor, to take a simple example. This is the stuff that Jacob Collier was onto, as I mentioned a few newsletters ago. And how that plays out in just intonation. Dylan Chrismani has an interesting article that takes an in depth look at unfolding those symmetries.
Alternative tuning systems seem to be having a little bit of a moment lately. It’s fun that with just a Sensel Morph and an iPad (with free or relatively cheap apps) one already has so much at ones’ fingertips.
ODDSound in collaboration with Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), a long time alternative tuning enthusiast, have released their MTS-ESP Suite, a system for dynamic microtuning in a DAW environment. Decolonizing Electronic Music Starts With Its Software appeared on Pitchfork, and CDM has a lengthy article around Khyam Allami’s browser based tools: Leimma for exploring, studying, and creating tuning systems, and Apotome, an environment for making music with them. Ableton mentions these tools on their site, and there’s also the M4L Microposer, a Midi Effect for Microtonal Music, as well as a growing list of Microtonal Software Plugins.
The CDM article also discusses some of the cultural issues related to this topic – the lack of education and contextual information that often surrounds incorporating scales, tuning systems, and ‘exotic’ sounds/samples in current technology:
…this subject isn’t just about tuning capabilities, it’s about how the tools represent music and methods for music-making, which is intrinsically tied to knowledge, economy, and therefore power.
Hainbach touched on a similar point in one of his Patreon Q & A videos regarding the question of cultural appropriation when using samples of ‘exotic’ instruments, emphasising the importance of entering into a dialogue and learning from other cultures, rather than simply adding exotic colours.
To take a little diversion along the winding paths that cultural exchanges can take, Craig Mod, in his essay on Looking Closely points to a wonderful (interactive) article on Hokusai in the New York Times: A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion, a story on “how images circulate in a cosmopolitan world”
It tells of how Hokusai, in spite of Japan’s self-imposed isolation, picked up on western techniques, ‘metabolised’ them, only for the French to later go wild for him, with the fact that he was idolised in the west in turn later elevating his reputation in Japan. It’s a beautiful article well worth a look and a read.
To come back to Partch and and his relation to popular/mainstream music, I’ve been thinking back to the Insomniacs Lullaby on Paul Simon’s Stranger to Stranger album. The University of Washington (where Partch’s instruments are housed) has an article on how those worlds came together, as well as a video on the instruments themselves.
Fantasy Recordings has a little more on Paul Simon’s process on their site.
Until then, I didn’t know that Harry Partch was dividing octaves to anything from 30 to 43 notes, but I understood that our ear goes beyond the European definition of intonation, about what’s in tune or not.
The voice doesn’t go from one note on a staff to the other, it slides and glides through them. That was a big bit of information for me, and I started to shape vocal lines on the album that way.
Rounding off with Paul Simon, here he is, delightful and charming, on the Dick Cavett show 51 years ago, telling about the process of writing Bridge Over Troubled Water.
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META is a play by Kenneth Krabat, written after a bout of wrestling with cancer, now after many months finally realised as a piece of sound-theatre in the form of a podcast.
And speaking of exotic sounds, it includes my own dive into the world of the Gamelan, though in this case very much in the context of the narrative, in particular the Ngaben cremation ceremonies in Bali. The rest of the piece is quite sparse in terms of music. Very much a case of finding just enough to articulate and support the dialogue, but, for me, a fascinating process in terms of placing words, sound, and music alongside each other.
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A few notes on the technical side of it: All photographs for the first 70 days were taken with the Halide camera app on my iPhone SE. A lot of care has been put into the details of the app which make it a delight to use. The main feature however is that Halide takes a raw image alongside a HEIC or Jpeg, and offers the possibility of instantly processing that raw image within the app. Sebastian de With, one of the small team behind it has written some posts demonstrating what can be achieved, and it’s been very interesting to get a first-hand idea of just how much the software is doing for you. After two months of using it though I came to appreciate just how impressive Apple’s computational photography is, when after one too many pictures in which particularly clouds would partially blow out in Halide’s compressed image but were handled beautifully with standard Camera app – and getting Halide’s RAW image anywhere near the Apple result was simply too much work, or not possible – at least given my skills and resources. So I dropped using it for the last 30 pictures, and have been happier with the results.
I do miss the Halide’s haptic feedback though, which is especially handy when it comes to vertical/horizontal alignment, as well as its general attention to detail. It remains a great app. Given the amount of time this project has consumed simply in terms of taking the photographs and editing them, having a simple, no fuss iPhone/iPad workflow has been important. The basic edits, mainly cropping and perspective corrections, have been done in the standard Photos app on my iPhone and iPad. Additional tweaks in Pixelmator Photo on my iPad, where the machine learning feature sometimes comes in handy with colour and lighting enhancements, and where edits to Halide’s raw files can potentially be made. It’s also what I use to export the photo in an optimised file size that can be uploaded to my site – and following that, syndicated out to Twitter and Instagram.
A side note: In the process of exporting the images as Jpegs I discovered that there was often a slight change in the temperature of the colours – I generally needed to cool them down by about 10% to have them look the same as the originals – fortunately something easily done in Pixelmator Photo.
A handy feature of the Halide app is that you can set it to strip location data when posting to Instagram, and so I’ve continued to use it for that. One thing I did realise with posting to Instagram is that portrait format photographs in a 3:4 ratio were cropped to 4:5, and since that ruined many of my careful crops, I began deliberately using the format – and have grown to like it! In some cases the 3:4 ratio has still been the best for certain pictures, and in those cases I’ve used it for my site and Twitter, with Instagram getting its own 4:5 crop. I definitely find my own site the best place to view the photographs though. Lots of white space and relatively distraction free. I’ll try and give it all a decent archive page at some point.
Last time I wrote about Craig Mods’ “alt texts” and how they might offer a stepping stone into looking at photographs. We could try something similar with the lockdown photos. Here’s a handful with links to the photographs themselves:
Threshold: Another close-up. This time a dusty doorway while waiting in line at the bakery. An empty shop that once sold (and rented) bridal dresses and the like. Confirmations and so on. The sign (in Arabic) still there as a reminder of what once was. As dusty and somewhat ugly as the doorstep is, it’s also intriguing – especially when abstracted a little: The rectangular shapes of the alarm wires (I guess that’s what they are). The reflections in the window. The hole in the blue foundation block at the bottom. The texture of the sidewalk in front of it. The little blue paint blob (and dribble) halfway up the door. 2021-05-10
Squares & Rectangles: Various stages of completion: New Carlsberg rising alongside the old. A lot of straight lines adjacent a curvy park. With some flowing graffiti on the other side of the road to loosen it all up a bit. Babies crying. Birds singing. Families with fancy espresso machines having just moved in. 2021-05-02
Fifty Two: (Auto &) Pladeværksted: Car mechanic courtyard with the concrete of the Lundbeck building looming up behind it – mechanics for the human body. With strange hairy Van Gogh trees in the whatever-mans-land between them. 2021-04-26
Home Icon: Could be a weird home icon. With a door to enter into. And an antenna on the top that gets me thinking of Ratatouille getting his chanterelles smoked by lightning. 2021-04-23
The Drill: This is a picture of a drill in the Lundbeck parking lot close to where I live. God knows what they’re up to. A grid of holes and more going down. For some reason got me thinking of Craig Mod’s Postcards from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. 2021-03-31
As I mentioned last time, if you’re familiar with the web inspector in your browser, you can find the texts for the other photographs. Perhaps I can collect them all in the form of a text gallery at some point.
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I’m finding it difficult to bring myself to write more about NFTs. Everest Pipkin, who wrote the HERE IS THE ARTICLE YOU CAN SEND TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY BUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITH CRYPTOART WILL BE SOLVED SOON, RIGHT? article that I mentioned in my first discussion of the topic, was a guest on the Factually podcast, which provides as nice recap of it all in audio form. The New York Times also has lengthy The Untold Story of the NFT Boom sum-up.
Debbie Millman interviewed Beeple on his big windfall and, unusually for her excellent podcast, I had difficulty bringing myself to listen to it given the topic, but was pleased that I did as it brought to light the the human side of the man, and how he ended up on the NFT path.
For those all too aware of the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, but still wondering whether they can sustainably deliver on their original promise of ‘democratising’ money (which seems the crucial point) the shenanigans of the past few weeks make it clear that we tend to take the weather with us. Elon Musk tweeting that Tesla will no longer be accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment citing environmental concerns (despite SpaceX continuing to send Co2 spewing rockets into the air) and then the screams of the crypto-bros accusing him of market manipulation as the prices plunge, Musk himself suddenly pointing out that Bitcoin is not so decentralized after all etc. etc. The games we know so well…
I’ve been reading The Little Prince to my daughter – and we recently arrived at the planet of the businessman furiously counting stars:
– And what do you do with these stars?
– What do I do with them?
– Nothing. I own them.
– You own the stars?
– But I have already seen a king who…
– Kings do not own, they reign over. It is a very different matter.
– And what good does it do you to own the stars?
– It does me the good of making me rich.
– And what good does it do you to be rich?
– It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are ever discovered.
– How is it possible for one to own the stars?
– To whom do they belong? the businessman retorted, peevishly.
– I don’t know. To nobody.
– Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it.
– Is that all that is necessary?
– Certainly. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before any one else, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. So with me: I own the stars, because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them.
– Yes, that is true, said the little prince. And what do you do with them?
– I administer them, replied the businessman. I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence.
The little prince was still not satisfied.
– If I owned a silk scarf, he said, I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven…
– No. But I can put them in the bank.
– Whatever does that mean?
– That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key.
– And that is all?
– That is enough, said the businessman.
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Verzamelen II is the second volume in a retrospective series looking back at the work of Wouter van Veldhoven “…a Dutch composer who built an impressive catalogue of music in which tape loop experiments hold a central place.”
You might also like Playthroughs by Keith Fullerton Whitman
All the best