↬ Twenty-one – 10: Stimming, Stimmung

Hi, I’m Rudiger Meyer and this is my monthly newsletter covering what I’ve been up to and what’s been catching my attention.

Every now and then I like to catch up on Jamie Lidell’s Hanging Out With Audiophiles podcast, and the latest episode I got round to listening to was with Martin Stimming.

It’s music with dance roots, and in that way coming from a different branch than the music I spend most of my time with, but Stimming has been finding escape routes of his own, and the sound quality, intricate construction and attention to detail on his tracks is a delight. His recent album Ludwig is the one I’ve been listening to.

One aspect that I found interesting with his studio setup is the move away from having a large screen at the center of it all – and instead using a Wacom Cintiq pen display to get ‘closer’ to the software. His point is that for all the incredible advancements in terms of computing power and (music) software during the past 20 years, when it comes to creating music using a mouse as the main interface is somehow backwards. He has a little video tutorial demonstrating it all on his YouTube channel.

This very much resonates with me, and even though I have the power of Ableton on an iMac, I prefer the intimacy and directness of working in AUM on my iPad. A screen big enough to to get things done without pulling too much attention away from the aural, and with the accuracy and definition of the Apple Pencil when needed. It’s true that with ‘professional’ workflows one might be more restricted and a little slower in some ways, but when it comes to creativity I find that to be an advantage. Not practical for my day to day work at the office, but then that’s perhaps exactly what I’m happy to get away from. He also keeps his studio somewhat simple – an aspect that I also find attractive.

Something he also talks about on the podcast in relation to his motivation for making music is the 2–3 hours of complete (creative) focus reached every once in a while. That’s again something I can relate to, unfortunately few and far between of late. I feel that I’ve lost a little momentum lately. The best thing you can do for creativity is open up a space for it – where did I read (or hear) that? It seems so important to be able to let go of preconceived ideas of how long something should take, or how difficult it should be to execute.

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Something I wondered about in my previous newsletter was the extent to which using Partch’s instruments and tuning system determine the kind of music one makes with them, and came across something of an answer with Ingar Zach’s Parts of the Horse are Notably Present (2019/20) for Harry Partch and classical instruments, recently performed by Zach himself and Ensemble Musikfabrik at the Ultima Oslo Festival. Improvisation has very much been Zach’s thing, although he’s been looking for ways to organise/structure it, as he explains in this video interview. Improvisation ‘composed’ in Logic and, I think, managing to integrate the Partch instruments in a different sound world in a way that feels natural.

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Bananskolen – creating “Trut, trut trompeten kommer” with various groups that involve themelves with political art and activism, including “The volunteer firebrigade of the apocalypse”, “Woodstone Kugelblitz” and “Whistlegraph”.

There are two new Poetisk Podcasts: Syv lag with music and sound by Sandra Boss against and around the words of Julie Sten-Knudsen’s poetry collection around the experience and aftermath of an acute caesarian section – all very much in Danish. And then Trut, trut trompeten kommer – Lars Skinnebach’s journey with Goodiepal & Pals (Bananskolen, as they call themselves) to Rotterdam and Amsterdam to play concerts and mimeograph Lars’ new collection of poems as a zine. Also in Danish but with enough mayhem to make it a worthwhile aural journey for non-Danish listeners – definitely our craziest podcast thus far. A refreshing journey into some of the more “alternative” layers of contemporary culture (certainly far from MusikFabrik‘s polish and funding) with a strong emphasis on the social aspects of the project. Check out some of the videos linked to on the podcast page for a reminder of those worlds.

Bananskolen – creating “Trut, trut trompeten kommer” – Lars Skinnebach’s new poetry collection with various groups that involve themelves with political art and activism, including “The volunteer firebrigade of the apocalypse”, “Woodstone Kugelblitz” and “Whistlegraph” in Rotterdam.

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I mentioned Craig Mod’s interview with Sam Anderson in my April newsletter in relation to the ‘alt text’ aspect of my lockdown photo project. Sam’s since written a kind of retrospective piece on Laurie Anderson for the New York Times that’s also available in podcast form. There’s an interesting AI bit at the end. One thing I’m generally even less interested in than AI is VR – but here’s a fascinating piece that was presented at the Louisiana Museum of Contemporary Art a few years ago. And here’s a look at the various custom-instruments she’s built over the years.

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Kali Malone, whose Sacrificial Code I talked about in last month’s newsletter, recently performed at the Göteborg International Organ Festival, who fortunately provided a livestream of the concert, giving a nice peek behind the scenes – or in this case the organ loft. Organs, wow, that’s a whole world of it’s own! Take a look at the documentary of the New Concert Hall Organ for the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (2017-2021), for example. There’s even a real estate fund involved. It’s interesting how Kali Malone and Ellen Arkbo (also mentioned in last month’s newsletter) have opened up listening to these instruments in a quite unexpected way (free of traditional pomp and keyboard virtuosity).

Ellen has also just released a new album of ‘sculptures’ for multiple organs. Modern counterparts to Ligeti’s 1967 Harmonies?

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I’ve been quite happy that my last few newsletters have been free of further crypto/NFT discussions, but the topic keeps on cropping up and yesterday Maciej Cegłowski posted a thread on Twitter that provides a good take on the current situation, especially considering the utopian aspects that are a strong part of its appeal to many:

AriDrennen (‪@AriDrennen)
How are NFTs not just like “naming a star” or “adopting a dolphin” but for grown men with too much money instead of eight year old children?

Pinboard (‪@Pinboard‬)
I really like this question and the challenge of answering it. I believe what makes NFTs different is a transformative vision of a future that true believers find inspiring and achievable. In their eyes, the current speculative bubble is a mechanism for growing something enduring

A good analogy to NFT believers are the people who are really into colonizing Mars. You can argue with them on the technical demerits of their project (no air, far away, all our stuff is here, slow internet), but you’re not really getting to the heart of their belief system.

People want to colonize Mars because they (pick one) want to live out a libertarian fantasy, have deep anxieties about human extinction, want humanity to take over the galaxy, want a fresh start in Year Zero without all the baggage that comes with life on Earth, you name it.

Like the singularity/superintelligence subculture that came before it, both the Martians and the NFT people have an apocalyptic vision of a future where things are fundamentally different. I mean apocalypse not as the end of the world, but that all is swept away and starts afresh

In the case of NFT world, that future is an internet decentralized by design so that it can never be co-opted by the rich and powerful or by the state, tying in to a kind of always-on video game layer over reality, and with strong guarantees for ownership provided by crypto woo

They see this future as the inevitable path for freedom and progress, and the current speculative mania as a way to both get in on the ground floor, and to fund the development of something grand and lasting, even if it has to go through many revisions and false starts.

Making arguments to these believers on technical grounds (like all the foundational issues with various blockchains) is as we say in Polish, like throwing dried peas against the wall. Technical problems will be solved, what matters is that they have seen the promised land.

You make as much headway trying to convince Mars nuts that we can’t even keep people alive in the Earth desert yet unsupplied, or the strong AI people that we don’t need to start making plans for immortality. Because you’re not in a debate about technology but about the Millenium

What such beliefs have in common is that they offer a positive, transformative vision of a future made better by technology, with a story about why it is achievable and inevitable. Whereas the real world right now doesn’t offer much hope or positive future at all. So you get NFTs

To all the fraud, speculation, and just basic insanity in this space, the NFT crowd can answer that they’re replicating the same thing that happens in high finance, except now it’s a different set of people who get to participate. The Fed creates money out of nothing, why not us?

I think recognizing the spiritual hunger that sits at the core of these movements (and remember how many in the space are young people!) is an important step to understanding them. Crypto culture is a mirror world that feeds off of the unexamined failures of the real world.

And it is also, like everyone points out, a massive scam that will hurt regular people the longer the bubble is allowed to inflate. But it’s not just “name a star”, it’s “name a star” with the promise that you’ll get to visit in a rocket very soon, if only enough people believe.

And I deserve a goddamned medal for 12 tweets on this without a single mention of Communism.

Here ‪@nyquildotorg‬ makes a good point, that NFT culture in particular is also Herbalife for young artists, promising them self-reliance and the ability to live off their work if they buy in, assuring them that every garage band can be U2 on the blockchain. twitter.com/nyquildotorg/s…

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And to close off, some special effects from nature herself as the sun bounces off a local skyscraper on a misty morning two weeks ago.

All the best
Rudiger

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