↬ Twenty-two – 11: Twitteropera

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.

Wall mural with the word "Astonishing" in large colourful letters against a black backgound.

Astonishing! It’s been truly astonishing to watch the Twitter circus over the course of past three weeks, and realize just how much damage can be done in such a short space of time. Is Musk deliberately trying to run it into the ground? It certainly seems like it. Twitter is Going Great! keeps track of the blunders, placing them on a timeline. I loved the cheeky responses to the verified fiasco that got the ball rolling: Free Insulin and the Mario middle-finger.

Given how badly it’s going, I’ve set up a Mastodon account: You can find me on mastodon.social/@rudigermeyer. There’s been much handwringing about the difficulties in getting going with this federated Twitter alternative, but I’ve found it to be fairly simple. The thing that many are on about is that given that it isn’t centralized service (as most social media platforms are), one has to choose an ‘instance’ when creating an account. I simply chose https://mastodon.social, one of the biggest (not that that’s necessarily a good idea) given that it’s based in Germany and run by Mastodon’s founder Eugen Rochko with good guidelines for the kind of content it allows. You can use the following link to join me there: https://mastodon.social/invite/rbvHxkeq

In practice choosing an instance is no more difficult than choosing an email provider, and, as with email, the protocol is set up so than each instance can communicate with all the others (unless specifically blocked), just as you can use your hotmail to send to gmail to send to mymail etc. Mastodon is also set up so that it’s easy to move from one instance to another with all your followers etc. intact, should you so desire. So not a step to get too hung up on.

If you’d like to get into the details around what it all entails, Aral has a post diving deep into the nitty gritty and Bastian (creator of the Kirby CMS I use for my website) some reflections on joining the Fediverse and the good vibes he’s been finding there. Jeremy Keith has some similar posts around his reflections, as well as diving a little into how he’s using brid.gy to pull back responses to his site.

My first impressions have been very much along the lines of Jeremy and Bastian’s – enjoyment and delight in the pleasant atmosphere and early-twitter/internet vibes. It feels like starting over in many ways. It involves building up a following from scratch, and feeling out the new environment, but that’s also part of the fun. I made use of the Fedifinder web app to search for Mastodon handles amongst all the people I follow on Twitter and it churned out a .csv file that could be imported into Mastodon. Enough to get the ball rolling. Within the space of a week there’s a new world unfolding with much of what I was enjoying on Twitter. Very quickly I can see Twitter itself becoming a thing of the past.

The speed with which Twitter recedes in your mind will shock you. Like a demon from a folktale, the kind that only gains power when you invite it into your home, the platform melts like mist when that invitation is rescinded.
Robin Sloan

Jeremy Keith wrote about Syndicating to Mastodon, and that brings me to the indieweb. The idea of syndicating posts out from one’s own site and using services like brid.gy to string back responses in one form or another via webmentions. Something I’ve been doing since 2015. Having all the important stuff on ones own site means that it’s much less of a deal should Twitter collapse or become uninhabitable. No mad rush to download my Twitter archive.

* * *

Micro.blog is not an alternative silo: instead, it’s what you build when you believe that the web itself is the great social network.
— Brent Simmons

One of the platforms that I have been syndicating out to for a number of years is micro.blog. Kickstarted by Manton Reece in 2016, it set out to one out to “provide a transitional platform, a bridge between centralized services and more distributed platforms”. You can sign up for a hosted micro.blog account or simply provide micro.blog with an RSS feed of posts from your own site, which will then be integrated into the timeline of those that follow you there. All based on the principles of the open web, and supporting #indieweb protocols to facilitate communication between websites that support them.

Part of the deal with the Kickstarter was that Manton would write a book about Indie Microblogging and after many years it finally arrived this year – appropriately in a version for the web. A deep dive into the many aspects of this universe.

The ‘notes’ that I post on my site are automatically sent out to micro.blog via my microblog RSS feed, and micro.blog can be set up to automatically cross post to Mastodon. I works really well, but during the course of the years I’ve moved away from automatically cross-posting as each platform has it’s own form and quirks, and it’s felt better to simply take the time to post on each platform manually rather than trying to find a form that fits them all. I’ve found it preferable to simply resort to some good old ‘copy and pasting’, perhaps with a few adjustments along the way. After all, it’s different rooms that one’s playing to, as Hainbach once pointed out.

So as easy as it is to cross-post to Mastodon I think I’ll stick to doing it manually. And then use brid.gy to pull back any potential replies back to my site via webmentions.

That’s the very thing that sets the fediverse apart: the ability to move from one service to another and bring your social network with you. Now Matt is promising to add ActivityPub to Tumblr. That future we wanted sixteen years ago might finally be arriving.
—Jeremy Keith

* * *

While Mastodon is much closer to Twitter in its feel and features, micro.blog is a little more hardcore in its reimagining of microblogging. No likes and no follower counts. To avoid getting caught up in that stuff. Just a chronological timeline and the conversations that grow from it.

This whole upheaval got me thinking about my own relationship to having something like Twitter available as a source of keeping in touch with the world. It’s played a big role in my life since I joined on my birthday in December 2011. At its best a picture of modern consciousness flying by in a flurry of haiku-like fragments. (See also Robin Sloan’s list of what he wants of the internet.)

I tried to give some expression to that in Zwitscher-Maschine, my ‘Twitteropera’ a number of years ago. The project began nearly a decade ago back in the days in which tweets were still restricted to 140 characters. Shortly after the piece was performed in 2016 Trump came to power, and from that moment Twitter (and the world!) was definitively no longer the place it used to be. The inspiration for trying to use it in some kind of creative way had definitely passed, as had my enthusiasm for doing the same with mobile phones. At the present point in time I couldn’t feel further away from pulling them out to ‘harness the power of the computers we carry around in our pockets’ as part of a piece in a concert situation. But it wasn’t always like that.

In one of Robin Rendle’s recent newsletters on How Not to Make a Book, tackling the topic of whitespace, he mentions his “experiments with websites that force you to view each idea one-by-one, just like a side.”

Image og the word Ugh surrounded by lots of whitespace and with braches, blossoms and blue sky in the background, from Robin Rendle's How Not to Make a Book newsletter.

(To me there’s a satisfying clunk with “Ugh” printed on one slide that you simply cannot get in a regular ol’ paragraph. It’s almost…musical?)

That kind of thing still resonates very much with me. (See this example too. I guess it’s got more to do with the web than social media.) I had set up the texts of my Twitteropera in a similar way, although they could also be viewed as something resembling a timeline. Perhaps if Twitter really dies it could open up a space for the piece to be performed again, this time without the conceit of viewing the ‘libretto’ in realtime on your smartphone. Some good old projected super titles (or something along that line) would do just fine.

* * *

Three years have passed since Lene Henningsen and I launched poetiskpodcast.dk. The idea of doing a podcast grew out of the practical frustrations around organising and financing theatrical performances of her piece Oskar & Alma, for which I was creating the music. We hit upon the idea of doing it as a podcast and quickly realised that the medium was better suited what we were trying to do than grappling with the constraints and expectations of a physical theatre production, exciting as they may be.

Given the difficulties of finding a place for ‘poetic theatre’ within todays commercial and cultural landscape, the medium of sound provided an alternative and led to the establishment of poetiskpodcast.dk as a platform not only for Oskar & Alma but also for podcasts by others interested in exploring new combinations of sound, words, poetry, and music.

Since then 14 podcasts have been released, ranging from intense drama and rowdy collectives to delicate poetry and dystopian landscapes.

Over the coming days I’ll be making a little retrospective (on my site and Instagram) of those productions.

Screen shot of the cover art for each the 14 Poetisk Podcast Productions to date.

* * *

Concerning the world stage I recently listened to two particularly interesting episodes of the Red Line Podcast.

It seems as if the Middle East could be set to heat up in the years to come. That the war in Ukraine might be an overture to even bigger things.

* * *

The translation of Lene’s The Weiss-Manetti Prediction is finally complete, so it’s been a lot of words (and not so much music) that I’ve been busy with during the past month. The Danish original is already available on her site, and the English version should follow soon.

On the musical side one of the things I have enjoyed is watching Marcus Hobbs’ video sharing the ins and outs of his Wilsonic app for Mac. I’ve gotten a lot out of the iOS version, and shared a little about it in one of my Partch videos last year. The Mac version, in the form of an AU, VST3 Plugin that can dynamically retune any MPE-compatible softsynths, takes it all to the next level, opening up the contexts in which it can be used and making all parameters automatable.

Screenshot of the Mac version of Wilsonic, an AU, VST3 Plugin that can dynamically retune any MPE-compatible softsynths

I spent a little time playing around with the beta in Ableton Live and it works beautifully. Both with synths such as Ableton’s Wavetable and something like Surge which has built in support for the MTS-ESP technology that makes it all possible. It’s great to have it all so readily at ones fingertips. To be able to explore the colours so easily. Also for children! As I’ve done with my daughter using the (free) iOS Audiokit Synth One.

Synth One Microtonal Keyboard and scale display.

All the best
↬ Rudiger

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Hi, I’m <a rel="me" class="p-name u-url" href="https://rudigermeyer.com">Rudiger Meyer</a>, a composer interested in the play between music, sound, and&nbsp;media.