↬ Twenty-three – 01: Coding, Consolidating, Listening, Playing

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.

I decided to make a dark mode for my website. In principle a simple operation, a few lines of CSS, but in my case, with a website that’s been put together over a long period of time, and at various stages of development in terms of what modern CSS is capable of, not to mention my ability to flex that knowledge, it turned out that I needed to do some cleaning up on the backend first. And along with that, update my knowledge of what’s possible these days, current best practices, e.t.c. It took a lot longer than I’d anticipated, partly because I ended up making a few adjustments and additions along the way, but now that it’s done I’m quite pleased with the results. There’s still a ton of code that could be improved on, but I wasn’t interested in redoing the entire site – too time-consuming of an undertaking – and so this will have to do. Small steps for now.

Dark mode version of one of the archive pages on rudigermeyer.com

Loosing myself in the world of code turned out to be a welcome start to the year. Having gotten over my pre-Christmas Covid fairly quickly, I came down with something else, not sure exactly what, just in time for New Year’s Eve, and couldn’t muster much musical (or other) creativity, or even a sense of which direction it might take, in the days that followed. And then in the wake of that, a family health crisis in Denmark and a tragedy amongst my extended family in South Africa. So cleaning up my CSS and a bit of php, and through that getting to take a look at all the half-forgotten corners of my website, was about the best that I could do. Craig Mod once wrote about the healing value of the world of code, with its own rules a little removed from the drama of life, yet with a life of its own.

Code soothes because it can provide control in moments when the world seems to spiral. Reductively, programming consists of little puzzles to be solved. Not just inert jigsaws on living room tables, but puzzles that breathe with an uncanny life force. Puzzles that make things happen, that get things done, that automate tedium or allow for the publishing of words across the world.

Not finding myself quite ready for a creative ‘next step’, and reviewing the site from a technical point of view turned out to be a valuable experience. A resurfacing of small details and events, a reminder of things tried out. In terms of layout there are so many things that are incredibly simple to do now, having been fairly tricky in the past, and so I had a little fun setting up some pages that make it easier to get an overview of my archives (see above). With the world in turmoil, and with so much focus on finding the paths ahead, both on a personal and societal micro/macro level, it’s felt good to have that little personal mirror outside of a social media context. (Yay #indieweb!)

I also added some PhotoSwipe JavaScript to my ‘Notes’ images. A tap or a click to see the image full-screen and be able to zoom in and move around. A simple thing, but really nice to be able to do, I find. Something we’re so used to be able to do on our phones nowadays, that we don’t even think about it – until bumping into a situation in which we can’t. I’ve also added the ‘alt-text’ that I’ve written about on numerous occasions, as captions when opening up the photos. On mobile devices they can be tapped on an off.

Even if its audience was non-existent, the site would still have value for me. I often find myself referring to it when looking for things I’ve come across – it’s a collection of extended bookmarks of a sort, a record of ground covered, a journal – partly in the form of this (somewhat public) newsletter. I’m thinking that it’s worth putting some care into conserving things, not in the sense of hanging on to the past, but in terms of value that might be carried forward – rather than just blindly pushing on. That it’s good to have a place for that. It’s also nice to have a little design playground, a place to try things out, a place in which to present and form things typographically, visually, aurally.

‘Not everything needs to be thrown away as we witness the painful birth of a new era.’ That’s a sense/feeling that surprises me every now and then: In the midst of the collapse and destruction, new things sprouting and established branches continuing to grow and transform, find their way through the cracks:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

…there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
Leonard Cohen

* * *

Other things I’ve been doing while feeling the need to take a step back and find my feet: Listening. Walking through the park on the way back from dropping off my daughter at school, realising that it’s not that often anymore that I simply listen to the environment. Birds, the trees, the sounds of the city. Perhaps it’s time for a field recording project of some kind. I’ve also been getting back into drawing. (One’s ears open in a different way while drawing.) And playing the piano. Actually practising a little for the first time in a long time. Back to the basics, Ryuichi Sakamoto pieces: There’s sheet music available on his site Sakamoto.

The mood of it all takes me back to Each person contains a world, a piano piece I wrote in 2011.

* * *

Speaking of playing, I recently came across the Osmose Keyboard which looks quite inspiring.

It plays like a piano – even arguably more satisfyingly than a lot of synth actions, with the satisfying mechanical sensation of playing a concert grand with all the resistance and tactile feedback that entails. But then you discover all sorts of additional dimensions, for bending pitch or sculpting sounds.

It’s a keyboard with 49 full-sized keys with “3D control”, that includes a built in standalone synthesizer, powered by the EaganMatrix sound engine from Haken (designed for their Continuum), that can also function as an (MPE) MIDI controller. Exciting new things growing out of the old.

* * *

While I haven’t been feeling very inspired by much of the music that I’ve been coming across, something that has made me prick up my ears, has been Grzegorz Marciniak’s Melodica Duets.

Melodica Duets embraces a key characteristic of the melodica: its unstable and day-to-day fluctuation in tuning.

In general, cheap melodicas won’t stay in tune for long; and the longer they are played, the more out-of-tune they become. Although cleaning the reeds slows this process, the cheaper models inevitably reveal how the individual reeds in the instrument begin “to live a life of their own”. … Some reeds become less in-tune than others but in the end, there is an element of unpredictability to how a particular note, or combination of notes, will sound when played together on two different instruments.

I’ve enjoyed the simplicity of the pieces, resulting in something that is rich in sound, direct and intimate.

Grzegorz was born in Poland, grew up in Hungary, and studied at my old haunt, The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where he continues to be based.

There’s an interview with him on the Inexhaustible Editions site, the Slovenian label which seems to have a lot of other interesting releases as well, though I haven’t had the chance to check them out yet.

There are also videos of the duets on Grzegorz’ YouTube channel, which provide a nice visual counterpart to the musical process, though I find that the directness and clarity of the album recordings makes for a better experience. I particularly like Nos 1 and 3. A video of a live performance is also to be found.

* * *

Cristian Vogel’s Endless Process label will holding a ‘label night’ at H15 this Saturday, with quite a line up: Anders Skibsted, Phtalo, Bjørn Svin, SØS Gunver Ryberg, and Cristian Vogel himself.

I first came across Phtalo at SPOR Festival last year, and when in the mood/need for something more upbeat, have been enjoying their albums since. Emotions are My Power!

Bjørn and Cristian’s Frankenstein’s Lab presentations from a few years ago are still available on the Frankenstein’s Lab site.

And Don’t Look Back’s first mixtape of the year will be out on Friday the 27th, featuring with Bjørn Svin!

* * *

It’s been a great pleasure to finally have physical copies of Lene Henningsen’s Atomar and Weiss-Manettis forudsigelse in my hands. It’s interesting how satisfying it is to have something that one has known and worked on over a long period of time, present in physical form. The Weiss-Manetti Prediction, my translation of the novel, is now also finally available via Lene’s Maggies Mill site.

“The Weiss-Manetti Prediction” book open showing text on page 41 – the Weiss-Manetti ’prediction‘, with the cover of the poetry collection 'Atomar' underneath it in the background.

* * *

My friendship with Mendel Hardeman goes back to our days in The Hague. He’s since had many adventures in the Brazilian outback, documenting the trials and tribulations of the indigenous population there. He’s now settled back in Europe, documenting the (historical) trials and tribulations of people here, and on a quest with his new project The Thousand Year Tree, to re-establish our connection with nature, rather than lord over it.

Autumn 2023 will be exactly 1300 years ago that the offensive with which the Northern Netherlands and Northern Germany became part of the “civilized world” began with the chopping down of a tree. The day on which Boniface felled the Sacred Oak of Geismar symbolises the advance of a civilization that relies on the continuous killing of living nature in the name of progress.

His newsletter is in Dutch, but the online version is easily Google-translated.

This new project is a journey in search of reconciliation between us humans and all life on earth. I cannot make this quest alone. Does the story appeal to you, and would you like to work together to ensure that it can develop further and be shared with the world?

Send him an email if you’re interested.

With best wishes,
↬ 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.