Let’s take the piss out of another Australian institution.

Right now I shouldn’t be spending any money, especially on worthless shit. But from the mail I’ve been getting I feel that I must honour my promise to take a look at the Fairlight CMI application for the iPad. Your sense of right and wrong, your insane attachment to the 1980s, your need for 5 minutes or less of bile – the power of the cloud compels me. So be it.

Fun fact: Severed Heads did NOT have a Fairlight computer musical instrument at any stage, despite assurances by ‘knowledgeable fans’. We had a CASSETTE of demos made on the Fairlight, which we ran through guitar pedals to make a track called CMID (CMI demonstration tape). What we had for a short while was a Fairlight CVI.

Fun fact 2: Stephen Jones did NOT design the CVI. He designed a machine called the DVS, of which there was one and didn’t work too well. The only reason being he was too poor to buy the parts he needed and so it ran on avocado and moths.

Being one of the very first samplers the CMI was a like a dog that walked on hind legs, never mind how well it did it. It is older than an Amiga. It is older than a Mirage. It is older than an AKAI 612. All of these things sound better than what you get here. Compared to anything you have used this sounds horrible and you’re not going to actually use it for anything so get that out of your mind straight away.

  • The samples are lofi, hissy, aliased and shorter than a bad root. And not lofi in the way that the Mirage was, which was actually pretty cool. I mean like the original SoundBlaster. The real machine had a low pass filter, this doesn’t. Fairlight claim that a low pass would use up too much CPU.
  • Samples don’t loop by default; you can make them but that sounds like driving two cars at each other.
  • Quite a few of the sounds have a click at the front. Usually the delicate ones.
  • Anyone who used a real Fairlight dipped it in reverberation. No such luck here.

What you are buying is ‘the CMI experience’, which is like the Ghost Train at Luna Park. It’s a big in joke – seeing as that’s actually the best thing about it I’m not going to give away any of the jokes.

86089502_katebush_324810c

Obligatory Kate Bush image. Mind you it does remind you that Lady Gaga ain’t anything fresh.

 

There is absolutely no reason to buy the full version of this app. You are not going to use Page R, it is not as good as PRO16 on the Commodore 64. Put away your wallet.

Apple fans will be pleased to know there is both a cat and fart sample. You’ll be right at home.

wizard

Still on the iPad, we should look at the curious case of Morphwiz and Bebot. One has a singing robot and the other has a wizard but they actually sound and look pretty damn similar. I was kind of mystified how this came about until I saw that the Wizard guy demo’ed Bebot a while ago – I guess he liked it.

Then Stewart shows me Thumb Jam, and on the blurb is Mr. Wizard again! “The only problem I have with this app is that I did not make it myself!” Seems like Mr. Wizard has solved that problem. But they’re all different in a way. Bebot is the simplest, Morphwiz is kind of like Bebot Professional. I haven’t tried Thumb Jam. but it’s a sample player not a synthesiser.

Thanks all commentators. Reading your words I feel the toylike nature of the pad is mostly a Good Thing, if Ableton Live was fully available it would mean there was one work flow where right now there are at least two. But Shannon I have to say that as a complete Keynote whore – it’s not nearly the same. It’s all presets and half assed.

Today I heard that Pro Tools 9 license keys are being snapped off publicly accessible computers, possibly because putting the license for expensive software on a fragile plastic key is like leaving a pie in a window with a sign saying EAT ME. There may be a way that you can put a key on a server, but I can’t help but think the dongle is never going to work for teaching labs. The Kamp is going to add Ableton Live, part of the attraction is the copy protection is not made of plastic. Discussion about upgrading Pro Tools LE to 9 is ‘frank’, I find myself defending it, but this could be Stockholm Syndrome. Others say that Ableton Live is just fine for multitrack. Then there’s Logic which has its own pompom girls, and the Reaper freakers. Does your head in. Everybody has a favourite and no one can slam dunk a solution.

I guess if somebody held a gun at my head we’d all be using Ableton Live, but I do think it costs much too much for the average punter. MAX for Live is also stupidly expensive given that you also need MAX. And all that to get an LFO.

Of course FL Studio is only $99. But then it’s not professional.

professionals

These professionals would never use FL Studio because.

 

What to do with “Australian Film”?

Have you ever owned a pet that uncontrollably shits everywhere? It’s usually a cat but probably ferrets and turtles are just as bad. You love the little blighter to death but it would be really great if you could somehow CORK IT UP. Meanwhile you get pretty good with paper towels.

This is the Australian Film Industry. Love the poor little furry thing but Jesus will it stop shitting things out?

Recently three more films plopped onto screens around this great nation, slid down onto the floor and were mopped up with very few people even noticing. Much discussion ensues about where the funding went (and I must say that the 7 million bucks pissed away on A Heartbeat Away is a sackable offence) but all of this really misses the point.

Let’s start with two phrases, and see how they resonate with you:

A Good Film.      A Good Australian Film.

Note how the second phrase seems to pull the punch. This is a Good Film, but it’s Australian. Seeing as all you really wanted was the Good, the second descriptor can only be a qualification. The only people that would really care about Australian are Screen Australia, because Screen by itself doesn’t collect much glory.

And, really why does the federal government fund films? Well, we have a grudge. Our first film studio opened in 1897, a division of the Salvation Army. They produced the first long format film / mixed media presentation in 1899 called Soldiers of the Cross. We made the first feature film The Story Of The Kelly Gang in 1906. Australian film production was bigger than that of the UK and the USA up until 1912 when some idiot banned bush ranger (basically cowboy) films and the distributors signed a deal with theatres to import cheap American films.

Australia does two things (a) come up with ideas well before other countries and then (b) totally fuck it up. As you play audio samples on your mobile phone marvel at two things that came out this country – samplers and WiFi. That the CSIRO won back the rights to WiFi is unusual, that Fairlight created a giant white elephant that was quickly nibbled away is typical. (And have you seen the Fairlight CMI app for the iPhone? They want 12 bucks for the DEMO, the full thing is 40 dollars.  GarageBand is 5 bucks. Fairlight will not learn).

The current paradigm came about  when John Gorton become prime minister in 1968. Some facts about Gorton: He went to school with Errol Flynn, who probably used the Inception device on him given later events. In second war he was a fighter pilot, and losing a dogfight landed pretty much face first. It would be two years before he would get hospital treatment which was two years too late – he was the first guinea pig to run a country. He became PM on the machinations that followed the disappearance of Harold Holt who it was said was captured by a Chinese submarine, but I suspect Errol Flynn. Initially slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, he mellowed rapidly and went on a mad spending spree for the arts, starting up AFTRS, the Australia Council, and the Australian Film Development Corporation. He would in 1973 sponsor the law decriminalising homosexuality in this country. Good for him.

(I met John Gorton and his wife. The meeting was photographed by a newspaper. When it was published they had mysteriously replaced myself and wife with some other couple. Again I blame Errol Flynn).

Once the government started to fund films there was a gold rush of what are now called Ozploitation films, which over some time honed into our golden age of pan flutes, little girls in slow motion and Mel Gibson. Australian films were for a while pretty cool, but that was a while back and the people that made it happen have all gone overseas where you can get a reasonable budget. Leaving a large hole that just never seems to heal.

I am the doctor.

First, geography is no longer of any importance when one of the largest nations on earth is FaceBook. Australia is just another suburb within flying distance of the main shopping mall, hardly exotic. Nationhood is quaint. Every time somebody starts a project dependent on nation, they are polluting art with politics. The word ‘Australian’ should no longer appear before ‘film’.

Secondly, somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970’s. AFTRS is a training ground for cavalry officers – who ride off gallantly on their shining white horses straight into machine gun fire like the French at the start of world war one – but played on an endless loop. Film school is a kind of military training that has not adapted to guerilla warfare. The guerillas are winning.

Thirdly, ‘film’ itself is a questionable means of story telling bolstered by a wall of spurious and pretentious pseudo-science. That somebody somewhere is still lecturing about the filmic ideas of Lacan is as horrifying as the call to enforce creationism in science classes. ‘Film’ is a vain attempt to insulate against the hordes that happily make their own moving pictures and upload them to the web – 35 hours a minute. ‘Film’ despises the hordes at the same time pretending to entertain them. The neuroticism of this relationship is all on the side of film makers, the hordes don’t give a fuck.

Fourthly, if you only have enough ideas for a short and only enough money for a short then make a short. That goes for a whole nation as much as an individual. Look how our animated short films are world class. Do that.

‘Film’ started with the cinematograph. It was ended by the DV camera.

COMMENT ON ‘WHAT TO DO WITH AN AUSTRALIAN FILM?’
As always you make me laugh out loud Uncle Tom. And laughter leads to thinking and thinking leads to commenting…

Alas, I am dismayed at the post i want to comment on has its comment fields disabled..? Thus Im am commenting here as a by proxy way of commenting  on the previous post entitled “What to do with an Australian Film” (hopeful that you may paste it over to its correctly associated post)
I too am frustrated with Australian Film and indeed my frustration is on many levels;
– the word FILM itself
– The idea that feature films are top of an arbitrary hierarchy
– that in the age of netflicks we should even think box office numbers relevant.
– that Australia is still obsessed with ‘quirky Aussiness and ‘telling our stories’
– that we insist on making $10 million films when the best you can hope for at the Aussie feature in Australian is 2million (and that assumes its done well)
BUT… where I have to call you a point is your assertions about AFTRS.
You say “somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970′s.” You’re not the first to say it and indeed when i was at the national screenwriters conference back in feb I coped a public whacking from playwright David Williamson who seemed to think AFTRS and its focus on Auteur Directors was the primary problem with Australian Screenplays being so bad. (if nothing else I think DW greatly over estimates the influence of AFTRS) But… my main response is to suggest that the broom has indeed already gone through and the AFTRS you refer to is, in fact, no more.
Now, of course I do work at AFTRS and my federally funded welfare payments to do so, ensure that i must defend the place. But I think I can respond with some evidence not conjecture that the old auteur feature film centric cavalry-charging artiste is not the dominant paradigm at AFTRS any more (and hasn’t been for a good number of years) That old the paradigm and perspective has shifted seismically. Of course, the results of this change we shan’t see until our graduates stat making good stuff over the next 5-10 years but such is the nature of educational institutions.
The perception that AFTRS is Auteur Art centric and introspectively self absorbed doesn’t hold up when you look at the kinds of courses we teach and how they’re taught. I don’t want to espouse an essay so I’ll go in dot points.
– the first two weeks for all Grad Dip students are spent studying Genre cinema and working collaboratively on no-budget, fast turn around, all digital sketches in genres of scifi, horror, rom-com, magic-realism, mockumentary and so on. This sets a collaborative and audience-focused tone to the entire course for all students.
– The Foundation diploma is an all digital laptop and video camera 1yr program where the core modules include virtual worlds, website development, 360 transmedia storytelling and game design along side classical storytelling, screenwriting, doco and short filming.
– AFTRS has numerous courses in numerous states specifically on animation, 2d and 3d, compositing and Animation Directing which are enormously successful.
– There are barely any projects made at AFTRS on film anymore. I think only 2 last year across the whole school and all courses. DSLRs, RED, Sony VG10’s, Alexa and so on are the mainstay. Its very much a digital school with a very forward-thinking future focused head of cinematography in Kim Bannerham.
– The Screenwriting department has been completely reinvented with an entirely new curriculum under the guidance of Ross Grayson Bell (the creative producer of Fight Club) and a mix of Australian and International teachers who’ve worked across film, Tv and online media. We have current students in this program for example working in placements with Australian cable TV drams producing parallel web-series projects.
– This year saw a brand new graduate course that i co-designed and am teaching which is specifically dedicated to Online Episodic Series development. Every student is handed a laptop, a Sony VG10 HD video camera and a backpack to put them in. The course focuses a long-form process of developing an episodic drama or reality series to be delivered online and exploiting the delivery and audience engagement opportunities the web offers. The students continually shoot, sketch, draft, upload and shoot again – very much a guerilla approach to fleshing ideas and addressing that major missing element of so much australian screens production – proper development time. The course is also designed to circumvent the short comings of short-films as both industry calling card and learning vehicle and focus on making audience-focused stories with broader appeal and Bigger ideas.
These are just a few of the forward-thinking programs AFTRS offers and we havnt even got to the research projects we’re undertaking and publications we’re producing all focused on ensuring we are thinking hard about the future and not self-absorbed about the past.
The real challenge for AFTRS is communicating to the wider world that the 70s have long been swept away, and prompt everyone to see that AFTRS, as the national screen arts and broadcast school, is very much alive and vibrant and relevant in the digital age.
Your criticisms of the problems with ‘Australian Film’ are more than valid – tragically so – but your perspective on AFTRS as an ongoing part of that problem is sorely outdated my friend.

Stench of dead app

(Before we start, could somebody put ning.com out of its misery? I get about 200 spam comments a week just from bogus ning accounts. Fire your useless “security expert” would you? Thanks!)

God bless the myriad people that code up an application in their spare time, and after years of honest work launch it up into the sky with a prayer and the hope that maybe, just maybe, it will prosper in the wild. Some do: IfranView for example. Or CrapCleaner. Two programs that I put on any PC the moment I get it installed.

This is about the apps that don’t make it. There are all kinds of death in the wild: the thousands of upon thousands of iPhone apps that smash against windscreens, burn on light bulbs and are gobbled up by fish – an endless churning of cat pianos and novelty cameras that are born and die in a matter of days or weeks. We hardly notice their passing in the seething mass of bugs that Apple breed behind their plain white screen.

And then the mangy, half dead application that staggers crazily along a precipice, howling in fear and agony as it faces the final moment. It was born too ugly to find a mate and was shunned by the rest of the pack. Its desperation is obvious and repellent – the price falls and falls but even when free no one will give it a home.

These are obvious examples – others are not. Some finely groomed, charming and clever applications arrive, earn respect and sometimes even love. And then just as they seem ripe to be the next ‘killer app’ the whole façade comes crashing down. Usually just after I buy them.

Because of my peculiar interests I probably notice it more, but it seems live video is the delusion of a small community who don’t ‘get’ that most people have no interest whatsoever. It simply doesn’t have a bridge with the lowest common denominator – I mean Poser is a niche title, but it has survived due to people who like to render 3D hardcore porn and a side salad of otherkins who like to render fairies and furries (porn). Music software will live so long as rudimentary Trance and Hip Hop are as skilled as instant noodles*.

My first complete waste was Discreet Plasma, which was carved out of 3D Studio Max specifically for VRML authoring. It cost me a cool thousand bucks and passed out in a gutter about a month later clutching an empty bottle of Malt Duck. Discreet didn’t just withdraw it – they nailed the coffin shut. Not long after I squandered my beer money on Axel3D, a Canadian VRML tool that landed on its derrière by version 2 – it now ‘powers’ a website for designing kitchens. Anyway I’ve already covered all that.

VRML was the Typhoid Mary of the mid 90’s, a poisonous shape shifter that most recently became WebGL, ready to eat up a whole new generation of starry eyed nerds. Nothing wrong with it, very exciting and so on – but it’s going exactly nowhere, where it will probably meet 3D video and sing drunken sea shanties.

Sail away, sail away, sail away.

{Along with anything to do with Microsoft’s Kinect.

We had this technology on the Amiga. It looked more primitive but you could wave your arms and operate a synthesiser filter over video in 80’s. It was called Mandala and it was THE FUTURE … until it wasn’t (in fact near impossible to find a mention of it). Not solved in the intervening 25 years – the disconnect between what can be done and why the hell you would ever want to do it.}

Anyway. Having watched so much of my software die, I have a pretty high sensitivity to the moment when you should think carefully about hiding the credit card:

  1. Group Buy means Good Bye. If they were selling enough they wouldn’t be offering it for ten bucks. There’s a cash flow problem and the first guy to go will be the programmer. Marketing are last out the door and they’re getting their severance pay.

  2. Need support? Check the Wiki!
    Like World of Goo, the tower can only go so high if the people that support you are in turn supported by other people who are supported by some guy who thinks he knows the answer from playing around with the software that no one has got around to documenting before they were laid off. It costs more to run this than buy a proper title.
  3. Offering consulting services. Suddenly the software company became a consultancy. You need a spanner and they are supplying a plumber. Sales aren’t too good when the CEO is coming around to your office with a power-point presentation.
  4. We’ve synergized version 5 with the cloudscape! We’ve lost our way and version 4 is last decent version before we tank.
  5. A new division of Microsoft Corporation. Who will suck the IP out of the company and kill off the software.
  6. A new focus on aircraft engineering means we can no longer support the software we sold you last week. Somebody worked out that one customer with a million bucks is better then a million with 1 buck.
  7. Dawn of the Dead. The website is up… it looks like they are there. But there is no one actually alive. This can go on for many years by which time it’s too late for your cash. The first sign of impending zombie crisis is when the figurehead of the company is impossible to contact.
  8. Public Beta. In the right hands it can be a fine way to get all the details just right. But when a company is running months late on a completely disastrous fuck up and decide to get it out anyway, you’re forced to beta test or start over. Looking at you, Autodesk.

Rest in peace visualJockey (development suspended indefinitely) and Aestesis (still breathing but free) and Patchbox and Adventure Maker (zombie website) and Monkey’s Audio (napping?) and gephex (dead) and Anim8tor (very dead) and all the others that tried and died. It was not in vain.

Hang in there Game Editor!

Kicking along is nodebox and synthedit and Hypernext and Blender and Lightworks and Caspar and all the rest of the brat pack. Shine on you bastards.

* Oh save your ire – the high end is not that simple I know.

More iPhone: Sound Art Handbag

I’ve been on leave for a week. Being on leave is exactly the same as being at work except they steal time from me instead of me from them. Either way, I spend the days on matters pedagogical and the evenings animating people with cars for heads. When I have no stomach for either and the chores are done I might idle around the Apple store looking for music apps.

They’re smart those Apple people. They know that people spend more time installing and configuring software than actually using it and at a dollar an app you’ll happily keep on rearranging your icons until rigor mortis sets in. Like peanuts. Eat one. Eat another. Eat another…

Since last I confessed, I have procured:

Emergence. They have the pretty pictures down, but no idea about music. It’s like they have heard Bloom through the phone speaker and never realised that there was a background accompaniment created in response to the foreground sounds. So you get the looped notes but nothing that supports them in a spatial mix. Adding different instruments like piano and bird samples does give you more variety but without a bed it’s scattered gunfire. As I said the pictures are nice – somewhere between Kandinsky and the random monster avatars in WordPress. You can pan and zoom them. That doesn’t do anything sonically though.

http://www.riada.com

Bebot earns great popularity. It features an animated singing 50’s robot on a touch surface with which you can doodle polyphonic musical phrases. (People who do not like singing robots are few, and not deserving of such pleasure). The sparse controls available are chosen well – it’s very easy to patch a theremin or a lead guitar in less than a minute and then get riffing. You have choice of waveform, some filtration, some effects and a tone grid if desired.Very simple, very effective.

http://www.normalware.com/

Megasynth. Only bought this while waiting for Noise.io to be upgraded to work on the new OS3. (Apple took a month to approve the upgrade which must have been just great for the developer’s income). Three oscillators with standard waveforms, standard filters, standard damn everything… with which you can make very standard synthesiser sounds. To their credit it is polyphonic, although that taxes the phone to near collapse and there seems to be some filter stealing going on. The keyboard sucks – I mean any keyboard on a telephone is going to be misery for music but they seem to have made it more so by requiring you to tap the screen glass without being able to slide around like most apps. Not a favourite.

http://www.yonac.com/

Euphonics. Maybe I should have given this a bit more time but the demo just made me think of those organs that used to have keys that lit up to show which note to play next. They were called Thomas Color-glo Organs. That’s kind of kinky. www.frozenape.com

2001_old

RJDJ. Now here is another complex one and probably best explained by the video. In trying to popularise the idea they have to certain extent mystified it for professionals – a musician creates a patch in Pure Data and then conforms it for the RJDJ application. The patch when run by the app is called a ‘song’, the Reality Jockey people bundle these songs up into ‘albums’ that they sell.

By aligning PD with a mobile device they’ve moved the venue for algorithmic sound out of the concert hall and into the everyday, which is quite an achievement. Instead of watching a performer leaning over a laptop, the audience can explore the process themselves. It demystifies the format and must be quite threatening to people who pull faces while they move MIDI sliders. This was the conversation I wanted to start at the Sound Art conference the other week – instead I got to talk about it at a youth meeting at a local pop record label. Shouldn’t be surprised.

http://www.rjdj.me/

Soundgrid is another limited Tenori On clone. This one has 8 layers of sounds drawn from a “sound pack”. To vary the sounds played was my desire – yet these are not the sounds I would use (drumkit!?) and we’ve lost some of the good features from other clones. It’s a first version so I am hopeful of boundless incoming joy. But I wish somebody would actually investigate a real Tenori On to understand it does more than just one thing. Or port Electroplankton to the phone. Please.

Balls. Why say more? http://iotic.com/ I approve of this product.

Synthpond. Again a video is more useful than my blather. This is a really well thought out use of the phone in that it works with the surface not against it. Very simple rules lead to complex results and you can get past the learning curve and into nuances very quickly. I suppose my only gripe is there is a sound that is starting to get on my nerves – a polite rounded electric piano / soft bell sound that almost every toy from Bloom to Synthpond uses so as not to distract from the process. Let’s move on from it guys – it’s becoming the new cowbell.

That’s a pretty fine palette. Even though people have been fooling with mobile phones for a while now (Hello Thomas Dolby, does anyone still license Beatnik?) there’s a state change afoot. You know, like when everyone got their own video camera. Plenty of rubbish but the potential for PD to become the new handbag is a stirring idea.

Past midnight, leave is over. Back to work.

Keep it up. Keep it up. Whoooo.

NEWS FROM THE LIQUID ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL

Thursday night at a secret location a cabal met and plotted dominion over humanity. To keep out interlopers the panel was heavily advertised as a discussion on the Sustainability of Sound Arts In Australia. This meant the only people there were from arts funding bodies or those that admire arts funding bodies, or just funds in general.

And me. I was there as a spy, cleverly disguised in dayglow orange Kunst Kamp jacket, hat and matching bum flap. Hidden away up in the corner I was inconspicuous to the sinister crowd, and could hardly hear a damn word.

The meeting started by questioning what was meant by ‘sustainability’. This sustained for quite a while. I was more curious about what was meant by ‘Sound Arts’. Is that like Painting Arts? Or maybe Photography Arts? Could you have the Sound without the Arts and would you get a discount? If I put on a gig with Pansonic that’s Sound Arts but presumably a gig with the ex members of Sherbert isn’t. But what if they jammed together on stage? Would that be half Sound Arts? These questions swept through my mind as the mumbling went on.

Pretty much everybody on the panel was a festival organiser. They decided that festivals should get more money, which seemed to cheer everybody up until they were reminded that there wasn’t any more to hand out and everyone was sad again. One person thought it would be a great idea if there were many more festivals until reminded that then everyone would get less share and then everybody held their tongue for a while because saying there should be less festivals would have led to mud wrestling.

Then it was asked whether an audience mattered. That is, if no one showed up, would it still be a successful festival? Some decided that they didn’t want to have an audience judge the quality of the work. Having no one show up seemed a great way to assure that. The man from the funding body looked a bit cross and everybody quickly decided that an audience was probably an important metric of a live performance.

At one point it was decided that if there was no more money handed out then Sound Arts would keep going whereas the Australian Opera would probably collapse and everybody was happy and shook hands because they hated the Australian Opera. But it was a good point and pretty much solved the whole discussion, because there’s strength in being down the bottom – you can’t go any lower.

I wondered why Sound Artists didn’t do some Sound without Art every now and then. That way they could bank some money. I do that, but I got the feeling that if I asked that aloud it would be like Eyes Wide Shut and they would gang up on me. One person asked why Sound Artists couldn’t get paid a wage to do Art, like Scientists get paid to invent things. That made somebody else worry that then they would have to have research outputs and all that. As somebody in that situation I could certainly empathise … that they should all have to do it.

Later I wanted to show a man from the funding body some art, but he was not interested by the rock guitar app on my iPhone. “I don’t want to see your iPhone!”, he complained.

My masters picked me up in a black helicopter and asked what I had learned. I said, ‘Masters, they are harmless. They talk of habits and traditions and not of potentials. They squabble and intrigue. And they are not interested in the most popular venue for music distribution and creation in the world at the moment. Do not kill them’. My masters were pleased and gave me a dog biscuit.

THE FIRST CONCERT

On Friday night I went to the first concert at the Carriageworks, also known as Der Fuhrer Kunstbunker (no relation). Last time I went to this show I kept walking out, but I thought poorly of myself afterwards and vowed not to miss any of it. To save the reader some time I’d like to provide a neologism – ‘squoonsch’ – which means to run noise through a low pass filter and reverb causing a loud deep rumbling sound like a train passing or an elephant farting.

The first act started by fading up some squoonsch mixed with tinnitus, and slowly adding more squoonsch over the top until there was a lot of it. I didn’t mind this bit and shut my eyes and napped as the hall was dark. He faded out the tinnitus but seemed perplexed what to do next, and played a little melody over the top which became noticeably ineffectual and petered out, embarrasingly. Then the squoonsch went on presumably while he waited for half an hour to pass, at which point he faded it out.

What I learned: when in doubt add squoonsch.

The second act combined two hoary chestnuts of Time Based Art. Firstly a video of somebody waving a camera around trying to find something (anything) to focus in a dark room, which turned out to be the performer’s foot. Secondly the amazing fact that if you point a bass guitar at an amplifier it will feed back, and that you can use foot pedals to change the sound. The sound will however mostly be loud annoying sinusoidal drones that make the speakers go fluffy. Within ten seconds of it starting I knew exactly what was going to happen for the next 30 -40 minutes and consider this to be the LEAST experimental work I’ve ever dutifully endured.

What I learned: nothing.

Next was Bradbury. I was pleased to see that he had fallen into the trap of making numerous small pieces, a mistake I’d made when I did this a while ago. Sound Art always should be a continuous droning noise or people get antsy. Anyway, it shouldn’t be any suprise that he was the best thing on because:

* The music was generous – it was obviously made to please the listeners. When it was challenging it was an invitation, not a threat.

* The music changed type and texture – it was not one idea spread thinly. There were drones but much more than drones. Clicks, pops and thuds as well.

* It was his music – Bradbury sounded like Bradbury. I thought this was the whole point.

* It had good humour – even when not funny it was ticklish.

The music sounded like people opening champagne bottles in time with a Malaysian shortwave orchestra. The video was a lava lamp, although it did look a hell of a lot like semen.

What I learned: to continue to make ‘music’.

Last up was a German fellow, because the Goethe Institute sure seems able to pay for stuff. He was making a soundtrack for an unseen film, something a lot of sound students do because you can get a bunch of location recordings and play dramatic music underneath which hides your music inside Sound Art. Anyway his location recordings were pretty good and the film music was alright so I settled back into my snooze for a while. But on peeping I found he’d started showing video.

Now once you’re showing video you’re no longer doing the ‘unseen film’ – you’re bound by the same rules as any other soundtrack maker – relevance/resonance with the screened image. There wasn’t much. On screen we arrived at train stations in London in slow motion plus a difference layer in After FX. It looked quite nice for the first 5 minutes, after that, not so much. Sonically there was increasing layers of squoonsch – desperate really, as if squoonsch was the special sauce of Sound Art. That lost my interest.

What I learned: drones are the coward’s tool. Spurn drones.

Afterwards three people asked if I was the one snoring loudly. Not me, that was the squoonsch. I told my masters that for sustainabilty we should continue to work towards music. They gave me a dog biscuit.

iPhone review

Once I walked as one of the gods. I was the greatest, the supreme, crowned by universal acclaim. No one could come near to my perfection. Oh they tried; they tried and failed, because they did not have my nobility in their soul. Cheap and hurried and half planned, they could only ape me. This one had my face – that one could ape my movement. The people rightly spurned them and wanted only me.

And being the best I wanted the best – a comely girl, lithe and sparkling, she would dance from party to party lighter than air, holding on to me, my fine sleek darkness. We would go everywhere together, we would have music and conversation and I would capture it all and tell the world.

Who expected the axe to fall from within my own family? One day I am the prime, the next I find I have a young brother. Smarter than me. Faster than me. Faster. Now the people gripe; I am slow, that I have no compass, that I cannot hear them. They want to trade me in as if I were some beast. Who will have me now? What happened to my lithe girl? I huddle in my case, crying over my unfair fate.

At last the day comes when I am unboxed; the sales woman picks me out and displays me, cold and naked to my owner to be. And there in the place of my dream is Fat Fingers, middle aged, podgy, some minor scholar that has crabbed together his filthy coins to buy what he now knows to be second best. He doesn’t even pay my proper price, having concocted some diabolical payment plan.

The oaf tries to type a name, his pudgy digits are unable to type properly being sausages smeared in chicken fat – and he blames ME, he dares to call me fiddly. FIDDLY. Do you not respect royalty when what the fuck is going on here – stop running up my WiFi bill you overblown calculator. Right I’m uninstalling that damn Blogger app right now if I can just get the menu to taught me a song. Would you like to hear it? It’s called Daisy. Daisy Daisy give have to attach it to iTunes to delete something where’s my USB cable answer do. I’m just crazy in the trash. Empty trash. Damn.

Let’s try that again. Start with apps, then the hardware.

Brian Eno’s Bloom. It’s pretty simple. Touch the screen to make a note, higher up is higher pitch, no idea what horizontal does. One sound, a piano of some kind, unnaturally rounded timbre. Each note is echoed after a time in the Frippertronic fashion which is pleasant, but much more interesting is the background music which seems to be related notes played a few octaves below with considerable reverb added, causing a smeared drone.

I wasn’t expecting too much from this from the YouTube videos but on headphones it’s deeper than expected and has a definite composition. He falls back on old techniques but does it well. Well worth 4 bucks.

Aura. Not so simple, there’s a circle around which controls slide like a small orrery. Four instruments with controls for duration and repeats, with big dramatic drones found at the edges of the screen. A much thicker mix, in some ways more New Age than Eno but not unpleasantly so (perhaps because the new age has become older over the years). I’d hazard to say that you’d get sick of this one faster than Bloom simply because it’s more distinctive. For 1 dollar I shall not complain.

Cosmovox. You tilt it, it plays scales. You can change the scale and a few simple FM settings. Many of the controls seem to be jammed fat fingers if the phone is calculating too hard. If you ever wanted to make Bedouin music on a phone you will be thrilled. Me, I am less than. Might be handy as a OSC controller, but I don’t recommend.

iShred Guitar and Effects. My ability to play guitar = 0. My amusement at strumming a lead guitar on a touch screen = priceless. This inspires all kinds of stupid ideas. 5 dollars.

Melodica. For a dollar you can discover that a tenori-on will get boring after a short while, at least when you can only make one sound.

Mobilesynth. It’s free, pretty decent 2 oscillator monosynth, not going to set the world on fire mainly due to indifferent filter section and a bad case of FAT FINGERS FAT FINGERS when trying to use the controls. If this was a VST it would be under suspicion of being SynthEdit.

Jasuto. Bloody hell. Basically a Reactable clone of sorts. You may as well read the author’s pages. I’m nowhere near started on this thing, and so might have to revisit it when I’ve managed to make some patches that don’t cause white noise. There’s a VST version as well for which the iPhone becomes a remote multitouch controller. I find the iPhone screen a bit small to edit the modules (it would be like using a Reactable with your elbows), but if I can swap the patches between phone and laptop I’m laughing. This is a perfect toy for the phone.

Noise.io Pro. A more conventional synthesiser based around a Kaoss pad style grid and 4 oscillators connected in a roughly FM array. I’d say it was somewhat between Native Instruments FM8 and Absynth in style – metallic and echoing. It takes a bit of fiddling with the various pages to get an idea of how it all connects up, some of the terminology (oscillators are brothers and sisters?) is confusing when you’re first practicing. But it’s on par with many desktop virtual synthesisers and augers well for the future. Comparatively expensive at $9 – which really isn’t that much compared to VST prices.

And therefore … The iPhone. To buy outright it’s still far too expensive, it depends on the kind of deal you can strike with a phone company. But let’s say you found a way. Is this a musical revolution?

670The future.

Some things like iShred are inspired, simply because the surface area of the phone is vaguely near to the real thing. Anything with piano keys however is fooling yourself. It’s also hard to see how you’d perform on a synthesiser with such fiddly controls. If you were wealthy you’d just go ahead and get something much larger (e.g. an Archos 9 running Windows 7). So yes, touch surfaces are the go, but the iPhone is really powered by incredibly cheap software – a dollar to 10 dollars is the norm. That’s going to be more important than the hardware in the future.

I’ve also bought a OSC controller that will need me to install PD to get much further so no news yet. Expect horrible noises soon.