Vinyl is for couches.

vinyl-sofa

Vinyl is a great format. Except more than a third of people buying it don’t own a record player. And it pollutes the planet. And it’s really really expensive to make and post across the planet. When I ask, most people say they still want vinyl, but my guess it that’s all hat and no cattle. It looks good, damn what it sounds like.

A small pressing plant is open in Australia, and I can get stuff made that way, but it’ll be the most expensive 40 minutes you ever had and I am not mad keen on it. I am instead back to USB drives, but prepared to sink some serious money into it. (Just as an aside – yes a CD is still cheaper but triples the airmail postage from about $4 to $12. Plus it’s getting hard to find a computer that will load a CD. Plus a USB holds about 10x the data.)

The Rhine USB cost about $12 Australian to make and send. So at any time I had about $1200 out in the world, at a time when the USD and AUS were close. Now that the AUS has collapsed again I figure I can probably spend a bit more and go for a more professional look.

The credit card style has good and bad. Good – it can be more decorated. Bad – it is a pain to insert one into the side of a laptop, but you’re going to do that once only.

DSC00346DSC00347

I figure I can get 500 units up front with a universal design then overprint as needed. So every one of them will have the logo etc. but the album title goes in a white box. I could sell 1000 over time but that’ll eat more than $5000 before postage. Still cheaper than cassettes and don’t sound like arse.

But it’s the sleeves which are troublesome. For Rhine I have been using lanyard pouches at $2 each which are actually pretty good quality (good clear plastic) compared to most solutions. Today I found some clear plastic sleeves for business cards. They’re too fat, and they don’t look as nice as they should. Placing album covers inside them is not nice. Now these:

$_12

I can get from China from about $1 a unit. I’ve seen these, there’s no way to decorate them with the album cover. Some duplicators will throw in a case with a clear window but these are 2cm tall. That makes the mailed item a package and – bang – 3x the postage.

Jewel cases for data cards would be ideal. But credit card sized. Maybe they exist.

$_12-1

Maybe I can get slightly larger lanyard holders? If I get 500 then maybe a discount?

The idea is to provide a good feeling quality object that doesn’t cost the earth. Some people will pay a healthy amount for their collectibles but that’s not my game. I understand that people want something to hold in their hand, but unless you’re a DJ, the USB is the best deal for both of us.

Aristotle and Newton on Colour.

As I crawl my way through writing my thesis paper it’s a relief to talk about some of the ideas I cover, using words that are not quite as carefully chosen. There’s time when I’m sitting at my desk for quarter of an hour or more agonising over a single word; that one is too loose, this one implies I am claiming something that I can’t prove. Here I can write like Humpty Dumpty.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

At first glance you wonder what the hell Aristotle’s on about when he says all colours are made from black and white. That seems unlikely to survive the first experiment, silly old Ancient.

For a start there’s a language issue here, black and white are better described as bright and dark, and these are better described as daylight which is yellow and bright, versus night which is blue and dark. That makes more sense, we can see how colours range over the course of a day, and Aristotle was always one for starting with the bleeding obvious, or with ideas he called endoxon, things you have to accept –  like black holes – because somebody smarter than you worked it out.

One of my sources wonders if he ever saw colours created by close proximity of black and white. Like this;

bridget_riley-scaled1000

That’s Bridget Riley BTW who is too cool for school.

bridget-riley

I actually think the ancients experienced the blinking of light and dark when sunlight spills through trees etc. Black and white blinking makes colours.

benhams_disk

duchamp

In this theory colours like red are made of lots of bright while greens are loaded with dark. But how do they look so different to their sources? How is it that they mix to make other colours? This is where I am most invested because I want to show that music serves as an endoxon. Aristotle says (being careful not to credit Pythagoras because that guy was a complete myth) well think of musical notes. You get a string and you twang it and you get a distinct pitch. You divide that string into exact ratios and you get other pitches. Musical notes are divisions of other musical notes, and it’s pretty damn likely that red is a certain ratio between blue and yellow. Of course if you can’t get red from mixing these two then you’re not doing it right.

Seemed like no one could get it right for 2000 years.

At least he tries to explain a plausible solution. Newton couldn’t be arsed. He does two things that would make Aristotle hit the bottle. He shines white light (Goethe starts screaming here It’s not bloody white you moron!) through a prism and gets a spectrum. Which he then draws as a circle. Divided into seven colours because hey, you can write a music scale around that and la la la la European philosophical tradition. It’s not mathematically valid he says, but it’ll do.

Dispersive_Prism

Breaking it wasn’t the hard bit. Putting it back together was the real experiment.

Do you see a circle? I don’t see a circle. I sure don’t see that the colour at one end of the spectrum joins up with the one on the right using some bogus violet bullshit. OK, so he’s describing why mixing red and green makes yellow, which you can see in the rainbow, but also why blue and red make purple which seems hard as they’re either side of the seating arrangement. He really means that once you have multiple sources of coloured light then they intersect to create other colours, but that diagram just caused no end of trouble because it implied that the circle was a description of a physical structure related to music. And that confusion is the first step in the journey that I’m studying.

Newtons colour wheel

This is how hippies were invented. And why D is a truly bogus note.

Pottering comes to an end.

1st of January. Sounds pretty sweet. Except it’s the day before 2nd of January and – bugger it, I am then back at work. The last trumpet of holiday cheer is here.

7seals

So then, back to waveforms. Our Birmingham Correspondent has chided me for not paying attention when he explained Zebra, which does indeed create transwaves. Fortunately I didn’t have to buy the whole caboodle to get the oscillator section as it’s included the free Zebralette. I’ll let this guy explain Zebra, even though he’s pretending to be Andrew Kramer. No one can be Andrew Kramer, it’s just not possible. This bit don’t matter too much, you can use any means by which to create interesting single pitched sounds.

The important part is – to get the sound into the Blofeld as a wavetable you have to generate exactly 128 waves at the right frequency to fit one second at 44.1KHz. That’s not any particular pitch and I spent a stupid amount of time doing the maths to try make a MIDI note event on F2 last for the exact duration to get 128 cycles. I failed, endlessly and tediously – if the pitch is even slightly wrong the wave drifts out of frame and sounds horrible. Seemed like the vacation was going to end with a whimper, and without much hope I tried one more search for wavetables and convert and nerd desperation. And I found blacktomcat666.

In case that makes no sense to you, he’s taking a sampled word ‘ensoniq’ and through his own Windows software called Audio Term, translating it into a PPG style wavetable which he’s showing ready to be sent to the Blofeld. And I’m screaming like a little girl.

The guy is a genius but he needs a publicist; the software was hard to find, I had to go bouncing around discussion boards looking for him. Yes, it looks a lot like the PPG Wave Term interface which is kind of cool once you get the hang of it. It does more than convert samples to PPG but that’s what I needed.

wavetermb

So I made some samples of various bits – Zebralette, some analogue gear, odd noises. The Zebralette samples work almost perfectly because they are using the same principle and stick to a single pitch. Anything pitched or based on noise will be washed away in a vocoder effect, and you’d need to use the Blofeld’s sample playback instead. Even so, some hard synch sounds made on a Jupiter 8 came out nicely with a bit of pitch bend.

As with most free software there’s no manual. If only it was the start of the break and not the end I’d make one, but things turned out right after all. Still, the career train waits for no man, and next stop is MS Excel CIty,

Thing 04 : jumped the queue with sheer brilliance.

I’m so proud one of my colleagues heard I was collecting bad synthesisers, and offered one I might like – it shows my reputation for quality is growing. From that day I mercilessly hounded him for the transaction which he seemed to then mysteriously avoid. Perhaps he worried that a man of my standing knew something about the box that made it worth more. Perhaps it was pity for such a fool as would take this thing that he’d been using upside down as a stand for something else. But I was not to be turned and exchanged some trifling DOEPFER box that was just well made and useful.

d2

A photo doesn’t do the D2 justice. It’s bright orange, made of metal and reminds me of something that would have steered a model boat in 1973. When you turn it on it spends the first few minutes doing a light show. Every time you turn it on. (It then dies, or at least until I got the right 9v adaptor.) When you push the play button it emits the most enticingly flabby, tired and hackneyed ‘dance music’ that the mind of Roland could devise. Ladies and Gentlemen, if a synthesiser could be compared to a font – this is Comic Sans.

Why would I want this thing? Well let me tell you about the time I spent 400 bucks on a new Roland box which was uglier, less versatile, harder to use, and in every way a miserable excuse for pathetic shit, so much so that I gave it away. Of course I mean the TB303 Bassline in 1982. I was one of (if not the) the first people in the world to make ‘dance music’ with it (referring to Eighties Cheesecake) so I am pulling rank and saying – if the Bassline is a classic, then this is a super duper classic.

Don’t just take my word for it – listen to this Internet guy:

I LOVE MY GIRL D2! I use a Krog microKONTROL midi usb keybord on her and let me tell you its the best! Im on my 2nd D2 groovebox! The 1st one i had I lost it at the pawn shop!(im still mad)Now this one i have now i got off Ebay and i LOVE HER! the 1st gear i had was the Roland mc-303 groovebox! The year was like 1999 i was poor! then i saw the Roland mc-505 and i fell in love with her! i never got one but i all ways played with

Actually, don’t listen to that guy. He’s nuts.

OK so how do we tame this shrew? Some reading tells me it’s the same as a MC505 Groovebox, but with all the controls reduced to a simple XY touchpad. That’s like ‘the same as a championship wrestler but with no arms.’ The noise is the same but the controls have had a pre-frontal lobotomy. The big issue for me is that Roland has left no way to change the damn waveforms. Seeing as the D2 is sample based that’s really bitter and twisted. Roland! Spend the 5 bucks!

Some more reading tells me that the MC505 uses the same voice structure as the JV series, although I’d have to quibble that ‘same as’ means ‘selected’. The sounds are half samples of Roland drum machines, and much of what’s left are saw waves of some sort particularly those from the wretched TB303. There are however a range of inharmonic clanks, bangs and noise loops which sound like they could work nicely once I load them up into the right patch. There’s four tones per patch, each being an oscillator with associated filter and LFOs so a bit of stacking should get somewhere.

The touch pad is much the same deal as a Kaos pad. The only fun thing is a DJ mode where you ‘spin’ the sequence backwards. That never gets old, ever. The XY mode is more useful in live tweaking the filters and LFOs, but not to any level of precision. Probably there will be a time where I will risk using the sequencing and arpeggio for some kind of improvisation but I need some decent noises first.

So I thought to myself – if I found a way to control a MC505 then maybe I could control the D2. Again and again I would read about a particular piece of home brew software that did this, but when I’d follow the link the Geocities or Angelfire host was long gone. I almost despaired, but after a titanic struggle of mouse clicks I found it. And it works!

tones

It is in fact identical to the MC505, and rather shocking to see how much is hidden in the engine that’s ignored in the manual. For example there’s some kind of FM modulation as well as a delay mode that I’ll have to read about in a JV1080 manual I guess. You can at least change the waveform and sweep the filter and do pretty much everything you could hope from a bright orange tugboat. Once you have this ability the box becomes a decent sound module that can e.g. play four pianos through a ring modulator. By nature it wants to have the keyboard mapped to include all 8 parts, switching it over a multi mode fixes that by moving each to a different MIDI channel. It’s not yet victory, but I think there’s a distant chance that one day I will carry this thing on stage, push the button and produce that which will define 21st century music.

Wednesday Night is Garbage Night – Autodidact Edition

Fantasy 70’s Music school.

Never went to music school. Like many people I played the same records over and over and picked up hints about how to do stuff. Maybe I didn’t know what it was called but I knew it sounded good.

Here’s a bunch of records I cribbed when I was learning how to make music, and present here so you may too. That also satisfies the elderly listening audience, while presenting ideas for the younger. If you want newer music, please go here: Phantom Circuit.

They are not particularly rare or high art but each has much to teach. Occasionally they overlap because that’s kind of how I used to listen to them back then. Just playing all these old things explains much more about where I come from than a wall of text. Google it. (Actually DuckDuckGo it).

  • John Cale Heartbreak Hotel the barest sketch/analysis of the original, discord
  • Daniel Miller and Boyd Rice Cleanliness and Order found sound source. pop music deadness
  • This Heat Health and Efficiency deconstruction of recording process at end, manual looping with errors changing the loop, symphonic structure
  •      +John Cage Suite For Toy Piano 1 (excerpt)
  •      +Beatles Revolution Number 9 (excerpt)
  • Cluster Hollywood very pretty and sounds coherent although unstructured
  •      +Leslie Hutchinson Broken Hearted Clown
  • The Monkees Valeri 60s stereo production is very interesting, a great slab of sound, vocal harmonies, reverb
  • Wire The 15th guitars layered like classical instruments, EMI reverb HARVEST BAND tiny little keyboard melody almost unheard
  •      +Konstantin Raudive Breakthrough voices of the dead almost unheard
  • Pink Floyd See Emily Play psychedelia, intricacy, EMI echo HARVEST BAND
  • Orchid Spangiafora Hold Everything sound music, cut up, tape loops, spoken word
  •      +The Barrons Theme From Forbidden Planet
  • The Monochrome Set Eine Symphonie Des Grauens interesting quasi 60s production, lyrics
  • Brian Eno The Great Pretender production, especially the prepared piano & EMS-AKS crickets, 8 track recording
  • The Flying Lizards Hands 2 Take bassoon punk! dub technique, anti-guitar solos
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra Pure Jam tightness, neo psychedelia, analogue sequencer + real drums, seriously that guy is a drum machine
  • Suicide Dream Baby Dream minimal synth! lo fi, warmth, drones
  •      + The Lost Jockey Rise & Fall because these two fight each other nicely
  • Kraftwerk Pocket Calculator funkiness completely lost when remade later because they did not leave holes, electronic dub, less is more, HOLES
  •      +Subbulakshmi sitar drones FILLS HOLES
  • Dangerous Liaisons Los Ninos Del Porque grinding + holes, electronic punk, voices
  •      +Vincent Price The Broomstick Railroad widdershins
  • Holger Hiller Chemical & Physical Discoveries early sampling, was intriguing at the time
  • Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows tape loops, tape everything
  • Smegma Can’t Look Straight sound music, cut up
  • DEVO Satisfaction the barest sketch/analysis of the original, HOLES
  • Mark Stewart Blessed Are Those Who Struggle intense destructive dub
  • Chrome Half Machine Lip Moves heavy distortion as a musical device
  • Popol Vuh Aguirre Wrath Of God air
  •      +Throbbing Gristle IBM air
  • Wirlywhirld Window To The World 70’s keyboard rock, Australian post punk, pretty
  • Sparks Angus Desire it’s a song about screwing cows and sounds oddly buttery?
  • Snatch & Eno RAF looping found sounds funk
  • Status Quo Pictures of Matchstick Men psychedelia, tinnitus
  • Telex A.B. electropop
  • The Reels 3. electropop, early 80’s snare used like a kick
  • Simple Minds In Trance As Mission the negative of a bass riff, playing guitars like a cuckoo clock
  •      +Steve Reich It’s Gonna Rain strangely have a lot in common
  • General Strike Parts Of My Body tuba punk! dub

listen (This is a m3u file which can be associated with QuickTime PLayer, Windows Media Player or iTunes to stream the file.)

They all share some kind of internal principle, a process stated or unknown, a feature that can be recognized and practised. They are also attractive, there is no ‘difficult listening’ here. To make something that is both pretty and deep is far more interesting than noise.

There’s reasons why we don’t use tape recorders any more.

About a month ago I bought a ZOOM multi track as a portable loop machine for live performance; if you care you can read more about that in an earlier post. It’s a compromise between old techniques and current technology and it works very nicely once you defeat the machine’s desire for grids. By any measure the ZOOM is going to be a great success.

But I don’t measure things. I am driven by birds and they were not satisfied.

I ended up back on eBay looking at tape machines. Open reel tape machines were used as high end sound recorders up to early 1990’s when digital recorders started to become affordable, and they have lived difficult lives since. If you’re lucky, a fan might have collected the machine and kept it in occasional use. More likely it was dumped in a mouldy closet for spare parts, like the ones at my work, some of which now leak a green slime. In any case they are 30 years old or more and the circuitry may have rotted. Even so they can be very expensive.

65-tape-recorder

The ideal tape recorder pop group.

Tape is well known for having a different loudness contour to digital, in that overly loud recordings tend to compress rather than distort. That’s not difficult to emulate, so not my main interest. Instead I intend to resume work I did with editing and looping where the physical tape acts like the clay of a sculpture. Tape has weight, and momentum. Edits are messy in a good way. I did a lot of this from ’77 to ’84 and eventually wanted to do something else. It was necessary to sell the machines. Now I can use my day job to finance another look.

I saw a TEAC A6300 machine for a reasonable price, recently serviced and I thought – look, this probably is the point at which you just do or just don’t. Because the repair men are dying out, and if it’s serviced it’s probably the last time. People that are paying $5 for my old albums are probably in favour of my using their money on this. So I pushed the button.

pr78_hz

40 kilometres on the train. What I didn’t expect was to find a front room teeming with tape recorders of every size, shape and description. I complemented the vendor on his clutch of Revox A77s. He said he once owned twelve of them. His hobby is buying tape recorders, fixing them and selling them to buy even more tape recorders. Some are easily fixed, others are too badly damaged and are cannibalised. In every case he has all the capacitors replaced because they are weak spot in this era of electronics.

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I explained how Eno used two A77s to make loop music. This didn’t seem to connect with him at all, but when I explained I too made music just with tape recorders he must have thought I was a kindred weirdo.

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The A77 racked up, with my 8 track cart machine and DVD recorder.

The conversation turned to the A77 on the floor, which could be had for a reasonable price considering it has been shipped from Germany and completely serviced. The Revox A77 is an older machine sold in a few different configurations; this particular one is the professional version on which the tape runs at 15 inches per second. It’s the kind that we would hire each time we finished an album and unlike the TEAC I’d ordered it can be used to transfer old master tapes. It’s the servicing that made me think do this now, it will not come again.

Getting two tape recorders back home on the train wasn’t an option.
Biggest taxi fare of my life.

One thing that you forget when you have used laptops for a while is that older studio gear takes up a lot of space, runs hot and is heavy. Then there’s a bunch of cables that have to go back and forward which are tangled and buzzy. Fortunately I still have a fair amount of infrastructure – racks, cables, a patch bay. If you don’t have this structure, you’ll be flummoxed.

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You will need a patch bay, unless you really like crawling around the back of racks.

Here I have the DVD TV sound ‘normalled’ to the TEAC then to the Revox feeding out a main output to the ZOOM. That follows the idea of making tape loops from TV and feeding that out to mastering. Let’s make a loop!

20130610_183406

So the tape goes through the heads and up around a bust of Napoleon. I don’t know whether that’s mandatory but I’ve used this same bust for 30 odd years so it may as well be. If you don’t have a bust you will need something else slippery to hold the tape up the top. Note at the right of the machine is a stack of fresh 8 track carts. The felt pads that hold the tape against the heads has rotted, and so they’re not usable as carts, but are filled with rare unused Ampex Grand Master tape.

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The main out is patched into the ZOOM, although I can patch every machine at once. Very likely I’ll take the ZOOM recording over to a computer to fix up the results. This isn’t about analogue purism.

The 6300 turns out to be a good looper. Didn’t know how to punch in and out until I saw the little levers bottom right that turn off the channels – so it’s easy enough to turn off either or both channels while the loop is being made. It makes a click, as if I care.

Here’s what it sounds like. Not a good piece of music, just a test.

So then, what’s the point? For most people, not much. Tape doesn’t sound better than well produced digital, there’s hum, hiss and everything takes ages to set up. A laptop is faster, more convenient and precise – and that’s the tipping point – the lack of precision is a way to stir up accidents and ideas. The loop cannot be triggered or aligned, it will follow its own orbit. It will slip across the heads, slurring the sound, and making bad overdubs. This is the point.

Further to my live performance idea, I’m getting the bits together for a sequel to HH, called H3H. HH featured Revox tape recorders but the sound was actually 8 track cart. For H3H I want the sound without the icon, you will hear tape but you will see something far less obvious. In general I want H3H is to be much less predictable – following the principles of inscrutability.

The birds are pleased with this.

KORG KORG KORG OMG KORG KORG

COMMENTS ARE GETTING BORING AND ARE CLOSED. DO WHAT THOU WILLST,

There was a time slightly after the dinosaurs that I owned a small wall of KORG. There was two MS20’s, an MS50, a SQ10 and a billion of those short patch cables. And you know, it was pretty grand for 1980 something. For 2013, it’s… well… gee what a nice watch, does it tell the time?

BLOODY patch cables

BLOODY patch cables and GARFIELD is the producer – “needs more obesity”.

But here we go again with a reissue of Old and Safe for the New Conservatives. Already been asked if I am going to buy a new midget MS20. I bought a MiniNova instead – maybe I made the wrong choice. Let’s be scientific about this:

Patch Management
MiniNova: there’s four banks of 256 patches which can be sorted into categories and saved back to a patch librarian over a USB connection.
KORG MS20: photocopy pages from the manual and draw the approximate positions of the knobs with a pencil.
Advantage: KORG for being legendary and analogue.

Voicing
MiniNova: three oscillators per voice with a variety of traditional, digital and wave table forms. Each oscillator can detune with itself for ‘supersaw’ effects and has a self-sync to create harmonics. 18 voices available.
KORG MS20: two oscillators, mono.
Advantage: KORG for being even more legendary and analogue.

Filters
MiniNova: two filters 12/24 hi/low/peak which can be combined with control of peak and resonance width.
KORG MS20: hi/low.
Advantage: KORG for being surrounded by candles and photographed in the dark.

Effects
MiniNova: five effect units patchable in a variety of configurations.
KORG MS20: falls out of tune as it warms up.
Advantage: KORG because – man, the late seventies are funky know what I mean.

No candles supplied.

No candles supplied.

Signal Processing
MiniNova: Balanced microphone and line inputs with vocoding, pitch effects and flow through the synthesis and effect chain.
KORG MS20: line input that feeds into a pitch detection thing that kind of sounds like an alien mouth organ.
Advantage: do you have to ask?

Arp and Sequencing
MiniNova: Arp and rhythmic ‘gator’ with selection buttons on the front panel.
KORG MS20: nothing. Buy the mini SQ-10 someday.
Advantage: simplicity at its finest.

Patching
MiniNova: 20 internal modulation paths each with two sources. Six ADSR generators, three LFOs with multiple waveforms including tempo locked patterns.
KORG MS20: three (*@&$(*$&@ patch cables.
Advantage: haptic physical interface with gravity assisted orientation DIY logistics.

Well the science is in but I don’t know. I keep reading the articles and hearing the talk and wondering if people use this stuff for making music. Or does it go next to the “Christmas Tree”? You know, that elaborate, expensive modular system that people build to look fantastic but sounds like a Roland preset that goes bwooooouuuw?

By any reasonable measure, this is a stupid way to make a bloooop noise.

By any reasonable measure, this is a stupid way to make a bloooop noise.

No, I am not buying an MS20.

STOP PRESS — OUR CORRESPONDENT IN BIRMINGHAM HAS SENT THIS UPDATE

korg-ms20-mini-main-460-80

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NOW BACK TO OUR NORMAL PROGRAMMING

20X CS3 Professional

Marketing have announced a rebadge for 2013. They’re going to launch the year as 20X CS3 Professional. The problem is the whole ‘6 month in advance’ planning cycle has made next year part of this year, and no one is inspired to pay for the upgrade. It’s at the point where the end of the world is one of the few things that gets us to look at the calendar and even that is tiring out. Compare the hysteria for the Mayan Apocalypse to the Y2K bug – no contest.

Y2K

This is dangerous. Remember the 2000 Election in the USA? No one gave a shit between the candidates, where in fact one of them rose to great challenges in less than a year with all the sense and dignity of Bubbles The Chimp. By 2008 the good news was that the White House had not yet burned to the ground. The bad news was that few people still had a house to burn down apart from the directors of Halliburton. Oh and there were lots of dead people.

So I’ve got a slogan for the coming year that will hopefully get you thinking hard about the possibilities: 20X CS3 Professional: Giant Demons Are Tearing My Face Off which I think is kind of catchy, if a tiny bit hyperbolic. I can’t promise giant demons but if there was the slightest chance of them coming and doing you know what, would you be prepared?

Here’s a nightmare scenario: by the end of 20X CS3, Psy has 6 billion views on YouTube and now more than half of Google’s income comes from advertising on that one page. But an automated copyright claim blocks the video, leading to Google not paying rent on 200 of its data centres. Searching for cat macros becomes catastrophically cut back leading to a collapse of the world economy. And then demons tear your face off.

Or on a more personal level, image if my Ferrari neighbour plays that same Bruce Springsteen DVD 3 times every weekend for the next 52 weekends and I finally crack and go around with the ICS-190 GLM grenade launcher (that I rightfully have only for self defence in case a gunman attacks my teaching labs) and shove it up his Born In The USA? That could impact on my employment. And then demons etc.

M-32-2

Order one now for the festive season. The kids will love it.
The ones that survive.

Neither of these things may happen – but that’s the point. You don’t know what might happen but that sense of dread will keep you up and sprightly all the coming year.

So how was your Christmas break? I had a (what remains of) family get together for the first time in years which ended up with too many tequila shots and a massive headache. I even got a gift!

482928_enlarged

Apparently you can use it as a remote control for the TV. I intend to use it as a remote control for the Ferrari neighbour’s sound system. Either that or make it control some piece of sound gear which will get a breathless write up in Create Digital Music.

But like everyone I have to buy my special own gift, and seeing as I haven’t bought a synthesiser in over 20 years I thought I maybe could have one.

mininova_3quart_vocodermic_white

It’s a MiniNova and it’s top-tastic. I’m amazed at what you get for less than 500 bucks these days. I’m not going to do the specs you can do that anywhere. But I must say it is loads of fun to actually use a physical piece of equipment after so many years – even if you do tend to use the computer to edit patches. More on this later!

[H.H] Recreating WWVH

HH NEWS HAS MOVED HERE

The heart of the universe has two chambers – radio WWV in Colorado and radio WWVH Hawaii. They beat as one – the Great Timepiece that Orders All Things. The role once fell to Greenwich Observatory and may one day be with Beijing but for now the artificial voices that sing Coordinated Universal Time are American.

The man is called Lee. The woman is Jane.

WWV is the oldest continuously broadcasting radio station in the United States, starting with Friday night concerts in the beginning of 1920, months before the first commercial station went to air. You can read the history on NIST’s own web site, although one event that strikes me is (according to the official guide) 440Hz being provided by the station in August 1936 ‘at the request of several musical organisations’ prior to officially becoming A in 1939. Musical tuning continues to be offered by WWV.

I’ve studied the official specification put out by NIST for some time, but as you’d expect the obsessives over at WikiPedia have an even more detailed explanation that you can read. The most important elements are the tick, a data signal at 100Hz, tones that alternate between 500Hz and 600Hz every minute; a conversation between WWV and WWVH. At the start of the hour they both provide 440Hz for any orchestras that might happen to be tuning up at that moment. And the voices. Each of these things has a very definite order – a musical score. For WWVH:

  • Every second (except the first) + 25ms play the 100Hz tone.
  • Every second except the 29th and 59th play the click.
  • Every minute play the 1200Hz minute tone.
  • Every minute + 45s play the time announcement.
  • In minute 1 play add the 440Hz tone.
  • In minutes 2, 4, 6, 12, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 46, 52, 54, 56, 58 add the 600Hz tone.
  • In minutes 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 21, 23, 25, 27, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 53, 55, 57 add the 500Hz tone.
  • In minutes 29 and 59 add the station ID
  • In 43-45 add GPS reports
  • In 45 add Geo alerts
  • In 48-51 add Storm alerts

Although I made a simulation back in 2007, it’s time to do it properly. [H.H] has at the start a grand chamber in which many noise making machines can be enjoyed, and the grandest of these is to be the Coordinated Universal Time Machine. It will follow through the whole programme of WWVH – which is the one nearest to me and stronger in my fable. But it’s a struggle:

  • You could: record a whole day and play it through. Horribly large audio file, not likely to download.
  • You could: program it. If minute = 13 then play 500Hz for 965ms. Maybe, but I don’t trust it. You’d have to hope that the code didn’t get delayed and start drifting. Every couple of seconds you’d have to check the clock and try some maths to drift it back again. Not my cup of tea.
  • You could: read the blog over at Unity which points out that the FMOD audio library reads MODs. As in, old Amiga tracker MODs. I never bothered to make MODs because life is too short for hexidecimal, and here it is 2012 and I’m staring at something that looked cool on WorkBench 3.0.

Time to party like it’s 1990. The good thing is that I’m just firing off samples every second, so 60 BPM and a division of 24 Amiga ticks places samples one to a cell. Design the tones to meet the microseconds and trim the block of cells to 60. Each minute then gets its own pattern and 60 patterns make an hour. It’s not thrilling work but I can hear how it will go before it hits the authoring software. It also becomes the basis of a possible performance as part of REDACTED. I said possible.

The real WWVH has announcements about storms and sun spots and things that affect shipping in the Pacific. My machine makes announcements that provide clues about the game – who is where, why we are here and so on. The clues are tricky as they refer to clues given somewhere else that are similar to clues in a third story. To be honest the story in [H.H] is writing itself – an element appears, it connects with something else, forces a design decision. There is actually a character in game lore that forces itself into other games, a kind of cuckoo’s egg. I let it into this one and it immediately started to connecting things without telling me why. The player will need to find out where it’s hiding.

I can with all sincerity say that I have no idea why rabbits.

Ralph Balson – paint musician.

When I was working on The Shape Of A Note I was assisted by the Penrith Regional Gallery in trying to find works that could be described as musical. Obviously it’s easiest to do that in the era when painters themselves used music as a guide – Kandinsky and Mondrian are the obvious references but the students around the Penrith region weren’t going to see these in person. But, said the Gallery, perhaps you could use Ralph Balson?

Ralph Balson? Damn! Here was a painter that (and OK painting isn’t my big thing) I knew nothing about and yet it was immediately obvious that this was exactly the mind I was seeking. It’s a bridge over to the theosophists and their colour music, the video synthesists of the late 20th Century, maybe even The New Aesthetic if I’m really lucky.

Here’s someone that lived in the same place as I did and overlapped with the people I learned from. He died 2 years after I was born otherwise I’d be around to his place with a case of VB and a lot of questions.

Socially, Balson was shy and reticent. Between 1949 and 1959 he taught part time at East Sydney Technical College. Students respected this near-sighted, suburban painter, with his tradesman’s clothes, who made no display of ego. – Aus Dict. of Biography

(East Sydney Tech College is now the National Art School, it’s where I did the Barbara Island show, which I hope Balson would have liked.) I’m not sure what I’d ask him. Probably, “Oh adopted Wise Master can you see what’s burning a hole in my head trying to figure out what this MUSIC thing is?” “Oh ascendant house painter, why am I concerned with shit that was last important in 1915?” The answer would vary on the amount of VB.

Maybe you’re looking at this stuff and thinking you saw a rug at the local shopping centre that looks a bit like this. It’s true that Balson and his crew inspired more design than fine arts. That’s OK, film is still an artform despite BATTLESHIP. Also it must be said that he moved on to other more complicated work that I am still coming to terms with, and I may be a clifford. For reasons of research I am tweaked on this constructed art at the moment and probably the little things are overly big in my mind. Still, it’s a part of the painterly arts that needs connection to those that are trending at the moment.

I am glad to hear he had a friend. I don’t know why I am less religiously transformed by Grace Crowley’s work – I like it but for some reason Balson is doing some trick with my brain. Perhaps she is less ‘musical’.

At home with Ralph and Grace

She certainly deserved more respect. “It was not until the 1950s, when Crowley was in her sixties, that a public gallery exhibited her abstract works.” And you complain.

Roy de Maistre is worth a mention, but then he never really dedicated himself to the ideal the way this pair did. In quickly and out the door fast. I’ll stick with Ralph.