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Archive for January, 2009

krzysztfsh (monome fun, part three).

Friday, January 30th, 2009


here’s the third in this week’s song of the week series using the monome and boiinngg.¬†

for this one i used a synth called automat which is really nice (and free).

this setup happens to do a great Krzysztof impression (apologies to mike) although some might say it’s more Raymond Scott or Terry Riley-like.

i have video for this as well, which i may upload later.

krzsztfsh (5:20) 7.4MB mp3

inseaish (monome fun, part two).

Friday, January 30th, 2009
banksy graffiti art on st claude ave

banksy graffiti art on st claude ave

again, using the monome and boiinngg, a quick improvisation.

it’s frighteningly easy to make get a terry riley / steve reich type thing happening.

so much fun, i could do this forever…

inseaish (6:56) mp3 9.6MB

monome fun, part one.

Friday, January 30th, 2009

here’s a video of me having fun with the monome. i am using a Max patch called boiinngg to trigger the drums in Ableton Live, using the Impulse plugin.

monome 64 + boiinngg from aleatoric on Vimeo.

can a video be “song of the week”? sure!


Thursday, January 29th, 2009

… how can something that has no capability to make sound on its own be so inspiring and useful to a musician?

above: the monome64, a totally configurable input/output light/button box that works with Max/MSP, chucK, OSC (Open Sound Control) and MIDI. 

designed and built by hand by a couple in the catskills who are committed to open-source and sustainability (as well as a refreshing minimalistic aesthetic). with a really friendly and creative user community, there are loads of free applications for it that you can edit or add to. search¬†vimeo¬†for “monome”¬†on to see what i mean. ¬†

image from

Blues for the American Health Care System

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

january skies

I thought that this week I might record an upbeat song to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama.

My free time got eaten up by an unexpected work call, but I was still able to get together with friends and had a hell of a time and a rockin’ jam.

And today, the plumbing backed up (I’ll spare you the details) so instead of doing any of my more elaborate ideas, I thought I would do what comes most natural to me. Without further ado, here is a simple one-take electric guitar improvisation in A, a bluesy ambient kinda thing, no edits or overdubs.¬†

Blues for the American Health Care System (9:00, 12.4MB mp3)

In C.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I’ve ¬†been working on this one for awhile, but I finally got it to a point where I can post it.

It’s an adaptation of Terry Riley’s famous 1964 composition In C, which instead of having a completely static arrangement is a score sheet of 53 looping phrases that each musician plays one-by-one, at her own pace, until she feels like progressing to the next phrase.

"In C" score by Terry Riley

"In C" score by Terry Riley

A few years ago when version 6 of Ableton Live came out, I read about the new “Follow Action” feature which allows for the user to introduce a certain amount of randomness to the arrangement. I immediately thought of In C and that if I could each phrase into a separate MIDI clip, I could arrange it so that it would play much as Riley directed. The only problem was that my music-reading skills were pretty limited, my last formal music lesson having been in 4th grade. A short book called Learn To Read Music (of all things) and the Wikipedia entry on modern musical symbols got me over that hurdle.

I decided to make 8 instruments, even though Riley suggests more, because the amount of synchronicity that occurs with human players is less likely to happen with a computer. Each of the 8 computer instruments isn’t listening to the other 7, so there’s no natural temptation to fall into sync with the others. In addition there’s the pulse on the eighth notes as Riley suggests.

I have set it up so that each instrument will play each phrase 4 times, then after the 4th time there is a 1:3 (or 25%) chance it will play the next phrase; otherwise it will loop once more on the current phrase. At the end of each phrase, the computer throws the dice again. There may be better ways to experiment with the probabilities to get it to play closer to Riley’s very general direction that players not get more than 3 or 4 phrases ahead or behind of each other; the computer does not take this into account. (It would be feasible with Max but not Ableton Live).

Each time the piece is played by the computer, it should be a completely different arrangement (although computer random numbers are really pseudo-random, and I don’t know how Live picks random numbers), but contain all the patterns and polyrhythms of patterns intersecting that is the hallmark of In C.


Ableton Live playing "In C" by Terry Riley
Ableton Live playing “In C” by Terry Riley

Chances are good you don’t have Ableton Live 6 (or later), but if you are interested in the Live set, let me know and I will send it to you or post it here. However, below I have posted several mp3s representing performances of the piece:

Performance #1: In C #1 (23:09, 31.8MB)

Performance #2: In C #2 (19:30, 26.8MB)

UPDATE: I added one more. Skipped #3, it wasn’t interesting enough. This might be the best so far. It’s also the shortest.

Performance #4*: In C (#4) (16:35, 23.4 Mb)

UPDATE (27 mar 2012): By popular demand, I am including the Ableton project file.

Ableton Live Set:  InC v2-alec.als


Monday, January 12th, 2009

Renamed the blog to something more appropriate: aleatoric, which despite being a little hard to spell seems to pretty well encompass my fascination with semi-random systems of patterns of music; not unlike improvisations upon a theme; arpeggios, rags, ragas, drift studies, and so forth; not to mention works like “In C” which you will hear more about very shortly.

experimental instruments by Yuri Landman

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this guy before. He’s made instruments for the Liars and Sonic Youth. I like the “Moodswinger” especially.

See also his introduction¬†¬†and this interview. They’re also a decent background to open tunings and just intonation.

12-string guitar rag in G #2

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

The first thing of the week is something I’ve been working on with my 12-string acoustic guitar. It’s the second of three recorded¬†(so far) demo¬†improvisations in a series I’ve done in an open G tuning. I plan to develop it as my technique improves:



dusk, southern appalachians, western n. carolina

After a half-lifetime of guitar, I only recently got decent at fingerpicking, after watching some free banjo lessons online and applying what I learned there to guitar as well as watching an instructional video by Doc Watson. Also, I’ve got a dusty old Takoma LP that I’ve listened to quite a bit in the past year with John Fahey, Leo Kotke and Peter Lang that connected with my endless background/fascination with old-time Appalachian music; other recent favorite listens are records by Sir Richard Bishop (“Polytheistic Fragments”) and Daniel Higgs, and as always Jack Rose and Pelt.

hello, world?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

It’s the first week of 2009 and I am officially taking up my good friend (and collaborator) Dan’s¬†personal challenge to create a weekly musician’s blog: a place to post a new work each and every week. Putting aside the “it’s been done before” aspect, I am going to be up-front about the fact I am doing this to challenge myself to be more productive in materializing my musical ideas, and the illusion of accountability and the desire to not look a fool (we’ll see)¬†will propel me to contribute regularly.

My hope is that having this place to put musical ideas that are still untested, perhaps not a good fit for any of my group projects, or just solo-type experiments that I want to indulge in, will remove some of the impediments I think I have to being as prolific as I would like to be. Having always been a part of some group up till now, it’s easy to use the group as an excuse to not finish something: it’s not a group piece, it’s not right for this situation, we’ve already got too much material at the moment, etc. Maybe some of these will develop beyond their life on these pages and into other projects? We’ll see.

I’m still hesitant about this blog thing. I don’t understand people that post every detail of their life online, but whatever floats their boat I guess. I’ve been online now for longer than the web has been around and yet up till now I have resisted the personal blog thing for many reasons but if it can get me to make music more, then I’m willing to give it a go.

It’s not that I am against blogs, but with a zillion of them out there, I am not conceited enough to think I have much original to add to the global conversation; or that anyone would want to wade through paragraphs of my meandering, verbose style (see what I mean?) in order to reach a pithy point here and there, or obtain some useful information or gossip.¬†

Perhaps my fear of blogging is just fear of writing, though.

Way back when, I used to think that I could make some kind of life (if not living) writing words creatively‚ÄĒand I don’t mean advertising‚ÄĒbefore I realized that a life too¬†self-examined may drive a person to madness. Or perhaps it was studying English lit. with the specialization in critical theory and postmodernism in the politically correct 90’s that helped transform my love for the written word into a kind of paranoia. It’s impossible to come out of that experience and write with your original voice: every sentence you write conjures up a hundred ghostly critics that can take apart your artistry with a myriad of post-feminist/marxist/freudian techniques, and of course even if you know you are the only one who will read those words you will still not be able to silence the descendants of Derrida from dissecting your prose (overuse of alliteration: -3 points).

So, mostly this blog will be about music. 

I think.

Music is, after all, something in which one can engage both sides of the brain: the mathematical/pattern side and the creative side. It’s somewhat like writing, but with no formal theory or critical studies, I can be less self-conscious and more intuitive with it than I can with writing. Unsurprisingly, generally in music I shy away from words altogether, preferring the abstract textures and harmonies that music can evoke in the imagination. I ended up going into multimedia/software design instead of some kind of writing career, and there’s a parallel between putting together music and software design that’s more appealing to me than mining my own thoughts, so without further ado, I have a song to finish!

For your amusement, I am calling this blog “rebel dalek” because “dalek” is a homophone of my first initial and nickname, and “rebel”, because I fancy myself a noncomformist who is suspicious of borglike space empires, and a humanist who does not want to exterminate anyone. Also, robot-themed blogs get more hits, especially cutesy, non-evil robots. Daleks being neither cutesy or non-evil, I may need to rethink this. Oh, also I plan to have a cover of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s original theme from Dr. Who (complete with theremin) in here at some point, as I have not yet been able to convince any of my bandmates to do it.

Note to self: spruce up this wordpress theme with something more appropriate as time permits!