Archive for April, 2021

Terry Riley’s “In C” (reprise)

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Here’s a really informative video about Terry Riley’s “In C” that came up on my YouTube feed the other week (thanks, The Algorithmâ„¢!). This piece — and Terry Riley– have been inspirational to me in so many ways I can’t even explain. He talks about computer performances of the piece, which reminded me that in 2009 I made an Ableton Live version so that it could be performed using random number generators and MIDI. (At the time, I was not able to find any computer versions online, just references to them, and I may have been the first to do it in Ableton). A nifty little book called How To Read Music that helped me with the transcription, as my grade school memory of musical notation was somewhat sketchy.

In fact, watching this video made me want to revisit ye old blogge here, and realizing it was offline meant I went down a rabbit hole of PHP, WordPress, and backups hell for awhile to put some blood back in these old veins.

More importantly though, revisiting the concepts of generative performance made me rethink some of my own ideas for generative composition and I’ve worked out a sketch that I hope to develop. More on that later!

It’s been a minute.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

I had known this little outpost of the internet wasn’t functioning for awhile now. I hadn’t posted to it since 2014, so I figured it didn’t matter. Most of the “readers” were bots and spammers, and I disabled the user registration because they were only registering so that they could comment about deals on athletic shoes and cosmetics and luxury watches, and maintenance was a hassle for a blog I wasn’t updating because everyone was on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

But, as I contemplated starting a new place to dump musical (and potentially other?) ideas I’m playing with, especially with my growing disillusionment with all forms of corporate-run social media, I finally made peace with resurrecting this blog. I had accidentally erased all of the files but some sleuthing into my own backups eventually proved successful. One of the first things that happened was an alert from my hosting provider that I had installed a captcha plugin that had been used maliciously to spam fake dialog boxes on unsuspecting users.

Since I last posted here, we had a fascist President come and go, we lost several beloved pets, I joined a talented singer-songwriter’s band playing atmospheric guitar harmonies, my main band (having ascended from trio to a quartet) lost its long-time bassist/multi-instrumentalist and was replaced by another talented friend, rehearsed for 4 years, played one gig, and then fell apart again without releasing anything more than one single… then the drummer and I rebooted again with one of our oldest and best friends on bass, and honestly things have never been more fun and satisfying, playing late 60s-inspired original garage psych instrumentals with funk and jazz influences from Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gyspies, the Meters, the Beatles as well as 80’s-early 90’s shoegaze/jangle/goth bands and African guitar music…. We got to play one gig at the Circle Bar (RIP), with a brand-new set…. and then of course COVID-19 happened.

The three of us have been getting together outside to jam on various acoustic instruments during the intermission, but soon we’ll all be fully vaccinated again and looking forward to returning to electrified amplification. I hope our neighbors haven’t gotten too used to the quiet in the meantime.

Personally, I’ve miraculously come into possession of my dream synth and have quietly been making droney, lush, and pulse-oriented evolving analog sounds that have been a form of meditative exercise and escapism for me during the pandemic. I need to find the time to finish mixing them and release them. Also I’ve been spending some time in Max/MSP again, working on some custom sequencer patches. I also have a design for algorithmic composition that I’ve sketched out and am working on implementing, inspired by Terry Riley’s In C. (Which I have written about and produced an Ableton Live version of here before).

Meanwhile as a guitar player I’ve been concentrating on learning a bit of theory that puts more chords, patterns and scales in my arsenal. After most of my lifetime as a guitar player thinking that too much learning would keep me from expressing my “true” sound, I am pretty comfortable tapping into that and now wish to increase my vocabulary. I’d also love to be able to hang with any musician in any impromptu jam situation at any time. Honestly a lifelong dream is to just show up with an instrument and just be able to play. I’ve acquired a much better ear but I still hit the occasional wrong note from time to time. I can play a melody or harmony almost intuitively but not a diminished chord or an augmented one. (I’ve just leveled up to being able to play major-7ths anywhere on the neck. Not that it was hard, but I just never learned it. But that is just half the battle — the other half is training your ear to know when to play the major 7th.)

Finally, as a guitar geek I’d be remiss not to share my love of a couple pedals I’ve acquired in the past 5 years. The Eventide Space has given me the Twin Peaks style atmosphere I need for playing with Saint Lorelei, but I use it a lot in everything. The Dusky Hypatia is an extremely versatile fuzz/overdrive pedal that gives me the tone I need when I want more than the Tube Screamer boost.

Anyway, like funerals are more for the living, perhaps blogs are more for the writer than the reader. But I still hope a few people get ideas or interest from anything I’ve posted. I’d still love to hear from anyone who wants to trade ideas or share experiences. May peace and good music follow you wherever you go.