the Aural Dustbin

June 29th, 2011 by alec

I hope my friend Aubrey won’t mind me outing him here. He and I share many of the same tastes in both musical genres and acts that are out of fashion more often than not; and it’s rare to meet someone whose love for this music not only goes beyond a worry about what’s cool or hip (and not just stuff that’s ironically hip to love, like ABBA, or Yacht Rock) but is based on the music that truly moves or inspires you, even if it gets you laughed out of the room when you admit your secret shame.

He and his partner Shae run Citizen Objects, makers of fine quality art and music, and their under-appreciated record blog is a love-letter to music lost-in-the-stacks.

Check it out at the Aural Dustbin.

OM.

A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 1.

May 28th, 2011 by alec

I’ve been involved with a lot of different musical projects, as songwriter, collaborator, hired gun, organist, guitar player, engineer/producer, and so on, but for the past decade, my main musical project has consistently been a band called Chef Menteur.

Chef Menteur started at a time when I’d tired of indie rock band clichés, and wanted to do something different: focus on experimenting and improvising instead of writing the perfect 4 minute indie/pop/folk/country tune. Having been spent some concentrated time in London’s electronic music scene, I had never been able to get that out of my brain, and technology was finally allowing those of us who couldn’t afford the vintage gear prices to do rudimentary sampling and sequencing for much less.

Listen to “Shotgun”.

At Rue de la Course, a coffehouse on Magazine Street in New Orleans, I saw an ad that mentioned My Bloody Valentine, John Coletrane, Sea and Cake, and John Zorn. And so, Chef Menteur started out with drum machines, keyboards, synthesizers… sounding like some weird mutation of Stereolab, the Chemical Brothers, Bruce Haack and weird Ninja Tune b-sides.. with fuzzed out guitars/bass that could be from Sonic Youth’s Sister.

Listen to “Chef Menteur Hwy”.

A four-track Tascam tape recorder was used to capture live sounds and Pro Tools Free was used to edit and mix. The plugins could take 4 minutes to render 10 seconds of audio and the Mac 8500 we were using would often crash, forcing a complete reboot. Each song took ages!

Listen to “An American Favorite“.

We put some tunes up on mp3.com (this is before myspace) and claimed we were big in Japan. We started getting some plays on WTUL and well-loved and respected DJ Chris Crowley offered us a show at the the Flophouse, which was kind of a communal living/party space.

Listen to “Betty B Free”.

We said yes, but were terrified: this changed everything! How could we play live sounds that were so studio-based?

Continue with part 2… Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!

 

Jazz Fest ticket prices vs. inflation

May 9th, 2011 by alec

Native New Orleanians, long-time Jazz Fest goers, and others like myself who’ve been here awhile remember when ticket prices were well under $20. Now they’re headed rapidly upward — currently at $60.

I just wanted to dispel any doubt that inflation is the cause, so I made a chart in Excel with ticket data points I collected from this Offbeat magazine article that I found via the blog liprap’s lament, and this piece on NOLA.com.

I used this Inflation Calculator to adjust prices for inflation to 2010 prices, and since it’s now 2011 adjusted annual inflation (1.63%) backwards for this year’s prices to 2010 as well.

Here’s the chart. As you can see, the steep increase of prices occurs over the last decade and correcting for inflation barely affects it at all.

Jazz Fest ticket prices over the years (click for full version).

UPDATED: Thanks to Will T. for adding the Gregorian year values.

 

Arcade Sine Wave: Art Installation

March 18th, 2011 by alec

A nifty art piece by David Fodel that uses an old arcade game console and elements of my Max/MSP project Sinewave Workshop to produce a unique installation. Very cool to say the least; check it out:

See Hear Now – Interactive Installation at Pirate Gallery from david fodel on Vimeo.

Psychic Summit iPhone app

December 21st, 2010 by alec

Psychic Summit Aquarium 2 iPhone appMy day job for the past year or so has been writing software for iOS. Not nearly as often as I’d like, but occasionally my interest in making music intersects with my work, and in this particular case I don’t think it’s ever intersected better. (The only time making music for work even came close to being this fun was perhaps when I made sound effects for a CD-ROM game in the mid-90’s, or made music loops for kids’ games in the early 2000’s).

For this app, however, I got to be an active part in the design process from the drawing board to the implementation. My interest in ambient music, generative systems, pseduorandom patterns, etc, all played into both the visual and aural aspects of the Aquarium 2 app. We make no secret of being inspired by devices like the Buddha Machine, apps like Brian Eno and Peter Chivers’ Bloom, or even those 1970’s new age ambient record series called Environments that you could pick up for 99 cents in bargain bins.

What resulted I think is a great app for constructing ideal ambient soundscapes to match your taste and mood. Each color wheel is a set of samples that you swap out with the next one by swiping across the screen; the background plasma colors change as well. You call up samples by pressing a colored wedge; the sample fades in after your touch. Touch it again and it gently fades out. The samples are mellow synthesizer loops constructed by ambient soundsmith Morgan Kuhli, or field recordings of natural sounds of the forest and ocean that you can blend. Whether you are looking for some soothing sounds for baby (c.f., Raymond Scott), something to read, meditate, or fall asleep to,  you can probably build a sound with this app that will work for you.

Read about it more at the Juggleware Developer’s Blog.

Or, check out the app on the App Store.

Remix project via Disquiet

December 3rd, 2010 by alec

I’ve got a new remix on the Disquiet ambient music site run by Marc Weidenbaum. It is for a podcast called Vox Tablet, who was doing an episode on Hannukah music reinterpretations. Some artists were asked to remix holiday music, others like myself the podcast theme.

It’s song #2 here.

Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)

September 21st, 2010 by alec

I’ve recently (as in, over the past few years or more) been fascinated with the concept of generative music, something that Terry Riley first brought to my attention (see my blog entry and version of his aleatoric/generative composition “in C”) and that of course Brian Eno has championed. Eno has found success with many different generative systems, most recently and notably a series of iPhone apps including Bloom which compose random ambient music based on a handful of parameters the user defines.


Wanting to tackle something like that myself, but wanting to start simple, I found that I can do this with Ableton Live and the sample devices that come with the Max for Live package… without even opening Max itself.

Max For Live's MIDIgran effect

The Follow Action feature with 8:1 odds of repeating vs stepping back to the previous clip.

Using the randomized sequencing trick I used in “In C”, plus the Max for Live MIDI effect “Max MidiGran” I was able to take a simple 2-note passage (that forms the main drone) — playing only very long notes of C and F alternating which you can here, below — then separately for each of 2 additional “solo” synths, repitches randomly and remaps to a note on the C major pentatonic scale. These come and go randomly based on probabilities I set up and on multiples of 8 bars.

Then I added a drum machine loop, which also comes in based on random probabilities.

Finally, I added another Max effect that brings up some random feedback to the main drone and the drum machine at unexpected moments. Might be too jarring for the effect I was originally going for though.

It’s also number sixteen in the ridiculously optomistic “song of the week” project, but better late than never…

DOWNLOAD:

#16 Opalize (mp3, 24MB)

UPDATE: Here is another mp3 generated by the same setup. Very similar of course, but different!

#17 Opalize (reprise) (mp3, 24MB)


rickenbacker suicide, part 2

July 21st, 2010 by alec

Back in May of 2009, I wrote this post about opening the case and finding my once-trustworthy Rickenbacker 12-string to have a broken tailpiece, snapped in two by the tension of the strings.

I found rumors on the net about inferior alloys used by RIC in the late 80’s as well as the unusually high tension of the Pyramid brand of strings I was using. With a new tailpiece and the guitar tuned down a whole step (from EeAaDdGgBBEE to DdGgCcFfAADD), I figured I was in good shape.

Lo and behold, I opened up the case last month and strings were everywhere—the tailpiece had apparently snapped again. Fortunately it was not the floating “R” logo tailpiece this time, but the clasp screwed onto the body that the “R” piece hooked into. In other words, the other half of the older equation, rumored to have the faulty alloy.

I have a hard time believing that it could be the Pyramid strings when I had the guitar tuned down a whole step. Nonetheless, lots of Rickenbacker-obsessed people who spend a lot more time with this sort of thing than I do all seem to be recommending switching strings, so I ordered some Thomastik Infelds just in case, and as a lower tension will make for easier string-bending.

Apparently Rickenbacker corporate hates Pyramids so much that they refuse to let anyone mention them by name on their website, and replace the word “pyramid” with “tetrahedron.” Likewise, using the name of a popular compression pedal that people use to get that Byrdsy jangle (even endorsed by Roger McGuinn himself) is verboten: “JangleBox” becomes “Jingle Bells.” Why they dislike the pedal isn’t entirely clear, aside from vague intimations of copying the built-in circuitry of a unit that’s no longer even made.

Very odd indeed.

Vuvuzela! (USA Wins 1-1 vs England)

June 15th, 2010 by alec

Vuvuzela

If you’ve watched any of the current World Cup, you have an opinion about the plastic horns that the fans use to blare on and drone throughout the matches. Surprisingly, all of my friends seem to like the background noise they provide and find it somewhat soothing. Others, or so I’ve heard, find them extremely annoying and liken them to the sound of attacking hornets. Okay, I will admit that they do sound like a swarm of bees, but I actually like the sound of bees. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that it’s not a coincidence that the word “drone” is used both for male worker bees and the droning sound that bees make.

So whith that in mind, here is a Vuvuzela-heavy remix of the US-England game this past Saturday, or at least the last 14 minutes of the last half. You can hear the US score the “winning” goal at 5:15 (thanks to British goalie Robert Green, who I offer my sincerest condolences to).

Vuvuzela (mp3)

Iron Chef of Music

March 21st, 2010 by alec

What a cool idea.

Take a short sample, and give anyone the chance to dice, slice, layerand mangle it into a new composition.

And give them only two hours.

I found out about this just today, hours before today’s friendly competition. You can hear my entry and others’ here: http://ironchefofmusic.protman.com