»radiantdevices« & Chandeliers & Psychic TV July 22 2016 at Reggie’s, Chicago

Last night’s show was 3 bands in a bar [ »radiantdevices« & Chandeliers & Psychic TV ] with 200+ people listening & singing & dancing. »radiantdevices«had an amazing set, it’s fantastic when we play with live cello and more found-percussion, & the visuals worked quite well in the space. Chandeliers’ analog synth sounds with analog video synthesis projection was the perfect band to watch on Martin Gore’s birthday.  There were technical shenanegans, this was a running around putting out fires & pulling it together with no spare minutes &

& Genesys B-P, after Psychic TV’s opening song, said the important thing. “There are people out there – we know who, don’t need to say who – loudly actively bringing more hate in to the world right now. That’s what they do. Don’t play their game. Be happy.”

Invest in your joy my friends. As David Lynch put it so well, “What we pay attention to, that becomes lively”

still, test for backing visuals "DIRTY"

still, test for backing visuals “DIRTY” a song dealing with the experience of street harassment. processing & quartz composer linked by syphon server.

Where the f did Monday go?

Good evening, dear friends.

This week I was supposed to tell you about showing a one-minute film in cultural institutions around the globe in December, and, new looks in live projection, and, how cool it was to do a »radiantdevices« show on David Bowie’s birthday last Friday. How a few of us improvised a goofy cover of Ziggy Stardust and were so happy even though it was silly and Zack’s first mic failed. As Zack Violet [ the singer for that moment ] put it, “This is kindof rough, but, if there was no David Bowie there wouldn’t be a me!”

I lost Monday to a surprising number of tears, once I’d learned he’d died. I’ve listened to his music for over thirty years. At times his was the only music I listened to for months at a time. In many ways he made the world safer for me. His work invited me to take certain risks; his longevity, and his commitment to the artwork, to persist.

Aesthetically, for me his cutup/assemblage lyricism and archetype-roulette slots alongside that of William Burroughs. Both Bowie and Burroughs are important to me as pop culture links to DaDa and side doors to the dreamt, the sur-real, what I’ve nicknamed “the imaginarium”.

One artist-friend said he’s “considering what of the work Bowie’s left for us, that I can take up, that fits with what I do”.

This link is to the isolated vocal track of Bowie’s original recording of Ziggy Stardust.

The second link, to a concert I watched live on VH1 when I was in graduate school, a few weeks after September 11, 2001.http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=984_1315755315

Behind that second link I wonder if you might hear what I hear – a tremendous spirit of intimacy and connection, a big folk-hippy heart singing out from under the sleek, produced surface. He sang in a moment of our great darkness and difficulty. He knew that the audience looks for an image of itself in the media it consumes. He chose to cover “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. On some level he gave us an undamaged image of our country, instead of the smoky wound we’d all just fallen into.

This example is, I think, one of his challenges to artists.

Because I’m supposed to tell you, well, there’s another »radiantdevices« show coming up, February 12 at Chicago’s Metro.

But besides that, I’d love to hear from you, with links to your favorite Bowie thing – movie or music or interview etc – if you have one to share.

Thanks for being here, and reading my notes.


PS: the subject line of this post quotes a lyric from DB’s newest album, Blackstar.

reznor on his preferred instrument [ moog ]

trent reznor talks about the moog synthesize, how it is the instrument for creating his music. later he mentions fighting the temptation for quantized perfection while making ‘hesitation marks’ & his sense of overwhelm when first making soundtracks – –

bonus: soundtrack by the haxan cloak.

[ collab ] »radiant devices« 08::30::14 : metro, chicago

This summer I finally buckled down and learned processing, the coding language built for artists. I find it incredibly responsive and immediate, unlike some of the user-interface based traditional video editing tools. And its so much fun to play with!

Back in Pittsburgh I created many video projections for live performances by bands and other live events. I also created & projected visuals for theatrical and dance productions. I’d been looking for the chance to work like this again in Chicago, and was blessed with the invitation to work with »radiant devices«!

»radiant devices« are inventive musicians, with a big live sound augmented by instruments they’ve built from bicycle forks and abandoned gas tanks and other objects. Each instrument weaves into a rich bed of sound – yeah, guitar, bass, drums but also dj with loops and Mojdeh’s haunting voice – sometimes augmented with skilled use of a megaphone. Listen to »radiant devices« at their bandcamp  – –

August 30 saw our first performance together, at Chicago’s historic live club, Metro. You’ll find my view from the projection booth in the attached image – for more stills from the show and samples from the live-responsive code please visit the flickr album of stills from this collaboration – –



walking backwards into the future

Two weeks ago I pulled the video for Spoiled Heat from storage, to submit to a festival requesting short films about ‘industrial spaces’ and ‘factory towns’. With the recompressing and pulling of stills etc. I rewatched it several times, passively listening to the audio.

I made Spoiled Heat in 2008, manufacturing the audio using a freeware waveform manipulator to generate tracks that I assembled in SoundtrackPro along with loops & waveforms pulled from the internet, also manipulated in S.Pro.

Tonight, I finished a video that I’m sending to festival-type things, hopefully they’ll pick it to be like wallpaper for a big space that people are walking around in. Decided to make an audio track to support it, since I’m putting it on vimeo for ‘screener & submission’ purposes & video with no audio is just thirsty to me.

Realization, as I was mixing the sound tonight : half the tracks were almost exact duplicate waveform manipulation strategies from the 2008 soundtrack. The pitches matched. The order of pitches matched, though timing was a little different.

I went back in and consciously altered some of the strategies – added a voice, discovered something else, amplified that discovery – but even now after posting it to Soundcloud I’m like, damn, that’s ‘Spoiled Heat‘ smuggled into ‘data painting [swimmy]‘.

The funniest thing – – tonight, in swimmy, I mixed the waveform manipulation tracks with a skidder plugin on them, to give light crackle-and-hiss as if the transmission wasn’t coming in quite exactly. If there’s any metaphor for ‘hey, I’m just writing down what I listened to two weeks ago’ I don’t know what is.

Wish Jane Coopman was here to read this, she taught me how to transcribe sound to written music when I was in conservatory. Its more complicated when you’re mixing 8 tracks in Logic . . . Oh yeah, this time around I was manipulating the pitch shifter using the automation tools in Logic instead of the GUI of a funny little ambient mixer.

Soundtrack’s over here : https://soundcloud.com/drawclose/data-painting-swimmy. Though other makers have given me positive feedback on my audio, I feel clumsy. Its as imprecise as flossing my teeth with a 2×4, to me, compared to what I could/can do with a violin, which is still easy as breathing. So. Walking backward into the future . . .

La Justice (Key VIII) // for solo piano // by Christian Kriegeskotte

Contemporary classical music – yes, it exists! I’ve enjoyed watching my composer-friend Christian navigate a really unique creative space, working with so many people* to perform his work. When I was living in Pittsburgh, I had the chance to be perplexed, challenged, and ultimately quite pleased by a performance of his orchestral work. In 2013 I heard something very different – his theme for the horror film Scream Park set the movie’s tone, in an adrenalyne-stirring, orchestral voice.

Earlier this year, he funded recording a cycle of songs from a more intimate project. His successful indiegogo campaign supported recording a series of compositions for solo piano. Each piece is a portrait of a tarot card. He published the first half of the completed pieces today. I’m enjoying them, particularly ~

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/127568223″ params=”color=00ffff&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

*you think you have a hard time getting the band together? a full symphony orchestra can mean 85-140 people!!

something about the importance of frank zappa

I might be movin’ to Montana soon
Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss Raisin’ it up
Waxen it down
In a little white box
I can sell uptown


I met him through his daughter, Moon Unit, who had a pop song that did really well in the early 80’s. I loved him for the kind of music that he made that was all squiggly (for the lack of a better word) that had lyrics like the ones to Montana, which run through this little essay.

Later he became Seriously Important. His testimony at the PMRC labeling hearings before Congress were aired on TV. His testimony declared creative freedom, defended personal liberty to create.


Part 1 – Frank Zappa at PMRC Senate Hearing on Rock Lyrics


Frank’s testimony provides astute insight into the gap between performer and audience. His description of audience as ‘consumers’ back then touches the contemporary audience identity of those who now get their music without paying for it.


Movin’ to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon
(yes I am)


Revisiting his testimony, I reflect on his discussion of ‘the music industry’. Record labels mediated the relationship between composer (Zappa’s language) and audience. Music was a product, to the audience. For the composer, music is an activity. The industry itself transformed music from activity to product. Congress was acting to regulate that – the way that music as a product was marketed to the audience. Zappa was testifying to how that regulation would affect the creator.


I’m ridin’ a small tiny hoss
(His name is MIGHTY LITTLE)
He’s a good hoss
Even though He’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway


Zappa’s core message has been ignored. Why regulate music, declaring it good or bad? Why not provide music education in the public education systems funded by the government, so that people can decide for themselves what is good or bad? I mean, that’s the function of the constitution, right? To provide us with the liberty to enjoy our deciding of good and bad in our own lives.


He’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
Any way I’m pluckin’ the ol’ Dennil Floss
Even if you think it is a little silly, folks
I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks
I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks


His loopy, scribbly music. He talks about finding musical lines from the cadences of ordinary speech. Music as conversation. I’ve been learning how to write a fugue, more recently, with all of Bach’s etiquette. And here, in the fugue, is the process of conversation – a musical idea is passed back and forth between voices, evolving through slight shifts in notes and presentation. The vocabulary for the techniques of the fugue is a vocabulary of conversation.

Zappa takes that conversation from music theory to include the waveform. He talks about that in a wonderful documentary made after he was diagnosed with cancer.


Frank Zappa – Peefeeyatko


Peefeeyatko contains the transition from instrumental music to the computer as performance tool. Today’s software puts Zappa’s programmable synthesizer into ordinary computers anyone can walk into a store and buy. This is important, and overlooked, I think, in the fight over who gets to better identify our discontent.


Every other wrangler would say
I was mighty grand
By myself I wouldn’t
Have no boss
But I’d be raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss
Raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss
Raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss


Our culture struggle with the problem of music-as-product vs. music-as-experience. The form by which the audience purchases it is so easy. Click a virtual button, a virtual thing downloads to an imaginary space inside a computer. Keep track of one’s sonic possessions by looking at lines of text on a screen. Keep track of those virtual possessions using a tool that you use to write email, read the internet, and do other things. Listen to that data file by clicking on it using a virtual tool, a mouse or trackpad.

The audio file is an invisible body. LP records, 8 tracks, cassette tapes, CDs are things, they give music physical weight. Does the iPod get heavier when I sync my music to it? The experience of listening is easily forgotten. The appreciation of value provided by the listening experience? Often overlooked, for it is our experience. American culture teaches the art of dissatisfaction, in order to fuel ongoing consumption.

Its so easy it makes people forget, or never learn, that the act of creating music takes a lot of work. Work which I need to return to – I want to learn how to write a fugue by writing a fugue, and writing this essay is a little bit of a distraction from that (I’m about a third of the way through that process).

Technology makes many things very easy for us. Technology makes it easy to consume. Remember to value what comes from us, what the tools themselves can’t do – like create the music, like play or speak from the stage.


varese took pictures of the future (1958)

Always knew I had a lot in common with Varese. He of the ‘organized sound’ school of composition, responding to the sonic influences of the technological environments he lived in. Varese, Frank Zappa’a musical father.

I watched this tonight. Swoon. I have made some of the same video-collage gestures, unknowing quotes (esp. the skeletal hands – the 2-channel projection installation/performance ‘the hand remembers’ i did at the brillobox in ’09) . . . Maybe every aspiring video artist should watch it, so they don’t have to make it (but we make stuff like it anyway to learn how that language works so whatever.)

This video, from ’58. varese took a picture of the future.


a decent starting point about him : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgard_Varèse

meditation : songbirds

Some voices embody something on our behalf . Aretha Franklin provides the husky strength of presence, power, and integrity, she invokes respect.  Amy Winehouse rolls her eyes for us, tells all the fuckery we can’t say out loud.

Some voices by their texture and nature tell stories. Nina Simone’s haunted reedy soulsinging says she sees what we don’t. Edith Piaf’s yearning love paints with a brush made of sorrow. Lady Day’s escapism and loss (Billie Holiday) echoing with her need for redemption by being loved.

Some singers are inalienably wedded to their audiences. Dave Gahan and Freddie Mercury jump to mind, as do Janis Joplin, Edith Piaf, Lady GaGa. There is a love-loop of mutual adoration, a call and response from stage to audience and back, completed in their performances again and again and again.

Some voices are storytelling voices – David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Bjork. Each tells stories in their songs. Madonna reports on her state of mind, her soul talks when she sings.

We experience these songs as things, as products. They are made by people. No matter how processed, no matter the autotune, there is a soul behind each song. The demand to control the result – the demand for sales, I think, is what has sunk the music ‘industry’. The recipe-distilling, the formatting, the predicting, they’ve distilled out the passion, the soul, the selfhood that great music is steeped in.

Songbirds make music that resonate. M.I.A.’s insouciant mixtapes put a spring in your step. So do Wiz Khalifa or Kellee Maize, those crazies from Pittsburgh who give it away. Lady GaGa’s rich, deep-throated, flaunting, Lilith-evoking, vaguely-rejected strange and crazy artist lady. There’s soul in those voices, there are selves singing.

That’s why they catch on. We need true muses. Those souls speaks substantial companion energy, music, for our daily blahblah.