Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Went To A Music Technology Symposium, Part 2

Just hop over the toothbrushes and look at the photographs from 2 postings ago.

1. Amit Patel showed us his Cobra project, so called because it exists as a tiny sound processor on a Cobra beermat. After manipulating noise with twists of two dials, he told us that he used to work in a record shop and thought of his beer mat as a 'white label'; unlike some music tech enthusiasts, he's not interested in what happens under the bonnet, but wants to play with the noise that come out of the machine. He uses one mono output and includes the risk of it breaking down as part of his practice; and sometimes, he pick up the local Asian radio station in Leicester, where he works, and makes that part of it all. I loved that.
He packs it away in a Tupperware box to take it about the place, and if he's going abroad he just buys a battery when he gets there. 'Why take loads of stuff and not use it?', he said.

2. Jenn Kirby had adapted tethers (called that in laptopese, I believe) from a failed golfing game made by Gametrak that she bought cheaply off eBay, with voice processing tech soldered on to it; she describes the human voice as 'the best instrument there is'.
The audience shouted and she recorded the noise, and played with the resulting sound wave by moving the tethers. The start point of the program began by raising the left hand, and the end point by raising the right; volume was changed by moving up and down. All the time, she balances up technology with what the human body can do and makes certain that the audience will enjoy hearing the results.
She demonstrated some golf swings at one point, and has also used the windmill guitar gesture to trigger electronic sounds; she told us of the joys of risk in performing live with technology, otherwise she would just build a machine.

3. Robin the Frog had a lot of luggage and had been held up by rail replacement buses. He unpacked quickly and soon had three audience members becoming part of his tape decks by holding scraggly loops of tape at different distances away from the machines.
He told us of his love for tape that developed after working at the BBC, when 'sound loses it's moorings and just floats off'. 'Editing platforms give you what they think you want, whereas tape gives you everything, whether you want it or not'.His relationship to what he does is deeply engaged: 'When I let go, I submit to chaos'.
In Portugal once, a tape machine called Delia ceased to work until 90 seconds from the end of the show. It was 14 years to the day after Delia Derbyshire died. 'The machines are dying, and by using them like this you are dramatically reducing their lifespan, and that of the tapes as well. My plan is to follow them down and document their destruction'.

Wow. At this point I began to realise how much music technology performers are exploring their own spirituality through their relationships with machines and the sounds they make; I know that Sherry Turkle studied this with computer programmers, but it was interesting to hear this articulated by so many different music tech people is such different ways.
I thought about the gigantic Heidelberg press that I used to operate when I was a printer, and how you almost had to dance with the thing to make it work, learning the tension of the levers and the sound of the pistons to make it do exactly what you wanted it to.
Suddenly I started to value things in life that I have hidden under cushions and put in cupboards. Perhaps more on this  at some time when I feel like writing about what I am studying at evening class....

4. Next were KUDAC, a Kingston University laptop improvising group who did a live rehearsal for us to listen to. There was much turning of control buttons and some interesting watching. Afterwards, the questions were about what happens if someone accidentally makes a beat, and if the volume spins out of control. The best question was that about lack of eye contact, normally vital for improvisors. 'We plan to work on that', someone said. But they can recognise each other's patch bay. One chap murmured something about call and response, which i thought was really interesting; another wryly observed that he was not above miming to another member' moment of genius.

I'm going to take a tea break now and continue later.

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