CatSynth pic: Radio Music Synth Module

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Submitted by our friend ⓉⒺⒸⒽℕ⌽▃ⒾⒹ●⒞⒪⒨ via Twitter.

“@CasaMmia: Ordered a radio music kit, john cage modular @thonk_synth cannot wait “

We are thinking of getting one of these as well 🙂

CatSynth pic: CV Sunday from Moog

Another from our friends at Moog Music, Inc., via Twitter.

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This picture of a kitten on a Moog modular actually appeared here on CatSynth before. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the post 🙂

CatSynth pic: CV Sunday from Moog

A nice surprise from our friends at Moog Music, Inc!.

CatSynth 7th Anniversary!

Today we mark seven years since CatSynth first went online!

Here was the photo of Luna from that first post on July 19, 2006.

Luna_Keyboard_resized_c

 

As we do every yeah, we celebrate this occasion with some stats.

2,278 posts.
12,218 comments.
538,771 visitors.
760 “cat-and-synth” posts.

Some overall stats for the past year:

Our top day for visitors was January 26, 2013. This was during NAMM.
The greatest number of visitors came from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
The top cities are San Francisco and New York. The top city outside the U.S. is London.
iOS and Android are among the top five platforms used by our visitors, surpassing Linux.

Our top commenters over the past year:

Tillie and Georgia 187
meowmeowmans 142
Gattina 70
Snowcatcher 57
Kitty 56
CatSynth 53
Beth F 45
Sukhmandir Kaur 42
AVCr8teur 42
Louis la Vache 40
Sue St Clair 39
KatzTales 37
Cafe au lait 34
Marilia 33
The Chair Speaks 29
Sweet Purrfections 27
Cats of wildcat woods 25
Marg 24
Team Tabby 23
Beth @ 990 Square 22
SandyCarlson 22

It’s great to see longtime readers continue to participate over the years, and always good to see newcomers as well.  Interestingly, the number of comments has gone down significantly over the past year.  My conjecture is that an increasing amount of the engagement around CatSynth has migrated to our Facebook page, and to Twitter, where we have lively communities of commenters.  In terms of Facebook, here are our most shared/liked posts over the past year:

The Green Wood, an opera by David Samas 64
CatSynth pic: Brian Eno Purina ad 44
Weekend Cat Blogging: Good News from PAWS 38
Pitta of the Mind, Red Thread, and Pet the Tiger at Turquoise Yantra Grotto 36
CatSynth pic: Gary Mew-man 33
CatSynth pic: Moog Little Phatty 31
Superb Owl 29
Outsound Music Summit: Fire and Energy 28
CatSynth pic: Chewie on Ensoniq EPS 26
CatSynth pic: Pinto and Moog Little Phatty 25
Jay Korber Benefit Performance, Berkeley Arts 25
The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, De Young Museum 23
CatSynth pic: Maggie Monotron 23
Military Cats 20
CatSynth pic: Schnuffi and Modular 19

It’s gratifying to see a mixture of “cat-and-synth” posts and art/music reviews in this list.  It supports my belief that mixing all the different topics together into one stream is worthwhile.  I particularly enjoy our many cat enthusiasts commenting on the music reviews or highway posts.

We hope to continue this project for a long time, and hope it continues to be a valuable and worthwhile resource.  And a big thank you to all our readers and fans!  You make this a joy to work on.

CatSynth pic: Moog Little Phatty

Cat and Moog Little Phatty

Submitted by Christy Purrrlington (@Puffystudiocat) via Twitter.

“I find you trigger the best arpegiators if you spread out on the keys.”

cats on tuesday

CatSynth pic: Cat and Moog Little Phatty

A cat takes a snooze on a Moog Little Phatty.

Submitted by Alex Morris via our Twitter feed. You can follow us on Twitter @catsynth.

CatSynth video: Otto Juno 6

By bendedavis on YouTube. Submitted by JUPITER808 via our Twitter feed.

Otto’s performance sounds like the tense section of a contemporary film score.

Richard Serra Drawing and Sharon Lockhart Lunch Break, SFMOMA

Today we look at two current exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) that opened in October and continue through mid-January: Richard Serra Drawing and Sharon Lockhart’s Lunch Break. I had the opportunity to attend the museum’s press preview for both of these exhibitions and posted live updates via my Twitter feed @catsynth (the hashtag was #serrapreview).

The main event of the day was the opening of Richard Serra Drawing. I have long been fond of Serra’s large-scall metal sculptures. The minimalist yet strong constructions of flat steel planes or gently curving metal are instantly recognizable as his. This exhibition was my first experience with his drawings and sketches. Many of the pieces had the same characteristics as his sculptures, the reliance on strong geometric forms in a minimal presentation, such as his 1973 piece Untitled. One could see this piece as the shadow of one of his sculptures.

[Richard Serra, Untitled, 1973; paintstick and charcoal on paper; 50 x 38 inches; collection of Mary and Harold Zlot; © 2011 Richard Serra / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell]

Several of the pieces rivaled his sculptures in scale.

[Richard Serra, Blank, 1978; paintstick on Belgian linen; 2 parts, each 120 ¼ x 120 ¼ inches; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; © 2011 Richard Serra / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni]

However, to simply describe the work in this exhibition as Serra’s sculptures flattened to two dimensions would miss most of what makes it unique and surprising. Many of the large black pieces are done with painstick, and the large geometric shapes which smooth from a distance have a very rich and rough texture. However, to simply describe the work in this exhibition as Serra’s sculptures flattened to two dimensions would miss most of what makes it unique and surprising.  Many of the large black pieces are done with painstick, and the large geometric shapes which smooth from a distance have a very rich and rough texture.  It was something I referred to while visiting as “liquidy roughness.” The texture and medium also allowed Serra to move beyond basic geometry into forms that cannot easily be realized as sculpture. In out-of-round X, an exaggerated texture is present in the main circular shapes, and continues to diffuse out past its edges. It is not a simple graduation where the texture becomes more diffuse from the center, there is still some semblance of a geometric shape in the image. But it is nonetheless unlike any of his sculptures, and I would not have automatically marked this as Serra’s if I saw it from a distance outside of the exhibition.

[Richard Serra, out-of-round X, 1999; paintstick on handmade Hiromi paper; 79 ½ x 79 inches; collection of the artist; © 2011 Richard Serra / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Rob McKeever]

Indeed, more organic circular shapes and ambiguous edges abound in Serra’s drawings. He also escapes from the solid or semisolid forms with line drawings that add more empty space. In these drawings, he reduces the drawings to one-dimensional forms in a way similar to his use of planes in three-dimensional space.

The gallery presentation provided a chance to see the diversity of the works side-by-side, but also left a large amount of empty space that abstract pieces truly need to be appreciated. I liked this location which featured Diamond (1974/2011) in the foreground and the circular Institutionalized Abstract Art (1976/2011) around the corner. Both were redrawn on the walls for this exhibition. They are perhaps the most minimal of all the pieces, and as such benefited the most from the context of gallery and the association with the other works. They provided a contrast to more roughly drawn or textured pieces. The spacious presentation also allowed room to explore the shapes in a personal manner. One wall of pieces entitled Drawings after circuit featured simple lines against aging paper, and seemed ripe for interpretation as a Hipstamatic photo.

[Click image to enlarge.]

The notebooks, while not as monumental, presented another dimension of Serra distinct from both his large drawings and his sculpture. We see the freedom to explore shapes and ideas that don’t yet need to stand up in large scale.

[Richard Serra, notebook: Double Torqued Ellipses; Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, 2005; paintstick on paper; sheet: 12 ¼ x 14 ½ inches; collection of the artist; © 2011 Richard Serra / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Rob McKeever]

There are not only small sketches of ideas that could be used in larger works, but energetic and curving sribbles and even playful human shapes.  The notebooks serve more as inspiration for visitors (particular visitors who are themselves artists) than as works unto themselves.

Perhaps the most unusual piece was the list of verbs that appeared at the beginning of the exhibition.

[Click image to enlarge.]

It could serve as both an artist statement as well as an art piece.

At the end of the tour, Richard Serra was present to discuss the exhibition and take questions from the press. He had a very clear and accessible way of describing his work and process, as much engineer as artist.

It was interesting to hear him describe traditional architecture he saw in Spain and Turkey as sources of inspiration for his work. I associate stylized form and intricate detail with such architecture, and what attracts me to Serra’s work is its break with these traditions for a more simple focus on large-scale textures and geometries, and the exploration of asymmetry. I did not get a chance to ask any questions myself, squished among members of the established art press, but it still good to just be present and listen.


Sharon Lockhart’s Lunch Break is quite a contrast to the Serra drawings in media, style and subject matter. Through photographs and film, Lockhart presents a personal-scale view of industrial labor at the Bath Iron Works, a large naval shipyard in Maine. The artist spent a year in the town and at the shipyard, “interacting with workers and gaining their trust and collaboration.” The result is a portrait that is both intimate and detached. In the photographs we see everyday objects and elements of the “shadow” economy among the workers, such has makeshift cafes and lunch stands. The film meanwhile turns a short period of the workers on lunch break into a monumental portrait of industrial life.

The film is based on ten minutes of footage tracking along the a 1,200 foot hallway, without any panning, zooming or any other motion of the camera besides the steady forward progression. Along the hallway, workers go about the normal routines during lunch break, sitting, standing, eating, reading, talking However, what we ultimately see is anything but routine. The film is slowed down to 80 minutes (one eighth the speed of the original). The result is a stretched out abstract industrial exploration, which emphasizes the expanse and straight lines of the hallway as we pass by the workers.

[Sharon Lockhart, Lunch Break (Assembly Hall, Bath Iron Works, November 5, 2007, Bath, Maine) (still), 2008; 35mm film transferred to HD, 80 min.; courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; © Sharon Lockhart]

The music, a similarly slowed down mixture of sounds collected from the factory space by filmmaker James Benning and composer Becky Allen, gives a heightened sense of a fictionalized industrial landscape. Of course, I immediately started deconstructing the sound, which appeared to be a combination of pitch and time shifting and granular synthesis, but this did not detract from the overall presentation of the film, which was projected on the wall of a dark elongated room with surround sound for an immersive experience and other worldly experience. Although the film itself was interesting to watch, it was the music that kept my attention for an extended period of time. I tended less to see the details of workers in the visual and focused more on the big picture of the hallway, while in the music I kept looking for details, little bits of metallic or machinery sounds, or the occasional hint of human activity, amidst the overall drone of low-frequency noise.  It is hard to give a sense of the piece, with just an image. It should be experienced in person with the full sound.

The photographs that accompanied the film were not altered and presented images of the lives of the workers at the shipyard that would normally be hidden to outsiders. Several of the workers have set up small shops that sell coffee and food and operate as a shadow economy, where people leave money in boxes on an honor system.

[Sharon Lockhart, Dirty Don’s Delicious Dogs, 2008; chromogenic print; 41 1/16 x 51 1/16 in.; courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, Gladstone Gallery, New York, and neugerriemschneider, Berlin; © Sharon Lockhart]

The images are impersonal in the sense that they do not include any people, but the personalities of the workers who created the objects and spaces are indirectly present. In contrast to the film, with the industrial sounds of the music and scale of hallway dominate the viewer’s attention, the images and silence leave the viewer free to imagine the people who wrote the signs on the shops or attached the stickers to the lunch boxes. In particular, that was my impression from the sign “Please don’t forget to put money in the bank” with its accompanying smiley face. This sign forms the cover for exhibition catalog as well.

[Sharon Lockhart, Handley’s Snack Shop, 2008; chromogenic print; 41 1/16 x 51 1/16 in.; courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, Gladstone Gallery, New York, and neugerriemschneider, Berlin; © Sharon Lockhart]

Although Lunch Break presents it subject with a certain detachment and abstraction, it is hard to separate it completely from the economic and political reality of contemporary life in the U.S. As stated in the official release, “The project’s attention to the local and to the rarely portrayed experience of the working class take on a particular social and political relevance in the context of global capitalism, war, and economic recession.” The opening was occurring at the same time that the Bay Area incarnations of the Occupy movement were just picking up momentum (my first visit to OccupySF was just a few days earlier.) The combination leads to interesting questions about how protest, art, and the daily routines of working people intersect (and how they often don’t).


It was interesting to have seen both of these exhibitions together, and then reflect on them side-by-side several weeks later. My experience of Serra’s drawings is defined by shape and texture, and leads to more internal contemplation and fewer words that reflect the scale and space of the exhibition. By contrast, Lockhart’s Lunch Break speaks to me on a technical level with music, film and photography, and is on a personal scale. As such, it leads to more words and thoughts upon reflection. Both are valuable experiences and ways of seeing art.

Both exhibitions will be on view at SFMOMA through January 16, 2012. I strongly recommend checking them out if you are in the Bay Area.

[All captioned images are provided courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Images marked “catsynth.com” were taken by the author during the press preview.]

CatSynth in New York

As I do ever year at around this time, I will be spending a week in New York.  This promises to be a rather busy trip, visiting with family and friends, seeing art exhibits, partaking in various New York rituals, and playing in two music performances.  For those in the NYC area (or who have friends in the NYC area), here is the information on the shows:

November 20, 2011. 8PM. AvantElectroExpectroExtravaganza

13 Thames St., 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY.
SK Orchestra, Doom Trumpet, Amar Chaudhary, Loop B, Badmitten (damien olsen)

November 26, 2011. PAS presents Experi-MENTAL Night at Theaterlab. 7PM.

Theaterlab: 137 West 14th Street, New York.
A night of Experi-MENTAL music featuring: PAS, Richard Lainhart and Lucio Menegon, Koning’s Blauw, Amar Chaudhary, ‘History of the Future’ live film score directed by Richard Lainhart with ‘The Orchestra of the Future’.

Many of these names should be familiar from past shows, including last year’s Omega Sound Fix, the now defunct Ivy Room Hootenanny here in the Bay Area, and others.

I will try and post sporadically while I am there, but I do expect to continue with live updates of NY adventures via Twitter @catsynth.

#OccupySF October 26

On Wednesday, I returned home to San Francisco around 9PM and was greeted by the sounds of helicopters overhead. I went outside to the patio and saw a helicopter flying closer to CatSynth HQ and lower to the ground than I had ever seen. We had all seen what had happened across the bay in Oakland the day before, with tragic results. Twitter was alight with concerns and rumors that a raid of #OccupySF was possible, and the official protest feed exhorted followers to “come join us”. So I did.

There was a fairly large crowd when I arrived at Justin Herman Plaza, and a rather festive atmosphere. In the center of the plaza, north of the camp, there was a large circular procession like a picket line. A small brass and drum band was playing a funky riff. Indeed with the bass line, pentatonic scale and four-on-the-floor rhythm it had a bit of an old disco feel! You can hear a bit in this video:

The sound from the iPhone recording was not that great, so the lower brass instruments are a bit soft. But there was a bass line, and the bass line is key to the disco/funk feel (something I suspect most Tea Party rallies lack).

However, underneath the party-like veneer it was a bit tense. The nearby BART station was shutdown (as were the stations in downtown Oakland), and reports were flying over Twitter of various groups of police massing, most notably in the Potrero Hill area where they were seen to be boarding MUNI busses. This led to all sorts of jokes about the fact that if they were riding MUNI they would probably never make it here. But jokes aside, organizers and participants took the threat of a raid quite seriously. We had frequent drills for those who were going to hold the camp (and thus risk arrest), and those who were going to form a more diffuse perimeter. There were advisories on what to do in the event of tear gas being used. It involved vinegar. It did not sound pleasant at all.

Hours went by, alternating between the festive party-like scene, the drills, and an open mic. No sign of any police activity – a fire truck with horns blaring did pull up near the camp, but that was it. Still, conflicting reports and rumors continued to circulate. There was even talk that people from #OccupyOakland who wanted to come across the bay to support us would attempt to cross the Bay Bridge, which is a busy freeway even at night and has no pedestrian sidewalks of any sort. (It was amusing to follow that from the point of view an anthropomorphized @SFBayBridge). This of course did not actually happen, though a small number of people from Oakland were able to come across by using alternate BART stations or other means and did speak to the assembled crowd, including accounts of what had happened on Tuesday and what people in Oakland were doing that evening, and a moving account of what happened to Scott Olsen.

Several political figures from the city were on hand as well, including several members of the Board of Supervisors (our city council equivalent) and a few mayoral candidates. Current Mayer Ed Lee was not present. However, my own Supervisor, Jane Kim, whose district covers my neighborhood as well as the plaza itself was present – I had actually run into her and (almost literally) earlier in the evening but not recognized her at first. At first, the officials started speaking so a small crowd of media people around 2AM, but after a back and forth with protest representatives, they came to speak to us, using the official “mic check” and call-and-response system:


[video by josborn25 on YouTube.]

There was one really annoying heckler, even though he seemed to be echoing the immediate and long-term concerns of many in the Occupy Wall Street movement, he was not respecting the mic system, the speakers or the audience, and its not clear to me if we was really an agitator rather than an overly enthusiastic supporter. For example, he was demanding portable bathrooms, even though the city had already provided several that were present and available at the time.

In some ways it was a lonely experience. I did not really have any close friends there. But I did feel connected to a community online on Twitter, with people I know across the bay in Oakland who sent and solicited updates, and with readers beyond who let me know they supported my being there.

I ended up departing around 3AM. It felt like a raid was not likely. And I was happy to see the next morning that it did not happen. It’s not clear if there was a raid in the works that was called off or if it was never really planned. It will also be interesting to see how the movement and the events this week and next week play into local politics (we do have a mayoral election coming up in less than two weeks).