Weekend Cat Blogging #374

We at CatSynth are happy to be hosting Weekend Cat Blogging #374. If you would like to participate with your feline-related blog post, you can so so by leaving your name and link in the “linky widget” below. This is the first time we are actually trying this process for leaving links, so if it doesn’t work, please leave a comment instead.

This is going to be a another busy musical weekend, so we will likely not get to producing the detailed round-up until later…and that time has come, so let us continue.

Samantha, Clementine and Maverick are having some early morning fun. It looks dark, so it must be very early. But they are ready for the brighter part of the morning and invite everyone to come join them in play.

Wow, that is a lot of white kittens. All of home look quite a bit like Truffle and Brulee. And this is not an accident, as they welcome a special visitor this weekend. Follow the link to find out who it is.

The Cats of Wildcat Woods had a fun weekend. In addition to a brand new computer (which is usually fun unless it doesn’t work), they got to visit with Marg of Marg’s Animals. Marg is a regular supporter of our Wordless Wednesday photography here at CatSynth.

At Animal Shelter Volunteer, Maggie and Milo are enjoying a relaxing Sunday together. They are among the many wonderful cats at PAWS looking for their forever homes.

The inline “linky widget” was an interesting experiment this week. It seems like participants did not immediately see their links show up, though they are there now for me – and thus we have an actual WCB round-up. Please do let us know if you see them or have any other feedback, as we evaluate this feature for further use.

CatSynth pic: Guiliano (Doepfer and MFB modules)

From Alessandro Automageddon via our Facebook page.

Here’s another picture of Giuliano, the macbook was currently running Apple Mainstage, there’s a small modular rig (Mostly Doepfer modules, with some MFB) and an Akai mpk 25 (not sure about the name). He was mostly interested in the patch cables in the red basket…


Weekend Cat Blogging: Luna and Apple

The influence of Apple and Steve Jobs extends deep into this site and into our lives at CatSynth HQ. For today’s Weekend Cat Blogging, we look at a few of the many photos of Luna with Apple computers and devices:

This last photo is one of our many taken with the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone.  Indeed, most of the photos, even those not taken with an iPhone, are processed on a MacBook or Mac Pro.  Nearly all of the writing is done on a MacBook, and occasionally on an iPad.  The technology of Apple has become ubiquitous, even down to blogs featuring cats.

Weekend Cat Blogging #331, is hosted by pam at Sidewalk Shoes, where Smudge says Happy Fall to everyone.

Carnival of the Cats will be up tomorrow at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Regents Lecturer Concert, CNMAT (March 2011)

Today we look back on my solo concert at the Center for New Music Technologies (CNMAT) at U.C. Berkeley back in early March. It was part of my U.C. Regents Lecturer appointment this year, which also included technical talks and guest lectures for classes.

This is one of the more elaborate concerts I have done. Not only did I have an entire program to fill on my own, but I specifically wanted to showcase various technologies related to my past research at CNMAT and some of their current work, such as advanced multi-channel speaker systems. I spent a fair amount of time onsite earlier in the week to do some programming, and arrived early on the day of the show to get things set up. Here is the iPad with CNMAT’s dodecahedron speaker – each face of the dodecahedron is a separate speaker driven by its own audio channel.

[click image for larger view.]

Here is the Wicks Looper (which I had recently acquired) along with the dotara, an Indian string instrument often used in folk music.

[click image for larger view.]

I organized the concert such that the first half was more focused on showcasing music technologies, and the second half on more theatrical live performance. This does not imply that there wasn’t strong musicality in the first half or a lack of technological sophistication in the second, but rather which theme was central to the particular pieces.

After a very generous introduction by David Wessel, I launched into one of my standard improvisational pieces. Each one is different, but I do incorporate a set of elements that get reused. This one began with the Count Basie “Big Band Remote” recording and made use of various looping and resampling techniques with the Indian and Chinese instruments (controlled by monome), the Dave Smith Instruments Evolver, and various iPad apps.

Electroacoustic Improvisation – Regents Lecturer Concert (CNMAT) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The concert included the premier of a new piece that was specifically composed for CNMAT’s impressive loudspeaker resources, the dodecahedron as well as the 8-channel surround system. In the main surround speakers, I created complex “clouds” of partials in an additive synthesizer that could be panned between different speakers for a rich immersive sound. I had short percussive sounds emitted from various speakers on the dodecahedron. I though the effect was quite strong, with the point sounds very localized and spatially separated from the more ambient sounds. In the video, it is hard to get the full effect, but here it is nonetheless:

Realignments – Regents Lecturer Concert, CNMAT from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The piece was implemented in Open Sound World – the new version that primarily uses Python scripts (or any OSC-enabled scripting language) instead of the old graphical user interface. I used TouchOSC on the iPad for real-time control.

I then moved from rather complex experimental technology to a simple and very self-contained instrument, the Wicks Looper, in this improvised piece. It had a very different sound from the software-based pieces in this part of the concert, and I liked the contrast.

The first half of the concert also featured two pieces from my CD Aquatic: Neptune Prelude to Xi and Charmer:Firmament. The original live versions of these pieces used a Wacom graphics tablet controlling OSW patches. I reimplemented them to use TouchOSC on the iPad.

The second half of the concert opened with a duo of myself and Polly Moller on concert and bass flutes. We used one of my graphical score sets – here we went on order from one to the next and interpreted each symbol.

The cat one was particular fun, as Polly emulated the sound of a cat purring. It was a great piece, but unfortunately I do not have a video of this one to share. So we will have to perform it again sometime.

I performed the piece 月伸1 featuring the video of Luna. Each of the previous performances, at the Quickening Moon concert and Omega Sound Fix last year, used different electronic instruments. This time I performed the musical accompaniment exclusively on acoustic grand piano. In some ways, I think it is the strongest of the three performances, with more emotion and musicality. The humor came through as well, though a bit more subtle than in the original Quickening Moon performance.

月伸1 – Video of Luna with Acoustic Grand Piano Improvisation from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The one unfortunate part of the evening came in the final piece. I had originally done Spin Cycle / Control Freak at a series of exchange concerts between CNMAT and CCRMA at Stanford in 2000. I redid the programming for this performance to use the latest version of OSW and TouchOSC on the iPad as the control surface. However, at this point in the evening I could not get the iPad and the MacBook to lock onto a single network together. The iPad could not find the MacBook’s private wireless network, even after multiple reboots of both devices. In my mind, this is actually the biggest problem with using an iPad as a control surface – it requires wireless networking, which seems to be very shaky at times on Apple hardware. It would be nice if they allowed one to use a wired connection via the USB cable. I suppose I should be grateful that this problem did not occur until the final piece, but was still a bit of an embarrassment and gives me pause about using iPad/TouchOSC until I know how to make it more reliable.

On balance, it was a great evening of music even with the misfire at the end. I was quite happy with the audience turnout and the warm reception and feedback afterwards. It was a chance to look back on solo work from the past ten years, and look forward to new musical and technological adventures in the future.

Preparing for tonight’s performance

I will be performing tonight in Oakland at Rooz Cafe (1918 Park Blvd, Oakland, CA) at 7PM tonight. Details below:

A rescheduling of a an old date, remade in Rooz-y glory:

-Zeina Nasr
Emphatic, ethereal vocalisms

-Amar Chaudhary
Complex, articulate solo work with an electronic aesthetic

-Karl Evangelista/Shaun Lowecki/Sean Peterson Trio
-Animated, explosive inside/outside music

I have been busily preparing today with a small setup, similar to one I had planned for January 17:

Once again, I will have the monome controlling the MacBook, primarily for live sampling and looping today. I will be using the dotara, an Indian folk string instrument, as one of the live sample sources. I will also bring a bell and the prayer bowl as live sources. The iPad will be running Curtis, which gets more an more advanced with each upgrade and is becoming a true musical instrument. I will also be using TouchOSC to control Open Sound World, including a brand new implementation of my piece Charmer:Firmament for iPad, replacing the retired Wacom graphics tablet. This is a dry run for the big concert next Friday (March 4), so we’ll see out it goes.

I had been hoping a new contact mic would arrive today – I am considering that for March 4 as well – but of course FedEx showed up just while I was out at an important art-related meeting, so I missed it and they are the one courier that won’t leave things. So I will be using an ordinary mic once again for the live sampling/looping – maybe it’s for the best.

Update: Just as I finished posting this article, a package arrived.  Not the contact microphone, but it was an exciting new toy, the Wicks Looper.

You see previous CatSynth pics and videos with this and related devices via this link (the cat in most of these is also named Luna). I have been considering getting one these for a while, and the current run of performances provided the impetus.  Although I have not yet played it, I am seriously tempted to try it out for tonight’s set.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

CatSynth pic: CatBook

We take a break from our NAMM backlog for a cat-and-synth pic this Tuesday. From Kids at Midnight, via matrixsynth:

Arthur interrupts work on the latest tune, finding the laptop a nice warm place to settle down. He once changed the preferences on my Pro Tools with his arse and it took me about a month of fiddling and a call to a help desk to get it back to normal. Cat hair can also be a problem at the Kids At Midnight HQ. Shall be pooling our money and investing in a Dustbuster …

Preparing for performances next week.

With two performances coming up, next Thursday and Saturday, we at CatSynth are very busy preparing. Actually, it’s more crisis management. Luna’s serene appearance belies the fact that we at CatSynth are dealing with serious equipment failures. First, the Mr Echo pedal has been having its problems. It was mostly an issue with the power jack, which I was able to repair. But after an evening of fantastic practice and experimentation, it stopped working again. This time the power appears to be fine, but now there is no sound.

In the middle of all of this, our MacBook had a serious hard drive failure – or least that what it appears to be. One moment, we’re happily web browsing, the next a spinning pinwheel of death (SWOD), and after a forced reboot it simply will not come up.

I am of course doing my best to continue preparing for the show. I am shifting the focus to other pieces of equipment, and using the old PC laptop. Although now the PC, which is old and slow under the best circumstances, appears to also have some hard-drive issues.

Oh yeah, and I hear the entire world was having some financial difficulties last week.

It’s a good thing Luna is here for comfort and stability, We will also try and visit Weekend Cat Blogging with Salome and Astrid. And the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos with Sammy and Miles Meezer. And the Carnival of the Cats at My Big Fat Orange Cat.

Meanwhile, I’m on my way to a local music store, and probably the Apple Store as well, for a little help.

UPDATE: As of Monday evening, the pedal is working again. But the MacBook is out for repair.