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New York Times Ad Model (2002), MSPaintbrush drawing
Too Much Failure Around Here
Inspired by Gary Wicker's tribute to his "failed" old school techno group x-eleven, Paul Slocum of Tree Wave pulled out his tapes of techno music he made in the '90s and posted some tracks here. The following excerpt from "v tide" is one of my favorite bits from the page: [mp3 removed]. Slocum thinks it's "standard minimal house" but not everyone can make a good track. I give it an "A" for the vocal physics (minced Diana Ross) and the organ stab that kind of drops out in the middle like a sampler memory error even though it probably isn't. This is pretty sublime music, and people need to stop talking about stuff being failed. Slightly off topic, Chris Ashley recently shrank a perfectly good, Stephen Westfall-ish HTML drawing with non-contiguous linear elements because he said it was failed and that's just ridiculous. Below: one of Ashley's HTML compositions installed in a virtual gallery.
The odious Quiz Show ran on Turner Classic Movies last night. (More on why it's odious below.) During a crucial scene a Congressional investigator played by Rob Morrow (wha' happened to him?) interviews Martin Scorsese as the slimy CEO of Geritol. Normally TCM doesn't bleep dialogue but at the scene's climax the actors' voices started cutting out! "Are you saying that [silence] did [silence]?" "Yes [silence] and then NBC [silence]" is how I remember it. Forgive the paranoia but the movie is about how a little-guy prosecutor went up against Big TV and Big Corporate America in the '50s and lost big. The truth supposedly didn't finally come out till '94 when the brave Robert Redford exposed it--is someone sweeping something back under the rug?
The movie is odious because it's Richard Goodwin's cheap revenge. Goodwin is the prosecutor Morrow plays; he also co-produced the film. In real life he had no evidence that NBC bigwigs paid off a quiz show contestant not to blab that the show was rigged. He couldn't legally tie the top brass to the corruption, so 40 years later he has hugely influential movie star and hack director Redford invent a scene where NBC's president asks the contestant to lie (Redford also significantly enlarged Goodwin's role in the investigation, apparently). The movie exudes smug righteousness but of course it's just one arm of the mediatainment monopoly pretending to police the others. "Look at us, we used to be a cesspool but now we're not!"
The direction and high production values suck you in and keep you watching; too bad Redford doesn't trust the audience to interpret what's going on. He packs the mise en scene with reaction shots of Morrow's boyishly handsome face looking skeptical, disappointed, mad--closeup after closeup as the story unfolds. Ron Howard does this too in his movies, and it's just infantile. I know it's the TV influence, but yuck. Also, speaking of Scorsese, The Aviator features a "sitting around the dinner table with pretentious, eccentric old-money Connecticut WASPs" scene almost identical to the one in this movie.
Stephen Malinowski has posted streaming vids of his Music Animation Machine, a program he developed independently in the '80s using DOS while the music and graphic worlds changed all around him. Fans of Oskar Fischinger, the pioneer, art Deco music animator hired and fired for Disney's Fantasia, and Edward Tufte, the design guru who stresses clean, logical presentation of visual information, should both be impressed by this project. Compositions by Bach, Beethoven, etc. slowly scroll left to right in a notation that looks like a MIDI editing grid, reduced to a range of basic colors against a black field. Malinowksi highlights the parts playing in the present in the center of the field, so the eye can easily follow all the melody lines. The project is intended to give the viewer an intuitive sense of what's happening in music, ostensibly for educational purposes, but the scrolls are also artworks on the synesthetic frontier, tickling those synapses where musical and visual pleasure responses precisely overlap. Only one of the videos posted is Malinowski's own music, and it hints at creative possibilities for his medium beyond just animating the old masters. Somewhere to the right of the screen shot here a dense Lego-like clump scrolls by for just about as long as the ear wants to hear pure Lego, before returning to the tonal main theme. The deliberate push-pull between melody and abstraction, and between audial and ocular expectations, is territory that ought to be explored more. (Hat tip for the link to Cory Arcangel, whose own work deals with similar issues on an aggressive, cinematic scale, and with electro instead of Beethoven.)
I've decided all my music is going to be under a minute now.
"Mister Arkadin" [mp3 removed] (with fadeout) / [mp3 removed] (loop)
Some may snicker at the news that Thomas Dolby has become a high paid ringtone producer: the articles I read dismissed him as a one-hit wonder from the '80s fallen on hard times. Yeah, I guess that's the case if you buy into media-driven, late capitalist notions of success. One could see it differently: that The Golden Age of Wireless (the LP that preceded his hit EP by a year or so) is as original as Bowie's Hunky Dory and will continue to be listened to for its soulful melodies, smart lyrics and innovative synth programming (to the extent the tech is dated it's interestingly dated), and as for the ringtones, assuming they're original compositions, he just found another way for companies to mass-distribute his art. You can hear incipient ringtones all through Golden Age, for example, the opening bars of "Flying North" and "Cloudburst at Shingle Street."
The Senate confirmed Alberto "Electrodes" Gonzales as Attorney General of the U.S. today. 6 Democrats crossed over to join the Republicans in endorsing torture as the official policy of the U.S.: Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Ken Salazar, and "Holy Joe" Lieberman. Way to go, guys!
The good news, as daily Kos sees it, is that "36 Dems in total made a principled stand against torture and voted 'no.' That's a huge victory, and yet additional evidence of that spinal transplant we've been hoping for."
In the '50s, a time of postwar optimism and faith in science, there was Hi-Fi. In the '90s, an era of slackers and diminished expectations, there was Lo-Fi. In the '00s, a time of neanderthal government and outright contempt for the arts, there is Neg-Fi. A watershed moment in the history of art and music--some might say sub-nadir--was reached tonight when this New York noise-rock duo demonstrated its Wireless UFDs (uncontrollable feedback devices) to an audience of 100 or so at Dorkbot-NYC. Walkie talkies from the dollar store have been reinstalled in custom cardboard cases. When placed in proximity to each other and turned on, they make squealing and static noises. And that's about it!
Neg-Fi's cassettes and art objects are available through La Superette, which is currently having a Valentines' Day sale. Also on the Dorkbot program tonight were Aaron Yassin, who digitally assembles plein air photos of architecture into seductive tiled patterns reminiscent of Islamic mosaics and Gothic stained glass, and Jason Freeman, who recently had a piece performed at Carnegie Hall in which an orchestra played notes based on the rate at which concertgoers turned on and off glow sticks. The somber 20th Century classical sounds made by the players, reading from a score digitally translating from the blinking lights, seemed even more sedate considering the stick-waving rave taking place in the audience.
UPDATE: The Neg-Fi photos have been brightened up. In true neg-fi spirit they lost some detail, but they are less dingy and yellow now.