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Music Diary (some blabbery first-person musings previously posted were boiled down to the following):
The advantages of software synthesizers are being able to jettison gear and "stuff," use the biggest possible graphic interface to design music more visually, and access new sound making tools as they are developed via the Net, as opposed to just downloading samples. The key to using so-called native instruments is to have your eyes open about their agendas and limitations and if the music is going to sound "off the shelf," try to put brackets around it so people know what you're doing, even if they don't know what you're doing. As a result of being more softsynthian, won't the music produced around here sound increasingly like those bits of tuneful ambient e________a played between stories on NPR (assuming they still do that--it's been a while)? Yes, probably, but I'm at peace with that, I think.
By the way, the titular bleat in the "drum and bass" track "Little Shrieker" was a field recording of a woodchuck, distorted, slowed down, and played backward in Kontakt. I'm proud of that good bad noise, whatever anyone else thinks of it.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is frequently annoying when she does her too-clever pairings of the foibles of world figures ("Saddam was found hiding in a hole; Bush has one in his head..." WHATEVER). She's better when she just does straight criticism of an Administration that is demonstrably screwed up beyond all recognition. Like today:
Even if his suave statesmanship were not so perfectly suited to high-level diplomacy, [John] Bolton should still get the [UN] job. A ruthless ogre who tried to fire intelligence analysts who disagreed with his attempts to stretch the truth on foreign weapons programs deserves to be rewarded as other Bush officials have been.Our fellow Americans, who so trustingly voted this Administration back in six months ago, are wising up, it seems. According to a recent Gallup poll, 50% of us now admit Bush actively lied about Iraq WMD. Whether we give a crap is another issue, but that's an encouraging statistic. Obviously the number would be much higher if Wolf Blitzer, et al, hadn't also lied. They knew all that WMD talk was a crock--any smart person did--but they just wanted to see things blow up good on their teevee programs.
After all, he was in sync with the approach of Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Stephen Hadley and Bob Joseph - who were all up for big jobs after they torqued up intelligence to fit the White House's theological beliefs.
Condi breezed into the secretary of state job, even after she helped Dick Cheney gin up the Iraq war, ignoring reports debunking the notion of Iraqi nuclear tubes, and even after she told Congress she'd shrugged at the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily brief headlined "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
Mr. Wolfowitz was eager to sell the war, ignoring predictions of insurgency and possible civil war. So he and Donald Rumsfeld left our troops so stretched and vulnerable that they were reduced to using cardboard cutouts to stand sentry, and to jury-rigging Humvees that had not been properly armored, resulting in many lost limbs and lives.
So Mr. Wolfowitz now has the prestigious job of World Bank president.
George Tenet presided over the two biggest intelligence failures in modern history. He slam-dunked a Medal of Freedom out of them.
Jerry Saltz has a piece on artnet about the Artforum online diary. I looked at that journal, mostly chronicling who went to what opening after-party, a couple of times, got a creeped-out feeling and didn't go back. I understand the art world is suffering the influx of "Bush millionaires" who are chasing increasingly younger artists, but I'm removed from that process, in the sense that I'm not really a working critic these days who has to follow the nuances professionally, the way Saltz does. I'm confident the whole schmear will implode soon enough. I can relate to Saltz's story about giving a crit to the kid who'd just been picked up by a gallery, though, mainly as a viewer: I can tick off many reasons why I don't think, say, Julie Mehretu's work is "there" yet* but she's already been canonized by the gallery process--to the extent of having million-dollar lawsuits over the value of her art! This is real tulip mania stuff and I just can't get too concerned about it.
Jesse mentioned the Saltz article in connection with my rant about the "slow dimension" and the art world's stubborn refusal to get the internet. An alternative model for art production and critique will likely continue to grow in cyberspace while the art world bogs down in stuff that doesn't matter. The problem with the AF diary is it doesn't address ideas--it uses a kind of fake blog format to chronicle the personalities and flow of money, which is mildly interesting, but sort of a waste of a good medium. It's going to take a generation dying off before real substantive change occurs in the way art is made and consumed.
*Pointlessly busy, doesn't know what to leave out yet, murky content (is it really ethnic/political or is that all in the press release?), derivative of Matthew Ritchie, etc. etc...
The castlezzt.net guy has a blog now. He's posting under the name "Jack Masters." Interesting pictures, funny/surreal descriptions of dreams, wry philosophical musings, including thoughts on Excel charts that make me suspect a connection to the IT industry (who else would care about Excel?). He's been updating castlezzt, too, and I guess it was inevitable given the cost of bandwidth that "the mile long web page" has been broken into multiple pages.
Update: Jim says the computer monitor arch appeared on Gizmodo and has been making the rounds. They didn't credit it either. The image below is also good, no idea where he (Masters) got it:
AMC (The American Movie Classics channel on cable) ran an ad for a documentary they produced about the post-release editing of Hollywood content to remove "offensive" language and scenes. Didn't see the documentary, so I don't know whether the culprits were local TV stations, fundamentalist Christian-owned tech businesses or some combination. Either way, the outrage from people in the interview clips they showed led me to believe AMC thinks the practice is bad. Well, this is a howler coming from that channel, which up until 2001 or so showed movies intact, but now edits them for language and Orson knows what else.
A couple of examples of AMC's own practices:
Trivial (but still egregious): In David E. Kelley's weird horror comedy Lake Placid, about a 30-foot crocodile living in a Maine lake (an obvious homage to the young John Sayles), Betty White plays a crazy woman who has been feeding her cows to the croc for five years, treating it as a combination pet and pagan God to be appeased. The sublime Brendan Gleeson as a local cop confronts her at one point and the erstwhile Golden Girl ripostes, "If I had a dick this is where I'd tell you to suck it." OK, it's not all that funny but it's really not funny when "dick" becomes "____" and you still see her mouth moving.
Ahistorical and evil: One of the revelations of the Watergate years was that Nixon had a guy on his reelection campaign payroll named Donald Segretti, whose specialty was "ratfucking"--little dirty tricks like distributing flyers for opposing campaign events that never happen, releasing smears and rumors about the other guy etc. Part of America's fall from innocence in the '70s was learning that people at the very top thought and talked that way. Karl Rove, Bush's so-called brain, got his start in that campaign, so knowing about the practice and how sleazy these people are is still completely relevant. Anyway, to wrap this up, when AMC ran All the President's Men this bit of actual history was airbrushed to "rat____ing."
The "happy little E-tune" posted previously ([mp3 removed]--eventually it'll get a real title) is reinterpreted here on the SidStation synth: mp3 removed]. Also working on an extended remix of the Sid version, with drums, etc.
This version has more of that "videogame sound" because the Sid is built around the old Commodore SID chip. The machine isn't truly polyphonic: it has 3 oscillators and a kind of step designer feature called "wave table synthesis" that can be used to write multi-voice songs, but I haven't burrowed into that yet. One person who has is Jotsif, who posted some fine tunes on this Elektron Instruments forum thread.
If you don't use wave tables, in order to play several melodic parts simultaneously you have to "overdub" them, in a sequencer, as separate digital audio tracks. This is a pain in the ass (but not as much of a pain in the ass as programming wave tables on a 2 inch LCD screen). The above .mp3 is played with the following presets, in ascending order of pitch: Velobass, Killer, Cutting Lead, and Vengasynth.
Update: I took down the Sid performance I originally posted here and substituted another take, where the Sid-playing is run through the Mutator. It's a bit prettier that way. The non-Sid happy e-tune I posted first (with the electric piano) is much better, I know, I just like hearing how different instruments change the exact same melodies.
The news from Iraq, our new colony, upkeep of which will have cost Americans $300 billion after the next round of funding goes through (that's a lot of money), has not been good this month. After the White House's "pictures of people smiling and holding up purple fingers" public relations coup, my sense is that everyone, taking their cues from the media, just turned off news from there--"OK they have a democracy now, good, Bush is looking after us and will get us cheap oil, now let's get back to Michael and the boys." (I say "my sense" because I turn on the TV and as soon as I see someone with a suit and poofy hair sitting behind a desk--which is always--I say "I have nothing in common with these people" and testily switch off.) I get my Iraq news from omnibus sites such as Juan Cole, Today in Iraq, and Steve Gilliard's News Blog, which are combing sources other than the US media, which largely dispenses happy talk and administration spin (however, a lot of those sites' material also comes from the back pages of US newspapers). The news is, it's a goddamn slaughterhouse over there.* The Sunni Arabs held power for some 60 years and they're not going to give it up easily to a Shiite-Kurd government. And they have tons of arms and ammo because the US didn't destroy the dumps after the invasion. Evidently Rumsfeld, et al, wanted our pet exiles (Chalabi, et al) to have access to the ordnance to police the country after we handed it over to them. Bush will not give a straight answer to the question: Are we building permanent bases in Iraq or not? I think we have to assume they are. Meanwhile, our volunteer army is being ground down by too much combat without a break. Are these costs worth it so we can control Iraq's oil? Is that the "real world" Cheney and the Neocons say we're living in? Those are the questions we should be discussing.
*" Dozens of bodies found floating in the Tigris river, a nearly successful assassination attempt on interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, yet another lethal car bomb attack (there've been more than 20 in the past week in Baghdad alone), and a civilian helicopter shot down, reportedly culminating in an execution." --per Salon
Sometimes you just feel like sitting down at your electric piano, plugging in that wah-wah pedal, and knocking out a happy little E-tune: [mp3 removed].