Please Mister Please

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes, “Rock’n’Roll Is Where I Hide” (1995).
(5’51”, 5.46 MB, mp3)

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Tuesday 6 May 2008


Clear Space

Monday 5 May 2008

The general idea is to get some more content onto the webpage over the next few weeks before doing the show in Melbourne. So far, the music page has been rejigged a little in preparation for some new stuff, and the blog’s template is being dicked around with as of now. Name and subject indices have been updated to the end of April.

Magnificent Bastards

Saturday 3 May 2008

23 November 2003: I decide to make some music as quickly as possible. I open Scala, a program which generates and analyses musical scales, and ic, an I Ching simulator Andrew Culver wrote for John Cage.
In imitation of Warren Burt’s 39 Dissonant Etudes, I decide to make eight one-minute pieces, each using different microtonal equal temperament scales. Equal temperament scales, including today’s standard Western 12-tone scale, have a sort of left-side-of-the-brain organisational logic to them, but otherwise have no harmonic sense. I like the idea of using the sophisticated algorithms of Scala to make obtuse, inelegant scales.

Scala has an on-screen virtual keyboard, which lets you play directly with the scale you’ve just created. Rather than impose any compositional system, I go against my usual musical tendencies and improvise on the virtual keyboard, using the computer keyboard and mouse. The unfamiliar user interface, tuning, and piano keyboard layouts mitigate any musical facility I may have acquired over the years.
I record 24 improvisations, each one exactly one minute long. Each improvisation is recorded in a single take, without rehearsal or revision. Each improvisation is played in a different scale, ranging from 6 tones per octave to 29 tones per octave.
For my instruments, I use Gort’s Midget, a bank of synthesiser patches which take up a total of just 2 kilobytes of memory. Midget has 12 patches, so I can use each one for two different scales. The choice of which patch to play which sale is decided by ic.
I also use ic to select which improvisations should be overdubbed, to create composite pieces. The result is a suite of eight one-minute pieces for one to six instruments, in various clashing tonalities…

Each mp3 is about half a megabyte of memory.
1. Lento. | 2. Semplice. | 3. Allegro giocoso.| 4. Andante mystico.| 5. Grave, mesto.| 6. Leggiero.| 7. Tranquillo.| 8. Intensivo.

New Show! Redrawing

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Next month I’m presenting my piece String Quartet No.2 (Canon in Beta) in a new version, as an installation in the group exhibition Redrawing, at RMIT’s Project Space in Melbourne. With works by Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Fiona Macdonald, Thérèse Mastroiacovo, and Spiros Panigirakis. Curated by Fiona Macdonald.
The show runs from Friday 6 June to Friday 27 June 2008; opening night is Thursday 5 June, 5 – 7 pm. Hope you can make it. There will also be a floor talk by me and some (all?) of the other artists on Thursday 12 June 12 – 1 pm, followed by a thrilling live performance of the String Quartet.
As you might have guessed from the above blurb, my piece will fit in very nicely with the show’s premise of redrawing, of imitation as a creative practice. More to come about the show over the next few weeks.
Also also, while I’m in Melbourne it looks like I’ll be playing another live gig, at Horse Bazaar on Wednesday 11 June. More about that one soon, too.

Please Mister Please

Monday 28 April 2008

And, “A Bigger Dim Sim” (2002?).
(2’58”, 2.67 MB, mp3)

Tristram Cary

Monday 28 April 2008

More bad news: Tristram Cary has died at home in Adelaide, aged 82. One of the first generation of electronic composers, Cary was a co-developer of the legendary VCS3 synthesiser but, as these things so often go, he’s best remembered as one of the first composers on early episodes of Doctor Who.
Music Thing has a great video about Cary and his cohort, including archival footage of the man strolling round his studio filled with arcane electronic equipment while contentedly puffing on his pipe. There’s also a geeky-cool photo of a VCS3-shaped birthday cake.
I’ve just realised I don’t have any recordings of Cary’s music. Warren Burt has written a substantial review of a number of his pieces on the 2CD retrospective Soundings, giving some idea of the breadth and depth of Cary’s musical thinking.

Henry Brant

Sunday 27 April 2008

Just found out via ANABlog that radical composer Henry Brant has just died, aged 94. Brant was one of the pioneers of spatialised music, using ecelctic instrumentation playing in diverse genres. Kyle Gann has posted a brief appreciation of Brant:

He was a phenomenally creative figure, though one hard to wrap one’s ears around, because his specialty was spatial music; his works, often involving multiple ensembles separated by distance, were too enormous to stage often, and recordings hardly do them justice.

My one CD of Brant’s music includes his 1970 work Kingdom Come, for two orchestras. The sleeve notes suggest that the disc be played with the left speaker in front of you, the right speaker placed behind and above you, to simulate the experience of sitting in the stalls, with one orchestra playing on stage, the other in the balcony. I still haven’t heard Orbits, for 80 trombones, organ, and sopranino.
ANABlog has an mp3 of “Battles of Gods”, the opening movement of his 1985 epic Northern Lights Over the Twin Cities. The Other Minds Archive has a bunch of performances and interviews, including the massive Meteor Farm for two sopranos, three South Indian performers, two choruses, West African chorus, jazz band, gamelan, and two percussion ensembles – each group plays from a different physical location, playing music in their respective idiomatic style. A transcript and audio of a 2002 interview is on the American Mavericks site.

If you listen to engineers, they talk about surround sound and all this kind of stuff, but the space doesn’t record. The way I started out to attempt to do this in the early ’50s was I’d have four tape recorders. In those days the play back and the tape recorder were in one box all together. So I’d record separate tapes without trying to mix them. I’d feed one through each tape recorder, separate them in the room, and start one and the next one. It had to be lined up so that it can start 15 seconds later; rush from one to the other. I got a truer kind of spatial recording than the fancy stuff they do now with mixing and a 140 tracks all mixing the same thing. I don’t know how many speakers, but all the stuff was coming out of all of them. Well, that’s the most that recordings have been able to do.
Recordings are clearer now, but the recording of space is no further than it ever was.

News from the Pavilion

Thursday 24 April 2008

Last month I wrote about the AADRL TEN Pavilion which was under construction around the corner from where I work, and which was due to open 13 March. Well, the fence around the construction site finally came down sometime in the past week.

After the cyclone fence, pallets and assorted rubbish was cleared away, the pavilion was roped off for a few days until the punters were finally allowed to play with it. The unemployed barrier poles are still loitering around a nearby lamppost, conspiring.

The pavilion still isn’t quite unfettered: a warning sign has been propped up at either end of the edifice. Someone’s gone to a bit of trouble to make those signs.

With hindsight this problem should have been obvious, although I admit that my lifestyle is so sedentary it never occurred to me during construction that the pavilion would make an excellent jungle gym.
As it stands, it’s an irresistable attraction for the urban thrillseeker. I have a couple of friends who, after an evening of drinking, would habitually become seized by a desire to go climbing things. One night in Melbourne they attempted to conquer the dome of the Royal Exhibition Building. The relatively low height and plentiful footholds of this pavilion make it just too tempting.

Ghost Sites and Grey Areas

Monday 21 April 2008

I got another email from an artist asking to exhibit in my gallery. This happens to me roughly twice a year. I don’t have an art gallery – have never had one; but ten years ago I was friends with some people who ran an art gallery.

They were a bunch of artists who had just graduated from RMIT and had found some studio space above the Port Phillip Arcade in Melbourne. It was a quiet, out-of-the-way arcade, the type full of stores selling things like telescopes, cake decorations, old stamps and coins. As part of the lease my friends also scored an unused shop in the arcade, which they turned into an exhibition space named Grey Area, after the dingy linoleum tiles on the floor. At first they just exhibited their own works, but soon opened the place up to other emerging artists.
One of the studio artists, who was (brace yourself) on the dole, started learning web design and HTML as part of a government job training scheme, so she used her time to design a website for Grey Area. I let her put my email address on the site as a contact point, because she didn’t have her own email address, not even on Hotmail.
None of the other dozen or so recent fine arts graduates who were running the studios had an email address either; or a computer, for that matter. Was this the last generation of people to come out of University without ever having an email address?
When the web design course finished work on the site slowed down, and then in early 1999 the collective was wound up, with the studios and exhibition space passed on to another group of artists. The website, however, lives on, undeleted, untouched for ten years. The only reminders I get that it’s still there, is when I get an email from out of the blue from some hopeful soul wondering if the place is still active in real life.
The website itself is a real, dusty museum piece of mid-Nineties design, complete with a tilde in the URL and a splash page with the legend, “This site requires Netscape 3, Internet Explorer 3 or better. It is best viewed with your screen set at 800 x 600 and with images and javascript turned on.”
The site gives a pretty much complete list of everybody who exhibited there during Grey Area’s lifetime (a typo on the calendar page says “1999” instead of “1998”), and some of the shows were even documented with a few online photos before time ran out. I wonder if it will last another ten years?

Please Mister Please

Saturday 19 April 2008

Jas Duke, “California Love Story” (for Ann Moon) (1972?). Music by The Necks.
(9’18”, 8.86 MB, mp3)

Yes, but which Dalai Lama?

Saturday 19 April 2008

It’s only a student newspaper but even so, the Columbia Spectator has just published one of the greatest lapses in fact-checking for the decade and, subsequently, one of the greatest retractions of all time:

The submission misstates that one Dalai Lama admitted to having sex with hundreds of men and women while knowing that he had AIDS. Additionally, the submission misstates that many monks participated in the dismemberment of female bodies. In fact, there is no factual evidence to substantiate either of these claims. Spectator regrets the error.

(Found at Regret the Error.)

Countdown to Eurovision: Dogs and Cats Living Together, Mass Hysteria

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Entering a singing turkey puppet into the Eurovision Song Contest may have seemed pretty wacky but that’s just peanuts compared to the French this year: for the first time ever, their Eurovision song will be sung partly in English.
The French have a history of complaining loud and long about other countries singing in English, and of demanding new rules that each country should sing only in “its native language” (yay for monoculture!), so this abrupt volte-face is surprising, to say the least; the most surprising part being the implication that the French actually want to win this year.
Chauvinistic Frenchmen are, naturally, outraged:

François-Michel Gonnot, an MP in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, said he was shocked by the choice. “Our fellow citizens don’t understand why France is giving up defending its language in front of hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world,” he said.

I give fifty-fifty odds on the autoroutes being blockaded by angry truck drivers dumping their loads of Sebastién Tellier CDs.
Of course the French won’t win, whether they sing in English or not, because they’re hated by the rest of Europe almost as much as the British. Perhaps if Carla Bruni were persuaded to enter Eurovision…

The Big Book of Bentham

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Two packages arrived in the mail today: one big, one small. The big one was the scanner I’d ordered, but the little one was a mystery until I realised it was probably that book from the University of Wales Press, which it indeed turned out to be. So, putting the two together:

Filler By Proxy LXIII: Twelve Going On Sixty

Monday 14 April 2008

Have you noticed I’m busy with Other Things lately? Soon, some of these things will be revealed, but in the meantime you’ll have to put up with me linking to stuff like The Guardian, which is publishing daily extracts from The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith‘s autobiography Renegade. The opening sentence suggests Smith has a pretty good handle on himself:

Twelve going on 60 – that’s what people used to say about me: a 12-year-old wanting to be a 60-year-old man. I couldn’t stand music when I was that age. I hated it, thought it was vaguely effeminate. Music to me was something your sisters did. And I couldn’t stand my sisters.

The links at the end of the page are worth a bit of a look too. Hey up! Second extract’s online now; although in this one he’s reverting more to a standard grumpy old bloke. With fashion advice.