Friday, February 22, 2008

Farewell, and thanks for everything....

I know we're long past the point in our cultural history when information is thought to reside primarily in texts, but that's how it is for me - even trying to think about certain kinds of practice or ideas summons to mind a book for me even more often than I think of a person.

So it's almost impossible to imagine analog synthesis without seeing a copy of Allen Strange's book Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls in my hand, all dog eared and the non-acid-free pages doing their color-changing thing. But today I'm thinking about the man who wrote it - Allen Strange. I'm greatly saddened by the news of his recent passing from among us.

It's often the case that, as a reader or listener, you form an image of the person who made the object of your attention. I think we are always doing that, in some way or other, or it's possible that this is one of the tendencies that marks me as a dinosaur in the new century/Dispensation - that desire to embody things as people. While my life is strewn with the debris resulting from the discovery that the person I imagined was kinder or more generous or decent or less [articulate in your favorite source of disappointment here], my own limited encounters with him were always a pleasure. I remember him as being nicer to me than his books were, and he really had nothing to gain from being particularly charitable to me. Maybe that's why I'm sad - I am afraid that this quality is a threatened natural resource.

Here is a live recording of Allen with one of the live ensembles he worked with - Biome. It's from the 70s, four Synthis.

The thing in the midst of this that made me smile is the following comment in the guestbook where I read the notice of Allen's death, and it seems the proper note to close this on.

silver lining:
God's Buchla will finally be patched correctly.
let the thunder roll

Thursday, February 21, 2008

When we say "winter in Wisconsin," this is what we mean....

When I talk about living here in Madison, I almost always include some kind of caveat about having four card-carrying seasons, and mention that the middle of January can be brutally cold. This week has been what I'm talking about. Owing to the weekend's particular sequence of ice/warming/rain/cooling/snow/even more cooling, my shoveling blog would be about venturing outside to scrape confectioner's sugar out from around the slush tracks now rendered into dinosaur footprints. Although we are reportedly venturing into the "It might warm up as high as the freezing point of water...." range this coming weekend, the temp swing yesterday was more in the character-building 15 below to 5 above range. I could do with a bit less character.

I have some things to keep me warm, however - a pair of reissues from Carl Stone (his very first recording ever Woo Lae Oak, the arrival of the second revised edition of Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings that includes a bunch of source images I haven't seen (Yes, I've actually run the thing for long enough the first time out that I actually recognize the new images) and some new audio source material (which will be familiar to people who are familiar with the processed voice material that shows up in installation recordings such as Music for Civic Recovery Centre or the soundtrack project Music for Onmyo-Ji). In case you missed it the first time, it's worth considering picking up a copy.

The other recent companion has been the new Autechre outing Quaristice, which hits the streets as a physical object the first week of March but is available as a FLAC download or MP3 download right now. There's a lot here to digest, but I really like the range and breadth of the work.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I could have found a great way to blog that didn't involve my anxiety at having such a boring life and not being a very interesting person: I could have written about shoveling snow - according to the student newspaper for the University at which my wife teaches, there have been 41 shoveling opportunities since 1 December.

Last night after midnight, we got a coating of ice, which warmed before dawn. Hard going? You betcha. But the rain did this weird thing where there was a layer of warm water below the coating of ice on the car. When you tapped the windshield with a scraper, it cracked and slid right off the glass or the car.

No point in shoveling - it's a hockey rink with several inches of water on the ice. And the story is that it's going to start snowing on top of this sometime this afternoon. This will almost certainly mean 40-pound shovelfulls of sodden snow. I may forsake the new Nick Bartsch's Ronin release on ECM Holon [its loose-limbed minimalist improv is perfect for walk shovelling] for something loud and snotty [old Oasis? It's the right snarl, even if I hardly ever listen to it]. We'll see. I now regret trading in the Zamboni for our little hybrid.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

6 months of non-silence....

If you think that your personal phobias, hysteria, and foibles are not so interesting that everyone in the world is dying to know about them, blogging can be a real dark night of the soul. What is worth saying?

That you're content in ways that were unimaginable back when you were a child and assumed you'd grow up to be inexplicably tall and blond and living in a domed city with a flying car?

That seems to go without saying, since one is really talking about the texture of areal life. Some textural elements:

We're breaking the record for the most snowfall in a Madison winter ever.

My little group with fellow laptopper Brad Garton and mandolinist Terry Pender is going great guns. You can find some live recordings of gigs here and here and here and here.

We're also performing at the upcoming Spark Festival in Minneapolis, which is always an absolutely warm and wonderful time. This is also an opportunity to reconstitute a trio with my percussionist friend Tom Hamer and visualist extraordinaire Mark Henrikson for a gig at the Nomad World Pub, which I'm really excited about.

Jeff Kaiser and I have released a duet recording together as The Desert Fathers - quartertone trumpet and laptops. I'm very proud of it. We had a chance to play together again at the annual International Society for Improvised Music's get-together at Northwestern U. in December.

And on the home front, work on the next major release of Cycling '74's Max - Max 5 - is coming to fruition. I look forward to seeing this enter the world.

RTQE is going strong, with the best of 2007 list up, and new work arriving on a regular basis. It's such a pleasure to do the program. I'm so lucky.