Category Archives: 2008

Blakes 9 (2009)

[play]Blakes 9 (2008-9)

I’ve been working on this piece for over a year and it’s time to say it’s done.

The inspiration to start this piece came from two sources. One was that I watched the TV show Blakes 7 and thought it had great incidental music. And the other was that I briefly dated a poet who had a thing for the number 9.

I recorded a loop of synthesized sounds that seemed to go with the sounds on the show, and then I came up with a cutup algorithm that broke it into pieces based on a 9-feeling. But that wasn’t enough, so I added in some glitching. But that wasn’t enough, so I added in another section, and so it grew in an ungainly way, until it filled 80 speakers and was premiered as an N-channel piece at a BEAST concert at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham in June 2009.

Then I spent the summer mixing it down to 2 channels, while trying to prevent it from getting muddy. I won’t lie, it sounds better with more channels, but the stereo version is ok. If you have a subwoofer, it’s even better.

If you happen to have a speaker array of 8 channels or, really, any number of channels and you think you might want to present this piece, please contact me.


Shorts #28: Untitled

[play] Shorts: #28 Untitled (2008)

Commissioned and (un)titled by Cecile Moochnek

I wasn’t looking for a commission when I walked into the Cecile Moochnek Gallery on 4th Street in Berkeley. I was looking to do Christmas shopping. But I got talking to the gallery owner about art and music and she asked me to write her a short piece. This was in December of 2007. I wrote the piece in 2008, but didn’t hear back about a title and got busy with other things. Until today when inquiring about a title for a new commission, I realized this one had never been posted.

I made this piece with a Evenfall MiniModular Synthesizer. This was a all-in-one box modular synthesizer from the 1990’s. It’s a great little synth.


Blake’s 9 – draft

[play]Blake’s 9 (2008)

This piece has changed significantly since I first posted it and a newer version has since been posted.

I recently watched the entirety of the TV series Blake’s 7. Like all BBC science fiction productions of it’s era, the incidental music and sound effects are outstanding. The background hums, the computer whirrs and the ominous notes create a mood and a sense of place that is alien. After watching several of the episodes, I went home and created a patch on my MOTM synthesizer which seemed to perfectly capture a progression of mood as it might appear in an episode with Avon creeping along with a ray gun, infiltrating a Federation base.

However, as nice as patch was, with it’s 4 minute long loop, it wasn’t a piece. And there wasn’t an obvious way to make it become one. It was too complex and had too much character to mix, but not enough to stand on it’s own. I let it sit for weeks and thought about other things, specifically, a beat generation algorithm that was going nowhere. And then I met a poet who is obsessed with divisions / groups of 9.

I set my beat maker to 9, and then I thought of using it as a an organizational principle for cutting, rather than a way to make cheesy drum loops. I used it to cut my loop to sections and then into grains. Then I played back the grains in groups of 9, to make measures of 9 beats. In order to add some pitch variety, I changed the speed of playback of the grains, with rates of 1, 27/25, 9/7, 7/9, 25/27, a few intervals in a just version of the Bohlen Pierce scale. This scale uses 3’s instead of octaves, so the ratios have multiples of 3 where you would expect powers of two for more traditional scales.

This is a work in progress and may go on to be an installation or gain additional movements or neither or both.


Nice to See You

[play]Nice to See You by No More Twist (2008)

No More Twist is a new duo of Polly Moller and I. We played this improvised set live on KFJC on 17 July 2008. She was on flute(s) and noisemakers and I played a live sampling application (written in SuperCollider). We were featured to promote the Edgetone New Music Summit. We will be playing there on Wednesday (23 July 2008), where we will be premiering a piece called “Inquisition.” It’s going to have Polly hooked up to a lie detector that I built and I’ll be interpreting her biometric data as she answers questions posed by the audience.

This piece here, however, has text from a long spam email and uses the latest iteration of my SC program SimpleSample.


Joystick Intermezzo

[play]Joystick Intermezzo (2008)

All of my SuperCollider pieces require several silent seconds to clear existing memory, pre-compute data and load joystick drivers. I find it helpful in many circumstances to play short tape pieces as intermezzos while other, longer pieces, get ready to play. This particular one is designed to be used between pieces involving an old fashioned, large joystick. I timed how long it takes to load pieces that involve that joystick and it tends to be around 40 seconds, so this intermezzo is 45 seconds long.

The musical sounds are generated in SuperCollider, using pulse width modulation, constrained to 8 bit resolution, to give it a retro videogame sound. The game sound FX are from Wolfenstein 3d, the first first person shooter, in front of which I wasted many many hours of my youth. Thanks to Eric Bumstead who actually had a copy of it!



[play]Phreaking (2008)

I wrote this piece for BrumCon 07. The con was sponsored by our local 2600 group, so I decided to use telephone in-line signaling codes as source materials. I spent a lot of time readin up on phone phreaking, which was just so completely cool. I never did it as a kid because the threats my dad made against me were so dire. But man, it was awesome!

The piece, though, is slightly silly. Well, maybe more than slightly. I doubt I’ll play it again, but I think the logic I used around the drum beats will definitely be refined and reused.

In the spirit of the con, the fugly, un-clean code is below the cut, along with some explanation of what the heck is going on. When I say ugly and unclean, I really, really mean it.

Continue reading



Every other week, I have to give myself an injection of testosterone. I find it really hard to actually pierce my flesh with a needle. It’s like stabbing myself. At the same time, having testosterone in my body is crucial to my identity.

About a month ago, I used a small digital camera and apple’s photobooth software to film myself from either side, trying to do the shot. The pressure was intense. The shot went terribly wrong. It took me forever to work up the nerve to actually push in the needle and when I did, I didn’t push it in far enough. The testosterone leaked back out of my leg through the puncture.

I created a soundtrack to this disaster using SuperCollider. The sound sources are my voice and de-tuned sine wave generators. The left and the right channels differ by 10 Hz. The sine waves move along a tuning lattice but with so much imprecision that the lattice becomes meaningless. Their timing is out of synch. Finally, a clock ticking sound comes in. How long has this been going on? How long have I been sitting here holding my needle? How long is this going to take me? How many more times will I have to go through with this?

Until the end of my life.

The video is created with Every time a new sound starts, the picture updates, but with a a lot of transparency, so time bleeds together and the images become blurry. I’d hoped that through the repetition of images that I experienced in making this piece, that doing the shot would become demystified and I would exorcise my demons. Did it work? I’ll tell you in two weeks.

[play] Shot (2008)


Clapping (2008)

I used my cell phone to record Nicole clapping inside the cathedral in Breda, the Netherlands. There was an exceptionally long echo on her clap.

I used Audacity to snip out the impulse response from the recording and convolved it several times with the entire recording, using Sound Hack. My cell phone, unsurprisingly emphasizes high frequencies, so the last one I played at half speed to drop it an octave. I mixed these sounds together in Ardour.

The video was some weird cell phone format, which I converted with ffmpegX and then tweaked the speed by writing a little program in Processing. I mixed the whole thing together in iMovie.

That’s seven separate programs, not counting the ones I couldn’t get to work. Obviously, this is an experiment, but I’m looking forward to making more tiny movies.

Also, that sound you hear at the very end of the piece is from my dog barking her head off outside the cathedral. woof woof woof.

If you just want the audio: [play] Clapping (2008)


She’s Not There (2008)

[play] She’s Not There (2008)

I picked up my sousaphone this afternoon, with the idea that I could improve my chops and work out some angst. As I lifted it, the spit valve fell off. As I played it, several other bits rattled loose. Alas. So I put the headphone part of a usb headset around the part of the bell just above the bolts and started recording.

My voice has been changing. It’s more or less stable now, but I only have good control of it for about the bottom fifth of the main octave. After I sing some warmups, it feels tired. This process of learning to sing again in a lower pitch reminds me very much of switching from playing trumpet to tuba. Vocal cords and buzzing lips use the same physics, so it’s about the same idea. This is the first recording I’ve made of my voice since it began to change.

I found the last recording I made before it started to change and discovered I’d used the words “boys” and “girls” in a longer text. So I grabbed those two words and stretched them out a bit. It’s very very strange to me that’s no longer my voice. My voice now is the voice of a stranger. I wouldn’t recognize it in a recording.

I overdubbed some low frequencies from my MOTM synthesizer to make up for the headset’s inadequacies – it doesn’t have good frequency response in the tuba range.

The title of the piece is from a book by Jennifer Finney Boylan, She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders. She talks about how she chose to keep her old voice. I can’t keep mine. It will never return. I feel a profound sense of loss for an attachment I never knew that I had. This is an elegy for my old voice. It was never lovely, but it was mine. No longer. It’s also an introduction to my new voice. The new instrument I’m just learning to play.


Live at the 1510 Performance Space

[play] Live at the 1510 Performance Space (2008)


Live improvisation recorded at the 1510 Performance space in Oakland, California on 5 February 2008.

I played an Evenfall Minimodular synthesizer, looped with a SuperCollider program. Matt played a bunch of pedals and cool little boxes.

Recording by Clyde NIESEN