Instant Composer: Mad-libbed Music

Instant Composer: Mad-Libbed Music

Northern Spark 2015 is June 13, 2015 and once again I am excited and honored to be taking part. This year I am directing and producing a project designed to directly involve audience participation in an all night long musical performance piece. Instant Composer: Mad-libbed Music (ICMLM) is in collaboration with a group of my interactive media students at Art Institutes Minnesota and an ensemble of improvising musicians from the Minneapolis and St. Paul, community.

ICMLM gives the audience a visceral connection to the ensemble because they will be choosing the members and composing the music! We have designed a mobile web application that allows the audience to write a piece of music that will be played by an ensemble within minutes of composing it. The compositions are textual or instructional scores popularized by Pauline Oliveros.

Pauline Oliveros is an American composer and accordionist who is a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music … Oliveros has written books, formulated new music theories and investigated new ways to focus attention on music including her concepts of “Deep Listening” and “sonic awareness”. — Wikipedia

In five easy steps visitors will write their piece and submit it for its debut. The app allows participants to choose the instrumentation, tonality, dynamics, tempo, and length without needing to know any musical terms or techniques. The scores are like a Mad Lib, so we anticipate humor and transgressive play, but this will only make it more challenging and interesting for the ensembles.

The event is being held rain-or-shine on June 13, 2015 inside the historic Mill City Museum on the banks of the Mississippi river in downtown Minneapolis. It is free and open to the public and runs from dusk until dawn (9:00pm until 5:26am).

Participating students include: Ariel Marie Brooks, Michael Brooks, Renae Ferrario, Meg Gauthier, Abram Long, Valeria C. Sassi, Adam Schmid, and Steven Wietecha. The musicians include: Chris Cunningham (guitars), Jon Davis (bass, bass clarinet, saxophones), DeVon Russell Gray (bassoon, keyboards), Rajiah Johnson (flute), John Keston (keyboards), Donnie Martin (violin), Thomas Nordlund (guitars), Cody McKinney (bass), Graham O’Brien (drums), and Adam Schmid (drums).

New Album:Isikles with Lister Rossel

Isikles Artwork by Forrest Wasko

I am very excited to announce the release of the album Isikles! This is the third album released this month that I have been a part of. This one in particular is a collaboration between myself and Chilean producer, Lister Rossel. The two of us spent countless hours during the 2014–2015 winter in Minnesota composing and producing eleven movements that portray the fragility and magnificence of frigid environments. The liner notes for the album describe the concept:

Geologists propose that Earth has entered the Anthropocene. This epoch is marked by human activities that significantly impact the planet’s ecosystems. Markers include mass-extinctions that have led to a reduction in biodiversity, industrial and agricultural impacts on geology, radioactive fallout, and the most obvious marker — climate change.

As the planet warms polar regions teeter from stoic landscapes of frigid ice to rapidly evolving environments as they shed their ancient layers. Isikles is a portrait of nature and its transitions. It is a soundscape — a window to the coldest environments on earth; from the microscopic (Ice Mutation) to the macroscopic (Scattered Disk). Isikles reflects the undergoing global transitions of which we are all participants.

This album, produced by John Keston and Lister Rossel, combines composition with sound design techniques to present soundscapes inspired by these transitions. The sound sources include their own field recordings from frigid environments mixed with sonic interpretations uncovered through sound synthesis and processing during the brittle Minnesota winter.

Please have a listen to the album and consider purchasing the lossless download for the ultimate listening experience. The album was produced by John Keston and Lister Rossel, mastered by Tom Garneau, art direction by Luisa Rivera, and cover art by Forrest Wasko. Aside from a smattering of Rhodes playing, everything I produced on the record was designed using the Elektron Analog 4 and the Moog Sub 37.

Video: DKO Debut Album Absinthe Referent

SuBTR4CT1V3 is track five on the debut DKO album Absinthe Referent, now available for download or streaming at bandcamp or via the player embedded below:

Here’s how video artist Chris LeBlanc describes his work on this project:

I used VHS source material of sci fi movies from the 1990s that never made it to DVD running through Tachyons + processors, a homemade video feedback processor, and a modular video synthesizer mostly for colorization. I love scenes with virtual reality and the song brings out a pretty sinister feeling in some of this and lets you make up a story pieced together from 10 or so movies.

We are celebrating the release by performing at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 20, 2015) with Dosh, A Love Electric, and Batteryboy sharing the bill. Please read on to check out some amazing stills from Chris’ video: Continue reading

Moog Sub 37 1.10 Firmware Demo Part 2

Now that I have had some more time to experiment with the new Moog Sub 37 1.10 firmware I made a new video that is more in-depth than the last one. In this video demo I show seven new features within the sequencer and arpeggiator sections of the instrument. Although I did edit the video for length, each feature was demonstrated without having to stop the sequence at any point.

First I review how to turn steps on and off while in step edit mode. This is simply done by pressing the step buttons (patch button 1 through 16) while in step edit mode (bank + latch).

Secondly I show how to set the start and end positions of the sequence while it continues to run. This is really great for repeating any number of consecutive steps in the sequence.

Thirdly I show how to create or disable ties between two or more notes on the fly. This is much faster and accurate than the original way of apply ties while the sequencer continues to run.

Fourth I demonstrate how to turn on/off step ratcheting and how to modify the number of ratchets. Ratcheting is an interesting new feature that repeats a step from 1 to 8 times.

For the fifth feature I adjust the swing amount. Having swing as a feature for the sequencer is fantastic, but it can also be applied to the arpeggiator and the LFOs when they are synched to the clock! I haven’t tried this yet, but I love the idea of manipulating the LFO waveshapes this way.

The sixth feature is modulation sequencing that I applied to the filter envelope amount. The mod sequencing can be applied to a huge list of parameters. Unfortunately is it one destination per patch/sequence, but never-the-less a welcome and useful addition.

Finally for the seventh feature I demonstrate how to shift the sequence back or ahead of the first step using bank + arp range (+ or -).

There’s a lot more still in this release that I have yet to explore. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Moog Music and especially Amos Gaynes for making an already great synth greater!

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