Sound / Simulacra at Jazz Central Studios

Starting January 25, 2017 Cody McKinney and I are booking a monthly series at Jazz Central Studios titled Sound / Simulacra. The series explores musical improvisation as a “faithful and intentionally distorted” representational process. Sound / Simulacra will bring together some of the Twin Cities most unique voices to “recreate, distort, and create the hyperreal”.

Cody McKinney works with sound by actively theorizing, organizing, practicing and challenging its properties. He studied bass and improvisation under many luminaries including: Johannes Weidenmueller, Bruce Gertz, Jim Black as well as composition under Kirk Nurock, Rory Stewart, Steve Lehman and Diane Moser. Cody’s group, Bloodline, along with John Keston and Pete Hennig, have recently recorded an album due out mid 2017.

Volume 1: Wednesday Jan. 25th 2017
Cody McKinney & Jeremy Ylvisaker

Jeremy Ylvisaker is a multi-instrumentalist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a member of the indie rock bands Alpha Consumer (with Michael Lewis and JT Bates) and The Cloak Ox along with Andrew Broder of Fog, Mark Erickson and Dosh. He plays guitar in Andrew Bird’s touring band alongside Martin Dosh on drums and Michael Lewis on bass.

Volume 2: Wednesday Feb. 22nd, 2017
John C.S. Keston and Graham O’Brien

Graham O’Brien is a drummer and electronic music producer/composer from St. Paul, MN. His most recent work is focused on the interplay between his unique drumming and composition styles. Currently he is performing new music written for solo live performance, utilizing a customized electro-acoustic drum set concept. As he puts it, “I’m exploring ways to perform my music – or rather, conduct it – via the rhythms of my drumming, in real-time. My performance concept is a practical way to extend the range of my drum set to include control of melodic and harmonic electronic instruments.”

Novation Circuit Randomized Patches

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In my mind, sound design is at its best when it is a process of discovery. At its worst it can be an unfortunate exercise in mimicry. I am fascinated by the process of discovering sound through happy accidents. One of the techniques I have exploited frequently in this regard is synthesizer patch randomization. For example, the Yamaha TX81Z sounds great when randomized, or better yet, “degraded” with shuffled parameter values interpolated based on a time unit or clock division. The PreenFM2 has patch randomization built directly into the instrument!

So, it wasn’t long after picking up a Novation Circuit that I had the urge to use a similar shortcut to mine fantastic and otherworldly sounds from the unit. Full MIDI specification for the Circuit is available so that development of a standalone randomizer is possible, but Isotonik Studios published a free Max for Live editor in partnership with Novation. Max for Live patches are inherently editable so I decided to start there.

Send Random Values

It took me a couple of hours to get into the guts of the editor and setup a drop down menu for randomization. The drop down has choices to either “randomize all” (not quite all parameters), or randomize one of seven sets of grouped parameters like the oscillator section, mod matrix, or LFOs. At his stage I haven’t included the EQ section, voice controls, or macro controls. I probably won’t add the EQ, but the macro controls might offer some interesting possibilities. The image above shows a simple subpatch I made that takes a bang and outputs the random values for the oscillator section. Unfortunately, I can not legally share my mods based on Isotonik’s and Novation’s EULAs. However, you’ll need little more than a basic understanding of Max to do this yourself. Checkout the video and let me know what you think in the comments.

Bloodline at JT’s Jazz Implosion

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Bloodline, a trio featuring Cody McKinney, Peter Hennig, and John Keston (myself), has been quietly performing at a handful of obscure venues in the Twin Cities for about a year and a half. On Monday, October 3rd we’ll poke out heads out of the shadows for a set during JT’s Jazz Implosion residency at the Icehouse in Minneapolis.

JT’s Jazz Implosion at Icehouse is one of the hottest jazz scenes in the cities. Featuring bands that study strong jazz composition, the performances consist of a variety of modern jazz songs with an improvisational flair. The bands that perform are emblems of originality in the modern jazz scene, oftentimes receiving national attention for their jazz genre knowledge and assimilation of multiple influences. The series appeals to a variety of listeners, providing multilayered compositions for every jazz fan.

For a taste of what Bloodline is all about, please have a listen to a few excerpts from one of our recent performances at Jazz Central Studios:

Interview: Graham’s O’Brien’s Drum Controller Video Series

Drum Controller - Graham O'Brien

Graham O’Brien is an exceptional and inventive drummer, composer, and producer. It has been my privilege to play with him at dozens shows and on at least five separate projects over the last eight years. His latest solo endeavor is a series of five videos titled Drum Controller. Graham had discussed his goals for the project with me, but when I saw/heard the videos I was immediately impressed. I wanted to know more about how he was able to trigger these beautiful and complex electro-acoustic arrangements without touching anything other than his minimal kit of kick, two snares, high hats, and a ride.

Note: Graham will be performing music with his Drum Controller setup and Thomas Nordlund on guitar at Honey in Minneapolis this Sunday, June 5, 2017. Read on for the interrview and a look at his video series. Continue reading

Ostracon and Chris LeBlanc Featured at #L2L, Feb 10, 2016

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My eletroacoustic duet, Ostracon in collaboration with Graham O’Brien on drums, is performing at the Landmark to Lowertown series hosted by the American Composers Forum. Chris LeBlanc will be joining us with his modular, analog, video synthesis system running through a wall of vintage 22″ CRT monitors. Our performance starts at noon at the Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul.

The Forum is pleased to announce its second season of Landmark to Lowertown, a program where new music sees the light of day in downtown St. Paul. In starting a new tradition, this season’s composer/performers are awardees of the Minnesota Emerging Composer Award (MECA) from ACF and generously funded by the Jerome Foundation, an award that highlights artists in Jazz/Improvisation, Electronic, and World music.

Ostracon is in the process of finishing our 2nd album. There’s no scheduled release date as of yet, but the recordings have been made and editing is underway. Expect more announcements about the album within the next couple of months. For now we will be pleased to see you at the Bedlam on February 10, 2016!