Saturday, August 19, 2017

Invisible(s) Archipelago(s) #1 Serendib Rhythms by Stéphane Marin

The contours and frontiers of an island can be designated or traced without difficulty; and within an archipelago, from island to island, circuits of navigation and exchange form fixed and recognized itineraries that draw a clear frontier between the zone of relative identity (recognized identity and established relations) and the external world, a world of absolute foreignness. -- Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Super-Modernity
Sunday, August 06, 2017

The fourth wave of electronic music

This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.

Electronic music was originally the exclusive activity of those who could gain access to elite computer systems. Now it's an egalitarian process, a collaboration between boutique hardware firms, cottage industries, and musicians of all stripes. A performer might use a MIDI controller connected to a compact synth module. Or homebuilt sensors feeding an Arduino. We're the operators with our pocket calculators... which are actually tiny drum machines. We are the dreamers of dreams... implemented in esoteric Max patches.

The state of the art is fluid and multivalent. It's hard to see a context when you are embedded in it. So perhaps it's useful to share my musings, which outline four paradigms that have shaped our relationship to electronic music.
Saturday, August 05, 2017

Survey of matrix mixers

This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.

In my last article I proposed a matrix mixer suitable for DEM. Here I will take a look at those mixers that already exist on the market.

The main criteria for a device to make this list is that it is affordable and compact. Certainly there are studio-quality matrix mixers, from companies like Allen & Heath. But these range in price up to $4000. That's a different domain!
Saturday, August 05, 2017

Proposal for a matrix mixer

This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.

In a recent article I evaluated the feature sets of tiny line mixers, in order to find one suitable for DEM (Desktop Electronic Music). It was difficult to find a perfect tool for the current ecosystem of small synths, drum machines, tablets, phones, and other consumer devices. For example, of the ten units considered, only three worked with stereo minijacks, since they targetted an earlier music-making paradigm.

In this article I'd like to add some further functionality to my specification, and propose a mixer design. There's a real gap in the market for a compact mixer than can be used as a creative tool in its own right.
Friday, August 04, 2017

MIDI wiring diagrams

This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.

This article will explain how MIDI cables are wired, starting with conventional DIN-5 sockets, then looking at TRS connectors. This will help anyone who needs to trouble-shoot wiring or solder their own cables.

DIN-5 connectors are paired as male and female ends. But there are two tricks.

First, the pin-out diagrams are sometimes presented from the point-of-view of wiring the plug. But, commonly, when using the MIDI cables, we might prefer the point-of-view of how the plug looks externally. One is a mirror image of another. (This might be obvious to all but me, since I swear I am topologically impaired.)

Second, the MIDI in and MIDI out sides of the cable are wired opposite each other, so that when they are paired, the current flows correctly. Electrically, that makes sense. But pragmatically this might be counter-intuitive. After all, when we examine a MIDI cable, it isn't labelled as to which end is which (in or out).
Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Mixers for desktop music

This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.

If you are anything like the typical DEM practitioner, your desktop is a tangle of cables, interlocking musical devices, power supplies, and patch-cords. How can we tame this mess? Here I will tackle one aspect of the problem, by evaluating portable mixers.

UPDATE 16 August 2017: Two additional mixers added, for twelve in total.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

On conspiracy theories

It's time for me to make a few observations about conspiracy theories, if only to get all my thoughts in a row. I've been asked a few questions lately, and it gets repetitive repeating fragments. Here they can live in context, under one handy heading.

First, I need to contextualise these comments by saying they only apply to the armchair thoughts of those in the relatively comfortable embrace of "Western society". I have no experience with how these patterns of thought play out in other places. Second, I will use the conventional phrase "conspiracy theory", even though these random persecution fantasies do not deserve the term "theory". By their nature they lack the required rigour, testability, etc.

Third, I am not using the word "conspiracy" in the strict legal sense, but rather follow common usage. These conspiracy fantasies involve hundreds or even thousands of participants, elaborately-constructed plots, duping of large sectors of the media, etc. There is no doubt that small conspiracies with a very limited number of participants have existed and will continue to exist. These generally get exposed in short order. Examples include a break-in at the Watergate apartments or a meeting between the Trump administration and some Russian officials.

But I think we all know what falls under the category discussed here. The government has a UFO under wraps at Roswell. The Twin Tower attacks on 9-11 were an "inside job". Water fluoridation is a plot by a cabal of dentists. Etc.
Monday, July 03, 2017

"Audio Culture": quick look at the revised edition

Published in 2004, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music provided a one-stop reader for those interested in contemporary creative sound practice. Editors Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner performed an admirable service in bringing together classic pieces from Attali, Russolo, Cage, Cascone, WS Burroughs, Schafer, and many others.

Thirteen years later a revised edition is being published by Bloomsbury, so I thought I'd have a look at what's changed. I haven't had a chance to review a copy of the book, so this is only a consideration of the scope.
Friday, June 30, 2017

Rebuttal to "There Is No Scientific Method"


It's been a year since the opinion piece "There Is No Scientific Method" by James Blachowicz was published in the New York Times. But only now did a friend on Facebook bring it to my attention.

The author's mission is to pull science down from some perceived pedestal, by way of comparison to poetry. The sad and unfortunate effect is to diminish both vital processes to mere communication. I will review this article in order to assert the exact opposite. The scientific method is indeed special and valuable. Poetry is not limited to mere advertising of meaning, but is the veritable wellspring of life.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Got a light?" The blind centre of the atomic experience (Twin Peaks redux)

The Lynch universe is full of record players, speakers, radios, and other sonic devices. It also sometimes permits a television or movie screen. A chilling scene in Fire Walk With Me froze Agent Cooper's after-image on a CCTV screen, as Phillip Jeffries stormed down a hallway. Here the televisual augurs the supernatural effects that lie behind the normative facade of everyday life. Twin Peaks: The Return has extended this idea beyond all expectation. In episode 8 it literally blows up in our face.