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Writings on music, art, technology and life.

IF3: theories on audio-visual

Been reading the last part of Deleuze’s Cinema 2 – Time-image for most of the day. In the last chapter (The components of the image) he seems to be focused very much on sound (words, sounds, music) and finally on a ‘birth of the audio-visual‘. It looks like I’m searching for certain views, perspectives, thinking about the audio-visual, about the cinematic sound and image, electronic image in the cinema, in order to find paths towards concrete actions – programming, searching for content, recording, composing… Of course, Deleuze’s writing is philosophical, deep and extremely challenging, while Michele Chion’s is somewhat chaotic and (especially compared to Deleuze) superficial. But it seems to me that what I need is to extract workable concepts that will help me in a practical way. I suppose that Chion’s concepts are still imaginative and interesting enough for that purpose.

It is quite amazing that Deleuze writes in 1985:

“When the frame or the screen functions as instrument panel, printing or computing table, the image is constantly being cut into another image, being printed through a visible mesh, sliding over other images in an ‘incessant stream of messages, and the shot itself is less like an eye than an overloaded brain endlessly absorbing information: it is the brain-information, brain-city couple which replaces that of eye-Nature. […] a brain which has a direct experience of time, anterior to all motivity of bodies […].”

IF3 Progress Report #1

With the summer-time, a working-time on my new audio-visual piece, Interface Fractures III, begun. It is now almost confirmed that the date of premiere showing at Slovenian Cinemateque (Slovenska Kinoteka) is most probably 15/september. Since the plan was that we spend some quality sun&salt time at Croatian coast I brough some machinery with me to vacation. It’s always fun to work in the summer heat!

Anyway, with this next episode in the series I want to upgrade technically a “little bit”, so I acquired a better graphic card (Nvidia GTX960) and a multi-touch screen monitor with fullHD 1080p resolution. Adding also a 120GB SSD drive I needed to reinstall operating system (UbuntuStudio 14.4.1), separately compiled drivers for Nvidia and the rest worked pretty much out of the box (after some apt-get-ing). Multi-touch is application-dependent and my idea (for many years now) is to write custom interfaces for live sound/music/noise and visual composition and improvisation.

More technicalities: I compiled Processing and SuperCollider, tried a multi-touch library in Processing (SMT) but it didn’t work. Filed an issue at their GitHub and went on with a version of SuperCollider that supports multi-touch (I was kindly pushed in the right direction by Scott Cazan, who added MT support to his own branch of SC on GitHub). After some basic testing I wrote a simple granulator with a GUI. I also tested a very basic idea of TABs-like interface. In Processing I’ve whet my appetite with an excercise that focused on off-screen rendering and blending two images together.

Processing: slice and blend screeshot

 

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Responsibility towards structure

These days I continue to work on little pieces — drafts or sketches — that are possible seeds for serious tracks. They are mostly not longer than a minute, 16, maybe 20 bars, and contain a drumbeat, a bassline, or even solely a melodic line. I’m sitting on this kind of work for a good month already, so I have decided a week ago to try to work on longer pieces — still sketches or drafts — where I’d begin to work on structural ideas, calling them skeletons.

After a week of work I’m realising I’m still making short 1 minute sketches (which I’m posting the backstage section) without any serious attempt at bigger structure, and I’ve been thinking why is that so. One reason might be that I have about maksimum three hours in the morning to work on music-making (that’s pretty much self-imposed), but usually less. Another (and perhaps central) reason seems to be, however, certain reluctance to start working on a track’s structure.

Truth is, once you start working on a structure, musical work starts to be much more demanding. There’s so much more mental work involved once you start thinking through the timeline:  if this is here, then this must happen there or if here’s a breakdown there must be an announcement of it, perhaps through a build-up, or should it? And similar kind of thinking.

It seems suddenly creating music ceases to be only playing with sounds and beats but becomes some kind of story-making. And that has its own rules, which are as complex as they can get. When diving into the structural dimension of a time-based creation, what emerges is responsibility towards that dimension.

Polyrhythmachine

The process has now seriously begun. We (Wanda & Nova deViator) are working in the studio on a daily basis, desperately wishing for a residency possibility, when you move away from daily grind, from administrative tasks, managing the association, the label, cooking, kids, and so many other things. But, hey, it’s what we need to work with.

Autumn is quickly approaching, and deadlines are looming. While we’re releasing the album at the end of November, the album tracks need to be finished in mid-September for them to go into mixing and mastering by Igor “PlankTon” Vuk of the BeatMyth fame. Which leaves less than two months to write the album. Our goal is to produce 8-10 tracks that will go onto a double vinyl. I’m now pretty serious about crowdfunding campaign, which should start at the end of August. I’m quite nervous about it, I really want it to work out. In the meantime the tracks need to work too, and I’m such a perfectionist, and I always run out of time.

All-in-all summer will contain some sea-side, bit of traveling, but also a lot of work, out of which a lot is creative (thankfully). This is a journey into sound.

Pacification Maribor (MARŠ)

We (Wanda & Nova deViator) didn’t quite know what to expect when we were packing things up for this Maribor gig. The last (and the first) time we played in Maribor, it was at a small low-profile venue called Stolp_3. It was (and still is) run by single guy, who purposefully keeps it without much advertising not wanting to grow, not wanting to be in the spotlight, just throwing gig here and there and hang out with people. Many locals from Maribor don’t even know about Stolp 3.

Anyway, Gustaf/Pekarna is whole different story – as we’ve been told, it’s pretty hard to have a decent crowd at the venue, but believe it or not, the crowd was quite in decent numbers – far from empty, but not too crowded. The event was a three-day-long 24th anniversary of Maribor’s Radio Študent – MARŠ and we played on the second day – Friday.

During our drive we remembered that we played our first duet performance Une façon d’aimer” in Gustaf for the last time. Will the last Pacification performance be also the last time at this venue? Most probably not, since there’s a long way till autumn: in November we plan to premiere our next project which would include album and a performance/concert. So until then, it’s doubtful we wouldn’t play another gig with Pacification.

We shared the stage with Karmakoma from Krško – a trio that played an interesting blend of  post-rock electronics with funk gusto – think of old Faith No More, LCD Sound System, The Prodigy and hints of Death from Above 1979. While their sound guy was no perfection (vocal suffered the most) the music was full of energy, solid structures and wit. We exchanged CDs and other merch and the next day I was blown away by quality of their record – Imagination & Mechanical Metamorphoses – have a listen and support.

The reception of our gig was very very positive, organizer also told us, that we were impatiently expected in Maribor by some fans. Everyone seemed very satisfied, we could have played a second bis/encore, if we would have anything prepared for it.

What if, Prague

What if performance was made with mobility in mind. So it was possible to put most of the scenography in one big box, one simple costume on a hanger and therefore on Saturday we could travel with a car up over Austria and Czech republic to Prague without any difficulties. Despite warnings of possible helicopter rescue action from snow by worried parents the trip was easy and lazy drive into the heart of central-eastern Europe.

We got settled into a Duncan centre residential appartment. Duncan centre conservatory is currently the only state school in the Czech Republic systematically orientated towards education in a sphere of contemporary stage dance and dance theatre. Despite a long drive behind us we drove to the center of Prague, to the amazing Alfred ve dvoře venue – well, it’s a theatre built in a courtyard – virtually, where we met with Motus program director (umělecký ředitel) Ewan McLaren. He turned out to be a witty and communicative canadian (are all canadians communicative? well, as a program director, you should be I guess), a pleasure to be his guest. We left our scenography and costumes there, met with technicians and drank a obligatory beer (non-alcoholic for me) and drove back.

Sunday was a setting up day, and we worked from 9 am. Despite the simplicity of lights it took quite some hours to cover the white wash of the stage under the supervision of our light-maister Urška Vohar. In the meantime I prepared all the sound (using Pure Data patches, SuperCollider code and a track in Renoise).

It was a pleasure to setup everything (or most of it) one day before. So much less stress! However M. was pretty nervous as she was doing the show almost completely in English for the first time (and this is after the solo was made in Slovene and later done completely in French in Marseille)! However U. and myself had a classical but harmless teasing – M. imagined it resembles a kindergarten situation – and so it made nervousness much more endurable.

The show next day went smooth, pretty much without glitches. I used a different configuration of speakers – using two of them behind the audience, which created a better – more confusing – spatial image, at times. Software was obeying perfectly and without a hiccup. I only wish I would find time to optimize everything into one SuperCollider patch (instead of two PureData patches, two SuperCollider patches and a Renoise track. There was almost full hall, many young people (students from Duncan centre) and some other people. The reception seemed very positive. The after-show feedback again included somebody telling of shedding tears here and there during the show (as in Marseille), and that’s quite  heart-warming!

In the meantime news from Slovenia reached us, that everything is covered in ice and that trees and electrical grid is getting broken. 10.000 people without electricity, roads closed, schools’ off and so on.

After the show U. and myself got everything into a box in about an hour. We left Prague next day in early afternoon, after we bough some beer for ‘families’ at home. The drive was not that difficult – easy traffic, weather was mostly easy – but it was long and we were all tired. It also seems like I’ve more and more difficulties driving at night (night-vision). We stopped in Brno for a tea, sat down with Adam and Dora for a really quick catch-up. We arrived to Ljubljana at 1 in the morning.

This touring included slightly more hours of actually being in the city (although we didn’t see anything much from Prague), making few contacts, getting the feel of coffee places, however I would love to have more time, more interaction, more zero-time, more socializing with local artists. I guess there’s never enough of that.

2013: production – the good and the bad

I wanted to write something about 2013 – a year that is passing in couple of days. I really wanted to take a look at what was done, questioning myself, while it feels it was quite an exhausting year, does it show? So I went through everything, mostly work related dates, deadlines, gigs, preparations, etc.

This year I released a first “proper” (for the lack of a better term) album – Pacification. In fact we – Wanda & Nova deViator, we – Emanat, released it. Personally this felt like a big step, a big upgrade. Those few reviews that we managed to call for were extremely positive. I did home-grown research on music industry after the internet revolutions. I became a pessimist. The industry feels as a suffocating factory, killing the potential of the nets to empower musicians. I resurrected my old net-label from 2006 – Kamizdat. We pretty much successfully released three albums (Pacification, Sad Sam Lucky Outtakes and Ontervjabbit’s 414) this year. The PR strategies and their realizations were weak and too scattered, but we managed to gather some hype. Pacification was even featured on The Wire’s blog about notable sleeves.

With Wanda & Nova deViator we played in Ljubljana (Channel Zero, Gala Hala, Menza pri koritu, Klub Gromka), Maribor, Velenje, Cerkno, Belgrade (SR), Linz (AT), Lille (FR) and Basel (CH). We recorded a TV-gig for national station (broadcast in October). I would love to tour more, but this year it would probably be quite hard as so much was going on. I would be happy if more people bought the Kamizdat releases, but I guess not enough was done on the promotional level.

As Nova deViator I played a decent amount of DJ-gigs in order to get back into serious shape after that hiatus between 2007 and 2011. Lesbian club Monokel became a little home. Extremely non-difficult in terms of size, but still difficult in terms of audience targeting – fans of break/bass electronic dance music are not always comfortable in a gay club, while on the other hand gay/lesbian scene seems to have a passion for cheesy disco and more interested in cruising then the music itself. I recorded some sparky sets and published them on mixcloud. I’m looking forward in persisting with my own blend of breaks, bass and electro funk and playing regularly next year. The rust on my dj skills is pretty much gone and I’m excited about new directions, new dance music discoveries – certain doors opened with development around 160/80bpm range.

The drone-y, experimental side of my musical creativity: released an ambiental Sad Sam Lucky Outtakes, which was well received (within that small limit), played one session at MSUM (Radio študent b’day) and another session at MSUM as part of ‘lecture-performance‘ events, which also included a Maribor episode. Plus a Kamizdat promo night together with Ontervjabbit. In this section belongs a visit to Italy where we played a Sublimation Revision A/V performance at F.A.C.K. in Cessena.

June saw quite demanding preparations and work on Transmittance performance at U3 triennial. The day after the opening of the triennial (of contemporary art in Slovenia) a 10-strong team of performers, musicians, media artists and technicians performed a 2.5 hour long improvisational performance for online audience who controlled certain elements of the show and ‘offline’ audience who watched the whole deal. After the event we produced documentation installed and exhibited in the space of MSUM.

Through August and September intense process took place in creation of Maja Delak’s solo performance “What If”. Music for it took form of different influences, genres and atmospheres, but I’m happy about the inclusion of poly-rhythmics, odd time signatures and some (for me) heavy lifting through SuperCollider (also) using SenseStage. Music (and live sound) for the solo received some really positive (private) feedback. Maja and myself where quite happy about it all.

This year we created a ‘technoburlesque’ titled Image Snatchers. The format of ‘simple’ numbers which are grounded in feminist approaches to performance and good amount of pretty smart but very accessible humor proved as a winning combination. After four editions (the last one being a longer club event on the theme of ‘farewell‘) it generated some serious raving among the general, folksy public. Music, dance, performance, lyrics, video, text, sarcasm, critique, sexuality, nudity, gender bending, and jokes, in a specific language resonated with something primal in peoples’ hearts and minds. It seems as a fantastic framework which has a future potential.

Work on an AV-performance ‘Interface Fractures‘ offered me a chance to concretely dig into Processing language. And despite by huge dissatisfaction with the material on the premiere I must say I’m quite happy that I broke the ice with Processing this year.

“We got recognized!” M. and myself received an award Zlata ptica (Golden bird) for our work on theatre, inter-media and music. This is quite an honor. Maja Delak’s Shame piece got an award at the festival Gibanica by an international jury as best piece at the festival. On the same night, and as part of closing of Gibanica, I received a Ksenija Hribar award for my sound work in performing arts/theatre.

All in all from the view of work and production it feels like a hard-working but successful year. I feel I did a lot, received quite some recognition and appreciation. On the other hand I failed too often and was frequently extremely last-minute which brought stress, disappointment and anger. My failures are mainly related to  asynchronicity between planning and execution. Either I plan unrealistically or I fail at execution (procrastination). Perhaps this is a good basis to draft a resolution for next year: my plans should be more realistic, I should focus better on things with biggest priority.

Marseille

A rerun of »What if« at MuCEM, Marseille-Provence 2013 (European Cultural Capital) was one of those quickies where you land, go to the hotel, sleep, go to the theatre, work like crazy till the show, do the show, pack equipment, maybe have a drink, return to the hotel, sleep, and leave for the airport next morning. You don’t see the city. You don’t meet the locals. At. All.

Well this is actually a bit of an impartial truth. Because on a good note – we had delicious (supposedly ‘authentic’ Marseille-an) food after the show. We’ve seen (a part of) amazing MuCEM – Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. On the day of arrival we strolled down some streets and found lovely little CousCous on a lively, rough street. Breakfast at the hotel had fresh grapefruit.

But then again: the show was in a venue not made for theatre-based performances – it was a technological nightmare. So we worked from 8am till the show, which was at 6:30pm, to setup everything. And we played for 20 people. That’s a shame considering that Maja learned all texts and did the whole thing in french!

 

What if process

Apart from some other – more administrative – craziness, the project that was finished last week was a solo performance “What if” by Maja Delak. A premiere on 3. October and re-run on 4. October at Old power plant (Stara elektrarna) was a tip of an iceberg of work. It was a pretty much non-stop work since beginning of august – two full months. While there was a lot of different material gathering through the process at wasn’t until Maja and myself went for a short 10-day residency at a lovely village ‘Savičenta’ (Sanvincenti / Svet vinčenat) where daily distractions were minimized that we were able to make a crucial turn with materials. Between separate blocks of texts and separate choreographies that had been somewhat disconnected there was no glue, no red line that would connect them (on non-mental, non-verbal level), they’ve been like boxes that one could stack up, but nothing would pass between or through them. We took a decision to improvise with sound, movement and texts in order to work on ‘ambiance’ non/presence, silences… This resulted in a more organic multi-layering of different media on various levels that somewhat made the right sense. There were related intensities flowing through the fragments.

The final piece holds a lot of this feeling of ambiance. Or perhaps an ‘unfocused focus’ on environment, a space that surrounds the action, the movement and texts and concrete sound – it is where the intensity lies. It is peculiar directionless quality of space, of its ephemeral-ness in time and in sound that seems so crucial in creating an atmosphere that supports non-judgmental but still extremely intense message that lies within the artist wanting to express it. Despite of desire to demystify art on every level, art is still a mystery. And these are just some of the aspects of artistic work and art’s role in the world that are extremely difficult to communicate to people like economists, merchants, many politicians.

A crucial lesson from it all for me was how important it was to take those 10 days of distance from different daily distractions (admin work, kids, meetings for this and that..) in order to be able to just sit, move, work for 4-6 hours straight with focus on one thing. It’s seems like the only sensible thing to do, but seemingly so difficult in these times.

Vienna

 

Spent almost a week in Vienna.

A trip from Ljubljana with a train is actually really stress-free, much better then car and even plane. Especially with good company. I visited Substance recordshop, and was slightly surprised that it has a form of good old recordshop with a selection of electronic and other music. Couple of turntables and a CD player with headphone available for you to pre-listen what you want to buy. This is how we were buying music 15-20 years ago – either for DJ sets or for personal home library. How things have changed in such short time so that this kind of practice seems so

 

mewhat awkward or at least time-consuming. Everything can be pre-listened and bought online, either digitally or ordered to ship. My feeling is that a recordshop (and possibly this holds true also for bookshops) could expand its potential of a sub/cultural meeting space with events and cafe/lounge type of ambiance. In any case it was good to immerse myself into vinyl bins, do some prelistening and actually buy a small experimental 7″ by Mika Vainio “Behind The Radiators” (released by Touch in 2008). Big-ups to Substance record-shop for staying afloat in these turbulent times for market for physical recordings (althought supposedly vinyl and tape sales are going up). If you are in Vienna, please visit them.

While I was preparing for the gig, I made some nice beatport discoveries. Beta is a UK producer with updated contemporary breakbeat production which harks back at Nu School Breaks era. Very solid, somewhat deep, and still awesomely dynamic. Another one is Electric Soulside – a duo of producers from Brussels creating quite a head-on loud dynamic saturated filthy funk with plenty of releases on Lot49 and Diablo Loco among others.

So to the gig, which happened at Impulstanz Lounge @ Burgtheater’s Vestibül. The whole week was totally hot (all day temperatures above 30 even 35 degrees) so the dancefloor, which was without airconditioning or decent ventilation, was very hot and sweaty. After a completely different ‘warmup’ by Rio and some girls on iPods/iPhones, I played a dynamic mix of heavy breaks with possibly too fast transitions and cuts – and it was quite clear bodies were unprepared for this. The floor didn’t clear up, but the feeling was simply people didn’t really know how to dance to this. The bodies didn’t understand this particular code of deep funk. Somehow same old story. There’s some educating to do. Unfortunately against the trends. It was nevertheless a fun and hot gig that left me wanting for a better (or at least louder) sound system, perhaps some ventilation (i was soaked in sweat), but most importantly, the right public. But I guess I’m wanting too much. I have a lot of plans with Deviant Funk Music Club ‘platform’ though, and time will show, if they materialize.

Unfortunately the trip back was very pleasant until half way through. Before Graz there was a tremendous storm. We saw trees breaking and of course there was some damage further along the way on the rail tracks, so there were delays and changing of trains about five times. And we came home about 4 hours later than we thought.

preparing vienna gig

 

bandcamp uploads

After fiddling around a bit with SoundCloud I listened to a sudden hunch and uploaded most if not all of my albums to Bandcamp: novadeviator.bandcamp.com. So you can now buy the digital albums or download the tracks. Your support is more then welcome.

Here’s a track from an album from year 2000.

Screenshot - 01222013 - 12:29:31 AM