Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Voidstar Festival + Future Endeavors

So, the Voidstar 25th Anniversary Festival has come and gone. I’m mostly happy with how both my ukuphambana set and the Zero Times Infinity performance turned out (though the latter was cut a little short). It was a fantastic time and I’m very happy to have met some new friends and enjoyed the work of my fellow festival artists. Wish I could get it together to do more of this kind of thing.

As far as what’s coming next: I’d like to create studio versions / mixdowns of the tracks I created for the festival set, and I’ve also been doing some rapid development of older ukuphambana sketches into more fleshed-out (but still not quite finished) in progress work. I expect one or both of these efforts to be well underway if not done by the end of the year. I might try to shop around some more albums to other distributors / labels. And I’ve just started work on a remix project that I’m pretty excited about.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Haven’t written anything here in a while, but things have been very busy. The biggest news is that ukuphambana will be performing at the Voidstar Productions 25th Anniversary Festival! Hit the link for more info and to purchase tickets and/or contribute to the advance crowdfunding campaign.

The fact that Voidstar Productions (co-founded by close friend, long time collaborator, and like-minded artist Deftly-D) has been producing uncompromising art and performances for nearly a quarter century now blows my mind. To be involved in celebrating that is an honor and a privilege. I’m also very excited about the lineup … nobody else puts together events like this, and this one is going to be the biggest and best yet.

In connection with the festival and long-overdue are some other ukuphambana activities that I am going to keep hush hush for now, but I’m also very pleased about. More news on that as events transpire.

2015 is going to be an amazing year, though.

Two Videos: Electronic Music For Kids

Recently had the pleasure of stumbling across two separate, intensely weird videos demonstrating just how much weirder and more wonderful childhood was in the late 60’s. First there is this fantastic video of Mr. Rogers paying a visit to Bruce Haack and children’s dance teacher Esther Nelson:

“It’s warming up.”
“It surely is!”

Then there was this amazing documentary about an experimental music program for children, in Shoreditch UK, where children compose “a sound picture based on ideas associated with heat, radiation, relentlessness, intensity, stillness …”:

Interview: Morton Subotnick

If you can get past the irritating opening, this is a fantastic interview with Morton Subotnick on the early days of electronic music at the San Francisco Tape Music Center, the design of the earliest sequencers and the Buchla Music Easel, and his amazement at living in the (technical) future he envisioned in his earliest days. If I have half the creativity and energy as Subotnick does in this video when I reach his age, I will consider myself a very, very lucky man.

Roger Linn + Carl Craig

I’ve always been a sucker for drum machines of all kinds — something like my first three or four hardware purchases were drum machines, just because I’m drawn so strongly to rhythm, I suppose. So I absolutely loved this lecture / interview with two giants of electronic music history.

I sort of wish Carl Craig had gotten more time to talk, but a guided tour of drum machine history with one of the giants of synthesizer design is still not too bad.

Brian Eno: Imaginary Landscapes

This is the best video I’ve ever come across featuring Brian Eno. Eno’s real strength, as a speaker, has always been his ability to articulate ideas which seem intuitively right, even obvious in retrospect, but to put them into words in a way that no one else could have done. Here’s a transcription of my favorite bit from this one:

A lot of what’s called artistic behavior is to go to an extreme — to find an extreme position and defend it and occupy it — but I think those aren’t necessarily the most interesting places to be. It’s interesting that somebody’s been there, and you want to know about what they saw there, and to find out about it, but you might not want to be there yourself. It’s a bit like living at the North Pole, you know? To know the North Pole exists is useful and enriching, but personally I prefer to be here.

I think this pretty much explains my ambivalence toward Japanese noise (and a lot of other fairly extreme musical styles). I find the map of the territory that someone like Merzbow has explored fascinating, and in the right head space it’s enjoyable for me to listen to, but whenever I do similar things, it feels like sharecropping on someone else’s land. It’s just not where I belong personally.

Chiptune Summer

Today marks the first official day of summer! Working on next track already, expected to be appropriately bright and jaunty. Probably this pseudo-chiptune thing I’ve started working on. I’m using Numerology as a sequencer, so it will be thoroughly atypical of chiptune programming.

I’m also expecting to get it finished and released comparatively quickly, rather than spending months meticulously tweaking every little detail. While it’s true that I nearly always say that (and usually turn out to be wrong), there’s something about this track that I feel demands a sort of rawness and immediacy, so it may actually be true this time. We shall see.

Speaking of chiptunes, here is a scholarly article by Prof. Mike D’Errico about the live-performance aspects of that particular sub genre. Enjoy: How To Reformat The Planet

Two Interviews: VSnares and Squarepusher

Continuing the theme of shameless hero worship established in last week’s post, the past two days have seen interviews with two of the masters of electronic music. I read and thoroughly enjoyed both of these, and thought I’d share my favorite bits.

This chat with Aaron Funk (of Venetian Snares) has some great quotes about staying real and keeping in touch with what inspires you. He also talks a lot about musical technique and such, and it’s all fascinating, but these quotes are my takeaways:

I just find inspiration in myself, have never cared about genres or what is supposed to be fashionable at the moment … emotion, energies, personal experience – these things are truly far more inspiring to draw from than trying to be a part of some aesthetic, I can’t even relate to that.


…it’s fucking ridiculous to limit yourself to only creating angry or sad music or only doing silly funny music. The whole spectrum is there … I have known people that limit themselves to making only dark music. That to me is so narrow and unfulfilling. If something is bleak, it should be bleak for a real reason, not out of some aesthetic. Fucking posers.

Then in this interview, there are these these words of wisdom from Tom “Squarepusher” Jenkinson:

… any musician that’s not self indulgent, I can’t imagine that they’d be any good, to be honest. Any musician that puts himself primarily at the service of his audience is likely to quite rapidly become a self-repeating machine … There’s always this tension where you’re trying to create the creative process afresh, to give yourself the best chance of giving something to your audience that they’re really going to love, and actually show them something new. And that entails sometimes pissing them off … I would say: Yes, I am self-indulgent, but it’s a good thing.

Once in a while, I play this game where I try to analyze what the commonalities are between the people whose lives and work I’ve found really inspiring. I’d noticed that most of them are iconoclasts, but I think in that interview, Jenkinson gives it a new formulation that I like better: all my heroes are self-indulgent, in the best possible way. This means putting out into the world the best work you can possibly do, regardless of what you’ve been asked for or what’s expected. It takes courage and a certain amount of hubris, but in the end it’s the only way to go, really.

The Joyrex Tape: Reflections

The subject of today’s post? Reflections on hero-worship. Anyone who knows my musical taste knows that I’m a rabid Aphex Twin fan. I’m not a music completist in general, but I’ve bought copies of nearly everything RDJ has ever done, and have a fair collection of rarities as well. Somehow I managed to miss out on this one until just recently. The Joyrex tape.

A random assortment of unfinished tracks of dubious quality, pushing twenty years old. Unlike Melodies from Mars or Analogue Bubblebath 5, this material is not only officially unreleased, it was never intended for release, even speculatively. How does it hold up? There are definitely moments of brilliance: RDJ’s sonic originality and facility with arrangement are in evidence throughout. Although the material is obviously dated, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else having written them. Melodic innovation is scarce, but there are snatches of AFX-style tunefulness here and there. I would guess most of these tracks were written around the time of the Ventolin EP or Melodies from Mars. Several tracks seem like they would fit in with the other Ventolin “remixes,” had they been finished.

But that’s the most striking thing about them: these are very obviously not finished tracks. Back when he was at his most prolific (in the mid to late 90’s), I had the impression that Richard D. James didn’t write music so much as … sort of excrete it biologically, the way plants exhale oxygen. This was due not only to the sheer amount of material he released, but also to the effortless feel much of it had. Even though it was often brilliant, it managed somehow always to retain a bit of a raw quality, as though RDJ was so eager to move onto the next thing that he just couldn’t spend the time to sand off the rough edges.

These tracks make that impression seem a bit naive. The Joyrex tape is composed of almost nothing but rough edges and raw material, and what’s not there makes all the difference between this and a finished AFX track from the same period. The man obviously knew what he was doing and pursued his aims deliberately, even if he was having fun doing it. There was work involved, and it was significant. And that is what makes me gladdest that this recording leaked out: like a glimpse at da Vinci’s sketchbooks, getting a to hear some vintage Aphex in its raw form is both humbling and impressive, because it shows the work that went into the complete material.

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