Commission Music

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Tuesday, 18 February 2003

Back from the Pacific Northwest

I got back Sunday night from the Pacific Northwest. I know you are all anxious to hear about my exciting adventures. Of course, Christi already chronicled them, probably better than me, but here goes anyway.

February 12, 2002

Flew into Portland last night and drove up to Seattle this morning with Christi and her parents. We went to Pike's Market. It's a famer's market, a fish market and a bunch of shops, bot no chain stores. It was nifty and interesting. Also, it goes on every day, which is very cool (and must compete with grocery stores quite a bit). Christi wanted to buy a hat for Owen, but didn't. Poor owen will have to wait until we go back in april.

then we went to Jack Straw Productions, where we heard our pieces on the toy piano nonette. It sounds much better on the toy pianos than it did in MIDI realizations. the room is small and very live (that's sound engineer jargon for "echo-y") so the pieces really fill up the space, but apparently it sounds good in dead (that's sound engineer jargon for "not echo-y") rooms too. Joan Rabinowitz, who I met at a confrence last spring and who is the director of Jack Straw, took us on a tour of the building. they have two nice studios and two control rooms. One big and one small of each. They've got macintoshes running protools, but also have other tape technology, including analog reel-to-reel. Everything is labelled in Braille, because blind kids come in and do production work. Apparently they really dig the reel-to-reel machine. there's also a small room of KRAB radio archives. (KRAB was a community radio station, but is no more.) There are many fewer tapees in the archive than KPFA, but the tapes are worse organized and may be in worse shape. they have no production facilities like Fantasy in Seattle, so no professional service can do tape baking for them. (Tape baking: sometims, when tapes get old, the glue that holds the magnetic material to the plastic strip corrodes and the magnetic material falls off, taking all of the sound recording with it. If the tape is heated (I think it's 200 degrees F for ten hours, but I don't really know), the glue can temporarily rebind long enough for the tape to be played once, so it can be backed up to something else.)

We checked into our hotel and then went back to Jack Straw (the name has nothing to do with British politicians, btw, the director is a pacifist) to hear Trimpin speak. (Trimpin is the guy who thought up and built the nine toy piano juke box.) Ellen Fullman was there. She was a featured composer at the Other Minds festival last year, and I the driver for that festival. she asked Christi and I why we were in town. christi said, "we came up for this." Ellen replied, "You did not!" Ellen is also in the Klavier Nonette but hadn't noticed Christi's and my names on the list.

Trimpin talked about sonic sculptures and building controllers for them. Before computers, he used player-piano-roll sort of technology. Now, he custom builds processors to control celenoids. His stuff is made out of a lot of scrap-yard pieces. The toy pianos were all broken. many were purchased from ebay and the shipping costs often exceeded the price.

We listened to Ellen's peice. (Janice Gitech, who was a presenter at the same confrence when I met Joan was also hanging around. It's the old-girls-network or something). Ellen's piece uses 64th notes. One piano will start a phrase and another will start the same phrase one 64th note later. It sounds like an auto harp, the notes are definitely sperated, but a 64th note is a very short duration. Her piece has a nice use of spaces and silences. It's interesting nd beautiful. It's also her first traditionally notated piece. We went out to dinner with her. Christi's parents thought that we had just met her that evening. they also thought we had just met Joan. they were confused as to why people kept hugging us if we had just met them. Maybe they're just friendly. anyway, there's going to be a festival of Ellen's work in holland. A whole festival of her and folks collaborating with her. It sounds very exciting.

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