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Monday 12 December 2005

Why do I want to go to Berkeley

Well, it's near my house and I'm kind of homesick and plus they have a dental plan and I don't think an essay about being kind of homesick and not having my teeth cleaned for the last 6 years (ew) is really what they're looking for.

However, since I've lived near Berkeley for so long, I've had some musical encounters with them. For instance, in 2002, I went to see Pauline Oliveros improvise at CNMAT with David Wessel. She played the accordion. He played that thing he has. It might be a Marimba Lumina. Some Don Buchla - built digital instrument controlling a granular synthesis patch that Professor Wessel created. His patch was playing grains from CDs released by Oliveros. I think he was using a cloud algorithm. The sounds were droney and their original beginning and ends were lost, but the source material, chanting, for example, was still somewhat evident. It created a lush background of sonorous sounds which Oliveros played accordion over. I had heard of granular synthesis before then and had even used a program called GrainWave which used it to create sounds, but I had never used it to process pre-existing sounds.

It was the most convincing demonstration for this (very hot at the time) technique. I bought a book that covered algorithms, but implementing them in MAX/MSP was a major pain in the ass, so I didn't get around to it until I learned SuperCollider at Wesleyan.

Speaking of MAX/MSP, berkeley publishes a HUGE collection of MAX objects. When I was trying to do list operations in MAX (oh what a pain in the ass) I used Berkeley's multislider object to hold values for me. It was hackoriffic. Berkeley is the place to look for MAX objects.

and, of course, last summer, I went to the OSC conference there and took copious notes. the keynote speaker got me all gung-ho about RSS and RDF-based operating systems and gmail-like storage and sorting systems for data. (The db-based Mac OS XI is coming... and not soon enough!)

OSC is a transport protocol so isn't really exciting in and of itself. However, it's an integral part of SuperCollider. At the conference, they discussed adding pieces to the specification. One of the tings they talked about adding was an authentification layer. Right now, there is none. so SuperCollider gives you wide open access to a high-priority thread running on your machine. Something called SwingOSC just came out. It adds java graphic libraries and the like to SuperCollider applications. I haven't gotten a chance to play with it yet, but one of the things spooking me about it is that it is a GIGANTIC security problem. It runs java stuff via OSC. Meaning an unsecured open port which will run any java code that you send. I'm going to unplug my modem while running it or modify it so it only accepts connections from localhost.

Authentication is obviously necessary for these sorts of nifty add-ons for OSC and supercollider and at the conference, they tried to recruit people for workgroups. With my MA thesis looming, I did not volunteer for anything. But the obvious and pressing need for authentication makes me want to volunteer for it now.

As much as I like coding, however, it's not really my main focus in life. I like to create tools that I need that let me do what I want and I like to share such things when they're useful to others. But what I need the tools for is making music and that's mostly what I want to do. What's great about CNMAT is that they have and make all these neat tools, but they also are very focussed on making music with them, as evidenced by that nifty concert I saw back in 2002.

Coding, making music and improvising is a killer combination. (killer is good like sick is good. Berkeley is sick.) I want to go and spend the next few years doing these things. So if they let me in, they get a coder, a composer and an improviser who sees the need to work on projects, even if they're not the most exciting thing in the world if the need is there, like OSC authentication. And who will use the tools that are created by myself and others to make tunes.

Now, if I can just distill this blog post down to a thousand well-chosen words in the next 3 days, I'm set. Hopefully.

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Jean Sirius said...

three days if it's hand delivered, right?

which could happen.

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

I can submit it via the website. huzzah!

only my portfolio and gpa sheet thingee need to be mailed. as do rec letters and transcripts. but essays can come in via the web

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