Commission Music

Commission Music
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Friday, 7 April 2006

My life sounds so exciting when I write it down

And I have to write it down, or I'll have no memory of what I've been doing.


Last Saturday, the weather was lovely and I had the idea of going for a nice relaxing bike ride. And then I saw that it was the weekend for velorution. velo = bike. revolution = revolution. velorution = critical mass type bike ride to save the earth. So Cola and I went to this thing. It was very low key and mellow. Somebody showed up with brightly colored flags on long sticks which were zip-tied to people's bikes. I got a green flag and Cola got a purple one. Oodles of literature was handed out. Meanwhile, while we were setting up at Place du Châtelet, Greenpeace was also setting up a small table and a group of anti-choice activists was screwing a small virgin Mary statue to a tripod. Châtelet is the place for all sorts of activism.

Then we set off for a nice leisurely ride around the city and especially along the St Martin Canal (right by chez moi!) where we blocked traffic for several minutes, because of the planned manifestation for more bike lanes, and many minutes more because the bridge closed to make way for a boat on the canal. Drivers were annoyed, but, we explained, "c'est une manifestation!" to which they would concede it was entirely proper that we block traffic, but why must we do it so long and can't we just let them through. Despite these arguments it was very chill and we chanted bike chants "[something something] la solution? c'est la velo -- rution!" and "something something abandonez votre voiture!" and sang bike songs, which I didn't even catch part of. After a nice bike ride around the canal and another traffic blockage, we went to the nice little park that I always go to and we all drank some beer.

The dangers of old oatmeal and late-night restaurants

Then I went home, ate old oatmeal and went to Michelle's house to try to figure out what the heck is wrong with her computer. It's sometimes failing the POST, which is not good at all. I got home extremely late and went to an Italian food place that's open late at night, which I used to go to quite frequently. And quite early Sunday morning I was struck suddenly ill. I am never going to that Italian place ever again. Also, it is unwise to eat old oatmeal. And waking up at 5:30 AM and tossing your cookies pretty much ruins your whole day. Cola went out to a giant concert at Place de la Republique which was in favor of immigrant rights (w00t), but I stayed home and felt crappy.


Monday I went to school where Jean Claude Risset was the teacher for the next several days. He was at Bell Labs in the 1960's, when computer music was shiny and new. And then he was at Stanford while they were inventing FM synthesis, and basically every important computer music thing, he was there. He figured out how to successfully synthesize a trumpet using additive synthesis. Now, not but a week earlier, I had been thinking about how (I thought) that synthesizing natural instruments was a waste of time. Why emulate a trumpet when the world is full of trumpet players? Well, synthesized trumpets are sometimes decidedly cheesy, but the lessons you learn from making such simulations are directly applicable to to more abstract electronic sounds. It was immediately clear this was the case as he described the difficulties in discovering all the transients and the different amplitudes of different overtones and different times. It was just so clearly right and worthwhile.

So my mind was completely changed in that regard. Also, having been at Bell Labs and Stanford, he knew everybody. He would just mention names conversationally. He wrote some fractal piece and then mentioned in passing Mandelbrot's reaction to it. Yeah, Mandelbrot. Holy cow. Also, he would sort of pace around the room and lose track of where varios obstacles were. He would fall over his chair about ever other hour. The class was awesome.

So he asked what we were interested in and I mentioned that I was interested in adapting tuning to timbre. We learned about dissonance curves in the fall, usually as applied to samples. But, I reasoned, it would be much easier to analyze FM sounds. They're very rich (full of harmonics) but all the harmonics are completely mathematically predictable. Thus you could quickly pick some timbres and have the tunings sort themselves out automagically. So Risset promised he would talk about a pice by John Chowning called Stria

This is the second time in the last year or so that I've been working on a pice only to find out that somebody at Stanford has already done it. In this case in 1977. Curse them for coming up with all my ideas before me.


Meanwhile, I went back to Michelle's Monday night and further swore at her computer. One of the RAM simms keeps falling out. When I got home, Aaron, Cola's ex was at my apartment. He stayed for the next several days. Every evening, when I would get home form school, he would just be opening a bottle of wine and whatever cheese he was determined to try. Then we would go out to a restaurant and have a nice leisurely meal. Oh yes, Paris. Food. Wine.

Also, we got Easter candy. Chocolate sea creatures. Also, you can get rabbits, eggs, bells, chickens, turtles, frogs, lions, elephants and um, it's kind of weird. But the chocolate is really good, so all is well.

We also connected with Herf, somebody from San Francisco who lives in Paris, but whom I haven't spoken to in months. Apparently the winter hibernation thing which I experienced is actually pretty typical. But now it is glorious, wonderful spring


On Thursday, school was out, so we went to the Pompidou Centre to see the exhibit on Los Angeles artists. As far as I can tell, there are usually always two things going on at the Pompidou. There's the permanent collection and then there's a visting exhibit. The permanent collection was excellent when I saw it, and very well organized and well curated. The visiting exhibit is on the top floor and is about one subject and is very very large. Too big. When I saw the Dada exhibit, it was exhausting. I love Dada, because it was just so wonderful and, of course, an anti-war art. It could be construed as a failure in that respect. Despite gaining popularity all over Europe, the Unites States and even Japan, another horrible war followed shortly thereafter. Art signifies nothing! I left feeling like maybe political art was worthless. Why create art at all, since humanity is so barbaric to each other and engaged in constant slaughter. Art is an exercise in uselessness and deception.

Anyway, so I went to see the LA exhibit. It got off to a promising start. I started thinking about applying to CalArts (I think they have a PhD program). But then it just drug on and on and on. Several of the works could be described as somewhat misogynist. Many could be very charitably termed as self-indulgent. From walking through, you'd think that LA was nothing but white men. They had ONE room which contained hispanic and feminist art. Hispanics got one wall. Women got another. The other two went to something else. The women wall was a video of a protest. Which, cool, but uh....

Ugh I hate LA. Hate hate hate. This is the second time I've left the travelling exhibit feeling like art was self-indulgent and worthless. Also, LA is more than wanking white men and it's not fair that it's constantly presented as such. It's the fault of the white male wankers. If only there was some way to lure them out of state and keep them there.


Anyway, Cola has been lured out of the country. She left for Amsterdam today. She comes back next wednesday.


So thursday, I called this guy who programs music for a squat and asked for a meeting, because I want to get a gig there. He told me to come to a jam session on Friday night and we should have a meeting next Thursday. Fine, jam sessions are community building and so much of these little spaces is about community. So I showed up tonight with Mariano to the pre-jam dinner and it's full of anglophones. Mariano and I were sitting next to a bag when the owner arrived and apologized if we thought his bag smelled like something was rotting inside. Mariano asked the obvious question and the man, very pleased with himself, produced a durian from his bag. This is a giant spiky fruit which is very heavy and covered with sharp points. Some people think they smell bad. They're supposed to taste very good. When I last went to the Egyptian Museum in San Jose, their durian tree was producing fruit and they had to rope off the lawn, lest a very heavy spiky fruit fall on someone's head. The man was very pleased with my story. Meanwhile, a film crew had appeared and was taping the entire conversation and me holding the very uncomfortable fruit as it's points stabbed my hands like St Sebastian's arrows. The film crew was doing a documentary, they hope for Arte TV. (Look for me holding painful fruit.) This was all too nifty, so the guy invited Mariano and I to come to a picnic in a park tomorrow and eat durian with this guy and his friends. We said yes and the film crew moved on to interview the guy we wanted to see.

He was really busy setting stuff up, so we talked to him only long enough to establish that he had absolutely no recollection of having scheduled a meeting. Great. So finally the Jam session started. It was funk music. This was one of the first events I've been to in Paris that was actually significantly integrated. I listened for a while and film crew filmed the jamming. Jamming is really hard actually. You get something going and then you have a lot of inertia. It's hard to make a change, like in key or style and it's harder to stop. Jam songs tend to go on far too long and it requires practice to stop them in a coherent way when they need to be stopped. Practice or hand signals. And the leader or whoever needs to have a good sense of when to give said signals. I seem to recall Tennis Roberts (a critically acclaimed jam art rock band from Berkeley, CA) practicing with a clock going, so we could learn when to stop.

the Future

Anyway, Mariano and I left for a while and sat at a bar. We're going to meet tomorrow to go to a park and eat durian. On Monday, there's evening class wherein I will be presenting an introduction to programming in SuperCollider. On Tuesday, we're having normal evening class. On Wednesday, I will be presenting how to write synthdefs in SuperCollider and Cola returns. On thursday, we have normal class and Sarah Dotie arrives. On Friday Sarah, Cola and I will depart for Germany.

In summary

Everything they say about Paris in Springtime is true! Also, one day I hope to get a co-ed gig in Europe.

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1 comment:

pq said...

great to have an update on all the domains of la vie de 'les. i was wondering if you had got caught up in the protests. news here tends to focus on the flashy bits like someone driving through a crowd of protestors.