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Friday, 15 September 2006

Online Again!

Welcome back to me. Here's a week old post that I couldn't put up earlier:

Reminiscing

When I was a student at Wesleyan, I left town for Spring break one year without cleaning the refrigerator at all. Milk and soymilk sat open. Other food items lay inside while I was gone for three weeks. Some time during that three weeks, a fuse blew in my home and the fridge was left to get warm. This was either during or before the heatwave.

When I opened the door to my Wesleyan fridge, a cloud of green spores filled my kitchen. Literally, a cloud of particulate matter. Aaron cleaned it all, god bless him. (I wonder if he wants to move here to be my housemate again?) The situation was something of a disaster. However, it did not smell as badly as the refrigerator in the anti-squat where I stay. I've been eating out a lot.

If Aaron did want to come out here for a while, he might find it familiar. In many ways, this is a lot like when I started at Wesleyan. Holland's food culture is on a par with Connecticut as is, I've been told, the weather. The course load is also similar. In my first semester at Wesleyan, I took way too many classes. Here, I've found my course schedule to be even more packed. I have classes five days a week. I've gone to four so far. I have three more tomorrow, two or three on friday, two on monday and tuesday. I don't have to actually take all of these and indeed I have some that I am considering dropping.

School

So far, I've learned that Sonology's origins are from the Acoustical Research department at Phillips. So Sonology has the tapes for Poème Electronique , which they commissioned.

I've also learned that women are good at communication, which is why Pauline Oliveros writes the kinds of audience pieces that she does and that a lot of music is male exhibition just like peacocks, so biologically speaking one could conclude that women were unsuited to music and thus probably don't have a cross-cultural tradition of same and wait, how does Pauline Oliveros fit in this? and yeah I found one possible class to drop. yay gender essentialism.

Also I had a long and math filled lecture on convolution and I'm ashamed to admit that I dozed off. When I awoke, there was a formula on the backboard. I think I get DSP except for the formulas are confusing. What does h refer to again? There needs to be some sort of key provided next to every equation to remind you what the hell the letters are referring to. I took trig a long time ago, so I think I can hack it, even if I could not remember the frequency relationship between a sine wave and that same wave squared. (Octave higher + offset. It's how frequency dividers work.) Finally, I learned that convolution is a linear process and therefore is reversable, although Curtis Roads claims otherwise. hmmm.

Housing

Cola has been off looking at apartments. Today we looked at two. One was at the very high end of the price range, but comes furnished and with a possible 6 month contract. The other was way too expensive and won't be ready until next week. But the landlord called up tonight and offered us the bigger, more expensive one for the lower price. Also, no agency fee. Hope on the housing front.

Also went today to Stroom and signed up to try to get housing through them. They're an arts group which offers help to artists locating housing or studios. To qualify, you need to be part of the group or a student at the art school or the conservatory. There is a waiting list. I wish I had looked into this when I was here over the summer.

The Next Day

Last night, somebody dumped a pile of stuff in the street in front of where I anti-squat. And it's not even Sunday. I kept hearing scavengers coming by to look at the stuff, so this morning, I took a gander and grabbed a mirror. Huzzah, there is now a mirror here. There was also most of a bike, but the front end looked kind of messed up. If only I could weld!

First Period

So there are ballet students at my school, because I go to the Royal Conservatory (oh my god, how did this happen exactly?). The ballet students have changing rooms near the music practice rooms. The changing rooms have mirrors ringed with lightbulbs, just like backstage-y stuff. The changing rooms also have showers. Showers with hot water. At 9:50 this morning, I handed the front desk my student card and in return got a key to a room with a hot shower in it. Then Cola and I ran down there, became clean (yay!) and I ran up just in time for my 10:00 class which doesn't start until September 14th, something I would have known had I gone to the meeting or if I spoke any Dutch. I am seriously going to take some evening classes or something.

Second Period

Afternoon class number one was on the roots of computer music. We talked about the Theremin, the Ondes Martenot, the RCA Mark I synthesizer and Music I - Music V among other aspects like timbral limitations fo repeating wave forms. It was mostly review for me, but I hadn't heard sound samples of the Mark I before. The teacher, Paul Berg, also asserted that new instruments and technology tend to be first used for old applications. Clara Rockmore played Rachmoninov with the Theremin. The first Mark I stuff was old warhorses arranged for synthesizer (this thing, btw, took up an entire room and was not voltage controlled. It had 12 discrete oscillators - one for every equally tempered step, an octave switching device and some wave shaping. crazy). Berg sees this tendency as regrettable, but I think it's just part of human nature. People relate new tools to old frameworks. Many people now carry around in their pockets little computers with fast disk access and D->A converters. The use them for playing recordings, because that's how they think about pocket-sized musical devices. It's using a new technology for an old idea. If you want a CD player or a casette player, by all means get one. And it's not bad to use your Ipod as a glorified one of those. But really, it could/should be more.

Also, I counter that not every application of new technology to old aesthetics is bad. Ipods are a case in point. Also Wendy Carlos' Switched on Bach is really wonderful. It's fun, it has interesting sounds and it was a good idea. She got great timbres and it deserved the popularity that it achieved. Old music with a new instrument is only a problem if it's not done well.

Also, Ondes Martenots are cool and I want one. They're expressive as heck and very well suited to some solo performance. Also Messiaen wrote great stuff for them. They also have interesting timbres, partly because the speakers are sometimes behind sympathetic strongs or gongs or otherwise modified. Pure awesomeness.

Third Period

My last class today was one of those first meetings where the teacher talks about what he's going to talk about. It's a class largely about spatialization, but also sounds in space: how they work physically. The teacher is involved with wavefront synthesis. From what I gleamed from just the introduction to these subjects in general, my SuperCollider spatialization classes work the right way. I am going to add support for reflections very soon as my suspicions on how to do it are apparently correct. Anyway, if you get a really fast processor and a whole bunch of D->A converters, you could generalize my code to do wavefront stuff for you. Maybe I'll make it automatically for n channels, just in case.

Also, the speed of sound varies according to atmospheric pressure and air temperature and humidity and whatnot. Perhaps I should get a little USB meteorological station. People are sensitive to very tiny differences in timing, so it may actually be perceptible.

The evening

I hate Dutch food. Why must everything have so much sugar in it? I am listening to Not Made of Stone by Polly Moller. It seems to be partly about our road trip to Vegas in 2003. I hope I am not Deep Eddie.

I really like my school. I have wanted to live in The Netherlands for a long time. I'm so happy I came.

And More Recently

Well, I haven't posted for a while, but I haven't written anything for a while either. Who wants to read through a glut of week old news? I've now been to every class at least once. I felt kind of negative about today's classes, but maybe just because it's Monday. Maybe if I didn't take any Monday classes, I'd start to feel negative about Tuesdays. Class #1 is in MIDI. For real. Not "'MIDI' but really OSC" or really hardware devices or really anything else, but MIDI. Today we talked about the MIDI spec.

MIDI

MIDI should be dead technology and CV should be alive and kicking (maybe if they were, my opinions would be reversed... (probably would, alas)). The teacher gave a lengthy explanation, but didn't talk about binary or hex representations, and the sick logic is not apparent without such knowledge. Let's look at the anatomy of a midi message in binary. First, the first 4 bits: 1wxy. the 1 indicates a a new event of some kind. wxy indicates which event it is. Astute observers will note this leaves 8 possible events. This is kind of true. The next 4 bits (almost always - unless the first 4 bits are 1111) indicate the channel number. Obviously, there are 16 channels. Then you get two more possible bytes (some events only use one more byte. Some use no more.). Those bytes must start with 0 to indicate that they're not new events. So you get seven bits to work with, which is to say, 0-127. Possible values thus range from 80-FF for byte 1, and 00-7F for bytes 2 and 3. A note on on channel one in binary is: 1001 0000 0 followed by a seven bit number indicating which key, followed by 0, followed by a 7 but number indicated amplitude. Half amplitude ("velocity") on note 60 would be 1001 0000 0001 1110 0011 1111 (or 90 1E 3F)

Let me note that 7 bit amplitude really sucks.

Life

I want a PolyMoog. And a pony. And a bicycle. I've talked myself into getting one worth bringing home at the end. I also want an apartment. I have a landlord, I think. Having a landlord and not an apartment is definitely the worst of both worlds. Anyway I should have lodging any day now. Which is good because the guy at the reception desk today told me I couldn't shower.

The analog studio here was two walls of synth modules including 16 oscillators. OMFG.

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1 comment:

Polly Moller said...

yay! a post from 'les!!!!
You are not Deep Eddy. Deep Eddy is from a short story collection by Bruce Sterling. I abducted him and put him in my song. :)