Why Film Festivals Matter

One of the best things about winter in New Zealand is the Film Festival, and its always a lottery as to whether I’m flat out working at the time & have to juggle schedules to catch movies, or I’m between projects & can enjoy one of life’s pleasures of going to movies during the day. There is something fantastic about wandering out into daylight after spending a couple of hours in the dark, with the psychological residue of the film still floating around in your mind… I guess it brings back the feeling of childhood & going to matinee screenings of films during the day too…. But Film Festivals serve many purposes aside from the pure entertainment of seeing movies & I figured its maybe poignant to consider the significance of these other parallel functions…

Embassy Theatre photo credit here

The first aspect is a cultural one. I consider art to be a fundamental part of a nations identity, and cinema is a place where this is especially apparent: we get to see & hear other culture’s stories as well as our own. Relatedly I have always admired the French for the way they protect their culture. In New Zealand American culture can at times feel all pervasive, such is the marketing might of Hollywood. But at Film Festivals there is a level playing field: no matter the scale or budget of each film, they are billed equally. Quoting from a relevant article, this is also a timely reminder that a good story transcends budget. Accordingly one of the joys of Film Festivals is finding the unexpected gems; a good example would be a film I saw at the Film Festival a few years ago called 3 Iron which I went to solely on the basis that the film apparently had less than a dozen lines of dialogue… I loved the film & after the festival proceeded to check out the other films the director Kim Ki-duk had made as well as a number of other Korean directors…

The second aspect is professional. As someone who works in the film industry I think there is an inherent incentive to experience as many relevant films as possible, if for no other reason than to increase your exposure to a broad variety of film making. I’m always silently appalled when I ask someone who works in the industry what was their favourite film at the Festival & they reply, ‘none, I didn’t go to any.’ But then I’ve always been aware there are two types of people who work in the film industry; there are those who do it for the creative passion & then there are those for whom it is a job. I personally don’t understand how you can work in such a creatively demanding industry without having a desire to experience great works of art, for pleasure & as references, but I guess it takes all sorts…
An additional bonus at Festivals is that some directors travel with their films & I remember last year being incredibly impressed with the young Chinese director of a documentary called Up the Yanghtze who took part in a lengthy Q&A after the screening. It was enlightening to learn just what was involved in making a documentary such as this; both physically – the time & resources involved, but even more so, culturally. He shared much insight & it was amazing how a lot of hugely memorable scenes from the film took on even more resonance as he explained the context in which they were shot.

A third, unique aspect revolves around the kinds of films that are often only ever seen at festivals (or otherwise in ghastly pixelated low resolution forms online) An immediate example is short films – its always a safe bet going to screenings of short films as there are bound to be some you like, and if you don’t like them all well at least you don’t have to suffer for long! But I enjoy watching short films for the same reasons I like working on them; they employ all the techniques of feature films but the duration requires a clarity of vision that can be profound. Similarly experimental techniques can work in short form that may be insufferable over longer durations, but as always it is the idea & the narrative that succeeds… At the end of each Film Festival if I reflect on the personal highlights having been to a dozen or more screenings, it is usually a couple of feature films and a couple of short films that stay with me permanently. And that says a lot about the perceptual value of short films.

Another unique form of screenings I have enjoyed at previous festivals & have already tagged to attend at the upcoming festival is the live film event. Now film is film ie its already been shot & is being projected so there are obviously limits to how ‘live’ a screening can be visually, but the concept of a live soundtrack obviously dates back to the birth of film & it is fantastic to experience a contemporary take on it. At the upcoming NZ FIlm Festival there are screenings with live soundtracks happening in Auckland, Wellington & Dunedin, thanks to conductor/composer Timothy Brock and pianist/composer Neil Brand.
In Auckland Tim Brock will be conducting the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra as they perform a newly restored score for Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Gold Rush. Tim Brock will also be providing piano accompaniment for the Fritz Lang film Spies. In Wellington Tim Brock will conduct the Vector orchestra as they perform Neil Brands ‘haunted house’ score for the 1927 silent classic, The Cat and the Canary & note: Neil will be performing on Theremin! And in both Wellington & Dunedin there will be live accompaniment for the Douglas Fairbanks film The Black Pirate.
In both Auckland & Wellington there will also be a live presentation of Neil Brand’s The Silent Pianist Speaks – quoting from the press release: ‘Neil Brand: Actor, writer and teacher, is also one of the finest exponents of improvised silent film accompaniment in the world. It’s that particular talent that he discusses and demonstrates in this funny, illuminating and entertainingly interactive show which he originally devised for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s a great primer on the ways music can direct our responses, but even seasoned musicians-for-film stand to learn something from the way Brand responds to a movie. The show culminates in a performance for footage he hasn’t seen, with him talking through the scoring process as he plays and struggles to make some sense of the film. His enthusiastic, generous and laconically unpretentious introduction reveals an artistry that’s much more extraordinary than he appears to realise.’

Another aspect of Film Festivals that may not be readily apparent to the average movie goer is that film festivals help films get made. This might seem like backwards logic, but a crucial part of securing funding for a film is about distribution and it is often via festivals that important distribution rights can be secured. This is obviously more prevalent in big market festivals like Cannes or Berlin, Toronto, Sundance etc but even in New Zealand achieving a screening can help films on their way to finding their audience. Variety magazine had an article about this very subject that is worth a read, especially the relevance to indie film makers.

And the last crucial aspect of attending Film Festivals I will leave for David Lynch to remind us of:

So book your tickets!


So Percusssion – have I mentioned them before? Shame on me if not..

happy clappers?

my favourite is a track by them called ‘February’ but I couldnt find it anywhere online to link to… c’est la vie! Check out their blog here – it seems to be updated once a year, so no rush ok?

Skimming for Jewels..

I seem to be collecting up more PDF ebooks than I can read & while I’m sure the trees are happy about that I’m not so sure my attention span is! Slowly I am becoming a chronic skim-reader, skipping through the content looking for the jewels & ignoring the rest. Its only when I stop & savour beautifully written fiction that I fully appreciate reading for its own sake… The same is true of auditioning music. If you buy vinyl you well know the process of selecting half a dozen records instore, waiting for your turn on one of the decks & then skipping the stylus through a few crucial parts of each tune to decide if its worth buying. So how much music do you need to hear to know whether you like it? Not very much; just a sonic glimpse of the intro, main melody or the beat…

But the same is even more true auditioning sound effects for a scene. Fast listening doesn’t mean playing it at double speed, but it does mean rapid auditioning. Having waveforms to guide you to the content definitely helps, but as time passes so does history, context & metadata. Finding the ‘right’ sound often involves all four… These are skills created by necessity; if I search in SoundMiner for ‘dog’ for example, I get 740 hits & if I actually listen to them all then I wont get any work done today!

Anyway, an ebook I was skimming through yesterday struck a few resonant chords with me & although it is written primarily focused on graphic design much of its wisdom relates to any creative endeavour. I think its worth having a read of Time Management for Creative People (PDF) by Mark McGuinness

Choir stimulates storm (cool!) but then Toto!?!

From the sublime to the nauseating…. but the first 1’30” are worth it

sorry if you are a fan of Toto but yeeech… If I am ever in control of a crowd for FX recording etc I am definitely going to try doing some of those human granular effects though – very cool!

Maywa Denki

Last time I was in Tokyo I lucked in & went to an exhibition of some of the ingenious musical devices produced by Maywa Denki.

While I was certainly aware of them before, having seen their little music generating toys (like those above) for sale online at places like sweaty frog this was my first time experiencing their larger scale machines & it was a lot like being a kid in a candy store! Heres some backstory from the sake-drenched postcards site and a video with a few examples:

And members of the knockman family:


Post #700!

Next milestone: 1k!

Post #700 is The Muppets redubbed with Reservoir Dogs…. but of course!

Although nothing could make me laugh as much as Bert & Ernie doing death metal…

damn! theres more of them! The muppet death metal meme?


Despite even the idea of listening to this song making me feel naesous, its worth persevering at least until the vocal starts….

Unexplained Sounds

I love moments when your brain can’t quite assimilate the source of a sound; once something is unidentifiable the brain can leap to all sorts of wild possibilities as to what it might be. Of course it is a technique used to varying degrees in film soundtracks, where the reveal may be important or equally the source of the sound may never be revealed. But films are one thing, real life is another; the BBC recently documented the work of a Dr Baguely, relative to the unexplained hums people have been hearing. Unlike tinnitus which is uniquely heard by individuals, these hums are heard by many. Quoting from the BBC article: In Britain, the most famous example was the so-called “Bristol hum” that made headlines in the late 1970s. One newspaper asked readers in the city: “Have you heard the Hum?” Almost 800 people said they had.

And the problem is on the increase, according to the Low Frequency Noise Sufferers’ Association. Two thousand people have so far contacted its helpline, and it says it receives two or three new cases every week.
But Dr Baguely has a theory about errant internal gain control: Surrounded in his office by plastic models of human ears, he explains how we each have an internal volume control that helps us amplify quiet sounds in times of threat, danger or intense concentration.
“If you’re sitting by a table waiting for exam results and the phone rings you jump out of your skin. Waiting for a teenager to come home from a party – the key in the door sounds really loud. Your internal gain is sensitised.” This is a mechanism we all rely on at moments of pressure or stress when we want our senses on full alert.
According to Dr Baguley, the problem comes when an individual fixes on a possibly innocuous background sound, and this act of concentration then triggers the body’s “internal gain”, boosting the volume. The initial “signal” may vary from person to person, but the outcome is the same. “It becomes a vicious cycle,” he explains. “The more people focus on the noise, the more anxious and fearful they get, the more the body responds by amplifying the sound, and that causes even more upset and distress.”

But one sufferer is sceptical, Katie Jacques: “People assume you must be hearing things, but I’m not crackers,” she laughs. I don’t know how I can get this over to people, but this is not in my head. It’s just as though there’s something in your house and you want to switch if off and you can’t. It’s there all the time.”

There is an example recording of one such hum here recorded by acousticians at Salford University. Hmmm sounds like the AFG on my modular synth, but I can turn it off…

(thanks for the tip Michael!)

Another source of unexplained low frequency sounds is from underwater. The spectrum above is an example which was recorded on March 1, 1999 on the Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array. The source of the sound is unknown, but is sufficiently loud to be heard over the entire array. The duration is approximately 15 seconds and is severely band limited. The approximate origin is 1999JD60 2218Z near 15S, 98W.
Heres a copy of the sound, sped up 16 times:

download Julia sound mp3

There are a number of other unexplained sounds on the Vents Program Acoustic Monitoring site as well as sounds who’s origins are clearly identified; be they biocoustics or seismicity or man made noise pollution. I’ve played with a hydrophone a few times, listening while my friend went fishing & it always unimpressed me just how bland & annoying most human produced sounds are underwater. Fish must really think we are a noisy annoying species but thankfully they have been getting humans to build websites to help make us aware of the pollution we generate. Some examples: The Ocean Mammal Institue and this video on the dangers of the use of sonar:

Unrelatedly, why does anything underwater require those silly synth pads as score? Methink they belong on the film cliche list or the film sound cliche list along with the damned ‘dog next door’ sound effect!

Budgeting Music for a Feature Film?

Every now & again an opportunity crosses my path (or my path crosses an opportunity) and despite detesting spectator sports (especially rugby!) I am going to use a rugby metaphor here: if someone passes you the ball, best you catch it & run like hell for the try line. So for the second time in the past twelve months I was asked if I am interested in scoring a film. Now this is very obviously not a task to be taken lightly and as with sound design, it is almost more dangerous to under-budget a project & live with the consequences than to over budget. And really, no one is going to give you more money than they have allocated… I have already thought through the creative side of things many, many times & am totally confident that skills that I don’t have but need for the process I know people to collaborate with. But how to budget music for a feature film? It doesn’t matter who you are, most people will never divulge how they go about establishing their rates & budgets as it is obviously commercially sensitive information based on experience & there is only one way to get experience.
Relatedly one of the most valuable tasks I have done financially was to analyse the last dozen films that I have worked on, and calculate the ratio of total sound editorial budget vs total budget of the film. The range was interesting; obviously budgets are informed by content – an action film will be heavy on sound effects, a period drama will be heavy on dialogue/ADR/foley etc… But going through this gave me a basis for negotiating on future projects & it also provides an early warning system when someone asks me to be involved in a project but then reveals that their post budget is vastly disproportionate to the required content and/or their total budget.
But how do you budget music? In my early days of budgeting sound editorial for films I would always prepare three quotes (the dream, the bottom line & the middle ground) & go into a meeting with the aim of discovering how much they actually had pencilled in their budget. I have always believed in trying to find the right projects to work on & establishing that you want to work together, because then budget becomes secondary: it is primarily about the art, not the commerce.

Anyway here are a few sites I found & am researching, I definitely have a few books at home that I need to revisit too but I’d appreciate any advice or salient links?

via Andrew Ingkavet’s blog: who also reccomends the Yahoo film Budgeting group

“There are no standard union rates for Composers as there are with editors, DPs, actors, set designers or just about anyone else. Somewhere I’ve seen a range of 5 to 10 percent of the overall budget(For a $250,000 film, this is $12,000 to $25,000). Of course, if this film requires a soundtrack of epic proportions with the London Symphonic Orchestra, this won’t even cover the orchestra salaries, let alone the recording sessions and Composer’s fee. Or if this film was made for $5000, this may not work. On most independent films, the budgets are barely enough to cover a Composer’s fee and live musicians (besides the Composer) are a luxury.

What usually happens is a combination of cash and a structure for back-end payments should the film actually make some money. This could be structured on a sliding (“step”) scale where as certain levels of success occur, the rates of payments change accordingly….. continues…”

Some scenarios via a music supervisor who also publishes a very relevant newsletter

Some funny advice from The Orchestration Forum: “One method is to base your fee on the value of the car your client drives or the home in which he/she lives.”

Hmmmmmm…… not that I’m working on films of this scale, but the entire US$70million budget for M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village (2003) appears to be online (80+ pages worth), for example here is the production sound budget and here is the music budget and here is sound post…

Ah a boy can dream….

Rhythmic Car Ad

Which reminds me of a music video by local director Chris Graham:

WETA wins World Class NZ Award!

Richard Taylor, Co-Founder of WETA Workshop and WETA Digital recently won the World Class NZ Award! He gave a rousing speech, which is worth a listen, as it puts into perspective how hard he works at developing & promoting the formidable talent at WETA. He also mentions the four specific character traits he believes are crucial for people to be successful & while his experience is primarily in the film industry I believe what he says is universal….
Congrats Richard!

The Wire, inappropriately…

This is crossing 2 themes for me: I’m a fan of The Wire. ‘Good TV’ is almost an oxymoron, but The Wire achieves it (as does Breaking Bad). For my $0.05 its also no coincidence both series have very good soundtracks; if the producers & directors care about story & casting & plot development & character arcs as much as they obviously do, then they should also care about the contribution music, dialogue, sound & the mix have to make. And they do. Respect to everyone involved in those series.
When I started working in sound post one of my mantras was ‘never work on anything with a laugh track’ – I never rationalised why but it was a base instinct. I don’t fear comedy, but I knew I never ever wanted to have to edit laugh tracks. And thankfully I never have… And this clips shows why… Is a laugh track EVER needed? I mean, if its a live comedic performance & the audience response is recorded & mixed in, then sure – thats like an applause track or maybe cheering etc for sports… but hell for me would be taking a lame comedy & being told to ‘laugh it up’ – god/jah/buddha forbid!!

Max Richter Interview

I was first introduced to Max Richter’s music when I was working on 30 Days of Night & one of his compositions was used as temp score… & I have since bought all his albums.. this interview is a short excerpt from what looks to be a fascinating triple-DVD of interviews on ‘Contemporary Music Production’ – check the DVD out here

heres the trailer for the DVD:

Turntable Pr0N

I think this video could have been titled: ‘OCD & the law of diminishing returns’ but what’s really the biggest anomaly is that none of the rooms these guys have their super-fantastic stereo system set up in appear to have had any acoustic treatment! Hmmmmm…..

Bach, but played with your feet?

Aside from admiring the dexterity involved in playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with your feet, my next thought was I would love to see them play some Philip Glass; just as some of his music is incredibly hypnotic I can only imagine the movements required in playing it via the same means as above would also be…. Ditto for Cages 4’33”?

via kottke via boingboing


hee hee “eating all our sand” – WTF??

Rycote Afro for your Portable Recorder!

I love how these fluffy windjammers from Rycote start to anthropomorphisize these handheld audio recorders – that one on the right just needs some eyebrows!

I must order one for my Zoom H2, there is nothing more frustrating than having an otherwise good recording ruined by wind buffets & the light foam protectors they come with are only really any use in the lightest breeze – even the subway trains wooshing past would buffet my poor little H2 when I was in Tokyo… Order them here or via your local Rycote dealer

SubWoofer Truck!

If this truck pulled up beside you at the lights with its subwoofer booming you really might have something to complain about!

Art from my brief travels…

Somehow travel & art are interlinked for me, even if ‘travel’ is just a 1 hour flight to another city… Heres a photo I shot on my phone, on the walk into town on Saturday morning:

Anyone from Auckland will of course recognise it as the work of Component, a Grey Lynn local with a wry sense of humour… Next a blurry shot from outside one of my favourite Auckland bookstores: Parsons

The book looked very interesting… But I didnt end up buying Pictures of Nothing because I instead bought this book: Digital by Design by Troika & what a book it is! Apart from enjoying the book itself, it has led me to research the work of some of the artists included & I’ll share a few below…

Listening Post by Mark Hansen & Ben Rubin collects text from thousands of internet chat rooms, bulletin boards & forums and both displays phrases starting with ‘I am…’ as well as speaks them…

Jim Campbell’s Home Movie (interview here) – beautifully pixelated!

Thomas Mcintosh’s Ondulation

Peter Vogel’s beautiful circuits

Tool’s Life by minim++

At last! A solution to commuting: Hehe’s tapis volant:

The owl project ilog:

Auger Loizeau’s audio tooth implant makes total sense to me!

Electroprobe by Troika allows you to listen in to the invisible electromagnetic world surrounding every device you use…

Digital by Design by Troika – Highly recommended!

XMediaLab Auckland brain dump

So this will be the first of a few posts about XMediaLab; in short it was very, very good! I learned a lot & came away totally buzzing if not a little exhausted… I purposefully didnt take my laptop or my stills camera and it was the right decision – more than a few people sat through each presentation continuously typing into their laptops & I got the same feeling for them as I get when traveling & I see someone experiencing the wonders before them through a viewfinder, rather than with their own eyes… It appears almost as though the concept of recording the event is more important than experiencing the event itself, but hey; some of those present may well have been journalists & the TBI twitters made for a good stash of notes to refer back to… Now I wont recount everything I experienced at XMediaLab, as if I even could, but I will just sight the presentations that resonated with me & which i think bear further investigation….

So I arrived with a moleskin notebook, a pen & my iPod Touch with initial thoughts of twittering as much as possible, but the first presenter erased any chance of that & proceeded to set a high benchmark for other presenters to follow. Of course it didn’t hurt that the clients she works with have very deep pockets, but the basic impression I got was that some of the new media she strategized & managed is highly subversive. And I mean this in a very good way. According to many self-sustaining myths genius is a singular term, but as you grow older you come to realise genius exists as a collective, albeit with a singular vision. Susan Bonds of 42 Entertainment proceeded to illustrate just how lateral you can go with rethinking old media. One concept she illustrated (labelled Augmented Reality) was based on this question: ‘In an age when most music is downloaded, how could you go about creating & releasing a concept album?’ The example she proceeded to illustrate had the audience in a state half way between awe & laughter at the audacious methods they employed in the twelve months leading up to the release. The project? Nine Inch Nails Year Zero album. I won’t repeat the lengths they went to, an outline of the project is available here and it is fascinating – but two quick examples; they decided to leak a song off the new album to start building momentum way ahead of the official release date, so how did they leak the song? They left a few USB thumb drives lieing around at a NIN concert, so for example one was found on a shelf in the toilet… Of course the first thing you would do if you found a USB drive would be to see what was on it, and of course someone at a NIN gig is going to identify it as an unreleased NIN song! But even more obliquely they had embedded an image into the spectrum of the song, the image related to a website, the address of which was embedded in T shirts sold at the concert etc etc… There is more info at Wikipedia about the ‘game’ but the potential for integration of an internet meme into the real world was beautifully illustrated by Susan on this & a number of other projects 42 Entertainment have been involved with. It was a very inspiring presentation, but I came away with one note underlined in my moleskin that bears truth no matter the scale of the project: ‘transferring ownership of the project to the audience’

Vincent Herringa of HB media & IdeaLog was up next and I really enjoyed his presentation, especially his idea of outsourcing your problems! And one of his concerns I can thoroughly relate to: the idea that a lot of new media is centred around short attention spans & instant gratification, when real depth can only really be achieved in long form. This resonated with me strongly in that I feel similarly about a lot of interactive media. People sometimes forget that the most engaging media is often achieved through the user having zero ability to change it. Film is a good example of this, it is the screenwriters & directors ‘voice’ that the audience engages with through willingly suspending their disbelief, rather than having it tricked from them via short term distractions… This wasn’t a case of ‘luddites against new media’ or anything like it, but it was a very welcome reminder of some basic truths that can sometimes be pushed aside in the rush of technological advancements…

Similarly Juliette Powell went on to remind us that the primary reason for the existence of social media is to build human relationships. This might seem self-evident but it was nice to hear someone speak about the role of community rather than just demographics & users, or ‘your own zombie army’ as one speaker put it (cringe!) I will no doubt check out her book 33 Million People in the Room – heres a short interview with her, from after XMediaLab.

The afternoon sessions moved on to focus on the business & finance side of new media development & while some of these became a little dry for my tastes, there were still a lot of interesting & very relevant ideas to consider. One term that was mentioned a number of times was the 1/9/90 rule. I have observed this phenomena plenty of times but never quite realised that it had, of course, been documented. The 1/9/90 rule basically states that in most online communities 90% of the users are lurkers/viewers who never contribute other than passively, 9% of the users contribute a little mostly via editing or commenting on existing material, while the remaining 1% account for most of action. As soon as I heard this theory, my next thought was does this not also apply to real life? 90% are consumers, 9% contribute to making other peoples work & 1% actually originate the work?

Ok, so thats a quick skim through two pages out of my moleskin… am still thinking through the other twenty I filled with fervent scribbling! I am definitely attending XMedia Lab next year & recommend it very highly! Big thanks to The Big Idea for making me aware of it and even bigger thanks to XMediaLab for organising it!


Quite beautiful, especially in slow motion… apparently based on the Aristid Lindenmayer formula used for plant modelling… check their myspace page for more info…

Text to Morse to MIDI to Audio

Here is a link to an online app that does the first three steps ie enter text & it is first converted to morse code & then MIDI. The file I downloaded had .CGI as the file type but by manually changing that to .MIDI quicktime could then play it…. So here is ‘the music of sound’ in morse – its almost like a monotonal arpeggiator…

download morse mp3 (dur: 15seconds)

Cannes 2009 Results

The results from the Cannes Film festival have been posted and its fantastic to see the Prix Vulcain: Artist-Technician Award went to Aitor Berenguer sound technician of the movie MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO. Congrats to him! I am looking forward to seeing & hearing that film. Congrats also to local directors Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland who’s short film THE SIX DOLLAR FIFTY MAN, won a Special Distinction award. You can watch a short clip from the film here

Trance Audio Contact Mic Available Again!!!

Just recieved an email press release with great news!

“We know it’s been quite a while, but we are happy to announce that we are again building the Inducer System for sound design use. The Inducer is a specially designed low-noise high-definition sound system. It is completely portable and powered by 2 9-volt batteries. Its features include phase reversal (to allow proper mixing with multiple sound sources), a balanced TRS output to interface with professional recording equipment.
The heart of the Inducer System is the Acoustic Lens transducer. The Lens, which can have a cable length of up to 10 feet, employs multiple sensors to create a well defined sonic image of whatever its attached to. Its hermetically sealed to protect it against inclement environments and can even be used underwater.

The Inducer is $405 USD plus shipping ($10 in the continental US; email us for shipping quotes elsewhere) and is a custom made item. Please contact us if you’d like more info or to place an order!

Also, we recently did a modification on our stereo Amulet System (designed for acoustic guitar) at a client’s request to make it easier to use for sound design applications. Contact us for details of the mod if you think stereo might be useful to you; the Amulet sells for $549
and additional info on the standard version is here

X Media Lab

I’m heading off to Auckland tonight to attend X Media Lab which should be interesting…. I’ll tweet anything that strikes me as worth 140 characters, so check here if you’ve got nothing better to do tomorrow… FWIW I also auto-tweet every time I upload a new post to this blog, so if you prefer twitter over rss then follow me there. I’m still getting my head around twitter – i’m sure having an iphone would make it a bit more immediate… But it seems a little bit like myspace, in that some people just want to collect as many ‘friends’ as possible regardless of the relevance. But thats probably kids & is probably their modus operandi at that stage in their life anyway…


Am wondering if I should take a taser incase I encounter any advertising ‘creatives’?

A Trilogy of Insight

It is entirely appropriate that this documentary is presented as a trilogy, as it is a documentary about a film director who became rather well known for a trilogy involving hobbits… And while his rise to fame & fortune might appear to have been overnight, it is incredibly life affirming to appreciate from where his talent first originated; passion, hard work & creative ingenuity. Meet Peter Jackson as a 25 year old film maker, with his first feature film just finished…

Oh Delia!

No its not a Nick Cave song, not even close…. I have a few friends that I have known for a very long time, but the longer I know them the more I appreciate them. These people are the best friends to have. They are subtle & so deep that time is the only means of discovering their unique wisdom. And so it also goes with some artists; people you have never met but who’s unique vision has left a creative trail of bread crumbs for you to discover, if you are worthy & have that most crucial attribute for an interesting life: eternal curiosity.
Recently I’ve fallen in love with the work of Delia Derbyshire no doubt if you are reading this you know who she is, just as I did… and I knew she was amazing & all, but that was based on a vague instinct/fanboy state attached to anyone associated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The idea of actually sighting works of hers (other than the Doctor Who theme) which that vague feeling could be based on had remained in my periphery. But now it isn’t, one revelation is based on an audio work, the other on a statement.

First the statement; (via disquiet) One sound source she recorded & processed in many ways was a green lampshade, literally! “For a documentary on the Tuareg people of the Sahara desert, she took the ringing part of the lampshade sound, faded it up and then reconstructed it using the workshop’s 12 oscillators to give a whooshing sound, allied to her own voice. “So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs,” she once said. Now THAT is poetry to my ears…

Next is an audio work – ever since I first heard this I have imagined myself having to do the same project now, with all the technology I have at hand & I am daunted by the task; not in the technical methodology involved but in the aesthetic poetry of what she seamlessly achieves, which simply transcends technology….

download DREAMS mp3

via here

Music as a Gradual Process

The title for this post is not mine, it belongs to Steve Reich. And he is one of a number of musicians that I have spent more time reading about (& thinking about) than actually listening to their work. Is that a bad thing? Who knows… Steve Reich, I am sure would be the first to admit he is not striving to be a popular artist – his work is challenging & while I am not trying to say he strives to be unpopular his work, unlike much popular music, does bear thinking about.
I remember back when I was in the slow motion process of dropping out of university, reading about one of his works involving hanging microphones over guitar amps & setting a cycle of feedback in motion, as the mics moved like pendulums… Decades later I have still never heard that work, or even a recording of it, but I have many many times thought about hearing it, such that it is a familiar sound to me….
Similarly this is not the first time I have read his dissertation of Music as a Gradual Process & I suggest if this is your first chance to read it then it should not be your last. As with all good writing there are multiple interpretations to be found & each is based on your own experiences & perception. Here are just a few excerpts that resonate with me now:

“Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:
pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.”

“While performing and listening to gradual musical processes one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards towards it.”

So what brought on this reflection on music as a gradual process? Two things; first the photo above; that is the footprint of Hua Chi, a 70 year-old Buddhist monk who has been praying in the same spot at his temple in Tongren, China for over 20 years. And when I say pray I mean he performs his prayers 3000 times a day….

Secondly, I was reminded of the holes in the floor in this video:

So whats the rush again?

Special Report

This is a bit of nostalgia for me; I remember seeing it first at Res Fest in 1999; Bryan Boyce combines footage from CNN and ABC news reports with dialogue from old scifi films synced up via some slightly weirdly keyed new mouths into something that often makes more sense than what CNN & ABC would have us believe is actually news, or reality or whatever… my favourite moment starts at 1.31 – Classic!

Unique Recording Techniques

I love reading about unique techniques people have discovered or developed in the studio to capture sound, and it is so much more interesting than the inevitable ‘what plugins/software do you use?’ forum questions. I was watching a DVD last night called ‘Pretty as a Picture – The Art of David Lynch’ and came across this section, illustrating a technique they used when recording Angelo Badalmaneti’s score for Lost Highway in Prague:

I love the mischievous look on Badalamenti’s face as David Lynch explains what he is doing… Unlike recording music for its own sake, recording & premixing the score for a film involves a context that is not immediately apparent. Sure the composer & director (hopefully) have a clear idea about where & how the music will work in a scene, but the actual specifics of how the music balances alongside all the other elements in the final mix remains to be discovered at a later date. While flexibility is crucial (hence premixing the score to multiple stems) the idea of finding recording techniques that are worth carrying into the final mix purely as transitional or contrasting elements is very interesting.

It reminded me of a story Brian Reitzell told me when we were working on 30 Days of Night, of his working with a producer who whenever he was recording drums would put a bucket of water in the same room. In the bucket he would suspend a hydrophone & record the sound that was being induced into the water through the energy of sound in the room…

Tchad Blake is a producer with a reputation for a unique approach to recording & mixing, not the least of which involves a Neumann KU100 binaural head that he callsFritz: “Fritz is very dear to us Blakes. Between my wife (also an engineer and the PT’s head in the family) and I we have three heads. I always use one as my drum OH and have for almost fifteen years. Very balanced sounding mic. Great on piano, strings-large and small, all kinds of room setups. Good on vocals with softer acoustic instrumentation.”

And from a 1997 article in Sound on Sound magazine: “Blake is an engineer who likes to create sound effects at source, as with the aforementioned rubber tubes and binaural head, or using “mechanical filters, like wooden pipes, didgeridoos, metal pipes, tin cans and boxes, cardboard boxes and tubes, and so on. I’ll put springs in a tin can, place that in front of a drum, and put a microphone in it. I must admit that I’ve been doing it a little bit less recently, because I felt that I’d been over-using this approach, but it does have a number of huge advantages. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s very difficult to duplicate these mechanical effects. Some people see the latter as a disadvantage, but I think it’s great because it forces you to come up with new ideas every time. In my view, records that are created with a lot of mechanical experimentation tend to sound more original and unique than records that are made primarily with synths and samplers, although there are, of course, exceptions”

The use of distortion is not new, but it is interesting to hear both Tchad Blake & other mixers discuss using distortion as a form of compression and to help build ambience without using reverb. From an article in Mix magazine, Peter Katis explains: “I am not as much a fan of compression as I am the distortion that a cool compressor can bring. In addition to the parallel-compression technique, where I blend certain overcompressed tracks, lately I’ll overdrive the entire drum bus and you’d never know that it’s distorted; it just sounds cooler. Drums (not cymbals; this only works if there’s not a lot of cymbal action) love to be overdriven—you’ll get all sorts of tone out of them that otherwise you’re just not hearing.”

Plugins like SansAmp & Speakerphone emulate the effect of worldizing, where sounds are replayed through a speaker & re-recorded thereby capturing both the ambience of the room they are in & the distortions of the amp/speaker, the actual process of doing this in the real world provides unique results and is still used by many producers, including TV on the Radios Dave Sitek, as described in a Rolling Stone interview: “There were times when I set up a shitty 1980s Sharp home stereo out in the hallway and then a microphone clear at the other end, and I blasted the song out of the shitty home stereo and recorded it through the home stereo. There was a lot of that kind of tomfoolery.”

Electronic Musician magazine has some examples of creative ‘rule breaking’ with mixer Michael Brauer, including translating some of these techniques to mixing ITB….

In another Mix magazine article someone mentions using an acoustic guitar as a resonating microphone for a recording & it reminded me of a story a friend told me. He is a fairly avant garde guitarist & back in the 90s was playing in a more normal rock band, adding his unique elements as the second guitarist. The band went into a fairly traditional recording studio to record an album & when he came to overdub his guitar part on one song he had a plan to record his guitar via lieing his guitar amp on its back underneath the baby grand piano with it’s damper pedal released, & mic up the piano as it resonated to the tones of his guitar. Sadly the engineer at the studio was a bit closed minded about the idea & an argument ensued, at which point the engineer had to be gently reminded as to who was paying for the session. Of course when the track was mixed the effect worked beautifully in context… & the engineer then proceeded to rewrite history & own the process!

Let There Be Light BBC Documentary

I just finished watching a truly fascinating BBC documentary from the Imagine series called Let there be Light which is about artists who work with light as their primary medium. Now of course every visual artists involves light in some form but for these artists light & perception of light is the very essence of their work. Artists include Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Liliane Lijn, & United Visual Artists.
Heres a link to the video in four parts – I tried embedding them but it seems impossible to disable autoplay, so all four videos load & start playing as soon as this page loads!?!

The Legend of Nipper

In doggy heaven I bet these two hang out:

Thats Laika on the right, the first animal to ever go into orbit and on the left? Thats Nipper, famous as an advertising icon associated first with ‘His Master’s Voice’ & later for RCA. Nipper was an internet meme back when the internet really was a series of pipes, steam filled pipes at that!

Nipper was born in Bristol, England in 1884 & was owned by struggling painter Francis Barraud who noticed how the dog often sat by his phonograph & listened, apparently puzzled as to where the voices & music were coming from. But it wasn’t until three years after Nippers death that Barraud painted Nippers iconic portrait, appropriately creating the artwork from memory…

Barraud attempted to have the painting exhibited but there were no takers, it seemed Nipper was ahead of his time, but when someone suggested the painting be updated with the more modern brass horn found on phonographs by then, he finally found success. As soon as the local manager of Berliner Gramophone saw the painting he offered to buy the updated version. When Emile Berliner, owner o the company, saw the painting he commissioned another copy & then proceeded to trademark it. Barraud received 100 pounds for the two copies while the copyright of the image eventually passed to EMI and continues to be used by the HMV chain stores…

Next time I see a dog shaped cloud…

Remastering the Sting

“This is a rock” – brilliant!

Sound Designer Barnaby G. Price (Bill Hader) discusses his methods for recreating the audio for the 30th anniversary of The Sting in this parody of DVD featurettes, directed by Nicholas Jasenovec. Hilarious, thanks for the tip Glen! And nice work Jake Riehle – the robot sounds cracked me up!

/end irony

Sound Advice 035

Relatedly, Bela Tarr is currently making a film called The Turin Horse: ‘freely inspired by an episode that marked the end of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s career. On January 3,1889, on the piazza Alberto in Turin, a weeping Nietzsche flung his arms around an exhausted and ill-treated carriage horse, then lost consciousness. After this event – which forms the prologue to Tarr’s film – the philosopher never wrote again and descended into madness and silence. From this starting point, The Turin Horse goes on to explore the lives of the coachman (Krobot), his daughter (Bók) and the horse in an atmosphere of poverty heralding the end of the world.’

The David Lynch Meme

A while back me & a couple of friends were recovering after watching the fantastic & confusing Inland Empire on DVD & we started coming up with a list of things to avoid if you want a long life as a character in a David Lynch film; of course they were all cheap shots eg 1. avoid oblique angles 2. avoid screaming women 3. avoid flickery lights in long hallways etc… But I remember first seeing Inland Empire at the NZ Film Festival at a packed late night screening – it was obvious a few audience members had been on the turps beforehand as one drunk in particular chose to interpret the film as a comedy, for a start at least. But of course David Lynch had the last laugh; the unrelenting dark tone & general weirdness soon quietened the drunk down until he became entirely silent, even during the lighter moments…. But it is a huge reflection on an artists work that their influence can be felt far & wide, in their own primary medium and in other artforms, and that is definitely true of Mr Lynch. Buzzfeed have a selection of five David Lynch mashups (via The House Next Door) and while I can see what each is aiming to achieve, only one of them really begins to evoke a fragment of his oeuvre & it couldn’t be a more disparate meeting of forces: David Lynch vs Dirty Dancing?

Jokes aside, what is your favourite moment in a David Lynch movie?

Great Viral Ad for V

Oh man! I just LOVE the sound the motor makes on this thing! Reminds me of riding motocross bikes & how they turn into rockets when you hit the power band! Whoever cut the sound for it should have put more FX on the car getting crunched at the start but I guess its playing from handycam point of view…

Nostalgia for great TV themes!

The dont make them like this any more; forget all your softsynths, attention-seeking percussion & pretend orchestras! These themes feel like a great little funky jazz trio playing in some smoky bar with just bass, drums & electric piano….

Taxi: Bob James wrote the theme music for Taxi throughout its entire run, including the main theme, “Angela”, which was written for a sequence in episode 3 of the first season. The producers liked the slower, more melancholy tune better than the original, more up-tempo original opening theme chosen, which was the title cut of James’s 1978 album, Touchdown, on which “Angela” also appears… via wikipedia

Barney Miller: music by Jack Elliott & Jeff Stein although that classic bassline was played by studio musician Jim Hughart… via the comprehensive Jazz on the Screen, PDF here

What drives you?

What drives you to do what you do? Its not just a rhetorical question, I’d be interested to know both what is the most important creative thing you do & why you do it. I had a great conversation with a friend at the weekend about attempting to clarify what is the core thing that we each individually strive to do and it was interesting at first how much effort it took to clearly identify it, but then, once it was said, how it could be clarified down to quite a simple phrase – epic but simple… Relatedly I was just watching Brian Eno being interviewed by Jools Holland & Eno was effectively asked the exact same question & his answer is quite eloquent (the whole interview is interesting, but the bit I am referring to is at 3’42”)

JH: ‘You clearly love music, what drives you to still be involved?’
BE: ‘I suppose I’ve never really made the music I imagine could exist and as I say this, this attempt to make music, or the attempt to be the person who can live at the extremes of their passions and of their intellect at the same time, is what keeps me going. I want to make a music that could be like that… Its hard actually; in pop music you’re generally encouraged to live with the passion and pretend the intellect doesn’t exist and in classical music you’re encouraged to do the opposite, to pretend that nothing below your neck exists.. so its to try to invent a new kind of music that covers the whole spectrum of human possibilities’

The Open Reel Ensemble

Check out The Open Reel Ensemble who manipulate sound via reel to reel decks the traditional way ie hand scrubbing & cueing:

As well as via solenoids under computer control:

NZ Birds vs Extreme Pitchshifting

National Radio in New Zealand has a lovely daily ritual where just before the news they will play a recording of a native NZ bird, and I just discovered that their website has the full collection available for listening to, but also helpfully includes a photo so that next time you’re out wandering around in the bush you can put a name to the face, so to speak – the specific page is here

One of my favourite native NZ birds is the Tui; They are beautiful to look at & are reasonably common wherever there is bush (even in cities) but the sound they create is just so amazing – if you heard a single sound in isolation it is unlikely you would think that a bird created it, more likely an ARP or a Synthi!
Heres an example recording from my library:

Tui mp3

What makes Tuis vocally unique is the fact that they have two voice boxes, and as the pioneering ornithologist Guthrie–Smith observed “much of the Tui’s singing we cannot hear, the notes too high, I suppose, for our human ears, for I have often watched the bird’s throat from but a few yards distance swelling with song entirely inaudible.” I havent as yet recorded a Tui with a microphone like the Sennheiser 80X0 which could capture those frequencies that we can’t hear, but its still interesting to pitchshift the Tui down, as it gives your ear more time to hear what those sounds are made up of….

Tui one octave lower mp3
Tui two octaves lower mp3
Tui three octaves lower mp3

Heres another piece of Tui vocal, with pitch shifted versions:
Tui 2 mp3
Tui 2 one octave lower mp3
Tui 2 two octaves lower mp3
Tui 2 three octaves lower mp3

And another:
Tui 3 mp3
Tui 3 one octave lower mp3
Tui 3 two octaves lower mp3
Tui 3 three octaves lower mp3

Apart from hearing the rhythmic & tonal effects more clearly its also interesting to note the reverb which isnt so apparent at normal speed….

Now this is where it gets a little weird, see it seems there is a talking Tui by the name of Woof Woof, who lives in a bird sanctuary in Whangarei… dont believe me? Well go check Woof Woof’s videos out here

NZ Music Month…

Its NZ Music Month here, so its time for some nostalgia… I so vividly remember seeing this video for the first time, it was my first year at university (which makes it sometime in the mid 80s) I was staying at a student hostel in Christchurch, studying boring electrical engineering & slowly going nuts.. My one dose of sanity would be Radio With Pictures on a Sunday night. The TV room would slowly fill with people & there would be a group response every time a video came on, and I remember the response to this one; not only could most people not handle the music, the video was like an afront to their dreadful 80s tastes… meanwhile I quietly buzzed out on it & the following day headed off to buy the vinyl. The band? the Tall Dwarfs – the genius duo of Chris Knox & Alec Bathgate… or make that a trio as Chris Knox’s Teac 4 track really had to be considered an active part of the band. If you’ve never heard them, then you are in for a weird treat:

Brian Eno’s guide to a long life

In this article Singing: The Key To A Long Life Brian Eno mentions a recent long-term study that was conducted in Scandinavia to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing.

Frankly I would rather go camping than singing or dancing, but he makes some interesting observations about the psychological aspects: “A capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while, and to become us.”

Tims Travel Tips: Japan

A friend is off to Tokyo soon so I thought I’d collect up a few recomendations for him… Tokyo is often most peoples arrival & exit point for Japan, but if time allows I highly reccomend visiting Kyoto and Naoshima…


Getting around Tokyo:
1. Narita Airport is about 90minutes train ride from central Tokyo; the best way to get into town is to catch the Narita Express (N’Ex) train. You buy a ticket at the airport but they also do a special cheap deal for the N’Ex ticket plus a Suica card thats good value….

2. buy a Suica card as soon as you arrive (as above)
They are like an EFTPOS card except you put money on them & then you use them to pay for subway… it makes it easy to use the subway as, presuming you have credit on your Suica card you never have to worry about what the fare is (usually you have to work it out & prebuy the right ticket…) You just wave the Suica card past the scanner (stand by an entrance way & watch other people use theirs) and there are machines in the entrance of all train stations for refilling your card.

3. Tokyo has a main circular subway line called the Yamanote line which goes between all the main areas/suburbs – you’ll use it lots to get around…

4. Its important that you note what EXIT from a subway station you are wanting eg a bar or art gallery might say on their map:
take East Exit Shinjuku Station or take the No.2 exit Ueno Station…

5. Finding places can be tricky – most websites will have an access map with directions from nearest Subway station – it pays to print out the map & address so you can ask people, even if they dont speak english or as a last resort jump in a taxi & let them find it for you!
UPDATE: having an iPad and a wifi portable modem is imho essential in Japan! Google maps is excellent (& even tells you what time next train is leaving on any planned route)

6. Rent a wifi modem! Apart from email & keeping in touch, its essential for google maps, website access & directions etc…. These can be picked up (& returned) from whichever airport you arrive at/leave. I’ve used this company: Japan Mobile Rental 4 or 5 times now, and highly reccomend them – excellent service!

7. If you need a Hotel in Tokyo one of my favourites is Sutton place as its right beside Ueno station (on Yamamote line)… More expensive (depending which floor you stay on) I also really like Hotel Metropolitan which is close to Ikebukuro Train Station – improtant note: you can often get better discounts via booking.com than if you walk in off the street. I stayed in a very nice hotel, then tried to extend my booking and they couldn’t match the discounted price on booking.com (so I rebooked online) – just be aware of how far your potential hotel is from the nearest Yamanote line station, especially during your first visits to Tokyo it simplifies access if you are close to the Yamanote line.
I also highly reccomend staying in a traditional ryokan at some point during your visit

My favourite things to do in Tokyo:

1. ICC Gallery near Shinjuku station
Best art gallery in the whole world, especially for digital art! (& a note for soundies: they have an anechoic chamber!) Its a 20-30 minute walk from Shinjuku Station although I tend to catch taxi there/walk back as means you dont get lost quite so easily… But getting lost is half the fun! Also very useful is the Tokyo Art Beat website which lists all the current exhibitions. Also very useful is the book Art Space Tokyo

2. Mori Tower – Roppongi
Another good contemporary art gallery but its also on the 53rd floor & you can buy a ticket for the gallery that also gives you access to the 360 degree viewing floor! This is good to do in first few days to give you an idea of the sheer scale of Tokyo – also good to do at dusk & watch the day turn to night & Tokyo light up! For other art gallerys/events: ArtBeat website lists all current exhibitions on in Tokyo

3. Ghibli Museum (Mitaka station on Chuo line)
This is a fantastic place to visit – a museum & theatre for Miyazaki animated films; you have to prebook as its hugely popular, especially at weekends, but its so great!

4. Yoyogi Park on a Sunday (Harajuku station on Yamanote line)
Lots of people go to the park on a sunday & especially kids in weird cosplay costumes & lots of bands (eg every 50m a different genre band)
A few examples:

5. La Jetee – the best bar in Tokyo!
A friend introduced me to it & you would otherwise never find it! Its tiny, upstairs, holds ten people max & everyone there tends to be film people…. Tarantino has a sake bottle kept there etc… its run by a French/Japanese woman who speaks a little english if she has to… I’ll scan the map sometime as its otherwise impossible to find, it is in an old part of Shinjuku called Golden Gai – full of tiny tiny bars….. Address is: La Jetee; 1-1-8 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku

Kyoto is definitely worth visiting – catch the Shinkansen/bullet train from Tokyo in about 3 hours… There are literally hundreds of temples in Kyoto – I’ve been to maybe a dozen or so over the course of 3 visits, many are not open to public or are only open via appointment or at certain times of year… They are so beautiful words can not express the experience. A few I reccomend visiting are:

Daittoku-ji (a good first one to visit as close to central Kyoto) which is a collection of temples including Daisen-in, Ryogen-in & Koto-in

Ryoan-ji beautiful but often busy with busloads of tourists… has a zen dry garden with 15 stones, but no matter where you stand you can only ever see 12 of them!

Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) – beautiful, park like grounds

Naoshima is the ultimate art destination – its a small island in the Seto Inland Sea & contains two major art galleries, both designed by Tadao Ando, plus a dozen art houses; traditional houses that have been rebuilt as installations by noted artists… Each time I’ve been to Naoshima we got a rental car from a town called Okayama and drove to the port of Uno, where we caught a ferry over to Naoshima. Then its easy to explore the island in the car…. basic Naoshima info etc here
If you do rent a car, get one with a NavMan in it & ask the rental company to enter the phone number of your destination. Then the Navman will display map of how to get there – we didnt use any other maps at all!

Places to go on Naoshima:
Chichu Art Gallery (Tadao Ando designed gallery – so so beautiful!)

Bennesse House Art Gallery

Miniderma Art House (James Turell/Tadao Ando)

The first two times I went to Naoshima we stayed at a hotel on the mainland & just went over for the day, but last time we stayed at the very flash (& youch! expensive!) Bennesse House beach Hotel, also designed by Tadao Ando….
But, its on a beautiful beach & just along from it were some great little cheap cottages which is where I will stay next time….

I’ll post some info about Osaka, Kobe & a few other places I’ve been in Japan & recommend…
Check my photos from travels in Japan here – if you go back through previous photos/visits you can get a feel for many of the places I have been in Japan… I cant wait to return!

I’ll reformat this & find a better place to keep it & update it…

A great online source of info and advice is the Japan Guide site

Trimpin: Musical Sculptor

Mefi has a great post today about musical sculptor Trimpin (wikipedia)

A documentary about him screened at SXSW – heres a link to trailer and an article from the Seattle Times.

Check out some of his works; a fire organ

liquid beats

Dub Echoes – local screening!

A quick heads up (so to speak) the Dub Echoes documentary is screening at The Film Archive in Wellingtron this Saturday May 9th! Heres the screening info for anyone local – theres also an interview with the director on the excellent niceup site here too!

The Brain Orchestra

The BBC has an article with a video clip of The Multimodal Brain Orchestra, who are apparently out to ‘see what the brain can do without the body’ Hmmmm suspect someone has been watching Mars Attacks a bit too much?
Check out the video clip, its quite funny seeing these people wearing caps with a multitude of wires coming out of them, staring intently at a small box – it takes apparently passive laptop performance to a whole new level!

Dub Echoes

I cleared my POBox on friday & wahoo! There was the latest issue of The Wire which after skim-reading for new releases I left lieing face down on my desk & suddenly noticed the back cover; a full page ad for the May 11th DVD release of a documentary called Dub Echoes; At last! I’ve placed my preorder – heres the trailer:

I am intrigued to actually see this doco, more so for the roots music & stories than for the more recent evolutions. I’ve been a dub reggae fan since the mid 80s & while I do love some dubstep tunes, it is such a young genre that it remains to be seen as to its lasting worth & how it actually develops. The connection between dubstep & dub reggae is interesting; the attitude & approach shared by engineers & producers is more apparent than that of the musicians, who seem largely absent from dubstep. Many of my favourite dub reggae tunes are equally about the performances (bass & drums etc) as the engineering & production… Relatedly I can highly reccommend the Studio One Story:

Trilogies I have known & loved…

One trilogy they left off the chart was Gus Van Sants trilogy, starting with Gerry in 2002 (trailer) then Elephant in 2003 (trailer) and then
Last Days in 2005 (trailer)

All three of the films have very interesting soundtracks, both in sound design & use of music. Leslie Shatz is the sound designer for all three films & i tried contacting him via his companies website to no avail, as it would be interesting to interview him, amongst other things he was a dialogue editor on Rumble Fish & a sound editor on Dune. There is an interesting interview with him on the Fipresci site (the international federation of film critics) where he mentions the genre of ‘contemplative films’ which is an interesting way of putting it. In the same interview he makes a very valid point about being open to different approaches;

“In Good Will Hunting there’s the scene in the basketball court where they go to beat up the guy. That was fun because Gus wanted to make it strange…. To do that we got like 50 tracks of different musique concrète sources and different sound sources and put ’em all up on the console. Gus just wanted to take faders and play around with them. At first, it was like, “Is this guy crazy?” [Laughs.] Then I realized there’s a method to this madness. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I have to control my impulse to dismiss what the director’s doing when it doesn’t conform to my own preconceived ideas. It was the same with Francis Coppola. These guys shoot from the hip and it’s scary sometimes because you don’t know where you’re going to end up, but it really makes it a much more interesting experience than working with someone who’s just trying to copy a formula.”

I’m not sure if Paranoid Park (2007) (trailer) is part of the trilogy (= quadrilogy?) as it feels thematically connected, but it is also a film I recommend checking out.

Ah So!

Incase you missed it, a very funny post on boingboing yesterday!


Who says ads are a waste of time? Oh right, me…
Well ah.. at least these two have a sense of humour

Dawn breaks….

I am definitely NOT a morning person, but here is my dawn yesterday..

& here is the same day, last year in Sanur, Bali

So whats my point? Well it was prompted by this image I saw on yimmyayo:

Well, I am still not a morning person, but I do totally appreciate how important it is not to become a victim of the rules you live by. In this simple example, sure its easier to get out of bed when you are on holiday, but equal amounts of beauty exist everywhere, even right outside your own door. Apart from keeping an open mind, its also a valuable reminder of how important living in the present is…

NewMusicBox is 10!

Happy Birthday! NewMusicBox is always an interesting read primarily due to the many different authors ie composers involved… Here are just a few examples worth a read (it seems the site doesnt have an easily accessible archive – most of these I found via the search function)

Amanda MacBlane ruminates on the Future of Music & Technology and comes up with some universal truths

Composing for the Theremin: Some Practical Issues

Tan Dun: Tradition/Invention re Music for Film

How do Music & Nature connect in your work?

Picture Perfect: A HyperHistory of Film Music in the United States

Maximize Information Flow: How to Make Successful Live Electronic Music

View from the East: Erik Satie—A Model for Alternative Thinking

The Impossible Case of Seeing Music – Might an appreciation for contemporary art translate to an appreciation for contemporary art music?

Now this last article covers similar fertile ground as a book recently released by David Stubbs called Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen. Quoting from a BBC article on the book: “..the Tate Modern is one of the most popular galleries in Europe – but an audience presented with the equivalent in music tends “to screech”.

Intriguing! I think my only theory on the subject is one of context. One place that abstract or challenging music finds a welcome home is in cinema & that is all about context; while listening to Penderecki at full level at home relaxing on a sunny afternoon is fairly unlikely, put The Shining on & the same music makes perfect sense… But the context is virtual, not real. Art galleries provide a context to appreciate art & so when you walk through the door you are making a similar commitment to appreciate art as you are when you go to a movie. The issue then is whether the primary purpose of challenging music is for it to be ‘enjoyed’ in its own right, and that is down to the individual listener as to why they listen to music. For many people it is a means of active relaxation, which for me it is hard to imagine Penderecki in that context. But now I feel like watching The Shining again! Hmmmmmmm…..

April (For Pittsburgh)

This is a beautiful gentle video for a friday afternoon & apart from the fantastic work animating still images into movement the soundtrack really works in context – its a track by Fennesz. Its interesting how the element of field recording works with the images; it makes me think we are ‘almost’ hearing sync sound, like production audio from the stills or from a memory or something… the combination is incredibly evocative!

April (For Pittsburgh) from Mothlight Creative on Vimeo.

An Underwater Symphony for Analogue Synths!

I remember when I was in secondary school starting a diving class & quitting during the first session because I simply couldnt manually balance the pressure in my ears via my Eustachian Tubes… But quitting didnt bother me at all because I was totally distracted by some other people also using the diving pool for underwater audio experiments. I can still vividly remember how the sound (they were playing music) was omnipresent once you put your head underwater!
Funnily enough I know a few people who work with sound for a living who also cant balance the pressure in their ears, so I decided to consider a blessing… Heres some more info on the process ie ‘prevention of middle ear barotrauma’ – damn! I wish I knew that phrase back then; I can’t go diving cos I’d get barotrauma!
Anyway it doesnt stop me from enjoying sounds underwater. And some of the most beautiful to my ears are Weddell seals, who apparently have 34 different calls & can be heard more than 15 miles! They also happen to sound like analogue synths! check these examples (from here):
Weddell Seal 1 mp3
Weddell Seal 2 mp3
Weddell Seal 3 mp3

There is some great info about underwater sound here with a ‘focus on musical applications and computer synthesis’ – but of course! And listening to these sounds makes me want to see this Werner Herzog documentary ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD & sure enough, what I previously would have thought was an analogue synth sound is, I am pretty sure a Wedell Seal; have a listen @ 1.40 in the trailer:

I just know there are some people reading this with far more experience than i with modular synths, so a question to you: how would you put together a Wedell Seal patch?

For Later

I don’t know why but I had never thought of this until 2 minutes ago: A friend asked me if I had some photos of us mixing that he could use for a seminar. Of course I do, but my photos are mostly all on my Mac at home & knowing myself all too well, I’ll get home & totally forget about doing it.. So I thought how can I schedule an email to myself to remind me? One search later & I’ve found a great new online service: For Later
Its so simple its genius! As long as you set the time as per your local offset, you can then choose a date & time in the future to receive an email from yourself… So other than emailing myself for 8pm tonight (dear immediate future tim, remember to find the mix photos for chris! best regards, slightly younger tim) I started thinking about other emails I could cue up… I could start nagging myself in the future about things I say I want to do but may not quite get around to! Although I can see that particular angle coming upstuck when ‘patient tim’ gets too many abusive emails from ‘drunk tim’ etc….

Akio Suzuki Q&A

Akio Suzuki is a fascinating sound artist & his use of stones in performance reminds me of some of the work of local Phil Dadson. But Suzuki-san has his own unique approach to sound, in both performance and in active listening. He is currently in the UK for the School of Sound amongst other things & the following Q&A was recorded on April 20th, where he describes active listening & engaging with the environment & how it provides a ‘cleansing for the ears.’

He calls one of his instruments, an echo machine comprised of springs & resonators, Analapos-70. Have a listen on LastFM plus there is a good article here about some of his work

via London Sound Art blog

At last! An iPhone app worth getting!

Its interesting to see just how popular the iTunes app store is – its more successful than their music store! No, really! And while some of the top sellers are incredibly dubious, and many of the music apps are just distractions this is one app that is perfect for a portable device!
I’ve ranted about the Strobotsoft Tuner before as being the most accurate form of tuning (other than a well refined ear of course) but this is an inspired development… Heres a link to the Peterson FAQ on tuning. Check out the new app here – note Petersons also sell a cable adaptor to enable you to plug a mic or instrument (via 1/4″ cable) into your iPhone or iPod Touch…