Digital White, Revisited

•February 25, 2017 • Comments Off on Digital White, Revisited

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Ok, so the past two posts were a little dark – but eh, dark times and all that. This one, not so much. Just a quick update on the Digital White project that I started a while back – you know the one where I feed a bunch of data to the wrong program and watch it barf out images? Admittedly not the most graceful way of describing my process, but it’s basically what I’m doing in this case. In the first installation, which produced 125 5×5″ prints, I was basically throwing whatever sounds I had into the software and seeing what became of it. For this batch, things are a little more curated. For instance, now all sounds are the result of instruments I built myself. Also up is the fact that this is only part one of the project – as it so happens, my day job has at least two laser cutters floating around. Provided I can make a deal or two with their respective departmental curators, the next step in this project is to have these prints, comprised entirely from raw audio data of synthesizer improvisations, to be laser-etched onto various materials and then re-scanned back into the digital realm – along with whatever imperfections picked up along the way. Think of it as filtering and processing by way of physical medium. Not to mention that I’d rather own a laser-etched art piece that I can hand on the wall that actually contains the embedded data needed to create a piece of music as opposed to sealed 180 gram vinyl and a download code. But that’s just me. And as I repeatedly learn the longer I spend time outside of my bubble, apparently I’m different. Ever wonder about the true significance of your field of research? Teach an elective course – you’ll find your entire system of existence blown to smithereens by midterms. Speaking of, I should probably message my class about where the instructions for their midterm is on the CMS, upload some PowerPoints and hack together a quiz – all the while preparing for a show in DC tomorrow (decided on the laptop rig as opposed to the Sound System), a few days of festivities in Ohio and all the rest. Will be in touch. Apparently in the absence of social media this is now my outlet. A good thing? Maybe. We’ll see.

On Semi-Social Darkness

•February 19, 2017 • Comments Off on On Semi-Social Darkness

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All,

So for those that actually follow this stuff, you may have noted that a couple things have gone missing from the site over the past couple weeks – namely just about every mention of social media – i.e., the Twitter feed, the follow on Facebook button, the Instagram thing in the sidebar, etc. This is all intentional – we wish it wasn’t, but at this point we view it as somewhat of a necessary evil to help allow us to keep doing what we’re doing. Of course, the power of direct communication to like-minded individuals IS how we do things, but at least for the moment, the current channels are just a little-too obfuscated to allow us to consider doing things they way we’ve been doing. Allow me to elaborate.

So for those who know us, it’s no secret that we were involved in the experimental music and arts scene in the SF Bay Area prior to moving to Costa Rica and then back to the states to our current locale of Baltimore. During that time we were associated with several scenes, some of which were located in warehouses similar to the Ghost Ship in Oakland. Granted, they had different names and the ebb and flow of those spaces always provided a changing cast of characters, but in our case, the Ghost Ship fire killed several friends of ours – a tragedy in itself. And then things went from tragic to just plain weird.

As the story goes, the trolls that constitute the alt-right decided that we art folks needed to be saved from ourselves and started a “safety” campaign to infiltrate art spaces across the country, otherwise known as bastions of progressive, liberal thought and call in any infractions for whatever wicked reason they deemed relevant. I truly doubt that there was actually a legion of anything other than bitter, slightly libertarian basement-dwellers upset that other people are doing things outside of their existence, but on the local level, several art spaces were either shut down by police or “inspected” by vigilantes, with the Pizzagate incident at Comet Ping-Pong being the most notable – not to say that other spaces weren’t also affected. On a personal note, it seems that Rhizome in Takoma Park was inspected the same day that I was giving workshop on circuit design – which would be all fine and good since it’s zoned as commercial and the fire-code is adhered to, but as it happened, Xime was with me for this workshop – the thought that there could have been photos of my baby playing posted to a site with the sheer intention of causing malice and disarray to folks outside of the mainstream has me a little shaken. Thankfully she and Pau were out to lunch when this guy purportedly came through, but a title too-close for comfort.

And then of course there’s the aforementioned Pizzagate, where outside of the surface story of a guy driving across country to shot up a pizza parlor because the internet told him that the Democratic part was operating a child sex ring in the nonexistent basement of a pizza place, there’s a couple other seedier parts in place. For instance, the part where an associate from the scene has been receiving death threats for months since a mural he painted at said restaurant was perceived as one of the “clues” to the purported sinister baby-snatching – perhaps a little too-close for comfort. Compound that with tactics of guilt-by-association via friends and followers and the general feeling of vulnerability and the slight twinge of paranoia stemming from the thought that your next post could potentially lead to orchestrated maliciousness. Never good for the concerned art family.

And of course on top of all of that, there’s the new “extreme vetting” and federal hiring freeze put in place by the new administration to contend with. For those just tuning in, yes, we’re an immigrant family. From Latin America. And before any conclusions are drawn, yes, we’re here quite legally. In fact, Pau was even working with the State Department in Costa Rica on a couple projects before moving here and our Thanksgivings in Costa Rica were usually spent as invited guests of the US embassy – since that’s just about the only place you can find turkey in that country. But that notwithstanding, we’re still navigating the immigration process. And again, before you ask, no, marriage doesn’t guarantee immediate citizenship. We’ve probably submitted thousands of pages of supporting  documents to USCIS at this point, to the tune of approximately $1/page. Right around when Xime was born, we were granted conditional residency – meaning all is good for 2 years and then we have to file new supporting documents to prove that this was in fact a bonafide marriage. Considering that all is good in that department, the appropriate forms and supporting documents were also filed and are now circumnavigating the administrative, bureaucratic logjam of the US Immigration system – which, while already a slow system, even for accelerated cases such as ourselves, is mired down even farther due to staff reductions and increased steps to make sure that we’re not actually the “bad hombres,” looking to cause mayhem by way of sculpture, installation and sound art. So to loop this thought back to decreased social network presence, yeah, the possible risk of having this entire process upended by a stray retweet in our feed – too much of a gamble at this point.

So where to go now. One would hope that the good folks in the Valley of Silicon would be working on developing a more secure platform for communication – one less-likely to be infiltrated, monitored or usurped. One would hope. For me, at least for the time being, the best course of action is just to carry on without. At the moment, it’s kind of nice – call it the alternative path – the one less-travelled post-2005 when we all jumped on the social media bandwagon. We’re still here and still keeping busy – some would say even busier than usual, at least in the case of this weekend. The joys of anxiety as I await the results of interview one and the potential call for interview 2. But I figured I’d at least mention something about it here for anyone who may be curious. Which is where I’ll leave it for the time being. Considering it’s Sunday at all, there’s a baby to feed, laundry to do and a pile of cold-pizza left over from babysitting one of Xime’s toddler friends last night that isn’t going to eat itself. More soon.

Still turning somehow, albeit in a more interesting fashion

•February 16, 2017 • Comments Off on Still turning somehow, albeit in a more interesting fashion

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Trying to remain positive in light of the general paranoia that currently comes as part of the package of being an immigrant family in the current regime. As I write this, I’m taking care of my weekly office hours duties, which, being new to the faculty game, I’m realizing is less about providing a time for you to be available to meet with students, but more about taking the time to actually do something in your office. Hence this post. I’m also fresh off the plane, having taken a trip out to Ohio to lecture in the possible anticipation of another academic position. More on that as it comes through the pipes, but I figured I’d mention that to put things in perspective as they unfold. So, what’s new? Other than the barrage of news media about the reality show currently called the United States of America, there’s actually a few shows and some music I should mention, if only to keep things relevant. First, the shows. Now that Xime’s old enough to spend time with both mom and dad, we’re beginning to branch out a bit and start booking things again. Upcoming on my end is a show in Takoma Park at the Electric Maid on Feb 25th. This will probably be a Sound System show, though I’ve also considered dusting off a could Max patches to twiddle around with. I guess I should figure that out sooner than later. Also upcoming is the retirement festivities back out on Ohio of my dear friend, mentor and professor John Talbert, where I’ll be performing on laptop and sound system, delivering a lecture and supporting Pau in her presentation as well. Also on the bill will be some stuff by Peter B and Bevin Kelley – always fun! After that, an east coast tour with Alex Catona and a lecture at Columbia University – and then a show at RhizomeDC taking us into May. Looking forward to every and all. But in the meantime, lots of building to be done, a few pending releases on VF Industrial and a heads up that VF collaborator Brandon Ross has been really going deep with his 23. Here’s a recent track of his – check it out!

 

And the world continues to turn, it seems

•January 29, 2017 • Comments Off on And the world continues to turn, it seems

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SO hi there. It’s been an unseasonably warm January in Baltimore, albeit gloomy in both the meteorological sense, as well as the spiritual one as well. Not to say that there hasn’t been a few nice days, but if we stick to the weather, it does feel like we’re somewhere in the UK as opposed to on the other side of the Atlantic where the birds are happy and there’s always music in the air. At least from a personal perspective, things have been quiet here as we’ve pretty much sheltered in place, waiting for whatever was going to happen when in proximity to Washington happen. Having a toddler and being in a perpetual state of immigration, the thoughts of coming into contact with either tear gas or detention by a militarized police force, instantly forfeiting the thousands of pages of documents and dollars sent thus far in our current adventure into bureaucracy. Never a good thing. Not to say that we aren’t with the rest of you in spirit but hey, family comes first.

That out of the way, this is what we have been up to – our car drama has come to an end as well as a new beginning it seems as we finally plunked down and bought ourselves a brand new auto. Same make and model, just 10 years younger. Given that this was our first experience with shopping for a new car, we were a little blindsided by the experience, almost accidentally bought a very expensive jeep without realizing it and in frustration, decided to go with what we knew. So there’s that. Leaving the dealership, the general thought was that it feels great to have a mild return to normalcy in our routine. Life, as they say, goes on. Focusing on the positive, there’s also a few art shows on the horizon, a couple shows in Ohio and Washington in Feb/March, a pending tour at the end of March and the course I’m teaching at the University of Baltimore on Technology in the Arts. More on that as it comes available. As usual, a couple proposals involved things that haven’t been invented yet, so I should probably get on that.

Finally, to address the possibly too-neglected cottage nest of electronics, the Pejibaye was featured on Pedal of the Day about a week ago, providing an insight into what it does in a better fashion than I could possibly explain it. Of course the review came at a time when I was basically out of Peji’s, meaning the chance to surf the hype was a limited, but hey, bigger waves be out by the breakers. It’s just a matter of paddling out and fighting the rips.

Speaking of, tomorrow’s my first class as an official college professor. How about that?

As a proviso, I started writing this a week ago and then got sidetracked by course preparation, etc. Since then, the world has become a much darker place by way of a degenerate vulgarian who’s managed to surround himself with the correct group of sycophants willing to pass his insipid agenda along without any reflection of juan soul or conscience. Here’s hoping the money runs out and a hole forms in the wall. Obviously I’m not a fan. But of course, for the sake of immigration purposes, let’s hope my usual florid prose only tips the hat that I’m a terrible writer, as opposed to anyone in need of some extreme vetting. Though what the veterinary sciences have to do with immigration enforcement, lord only knows.

Three New Releases on VF Industrial

•December 29, 2016 • Comments Off on Three New Releases on VF Industrial

Hey there true believers,

As mentioned in the last post, three new releases dropped last week on the VFI net label. In theory, I was supposed to post about that as it came up, but something unfortunately came up by way of a deer splaying itself across my hood at about 40 miles per hour on the way to visit my family in New York. For those interested in experiencing the sheer ecstasy of dealing with insurance claims and transportation over the holidays when most body shops are closed and the car is physically 300 miles away, let me tell you, the ecstasy part is lacking.

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What’s not lacking is the quality of these releases, however. First up is Consumer Affairs by The Flayed Choirmaster. Admittedly, I don’t know much about his work – he arrived in San Francisco right after I left, but I’ve seen his name pop up here and there. After my first post about the first three releases, he wrote me asking of he could release something and considering that part of this project is to be as inclusive as I can, how could I say no?

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Second is the first studio record by f.org, the cello + electronics duo I’m currently playing in wish Alex Catona from down Costa Rica way. Also credited is the Norman Conquest on this hit, since when you record with Norman, he’s always part of the mix. We recorded it in Oakland before of of our west coast gigs back in September. Hoping this leads to many awesome things. For instance, shows in Europe, or something.

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Finally, we’ve got Grandes Exitos 2011-2015 by Costa Rican culture-jamming sound artist Bloqueos. Clocking in at over 4 hours long, this is a greatest hits album of sorts – in that every track has already been released on various other labels. In fact, even this record has already been released in it’s entirety, with the only modification being a slightly-altered cover just so there’s no confusion. Or something. Above all, I’m just happy to share some of this stuff with a few other rings of the sphere. I’ll need to check the pulse of the current scene down south, but for the briefest moment, there was a pretty amazing convergence of sound artists and experimental musicians in San José, Esteban being a crucial member of that scene.

So yeah, more on the way with another three releases scheduled for March, possibly with another few surprises in the mix as well, but at least for the moment, I’m enjoying my last few days of holiday rest, albeit car-less. Hoping I can clear a large chunk of projects off the desk if I can. Wouldn’t that be the day, yeah?

Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

•December 20, 2016 • Comments Off on Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

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Friends, well-wishers and seemingly politically-validated trolls snooping around looking to make sure that we’re up to fire code: The year is over. And what a year it was. Not to imply that it was all bad, but we definitely took our lumps. Of course, there were some high points as well – travel, inspiration, opportunities, etc. but then there was also the last two months to account for. Pauline, the Oakland fire, my grandmother passing all in less than two weeks time. It’s currently 5:30 in the morning and I’m up primarily due to explorations of cat and wiggles of baby – we’re trying to sell the notion that her own bedroom is much cooler than ours, but that of course invites the thought of “if my room is so cool, how about you hang out in it with me? Why would you want to go back to yours?” So Pau and I have been trading shifts hanging out next to Xime’s bed so she at least gets the notion that a parent is still in her cool room with her and eventually, int he long run, we get more privacy and a happy, autonomous bambina.

Let it be known that the news feeds are possibly more disturbing at 5 AM when you’re still in the pre-coffee grog and the chirping bird app still has a sheet over it’s cage. Most disturbing read this morning came from the Washingtonian stating that the creepy alt-right 4chan/reddit freaks who only learned of the various venues and cultural subsets that I spent a good part of the past 15 years inhabiting by way of a fire that killed a couple of our friends have been snooping around the Takoma Park art space where I’ve been teaching workshops, taking pictures and looking for fire hazards. Just a little invasive. Thankfully, according to the article, we supposedly “checked-out,” but even so,  invasive. Having run a space or two in the past, it makes me think about the general notion of openness – as in where do you draw the line when you’re building on the backs of the all-ages scenes of generations-gone-by? Can you restrict openness? Dark times ahead – especially since the seething entities looking to shut this stuff down are traveling the same information highways that we’re using to build and harbor our own communities. Even creepier to think that there might have possibly been one of these dudes hoofing around as I was teaching with Xime napping in the back room and I was completely oblivious. Let’s hope that’s not the case. Though it makes me wonder – if not for art spaces and the like, what do these folks deem as acceptable artistic outlets? Honky-tonks? Amphitheaters? Stadium shows? Demolition derbies? Unfortunately, as Pau pointed out before heading to her Xime shift, it could very well be that the outlet of this particular subset of intolerance may actually just be trolling the web and trying to undermine culture, community and anything else the hive-mind deems inappropriate for the sheer hell of it. Good for them, I guess. Here’s hoping the turn on themselves and self-implode quickly – if only for the sake of me being able to veg out on the web in peace between the cat knocking things off the dresser and shifts spent curled up next to the humidifier, which is of course, totally cool. So much cooler than a nice, comfy pillow-top mattress, fluffy pillows and the few, spare hours where it’s just Pau and I together. Because it’s cool to sleep in your own room? See, mommy and daddy’s room is cold and boring. And so on.

Or something like that – not to be too personal or nihilistic. I’d normally save a statement like that for something a little more social, but fact of the matter is that social media kind of scares me at the moment. Case in point – a mutual friend receiving death threats due to a mural he painted at a pizza place that had since been painted over but was somehow a clue to some sort of torrid baby-trafficking ring. Maybe I’m paranoid, but the thought that all it takes is one errant chirp and you’re suddenly the subject of collective, communal rage doesn’t sit well for one trying to raise a family, make art and build instruments, especially when we’re still going through the whole immigration thing – which of course is another target of the previously-mentioned politically-enabled populism folks. Gotta keep it cool and fancy for the sake of the big picture. But at the same time, it helps to say your piece when you can. Have issue? Request discourse? You know where to find me. A bold statement, but fact of the matter is I’m pretty suburban these days. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, it’s the holidays, with exactly one day standing between me and some highly-needed rest, relaxation and catch-up time on all the projects sent to the back-burner as the crazy commenced. There’s also a few new projects waiting in the wings, but the bench is full again, so space needs to be made first. Also, three new VF Industrial releases drop tomorrow. More on that in about 18 hours, but I figured I’d at least offer what happy tidings I can to you and yours. But in the meantime, it’s now 6:30 – an acceptable time to begin making coffee, so I’m going to do that now. Hang in there, everyone. We’ll make it through this.

The Mancunian Report

•November 23, 2016 • Comments Off on The Mancunian Report

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So hey there. For those who actually read my postings as opposed to just scrolling through the pictures in search of furry guitar pedals and whatnot, you’ve probably gotten the clue that I’ve been a little busy since my last missive since the links are still empty and there’s no nifty pictures. Thankfully, the year is winding down – or at least in some regards. For those that have been under a rock, it appears that the closest thing that my country’s had to a tyrant on the level of the ones that the CIA’s been propping up in other Western countries for over a century now has somehow been elected into the executive office. Somehow, somewhere, I’ve embraced a mantra taken from a Flying Burrito Brothers song, copping my best Gram Parsons accent and crooning “on the 58th floor, a gold-plated door, won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain.” And this is coming from someone typically against country music, religion and political statements. But that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, I figured I’d at least report that I’m recently returned from the Sines-Squares festal in Manchester, England. Splendid time, truly. Met some new friends, presented the Colorado Adventure as an actual academic paper (I’ll post it up later) and performed before flying home via a circuitous route afforded to me by one airline being so terrible that they simply just transferred me to their competitor to have one less passenger to worry about. I’m still on UK time at the moment and my body thinks it’s somewhere around 3 AM, but I at least figured I’d mention the adventure while it’s still fresh. Thanks to the organizers and everyone else. More in a tick.

-t.

By the way – for anyone interested in how I sounded, here’s a link for you: