Number 53


Number 53 (otherwise known as “The Brains”) consists of two instruments of the same design – one in purple livery, the other in green. Both are essentially Eyecillators, but instead of using set potentiometers or board-mounted photoresistors, each connection was wired to break-out jacks designed to be connected to light-sensistive sculptures that were used in a series of shows and installations in 2017 and 18. Documentation as follows:

Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Oh. March 2017


The first iteration of this project featured one quarter of the installation presented as a workshop of alumni work in the TIMARA studios at Oberlin as part of the Talbertronics Festival. The general idea was to present aspects of our previous Raro show, as well as showcase new work that blends Raro aesthetics but with current endeavors – namely replacing the pre-recorded sounds and micro controllers with live, analog electronics.

Here’s what the sculptures looked like, by the way:


The design is fairly simple – as I described them at the time, they’re essentially photoresistors enrobed in a pillow. Each one has two wires coming out of it attached to two 3.5 mm jacks – one for each side of the resistor. The leads are anywhere from 10-40 feet long, give or take. For Oberlin, the show was only up for an evening, but it also made the Conservatory Alumni Magazine – lucky us.

Rhizome DC, Takoma Park, Washington DC, May 2017


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In May 2017, Pau presented Orden Natural at Rhizome DC as a solo show that hung for three weeks. For this one, we had all 16 sculptures connected to the two brains, as well as two additional pods equipped with lights to help change the timbre of the instruments. In all, about 400 feet of wire was used in a room that was only 10’x10′. It was kind of a zoo to navigate, but hey, everyone needs an aesthetic. One of the first visitors to the show turned out to be a neurosurgeon who walked in and immediately was all “Hey, I’m in a giant nervous system!” I’m glad he got it – not to mention the statement kind of inspired me to explore the concept of this installation as a semi-cybernetic synthetic organism of sorts – that it does indeed act like a magnified/simplified nervous system and that with the addition of more nodes and specialized circuitry, the potential for advanced interaction emerges.

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, New Paltz, NY, March 2018


I began 2018 swearing that I was going to up my laptop game, but ended up unearthing the Sound System for a show at Matt L’s spot in New Paltz, sculptures and all. As it happens, the former My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was well-known, possibly even notorious for its 1970’s nature-themed wallpaper. That in mind, I couldn’t NOT bring these guys out for show and tell. Maybe not the best of ideas when you’re trying to cement the idea that you’re a serious player, but the more I think about the whole realm of experimental music, the whole concept of experimentation in performance has been bit of a stumbling block for me. For instance, are you supposed to experiment live in performance, risking inevitable and potential failure in front of an audience? And if so, how do you react? Or, do you experiment off the clock and only present your findings when the chance for failure is negated? Either way, things went well and I left inspired to continue using the brains in live settings – or at least for a second.

The Liquor Store, Rochester, NY, April 2018


Another one night hit developed out of necessity. We’d moved from Baltimore to Ithaca a few months back and was discovering that international travel, the move and just time in general was beginning to take its toll on the Sound System instruments that I’d been using as my primary performance rig for most of 2016 and 2017. Call me nostalgic, but while I’m all about impermanence and evolution and all that, I kind of also wanted to preserve some of my earlier builds in a semi-funtional state so a good percentage of the current system was retired prior to finding a suitable replacement in the travel case. Normally under these circumstances I’d just perform a set on laptop for a second until the analog rig rebuilds but in this case, my reputation got the best of me. While I’ve arguably been doing the laptop thing a lot longer than the analog thing, I apparently have a reputation as a builder of chaotic (typically fur-covered) analog gear. I wonder how that happened? Anyways, not wanting to disappoint all who were promised some analog chaos, I decided to pack one of the brains and 8 of the “backup singers” as they were dubbed to flesh things out. All wait, it went pretty well – the venue had high ceilings, a ladder and a decent disco light system to keep things interesting.

The Spotty Dog, Hudson, NY, May 2018

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This was a weird one. First, things were just a little too dark to really get the brains singing and the whole idea I had to use camera feedback as a light source to trigger these guys backfired spectacularly. Secondly, since the show was close to where I grew up, parents of a friend who I went to primary school with saw my name and showed up thinking it was more of a singer-songwriter evening. They took it in stride, but it took a second to explain the whole trend and aesthetic of electronic improvisation and instrument building. That in mind, I was a little self-conscious for my set – with the end result being something more akin to Tudor’s RainforestĀ as opposed to the usual mayhem. Finally, for those unaware of this spot, its a bookstore wedged into an old firehouse. The ceilings are like 30 feet high and there really wasn’t anything to hook onto to grab the usual suspension aesthetic. I tried putting the sculptures on bookshelves, but that didn’t really lead to anything all that dynamic – so in the middle of the performance, I started moving them. And then I started hanging them off of me. And the next thing I knew, I was entangled in a giant fur-covered knot, doing my best to still work the mixer. The performance ended when I realized I was too tangled to continue.

Rhizome DC, Takoma Park, Washington DC, May 2018



The final performance with the original brains. At around this time we’d been asked to show the piece at Mara Baldwin’s Neighbors Gallery in Ithaca and the thought was that we would redesign the brains to produce a larger array of sounds, as well as develop another box that would then process the raw sounds that brain 2.0 produced. All said, the show went well – though I wish I’d known that the other two performers (Al Margolis and Jason Kahn) were serious dudes doing extremely quiet acoustic sets – and here I was with a box full of muppets and a roll of tape, trying my utmost to get these things to stick to the ceiling.


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