Archive for March, 2009

Sound Art Showcase featuring The Wiitles

The Wiitles recently performed at a sound art showcase at the Savannah College of Art and Design (The Wiitles’ future alma mater).  The showcase was interesting, with eight different groups of sound designers and weirdos making sound and art(??).  The mostly Max/MSP based projects included a set of speakers made from conk shells, a flautist recording and manipulating her flute with Max, a drum set made from PVC pipe (a la the Blue Man Group), and a DJ manipulating his music selections with the same vocal patch that I use to process my vocals with The Wiitles.  Check out the event web site here.  Our friend and photographer, James Paonessa, was nice enough to document the performance with his handheld.  Below is part of The Wiitles performance.  Enjoy:

Unfortunately, the performance issues in the above video are painfully obvious to us (and may be to you too).  Therefore, we have decided to share the load of the sampling and processing that Max has had to endure with a program called OSculator.  OSculator is an incredible little program that allows “for making sound and vision with new controllers”.  We will use OSculator to send Wiimote data to Ableton Live, ensuring the kinds of (especially rhythmic) performance problems will no longer take place.  This method will hopefully prove more fun as well, being that, using Max with The Wiitles, it always felt like we have been on a tightrope… one little slip and chaos would incur.  I have been pushing for utilization of Ableton for quite a while now.  Ironically, my vocal patch will continue to use Max for at least a little while longer, however.  Updates about our successes and failures using Ableton Live with The Wiitles are soon to follow.

The Wiitles will be performing this year’s GDX (Game Developers Conference) in Savannah.  The event promises to be unfathomably nerdy, and therefore ironically cool.  Do come out to see us if you have the means.

Also, I have been busy mixing some tunes for my other band, Oryx and Crake.  Please stop by and give them a listen.

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Who’s Gonna Watch the Watchmen

The title of this piece would more appropriately be titled, “Who Gonna Watch The Watchmen When the Music is so God Awful?”  I am by no means a comic nerd in the same way that, Jeff Albertson, the stereotyped comic nerd in The Simpsons is, but as a kid, I gobbled them up.  And as an adult, there have been a few comics that have moved me much more than some of the classics I was forced to read in high school and college.  Watchmen was one such comic.  I was as excited as any other Watchmen fan out there (besides the writer, Alan Moore, himself, who refused to be associated with the film version of his masterpiece) when the film version was announced.  And after seeing the trailers and how faithfully Zach Snyder had been to Moore’s and Gibbon’s vision, I felt like this movie was no doubt going to be, at least, the greatest superhero movie ever.

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The movie was great.  I have read that some of the actors seemed oppressed by the source material and that one or more of the actors seemed lifeless, but I thought the casting and the acting was spot on.  The action sequences were definitely more than what the comic had offered, but they were fun, and with a comic movie that features so much heady material, I enjoyed the break.

The music in The Watchmen, however, was Godawful.  I’ve never seen so many cliched musical moments in one single movie, and the ones that weren’t cliched, such as the Hallelujah sex scene, were still driven by, well, Hallelujah… and many other extremely famous and played out songs.  I’m sure that there were very good, artistic reasons for choosing the classics, not the least of which being that several of them are referenced in the book, but when Ride of the Valkyres gave Vietnam helicopters a soundtrack, and when The Sound of Silence played over a funeral, I was no where near being involved in the movie.  I could only think how much a certain music editor needed to get sacked, even if he was being influenced by a dictatorial director.  We as sound designers, or music editors, etc. need to be conscious of these decisions, as these decisions are not trivial, but can make or break an entire movie, however beautiful and blockbustery that movie may be.

I have heard that The Watchmen looks to be on it’s way to losing money for it’s studio.  Sucks for them, they were one Hans Zimmer original score away from a classic.

Appetite for Self-Destruction

Appetite for Self-DestructionThe book, Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age, is one that people will be talking about a lot in the coming months. In it, author Steve Knopper lays out his theory of what happened to the music industry to make it fall from such great heights to such great lows.  It would be hard to argue with the basic premise that underlies Self-Destruction.  Many people already feel that the recording industry proved itself incompetent and behind the times (and maybe somewhat manic) in their response to the Internet and most pointedly, peer-to-peer services.  But Appetite still reeks of a book idea that someone was a little too eager to put out into the world, be it Knopper or his publishers.  The industry has been changing so quickly that Appetite was in danger of sounding dated before it came out, and self-consciously repeats phrases like “at the time of this writing…”.

Appetite certainly does a good job painting portraits of the colorful characters who have ‘guided’ the music industry over the last several decades, portraits that prove to be one of Appetite‘s biggest charms and its biggest let downs.  Knopper seems to rely a little too much on his unusual access to these record industry big-wigs, and, while interesting, often times seems more than a healthy dose of filler.

All in all, I think that Appetite for Self-Destruction is an important book.  It attacks the record industry while also maintaining an objective gaze on what brought it to its current state.  Music fans the world over are wondering why in hell the major labels are putting out such terrible drivel on a regular basis, and what happened to make all of it happen.  Appetite gives these music lovers a good starting place in trying to put the pieces together.