Archive for January, 2010

Birds Cover Sonic Youth

Just got a kick out of this:

“French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, in a soon-to-open commissioned installation for the Barbican gallery in London, has set up perches of guitars and other auditory objects for a flock of very cute zebra finches to pluck at with their orange beaks and tiny talons. The coincidental result of their improvised strumming sounds akin to early Sonic Youth. Apparently, the light dissonance of Thurston Moore attacking his guitar with a screwdriver didn’t die out in 1984 (actually, he still plays like that), it just transferred to some canary cousins.”

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Interview Posted

Below is a link to the full interview I did with Connect Savannah concerning all things Wiitles. The Wiitles welcome any and all comparisons to Devo:

Connect Savannah

Connect Savannah Interview

On January 30th, The Wiitles have been asked to play the PULSE Art and Technology Festival (click for further details) at the Telfair Museum in Savannah Georgia. I conducted an email interview with Jim Morekis, the editor of Connect Savannah, to discuss The Wiitles and promote the event. Below are his questions and my answers where I tried to briefly sum up Wiitles philosophy and performance techniques:

1. Is the Wii hardware itself actually vital, or could you theoretically have built open-source trigger mechanisms for the audio?

I should begin by pointing out that the actual Wii console does not come into play forThe Wiitles. I think that is often the assumption. We only use the Wii controllers, and we use them to manipulate other software (and hardware) outside of the Wii. The way that the controllers are used has evolved along with the band. At first we used the controllers to trigger samples and synthesis inside of a program called Max/MSP, a graphical development environment for creating music and manipulating video. More recently we have implemented other programs such as Ableton Live, Osculator, and several drum and sound samplers, and control all of them with the Wii remotes.

2. My understanding is that WAV files are triggered by the Wii. Do I understand this to mean that you have a limited number of chords/notes/sounds available at any given time through the remotes? Or are you capable of modulating tone/pitch during performance?

Triggering WAV files is just one of the things we can do with the Wii controllers. We

also trigger loops and can control the way that the samples and loops are modulated in an infinite number of ways. It may be that when the only function of the Wii controllers was to trigger samples, The Wiitles were a bit of a gimic. These days, however, with the ability to modulate our audio with the accelerometer (the device inside the Wii controller that measures acceleration that can be used to sense orientation, vibration and shock), the way we perform is totally unique. The Wii controllers allow us to manipulate audio in ways that could not be done with more traditional MIDI controllers. They also allow us to move around during a performance, anywhere within fifty feet of the computer running our programs. Not being tied to cables or a keyboard is another example of how the Wii Remotes allow for a different kind of performance.

3. Is it wrong of me to say that the chief musical skill involved would actually be percussive in nature, because of the rhythmic triggers of the remotes?

On some songs you would be absolutely correct. We play the Wii remotes just like any

other band would play their instruments… every note is played in real-time by triggering the samples. For other numbers, where modulation becomes the primary mode of performance, that would be incorrect to say. The songs we play are often times a combination of triggering loops and samples, and manipulating those loops and samples. Maybe one person will do the triggering and the other three will perform modulations or vice versa.

4. Is each band member evolving a musical persona, i.e., is the one who takes most of the “leads” beginning to mimic the persona of a lead guitarist, etc?

We’re all pretty nerdy guys. I’m not sure that any of us have any stereotypical “rock star” traits in us… although Ian Vargo (drummer) certainly tries.

5. How do you decide who plays what when?

We always had roles before: I did the vocals, Ian did the drums, Stephen LeGrand played the bass sounds, and Nick Kneece played guitar sounds. This is no longer so straight forward, since often times one of us will modulate several sounds or loops in one song. These days we’ll have discussions during rehearsals and discuss who will play what.

6. Tell me how the Wiitles advance the concept of sound design through their performance art.

I’m not sure The Wiitles are doing anything groundbreaking as far as designing sounds, but the use of the Wii remote allows for motions during a performance that are different for live musicians. Whether or not the way the Wii remotes interact with sound will lead to new sonic discoveries remains to be seen, but I do believe that potential for these types of breakthroughs exist in using the Wii remotes.

Savannah International Animation Festival

I just learned that an animation I worked on in 2009 (now known as last year) was submitted to the Savannah International Animation Festival on Feb. 5-6.  Along with The Wiitles museum gig on January 30, it seems that I just can’t quite leave Savannah. I love this animation though and so I’m posting it here. Please excuse the annoying “Flip 4 Mac Demo” crap, but no matter how much that line of text irks me, I am not going to pay the 30 bucks to get rid of them. The animation has also been submitted it to festivals in Barcelona, Bucharest, and Hong Kong and although the animation team hasn’t heard back yet, I’m pretty confident we’ll be showing in those places too. Enjoy!