Norman Mclaren

Another new love of mine.  The beginning music sounds an awful lot like the electronic music of Raymond Scott. 

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Oskar Fischinger

I have only recently discovered the work of the experimental genius, Oskar Fischinger.  As of late, I have kind of been obsessed with the combination of abstract images and music/sound, and plan on using some of the ideas I have run across in my thesis.

The video I have posted is the only one on Youtube currently posted, leading me to believe that whoever owns the rights to Fischinger’s work is probably searching out the illicit copies on the web and making them disappear.  No telling how long this video will be allowed to stay online, so enjoy it while you can.

Undercurrents

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that is not for lack of goings on. I am continuing to mix (and add parts) to the ten songs I recorded for my band, Oryx and Crake, and, although post-production on the album is taking longer than I expected, I expect to be able to share those songs shortly. I also have been working on a Wiitles web site. It is officially online now, but I still have a little bit of work to do. It’s my first web site, so how was I supposed to know that it wouldn’t just stay in the middle of any web browser? So check that out if you must, but I’ll be writing a special little post when the site is looking more worthy.

I am writing tonight after being inspired by a quote. I am reading several books right now that I would highly recommend: John Cage’s Silence (itself full of quotable lines) and The Cartoon Music Book (a collection of interviews with the greatest cartoon music composers to ever live). One quote that I found inspiring came from Undercurrents, a collection of articles written around the turn of the century written by some of the great music theorists of our day (at least the ones who live somewhere in left field). The collection is from a series commissioned by the, at times, brilliant magazine, The Wire.

This is the quote by one of the authors, music and art critic, Ian Penman:

Beware of false prophets who come bearing essays which announce the ‘end’ of something: it usually marks little more than the exhaustion of their own resources – intellectual or financial. We need to think about not the end of song but the ends of song. Each singer must find their own will, their own way. In this way, song might be just beginning to truly speak… in the revivifying breath of a new mourning.

There are many who look at the state of music and get pissed off. They say things like ‘it’s terrible’, ‘people don’t value music’, ‘there’s no money to be made’, or ‘screw everybody and me too’. I find this way of thinking extremely irritating. I hear creative music being made all of the time. Some guy alone in his basement can make a life-altering album nowadays, and it’s happened in many lonely basements in the last decade. Everyone it seems is a musician. The shear number of bands able to get their music heard around the world by posting to Myspace or some similar site is so mind-boggling that sometimes it feels as if we’re in the middle of an uprising.

No matter how bad mainstream music may sound to some of us and no matter how ‘devalued’ music may become to an uploading culture, there will always be new songs, new styles of song, and scores of passionate people who will put their creativity and their souls in their recordings. In fact, there’s more of those types of individual now more than ever.

The Wiitles make Mix

The Wiitles are my performance art group that uses Nintendo Wiimotes as instruments.  This month the ubiquitous audio nerd magazine Mix writes about us. The Wiitles use Wiimotes to control the software Max/MSP, another name ubiquitous among my audio nerd brethren.

The Wiitles have been making music, videos, mocumentaries, and other conceptual mayhem for about six months now, and we have enjoyed a fair amount of recognition.  Despite this, there is an unfair amount of people who either a) think the entire thing is a joke, or b) think that the entire thing is a sham (a.k.a. we actually make all of our music not with Nintendo Wiimotes controlling Max, but with ‘real instruments’ and then randomly wave Wiimotes around for show… shame them).  I am here to say that, while a large portion of The Wiitles is, of course, a joke (e.g. the outfits, the acts, the drummer), the Wiimotes really are used as the instruments and we do take our music (mostly) very seriously.  However, in order to shush the unbelievers, The Wiitles will soon be creating a video that shows the group’s entire creative process, from building the simplest of Max patches all the way through to slipping on our lab coats.  I will, of course, be writing about that when the time comes.  In the mean time, if you have not been initiated into Wiitlemania you can visit our Myspace page (www.myspace.com/thewiitles) or check out the videos that I have included here.

And for those of you interested in the nitty-gritty technical aspects of how the Wiitles create songs…when we play live, we have one instance of Max/MSP running on one single MacBook. The four different Wiimotes each has its own subpatch, one for each instrument, each working in its own unique way.   For the drum patch, each button on both the Wiimote and it’s corresponding nunchuck trigger different drum samples (wav files).  The bass patch works the same, only the individual samples are made by synthesis from scratch.  The guitar patch triggers wav files, but is unique in that movement by the accelerometer allows the triggered sample to play, so the player must actually “strum” the nunchuck in order for the sample to be triggered.  The vocal patch is essentially an effects processor. The buttons on the Wiimote activate different effects (e.g., delay, octave, harmonizer, and for the song ‘Robot Love’, a vocoder) in the vocal patch.  Each of these patches only receives information from an individual Wiimote.  The only other equipment we use is a Firewire interface that takes the sound from the MacBook to the PA via a single mono out (we could do stereo if we wanted, but none of the PAs we have used so far have been stereo).  All of the mixing is done in Max/MSP.

Introduction

Before I jump in and start talking about my art, I thought I’d take a little time to tell a little more about myself.  I hate Republicans.  It’s not so much that I hate Republcans as people, my mom, for example, is a really kind and nurturing person, it’s just that I hate the characteristics of a person that make them think Republican… I hate their “Republicanism”.  A point of pride for me is that, whenever I’ve been chided into a political argument by a Republican, I’ve never lost an argument without the Republican arguer eventually succumbing to a perceived loss of rationality (“(fill in blank) just frighten me” or “What are you, French?”).  I can usually, to my mind, at least, take the logic high ground.  However, last night, I quickly fell from atop my high ground into a gaping hole.  I went over to a friend’s house that I am scoring an animation with (more on this animation later) and, while we were setting up microphones to record guitar in his make shift studio, we turned on the Republican National Convention for some comic relief.  There I was, laughing it up at everything any one of those “inferior intellects” had to say when, suddenly, something happened that immediately caused me to fall.  A close-up on the TV focused solely on a certain senator’s wife that also happens to have been my fifth-grade teacher.  This woman, who was always kind to my family and I, had, some years ago, caught me in the act of my most heinous moral violation yet.  “Brandy’s Booger Brigade” the name of my comic book collaboration with a boy with the last name of Strange.  And when said fifth grade teacher had her little talk with us later concerning “Brandy’s Booger Brigade”, and told us all about how said Brandy had been badly abused as a child by her own parents and, quite frankly, was still not being treated very well by her own grandparents, I knew my life would never be the same.  So every time I have seen my fifth grade teacher since then, I turn into that same shamed boy on the day that he realized that “Brandy’s Booger Brigade” was far from funny.  Every time I see her, my logical high ground falls to pieces.  She could probably tell me that George Bush is a genius and I’d have no choice but to agree.  So last night, after seeing her face, seemingly looking just like she did when I was in the fifth grade, my mood changed to a somber one as I unrolled some XLRs and set up the stereo condensers.  My next post will definitely consist of nothing but art, starting with my own performance art group, “The Wiitles”, who are being featured in Mix magazine next month.

Hello

My name is Ryan Peoples and I am a graduate student studying sound design.  Currently I am working on two animations and putting together material for two different music groups; The Wiitles and Oryx and Crake.  I am starting this blog amidst my most tumultuous summer yet.  This summer has seen the loss of my dad, who had suffered through a highly aggressive brain tumor for the better part of the last twelve months.  But tragedy often pairs with its opposite, and a couple of months ago my wife and I found out she was pregnant (and it was by me!!).  These subjects may seem strange fodder for a blog centering around sound design and music recording, but my goal is that it to make the combination of personal life and sound design not seem strange.  Sound design and music production are art forms, and good art imitates life and good life imitates art.  Too many in this field (many of my fellow students and my professors fall into this group) seem to concerned with what technology they are using and what is coming around the corner with little concern with the kind of things that go into making memorable and inspiring art.  That’s what this blog will be: sound, art, life, and how all three interact and sum together.  Please stay tuned and enjoy.