I, Culturebot

CULTUREBOT.COM INTERVIEW

Name: Patrick Grant
Title: Composer/Performer/Producer
Affiliation: Curator & Co-Producer of “The MMiX Festival of Interactive Music Technology

patrickgrant

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Detroit where I studied music composition and classical performance by day while playing in Punk/New Wave bands by night. I read about the loft and gallery concert scene in 1970s NYC and that sounded more preferable to me than LA. It was artsier and I wouldn’t need to have a car. When I moved here in the late 80s that scene had played and wasn’t to return in a new form for a while. I quit the band I moved out here with found work writing and performing music for downtown theater groups and assisting well-known composers like John Cage. It was experiences like that that taught me more about making a living as an artist than the Juilliard education I never completed and even so, as they say, only in New York.

2. What do you look for when you’re seeking out new work?

I fell into the role of curator-by-proxy through various self-produced concert series. Early on, I sought to fill the void that was left when the loft and gallery concerts that brought me to NYC had (temporarily) fallen out of vogue in the late 80s and early 90s. My association with theater music always meant that I at least had a space to work and to do concerts. The same was true when I expanded into Chelsea galleries in 2000. Being in spaces such as these creates circumstances which are “extra-musical” so care is given to selecting artists which are a compliment to and an augmentation of the hosting venue’s creative discipline. Ultimately, it is really about audience and community building. Being a composer and performer myself I would naturally pick artists whose work I admired and wished to collaborate with. That’s how I get to meet people. That’s my microcosm. The macrocosm is in introducing artists, performers, and audience members to each other who might not normally cross each other’s path. When I see further collaborations being made as a result of these events, I consider that a great success. That’s something we all benefit from well beyond the scope of the seeds that were planted.

3. What was your most remarkable moment as a curator/presenter/producer?

I may be speaking out of turn here but so far it’s been the upcoming MMiX Festival of Interactive Music Technology on Oct. 8-11 at Theaterlab. Truly, and I can back that up. At the beginning, I envisioned it taking place at the same time as the Audio Engineering Society’s annual convention in NYC. If you’re into audio and musical gear, that’s a big deal. Deciding to have the festival then quickly gained us the support of interactive software leaders Ableton and Cycling ’74 (makes of Live 8 and Max/MSP/Jitter respectively). This in turn brought us some of the best and most diverse performers in that field. The idea of having something bigger than the festival itself to tap into has been very powerful. It’s given me the power to call up complete strangers, some of them very well known, and get them to come onboard. I couldn’t see myself doing that a couple of years ago and that, for me, is remarkable.

4. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

Anyone who knows me knows that I always cite Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange.” That may sound strange but let me explain. ACO was originally released as Rated-X by the incipient rating system (along with “Midnight Cowboy” and “Last Tango in Paris” due to their adult themes) and was re-released in 1974 reduced to an R-rating. The porn industry had made a joke of the X-rating by saying, “Well then, we’re XXX,” so it became meaningless. So, with an R-rating, ACO was able to air television commercials. I was eleven at that time. One day I heard it on the TV: The “Glorious 9th Symphony by Ludwig Van” but, as we know, being “performed” by Wendy (née Walter) Carlos on the Moog synthesizer. I didn’t know then what the music was or what was making those strange sounds. It was to be the very first LP that I ever bought for myself. Coming home from the store, I was reading the back of the album (who were these guys with the foreign names?) and couldn’t figure out which track I had heard on TV. I dropped that needle everywhere on the disc, but could not find it. What was up with all this classical stuff? I thought that was only used for goofing around in Warner Bros. cartoons! I noticed that one of the tracks looked a bit different in the middle, a darker color due to less activity in the grooves. I cued up that spot, and there it was: the march section of the 9th’s choral movement. It rocked my 11 year-old world, or as the Moog tagline ran at the time, I was instantly “switched-on.”

Why? It enabled me to listen to music stripped of fashion, the opposite of popular music (which I love too). It led to the original book by Anthony Burgess and got me literate beyond my years, leading to Vonnegut, Brautigan and others at an early age. Mostly, it’s a story about the choice between good and evil, and our free will to choose, motifs which stick with me to this day and inform just about everything I’m interested in, one way or another. Or at least I can explain it that way. Even with my guilty pleasures! ACO was my gateway drug.

5. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

Absolutely it would be the ability to be a convincing and charismatic public orator. Presently, I feel that I could do a lot better in that department. The thought are there but something gets lost when I convert them into words let alone how those words get expressed. After being surrounded by actors, poets and other performers all these years you’d think I’d have learned something. It’s been slow going but I believe there’s still hope! Countless times I’ve let myself get bullied into situations just because somebody had a better gift of gab when, deep in my gut, I felt it wasn’t right. I had to defer to the power of the word only to regret it down the road. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more and more often these days, even if words still fail. Yet, if I had that skill, I may not have become the person I am. Maybe I’d be someone who’s better at talking about what they’re going to do than just doing it. I hope not.

Patrick Grant (reposted frm Culturebot)

Grabbing Some Air with Radio Wonderland

JFRIED

Joshua Fried cruises the radio dial while a construction crane groans and whines outside his window. An advertisement for a clothing sale comes on the air. He hurries to press the buttons on his mixer and his sampler grabs a phrase from the female announcer’s voice. Later, the Spinners’ “Rubber Band Man” appears. “I love that song! ” he exclaims, and again leans over his console to capture a random snippet of the chorus. From car commercials to DJ patter to frothy classics like “Help Me Rhonda” by the Beach Boys, whatever goes out over the airwaves is fair game for the Radio Wonderland machine.

Joshua Fried is Radio Wonderland, a long-time solo project in which Joshua has designed devious and danceable ways to chew up, process and re-pattern the various sounds of commercial radio into what he calls, “recombinant funk.” Nothing is pre-recorded, nothing is pre-sequenced, and the compositional results are different every single time. This kind of live, daredevil mashup shows off Joshua’s talents as a drummer, and his personal history as a pop music fan. But above all, it keeps his audiences wondering what in the world he’ll come up with next.

We took a road trip (OK, just a subway trip) to Joshua’s place to find out how he’s honed his singular craft, and he sat down to tell us how Radio Wonderland came to be. You can listen to what he said right here:


Afterward, Joshua showed us the unusual controllers he uses to trigger sound and manipulate the pitch and tempo: 2 pairs of old shoes and a Buick steering wheel. Who knew dumpster diving could be so funky? In the clip below, he builds his tracks by snatching audio off his boom-box and feeding it through the software and processors he designed himself.

Of course, you can check out Radio Wonderland LIVE at our MMiX Festival this October. In the meantime, I’m wondering what it would sound like if Joshua remixed the Howard Stern Show…

Jocelyn

MMiX FESTIVAL – Schedule of Events

The MMiX FESTIVAL of Interactive Music Technology
October 8-11, 2009 at Theaterlab
137 W 14th Street, New York City
(212) 929-2545
http://www.theaterlabnyc.com

Tickets: $20 / $15 students & seniors
Available online at: https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/28175

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS & PERFORMANCES:

6:00-7:45 PM Thursday through Saturday
Free and open to the public in Studio C

Interactive sound installations by
Chronotronic Wonder Transducer
led by sound inventor Steven Litt

THU OCT 08
8:00 PM – Performance
Bora Yoon +
Luke DuBois +
Todd Reynolds +

FRI OCT 09
6:30 PM – Free Event
Ableton LIVE 8
Demo/workshop by DubSpot NYC
led by Chris Petti
8:00 PM – Performance
Dan Trueman and his Mini Laptop Orchestra
Jon Margulies / Hobotech
Joshua Fried / Radio Wonderland

SAT OCT 10
6:30 PM – Free Event
– Ableton & Cycling ‘74 present: MAX for LIVE
with Todd Reynolds & Luke DuBois
8:00 PM – Performance
Patrick Grant Group
Kathleen Supove / Exploding Piano
Elliott Sharp / Janene Higgins

SUN OCT 11
6:30 PM – Performance
Chronotronic Wonder Transducer
Ben Neill & Bill Jones
DJ Rekha / Basement Bangra

PLUS product giveaways of Ableton LIVE 8 and Cycling ’74’s MAX 5

* * * * * * *

The MMiX Festival of Interactive Music Technology is produced by Theaterlab, radio producer Jocelyn Gonzales, and curated by composer/performer Patrick Grant.

All events take place in the studios of Theaterlab which is located at 137 West 14th St., between 6th and 7th Ave., New York City. For more information (ticket info, directions, etc.) visit Theaterlab’s web site at http://www.theaterlabnyc.com.

Software and laptop improvements present new possibilities for composer/performers to create complex soundscapes in real-time during live performance. The focus of the festival is to demonstrate that these emerging audio technologies are instrumental in new artistic creations, and to inform the public regarding the current state of this art form. The artists presented in MMiX have set a new bar in that discourse and will provide live performances, media installations and workshops.

Ableton, creators of LIVE 8 and Cycling ’74, creators of Max/MSP/Jitter are primary sponsors of the festival with additional support by DubSpot NYC and Eventide.

Media sponsorship for the festival is generously provided by WNYC 93.9 FM and 820 AM, New York City listener supported radio.

WNYC

…Merely Meatware?

MEATWARE: the human element in a technological system.

Here’s but a few links to some artists in NYC that have been embracing new technologies on the stage in the creation of their work. We’ll be adding more as time goes on. I’m sure that many of you reading this blog know of them, if not personally or as collaborators, but they are worth pointing out, especially if they are news to you.

3-Legged Dog

3-Legged Dog

3-LEGGED DOG is a non-profit theater and media group focusing on large-scale experimental artwork. Their work has been seen in New York City at such venues as the Kitchen, La Mama, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, PS 122, and Signature Theatre Co. Since 1994, they have become a mainstay in the experimental arts community and have been performing downtown ever since.

Five years after the destruction of their headquarters at 30 West Broadway on September 11th, 2001, 3-Legged Dog Media and Theater Group announced the launch of a new home in Spring 2006. 3LD Art & Technology Center is located at 80 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan, just 3 blocks south of the WTC site.

3-Legged Dog is the first producing arts group to sign a lease in the Liberty Zone and the first to rebuild downtown. A cultural anchor for the Greenwich Street Arts Corridor, 3LD Art & Technology Center provides complete production and presentation facilities for emerging and established artists and organizations that create large-scale experimental works, many of which incorporate and create new tools and technologies.

Fire Island by 3-Legged Dog

"Fire Island" by 3-Legged Dog

3LD ART & TECHNOLOGY CENTER is a community-oriented and artist-run production development studio.  They offer artists a unique experience with specialized equipment, flexible space and expert knowledge, as well as the desperately needed time to fully realize their visions.  If New York City is to remain at the forefront of experimentation, then its artists must have the means to create cutting-edge work.  Since opening in 2006, they have offered the latest materials and innovative tools to more than 900 artists from veterans like Laurie Anderson to the newest prodigies like J. Reid Farrington, recently of the Wooster Group.  They have structured programs to ensure the aesthetic and financial success of their residents.  They provide a critical resource and development home for these artists, who carry on the traditions of risk-taking and boundary-pushing aesthetics, a tradition that reaches back in New York City’s history to the late 1800s.

Troika Ranch

Troika Ranch

TROIKA RANCH is the collaborative vision of artists Mark Coniglio and Dawn Stoppiello. Established in 1994, and based in New York City and Berlin, Germany, Troika Ranch produces live performances, interactive installations, and digital films, all of which combine traditional aspects of these forms with advanced technologies. The artists’ mission in producing this wide range of art experiences is to create artwork that best reflects and engages contemporary society.

The name Troika Ranch refers to Coniglio and Stoppiello’s creative methodology, which involves a hybrid of three artistic disciplines, dance/theater/media (the Troika), in cooperative interaction (the Ranch). This method preceded the organization Troika Ranch, which was formed as a means to support the artists’ engagement in this process. During the 1990’s, Coniglio, Stoppiello and their company Troika Ranch were among the pioneers in the field that came to be known as Dance and Technology.

As the use of technology in the arts has developed and integrated over the last decade, the need for the separate moniker Dance and Technology has dissolved. Troika Ranch’s present concerns correspondingly reflect this broader scope, expanding across genres and pioneering new frontiers. As innovators and visionaries, Coniglio and Stoppiello produce art that values live interaction – between viewer and viewed, performer and image, movement and sound, people and technology. It is time-based but typically includes an element of spontaneity, in that the events and images that unfold lie within a certain range but are not exactly replicable. As authors, they establish images, direct performances, determine time frames, and devise technologies. The works may be presented as performances, installations, or in portable formats. In sum, Troika Ranch engages in creative endeavors using all that contemporary invention has to offer.

The arts world, well, the world in fact, recently suffered the loss of MERCE CUNNINGHAM. He extended the frontiers of choreography for more than half a century, most recently with his use of the computer program called DanceForms (formerly LifeForms).

DanceForms

DanceForms

Merce was on the development team for this dance software. Each work he choreographed since 1991 made use of this program, and each one was quite different from the others. Those of you interested in seeing firsthand how DanceForms works can download a demo of the program from their web site at http://www.charactermotion.com/danceforms/

Jonah Bokaer

Jonah Bokaer

Former Cunningham performer, choreographer & media artist JONAH BOKAER seems to be the heir apparent to Cunningham and his use of technology in the creation of dance.

Over the past several years, Jonah Bokaer has developed a body of work addressing the creative potential of digital technologies in movement production. He makes choreography by rendering a virtual body in the built domain, employing motion capture, digital animation, 3D modeling, and choreographic software to generate movement material. “Choreography” involves designing a body inscreen, embodying its movements in real time, and performing the choreography live.

While developing this new artistic practice, Bokaer frequently questions (and subverts) the spaces in which works are performed, creating site-specific installations that playfully critique the venue presenting a dance. This generally involves a visual or sonic intervention in the periphery of each individual venue.

Minus One

The Invention of Minus One (2008) by Jonah Bokaer

VIDEO: The Invention of Minus One

As an arts activist, Bokaer is also deeply committed to fostering interdisciplinary dialogue with artists across media. With this in mind, he has established a cooperative studio space called “Chez Bushwick,” in which artists can congregate, develop ideas, and present their work in a catalytic environment. Bringing innovative new work into direct conversation with contemporary thought and culture is the main interest of this artist.

Bokaer’s unparalleled dancing in Merce Cunningham’s company, his co-founding of the Brooklyn performance space Chez Bushwick, and his well-crafted yet cutting edge choreography that moves dance into the new century, have made him a convincing advocate for the dance community.

Chez Bushwick

Chez Bushwick in Brooklyn

CHEZ BUSHWICK, an artist-run organization based in Brooklyn, is dedicated to the advancement of interdisciplinary art and performance, with a strong focus on new choreography. Since its inception in 2002, the organization has been acknowledged as a new model for economic sustainability in the performing arts, offering New York City’s only $5 subsidy for rehearsal space, and thereby fostering the creation, development, and performance of new work. Chez Bushwick is also responsible for a number of monthly performance programs that encourage artistic freedom, collaboration, and creative risk-taking.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg and, even then, this is just one city. I’m very interested in where all this development is leading us. Personally, I feel that much of it still has far to go. As advanced as it may seem to us now, I still get that feeling that we’re like those folks who first marveled at the Model T.

Whatever progress is to be made, one thing I am sure of, is that it is going to be based on the “meatware” which has a much longer tradition of moving the people’s hearts and minds. My hope is that a lot of what I like to call “The Gee Whiz Factor” will fade as this ubiquitous technology is increasingly greeted by a de-mystified public, one that will demand more and more meaningful creations that will continue to close the gap between the hardware/software and the “meatware.”

Still, at this point, a it’s mighty gap to fill.

Patrick Grant

Pre-MMiX Pix

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Pre-MMiX Party at Theaterlab last night! Brilliant vibes, wonderful people, cool new music…and mojitos!

premmix16

More photos after the tag…but we’ll have video from this event soon!

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Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie MIDI, MAX, LIVE 8 Bikinis

A little while back, we posted about this new body paint called Bare Conductive, a type of skin-safe ink that conducts electricity. When the ink on the body comes in contact with a sensor, it closes a circuit. It can be programmed to trigger a sound or some sort of lighting effect.

Well, it was only a matter of time until somebody figured out a saucy little way to apply this interactive technology, and that guy is Scottish electronic musician Calvin Harris. In this video, he premieres a version of his latest single, “Ready for the Weekend,” on what he calls “a unique human synthesizer.”

The video’s description reads: “The instrument consists of 34 pads on the floor which have been painted with the conductive ink and connected to a computer via some clever custom electronics. The performers stand on the pads, and touch hands to complete a circuit and trigger a sound. Different combinations of pads trigger the different sounds needed to play the track.”


Matt Johnson created the custom pads and electronics for the project, using two Arduinos and Max/MSP. The pads, the performers, the body ink, electronic boards, and software create this moving, breathing MIDI controller that makes the music, which is sequenced by Ableton LIVE.

The project is a collaboration between Calvin Harris and students from the Royal College of Art’s Industrial Design Engineering department.

As my brother just remarked, “Either this is really weird and cool…or just an excuse to slap girls in bikinis.”

– Jocelyn

Hockey to Hockets? If you must XY, add a TS…

My introduction to a musical world beyond the Motown & rock’n’roll I heard all around me growing up in Detroit, and the pop hits from the BBC as filtered through the CBC from across the river in Canada, to where I am now was, judging by the length of this already overly lengthy sentence, a circuitous one.

Dad was all about Johnny Cash and Scottish bagpipe music (being a cop will do that to you), and Mom was all theater and movie music. Despite begging for music lessons at an early age (Dad wanted me to be a hockey player; he was on the Detroit Police team), I was at least given a Magnus chord organ and lessons on the guitar and banjo from my Dad’s drinking buddies at many an impromptu late night “soirée.” I took to that chord organ like mad. I was a 7 year-old Phantom of the Opera in my mind, going waay beyond the “On Top of Old Smokey” by-the-numbers type books that came with it. Even so, my most creative outlet was visual art, being the best “draw-er” in elementary school, mostly geometrical patterns (and I was great at Spirograph too!) and the gruesome gore I emulated from Famous Monsters of Filmland fan magazine. “Why don’t you ever draw anything nice?” It wasn’t until my parents divorce and my Mom married some Harvard-trained CPA ne’er-do-well when I was 11, that I found out “music lessons should be a part of every gentleman’s upbringing.” Yeah, right. BUT, if that was my way in, I went for it: piano and viola/violin lessons began, and a nerd was born.

Magnus chord organ

Around that time, the film “A Clockwork Orange,” originally released as Rated-X by the incipient rating system (along with “Midnight Cowboy” and “Last Tango in Paris” due to their adult themes) got reduced to an R-rating and re-released. The porn industry had made a joke of the X-rating by saying, “Well then, we’re XXX,” so it became meaningless. So, with an R-rating, “Clockwork” was able to air commercials on the TV. One day I heard it: the “glorious 9th Symphony by Ludwig Van” but, as we know, being “performed” by Wendy (née Walter) Carlos on the Moog synthesizer. However, I didn’t know what that strange sound was at the time. I shoveled snow like mad that weekend to make the $4.95 needed to purchase, what was to be, the very first LP that I ever bought for myself. Coming home, I was reading the back of it (who were these guys?) and couldn’t figure out which track I had heard on TV. I dropped that needle everywhere on the disc, but could not find it. What was up with all this classical stuff? I thought that was only used for goofing around in Warner Bros. cartoons! I noticed that one of the tracks looked a bit different in the middle, a darker color due to less activity in the grooves. I cued up that spot, and there it was: bum – – – bum – – – bum – bum – bum – bum – etc. It was the march section of the 9th’s choral movement (please pardon the WWII imagery).

It rocked my 11 year-old world

Carlos' 1970s studio

I took to reading and writing music right away, often well beyond my means of playing it (what else is new?) probably because I understood the visual representations of the patterns coming off the art I practically abandoned since hearing that first Moog. In fact, most of the music I naturally like also makes for fine visual art when it’s written down. A favorite joke of mine: Beethoven was so deaf. How deaf was he? He was so deaf he thought he was a painter.

At that point in the 70s there were a lot of “classical goes synth” type albums out but, despite some bits of 1960s Japanese anime, “Kimba the White Lion”, composer Isao Tomita’s takes on Debussy and Stravinsky, I was a dedicated Carlos fan (as was Glenn Gould). Aside from the Beethoven for Kubrick, the mostly baroque output of Carlos, beginning with “Switched-on Bach” in 1968, the attention to detail is still stunning, especially when you consider the means and the pre-planning that had to go into every track. Only was I to discover later that this was due to the use of “hocketing,” a medieval vocal technique where a single melodic line would be broken up amongst a number of voices. The best definition of a hocket I heard was from one of the curators at de Ysbreker while on tour in Amsterdam: “It is a monophonic way of suggesting polyphony.” That’s it! That’s why I like what I like. I like music that is made up of many interlocking parts, be it Bach, Steve Reich (“Music for 18 Musicians” was a 14th birthday present), Eno & Fripp, the Balinese Gamelan (three trips to study there), or now, in using looping software and hardware as compositional tools.

Here’s a gem I came across: a long out-of–print album by Wendy Carlos called “Secrets of Synthesis” recently re-released on East Side Digital. The MP3 here, using harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti as realized on Carlos’ “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer,” are given as examples of how she applied this hocketing technique to, essentially, two-part material to get multi-layered and multi-timbral results, all on the 1970s rig shown above and two Ampex 8-tracks bouncing back and forth:

A long time ago at the Chelsea Hotel, producer, tenant activist and now author (!) Scott Griffin once told me, “You should never make pieces for solo instruments. Your music works best when it’s dense with layers.”

You know, I think he was right.

That time.

-Patrick Grant