A Call To Arms for the Guard

I am resurrecting a brand, as it were. If you are a composer or performer with a good-quality recording of awexome music that you own the rights to that you’d like more people to hear, please contact me either through email or any channels you desire.


Vegan Black Metal Chef

This is for my parents, who are not vegan.


Paperless’s Steam Engine Time

After posting my writeup about giving a paperless presentation, I’m seeing all sorts of follow-up everywhere. Which is how many of these things work.

While this article about running a business from an iPad is a serious (and unrelated) workflow, the opening paragraphs gets to the crux of why I’m interested in exploring giving a paperless presentation: the enforced minimalism (har!) of iOS. As I mentioned to rogue composer and wizard Erik Schoster, this may be obsoleted when I eventually replace my stalwart white Macbook with an Air. Nonetheless, the iPad will likely always be lighter than a full laptop and Apple has dropped subtle hints that iOS might be their roadmap for the future.

One caveat I forgot to mention was that in order for my presentation to be totally paperless I eschewed a handout. I didn’t worry about it this time because I handout didn’t make any sense. Unlike my previous paper, which consistently referred back to a small number of figures, each slide was only applicable when I was talking about it. However a number of the scholars at the upcoming AMS hoedown in San Francisco are offering their handouts beforehand to mitigate the amount of printing involved. What’s so great about all these devices is that a speaker can make a reasonable assumption that there are enough of them in the audience to make such things worthwhile.1

This wonderful (and lengthy) interview with William Gibson from the Paris Review introduced me to term “steam engine time”, that a idea for which all the parts have existed suddenly explodes into existence/relevance. The difference here is that the concept of a “paperless office” has been yammered about for at least twenty years. It’s neat to see it actually happen.

  1. I can attest to the fact that last year in Indianapolis, the then five-month-old iPad was everywhere.

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Paper Sans Paper (mk 1)

One thing about my presentation in Belgium that I’ve separated off, mainly due to it being only of interest to nerds, was that I did it entirely paperlessly. Unless, of course, you include the sizable copse that was felled in the process of writing the thesis that the paper was based on.

This was primarily driven by my desire (and Angela’s insistence) that I leave my elderly white MacBook at home and just take the iPad instead. The rest of it was due to me staying in a hostel that lacked a printer, as most do, and being not quite conversant enough in Dutch/Flemish to work a computer lab. Nonetheless I was quite pleased with the results and plan on honing the process in further presentations, and on purpose this time.

The slides were easy enough, since there was a glut of MacBooks at the conference with their attendant adaptors. I happened to borrow Peter Gillette‘s, a compatriot of mine from not only Iowa but also our undergraduate days at Lawrence University. As it turns out, I was not the only one to read my paper off an iPad, see previous answer concerning printers, but it seems that the consensus was to read a PDF in iBooks.

I, on the other hand, didn’t even plan enough to make one of my paper and so accessed the plain text on Nebulous Notes, which is what I had used to write the paper in the first place. I thought this worked pretty well, since I could crank the font up to be more readable. However, I did hit it the wrong way a couple times during my presentation which brought up the keyboard. Which was great.

Obviously the Holy Grail would be to do the whole thing on the iPad without having to borrow Peter’s computer. I’m a minimalist1 when it comes to my Keynote slides, all Gill Sans and no wacky transitions, so they translate reasonably well to the iPad. Since I have the first year’s model it would have to be wired, but that’s not so bad since I could mess around with the presenter notes then. If I did either bring my own computer or continue to be a bum, I either need to make a cataract-font PDF or find another solution since losing my place after bringing the keyboard up was really bringing me down.

If there’s anything that Steve Jobs and the Reality Distortion Field taught us is that nothing takes the place of preparations and practice, but I’d be interested to see how other academics are broaching the same idea.

  1. Har!

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The Belgian Emissary

Two years ago I made my senior circuit debut as a musicologist at the 2nd International Conference on Music and Minimalism in Kansas City. I really can’t imagine a better place for me to have done that, since it was perhaps the only moment possible where major scholars would have tolerated a rigorous pitch analysis of a work that they not only had never heard but was titled Crazy Nigger. As you may recall from my report of that event, I was not murdered for my cavalier use of racial invective but instead announced myself as an Eastman scholar to people who actually knew him and were willing to share materials with me.

This past week was the next installment in that conference, having crossed back over the Atlantic to Leuven, Belgium. Maarten Bierens ran the best and most fun conference I’ve been to. Probably because of the guaranteed shared interest, and perhaps due to a common belief of being besieged by institutional bias, there is a much greater familial atmosphere than exists at the bigger dances. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to go to Society for American Music, but at AMS at least the cliques appear to be cast in permanence from institutional history. This isn’t to say I didn’t spend him with my colleagues (in fact I think that [Peter] gave one of the best papers is year), but I was often drinking beer with a group of musicologists, theorists, and composers from both sides of the Atlantic.

E F# G C# D E F# G C# D E F# G C# D E F# G C# D E F# G C# D

Did I mention beer? Because that’s basically your main objective in Leuven if you’re not (or even if you are) at the university. The Oude Markt (old market) is recognizable to anyone who has lived in a college town, although we clearly didn’t see it in its prime because the neatly labeled exits never came into play. 1

Most places I have traveled to either have cheap lodging and expensive food (Amsterdam, Dublin) or the reverse (New York, Busan). A combination of a hostel and a steady diet of sausages defeated both of these concerns, but the beer in Leuven was fantastically inexpensive. A bottle of Trappist ale, in a bar, was rarely more than €3.30, with Stella2, a somewhat classy option in the States, serving often as the last resort under 2 euros.

come out to show them come out to show them come out come out come out

The biggest thing to happen to minimalism scholarship, and by extension the conference, was purchase of Steve Reich’s papers by the mighty Paul Sacher Stiftung. A couple presenters had gotten off the train direct from Basel, where they’re sifting through massive, and as of yet largely uncataloged, collection. It was fascinated to hear about sketches, source materials (especially the tape/sampler works), and juvenalia from a composer who has thus far been so controlling of his own legacy. There was a fair amount of discussion about how the Reich archive was a very restrictive collection within an already restrictive institution, to the point of clearly going against best archival practices. I’ve written here before about dealing with composers who are inconveniently alive, and I cannot even imagine how self-conscious it must feel to hand over that sort of material. But then we get revelations about how it turns about he may have quit writing serial music because he wasn’t great at it. MIDI, however, is a harsh mistress.

Overall, I was really impressed by all the papers and I won’t hesitate to say that the level of scholarship was the highest of any conference I’ve been to. This certainly could be because I was actually interested in all the papers, but can only think of a handful that were either needlessly opaque, ill conceived, or poorly executed. Also surprising, considering how territorial musicologists in larger numbers can be, there was little chest-beating or posturing. Granted there is a clear generational divide and it may get interesting as younger scholars start to take more of a role in the society, which actually exists now. One thing I noticed, that composer/scholar Lauren Redhead pointed out better than I could, was the lack of women as compared to some of the other conferences I’ve been to. While Lauren discusses the lack of women scholars there, I’m starting to wonder where Pauline Oliveros and other female composers were.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 X 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

One thing I did miss was the lack of revelatory or just plain insane concerts. It is, however, perhaps unfair to expect anything to live up to the time bending weirdness of Charlemagne Palestine or Dennis Johnson’s November. There were still performances every day, and more pertinently they were considered of equal weight to the paper sessions,3 with Christopher Hobbs playing Terry Jennings, Bruce Brubaker playing Nico Muhly, and Andy Lee turning in a wonderful performance of Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano. The Flanders Festival was happening concurrently with the conference, although only one of the two concerts was particularly minimal in nature (the other being mostly Varése) and I ended up being locked out, of it, with a prestigious salon des refuses that included Tom Johnson and Kyle Gann, due to arrival five minutes late from dinner. Who knew the Belgians were so uptight?

If some inscrutable reason you’re interested in my paper, it was really a reframing of the last chapter and a half of my thesis, which should be freely available on ProQuest shortly, or I can email it as well my slides to any interested parties. I can only hope that the solidification of the Society and the air of legitimacy it brings doesn’t become calcification into more staid musicological proceedings. There is uncertainly as to where the next American event will happen in two years time (perhaps that institutional bias in not entirely imagined), but I will buy you a regrettably more expensive beer should you be there.

  1. Admittedly, we avoided the place on Thursday, which we were told was the traditional night of student revelry. Whereas I assume the American “Thirsty Thursday” tradition comes from when most bros are pulling up from last weekend’s hangovers, Belgian students apparently go home most weekends.
  2. No longer a Leuven beer, alas, having fallen to the syndicate that would become InBev years ago. Don’t even get me started on the Francophile nature of their campaigns, what with Leuven being quite solidly in Flanders.
  3. Anyone who has been to other musicological conferences can attest that while live music is usually available, it can generally only be attended in lieu of eating.

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In Absentia

Still alive, but only barely. Posts about exciting things upcoming, but first you should come and hear me and the rest of the Fifth Floor Collective tonight at 8 PM at the Boston Conservatory!

Poster for "In Absentia", October 21 8 PM at Boston Conservatory

I’ll be performing two movements of Andrew Paul Jackson’s In Absentia for soprano and mixed ensemble. Dude just keeps writing me guitar parts! There will also be awexome jams from Collective composers Patrick Greene and Joe Colombo, as well as interloper Matthew Barnson.

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Research refutes “digital native” theory

Marc Prensky’s “digital native” theory, that there is a a distinct shift in technological understanding for those born circa 1970(ish), is something I always think about whenever some jackass from Best Buy describes a computer as “something your mom can use!” I often end up informing them rather indelicately that my mom was typesetting shit by command line before they could control their own bowels. This study from the Open University ends up blowing up the idea altogether.

It shows that while those differences exist, they are not lined up on each side of any kind of well-defined discontinuity. The change is gradual, age group to age group. The researchers regard their results as confirming those who have doubted the existence of a coherent ‘net generation’.

So don’t be forcing your mom’s computer skills on everyone else, Geek Squad guy.

(via Kariann Goldschmitt)

Major ISPs agree to “six strikes” plan

The “six strikes” moniker makes it sound draconian, but the major ISP’s new copyright infringement agreement with the MPAA and RIAA is a very small step towards a saner world. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica breaks in down into human language:

The agreement puts heavy emphasis on “education,” going so far as to recast this behavior as some “right to know” on the part of parents unaware of a child’s P2P activity. According to today’s announcement materials, the goal is to “educate and stop the alleged content theft in question, not to punish. No ISP wants to lose a customer or see a customer face legal trouble based on a misunderstanding, so the alert system provides every opportunity to set the record straight.”

The same problems are still problems: it’s an independent corporate-controlled system rather than a judiciary one and the MPAA/RIAA persist in treating their customers as criminals. Nonetheless it at the very least should keep us from being dragged down by the sinking ship and serves as a reminder that there will always be someone, no matter how uninteresting, watching your traffic. If you’re creeped out, you might want to consider something like Tor.

Keep in mind: Support artists. Don’t steal stuff.

Codex Calixtinus stolen from Santiago de Campostela

Why is there no freaking out about this? As someone who is having trouble getting autograph sources from 1980, the loss of a known 12th-century manuscript is gutwrenching.

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Atonal Composers Gather For Atony Awards

Award season is picking up, but everyone knows the best parties are after the Microtonys.