Every two years in St. John’s, there’s a week-long summer event that sounds like bliss to my ears and gives meaning to the music I craft — Sound Symposium. If I’m not participating as an official artist on the program, I usually make a point of attending some featured performances and ASSUREDLY get to The Ship Pub for the featured Night Music events. This was the case for my immersion into Sound Symposium XVII, and it began with a scorching free show at Harbourside Park by fusion trio Big Space, with a repeat engagement for the evening’s Night Music. Anyone unfamiliar with the later bar show should know it opens with a set by the featured act, then follows with improvised jams including other musicians in attendance. This is where I like to include myself, and where I switch up my choice of instrument I select to bring each night. Circuit-bent Sound Machine, Spider-Man Voice Changer, Mattel Calliope, Roland sampler and Thingamagoop 2 were the choice standouts for certain! The Symposium is the only way for me to hear anything — sound poetry mulcher Chris Tonelli and Leatherback, jazz versions of Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” (and nods to Barney Miller) by Curtis Andrews and Friends Like These, the exotic sounds of Boujou Badialy Cissoko‘s kora or Bart Hopkin‘s fascinatingly-built experimental instruments — and still get to freely chat and share company with those taking part in it. The Friday, July 11th Night Music was the tops with local sax quartet Ouroboros with special guest Jessica Lurie, and fuelled a frenzy of jamming afterwards, mostly with prepared guitar mangler Bill Horist. What a spirited (hic!) time had by all, and some friendly music-making made!
Fun with toys and lights…Jesse Stewart’s Reactable.
Big Space blazing hot at Harbourside Park.
Curtis Andrews and Friends Like These play a solid improv jazz set.
Sax groovin’ with Ouroboros and Jessica Lurie at Night Music.
The following night was spent a little differently, yet evoking even stronger camaraderie. Back in 2002, my friend Chris Driedzic gathered some musician pals together in an improvisational collective called Sound Circus to play at Sound Symposium that year. I noticed Daunt Lee, in for a surprise visit from Japan, at a recent Night Music and he told me about the Saturday night get-together at Chris’ studio with old cohorts Andrea Monro, Kyla Squires and Andrew Draskóy, to jam some old faves. It couldn’t have been a more fitting close to my Symposium week, as the friendship I found originally with Sound Circus was the start of my enduring relationship with improvised music. Thanks, gang, for the fun times.
I’m going to finish up this post with a new improv electronic piece I just tossed together…and it utilizes snippets of a Harbour Symphony (Sound Symposium composition for ship’s horns) that I recorded this year on my sampler, as well as some Thingamagoop 2. Both got some heavy use at Night Music. We could all enjoy a little more heaviness, among other sounds, so keep your summer dreams alive and free.
Another installment of the MssngMrblz recurring event, Prototype 6, was just in time for our yearly summer sun! The hype was big for this one, including vinyl stickers, retro shades, t-shirts, hula hoops, silly string, the regular flashy lights and screens, and certainly stellar electronic music from all the performers rockin’ the stage. Yours truly was there with a last-minute opening performance, then followed by Georgie & JoMo, Elling Lien, MssngMrblz, PotemTole, DJ Alligator (of Rockafellers) and Worker. Click those names above to link up with some hot local music made here in St. John’s, and see below for some photos of the Prototype 6 action. Until the next one, keep listening!
Georgie & JoMo return for P6…their first-ever gig was at the first Prototype show!
The sweet sounds of Georgie & JoMo.
Elling Lien has fun with the crowd assembled at Prototype 6.
Elling Lien multitasks his mix like a master.
MssngMrblz and Elling Lien ready the set change.
Hoop dreams come alive at Prototype 6!
Hula-hoop light show on stage with MssngMrblz.
Lori Reddy dances some hula magic during MssngMrblz set.
Makin’ the crowd shake their asses!
Surprise! Silly string attack!
PotemTole gets electric for Prototype 6!
The groove builds up…
PotemTole enjoying the vibe at Prototype 6.
Get yr body movin’!
MssngMrblz approves the groove!
Get on the floor!!!
MssngMrblz and los beatniko in a blurred selfie.
PotemTole invites you to bring the noise!
DJ Alligator and PotemTole shifting gears onstage.
DJ Alligator readies the Rockafellers jams for Prototype 6.
Tweak it if you mean it.
DJ Alligator keeps ‘em lost in a haze of beats!
Worker and los beatniko feel that shades are required for Prototype 6!
So now I’ve composed some “new music”. New, as in recent AND in genre. Musicworks magazine has this annual contest for Electronic Music compositions, and I decided to give it a shot. I’ve always enjoyed piecing together found sounds into music, so why not toss one of my monsters into the arena?
For this attempt at officially composing something I wanted to base it around some field recordings I had: a decade-old clip of backyard construction and bird sounds, and a more recent sample of talkative crows. I wanted a rhythmic, ambient piece, so I required washing/drying machines, circuit-bent drumkits, and sampled pistachio shells in varied receptacles for organic ‘drums’. I even included my thrift-store robot pals (these toys make great randomized glitch noise). I put it all together using Ableton Live, added a nice synth patch from iZotope Iris for a melody, and a choice sci-fi drop from “Destination Moon“. The finished work is just under the 10 minute maximum time.
It makes for interesting background music or sonic brain transport with eyes closed. I wanted to fuse naturally occurring spacial city sounds (mostly birds and urban construction) with additional machine sounds and electronics to convey that ‘always building’ hum in society that seems inescapable, but rhythmically curious. Try blasting this one out of yr car stereo for the ultimate urban landscape effect when cruising! As per usual, I’ve got some related pics of the process. I operate with heavy machinery.
Elmer’s Old-Fashioned Candy Mix makes a nice snare!
Thingamagoop 2, bent Sound Machine and coffee. Too awesome.
I don’t know what these robots are talking about, but it might be interesting.
Washers and dryers create the most interesting random sounds.
My fave playback device, the Roland SP-404.
Rick Bailey (los beatniko) is a hands-on sound artist.
Wasabi-style alterations for maximum hum!
I ate a bag o’ pistachios, and wanted to make percussive sounds. Is that so wrong?
RPM Challenge 2014 has got to be some of the most prolific work I’ve crafted thus far, but has it been challenging? I did get an early start in February working with Ableton Live and the Launchpad Mini/LaunchControl in set preparation for Prototype 5, which I deemed productive idea creation for the album. There was, however, plenty of downtime for birthdays, family visits, nights out to party, watching the tube, etc. Instead of being stressed about being behind in the recording process, I took time out on a couple of weekdays (mostly in the last week) to finish up some working projects and polish the mixes. I also managed to record a Robot Scout session for RPM submission, too. Does it mean I like to procrastinate until the final possible minute? No, but it does seem to end up close to the wire most of the time. It’s always challenging to create under a deadline, but these days I’ve streamlined the process to make it easier to operate quickly and efficiently. Hence, I can afford to take my time with some things or choose to break from it with the knowledge that it’s simple to come back to. I’ve done the RPM Challenge for a number of years now, and likely would have made yearly records anyway, even if no challenge existed. We make our own challenges, and I consider this one to be more of a necessity. I make art, and that doesn’t change. The challenge is making art you’re happy with. And even though I endorse a certain amount of improvisation in much of my work, it’s satisfying when it sounds composed.
This brings me to the selling point of this post: here’s where you get to listen to the finished product. Below are players for the new los beatniko record, MiddleF, and a Robot Scoutsession entitled Trois Robots. It’s a fine start for 2014, and I hope it’s the start of more challenges met and conquered. Until next time.
One final note…a link to the Last Gasp Noise Jam for this year, which is always a fun time. Neanderthal Lions is even small enough this year to be a band, not an orchestra!
A friend and electronic producer who performs as MssngMrblz has been organizing a series of shows called Prototype to showcase local electronic artists playing original material. I made my second appearance at the most recent show, Prototype 5, held at The Rockhouse in St. John’s on February 15. Not only was it a larger venue this time around, but the lights and sound were spectacular to behold. Flat screens, man! I opened the night with some harder-hitting tunes I’d been working on this month (being RPM Challenge season…more to come), and sporting another fun animal mask. The laid-back giraffe. I tried a rushed Mixlr broadcast, and was pleased with the enthusiasm I got for my set offstage. The rest of the evening was stellar, especially when I was able to snap some of the action using my new Fuji X-A1. Awesome performances by all, and a vibrant, excited crowd on the floor. It was great to see and hear local music-makers step it up and show off their best works. Events like this are a welcome addition to the growing electronic music scene in St. John’s, and here’s to continued successes. Check out mssngmrblz.com for more (the gallery has some great pics), and I’ve got mine up for view here. Now back to polishing some of those new tracks for this month’s album. Ciao!
Giraffes rock. los beatniko @ Prototype 5.
Rozalind MacPhail mixes flute, vocals and electronics.
Header goes analog for his set at Prototype 5.
Blinking lights…routed to perfection with Header.
Tertium Fratello dishes up a funky soul mix for the crowd.
On the floor to get some more with Tertium Fratello.
MssngMrblz gets hands-on with his set at Prototype 5.
MssngMrblz gets into gear while Poizen Jam watches the mix from the stage.
Got a new spot to broadcast all things listenoften — Mixlr. I’d wanted to try some live audio streaming since ages past, and here we are in the future. Future!!! The future‘s supposed to provide that kinda instantaneous stuff and also get done in the easiest possible way, with the least amount of headache involved. This one looks pretty cool and easy to operate, but the proof will be in future live broadcasts of sound. Future! I’ll keep you informed of when the first big red button press is on, featuring everything from live Robot Scout jam sessions or studio performances, to los beatniko electronic sets. It’s a fantastic idea, especially for impromptu electronic DJ sets, and I’m excited about getting some real airplay for a change. Especially after upgrading Ableton and adding some Novation controllers to the mix. A new year is…hear?
Recently I decided to take an opportunity to join some local artists at Eastern Edge Gallery, and perform a sound art piece for their Annual Members Exhibition. I wanted to revisit the cassette tape’s role in history and in memories by using a couple of Sony Walkman players (Sport and classic 80’s Stereo models) routed through partially functioning outdated electronic equipment. The setup consisted of a busted Tascam Portastudio 246 with effects sends from a Digitech Delay rack into a small, crackly Realistic amp, which was output to a working Sony stereo able to record (to tape) the resulting performance. Playback of delay-warbled sections of early-1980’s cassettes (mostly recorded from vinyl by my uncle) in oddly familiar cacophony made for an interesting background for those gathered to see the other artworks featured in the gallery. Thanks to Michael Waterman and Kevin Hehir of Noice for their assistance. I returned Tuesday to listen back to the cassette of the night’s show (available as an installation for the week), and it sounds much clearer in headphones. This brings me to my closing message: somebody else’s trash is another’s art. I felt the need to get better utilization from my stack of archaic equipment and underused (yet “retro”) tapes, so I decided to fashion some new memories by destroying the old ones. And maybe a little more destruction or deconstruction is needed in these times of excess, instead of hoarding countless piles of vintage ‘stuff’ that you’ve outgrown. Some of these historical fragments of society have real value — at least in shaping who we are (or what we do) as people. Others are just sentimental junk we should throw away, or in my case, recycle one last time. Included are a few pics of the setup at Eastern Edge, and I may revisit the mangled tape theme for a future idea. I’ll keep you posted.
Next time you think your existence is too pressured, remember that you’re not 300 meters undersea. Your head would implode at that depth, and a multitude of sea creatures would feast on your remains. Watched some recent BBC documentaries on the vast expanses of ocean on the earth, and reaffirmed my thoughts that the human animal is still nothing compared to many inhabitants of the planet. We may ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’, but deep sea is the same as deep space for us — unknown, dangerous and awe-inspiring. So I got a little inspired myself and posted a new creation on Soundcloud called DeepSeaLevels because I remember some early 70’s nature programs having pretty funky soundtracks, and wanted to paint my style of audio picture, too. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy it. Just like your land-dwelling life.
So I ordered a new laptop recently to help me with any upcoming musical efforts…and mostly to avoid any unnecessary blue-screening from the old one. A bit of a chunk of change, but worth it for the customization. The only issue is that now I also need to procure the extra funds for upgraded DJ and sound production software, Traktor Pro and Ableton 9, respectively. Also worth it, but maybe at a slower rate of acquisition. There’s always going to be other gear to purchase in the grand scheme of things. I like using my old stuff, but sometimes it’s not compatible with new operations. And everyone loves to get new stuff, even if cash flow is dicey.
On that note, I’m including a new track on the Bandcamp page. Figured I’d toss this one up because I had most of the parts prepared (on my archaic version of Ableton), and it was sounding pretty great. Imagine a future world suddenly littered with lifetimes of discarded busted electronics, broken metal and plastic, and you being disoriented by the surrounding masses of jungle-like peripheral cables and endless extension cords hanging over the earth. What kinds of misplaced creatures or tribal cyborgs would you encounter? Ponder this scenario while you listen to los beatniko‘s new single, “Jungle Of Wires.” Here’s the track:
Here’s to a new season of collection! With purpose!
I read a good article my friend Gary James Joynes shared recently, by writer Geeta Dayal. Got me thinking about my role as a “dial twiddler” in the universe, and how I’ll never be happy doing anything otherwise. Isn’t this how an artist expresses oneself? By inventing and experimenting in their chosen medium, because it’s NECESSARY for personal satisfaction in their world. Not because anybody has to like it. Not everyone will. If there are those who appreciate (or pay you for) your creations, then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You made an artistic impression on an audience who gets your stuff. Sound artists have been messing around for centuries, with varied tools and results. Everyone has their own method. The fact of the matter is that sounds are heard differently by a multitude of different people (especially these days), no matter how they’re created. And I’ll do it till I’m dead. End of story. Here’s some art:
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