a single grawlix
a new EP from neural goldberg
(and possibly also a title descriptive of the state of the world).
a single grawlix
neural goldberg (my duo with Chicago musician J. Soliday) moves in fits and starts - much like the rhythms of our machines, sometimes halting, sometimes racing ahead. At whatever speed, our tinkering continues - new patches, new software, new approaches to generative music - and we’ve got some new favorites to share with you. Please lend your ears to a single grawlix.
As is our custom, we’ve made these recordings over the network, assembling various music-making systems in Philadelphia and Chicago, and then listening and tweaking while the machines collide with one another in real-time. This particular set of tracks, improvised in September and November 2021, strike me as slower, more spacious, more timbrally flexible and diverse - a new and different register from the white heat which characterizes our earliest efforts. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t the occasional noisy explosion or rhythmic freakout along the way - after all, we’re still us.
Making music with J. continues to be a joy, and it won’t be too long before we have more work to share with you. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy this taste.
Alvin Lucier festival
In a very different approach to generative music, next month I’ll be collaborating with Sam Pluta on a realization of Alvin Lucier’s Music on a Long Thin Wire, as part of a Baltimore-District of Columbia festival of Lucier’s music. Long Thin Wire is fascinating to me in part because it is essentially self-performing: Sam and I will assemble and tune the electromagnetic system, but then we step back and let the sound drift of its own accord, responding to the slightest subtleties of variation and interaction between the wire, magnet, and oscillator.
Our installation will be part of a concert on Thursday, May 12, at 7:30 pm in the Wright Theater on the University of Baltimore campus (21 Mt Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD). The program includes Lucier’s classic Music for Solo Performer (aka “the brainwave piece”), which I am quite excited to experience live, as well as Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra, Nothing is Real, and In Memoriam James Tenney, with a stellar cast of performers. Tickets are available now.
The festival continues in Baltimore on May 19, and moves to DC for two programs on May 20 - complete details are available at instagram.com/lucierfestival.
At the workbench
It seems like all I ever talk about in this section is electronic musical instrument design: for neural goldberg, for the LV2MKRT podcast with Scott Worthington, and for the network music project with Matt Ingalls. But it’s past time to own that - it’s the primary focus of my work these days, and the process of iteration, revision, and elaboration on a couple of key ideas continues to be fruitful and rewarding.
The latest generation of the instrument I play with J. and Scott has acquired a name: bartleby, after a few embarrassing bugs that caused the code to, well, “prefer not to,” regardless of the nature of the request. Episodes of beta-balkiness aside, bartleby has a new and significantly streamlined interface which, so far, is striking an effective balance between the performative immediacy needed for LV2MKRT and the flexibility and variety I prize for neural goldberg. The core of the new interface design is three columns of buttons, currently arranged like this:
While a few of those controls require multiple taps or presses to express the full range of possibilities the instrument offers, it’s a fairly fast and flexible way to get the instrument cooking, to express specific ideas about pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and timbre, and to pivot quickly from one texture to another. It does require an enormous amount of trust in the underlying generative processes that turn simple expressions like “simple” and “complex” into actual musical figures - but hey, if I don’t like the way the programming works, it’s my job to fix it.
How could you resist? (With thanks as always to cartoonist John Granzow).