Thursday, October 20, 2011

Expo '74: Friday Report

Friday was the start of the Expo show, and it was pretty feature-packed. David Zicarelli opened on-point, followed by Joshua Clayton giving an overview of all the features in Max 6. After that was lunch, which was crazy. Imagine going out to lunch with Matthew Davidson, Andrew Benson, Anton Marini, Joshua Goldberg and Luke DuBois. Freakin' Max-Jitter center of the universe. The chat at the lunch table (in Five Guys, home of the Greasiest Burgers Ever) was outrageous.

The afternoon featured a number of speakers, of which Jeremy Bailey topped almost anything I could imagine. Combine an irreverent view of video art history with a crazy virtual reality presentation and you get the most entertaining speech ever. Completely bonkers.

After that I took the subway up to Columbia to set up for the PGTGr performance. I couldn't bring along my modular, so I used an old Serge that Columbia had. Took a bit to get everything running (and a few magic incantations to help the TKB wake up), but that put me in the position to fulfill my analog responsibilities. I mostly did wind and bird sounds, which were promptly snagged and modified by Brad and Gregory. Terry, as always, was just brilliant. This group is my favorite performing group ever.

Long subway ride back to our apartments (in Bed-Stuy) and I was dead asleep, ready for 6:00 wakeup on Saturday - My Day Of Many Presentations...


Monday, October 3, 2011

Great installation, great people

I spent a little time talking to Laleh Mehran this evening, and she pointed me to the site for their W3FI installation. In strolling through it, I saw that they gave me a "thanks" credit for helping out. I did a little coding for one part of their large-format work, and was amazed that they were thoughtful enough to provide a credit.

This happens so rarely in most art works. People often think of the technology side of art as little more than a utility function (and with as much interest as the people that install light switches). It helps that Laleh's partner, Christoper Coleman, it pretty into art tech as well, and treats the technology with a lot of respect.

So here is my "thanks back" to them - for letting me touch this project a little, and for acknowledging my assistance when so few would...


Monday, September 19, 2011

Just a heads up for my friends, family and fans. A long interview with me on work, Max and the non-existent rest-of-my-life. You can find it at this link. Enjoy!


The Daily Grind from Ariel Scott on Vimeo.

Ari Scott, one of the participants in The Daily Grind, created this video for his showreel. I thought I'd put it up here to show some of what I'd done while in school. This was a "critical game", which had no real winning scenario, and represented the pointlessness of the working life. It is replete with funny notions about bosses, rising up the corporate ladder, and the futility of waiting for retirement for one's rewards.

In order to do this, I actually built a game engine in Processing, while Kim Zahler produced the visuals and Ari did the "Grinder" (a physical devices that was required to keep the game going) as a hardware device. Adam Seibel provided some of the text, and was supposed to do the marketing plan, but this never really happened. All-in-all, it was pretty successful given that we pulled the whole thing together in a couple of weeks.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Archeology, Pt. 1

Got Spotify, which I'm really enjoying. Lots of fun oddities to be found. Alas, one of the things I ran into last night was a little ditty that I did with the Team Metlay folks back in the day. A little digging points to this page, telling me it was Jan. 1999.

Among the tunes is "Wiard on ACID", which is in fact a prototype Wiard Synthesizer producing all the parts and played back using the ACID software. As far as I know, this is the earliest recorded instance of a Wiard, and is pretty simple (albeit altogether too short).

The system was a bunch of faceplates mounted inside a camera case, but using the same wall wart-y things that were used with production versions. The track is mostly several instance of the Waveform City into an OmniFilter, with a Sequentizer driving the thing. Or something like that...


Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Did Too!

BobLike by DarwinGrosse

I wasn't kidding about being inspired by Bob Ostertag's Motormouth album - mainly because it was clear that he remembered to hit record! Here's something I popped off this morning in the style of his work, using my 5U-modular instead of a Buchla.

Enjoy! Or not!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Press Record!

Bob Ostertag produced another nice little album, available freely, that shows the value of hitting record when you are working on a modular system. This album, called Motormouth, was apparently created when a friend left a Buchla system with him while on vacation.

It's a wonderful bit of work, and worthy of a listen - or three. Thanks to Gregory for turning me onto this.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Morton Today

I was happy to trip over this video in a posting to the dotcom mail list. A great piece of history, and some great memories of "the day".


Monday, July 18, 2011

A view from a gig

I just got back from Wisconsin which was filled with many un-fun things. But one of the Very Good Things was getting to do a live radio broadcast with Gregory and Tom. This is the audio section of the group that played at the Spark Festival, and I was hoping that we could do something nice again.

Doing these sorts of gigs is really difficult: you really need to know your instrument, and you have to be confident in being able to provide something useful to the group. I played Enhanced Modular (modular sound generation, laptop as idiosyncratic effects processor), Gregory played his laptop super-patch, and Tom pulled the whole thing together with a little percussionistic temporal glue.

It went off beautifully; we put out about a hour of live work, with several sections that naturally developed without speaking (there was a live mic for the percussion, so we couldn't really talk). I took a more active role in this one, doing a lot of low-end work with the modular. Gregory did more on the high end, and we all slotted together very well.

I can't wait to work with these guys again.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The All-Seeing Eye

An awful lot of the work I've been doing lately has been related to a single piece of gear. And it's not the modular - it's the XBOX 360 Kinect. This little device is the perfect tool for all sorts of sketchy computer vision work, and it is cheap as sin for what it does. I've been using Jean-Marc Pelletier's jit.freenect.grab object (in combination with his cv.jit tools) to do some remarkable depth and location tracking. You'll probably see some of it in your neighborhood right soon.

For anyone that has written off Microsoft, you just have to work with this device - and realize that it has sold more $150 units than McDonalds has sold Big Macs over the same period of time. A stunning piece of work!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gotta get to work...

... relearning the Playing Guitar thing. To start, I picked up the Guitar Aerobics lesson book, which basically runs you through 52 weeks' worth of playing exercises, one day at a time. It's the sort of discipline that I need to get my chops kinda back. Most of it is single-string work, and there are a lot of right-hand exercises; it actually feels like a Guitar Craft sort of thing. In any case, I hope to do the daily deed, and hopefully I'll get my hands in order.

Right now, my left hand feels like a crab claw, and my right hand feels like a jellybean.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Zee Great Erection!

So I got the next cab slapped together and spent some time this weekend cleaning up the layout and pushing in all of the new modules. Now I've got to get more, more, more! Of course, this assumes I'll be able to convince Kristin and the boys to live on Ramen for a few more months...


Monday, June 20, 2011


Link: View Video

Posted by Brad Garton, this video chronicles the Welcome Sound performance in Roosevelt, NJ, in the heart of the Garden State - for real. One of the most pleasant performing experiences I ever had. Video by Wiska Radkiewicz.

More of the experience can be seen/heard/read here.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Anyone that knows me will look at this picture (borrowed from the dotcom DIY page) and say "Wow, look at that - Darwin bought all of the things necessary to feel good about cutting his thumb off!" While this is true, it also represents tomorrows Big Joy: building cabinet #4 for the Big Synth. It's amazing how this thing has grown, both from purchased modules and the bits I'm building for 20Objects LLC. It also represent perhaps the most fun I have with any instrument at all; I can lose myself in this for hours.

Suzanne Ciani talked about a deeply personal relationship she had with her Buchla synth, I'm starting to feel like that about this thing. Of course, it is rapidly growing to twice my size, so I'm starting to think of it as Daddy more than Buddy.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

And on the other side...

... is my mini-system. I finally got around to plugging in the Akai LPK25 into the iPad, and I've been giggling about it all morning. I've been thinking about getting a tiny synth to use for travel (and non-laptop use). This, combined with GarageBand, iMS-20 and other is getting to be a bit of an addiction.

About the only problem I've encountered is that, after a while, the keyboard seems to disconnect from software. Also, in a related experiment, plugging in an Akai LPD8 proved a disaster, and a few resets were required before the iPad would see the LPK25 again.

But all-in-all, it was a fun experience. Not back to my uber-mix.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Large Hi-cap Modules

Hurrah for Cynthia! Someone has taken on the job of making hi-density modules in 5U country. Why is this needed when you can stuff so much goo in a Euro rack?

Here's what it is for me: I perform a lot. With my modular. I want a lot of capacity, but I also want to be able to identify and control the stuff in a dark room, with no stage lighting, and will some level of reproducibility. Hence, 5U is the thing for me.

But having one whole module space for a single VCA is tough sledding for a mobile modular guy. So I bow to the glory of Cynindustries' new module line - certain to be a major part of my gigging rig in the near future.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

$4.99 Jangles

The house is filled with jangling, screaming and crazy jabbering. Yes, school is out for the summer (in an Alice Cooper sort of way), but it's more than that. I finally ponied up the $4.99 for GarageBand for the iPad, and it's blowing the whole family away.

Right now, Aiden is doing crazy King Crimson hyperlicks on the Smart Guitar, while Wyatt is recording words, reversing them, then trying to say them into reverse into the sampler to hear what is sounds like reversed again. Graham stands in line, waiting for his chance to record his latest chant: "My name is Doof and you'll do what I say - Woot Woot!".

I'm blown away by this software; given some of the crap DAW-ish junk I've already paid for (and I'm speaking to you, Mr. microDAW), I'm really happy with this purchase. It's really easy to crap on Apple until they put out something this good.

I'm just wondering: is there a sampler in the Real World that is as easy to use as the Sampler in GarageBand/iPad? I haven't seen it...


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh dear...

My dear friend and inspiration JHNO (pictured above with his ever-present VW Thing) apparently ran into a bit of a storm in a recent performance. If you want to read an interesting overview and an incredible bunch of blog comments, check out this Music vs. Theater blog posting.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gotta Love 'Em

My family (spouse and children), that is. This is what they decided to get me for a graduation present: an American "Fat Strat" with a hardshell case. Literally the best instrument I've ever owned.

I've been wanting to get back into guitar again - I had to sell all my instruments last year to cover some heavy-duty car repairs. Instead of limping into something that would be serviceable (but not optimal), I decided to wait until I could get a really great instrument. In this case, it wasn't me doing the deciding - Kristin and the boys stepped in and made the decision for me.

I love it, and am playing every day. It's taken me a few days to get the most basic of chops back, but they are coming, and the instrument sounds fantastic through my various rigs (and even through the modular). While I didn't originally conceive of it this way, I'm planning on now integrating the guitar more completely into the project I'm working on...



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Level Up...!

Alas, this segment of the journey is over. Thanks to Tim Weaver for helping me get started, Trace Reddell, Rafael Fajardo, Adrienne Russell and Chris Coleman for keeping me sharp, Jim LaVita for opening some new doors. Also thanks to my fellow students for the opportunity to delve into some really interesting work and to share a lot of interesting perspectives.

What an incredible experience.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Great Customer Service

I had an experience that, for me, represents the pinnacle of customer service. It didn't include a chirpy, happy soul on the phone line, nor a massive knowledge base on a website...

I recently purchased a Vermona DRM1 Mk2 analog drum module from a fella on Muff Wiggler's site. When it got here, it worked great, but after a few months one of the DRUM channels started acting flaky. I did a little mechanical research (pressing and pulling on all the knobs and buttons) and found that the volume jack was sketchy - it would only sound out when you were pushing VERY HARD on the shaft. Obviously not a good call.

I had relatively few options: I could try to pay a repair guy to fix it, send it to a dealer for an unknown period of time, or fix it myself. I chose Door Three. Pulling open the device, I hit the pot's leads with a little new solder, but this made no difference. I would need to replace the part. But the pots were some oddball board-mounted mini-pots, and I really didn't have a source for such a thing. So I decided to take a chance with contacting Vermona.

I used their web form (at 2am...) to tell them what I'd done, how I'd debugged the issue, and which part I'd need. The next morning, I had an email sitting in my Inbox that said "Give me your address and I'll ship you a pot". My response? "Yeah, right."

But I sent in my mailing address and, lo and behold, a week later there was a package in my mailbox with not one, but two pots. I got them put into my system today, and it works a champ.

Things that you will notice about this experience:

- Vermona (in fact, Thomas Haller) never questioned my debugging; rather, he trusted my analysis.

- Thomas also didn't ask me about how technically savvy I was. He assumed that if I was asking for a pot, I might know what a pot was.

- I never got the "No user-serviceable parts" or "Take it to a repair depot" B.S. He assumed that I'd do well on my own.

- He didn't try to charge me anything; in fact, he never even asked me where I'd bought the unit. It was a Vermona, and he was going to stand behind it.

- The was complete (in fact, over-complete) follow-through. He said he'd ship me a pot, and he shipped me two. Given the turnaround, he must have shipped it out that same day.

If there is any question why I might be in love with something like the Vermona instead of something like an Akai MPC-5000, this is one of the answers...


Sunday, May 15, 2011

All done but the cryin'.

(Yeah - 16 inches of snow on Thursday, another 3 last night...)

On Tuesday, I did my project presentation: a comprehensive review of the development of the ArdCore module system. It went over really well, and I was able to usefully deflect any questions that came up. Conceivably, I can now sleep more soundly. Of course, the residual stress is still bungling me up. Nevertheless, with just a few additions to my other coursework, I'm going to successfully attain my Masters of Whatever degree.

This means I'll be able to spend a little more time on this blog and other things. To catch everyone up, here is some of what I've been accomplishing:

- Did that project and the presentation.
- Created a "memory phone" for the Making Home exhibit. This involved getting an old rotary phone, replacing the guts, tying the hook switch to an Arduino and having the whole shebang pipe to Max for recording and playback. It's really cool.
- GTA'd with Trace Reddell and Jim LaVita in their Expanded Cinema/Interaction and Collaboration class. Very interesting group of people taking that class.
- Been working heavily on Max 6 testing, with special emphasis on visual effects and some of the heavy lifting available in that area. One of my goals has been to get more involved in visuals. I'm sorta there...
- Continuing to work on teaching/educational concepts in the Max world. This is a not-insignificant area of effort, since the ability for people to learn (or teach) the product is key to its continued value. Frankly, this lines up with my "Programming integration into artistic practice" trope, so I'll probably be doing this for the rest of my life.

More to come soon, I expect.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Here at last...

... is the module of my discontent.

Or content. Whatever. I've worked hard on this, and it's a capstone of the new and creative attitude that my time at DU has produced. It works amazingly, and a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon.

It would be really cool if a community really does develop around this thing. The results are certainly worth it.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Working it out...

CV Delay Demo from Nick Ciontea on Vimeo.

Here's a sweet little video of my friend, Nick Ciontea, showing off his hack-em-up of a Maxon analog delay pedal - and building it right in to his Euro system. Really cool work, and an excellent job of overall design. Great stuff!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

My class - I love 'em!

Well, the DU Winter quarter finished a bit ago - the quarter where I do my Visual Programming class. This was probably my best class ever, perhaps because it was heavily pushed by the Art Department, and we had a lot of participation by people that were as interested in art as programming.

An interesting thing happened: although my teaching stuck with the typical "20 Objects" model that I've developed, I tried to force people into non-traditional media output. This cause people to spend a lot of time digging through the Max Reference and to find ways of doing things that I hadn't directly taught. The result was an inspiring set of team projects.

The class was divvied up into 4 groups of 4 people, and their final team projects consisted of:

- A realtime 4-person live improv where a narrative was created out of random old science video snippets.
- An installation piece that pulled and stored seismic data, then created a projection piece with mediated OpenGL shapes.
- A realtime piece that used MSP to generate sculpture-ettes from corn starch and water dropped onto a speaker cone. This was further mediated by having a video capture and effects system alter the view of the process for presentation.
- A realtime piece that used a Twitter feed to alter the mix of a musical piece (think Twittering "more cowbells" and having a mix add more cowbells).

I was blown away by the results, and commend everyone in the group for their inventive thinking. They worked really, really hard on this, and I'm proud of the results.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Half a month? Wa's goin' on?

Yeah, it's been a half a month since I've posted. Not because I don't want to share, but because I've been overwhelmed. The month started out with some Mr. Mom duties (a job that everyone, especially the kids, are pretty sure I'm crap at). Then was finals week for school, featuring the biggest debacle ever.

I built this really nice and interesting box of goodies for my electronics class. Basically, it is beatbox/babblebox made from a bunch of kids' voice recorders and an arduino. I put it in a nice (and expensive) Budd box, with groovy panel controls and some blinky lights. Worked on cleaning it up for a week before class, and was really happy with the result.

I took it to school on Tuesday to show it off to my Visual Programming class, which was also doing its final presentations to me. I hauled all the video gear, cameras and my beatbox back to the car, setting all of the stuff on the roof while I unlocked. I loaded my stuff into the car - or at least most of my stuff. I left the beatbox on top of the car as I rode off.

This big aluminum box apparently decided to leave my employ somewhere on Hwy I-25, and I'm sure it made a nice hood ornament for someone. I retraced all my steps the next day, and Kristin even called the state patrol - with no success. In order to make my final on the next day, I had to redo the entire project over in one night. Luckily, I had documented the work for the class, but this represented a whole lot of work in just a few hours.

Finished about 6am, then got 3 hours of sleep before I had to head into school. It worked, and using it in "babble mode" with the input of the iScan police scanner software worked to perfection. But it almost took me out.

Follow that with a week of head-crushing meetings in San Francisco, and I'm looking forward to a long nap. I should be able to get it in about 10 weeks - when I graduate.


Monday, February 28, 2011


Friday and Saturday's BLOrk gig was quite fantastic - but for an unexpected reason. From the first BLOrk I visited to this one that I participated in, the programs have changed massively. Originally, it followed the script of a standard computer music program: piece-after-piece, focused on the presentation of new works, and limited audience (or even performer) interaction.

This gig was completely different; with dancers, a jazz band, computer works that included both the performers and the audience. I had a lot of friends (including my whole family) see the show, and everyone walked away smiling and discussing the wide range of programming that was included. Congrats to John Gunther for putting together a great show - digital vaudeville alors!


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Experience comes in many different ways. Sometimes it is hard knocks. Sometimes it is through hard work. And sometimes it comes from working with great people on a noble task.

This last weekend, I got a chance to work with Woody and Steina Vasulka, two of the most wonderful people on the planet. They were the bleeding edge of video art, interactive media art and performance art - all while building their own hardware, software and support mechanisms.

Working in conjunction with Cory Metcalf (one of the best young art dudes I've had the privilege of working with), we helped reinterpret the classic Violin Power performance, building a Steina-specific interface between a KMI StringPort and the IMX visual effects software system. The result was performed on Wednesday, and I'm proud to have been a part of this work. The IMX software crashed 3 times, but our interface software was rock-solid, and I'm pleased to say that we allowed Steina to work with the visuals in new and sophisticated ways. What a blast!

Kristin was able to join me to see the performance. This was a special pleasure, since she doesn't get to see me in action very often. It's useful to let her in on some of the work I do, simply so she sees what it is that she is helping me accomplish.

What a great experience.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Patching Circle starts tonight!

More info here.

Just starting, but we should have a blast - or at least help people get up to speed on Art Coding Practice. Be there, or be a dodecahedron!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

A walk through NAMM

One of the things that is hard to get across to people that haven't attended a NAMM show is the strangeness of the noises that come at you from every direction. I decided to use a little recorder in my iPhone to record walk-throughs of the show.

The first:

GtrsToModules-NAMM2011 by DarwinGrosse

This is starting in the Chauvet booth (midway through the guitar section), walking through the remainder of halls B and C, going down the escalator into Hall E, then walking back to the Analogue Haven booth at the back of the hall. It features the beginning of a conversation I had with Paul Schrieber of MOTM - a really great guy that I don't get to see often enough.

The second:

ModulesToOutside-NAMM2011 by DarwinGrosse

This is my return from Hall E, starting at the AH booth, heading up the escalator, then walking through halls C, B and A before leaving through the doors into the outdoor area (lovingly called the "smoking pit").

It's just like you are there, only with one ear plugged and occasionally rubbing your ear against the leg of my pants...


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why a low-pass gate?

Mr. Horny by DarwinGrosse

Here's a little 30-second demo of a weird combo of modules:

- ArdCore (beta) Compute Core w/Random Walk sketch.
- Q106 Oscillator.
- TEG Buchla 292c Low-pass Gate (driven by a Q109 envelope).
- COTK 1680 Analog Delay.

I really like how the LPG implies a tasty horn-like quality without actually sounding completely emulative. This module is going to get a lot of use (thanks to Scot Solida!).


Saturday, January 1, 2011

1.1.11 Modular Situation

Here is a photo of the state of my modular art as of today. I used the great (and easy) construction details on the site to build these boxes, so now I have some wiggle room in getting more! Modular synthesizers: crack for the well-employed.

You can also see (on the rack) my Mackie Control, MOTU interface (used for both audio and Volta integration) and the last remnant of my interaction with Wiard - the original joystick controller with the Bakelite meter.

On the right is the little iPad/iRig system that I use for fun recording. It uses the Amplitube for iPad system, which includes a simple R-to-R recording emulator. Working with it seems an awful lot like my days with the Tascam 80-8.

Lots of growth in the last year. Loving it!


p.s.: Tomorrow evening is All Analog on Gregory Taylor's RTQE show. Apparently, the "Means of Production" recording will be featured - huge win!