Sunday, March 27, 2005

Fried the Drive

Two days ago we managed to short circuit the hard drive on the home computer. I last made a back-up copy of important files 6 months ago so a lot has been lost. As well an impressive Mp3 collection (6500 files) is gone. The hard drive with 35 GB of information is fried.
It will be a few days at least before we are up and running again. I will buying a DVD burner now and will in future be religiously backing up files with copies on DVDs.
I am very sad about this but can see the philosophical side to it. This is a chance for a fresh beginning and the links and files i have been loading up to online share sites means I have some music files and pictures still saved....thank you flickr, internet archive, web-a-photo,, ourmedia, and SoundClick.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Noise Sound Music

I just finished reading a fascinating book; Victorian Soundscapes by Prof. John M Picker. It provids a critical account of the aural world of mostly London between 1834 and 1901. In effect the movement from what is often termed a Victorian ontology to Modernity.
In reading Picker's text one is struck by the territorialisation of the urban space through hierarchical control (or lack thereof) in regards to sound production. The chapter devoted to the struggle around the contentious presence of street musicians, as conducted by such luminaries of the time as Babbage, Dickens, Carlyle, and E.M Barry, brings home their desire for rather terrifying control based on their perceived right of property. Nationalism is articulated against this foreign menace of 'organ grinders' and the dangers their sonic intrusions imply to the brave new middle class 'brain workers' of imperial England.
The inclusion of new sound technologies (telegraph, telephone, phonograph, gramophone) as literary tropes, either as themselves or as implied through metaphor and spatial configurations, is for me a very relevant aspect of the text. The early manufacture and mass sales of the wax cylinder phonographs allowed for home recordings by technologically aware and cashed up Victorians. 'Phonograph parties' were held whereby a group would eat dinner, get drunk and then record their own voices. Many of the early recordings made by Thomas Edison's representative in Europe, Colonel George Gouraud, were made with the premise of preserving the voice after death in mind. Therefore the aged and famous were prime candidates for recording as a means of marketing such a concept. The poet Robert Browning, 8 months before he died, attempted to recite some verse after dinner with Gouraud and full of wine but he failed to remember much of "How They Brought Good News from Ghent to Aix". Once the large companies such as Edison Bell began mass production of machines the interactive wax cylinders were phased out and the listen-only gramophone became the industry standard. Record production became a major source of profits for the companies and sheet music which had been the top 40 chart of the 1800's gradually shrank away.
Many of the power relations surrounding the 'interactive' wax rolls being replaced in the market by the 'assertive' disks of gramophones reminded me of the past 15 years of digital technologies, particularly in relation to P2P content sharing of music files and derivations of works, such as the famous Negativland U2 case. Picker analogises it as the movement from the 'aura' associated with the self as artist or the products of that self in Romantic or high Victorian contexts, to the 'echo' of a modernist reproduction of art as simulacra (vis a vi Walter Benjamin). Picker presents this as visually encapsulated by the His Master Voice image. Originally the gramophone shown above was painted by the artist Francis Barraud as a phonograph but he changed in order to sell it to the London Gramophone Company in 1899. The image of the entranced dog ("Nipper") staring at the source of reality reproduction in a homage to our powers of technological mimicry has become a part of our cultural mind. However as Picker points out, the dog is not the one barking, instead it is trapped in a moment between the represented and the remembered (his master was Barraud's brother who died), unsure of what to do. Barraud himself spent the last decades of his life turning out hand done reproductions of 'His Master Voice', inhabiting the the nether zone between the pre-modernist and modernist conceptions of art.
As a final rant to this rave I would like to offer up a piece of my own aural vandalism/music/sound art...Depending where your aesthetics lie. This is Own Earn (5MB)a piece that will be included on my next CD, coming out on MusicYourMindWillLoveYou recordings soon........

Monday, March 21, 2005

Virtual Text Artifacts II

The use of paratextual elements (objects, charts, maps, formulated languages and ciphers, manufactured photos, and illustrations, letters, advertisements, reviews) in early modernist literature seems to have been all the rage. Having stumbled into the area thanks to the below mentioned potting skills of Sir Henry Rider Haggard's sister-in-law, I have since encountered a large and growing body of texts that employ similar strategies to develop narrative engagement.
Much at this stage of my inquiry has been learnt from Michael Saler's 2004 essay for Philosophy and Literature 28.1 (2004) 137-149 , Modernity, Disenchantment and the Ironic Imagination. Here Saler concentrates on the concept of "ironic imagination" as a means to reconcile the domination of the rational, secular, democratic, urban, industrial and bureaucratic elements of Modernity with the Romantic movement's veneration for the imagination. Interesting in its self, but I am concerned with tracing elements of digital textuality in pre-digital texts. The concept of the information laden object existing both independantly of and interwoven within the text is completely consistent with narrative constuction in our contempory digital mediums. Think hypertext link, think energy cube, think adaptation of film to game using visual memes as guides.
From Saler's essay and my own thoughts I have come up with a few more examples of pre-digital virtual text artifacts:

* The map in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1881)
* The cipher in Edgar Allan Poe's Gold Beetle (1843)
* The scroll in Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (1898)
* Photos and illustrations in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1910)
* Letters, advertisements, and reviews in Rudyard Kipling's With the Night Mail (1905)
* A language, maps, runes and the subsequent fan empire of The Lord of the Rings series by J R R Tolkien (1937-68)

I will continue with this investigation and maybe write a longer piece on it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Virtual Text Object 1886

In 1886 Henry Rider Haggard asked his sister-in-law to make a ceramic vessel, break it in half and then fix it together again using metal thongs. He also asked his former school headmaster to translate a passage from English to Ancient Greek. Haggard then inscribed this translated passage onto the vessel his sister-in law had made as well as adding names in Greek, Latin and Middle and Modern English with dates stretching over thousands of years. He then included images of this creation in the opening pages of his next novel.

This object then became the departure point and central referent to the best selling novel She. By today's standards it is a very dated work in many ways, being imperialistic, sexist, racist and anti-Semitic. But it is an important text as it is an early embodiment of several modernist principles. Among these is the ceramic piece, the so called 'Sherd of Amenartas' which manifests as a sort of virtual text object. Information is attached to the object which is central to the narrative of She, and indeed the subsequent volumes Haggard produced using the same resurrected character (such as Wisdoms Daughter from 1922). The object actually existed in real life as a three dimensional narrative construction, unlike in the contemporary text The Picture of Dorian Grey (1881)by Wilde where the decaying picture was a trope and nothing more.

This is an interesting early example of a mixed reality narrative and the presence of a virtual object existing in the diegetic field of the narrative and in a spatial form renders She a very early proto-hypertext.

 The actual 'Sherd of Amenartas' on display in Norwich Castle Museum.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Media Blackout by Michael Wilson (C-level)

I have been a big fan of the C-Level collective since I listened and met Brody Condon at Next Wave Festival in Melbourne last year. Today has announced their commissioned works for 2005. Among them is Media Blackout by Michael Wilson of the C-level collective. Detourment, appropriation and manipulation of signs and symbols, which are today so oblique as to be part of our simulated identities, are cast back at us in Media Blackout. This is a 3D game environment:

"in which the player is confronted with corporate interests, religious fundamentalism and military aggression through the deliberate manipulations of corporate media. Surrounded by media noise, government propaganda, spectacular phenomena and a sea of oil, the player’s character attempts to maintain psychological resistance and ultimately transcend the media threat – escaping 'corporatized consciousness'."

Game as political art....Thus we expand.

Fat Possum Blues

The night before last I was unwinding from the day by a favorite method: some mindless TV before sleep (helps empty my head). I was lucky enough to catch most of a documentary called "You See Me Laughin'", the story of the amazing Fat Possum Records label and the group of blues musicians they have assembled from the northern hills of Mississippi. Performers such as R L Burnside, Asie Payton (RIP), Junior Kimbrough and Johnny Farmer.
All of these men are still playing except for the great Asie Payton who died in the field (literally...plowing one) and are in their 70's and 80's. They represent a tradition that goes way back, of the house party musician who made what they could when they could from music but were field hands or farm laborers most of the time. In the documentary they speak of lives of great passion and suffering, in short The Blues.
This film will be repeated twice this weekend on SVT2

1:a Repeat, Saturday 12th March kl.00.50,
2:a Repeat, Sunday 13th March kl.12.15

I recommend it absolutely.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Art and Technology

Tomorrow I will be holding my second Art and Technology Short Course in HUMlab. I have massive amounts of content, texts, information and links regarding this subject and today I'm trying to put it in order for a cohesive presentation and discussion tomorrow. Unlike last year I think I will work along themes rather than genres. I also want to include more Swedish content as there is quite a vibrant scene here in Sweden. There is much to do but I will blog a concept plan this evening hopefully. The above image comes from the site of Mark Meadows who just blows me away with his work. I (ad nauseam) highly recommend his work and his text Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative (2002).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Long Short Blurb on Life Music and Getting Older

These are two images from my performance at the Fatta 05 festival (Much Thanks to Kirill for them).. I like the first one, the second looks like I am in pain, maybe I was as I am not getting to play as much as I would like to over the winter. But that is usually the case here in the far north.

Yesterday was my birthday...Thirty Six years since I first drew breath and filled my eye with light. I did not really tell anyone and the celebrations of it were kept to my partner and child with a phone call from my sister and a call and present from my mum. From my immediate family I scored a guitar which is interesting as I have not played such for 20 years. It was then the inspiration I could have felt was crushed beneath the pedagogic weight of a teacher who followed a rote learning method and had not yet come to terms with the music revolution instigated by Elvis Aaron Presley, let alone the Sex Pistols. However, I can still remember how to play "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd which one of my parents friends showed me when I was about 11 years old.

When I got to university (1988) suddenly anyone who was interesting was playing guitar. I felt so self conscious about it I bought a sitar instead so nobody would know if I was good or bad at it. In the meantime I found many friends across the whole east coast of Australia who were in the thick of the punk rock experience and I even participated as a provider of words in late night recording sessions at friends houses or as lyricist for a few bands. I was also a roadie for an ex-girlfriend's band, lugging gear and going to gigs in a dedicated fan-like way. I once danced to the music of my friends as band around a huge bowl of burning aftershave at a pub in our hometown. Dressed in a monk's cowl with make-up, in my hands a tambourine and Balinese devil mask, until the publican turned on the lights and forced us to stop. Something about fire regulations??

I fell in love with the sitar after seeing Ravi Shankar play in Mumbai on 26th January 1990. I struggled with the complex instrument for abut 5 years but then when I finally got back to India I could not bear the seclusion of practicing raga scales alone in my room, as all the other sitar and tabla students where doing, when outside was the most incredible tableaux of color, sound, architecture and people I had ever seen. I studied yoga instead and spent my evenings going to concerts of Indian music (I saw Ali Akbar Khan give a 6 hour sarod recital among many great experiences). Evening concerts on the Deshaswamedh Ghat at Varanasi are an experience I will never forget.

Before I went to India for the second time (1996) I had discovered performance art, another example like exotic instruments where many don't actually have the experience to evaluate whether what they are witnessing is meaningful, good, bad or otherwise (most just stared with an astonished look on their faces). In the art college scene of Sydney at the time, taking your clothes off and working with animal carcasses (whole or dissected) were favorite mediums of address in the installation and performance community. I and several of my friends had met and listened to Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories (Sydney College of Art 1994). We had decided we were not going to go for flesh, we were going for metal. It was at this time I started playing metal tubes like a didgeridoo and participating in a group of musicians who were all actually art students, or was it the other way round??? Sensory overload was our aim, redundant technology was our means. For a taste of Senslesss click HERE (Visualize: looped films and projected videos and stills, fire jugglers and twirlers, acrobats, trapeze artists,, sculptures, paintings, flashing lights and costumes all in a huge warehouse space, Sydney College of Art, 1995).

Since then it has been just building upon the foundations laid ten years ago. Branching out into the visual, literary, digital, multimedia, 2D, 3D, and always sound sound sound. What was the point to all this reminiscence?? Oh yea......The guitar.

Over this weekend of my birthday I've been deep in sound. Making recordings, working on stuff I've already recorded and organizing things with present musical collaborators (some of whom have been helping me since the bad days of the sitar...Which I also still have) around the world (god bless the P2P Internet I say). A great way to spend a birthday..........

Friday, March 04, 2005

Isfahan and Samual Taylor Coleridge

"The effect on my feelings, on the other hand, I cannot better represent, than by supposing myself to have known only our light and airy modern chapels of ease, and then for the first time to have been placed, and left alone, in one of our largest Gothic cathedrals in a gusty moonlight night of autumn. "Now in glimmer, and now in gloom;" often in palpable darkness not without a chilly sensation of terror; then suddenly emerging into broad yet visionary lights with coloured shadows, of fantastic shapes yet all decked out with holy insignia and mystic symbols; and ever and anon coming out full upon pictures and stone-work images of great men, with whose names I was familiar, but which looked upon me with countenances and an expression, the most dissimilar to all I had been in the habit of connecting with those names. Those whom I had been taught to venerate as almost super-human in magnitude of intellect I found perched in little fret-work niches, as grotesque dwarfs; while the grotesques, in my hitherto belief, stood gurading the high alter with all the cvharacters of Apotheosis. In short, what I had supposed substances were thinned away to shadows, while every where shadows were deepened into substances.."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biographia Literaria (1815)

Thanks to Linda for Isfahan link and STC for The Rime.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Genuine British Accents and Dialects

An online archive of British accents and dialects has been established by the British Museum as part of their Collect Britain project. Shropshire is a favorite of mine.