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Blog Video Art

Nomadic Soundsters Summer Showcase

“Ocean” by the Nomadic Soundsters Blue Team

In March the Nomadic Soundsters (NS) 2021 Residents located in various parts of the world (US, Canada, Japan, Thailand, Tasmania, etc.) were presented with the theme prompt “Fragile States”. The NS 2021 Summer Showcase is a premiere of the virtual collaborative works created by the residents.

Program Notes for “Ocean”

“Ocean” represents the Blue Team’s first long distance collaboration and response to the writing prompt of “fragile states”.

The first music segment of the piece features Yunfei as primary composer, with additional elements added by Tang and Jeremy.

The second music segment started with a generative composition provided by Jeremy, and was embellished by Yunfei. The third musical segment features the piece “Lost Letters” by Tang.

The choreographic elements of the piece were inspired primarily by the movement of the ocean, and was created through a series of improvisational explorations. The music inspired and influenced the speed and quality of the movement in the final piece, in addition to the desire to produce three properly distinct experiences for the viewer. The dance footage and the majority of the ocean footage came courtesy of Sammy, shot on an iPhone. The short transition ocean shot and audio came from Yunfei (also via cell phone). Jeremy combined these with additional original footage of Pennsylvania streams. Video processing, done in Touchdesigner, includes audio reactive elements that determine how/when video clips appear, using an element of randomness (another reflection of fragility).

Blue Team Members:

Yunfei Li https://www.yunfeilimusic.com/
Supakorn Wongsumdang https://soundcloud.com/supakornwongsu… Jeremy dePrisco http://www.jeremydeprisco.com
Sammy Gerraty (movement artist) Currently based in San Francisco, Sammy is, above all, a manifestation of the desire to do absolutely everything all at once – less of an artist, more of a walking mental breakdown relying on the arts for sanity. She has and continues to create work about grief and loss on a personal and planetary scale, and hopes that art can help her form an understanding of herself and others in the face of tragedy. Dance and dance choreography in collaboration with live music and the California outdoors are her transcendent language of choice, though she dabbles in costume/lighting design, acting, spoken poetry, and painting.

Learn more about the creative process for this work here: https://www.nomadicsoundsters.com/pro…

Learn more about Nomadic Soundsters: https://www.nomadicsoundsters.com/

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Blog

Boycotting a Venue

I was recently faced with a decision to continue associating with an online venue, or boycott the venue for what appeared to be some “good ol’ boys” fraternal immaturity that just didn’t seem right.

In the end, after some consideration and discussion with my wife, I determined that the right thing to do was to distance myself from the venue in question.

Everyone must make their own decisions on things like this, but I decided to boycott the venue in the form of a) canceling my upcoming performance and b) pulling any technical support for the concert series.

Even though it had been some time since I was directly involved with the concert series in question, I felt that I would be reinforcing a “guilt by association” by continuing to support the series, even tangentially. So I pulled down my online wiki which supported the series for now. I may reinstate the wiki under more generic terms as the info was helpful to many beyond this series, but I don’t want it to be associated with the venue in question.

It troubles me that – just when we need solidarity among artists during this trying time during COVID – we are faced with the same old problems of misogyny and discourteousness that have plagued physical interactions among musicians for decades.

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Blog Newsletter

Summer 2021 Newsletter

Latest Mailchimp Newsletter

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Blog Video Art

My Touchdesigner Journey

Some Touchdesigner samples on my YouTube channel. These really just scratch the surface of what I’ve been doing.

TouchDesigner is a node based visual programming language for real time interactive multimedia content, developed by the Toronto-based company Derivative. It’s been used by artists, programmers, creative coders, software designers, and performers to create performances, installations, and fixed media works (from Derivative web site).

Why Touchdesigner?

After a few years working with Magic Music Visualizer (also a great video animation and processing application) I wanted something a bit more robust. The COVID lockdown, followed by the drab winter of 2020-21 left me with time to focus on learning a new skill.

Most of my learning came throughout November 2020 to February 2021 via YouTube tutorials by the very supportive Touchdesigner community. I treated this like a college course, with daily lessons, building along with the instructors (not just watching passively). I estimate that at 30 hrs/week for four months, I logged at least 480 hrs of focused education, probably more. And of course, I am still always learning and exploring.

Using Touchdesigner for live performance

One of my primary motivations to learn about Touchdesigner (TD) was for creative live audio-reactive visuals, both for my own performances and others. I soon found TD was much more than just a visualizer. I also found that I could build things that would not otherwise be possible in other tools.

So far I’ve used TD in a live context several times, feeding signals into OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) via NDI and Syphon for live broadcast.

This performance uses a video mixer that I built within Touchdesigner, taking the place of the scene switcher in OBS. All of the video generation and broadcasting is running on one machine.
Proof of concept for some ideas that combine TD and the Elektron Digitakt.

To further explore TD, I made some videos for my wife’s 4th grade class.

To get more practice, and to take a break from my own creative work, I offered to make some videos for other artists. This also served as a helpful use case while developing my JDRenderEngine, a pet project that leverages TD to overcome some of my frustrations with traditional video editing platforms.

“Yellowcake” is an album by musician Breakfast that features 10 videos I made in Touchdesigner.

What’s next?

There’s a lot more that I’d like to share on this. I’ve created a lot of experiments – with and without music – that I think people would enjoy. Just as my music has been exploring chaos, noise, and probability, TD has allowed me to explore those concepts visually. However, the work is time consuming. With COVID lockdown lifting, and with some other higher priority projects picking up, I’ve had to step back from TD a bit. The weather is also much nicer now, so I’ve been trying to get outside more – away from screens. I still create something new weekly, so perhaps I’ll post more of that content soon.

At the moment, the big weakness in my setup here is the GPU on my mid-2015 Macbook Pro. Things run pretty hot, and some functions in TD (like Line MAT) don’t even work properly on the MacOS. I am now trying to decide how to justify the purchase of a more powerful machine to continue development and learning. For now, Touchdesigner remains a fascinating tool in my toolbox for creating things I never would have thought possible even a few years ago.

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Blog Terrariums

Terrariums: Distracting hobby, or mental health exercise? Both?

During the Spring of 2021 as COVID still raged, I wasn’t getting out much. Between significant computer screen time and evening Netflix couch time, I knew that I had to force myself off of the machines and back into something more natural.

Many years ago, during a trip to Chicago, Audra got me a very nice terrarium container made in Poland. My green thumb was focused for years on growing hot peppers outdoors. I didn’t spend as much time on indoor plants, except for my many clippings of Pothos (aka Devil’s Ivy). The terrarium container was never properly used, and found its way into storage. Thankfully, it survived several moves, waiting for the day when it would have a proper place to display.

A few Google and YouTube searches turned up plentiful resources on terrarium builds. The most helpful resource by far has been the YouTube channel SerpaDesign, run by a guy named Tanner in the Pittsburgh area. Aside from bringing an artistic sensibility to everything he does, I found Tanner’s site most helpful because he’s in a similar climate and uses the same type of resources I can access near Philly. And yes, there’s some irony here in the desire to get away from screens, only to turn to YouTube to get up to speed on a new hobby.

Later I’ll note a few other resources, but for now I want to get into showing some things I’ve done.

First up is the “Chicago Terrarium”. This actually went through two iterations so far, the first of which didn’t look very good and only lasted a couple weeks before I wanted to redo it using things I learned online.

The current iteration of the “Chicago Terrarium” uses a combination of local moss, store-bought plants, and locally sourced rocks. I decided to remove the jade buddha because he didn’t look natural in this setting. The springtails came from an Ebay vendor, and the isopods came from local parks.

Following Tanner’s advice, I made a very good false bottom with store-bought aquarium rocks from Lowe’s. I kind of have a problem buying rocks when I can get them from nature, but for this first build I wanted it to be as clean as possible.

The false bottom also uses carbon fiber screen (Lowe’s) and activated charcoal (Ebay). I’m using Serpa’s typical substrate mix of sphagnum moss, sand, orchid bark and sometimes coconut fiber. For this first build, I used some indoor potting soil I already had on hand.

If a terrarium is made correctly, it should not need a lot of maintenance. But one of the highlights of my day right now is looking in on these little worlds and seeing what’s happening with them. Not only does this get me away from the computer, it gets me outside a bit more as I search for moss or other elements to incorporate.

I suppose like anything else you enjoy, terrariums can become addictive. The “Chicago Terrarium” was successful enough that I started looking for other containers to try.

The one thing I’ve noticed about the terrarium enthusiasts is that they seem to fall into three categories. Tanner, who seems to fall in the middle, is very thoughtful about what he does and approaches things with a bit more of a plan and an eye for aesthetics.

Others – particularly some of the terrarium builders from Japan who incorporate bonsai techniques – are even more detailed and show an amazing level of artistry and complexity. The other end of the spectrum are those that just grab whatever is in their backyard, toss it in a jar, and hope for the best with little thought! All of these approaches have their charm.

In future posts, we will take a look at my other creations, and I’ll share some other things I’ve learned along the way.

Coming soon…

Home Goods Tree Scene
IKEA Cookie Jar
IKEA Mason Jar
Joanne’s Terrarium Scene
Reconditioned snake tank!

And maybe a few other experiments!

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Blog

What I’m Doing Now

May 2021

  1. Joining the first ever cohort of artists in the Nomadic Soundsters virtual residency.
  2. Working with the Philly Maker Faire Podcast as host and audio editor.
  3. Working on a custom component for Touchdesigner. TouchDesigner is a node based visual programming language for real time interactive multimedia content, developed by the Toronto-based company Derivative. It’s been used by artists, programmers, creative coders, software designers, and performers to create performances, installations, and fixed media works
  4. Building a few… OK, many terrariums for fun.
  5. Providing additional audio services via Fiverr.com
  6. Diving further into the Elektron Digitakt to develop some audio to go with my Touchdesigner visuals.
  7. Offering Open Broadcaster Software assistance. Contact me for details, or go here to buy me a coffee if I’ve already helped you.
  8. Occasionally broadcasting on Twitch.
  9. Overhauling this site with some help from Laura Chenault from Monkeysatkeyboards.com

Reading:

Chaos: Making a New Science (James Gleick)

  • Continuing to examine my career trajectory closely through a Napoleon Hill lens. I’ve met only two people who get that reference.
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Blog Video Art

Collaboration with Breakfast

A new collaboration with my friend Tom Dennehy (AKA Breakfast)

One fateful night in the early 90s, at an open mic in Bloomsburg, PA, I met Tom Dennehy. His mix of Dr. Demento-style originals and Weird Al Yankovic covers immediately endeared him to both me and, my future wife, Audra.

Life was never the same after meeting Tom. His combination of humor, musical smarts, and global vision have been a pleasure to observe throughout our friendship. Every interaction has been an education (as well as a lot of fun).

Careers always took us in completely different physical directions. But whether Tom was writing to me from India while taking khayal singing lessons, or (more recently) chatting on Zoom, we’ve always tried to stay in touch. Our last major collaboration was in 2003-04 with tabla player Bulu Rahman in a short-lived fusion experiment called Moonlight Masala. Somewhere in WVIA’s archives is a Homegrown Music performance of that group.

For many years, Tom has lived on the West Coast, adopting the moniker Breakfast. He also plays with improv groups The Wyatt Act and Mission Delirium. He’s a thoughtful multi-lingual wordsmith, multi-instrumentalist, and also teaches music and English.

During lockdown, Tom wrote 10 new instrumentals in his living room on his laptop (in Garageband no less, though you wouldn’t know it). At the same time, I was studying Touchdesigner and various visual techniques. I was starting to build what eventually became my JDRenderEngine, and I really wanted to put it through its paces. While I also do music, I wanted to collaborate with someone else on this experiment. So we decided to join forces – his music, my visuals. The result is Yellowcake, now available on Bandcamp and YouTube.

The brilliant, complex music centered around saxophone, electronics and odd time signatures, stands on its own. The visuals add another later of strangeness that we both had fun creating. Check out the playlist below and enjoy!

YELLOWCAKE YOUTUBE PLAYLIST

Music by Breakfast, Visuals by Jeremy dePrisco

YELLOWCAKE YOUTUBE PLAYLIST

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Blog

LA QUARENTENA LOCA

Read all about the making of this track.

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Blog

Humming With The Gods (2020)

Humming With The Gods is a 4-song Limited Edition EP born as a result of some different approaches I was taking to recording/writing in late 2017. I was working with some very evocative instruments, and suddenly found myself creating a lot of material in a particular universe of sound. Originally, I envisioned 10-12 songs in this universe, with a loose story line running through and lots of space references. Unconsciously, I was returning to the universe of “Children of Light” (from Chaos Rise Up in 2010) which always stood out for its electronic elements, and offered a positive outlook on the future.

Stylistically the music and lyrics have elements of what I was doing pre-2010, before joining the electro-music.com community. It’s also been informed by the experiences I’ve had performing and interacting with electronic musicians for the last 10 years.

This material has sustained me in unexpected ways during a very trying time in our lives. Friends and family know the gory details, and its not appropriate to rehash them here. Let’s just say – and I know this is cheesy – that looking to the stars and imagining other worlds really can help you deal with reality. Working on Humming With The Gods was perhaps the best expression of what I’ve been feeling over these last few years, and I think in some small way it expresses some important themes of our time (among them, moving forward after trauma, and on a larger scale, life in times of accelerating scientific discoveries amidst accelerated social concerns).

There’s yet more recorded material waiting in the wings, but before I can put that stuff out, I really felt that Humming With The Gods had to be finalized.

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Blog

Philly General Update

Yeah, my sites are looking a bit dated right now because I am just getting back on my feet after a very time consuming and logistically difficult move to Philadelphia.

The studio has closed. We’ve downsized to an apartment, so two-thirds of my studio are in storage right now while the other third is with me in a much smaller configuration. Running a studio was a good experiment (2013-2018), but I can’t say I miss it, or the drama.

I am now focusing almost completely on my electronic/experimental work, in a variety of electronic sub-genres. Since joining the electro-music.com community in 2010, I’ve come to really enjoy this sonic journey. The move to Philly – complete with much more time in transit on buses and in traffic -has forced me to focus even more on my craft, and on my passion. The city has also been inspiring, in ways I may not have expected.

A new site – with brand new audio, graphics and video – is under construction and should be finalized this summer. In fact the site itself is done, but I am carefully selecting how I want to promote the music and sonic explorations.

You may still occasionally find me at open mics in the Philly area, either solo acoustic, as a bass player, or with Fricknadorable. For now, our Americana duo is on hiatus, though Audra continues to write and we hope to one day put out an EP. Unfortunately, being a theatre person, she doesn’t enjoy recording half as much as I do. Ironically, much of my electronic stuff of late has been improvised! But I still can’t get her to go electro… perhaps one day.

For now, enjoy this peak at the Chinese Lantern Festival we recently attended…