Occasionally, someone will ask me where they can learn more about electronic and experimental music. While a Google search is a great place to start, here are some focused favorites to start your journey.
NEEMfest.org – Formerly the electro-music.com annual gathering in the Northeast, in 2017 the name changed to NEEMfest and was moved to the Center for the Arts in Homer, NY.
Electrozone – Ithaca, NY group that puts on some great electro events.
Event Horizon Concert Series – The Event Horizon concert series is a Philadelphia, PA based concert series featuring Ambient, Electronic, Experimental and Space Music. It is held at The Rotunda on the University of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia. (4014 Walnut Street.)
Cosmic Crossings – The Cosmic Crossings concerts are a series of electronic music events being held at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing (aka UUCWC.) Tickets for each show are $10, with all proceeds to benefit the UUCWC, which has kindly provided the venue for the series. Each concert showcases live performances by electronic musicians and bands from all over the world, playing ambient, experimental, and space music, accompanied by unique lighting and multimedia visual effects.
12/22/16 – The LED Panner is another fun circuit from the great book “Handmade Electronic Music” by Nicolas Collins.
This circuit uses a single 74C14 Hex Schmitt Trigger chip, taking advantage of only a few pins (so you could to much more with this). LEDs paired with photo resistors create an optically controlled circuit which is designed to switch audio off and on in a flip-flop or ping-pong type motion. A single dial adjusts the speed of the effect. You can use just one side of the device for a mono signal, or in stereo, though stereo is where you get the neatest effects.
I always seem to do the most building during the holiday season, hence the Christmas themed box. The initial breadboard prototype went together rather quickly, so it wasn’t long before I had everything in the box. The hardest part was deciding on a physical layout for the LED/photoresistors, as they take up a lot of space. I would probably try a different orientation if I built one of these again, but this works fine.
The unit below with the green knob is the same unit as the one with the red knob. Only difference is that at first I didn’t add an on/off switch. That was added later and I changed the knob because I thought it matched the case better.
I built this device as an addition to my constantly evolving electronic/experimental music soundscape table, which you can hear on my Soundcloud page. Recordings featuring this device coming soon.
12/9/16 – The Xmas Fly is a riff on the Black Fly, which is basically nothing more than a piezo element and a few parts in a nice box. The Black Fly includes springs, which cause interesting vibrations for the piezo to pick up.
To make springs work you need a very solid box that can hold up to the hardware. I didn’t have such a box, so I used one of my Christmas tins and made this into more of an ambient pickup rather than a device that created it’s own sound. Youtube shows several hacks for the Black Fly, so all I needed was an interior photo of the build from one of those videos, and the rest was easy.
The piezo is set in place with Guerrilla Glue. The filter capacitor value was a bit tricky. First attempt with a 10pF cap showed no filtering effect. I couldn’t make out what they were using in the photo, so I checked with my dad who advised based on his experience with similar circuits, “try .01uF to .05uF. The pot could be 50K more or less… ” The second attempt with a .022uF Mylar cap works well!
What’s it for? This can be used as a pickup for all sorts of sounds around the studio, basically like a low-fi mic. The filter acts as a tone control, which is necessary to roll off some of the harshness of the piezo. Paired with a proper DI box, this can be a very effective tool for sound design. The larger form factor and thinner metal also gives this much different properties from a Black Fly, though I would still like to build one of those when I have the materials.
Asheville electro-music is organized by members of the electro-music.com online community. The focus is on compelling original music and innovative technology. Previous events have attracted many world-class musicians and were an excellent opportunity for sharing new music with an appreciative audience, networking, socializing, and becoming creatively inspired.
Asheville and the Black Mountain area are beautiful places, and this was one of the most enjoyable musical events that we’ve experienced. Usually, my wife Audra doesn’t accompany me at electro events – she’s just not into the artform, though she does play uke. But given the opportunity to see another part of the country, Audra agreed to make this a part of our wedding anniversary celebration. Some may think that would be a hard sell, but thankfully Black Mountain in particular offered more than enough to enjoy while I was off listening to bloops and bleeps.
We selected Monte Vista as our hotel which is admittedly a bit pricey, but well worth it. We checked in Thursday night and then went to a pre-show party at Greg and Hong Waltzer’s home in Asheville, greeting old friends and new. For many of my electro friends, this was the first time they were seeing Audra in person – confirming she was not a figment of my imagination.
Friday morning we took in the Moog Museum in Asheville, which is sort of a required stop for electro artists. The tour was very well done and we had basically full access to the labs and testing rooms. We even got to see one of Trent Reznor’s module racks that was in for calibration. Just one of these boxes starts at $10,000 – never mind custom configurations.
After Moog, we made a quick trek to Lumen Audio, a studio in Canton just west of Asheville. Lumen Audio is run by Ryan Earnhardt, who runs Creative Sound Lab, a popular YouTube series on recording. Ryan was very humble, and pretty much just what you’d expect from watching his videos. The real deal. We share some of the same attitudes, influences and interests about audio recording. It was cool to meet him and see his space after watching him online.
The electro festival kicked off at the White Horse on Friday, offering a wide range of listening experiences. Highlights were Tenderlash, and (as always) Robert Dorschel. In between sets it was easy to pop out into Black Mountain to check out the shops or grab a snack. Within walking distance there were three music stores, including Song of the Wood, a specialty dulcimer shop. Dinner at Thai Basil was good. Audra explored shops that evening while I returned for the evening festival set. It featured Klimchak, an artist I had not seen before but very much enjoyed for his humor.
On Saturday, artist Kevin Spears gave a talk on “Harnessing The Speed of Thought”. Kevin plays kalimba and does a lot of live looping, singing and percussion using Handsonic controllers. His talk was just a taste of a great performance he’d later give that evening.
I opened the festival with my new piece, Sonic Conspiracy Theories 528 vs 741, with visuals by Michael O’Bannon. Overall I thought it went well, save for one feedback swell from my Cordoba. In the context of the performance it was fine.
With my set out of the way, it was time to relax and enjoy Black Mountain, listening to the many talented artists. After dinner at the hotel, I came back to enjoy Vibrophonik Electronik, Joe Belknap Wall (a personal favorite because not many people do spoken word well) for the evening set. By far the highlight on Saturday was Kevin Spears, who knocked us out with his percussion/groove pyrotechnics and gave en encore performance.
Originally, Bill Manganaro was slated to coordinate the final Zero Input Mixer (ZIM) performance for Saturday night. Titled “Journey of the Satellite,” it was to feature three movements of ZIM or mostly-ZIM material from several festival performers. Unfortunately, about a week before the event Bill found that he’d be unable to attend, so I was asked to regroup with the available artists and lead a guided improvisation to wrap up the evening.
Joining me were Paul Vnuk, Jr., Daniel Z (Vibrophonik Electronik), Joe Wall, and Bill Fox. Tony Gerber was originally going to join us, but in a rather funny snafu, we started without him (no hard feelings). Visuals were provided by Michael O’Bannon. More about Zero Input Mixer (ZIM)
My piece “Cephalothorax” appears on the CD sampler for the event.
This collaboration features music created by mixers with no audio inputs (other than feedback loops), combined with effects. Led by Dale Parson (Acoustic Interloper). Much thanks to Steve Mokris for recording, editing, and posting!
I recently performed at the Kutztown University Computer Music & Visualization Conference 2015 at the Kutztown University Planetarium. My piece, titled “Sunspot Cycle”, with visuals by Michael O’Bannon, was loosely inspired by the science of helioseismology. You can listen to studio demos below, and see pictures of the event on Flickr. I hope to post the actual performance soon, though the video didn’t capture everything. All the more reason to be there when it happens!