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 Forum index » Reviews, Editorials and Commentary » Reviews, Reports and Interviews
Modular 2003, London - Concert Review and Videos
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mosc
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:08 pm    Post subject: Modular 2003, London - Concert Review and Videos Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The Modular 2003 Conference was held in London, September 10th thru 12th, 2003. I was lucky enough to attend. "Hats Off" to Pere Villez and his crew for putting together a most enjoyable event.

Joker Nies Bending Circuits
The conference was attended by musicians and music technologists from many countries. They heard papers on a very wide range of topics. There were papers about Linux as a platform for music and audio, new concepts in musical instrument interfaces, using swarm theory to automatically generate free jazz, "circuit bending", and even huge concrete acoustic receivers built in England during World War 1 to listen to airplanes coming in over the channel. The meeting was provided with one of the first public looks at the highly anticipated new Nord Modular G2 Synthesizer, as well as reviews of several pieces of music software including MAX/MSP, Super Collider, JMAX, and CSOUND.

On September 11th, there was an excellent concert held on the campus of the London College of Music. There were performances by Tim Blackwell, Alexandre Garacotch and Vincent Merienne, Howard Moscovitz, Niles Joker, and Roland Kuit. We have short video clips of the performance by Niles, and Kuit. In this article, I review some of the works presented at the concert. (Links to the avi files appear later in this article.) I will review the papers and presentations, especially the Nord Modular G2, in another article.

Tim Blackwell's Swarm
Tim Blackwell's, Swarm Music, was quite fascinating. Tim writes, "Swarm Music produces musical improvisations with a swarm of musical events. It does this by exploiting the self-organizational properties of swarms. The musical events organise into a swarm-like shape to produce melodic, harmonic and rhythmic patterns." This work is based on research on swarming animals (fish, birds and insects) which reveals that swarms can be simulated when each individual follows a few simple rules like: "avoid collisions", and "match your velocity with your nearest neighbor". Blackwell has developed computer programs that listen to live music being improvised and play along using algorithms based on swarm-like rules. Thus the computer plays along matching the live performers tempo, key, volume, articulation and other observable musical parameters.

During the performance a screen showed a graphical representation of "the swarm". The green triangle in the center represented the live musician, in this case a vocalist whose name I didn't get. There other figures represent the artificial instrument which move around in the musical parameter space in reaction to the singer. The effect on the listener was one of fascination; surprisingly musical. For more information and some sound samples, check out http://www.timblackwell.com/.

Circuit Bending, by Joker Nies, was a spectacular improvisation on a small set of simple electronic toys that have been modified by, you guessed it, circuit bending. According to its prophet, Reed Ghazala,
"Circuit-bending is an electronic art which implements creative audio short-circuiting. This renegade path of electrons represents a catalytic force capable of exploding new experimental musical forms forward at a velocity previously unknown. Anyone at all can do it; no prior knowledge of electronics is needed. The technique is, without a doubt, the easiest electronic audio design process in existence.

The circuit-bent instrument, often a re-wired audio toy or game, is an alien instrument: alien in electronic design, alien in voice, alien in musician interface. Through this procedure, all around our planet, a new musical vocabulary is being discovered. A new instrumentarium is being born. [See http://www.oddmusic.com/illogic/index.html ]"

Nies' Playing the Bent Omnichord
Joker has "bent" both the Texas Instruments' Speak and Spell (a 70s game which featured on of the first speech synthesis chips), and the Suzuki Omnichord, a low-cost electronic instrument that is sort of a modern autoharp. Joker explained that in circuit bending the devices are opened the artist touches the live circuit boards to find sensitive points that when touched can change the sounds. Sometimes variable resistors can be soldered across the circuits. Joker brings wires from the sensitive nodes to special touch sensitive electrodes made of upholstery nails to facilitate playing.

The best candidates for bending are circuits that have a large number sensitive nodes. Joker is the first person to identify the Omnichord as a good candidate for bending. Apparently, Omnichords from the late 70s work the best. Based on his performance, it the Omnichord turns out to be a good candidate indeed.

Joker actually gave two performances at the Modular 2003 Conference. During his technical presentation, he played for a couple of minutes. A short avi file can be seen here: http://electro-music.com/avis/joker.avi. To make good music by circuit bending requires a good musician, and Joker Nies is certainly one of those. His music at both performances was delightful. Check out Joker's web site: http://www.klangbureau.de/cb_E.html

Roland Kuit Performing With Light Sensors

Roland Kuit performed New Proze from The Hague. The performance took place the next day because of technical difficulties with the video projection. New Proze from The Hague is a multi-media work based on a century old novel about The Hague, the city where Roland lives. There is a DVD video that Roland accompanies with live electronic music. The music is played by Roland moving in front of a bright spotlight wearing several photo sensors. The signals from the sensors are used to generate MIDI control information for a single Nord Modular synthesizer. The patch on the synthesizer is aptly called the virtual throat.

The piece is very abstract, probably more so to me because I didn't understand the Dutch narration on the DVD. You certainly don't need to know Dutch to enjoy this performance. Almost immediately I could notice the Roland's movements were directly controlling the music. Sometimes his movements appeared to be a dramatic gesture in response to the sound. I found this captivating. The sounds themselves were sometimes quite grungy and other time very guttural. The effect was quite evocative. A short avi file can be found here: http://electro-music.com/avis/roland_kuit-1.avi.

Howard Moscovitz Improvising on the Nord Modular
I performed a solo improvization on the Nord Modular call Impromptu. I won't comment on my own performance except to say that it was a delight to play my music in London for such a kind and appreciative audience. Maybe someone who was there may have something to add.

I'm sure that in this article I got some facts wrong, or left someone out. Please feel to add comments, corrections or whatever as replies to this topic on the forum. I look forward to next year's Modular 2004 Conference, rumored to be in Barcelona.

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Last edited by mosc on Sat Oct 11, 2003 6:11 pm; edited 2 times in total
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seraph
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.barnzstuff.com/pages/instruments.html

Barnz' Instruments

Circuit-bending and more

Incantor: This instrument, invented by Q.R. Ghazala, is made from a Texas Instruments Speak-And-Math with some custom designed circuit-bending. It gives off extraordinary sounds from its human voice emulator and Barnes has used it as the main driving force behind several of the compositions on his new release - Hinges.

PVC Monster: PVC pipes, ends whacked with flip flops.
Trash Can Platter: trash can, bike wheel, threaded rods supporting platters, pan lids and circular saw blades
T.Rodimba: (right) board with bent threaded rods and springs
Tubulon: (bottom mid) electical conduit pipes hanging on strings in a xylophone-like setup, struck with plexiglass rods

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Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex - Frank Zappa

Last edited by seraph on Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://billtmiller.com/circuitbending/
http://billtmiller.com/
http://www.apple.com/creative/music/twisted/
http://www.subgenius.com/

Bill T. Miller, owner of Boston-based Headroom Studios and the independent label ExtraTerrestrial Discs, is in the midst of high grade musical art production mania that includes the alien orgy industrial samplefest of Out of Band Experience (OBE), the industrial metal thunder of the Kings Of Feedback, and the pure uncut noize of the Orgy Of Noise.

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Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex - Frank Zappa

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.f7sound.com/circuitbend.htm

No instrument is safe, no toy left unbroken!

What do you do when you've got a few cheap synths and you're craving some serious new sounds? If you're like me, you'll grab a screwdriver, soldering iron, some wire and start circuitbending. What? If you don't know what circuitbending is, please go to my links page where I've got some highly recommended sites for you to visit.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/benders/

benders · for circuit benders and noise machine junkies..contribute and exchange schematics and ideas

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.informatik.fh-hamburg.de/~windle_c/TableHooters/index.html

Circuit- bending is the art of hacking, modifying and abusing the hardware of cheap electronic sound toys or such keyboards ("tablehooters") in totally different ways than their manufacturer has intended - namely as experimental musical (or not so musical) instruments. This can result in such odd things like converting a battery operated baby toy duck into a tekkno synthesizer, though circuit- bending can be basically regarded as a cyberage's anarchic successor of phono record scratching. Much like record scratching only got possible by systematically ignoring all grannies warning: "Don't touch the precious gramophone discs with your smeary, sweaty fingers!", the same way circuit- bending lives from systematically ignoring any "warranty void" warning stickers on its explorative mission to boldly hear what no man has heard before...

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.circuitbenders.co.uk/

'The art of inflicting various form of sonic buggery on the carcass of a helpless musical toy'

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.jwdavies.com/circuitbending.htm



This series is created by circuit bending a new kawasaki keyboard. It includes a built in mini sequencer, a pitch knob, an on / off switch for the pitch bends, and a blue led which activates a photo cell that in turn responds to interference shadows from your fingers. This alters pitch in both radical and subtle ways. Noisicians will love it. 1/4 inch output.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

"Noisicians will love it"

I have seen and listen to those samples recorded at Modular 2003. WOW!
Impressive stuff!
Are those guys aliens from another galaxy?
I like Alien Noisicians!
Is this Space Music?
This is the kind of stuff that is more enjoyable live than recorded, I guess

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2003 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Joker Nies has "bent" the Texas Instruments' Speak and Spell (a 70s game which featured one of the first speech synthesis chips)

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.
Texas Instruments Inc. introduced Speak & Spell, a talking learning aid for ages 7 and up in 1978. Its debut marked the first electronic duplication of the human vocal tract on a single chip of silicon. Speak & Spell utilized linear predictive coding to formulate a mathematical model of the human vocal tract and predict a speech sample based on previous input. It transformed digital information processed through a filter into synthetic speech and could store more than 100 seconds of linguistic sounds.

Shown here are the four individuals who began the Speak & Spell program: From left to right, Gene Frantz, Richard Wiggins, Paul Breedlove, and George Brantingham.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 6:48 am    Post subject: Modular 2004? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hello,

I was fortunate to visit the Modular 2002 show also held at the TVU in West London UK but I understand that Pere Villez has left the University. Does anyone know if there has or will be a Modular 2004? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

welcome to our forum, Beatdetective.

In Feburary he did make a bit of an announcement about a conference this year in Brighton, but I haven't heard any more about it. I even set up a special forum just for the m2004 conference, but unfortunately nothing yet has happened. See:

http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-2818.html
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peppersmile



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 4:30 am    Post subject: Howard's Improvisation at the Modular 2003
Subject description: Modular 2003
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This has been a long time coming, and I can only apologize for the delay, but better late than never.

Howard's performance at the Modular 2003 was unique, it was a revelation. Howard showed that you don't need very much to make on stage to grip an audiences attention. The masterful use of the two simple oscillators and a great sense of aesthetic in improvisation can only come with maturity, musical intelligence and a broad creative outlook.

Its not the two oscillator but the way Howard controlled and played them.

What was even more revealing was that Howard was not just playing to any audience but to an expert audience, much more demanding, yet, every single person there enjoyed Howard's performance.
Its still there ringing in my ears.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 5:02 am    Post subject: Re: Howard's Improvisation at the Modular 2003
Subject description: Modular 2003
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peppersmile wrote:
Its still there ringing in my ears.


Can't say that for myself, but I do remember it well, and it was good!

welcome

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

peppersmile, thanks so much. What a thrill that you would post after 5 years! It blows me away.

After such a time I remember Joker Nies's performance with similar fondness as you express. Joker and I had the opportunity to play together at Chateau Sonore. He is an inspiration to me.

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peppersmile



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:20 am    Post subject: Joker's performance Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Howard, you're right. Joker's performance was amazing. I certainly didn;t wan't to lessen his efforts, on here, and am very fond of the man, he has a unique creative spirit. Omnichord and granular clouds in Kyma, ha ha, who would have thought it (at the time!).

I recently bumped into someone who met Pere, the organizer, who apparently had re-found a lot of the video footage of the event, but not sure which parts (apparently it has footage of the "modular walls". I'm seeing him at the Immersive Audio conference in Brighton in two weeks so hopefully will try and get a copy if anyone is interested. (this is what reminded me of the event and propmted the impetus of my original email about the concert.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Please say hello to him for me.
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Wout Blommers



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

From me too!

Wout
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