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The Soundtrack(s)

December 3rd, 2013


The Soundtrack (the journal):
Cool surprise today to see my first published article as an artist in the new edition of The Soundtrack. I was asked to do a piece on my film Awakening. I wrote the article before the move to Germany. With such distance comes interesting perspective–reading it again was like reading the words of an old friend. And yes, I laughed at my own reference in the article. I guess I thought it was funny at the time, too?

So far, leafing through the journal has been very rewarding. Their description of it summarizes the content well:

The Soundtrack is a multi-disciplinary journal which brings together research in the area of music and sound in relation to film and other moving image media. A complex cultural, technological, industrial and artistic phenomenon, sound-with-moving image is a rich area for analysis, investigation and speculation. We encourage writing that is accessible to audiences from a diversity of intellectual backgrounds and disciplines as well as providing a forum for practitioners. The Soundtrack’s aim is to nurture this new and expanding area of academic investigation in dialogue with soundtrack producers of all kinds.”,id=146/

The Soundtrack (of experimentation):
Also pictured above are four Laser Jet toner refills. No, I don’t have a Laser Jet printer… I am attempting to DIY some ferrofluid. If you don’t know, ferrofluid is a magnetic liquid that is used in some really interesting fine art sculptures and (expensive) toys. A gallon of the stuff can run more than $500. My Laser Jet toner attempt could result in something not only cheaper but much more colorful. I will post the results on the website soon! I already have my neodymium (read: strongest things you’ve ever seen…I could barely separate them) magnets ready to go. I’m very intrigued with the possibilities of filming it for Digital Synthetic-like textures. Yes, calling this section “The Soundtrack (of experimentation)” was a bit of a stretch, but you may be laughing at me, so that works.

The Soundtrack (of my December):
Based on recommendation of my collaborator Brian Young, I’ve been obsessing over the production on the London Grammar album–this song is my favorite so far. Enough people have been writing about the band to the point that I don’t have much to add but to encourage you to listen:

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A Very BAD Studio

September 7th, 2013

So in Germany it is typical that it can take several weeks to set up Internet. In my case, we are talking 4 weeks. This brings the grand total of “artist without reliable Internet” on this move to two months. You know as a little kid when Thanksgiving passes and you think “Christmas is only a month away!” and you wait… and wait… and wait… double that, and that’s two months.

It’s crazy how difficult this makes a lot of the back end of things (signing agreements, coordinating shows) and also the collaborative process. But there is light at the end of the tunnel! It just happens to be a long tunnel (September 26.) So I apologize for the lack of frequent updates and the abundance of art announcements I will make between September 26 and the beginning of October.

In the meantime, I am working on a lot of things I am excited to announce soon and setting up my studio… check out the beauty!
I know, not yet the most inspiring place yet…but how lucky am I? I move out of my half-a-bedroom setup in the States to an entire FLOOR here in Germany. My primary spot is a zen studio space (where the computer is) with great acoustics and a cool view. I had to pick the middle of the room because of the slanted walls, but I’m actually digging it so far. In the other room, I am setting up a worktable/etc to do my crafts and generally create a mess.
Down the hall I have a little sink area which I can use for construction (and will be using on my winter project TBA!)
And then I have a “BAD” (bathroom). Yes, if you can read from my crappy laptop camera, it says “BAD” on the door. Debating whether to call this BAD Studios… very possibly.

Biggest challenge so far (aside from half the lights not working) is definitely power. I use a lot. I need a lot of adapters and a power conditioner, and that stuff is not cheap here! Headed out later today to buy a ton.

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Moving to Germany/Building a New Studio

July 4th, 2013

That’s right… I am moving to Germany! The hub of beer, Christmas markets, random festivals, and pioneering electronic art. I can’t wait to be closer to the conferences I always want to attend, the great electronic music scene, my fellow Videopong partners… it’s going to be incredible. The plan is to stay out there for three years.

I landed a great job opportunity that will pay me well and also give me a great housing allowance. I will use that allowance to do two things: 1) shorten my commute so that I have more time, and 2) finally get an entire room to myself for my studio. I am ecstatic about both… you will see more things on this website as a result of the first, and that includes planning the second part!

After doing a lot of research, I decided to go ahead and buy some of my studio supplies (paint, mod podge, you know… the usual) here in the U.S. and then ship them to save some money. I also decided to buy the big, fancy art table I’ve always wanted for doing my soldering, painting, and other construction. So I went to the most American place I could think of… IKEA! (That’s a joke, just to be clear… but I really did go to IKEA…actually, two different IKEAs). I got a nice big Galant table top and the Finnvard table legs… it should look like this when built, but black:


I also got a really cool robotic-arm like table lamp for it. So excited!

Now, the next part: I will be staying in a hotel for a month while I look for a house and wait for my household shipment to arrive from the U.S. How do I get my studio computer (and everything I need to run it) to the hotel so that I don’t miss a beat? After all, I have several shows coming up… I can’t be without my computer if someone needs me to render a different type of file or something!

A lot of trouble, but I know it will be worth it. I can’t wait to write all about it here and share this adventure with everyone.

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The Almagest Series: The Audio/Visual Album

May 26th, 2013

My birth as an audio/visual artist was on stage, often playing instruments with my hands and controlling visuals (and audio effects and lighting) live with my feet using a Behringer BCF2000 (and getting a lot of foot cramps)…. like so (that’s me on the left):

The Console War in Washington, DC, circa 2009

The Passenger Car, which I created for the doris-mae art gallery last year, was my first non-live-performance piece to tap back into using the BCF2000 to “play” visuals. I recorded an entire performance that I did in my studio using just the BCF2000 controlling Resolume Avenue and projected the recording on a loop in the doris-mae space.

I always have fun exploring different delivery methods and capitalizing on other distribution models… The Almagest Series, in my mind, needed to be not only a recording of a performance, like The Passenger Car, but a recording of a series of performances: a 12-part audio/visual album.

Imposing the album structure on The Almagest Series gave me an entirely new framework to play with. I took lessons from many of my favorite albums and strove to illustrate the different character of the piece through different sections, while simultaneously sticking to a loose narrative arc that I had constructed in my head.

A screengrab of “10/12” from The Almagest Series

Much like the creation of an album, I recorded about 17 visual pieces (my “video paintings,”) again using the BCF2000 and Resolume Avenue to tap into that narrative/emotive arc and whittled the album list down to 12 pieces. I then imported everything into Presonus Studio One for audio creation, and got to work.

The piece came together very quickly as I was able to record the majority of the audio in two days. All audio I tracked was done in sync with watching the visuals and playing off the movement and emotions I felt… sometimes enhancing the mood that the visuals displayed, and other times deliberately contradicting it. By viewing The Almagest Series as neither audio, nor video, but one cohesive ambient work that would be a part of the State Russian Museum (and possibly elsewhere), I was able to imagine it as a cohesive presence and use the audio and video to fill gaps the the other left, or play off each other, to convey one complex audio/visual presence to the viewer. Throughout the creation of the piece, I used the guiding principle that it needed to blend into the background to create a unique atmosphere, but on the same token be captivating and interesting if the viewer paid close attention to it… much the same principle used in ambient music.

I did all of the audio in one single Studio One session, treating everything like one song. As I wrapped up the the electronics and acoustic guitar, I was able leave room for certain cold, distant—almost desolate—guitar textures that I heard in my head when I originally envisioned the piece. Washington, DC musician and friend Brian Young came to the studio to collaborate and impart some of his distinctive guitar tones on the album. We tracked guitar takes for a couple hours into the one Studio One session, which at this point was about 20 minutes long, until my computer decided it had enough and I maxed out my RAM.

Once the guitar was done, I went back into the video file in Premiere and lined up transitions, did a couple tiny cuts, and the piece was done. I promised you all a preview, so in true album fashion, here is a “single,” 6/12:

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Creating a Piece in Four Hours

July 8th, 2012

Welcome to 187mph.

6:15 a.m.
I am creating an entire video piece (and writing this blog post) in less than four hours… while timelapsing the whole thing. We’ll see how this goes… I am already self-conscious about the camera going off the background! I’m taking a picture every 12 seconds… when I compile this thing at 6 pictures per second, It should make the timelapse about two minutes… here we go.

6:40 a.m.
Alright, as you can see from the beginning timelapse, things are starting to come together more quickly than I imagined. I started off with a video that Emily took passenger-side in a Cadillac in Memphis with her mom… the consistent pace and straight course of the video make it adaptable to look like a train ride, which was my goal. I had to edit out a few frames, but nothing terrible.

I have been working on my latest audio/visual film for what must be hundreds of hours. Having a four-hour deadline is a very strange experience so far! I’m already starting to get nervous. What if my computer can’t record my live performance?

Also, where did my puppy go?

6:45 a.m.
My blacks aren’t black enough… my whites aren’t white enough… my pixels are too blocky (that’s what I get for upconverting this video… taken on a little digital camera!) I want this piece to be suitable for projection on a huge scale. Fixing this in this program could take awhile! Also, I seriously need to go find puppy…

7:07 a.m.
Excuse me, but I need the blog space to start writing my controls down. Once I get things where I want them, I’ll be playing/recording this piece’s effects entirely live.

MIDI map: Template 35
DMX-X: Levels adjustment on main layer
DMX-B: Right-side hurricane of color
DMX-G: Photo layer
DMX-R: Black and White

Key map:
A: Exposure
S: Brightness/Contrast
D: Blow
F: Video Painting mode
G: RGB Shift

7:24 a.m.
Alright, ready for my first test run. Saving everything in case I crash this thing.

Also, puppy has been found. Asleep. Surprise.

7:32 a.m.
That went pretty well, but my transitions were a little abrupt and the video was a little jittery. I’m going to change from on/off keys to knobs that control levels for smoother transitions. I’m also going to close everything I can on the computer to allocate the resources to this program.

MIDI map: Template 35
DMX-X: Levels adjustment on main layer
DMX-B: Right-side hurricane of color
DMX-G: Photo layer
DMX-R: Black and White
Vid1/R: Exposure
Vid2/G: Shift RGB

Key map:
S: Brightness/Contrast
D: Blow
F: Video Painting mode

7:50 a.m.
Bam! Take 2 was exactly what I wanted. Time to switch programs to Adobe Premiere to start prepping it for bigtime. Unfortunately that usually means creating the project in Premiere, saving it, then restarting my computer… like I need to warn the program what is about to happen… (when you don’t have a ridiculously top-of-the-line computer and you push it like I do, you deal with these little quirks…)

Performance finished… thanks Resolume.

7:55 a.m.
OK we are back. Breaks are always worth a puppy timelapse appearance (in case you miss it, she’s circa 1:20 in the video, you can see the little furball in the corner)

I definitely want to adjust the brightness and contrast of the piece and get the colors more saturated. Premiere has really great brightness and contrast controls so I am using those and the RGB Color Balance to crank each color channel. While the first preview renders, I am going to transfer this blog post onto!

8:14 a.m.
Getting there! I sped the movie up 2% to compensate for some of the jerkiness I got from realtime recording it to my hard drive. I also did a little more contrast work to make the blacks really stand out. While the preview renders, I’m editing this post…

8:36 a.m.
Alright, we are already exporting for Blu-Ray! Two hours and twenty minutes. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve finished anything in two hours and twenty minutes! haha.

8:42 a.m.
Time for Premiere to render the files: two hours. Sheesh! Time to give the camera the thumbs up and stop the timelapse.

8:58 a.m.
Timelapse exporting! This thing should definitely make the four-hour deadline.

9:20 a.m.
Alright, we are going live! I’ll be submitting the piece to a festival later tonight. Hopefully it’ll be selected and you can see it there!

As the Northeast corridor adapts to embrace the high-speed future of transportation, “187mph” is a look into a future of bullet trains speeding through the ever-sprawling urban landscape. The piece plays off the interplay of great speed and a dense landscape by combining still-image snapshots and full-motion video: emulating a passenger’s ability to only process parts of a high-speed ride.

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Video Shoot

May 21st, 2012

Had a long but fun day last week shooting the main shots for my upcoming audio/visual film.

Special thanks to Emilee and Brittany for starring (in Britt’s case, both audio and video).

Can’t wait to get it out to everybody! This weekend I’m shooting a few more of the macro shots.

Emilee ready on the set

Emilee chillin on set! (We started indoors)

P.S. I FINALLY got that Boss DD-6. The Warp function on it is so cool.

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First It Was a Monitor…

March 14th, 2012

And now it’s also a TV! Guest room/studio combo at its finest (and Wizards games while I’m doing video processing…)

The room is really coming along! So excited. And wow is it incredible to actually have my studio monitors hooked up in my studio…

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27 Hours

September 21st, 2011

27 hours ago, this computer was recording my band. Now it’s back and powering my new sculpture… you are looking at part of the sculpture and the two rewired LCD screens (the board you see is powering one of the rewired monitors).

Making amazing progress on it… my second installation!

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Mixing With Asparagus

November 2nd, 2010

Food + asparagus = tasty
Music + asparagus = ?

A lot of you have been asking why the Brittany Jean EP hasn’t come out yet, as we recorded it several weeks ago. The answer is multi-faceted: design, packaging, promotion, distribution…but the most important answer of them all is mixing, which we have been doing the past couple weeks at Asparagus Media Studios (ah, yes Will… now I see where this is going…)

Read the rest of this entry »

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