Art + Music + Technology


Performing Arts




November 2014
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At the beginning of this podcast, I talk about "KMI" as if everyone already knows who they are. And I suspect they do: Keith McMillen Instruments is the home for some of the most interesting portable keyboard and control systems in the industry. But Keith has come through a long line of inventions (and companies), starting with Zeta Systems, through some software iterations, and now with KMI.

In this chat, we talk about his history, how he got to the point of playing with unique materials for hardware creation, and what he sees in his (and the industry's) future. We also get a chance to talk about the future of musical instruments, and learn why Keith feels like we might not see any more instruments in the future. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy the podcast!

Direct download: podcast_054_KMcMillen.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 6:02 PM

Chris Blarsky is a guy that has his fingers in a lot of pies. He's the main man behind the Ninstruments brand, which puts Gameboy music systems into play for well-wired studios and stage setups. He's also been hacking in the Eurorack world, with hacks of the Pittsburgh Oscillator, Moog Werkstatt and the TI Speak & Read. All of it is awesome, and the build quality is impeccible.

Where does someone like this come from? Well, it turns out that for Chris, like many other hacker/musicians, it all starts with the Commodore 64. Balancing black and white hats as a youth, he found his calling in game music, and the result is some amazing hardware tools.

This chat gave me a chance to explore some of the ancient days of gaming, PC's before the PC and hackery in general. Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_053_CBlarsky.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 4:19 PM

This week's chat-ee is Mirko Vogel. Mirko first reached out as a listener, and invited me to a show that was going to happen last week. I told him I'd love to go, but would also like to record a conversation. Hence, this podcast.

Mirko is a pretty amazing cat; he's worked as both tour developer and tour manager for bands, has done a lot of his own work, and also collaborates with a number of interesting people. As a result, he's got a pretty unique view on how the music world works, and also some hard-earned understanding of working with people.

In this chat, we talk about the process of transferring music from album to stage, how you manage working with analog synths in a touring environment, and how you choose the people you work with. In the end, though, Mirko just opens up about what he is in this for - which is pretty revealing.


Direct download: podcast_052_MVogel.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 6:19 PM

I've been working with Jane Rigler for a while - I've been helping her with some technical options for her performing rig, and I've been a guest lecturer at some of her classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. I've also had the chance to see her perform several times, and she is a stunningly good flute player. She also pushes the instrument to its limits, creating multi-timbred soundscapes with her flute and Ableton Live.

I was really curious to find out how she became the player that she is, so the last time I visited UCCS I asked her to do an interview. It turns out that she's been listening to the podcast, and also has her students listening to it for class. Cool! She was game for the chat, and I was blown away by the result.

This is a great way to kick off our second year of podcasts, and I'm grateful to Jane for the opportunity. If you get a chance, please let your friends know about the podcast, and also feel free to drop me a line with suggestions or interview requests.


Direct download: podcast_051_JRigler.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 7:56 PM

Joshua Kit Clayton is one of the people I respect most in this world. He lives a thoughtful life that embraces technology, artistic practice, politics and spirituality in a holistic way that I find remarkable.

In our chat, we talk about his background (Ukranian Beet Farmers?), his involvement in the San Francisco 'scene' from the 1990's and 2000's, pulling together Jitter and his current work as both Cycling '74 CTO and live performer. We also talk about how he views politics, in particular, as part of the culture of an artistic life.

I've known Joshua for a long time, but I learned a lot during this discussion. What a treat!

This episode marks the first year of the podcast, and I really appreciate everyone that has been involved: interviewees, tech helpers and listeners. This has been a great ride so far, and I'm looking forward to the next 40!


Direct download: podcast_050_JKClayton.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 2:54 PM

It's hard to compartmentalize Jeff Kaiser. He's a monster trumpet player, a music label impresario, ethnomusicologist and technologist. Somehow, he finds a way to live his life where he can be all of these things - all of the time. He's a force, but also an incredibly nice guy to talk to.

In our chat, we talk about coming out of a religious music background, driving into (and through) an academic endevour, and coming out the other side with a hard-to-define career. We also talk about words, which might sound funny, but it really important when you think about how people interact with art and music's place in history.

Props to Jeff for the talk; you can find out more about him at Oh, and that's Doctor Jeff to you (and me)!

Direct download: podcast_049_JKaiser.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 3:44 PM

This chat was a real treat. I ran across Daria Semegen's work on a compilation of early Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio recordings, and was quite taken with her work. A little more digging revealed great depth in both style and performance, and I found myself drawn into her work wherever I could find it.

Fast-forward to a recent Facebook discussion with Meg Schedel, where I was talking about some people I was interested in interviewing. Her response to my suggestion of Ms. Semegen was "I can help with that!", and indeed she did. The result is a discussion about composition concepts, processes and perspectives that will prove to be an inspiration.

In addition to all this, I want to point something out from the podcast: Daria was incredibly deft about moving the conversation away from tools (gear) into tools (source material). Every time I talked about tools, she shifted the conversation to her collected material and choice process. Brilliant!


Direct download: podcast_048_DSemegen.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 5:01 PM

I've told the story before - I first met Brian Crabtree when he was working in LA, and he showed me a button/light combo that was a "<shrug>" for me. Little did I suspect that the concept would end up being at the heart of the music industry of the future, and that I would be the proud owner of several devices that use exactly that technology.

In this chat, Brian and I talk about the past, present and future of, including the continued development of the grid and the new modular devices they are creating. We also talk about his recent music releases, his design philosophy and how he feels about the state of grids in music technology. A very involved conversation that was also quite revealing.

The bumper music for this episode was actually composed (in about five minutes) using a Monome 128, a White Whale module, my portable modular and an Eventide Space. Not exactly a Super Demo, but it does tell you that this combo (Monome/White Whale) has already wedged its way into my rig...


Direct download: podcast_047_BCrabtree.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 2:53 PM

Sometimes you run across a person that everyone respects, and that seems to be on top of their game for the long run. So goes the story of Katy Wood, who everyone seems to agree is the best at it - almost regardless of what 'it' is! This is a marker for someone that I'd find interesting, so I reached out to Katy and was very pleased when she agreed to have a chat.

Whether talking about the process behind sound for film, suggesting ideas about location recording or revealing tips on starting a career, Katy was open, honest and willing to share everything. It was also fun to ask her about Virtual Katy, a virtualization of a conforming tool that matches some of her production work on the Lord of the Ring trilogy.

I make mention within the chat of Katy's IMDb listing; if you want to check it out, take a peek here. This could be intimidating, but when you talk to Katy, she is anything but intimidating. It was great to talk to her about her work, and I hope we can find more about her in the near future.

Direct download: podcast_046_KWood.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 3:53 PM

If you spend time around the media art technology forums, you've probably run into Tommy Dog. The iconography is pretty striking (some sort of moose/dog combo smoking a cigarette and giving you the finger...), and the posting will almost always be opinionated - and well-informed. I've had the pleasure of interacting with Tommy over the last decade-and-a-half, but we've never gotten to talk in any depth.

Doing that reveals some surprising things: while Tommy embraces the Punk asthetic, he also considers himself a fan of many kinds of music. He also has significant learning disabilities - which (as you can imagine) make working with media tech a particularly difficult task. And he is fascinated by tech both new and ancient, but he has some specific ideas about what makes for useful technology.

All-in-all, a stellar chat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Direct download: podcast_045_TDog.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 5:51 PM