Art + Music + Technology

I don't often get to talk to superstars - there are simply too many layers between who I am and what they do. So, generally, gear and creativity talk aren't in the mix for most stars' PR blitzes. However, Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5) and Jason Lader (pretty much EVERYBODY!) have put out an EP as "The Circuit Jerks", and they reached out to me to talk about the process. This release, called EP1, features some unusual tracks, including two 1:11:11-long tracks that are pretty mind-bending.

What I really enjoyed about this conversation is the recognition that star status doesn't change your passions - and these two guys are rabid modular fans. I'm sorry that this chat is going to disappoint Maroon 5 fans that want to know about Jesse's love life, or train spotters that want to know what kind of shoes Elvis Costello wears in the studio. We talked hard core gear-geek talk, praising Doepfer modules, video performance tools and imagining a future of net-based sync.

Alas, at the end of the chat the real world steps in (the manager hung up on us *exactly* on schedule), and we go on our merry ways. But for a little bit, we really got an insight into the point of passion in your work, and how excitement expresses itself in music-making. This was a lot of fun, and I owe these guys for sharing the time with us.


Direct download: podcast_149_CJerks.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 10:46am CDT

Douglas Eck and the Magenta Project first came onto my radar by doing a podcast that was posted on the Web Audio API Weekly email, and I found his discussion about music and machine learning to be compelling and focused. I reached out to him, and things came together quickly: he invited me to Google for a visit with his team, and also got the planning into motion for this podcast. Once it cleared all the hurdles, we were on!

We didn't have a lot of time, but it is clear that Douglas is experienced in presenting the Magenta team's vision "in the time allotted" - whatever that time might be. He certainly packed a lot of information into the small amount of time I was able to talk to him. Trying to understand how machine learning can work within a musical environment - as well as how it can draw musicians in, rather than pushing them away - is something I'd never considered, but it is clear that this is a big part of how the team is imagining their work.

If you are interested in musical machine learning as a concept, you'll want to check out the Magenta project at its website, and also get some basic machine learning education wherever you can find it. Hearing about the successes that Google has had with "deep learning" and "reinforcement training" is pretty interesting, and it is exciting to watch this stuff develop from the ground floor.

Want to get involved? The Magenta project is open-source, and is actively interacting with artists and art-tech folks as they are able. Start by reading their site, test-driving their tooling from Github and learning more along the way.


Direct download: podcast_148_DEck.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 9:47am CDT

This one was a bit difficult for me: when I'm talking to people about gear or circuits or code, I have no problem. But when it comes to talking about how our bodies work? I'm generally at a loss. Luckily, El Larson was very helpful as I stumbled through the words to talk about what she does. So when you hear me struggling, there it is.

In any case, it is really cool to hear about El's work with the Tibetan Bowls and a modular synth. She's thoughtful about the way that she integrates the instruments into her practice, and is also willing to talk about it. So finding out how she works, how she prepares for a session and how she deals with the variety of personalities she encounters - it's all in the open.

Additionally, though, it's great to hear about a completely different musical practice, and to find out how sound can be used to physically help people. I've not participated in a session (although now I'm pretty intrigued), but I've heard incredible things from friends, and am very curious.

In addition to the sound practice, El is also an active artist/performer - with a recent high-profile project with Millie Brown being a prime example. Balancing the practice with the artistic urge is at the heart of El's life, and it was really interesting to learn more about it.

You can learn more about El's work at her website. Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_147_ELarson.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:19pm CDT

What can be said about Robert Henke that hasn't already been said a thousand times? A tireless inventor, music producer, visual artist and programmer, Robert has been at the front of so much - and for me he's been a constant inspiration. He's also become a good friend over the years, and I can believe it's taken me this long to interview him for the podcast. But I always want to be careful about his time; luckily, he's at a good point for a chat, and you get to listen in!

In this talk, we go over Robert's ideas about music gear, collaboration (he's worked with some amazing people...), balancing different types of work, and choosing areas to explore. He also reveals himself to be an "obsessed pragmatic": he's has a love for detail, but he has to fight his inner voices to make sure that he produces work.

Who can't understand that?

So please enjoy this talk, and if you get a chance, give a listen to the latest Monolake release: VLSI. It's a great combo of analog, digital and hybrid, and makes for some inspirational listening.

Direct download: podcast_146_RHenke.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 8:15am CDT