MoogFest Wrap-up

Well, I had plans to post a daily blog entry for each day of MoogFest.. but to be honest… It was way too much fun to spend time writing a blog each day.  So let’s go thru the experience a bit.

Friday started with a four our session to build a new sequencer.  The MoogFest Engineer ticket gets you time with the designer of a new piece of kit, and you actually get to build your own.  This year was a BFAM (Brother From another Mother) which is a companion piece to the Mother-32.  Having not soldered since high school I was a bit worried, but it was so well organized and layed out that after 261 solder points, I am almost an export.  (Well at least capable).

My board had small capacitor on it that was broken and I had Eric from the design team replace it for me.  We ended the four our session with a completely soldered board, and ready for Saturday’s session when we finished build the case and actually running a few audio tests.  What a BLAST!  The sound of the BFAM was full, loud and fun!

Friday after noon I was only able to do one session, it was a set of video’s with a live performance by “I Speak Machine”.  The movies were entertaining, but the music was very cool.  The show ended with an ambient version of Gary Numan’s song “Cars”, by I Speak Machine.

The rest of the night was live performances at the Carolina Theater’s  Fletcher Hall. The performers were all very trance ‘ ambient music like.  Rival Consoles was the most exciting of the three, jamming to the his own music.  Alessandro Cortini was a bit too relaxed for my taste, and Grouper sat on the stage playing here guitar (and synthesizers).  I was in the front row and couldn’t tell when Grouper was actually playing things, as I saw more of her forehead than anything else.

The night ended for me with Gary Numan playing his “Pleasure Principal” album!  This is the concert that he cancelled in Atlanta back in 2010 that I had attended.  So I finally got to see it and he did an awesome job!

Saturday started with a great session all about Max-MSP, with the instrucuter showing how he uses it to build very ambient videos for live electronic shows.  And then a session on how the ear and brain understands Music.  The session was really interesting and informative; however, it came down to they had no idea how the brain understood music.  So the title was a bit misleading. 

I then went back to finish up building my Brother From Another Mother sequencer.  It was tons of fun, and I am looking forward to using the device to create a new entry sound for my podcast GamesAtWork dot Biz. Check out this final image of my new toy:

I then quickly went over to the Carolina Theater to see the final Gary Numan Show… One of my favorite albums of his – Telekon!  I decided to sit in the front row of the first balcony which allowed me a great view of the stage show and some incredible pictures –  like this one:

Sunday morning started with playing with LittleBits and building an IR LED based sound device… The show ended for me after watching Laurie Anderson on Sunday afternoon.  I’ve liked her performances since the song “Oh, Superman!” From my days in high school.  She was amazing as she talked about some of here recent work, including an exhibit where she built a giant seated statue where she projected the live video feed from one of the former Gitmo prisoners.  The guy is now in West Africa, where he is working to promote women’s rights.  He had been rounded up in Afganistan at the age of 14… He claimed not to be a Talbian supporter, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Given what he is doing now, and that he was never actually charged with anything… I tend to believe him.

She also talked about her experience as the ONLY ever NASA artist in residence.  Amazing speaker… Bummed I missed here performance on Saturday, but it conflicted with finishing up my BFAM Sequencer.  A few other interesting artists I saw where “I Speak Machine” and “Silver Apples“… Check them out!!!

MoogFest 2016 – Day 1

This is my first time at MoogFest (and I’ve been dying to go since I first heard about it a few years back).  This year is the first year that it is downtown Durham, and they are doing it up right!  I ended up getting the VIP Engineer setup, so I can make my own Synthesizer tomorrow (more to come on that – probably Saturday), they had a check in at The Durham Hotel and I picked up my Swag Bag.  The nice thing is, it is a tote bag, especially since I can’t carry my backpack into events after 6pm.  I started the day checking out the spaces, and ended up over at the Full Frame Film location.  This was the presentation of Beats and Star Wars.  While I didn’t really pay attention to the write up, it was a great presentation on a local space and the work of a UNC Chapel Hill professor, who is going around the world helping people get into producing music with everything you can carry in one backpack.  

They just launched a KickStarter for BlackSpace – I highly recommend you check it out, especially if you want to support the creative community in Durham.  

I checked out the modular marketplace, where a bunch of synth companies are setup to show off cool kit.  I spent some time playing with  the Artiphon – which was pretty amazing.  I had checked out their Kickstarter a while back, but never thought it would really work.  But, work it does!  (In my best Yoda voice). You can bend the strings, change instruments, and shift the pitch up and down… With amazing ease.   The device is $399, which is a bit rich for me, but anyone who actually plays music should find this to be completely within the range for a good instrument.  If you are in town, and ever wanted to see what this thing could be, go check them out!

I spent the afternoon in a session called The Code of Music, the session was a workshop where we tested out a bunch of apps, to get a feel for how music could be made.  We then designed our own musical experience based on design principles.  I came up with an idea loosely based on a combination of “The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T”, The “Top Secret” Drum Corp, and the App Fugue Machine.  The basic idea is a performance piece where you have up to 1,000 kids on a stadium field.  Each kid has a keyboard for use with one hand, a wearable sensor, and a simple arpeggio that they play.  As the move around the field, the sensors in the wearable will adjust the pitch of the keyboard.  At a pre described distance from other kids, it will be in harmony.  As they get closer, it gets more and more into dissident sound, as the pitches start bending towards each other.  Finally as the kids touch, it becomes the same notes.  So they get to a clear and perfect pitch.   Crazy idea, I know, but would be pretty awesome to see!!

I then walked around and found that I could pick up all three live albums (signed) by Gary Numan from his UK Tour of his classic albums. These are the same three albums he’s going to be playing at MoogFest!  So I picked them up.  Can’t wait to hear them after the shows here in Durham!  Here’s a pic:

Why do routers suck so much?

I’ve had a wireless network in my house since about 2001, and in these 15 years.. I’ve noticed that the quality of routers has declined a lot.  I don’t know if this is caused by my ISP, or by the routers themselves.  When I first setup my house, I actually had a dial up modem that would be used to connect to the net.. I then switched over to a cable modem.  Since switching to a cable modem, I’ve had the same ISP the entire time, and while speeds have increased and the number of devices I’ve had connected has also increased, the overall performance has degraded.  I find myself at least once a week and sometimes multiple times a day, having to reboot my router, and my cable modem. 

I’ve gone from d-link, to Apple, and now a google On-Hub router, and none of it seems to make a difference.  The cable modem is a standard surfboard, that the cable company recommends, even though I bought my own (and have replaced it once already).

I understand that a cable modem setup, actually puts you on a shared network with your neighbors, but that shouldn’t cause a problem if the entire network is setup correctly.  I am wondering if there is a good site for debugging where the problem is?

The joys of work related travel

I can’t sleep on planes anymore.  This is a big problem when traveling to Europe, as you almost always have a redeye, which to me means working thru the night on the plane, and then trying to get a hotel to let me do an early check-in, so I can shower, and perhaps catch a nap before heading to the office.  

Well my current trip wasn’t going to let that happen.  When I left home to fly up to JFK on the way to Zurich, I had a small delay in RTP.  This wasn’t going to be a problem as I had 3 hours between landing in NY and flying out to Zurich.  Little did I know that, this was only the start of the fun.  In RTP, we had a small ground hold, and then when we landed at JFK, we ended up getting parked on the Tarmac. We got to take a bus, to get to the terminal all.  All very unplanned, and adding about 45 minutes total delay to the 1st leg of the flight.

After this, I was able to grab a quick dinner, and head to my gate.  Unfortunately there was no plane.  We had mechanical problem and after about an hour delay, the plane showed up.  While I waited I did get to see a nice NY sunset:

We finally boarded and then had to wait another half hour on the plane before we actually got in the air.  So far, only 90 minutes behind.  When we landed I had a very expensive cab ride to a wonderfully quaint hotel recommended by a local.  And now I sit and wait for the reception to show up so I can check in.   It’s gonna be a very long day.