Live Performance at the Opening Reception of ACM Multimedia 2013

A little more than one year ago, Alex Jaimes and I collaborated on a live intermedia performance for the Opening Reception of the ACM Multimedia 2013 conference in Barcelona Spain. The video below records part of the performance, but it was made with a small pocket digital camera, using the built-in mic, and I was very preoccupied with the performance itself. Unfortunately this is the only record I have of the performance.

It was held October 24, 2013 at the Foment de les Arts i del Disseny, which is housed in an ancient stone building next to Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Museum. We worked with contemporary dancer Laida Azkona and violinist Paloma de Juan who was one of Alex’s colleagues at Yahoo Research Labs in Barcelona. Paloma’s day job is research engineer, whereas Laida is a profession contemporary dancer who has studied and performed around the world.

Again the quality of this video recording is not good, but perhaps it gives some impression of the performance.

The next video is from the first rehearsal for the live performance. Alex, Laida, and I met at my apartment the same day I arrived in Barcelona and we had our first rehearsal a day or two later. We had two more rehearsals after that, which includes a brief one after we had setup and sound-checked on the day of the opening reception. Since Alex and I worked remotely we could not prepare much beforehand, though I had already written and tested the programs needed for capturing movements and converting them to OSC for controlling the video projections. The video clips themselves were edited at the last moment, partly during a visit to Alex’s home in Barcelona. It was a busy but exciting trip!

Motor Vehicle Sundown – George Brecht (dedicated to John Cage)

This is one of the events kicking off the annual NIME-12 conference, which will be held starting next weekend at the University of Michigan. Really looking forward to this and all the other exciting things that will be happening at NIME-12. Nice also that this performance is part of the centennial brithday celebrations for our patron saint, John Cage.

From the University of Michigan Museum of Art web site:

As the lights go down on UMMA’s exhibition Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life, please join us for a rare performance of Motor Vehicle Sundown, written by Fluxus artist George Brecht and dedicated to the American composer John Cage. This performance by students and faculty from the University of Michigan is presented in conjunction with the annual International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), and in celebration of John Cage’s 2012 centennial. Motor Vehicle Sundown is written for any number of motor vehicles arranged outdoors. In true Cagean fashion, 22 timed auditory and visual events and 22 pauses written on randomly shuffled instruction cards are performed on each vehicle.

The performance will take place in parking Lot C-2 on the south side of N. University at Thayer, next to Kraus Natural Science Building.

This program is co-sponsored by NIME, the UM School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, the UM College of Engineering and UMMA. Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life was organized by the Hood Museum of Art and was generously supported by Constance and Walter Burke, Dartmouth College Class of 1944, the Marie-Louise and Samuel R. Rosenthal Fund, and the Ray Winfield Smith 1918 Fund. UMMA’s installation is made possible in part by the University of Michigan Health System, the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Arts at Michigan, and the CEW Frances and Sydney Lewis Visiting Leaders Fund.

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Strobe Castle

Continuing with the YouTube vignettes, but skipping ahead about 30 years, here’s an intriguing live video of Toronto band Crystal Castles doing Alice Practice which was a hit a few years ago. I shudder to think about the cocktail Alice Glass may need to imbibe before such exhibitions, but the video does at least demonstrate the kind of engaging performance that can be possible  with even a very lo-fi approach.

Oddly enough this video reminded me of my early youth: I sometimes played with a high powered strobe light my father used for adjusting the timing of the car engine. It seems no one was very worried about photosensitive epilepsy in those days, though we did have the idea that the strobe might be able to trigger a seizure. I certainly tried out all the possible frequencies more for visual effect than neurological experiment. We sometimes used the strobe to turn the basement into a makeshift disco. This was during elementary school and my interest in art and technology may date to those experiences.

Ich glotz YouTube

Everyone should know about Nina Hagen.

She wasn’t the first to wear memento mori as a fashion statement: that must go back to Neanderthal times at least. But she may have been the first modern pop star to do so. And she may have been the first to wear pacifier earrings, or perhaps that’s something she noticed a punk doing when she visited London after defecting  East Germany in ’76. Legend has it the punks loved Nina. Who wouldn’t? Isn’t that a Diana camera around her neck? This is about 25 years ahead of the toy camera hipstas!

I was 16 years old when I heard her voice. There has never been anyone else quite like Nina.

As Slow As Possible

A performance of the slowest and longest musical piece in the world is underway in the church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt, Germany, pictured above. The piece, ASLSP, was written for piano by John Cage in 1985, then re-written for organ in 1987. Cage recommended that the piece be played “as slow as possible”, hence the title ASLSP, but did not specify its exact duration. In the year 2000, a performance of the ASLSP was started using an automatic organ. The duration of the the performance is set to last 639 years. Why Halberstadt and why 639 years? From the website of the project:

Michael Praetorius, a composer of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, wrote that an organ with the first modern keyboard arrangement had been built in Halberstadt’s cathedral in 1361. This organ was the first one with a claviature of 12 notes and this claviature is used on our keyboard instruments today. So one can say that the cradle of modern music was in Halberstadt. Subtract 1361 from the millennial year 2000, and the result is 639.

The performance is streamed over the web and can be listened to at the link: ASLSP. The project description contains the following lovely thought:

In view of our fast moving age, this piece of music is a way of trying to slow down our hectic lives. The “discovery of slowness” and the planting of a “musical apple tree” can be understood as symbols of confidence in the future.

I learned about this project via Prof. Clark Lunberry, who guest lectured in the seminar last year.

n.b. The images above reside on and are linked from the website of the ASLSP project.