Soft Machine – French T.V. – 1967

Just noticed this clip of  Soft Machine on French T.V. from the legendary early period. Pop music was really experimental in that era! Looks like they’re improvising. Check out the mic technique mid-video – could that be something they picked up from Stockhausen? Robert Wyatt’s shirt looks really Pop Art. I actually have a few memories of 1967: I was five years old.

What a great find! Just wish whoever digitized the video had known how to handle the interlace.

Danse Neurale: NeuroSky + Kinect + OpenFrameworks

This performances makes use of the NeuroSky EEG sensor as well as the Kinect. Visuals and music are driven by EEG and registered with the performers body using the Kinect. It seems their system runs under OpenFrameworks. In fact, I noticed this video in the OF gallery. The second half of the video consists of an interview with the technical team and performer.

This performance uses off-the-shelf technology but is cutting edge in more than one sense. No one can accuse these guys of lacking commitment.

A project page may be found here: Danse Neurale.

They generously list the code used to acquire signals from the NeuroSky server in the OF forum. This part of the system is written in P5 (Processing).

Here are a few details on the technical background of the work, given by one of the creators in the OF forum:


– breath: it’s sensed with a wireless mic positioned inside Lukas’ mask. its signal goes directly through a mixer controlled by the audio workstation

– heart: it’s sensed with modified stethoscope connected with a wireless mic; signal works just like the breath (we’re not sure, but in the future we may decide to apply some DSP on it)

– EEG: we use the cheaper sensor from NeuroSky; it streams brainwaves (already splitted into frequencies) via radio in a serial like protocol; these radio packets arrive to my computer where they’re parsed, conveted into OSC and broadcasted via wifi (we only have 2 computers on stage, but the idea is that if we have an affine hacker soul between the public, he/she can join the jam session 🙂 )

– skeleton tracking: it’s obviously done with ofxOpenNI (as you can see in the video we also stage the infamous “calibration pose”, because we wanted to let people understand as much as possible what was going on)

The audio part maps the brainwave data onto volumes and scales, while the visual part uses spikes (originated i.e. by the piercings and by the winch pulling on the hooks) to trigger events; so, conceptually speaking, the wings are a correct representation of Lukas’s neural response and they really lift him off the ground.

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.

Glam Days

Hopefully this blog will not degenerate into a series of YouTube highlights, but since I broke the ice with the Nina Hagen post, I thought I’d add another peek at an era young viewers are probably not familiar with. Frankly, the beginning of term leads me to seek relaxation on certain days (you might be able to guess specifically which days) and there are times when light entertainment is needed.

First up, “White Punks on Dope” by The Tubes, a tongue-in-cheek send-up of early 70’s glam band excess. You’ll recognize the tune from Nina Hagen’s “TV Glotzer”: Nina borrowed the song but changed the words. Not sure how that would have worked out copyright-wise. Other than being hilarious, this video is a record of the Tubes’ UK tour, which made an impact on early UK punk, or so goes the story.

This dates back to my pre-teen years. I can vaguely recall this catchy tune being on the radio. My family made a trip back home to the UK in the early 1970’s and I can remember watching glam bands on TV, most likely on “Top of the Pops” rather than the more mature “Old Grey Whistle Test”. I also have a surreal memory of some teachers getting our class to dance to Gary Glitter‘s early 70’s glam anthem “Rock and Roll Part 2”. That must have been either grade six or seven.

Two excellent acts of the glam era were David Bowie and Brian Eno (with Roxy Music during Glam). First, a recently re-discovered video of David Bowie in a 1973 Top of the Pops performance of “The Jean Genie” a pun on the name of controversial writer Jean Genet. It seems that the BBC had erased this video tape, but one of the cameramen had saved a copy because it used a television camera customized with fisheye lens. The video showed up on YouTube late last year.

In the final video for today, you can watch Brian Eno, when he still had feathers, playing the tambourine and soloing the VCS3 during his glam days with po-mo art school rockers Roxy Music. The VCS3 was an early commercial synth that had only three oscillators and rather unstable voltage controls. These days a VC3 in good condition will fetch more than £5000.

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.