Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mordake visuals

We just finished a week and a half in the Paul Dresher studio working on the Mordake project with everyone. It's very very preliminary but we did come up with some interesting looks. Who knows if any of it will make it into the final piece, but below are a couple of videos, the first consisting of various clips of interest set to an instrumental version of some of the music, and the second consisting of the opening narration and music with a sketch of some visuals. Sorry for the noisy sound in the first half - it's just from the camera microphone. Melissa Weaver directed, John Duykers performed, visuals by Frieder Weiss, camera mostly by Matt Jones, the room sketch by Lynne Rutter (after Renzo Mongiardino) and music written by me. The gender changing of John's voice was performed by the Korporate Marionettes software, written in the spectral domain by yours truly with help from my dear colleague Thom Blum. It is always a treat to hear John sing and his voice is beautiful when left unencumbered by technology but, just like theatrical blood poured over the body of a beautiful woman, there is something quite excitingly creepy about the altered sound. And I do like the moment where the celesta comes in in a slowed-down stretto retrograde of the tune. Why yes ma'am, I am quite fond of them there irrational rhythms.

For those that care, gender change is typically done by shifting the formant structure of the voice independently of the pitch. In the KM software, the pitch change is accomplished through the use of a phase vocoder, but the smoothed spectral envelope is removed first and reapplied after. We've found that, in general, it's not enough to do the mathematical operation and it's most helpful to have the singer affect their voice just a bit. Women and men tend to sing a little differently stylistically and those cues need to be generated to aid in the suspension of disbelief.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


To Melpomene, as the muse of the tragic descent and the nightmare of addiction, I now give dominion over the adornment and engineering of drug paraphernalia; the detailing of the LSD blotter; the spidery small microcosmic worlds of the speed freak, lathering up a fever at four in the morning at All Star donuts, unable to eat but unable to move, pens laid out in neat rectangles; the shiny polished chrome of the espresso machine; the long lathed ivory cigarette holder and its companion death's head Zippo lighter; the carved meerschaum pipe direct from Turkey with resin screen but (if sold in California) please only for tobacco. But I reserve for the one of many hymns, the muse of the sacred song, the beautification of musical instruments, a sacred musical task if there ever were, sweet lovely but most serious Polyhymnia, a finger held to her mouth to keep us quiet as we look upon the adornment with awe.

Oft-blogged Amy Crehore's very beautiful and hopefully first-in-a-series Tickler ukelele is above. Ooooh I want it. I just discovered that my son Duncan can play most all of the Hank Williams catalog and proved it to me at my mother's home using the same plastic-necked department store uke on which I first learned to play Little Brown Jug. And my favorite of Adrian Card's harpsichords is below. I want that too. I can't play the harpsichord so well and they are surprisingly quiet for those of us raised on 'lectric guitars and synthesizers but lovely as a dream when played well.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friedrich der Große

My old friend Frieder Weiss tootled over the cold Arctic wastelands on a barbarously early flight out of Nürnberg to come to the barren industrial wastelands of West Oakland to work on the Mordake opera. Or whatever we are calling it. There doesn't seem to be a good equivalent to the German word for musiktheater in English. It's either Opera, with all its connotational baggage of heavy breasted women caterwauling dying words of lament, lungs ravaged by tubercles, or it's the milksop of Musical Theater, prancing and skipping its way in to the listener's heartstrings by any means necessary.

threatens to be a radical departure for me in a number of ways, a primarily electronic piece with actual improvisational development, prying just the smallest iota of control from my cold dead fingers both socially and electronically. Plans call for visual and aural interactivity abounding throughout, controlled through John's movement and vocal pitch and spectrum and who knows what else. I'm feeling to be in my element this next week, parading with a cavalcade of the best and brightest, fingers on the keyboards, constructing something from nothing by the force of our will.

Monday, July 9, 2007

It is with such baubles that men are led

The powers that be, in their capricious omniscience, have bestowed an honor on my dear love Lynne Rutter, who has now joined the decorative painting ionosphere. Unfortunately it comes with no estate nor servant, but 'tis a joy nonetheless.
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