Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mike Cooper

The first contact I had with the music of Mike Cooper was through a CDR given to me by a friend. It had been said that Mike would be playing a few shows on the way through Adelaide and I wanted to play some of his music on my radio show, Counter Cannon.

The CD, Extracts, was a sublime introduction to music that is at once familiar and new. Mike Cooper draws on his expertise at slide guitar and an array of tools to build shimmering layers of sound which submerge you while his voice resonates on a number of levels.

The first performance (28/03/06), in the tightly huddled atmosphere of the Exeter hotel dining room was accompanied by local guitarstronaut, Dan V. It was a set of precision and playfulness constructed from layers of guitar loops. Within in each layer, V is able to navigate the space in-between, effortlessly folding sounds together on and on and at unity. The room is hot, dark and stuffy when Dan is finished.

Coming back from the break, things have changed. The lights are on. The air conditioner seems to be working and the fans are swirling on the ceiling. Like a breath of ocean air, Mike Cooper sits facing the audience behind a large dining table full of things. He looks calm and is relaxed as he introduces his piece for the evening. I've learnt to expect the unexpected at these gigs (huge volume, and bizarre setups). Cooper begins by announcing that text will be a feature of program, and he will play a radio work for many parts solo.

Slide guitar mumblings build and Cooper’s music begins to grind lightly in the air. I imagine a gigantic diamond saw cutting up something big; producing the glistening sonic shards which I now hear. Half way through, an audience member has a seizure and is escorted out of the room. Half the audience remains in tension. What do you do? With half the room cleared out to help, Cooper plays on and everyone is okay.

The second evening at Gallery Delicatessen (28/03/06) continues where the last leaves off - with a wave of hello and a bit of crackle. Whatever you call this music, free/folk/impro/exotica, it matters little when you are sitting there, listening and watching. It is free in an intentional way. It's good music is what it is, definitely something to hear.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The GommoG is the Music?

Rather like the palindrome he uses as his moniker, Gordon Munro is a strangely presented person. Introducing himself as a mathematician turned electronic musician, I feel myself recoiling as I prepare to settle in to another math-heavy talk. The link between music and mathematics has always been present and most people, however knowledgeable, will understand that music can be seen as a set of mathematical relationships. (Whether or not that is desirable is another matter). The emergence of computer based music and software has further forged the link between music and maths, for better or worse.

This, it seems, is where Gordon Munro steps in. The first piece which he talks of is entitled EVOCHORD, which stands loosely for "evolving chord". It is a generative artwork which involves visual and sonic representations of genetic algorithms. As Gommog himself states "Evochord is an installation in which a genetic algorithm tries to evolve a harmonious chord." (

Yes, genetic algorithms - as in x and y chromosomes, evolution, Charles Robert Darwin, survival of the fittest, etc. In Evochord, "what is seen and heard is the single most consonant chord of a population of 100 chords inside the computer. Consonance is measured according to a version of a formula from William Sethares" (ibid). The chords mutate over time at varying rates, just like genetics in nature, and Gommog states that his is "hoping to find interesting chords". Rather than simply restating that which is already available on the web, I would suggest you go to the source (Gommog's website) and check it for yourself here if you want to know more.

While I can appreciate the significance of generative artworks, I must admit that I wasn't enamoured with Evochord - both during Gommog's short lecture and the full length version which appeared as part of Project 3's Street Cinema program in the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The overall effect of Evochord is a mild, toneless combination of sight and sound the likes of which you probably haven't seen before.

When we experience Evochord, is it the phenomena of mathematics we are appreciating? Is it the genetic processes involved which we are meant to internalise and take on board? Is it just hearing a bunch of sounds which correlate to an image and a mathematical formula? The simple answer is that the theory is behind the piece is actually much more interesting than the actual piece. To appreciate this piece fully, a theoretical understanding of genetics and genetic processes would be handy.

For me this brings into question the whole realm of Sonic Art. I feel like there is a borderline, if you like, between artistically motivated projects and technology driven projects. I'm not sure. Is there a difference between technological phenomena (feats of programming and technical ability) and artistic practice? Are they both Art? Clearly there is a place where they co-exist and interrelate.

Gommog's Evochord is an interesting case. It seems that new technology is adding countless possibilities to sound, and they can’t all be good. Otherwise my scribbles from year 3 should be hanging in a gallery somewhere. Comments welcome.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Warren Burt

What do you say about a guy with a huge bushy beard and coke bottle glasses that comes into your classroom, is introduced as somebody that knows everything and quite clearly, after a few minutes, knows everything? Some people might call that person God. If you're a sound fanatic, you might just call that person Warren Burt. Not only does he know a lot, but he's a suprisingly approachable, eager and enthusiastic personality who doesn't have his head in the clouds.

Looking over three pages of notes gathered from a talk Burt gave recently for EMU students, it is indeed hard to know where begin. The beginning is probably as good a place as any, however, at the risk of simply writing a a complete personal history and bio that could go on for ever, i will attempt to abbreviate and keep to a few of the major strains of Burt's work. Speciifically, this will focus on Burt's concerns with randomness, interface and interaction.

Randomness is a major preoccupation for Burt's work. Among the many criticisms of contemporary music technology is the popular conception that computers and technology are making music stale. A casual conversation about this might include conceptions that computers make music formulaic, too easy for bad musicians to produce etc, etc. I'm sure we've all heard it before.

From an early age then, Burt has seemed committed to embracing the random. From pounding the notes and pedals of his Hammond organ while sliding the controls faders up and down to creating analogue synthesisers and banging components with hammers to induce/enforce randominity into the circuitry - it seams to be in his blood. Indeed, upon further research, the idea of randomness has been an important and influential area in many of the physical sciences, most obviously in mathematics, but also in biology and others.

More recently we have seen the advertising campaign for the iPod Shuffle. Here we see a celebration of the random and finally a product which can bring randomness to the everyday reality of our lives. I say that tongue in cheek of course, but it goes to show that Burt has been switched on to an emerging current, regardless of how supercilious a 'shuffle' button might ultimately be.

Another area which has interested Burt is the area of interface and interaction between sound/music and other areas. His work with 3DIS, a video to MIDI interface, and Chaos, a pitch to MIDI interface, evidence this area of interest and recently he as used the software application Plogue Bidule to use everyday computer hardware, such as game controllers, as the means of data input.

The idea of information cycles and loops has been yet another important area of interest for Burt. One of the ways he has been able to do this is by working with dancers. An example of this was a piece where a dancer used parabolic reflectors to record sounds on location at a beach. Burt then treated the sounds ever so slightly and these sounds, based on the dancers first movements, became the score.

Warren Burt's program for Street Theatre (part of Project 3), linked together audio and visual random processes.

Warren Burt,
I wonder what's in your yurt?
No doubt random,
Tea pots on the roof
and few hammers lying around.
I wouldn't like to wager,
on where you'll venture next

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Robin Minard

Robin Minard is a well known artist who, since the late 80's, has contributed significantly to the field of sound installation/design ( However, while he made a name for himself working with sound and space, he began his career as a classically trained composer.

This transition from composer to sound artist is most interesting when one considers Minard’s latest work, Silent Music 2006, which is currently on display until the 19th as part Project 3's contribution to the Adelaide Festival 2006.

Starting out in the 70s, Minard studied music composition in Montreal, Canada. During these formative years Minard recalls the city's underground labyrinth of tunnels which allow people to commute without having to weather Montreal's freezing cold surface temperatures. One feature of these tunnels, amongst the mass of humanity purposely shuffling shoulder to shoulder from one place to another, was the piped muzak. Notorious for its bland, unassuming and inoffensive blah, muzak was - and perhaps still is - most popular with administrators and HR departments for its ability to increase worker productivity and influence shopping habits (

Reminiscing, Minard estimates that he spent way too much time listening to muzak in Montreal's underground network (Minard 05/03/06). This problem was compounded for Minard when he gave thought to the amount of time spent listening to Muzak and the amount of time he spent listening to things he liked, for example concerts, performances and recordings. It is this feeling of frustration with public space and sound which informs his career as a sound installation artist.

In the 1980s Minard began serious work on his new ideas against the backdrop of Berlin, itself an arts capital at the time. He set off specifically to make music “designed for space – not for listening but for perception” (ibid). In order to do this however, Minard choose not to use conventional scores scales, finding that traditional music forms loose meaning in public space.

In Silent Music, Minard’s work draws attention to the blurred line between synthetic and organic. While this is a theme which has received considerable attention of late, Minard’s work takes somewhat of a different approach to a theme dominated by questions of interface and compatibility. Silent Music explores instead the borderline from the perspective of seamlessness integration; where does the organic end and the synthetic begin?

We are all familiar with the patterns of plant structures, and it is no coincidence that Minard decides to arrange his speakers in floral patterns. These arrangements emit staggered washes of sound reminiscent of crickets, running water, underwater clicks and bird chirps which are at the same time familiar/unfamiliar, identifiable/non-identifiable – synthetically organic or vice versa.

Silent Music reminds us that small sounds are important too and that sounds play an important role in constructing space. While visiting the installation I struck up a conversation with an elderly lady. She had come to get away from the noise and hustle of Writers Week to experience “a place of beauty, reflection and contemplation”, as it stated on the Project 3 flyer. When I said had come to the right place she said, “Yes, but the seats aren’t very comfortable!” And what she said was the truth concrete blocks with wooden slats.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Things to do

Well. It is certainly festivial time in this wonderful city called Adelaide. Throngs of rucking pensioners compete for places on tour busses and bewildered people leave Fringe venues not knowing whether to ask for their money back or be glad that they managed to escape at all.

Still, not everything falls under the dual festival umbrellas. It just so happens that there is a concert series planed at the delicatessen gallery of wierd and wonderful things. Here are the details, as pasted from So have a read for yourself. Yours truly will be performing in The Glitch Collective. I never did likte the term concert though...

Gallery de la Catessen concert series

dedicated to experimental, electronic, minimalist, contemporary classical, computer, and improvised music - composed and performed by Adelaide's most exciting musicians in these fields.
event 10
Tristan Louth-Robbins
Christian Haines
Seb Tomczak
event 11
MARCH 14th
Alex Carpenter
Luke Altmann
event 12
ShiVna Kaun
The Glitch Collective
event 13
MARCH 23rd
Daniel Varricchio
Gallery de la Catessen
9 Anster St, Adelaide 0429 098 769 All concerts 8pm
$5 entry.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Counter Canon

Counter Canon. What is it? To be honest, we're not quite sure.

Well, we know a few things: Its definitely a student radio program on Radio Adelaide and the first show will be this Fri (and everyone after) 10th of March - starting at midnight.

That's 101.5 FM if you live in the Adelaide metro-ish area.
or for connected people.

What can you expect? Well, firstly you will hear experimental and local music. We also hope to incorporate themes into the show (first one is Dada), aswell as a vaugely literary section and opportunities for interviews and artist/scene profiles.

So tune in and keep your ear to the ground!

- Suggestions, demos, whatever welcome.

Friday, March 03, 2006


The Moo Music Void Collective is now online.

This blog begins as a student project.

- "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery"