The Calendar Is A Lie!
Shouldn’t Summer Solstice be the 182nd day of the year?
Yes. It should.
End of report.
The Calendar Is A Lie!
Shouldn’t Summer Solstice be the 182nd day of the year?
Yes. It should.
End of report.
On Feb. 6, 2017, I ordered my Genuino Starter Kit online. Eight days later, it arrived! All the way from Hungary, in fact.
I’ve done some programming in the past, including an app “Accelerando Metronomo” for iOS and some PC stuff, but Arduino is different because it’s more in the physical realm, with resistors and wires and whatnot! The starter kit come with a bunch of that stuff, and an instruction book full of projects. Of course, I’ve been putting my own twist on things. Going solely by the book would be sad.
It’s turned out to be addictive already, as I expected. Each project is usually centered around learning how to implement some new concept or element, like arrays or timers, etc. One my first creations was this one-button piezo synthesizer with pot-controlled pitch:
I video-recorded a few of these projects in action. The first one, uploaded Feb. 25, is my spin on the light theremin project: I made the brightness affect the length of each note as well as its pitch. The torch on the phone’s videocamera is controlling the sound:
I also made a simple metronome with a Tap Tempo function. My Tap Tempo in this one is smarter than some other Tap Tempo circuits; after a period of no-tapping idle time equal to four times the latest tap interval, it assumes the user is finished tapping and wants to use the result, and it also becomes ready for a new set of Tap Tempo information. This avoids some of the problems with typical Tap Tempo algorithms, such as a long wait being misinterpreted as a desire for a slow tempo.
The next video shows a “Call And Response” circuit in action. It collects light-brightness data from the solar cell for a few seconds, and then responds by retransmitting that same brightness data as sound, with brighter light creating higher-pitched sounds, while darkness is lower. The process repeats, allowing a new “light” performance and “sound” imitation. The project features a “loop” option which repeats the sound result indefinitely instead of returning to light-collecting mode.
The next video, uploaded yesterday, is able to calculate the necessary ratios and apply them to pitch in order to create an Equal Temperament scale, which means dividing an octave into any number of equal divisions (from 1 all the way up to 100, in my program). The standard Chromatic Scale, which makes up the most familiar music theory, is 12 divisions to the octave. Other examples: 6 divisions is the same as the Whole-Tone scale, 4 divisions is a Diminished 7th chord, 3 divisions is the augmented chord, 2 divisions is the Tritone, and 1 division makes the Octave itself. Twenty-four divisions is the Quarter-Tone Scale. Any other choice divisions-per-octave (5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 22, 31, 100, etc.) starts to sound pretty alien, or out-of-tune, compared to the usual. The program plays notes from the scale in random order. I made several of the parameters user-adjustible: Steps-Per-Octave (1-100), Number-of-Octaves range (1-10), Chance-for-Silence (percentage, 0-100), Length-of-Note (millisec, 50-1000 or random), Quantize (portion of longest note, including 1/4, 1/8, etc.) and Start/Stop. I used a base “root” frequency of 54 Hz, because it’s a few octaves lower than 432 Hz. I ran the output through a guitar amp with echo & reverb. New learning items include “interrupts” and “arrays”.
Maybe you noticed in the last video, a different breadboard. Trip to the electronics store, BOOYAH! I thought that buying better pushbuttons would solve the problem of buttons popping out of the breadboard, but it turns out that all breadboards are not created equal, and a new breadboard solved more than one problem. The one that came with the starter kit actually got destroyed when I was removing it from the mounting plate:
Next on the agenda (or soon)… use capacitors. Eventually: robots, guitar pedals, etc. I don’t know. Hardware version of Accelerating Metronome, of course.
End of report.
“Down The River (A Crossroads Story)”
by Sean Alexander Luciw
‘Twas a chilly evening, dreary and ominous. Twiddling his digits inside the pockets of his old tweed jacket, Robert waited nervously at the prescribed location, standing beside his worn-out guitar case. “I wonder if he’ll show up. I’ll be damned if this ain’t some prank,” he mused. The teasing moon seemed to hover for an eternity above his fidgeting and doubt, until he finally saw the dusty plume approaching in the distance. Robert checked over his shoulder, this way and that, to see if he had any unwelcome audience. “Coast is clear,” he thought.
As the speeding car approached, a few more clouds seemed to gather around the moon, like some grey scarf. The looming headlamps possessed an unusually reddish hue. “Is that a Duesenberg? Well I’ll be… I guess this guy does mean business after all!” The imposing vehicle slowed to a casual halt beside where he stood. Little rolls of dust sauntered past the long dark red frame and faded. The engine purred like a savage beast ready to pounce. Robert peered at the blackened windows, waiting for his business dealer to emerge.
The window rolled down, barely an inch, and the deep voice asked, “Are you R. L. Johnson?”
“That’s me,” Robert replied somewhat nervously. He noticed that the voice sounded somewhat like a slowed-down phonograph record. This was starting to feel a little too real, but there was no turning back now. He took a deep breath to gather himself. Coming from a place of weakness is no way to do business.
The engine stopped and the suicide door opened. A tall man stepped out of the car, bringing a briefcase in his left hand. Robert noticed the shoes first, but the fancy pinstripe suit was equally impressive. “So, you’re ready to make a deal with me?” asked the tall man.
“That’s what I’m here for. My guitar’s right here,” he answered as he thudded the grungy old case.
“And you understand the price?”
“My soul is no big price to pay. I won’t be using it when I’m dead.”
The devil laughed as he opened the briefcase, “Let’s get on with it, then.” He pulled out the contract and began reading. “Under witness of eternal universal forces, this contract does bind the undersigned Robert Leroy Johnson to the following agreement with the Dark Lord Satan…”
“Wait!” Robert interjected. His mind was starting to panic. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Maybe I can do this without your help.”
“Hah! Robert. Leroy, my dear boy – let me straight with you. I am fully familiar with the legendary awfulness that’s been squeaking out of that guitar of yours. At your current rate of progress, you’ll be jamming in graveyards with your friends for an eternity before you ever start carrying a tune. How much more time do you want to waste? Please, stop mocking us all.”
Robert deflated. The devil was right. Robert wanted the blues. Hell, he wanted to be the blues. He wanted it so bad he could almost taste it. He was born for success and he knew it. The fame, the ladies… the music! The mere thought perked him up again.
“Music, sweet music,” the Devil uttered slowly, as if reading Robert’s mind. He put the briefcase, with the contract, back on the car seat. “Why don’t you pull out that guitar and we’ll get started.”
Robert excitedly put the case flat on its back and unlatched the lid. “I want to be the best,” he said. “I want to be the blues!” He shoved the guitar towards his abettor, still grasping. He looked the devil in the eye. “The ladies will swoon, you got me, devil?”
“A little demanding, are we?” Satan laughed and put his hand around the guitar neck. Robert surrendered the instrument and a faint thunderclap echoed in the distant mountains. The devil strummed the strings in a seemingly random fashion and expertly adjusted the tuning pegs, twisting the sound through some mysterious morphing until it settled into a sweet harmony.
“I want to be the best.”
“Indeed,” the devil responded as he kept strumming.
“I want to be remembered.”
“Oh, you will be. Now that you mention it, I could sweeten the deal if you like.”
“How’s that, devil?”
“Just imagine… all future blues guitarists expressing their gratitude and debt to the mighty blues legend, the one-and-only Robert Johnson. Your fame and influence could extend far into the future through all of them!” The devil grinned at the sight of Robert’s eyes lighting up. “We are talking about a sort of immortality here. Figuratively speaking, of course. But it will cost you.”
“Name the payment.”
“Ah, great. Great! There is a little clause I’ve been preparing, for just the right occasion. Now is the time, it seems.”
“The price is large,” the devil assured as he handed the finely-tuned instrument back to its owner. A wind began to howl.
“What? What! What is this damned price?”
“I would very much like to start a special collection – a poetically-themed sort of tradition which ought to unfold just beautifully over the coming ages,” the devil tells, wringing his hands ominously. “Let me retrieve the contract and it will all become clear.” He grabs the document from the car and pulls a quill from his jacket pocket.
Strumming his freshly enchanted guitar, Robert remarks at the tone, “Heavenly!”
Satan begins iterating the details of the contract, poking it with the pen as he speaks. “In exchange for aforementioned musical skills, fame, sex appeal, general embodiment of the blues and furthermore continued eternal relevance through the musical actions and words of future blues artists, Robert Leroy Johnson does hereby offer his own soul to the Dark Lord Satan…”
“This guitar really sounds great.”
Satan continued, “…and does also, by proxy, offer the souls of the following list of musicians, born and unborn both…”
“Whoah, what you say, devil?”
“…whose souls shall be each collected, through their death, during their 27th year of life.”
“Twenty-seven? What in tarnation?”
“I’m a numbers guy, what can I say?”
“Dammit, you devil!”
“Ahem. The list of names is as follows: Robert Leroy Johnson…”
“Stop! What? I have to die when I’m 27? You’re pulling my leg, you… you shyster,” Robert protested in sudden angst.
“I would never joke about something so serious. Do you want this, or don’t you?”
The entire midnight scene became deathly silent, and the few straggling clouds cleared away. Robert Leroy could feel the moon staring down at him. After a long moment of reflection, and with downward eyes, he answered, “Yes. Yes.”
“Good,” and Satan slowly continued to read his famous list… “Robert Leroy Johnson, Brian Jones, Alan Blind Owl Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron Pigpen McKernan, Mia Zapata, Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff, Amy Winehouse, Anton Yelchin…”
2016 – I Can’t Complain…
I know, everybody’s complaining about how 2016 was the worst year ever. Apparently I’m an anomaly.
Last things first… Celebrity deaths. I never met any of these people. We all die eventually. I certainly respect and value the contributions of musicians, actors, etc. but I don’t feel or think that I personally “lost” David Bowie. I can still listen to his music. The Beatles are very close to the top of my list of favourite music ever to come from planet Earth and make an impression on my tiny little life, but George Martin’s passing did not leave a hole in my heart. His gift to the world will last forever, and death cannot take that away. People’s reactions seem selfish in a way… Prince gave us all this amazing music, and we have the nerve to complain that we now can’t have more? We each have only so much to give.
The deaths that truly affected me are those closer to home… my Mum died 7 years ago. Death can feel so unfair and confusing. No amount of wishing can bring someone back, but we have our memories to be thankful for – memories of the person and their influence upon us.
It’s not that I’m completely uncaring towards the deaths of celebrities specifically, or strangers more generally. I guess my caring is mostly mental rather than emotional. Yesterday was a turnaround moment for me in this regard. I suddenly joined the club of celebrity mourners when Carrie Fisher died. This is not only a mental sadness for me, it’s emotional. I feel like I knew here even though she never knew me. Strange, huh? It makes me wonder if there’s something inherently twisted about televised entertainment, the way there’s a one-way connection that happens.
I’m sure it’s simple but I can’t explain it and I guess I don’t want to. Explaining is brain stuff, crying is heart stuff. I’m surprised to feel so strongly about it. I guess I’m a big baby. I was 6 when Star Wars was brand new, and of course I was swept up by all of it – including Princess Leia! I guess I was always prone to looking up to powerful, beautiful women. Some images impress the heart and never go away. I never met Carrie Fisher so I can’t really justify it, but I’ve been close to tears almost ten times in the last day-and-a-half. I just figured it out: on some unconscious level, I felt like Princess Leia was my older girlfriend even though she wasn’t. Haha – I was only 6!
I’m a real tough guy, so I know that the heart is inferior to the brain. This world is a hallucination.
For twenty years now, I’ve been using my own little record label, Ulusulu Music, to organize my original musical creations and present them to anyone who might get to hear them. This might sound vain, but I love my music. And so I should. Why would I make music that I don’t even enjoy? That would truly be a waste.
I love being meticulous about the technical details of my music, at the same time keeping aesthetic concerns paramount. So my procedure includes fine-tooth combing on the headphones and fixing any tiny little detail that grates on my nerves. The end result is that Lex Plexus is sometimes the only thing I can listen to. No arrogance intended. New album scheduled for 2017. Space-themed.
2016 saw the release of several albums on Bandcamp:
If it seems like I’m bragging, I’ll just point out that I don’t push many copies. Like almost zero. Go ahead and laugh. Here’s a link to Ulusulu Music’s bandcamp page. Some of my albums are free download, some are paid.
I started a metal band this year called Volcano Calculator! Parameters: 8-string guitar , 5-string bass, drums – power trio. I write all the music and lyrics & sing. Lots of odd time signatures. Looking forward to gigging in the summer.
Thanks to the support of local businesses, thanks to the teamwork of some fine professionals I’ve been able to collaborate with, and thanks to me for doing my homework, I’ve had a very busy year of live musical performances in 2016 playing cover tunes. I even spun a few vinyls! Props out especially to Justin Bentley, Caitlin Goulet, KCBIA, Kamloops Burlesque, Central Station Pub Open Mic and Barnacle Records.
I also love teaching guitar, and my students are all great. Whoever said “those who can’t, teach” was an idiot. Teaching guitar has improved my musical knowledge, made me a better communicator and brought me the beautiful blessing of plentiful and diverse human interaction.
I’m living the dream over here. Fuck 9-to-5 slavery. Break the chains and live your dream!
I’ve been playing guitar for a long time but fast picking has basically eluded me. I’ve learned a lot of different ways of doing things, a lot of good ways, but this year I made some extra good bits of progress thanks to Troy Grady’s videos.
Accelerando Metronomo R.I.P. …
A few years ago I designed an Accelerating Metronome for PC computer (still available on my website seanluciw.com) and then a few years later, after I became part of the Apple cult by purchasing an iPhone and a MacBook Pro, I used Xcode to design Accelerando Metronomo, the iOS version. As always, it was thrilling and encouraging to be able to create something and put it out there in the world.
Who’s a good boy! I am. I’m a good boy.
In the last four or five years, the app sold just barely enough to cover the cost of making it available. Less than I’d hoped, but still worthwhile. I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because this thing needed to exist, and because, once I realized that it was possible for me to do it, I couldn’t not do it.
Far more frustrating is the fact that Apple issues all these “updates” to iOS. Each update caused some new problem for my iPhone 4S, and some other new problem for the app I made. As the developer it’s my responsibility to ensure the app stays functioning and presentable. Along with iOS updates, Xcode also needs updating. There came a point where my computer could no longer run the required version of Xcode. I do not enjoy this race against obsolescence. I was raised (spoiled, apparently) by a world that built stuff to last. I (probably) can’t afford the money or frustration required to replace everything I own every year or so. Partly on principle, I refuse. It’s fucking bullshit. So, unfortunately I decided to remove Accelerando Metronomo from the App Store.
I’ve been investigating Arduino and it looks very interesting.
I was invited to contribute audio editing to a local independent film, “Amba,” written and directed by Anton Shilka. The theme was dark and subversive and the visuals trippy… I couldn’t resist! It was a pleasure. I’m happy with the results. Also featuring music by Lex Plexus and Plastic Owl.
Gary Faustman and I created this short film called “Osmosis Unbeknownst,” and entered it into this year’s Kamloops Interior Short Short Film Festival. It was fun to make… the script and shooting were all done in a day. The editing seemed to take forever but I’d do it all again. Acting was fun too.
I could have a lot to say about this, but I want to maintain a beautiful mind so I’m going to try and keep it short. Since forever I’ve always bought into the idea that Canadians are less arrogant, less aggressive and less racist than Americans, but a couple of years ago I was disappointed when refugee-related news items were encouraging a lot of previously-hidden racism to bubble to the surface in the form of comments, etcetera, helping to smash some of my romantic notions about how great a place Canada is. Not to mention Harper’s tendency to destroy science and intellectuality, yada yada. I ignored Brexit but apparently it’s the same shit everywhere. Whatever happened to beautiful melting-pot inclusivity? Most people seem pretty cool in person.
So, when Trump won the election, yeah, I was like, this is a fucking embarrassment, what a clown show of a world we live in. Low quality, immature. However, my level of surprise was diminished by my prior disappointments. The world is fucked all of a sudden? Always was, probably is more like it. Some of us have just been lucky enough to live in a bubble, I guess. The bubble is being popped?
No. I refuse to let go of Utopian vision. It should be easy to create a beautiful world. Keep the love alive, people. Maybe Trump is pretending to be a jerk but he’s really going to fix everything. On purpose, or by accident. Wounds need air to heal. Humanity is wounded. We should be past a lot of this garbage. Standing Rock. Corporate influence. Some places are progressing. North America is looking like caveman territory. I’m going to stick my head in the sand and write music for awhile, and ignore the news.
I realize some of you really have had a crappy 2016, for various reasons. I don’t know what to say to make you feel better. A friend of mine, she always says, “This too shall pass.” It becomes more meaningful every time I have to think about it.
End of report.
Buying records feels a little extravagant at this point, but there was a sale! Flying Lotus impressed me with one of his videos last year and I’ve been vaguely interested since then. I realize I could just use YouTube, but buying an LP is way more adventurous! I bought “You’re Dead” and, although I expected it to be more synthetic and glitchy, I can’t say I’m disappointed. It’s a very classy, jazzy, organic sound indeed. I predict many repeat listens, but time will tell.
Apparently, Warp Records is my cup of tea. Now that I think if it, this record seems a little out-of-place on Warp. Maybe his earlier stuff is glitchier. Maybe I should send some Lex Plexus to Warp, maybe get a record deal or whatever.
I also found a used Mr. Oizo CD! What a treasure that is. I immediately noticed a similarity to Justice (who have a new one coming out, coincidentally) and Google showed me that I’m not the only one to notice the sameness.
Afterward I found a Sigue Sigue Sputnik record for only $5 – a fairly low-risk adventure. When I saw that Giorgio Moroder produced the record, I figured it’d be quality and educational. Oh, well. It was only $5.
They were out of O’Doul’s at the Shark Club the other day so I ordered the Bud equivalent, “Prohibition.” Interestingly, there also exists a “Prohibition Ale” which does contain alcohol. So I took a sip and instantly noticed… Whoops! First sip of booze in over 5 years. Mildly alarming. Traded for the near-beer. I still enjoy the taste of beer – there’s some sort of sentimental throwback for me there.
End of report.
“I’m simple. It’s complicated.” – seen on a T-shirt. I want one.
End of report.
Lex Plexus: Phi Day The 13th…
Last Saturday was the 1st Birthday of Barnacle Records, and it was a great opportunity for my most famous alter-ego to hit the stage… Lex Plexus in effect! Equipped with some pretty skookum Ableton Live Sets of my own creation, plus my nifty 16-knob Launch Control (a.k.a. Tweaky McTweakerson), I was able to wizard up some pretty funky weird stuff – good times, improv style. The subwoofer was cranked and the walls were shaking. I’ve wanted to make music like this since a long time ago – about 13 years ago, I did some improvised loop-based stuff at a few parties and this new stuff is a similar vibe but more abstract. Psychedelic!
After the event, I recalled from prior investigation that multiplying the Golden Ratio by the number of days in a year establishes a point in the year which I would call the Golden Day or Phi Day. Since 2016 is a leap year, 366 days multiplied by 0.618033988 gives 226. The 226th day of this year is August 13! On non-leap years, Phi Day is on the 14th instead of the 13th.
If someone tries to trick you into believing that 6/18 (June 18) is Phi Day… well, now you know how to set them straight.
It just so happens that I also recorded my live set that day. The album is called “Phi Day The 13th (beep boop recorded live at Barnacle Records)” and I decided to put it up on Bandcamp so you can all enjoy it! Free download.
P.S. A few weeks back Lex Plexus did a similar live performance at the Kamloops Art Gallery, and the recording for that is coming down the pipe as well.
End of report.
The Harmonic Progression is IV, vii, iii, vi, ii, V, I. In the key of C, this is: Fmaj7, Bm7(b5), Em7, Am7, Dm7, G7, Cmaj7. I thought I would apply this ordering to the Modal Mirror, as shown on the napkin below:
The Modal Mirror (a discovery of mine) is fully described in my book “Chaos In Boxes: twisted adventures in music theory” – if you haven’t already read it, you can read this preview .pdf to learn about the Modal Mirror. In yesterday’s brand-new experiment, modes above the mirror line are kept diatonic to C, while their under-the-surface counterparts keep the same root and result in Key Signatures other than C (e.g. B Lydian’s root is determined from B Locrian). So, this thought experiment produces the “modal progression” of B Lydian, B Locrian, C Phrygian, A Aeolian, D Dorian, A Mixolydian, C Ionian. Since four out of seven of these tonalities are all in the same Key Signature, I felt that this was not experimental enough. It seemed to me somehow that 4736251 and Modal Mirror are apples and oranges, not destined for extended or meaningful interaction. However, usefulness could still be rendered if I decide to turn this into an actual piece of music someday.
The process was inspiring, but the results were not. It’s a good thing that I can view process as a result, so I don’t feel like it was a waste of time.
Fast-forward another day, and a casual trip to the post office provided an amazing surprise: Produce Press, the micropublisher who helped bring “Chaos In Boxes” into the world, sent me the last few remaining copies of Handmade Limited Edition copies in the snailmail! I can think of a couple of people who are looking forward to getting their hands on one of these.
With the previous day’s aforementioned 4736251 experiment still lingering in my mind, I brainfarted a new concoction and decided to borrow a pen from the lovely young lady at the coffee shop and write it out, using the unopened box as my blank slate.
This new composition experiment uses 4736251 as a starting point, and then applying the following procedure:
Etcetera. Anyway, this also inspired me to create some MIDI racks in Ableton dedicated to selecting Modes (as well as assembling scales from Interval selections), which should make it easier to assemble something audible from all this theorizing.
End of report.
Skullfinger in effect (controversy included)…
“Turn Down The Quiet” is now primed for proliferation. The new Skullfinger album (about 5 years in the making) officially dropped this week, and you can find it digitally at my website which also links to Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes, other streams, etcetera. If old-school-but-not-too-old-school physical music formats are more your thing, then the Compact Disc is also available. The first 30 are Limited Edition which means it comes with a bonus Skullfinger guitar pick! Hardcopies are available at Kamloops Long & McQuade and at The Art We Are.
I must say, even though music technology’s digital tendencies have rendered CD’s even more obsolete than the vinyl record, the physical tangibility factor is satisfactorily rewarding. I insisted that the front album cover should have no lettering to interrupt the artwork. Well played, me. Well played.
Did someone say controversy? Yeah, that was me – it was in the title of this blog entry. In the last few days since spreading Skullfinger’s music to other human beings, a great surprise has landed in my world… Four people so far have taken the CD and held it UPSIDE-DOWN to admire the artwork, thereby demonstrating (and stating outright) that it looks better that way!
This. I. Did. Not. Expect.
What do you think?
End of report.
“The Sorry Quint” – poem by Sean Luciw
If your company turns out to be miserable,
should I pity thee?
As the edge gets closer and steeper,
threatening to swallow up whole?
Your poor me becomes the epitome,
the sorry quint, a wolfless sympathy.
End of report.