Further Records show, 3/25/16

Here’s a couple of minutes from the end of my live show last Friday with Strategy and Timm Roller. I’m just doing audio here—Leo AKA Killingfrenzy did all the visuals for the night.

I was feeling weird about this show but all in all it went OK. It was an incredibly busy month before the show as I was trying to get my new plugin Virta shipped. When I played the show I was just a couple of days from getting that done. So I didn’t put in as much time as I would have liked, but I leaned on some previous patches I had made, and just tried to get the ideas in my head out to more patches as quickly as possible. A couple of intense days in the heated finish room / office in the woodshop (no internet!) got ’er done.

I’m very satisfied with the combination of monome grid, arc, and Soundplane for playing live. This is a new kind of state of being in my life because when I was using other hardware, I was always thinking about which bit could be improved on. But having these three gizmos I don’t spend any time thinking about changing them up. There are so many possibilities and I’m just scratching the surface. OK, you know what, four knobs would be better and would still fit in my bag. So maybe I’m lying and there’s no end to gear lust. Just kind of an exponential decay, maybe, if we’re lucky.

I made a lot of drones and bleeps and had one track of each of Aalto, Kaivo and Virta going throughout the show. Virta makes some very cool drones even when it’s not processing live audio.

My hands still shake a little sometimes when I’m nervous playing live. I think it speaks well of the Soundplane that it faithfully turns the shaking into changes in the sounds I’m playing. Except for the drones, and some delay, I’m always touching the surface to make all the sounds that are currently happening with this setup. So if I can’t be still, the sound won’t be still, and that’s somehow a very honest proposition.

Making dowels




I made a few dowels this weekend for a project. A handy thing to know how to do, when you want some of a particular wood. A couple of tools in particular make this really quick.

First I cut square strips from my walnut on the table saw. Then I used a low-angle block plane to pare the strips down into octagon-shaped sticks. Stopping at this point might work just fine depending on the application. I could see the handmade rough octagon shape being a nice touch in some joinery.




Then I put one end of the stick into the drill press, supported the other end loosely with a hole in a piece of plywood, and used a shaver tool (like a Stanley Surform) to make it round.


It took me a little while to find the right tools to do this job, but now that I have the process down it will be quicker than going to the store and buying dowels. For very small amounts, anyway.

UPDATE: This is a crappy way to make dowels. some of them turned out to be out of round in a lumpy way that was unappealing.

Tools as a vector for expertise

Last year I bought an old wooden plane from a retiring woodworker at his shop sale. The man was curt. It was not a festive occasion, the mood in the shop pointed to his retiring probably more out of necessity than choice. A wide variety of tools was on offer, from borderline museum pieces to stuff probably bought at Harbor Freight within the year, but in all transactions the disposition of the man spoke clearly that you were lucky to have a chance at these tools, at any price.

So, without haggling I ended up with a few things: a level, a tenon marking gauge, a wooden-bodied plane. I mostly work with power tools, but there are plenty of situations, mostly involving big work pieces or weird angles, where a hand plane is useful. This one is a Stanley model 35, which means it could have been made any time between 1870 and 1940.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 12.58.35 PM

Though it might look handlebar-moustachey, this isn’t a museum piece, or even an exceptionally good tool. It’s a decent tool, a money-maker, a thing in common use for decades, only recently turning into more of a fetish item for hobbyists who prefer muscle power to electricity on principle.

The sharpness of the blade makes or breaks the utility of a plane, and sharpening properly takes some practice. So I was greatly pleased when the blade of the old Stanley turned out to be sharpened recently and expertly. There are plenty of books, and even more web pages, on the right way to put edges on steel things. But even the best illustration lacks the descriptive power of the thing itself. From the angle of the metal, the portion of it that tapers down to an edge, the portion of that edge that is mirror-sharp, I can see what is important about sharpening and try to emulate what another craftsperson has done.

My IDE starts out with the same bits as yours, when we download them. But as we grow as programmers we customize our tools in ways that preserve our own solutions for getting things done. The preferences, scripts and template projects we carry around are records of how we dealt with complexity last time, that hopefully help make more things routine next time. What if our digital tools were designed to absorb and transmit our expertise in more and deeper ways? I want to see how great programmers sharpen their planes.


Live A/V at Kremwerk, June 4 2015

I played an audiovisual show last Thursday for the first time in around a year. Dusting off this line of work, I kept the materials I was using fairly minimal in order to have a better chance of making something coherent. Tried to keep my short attention span syndrome in check and make my playing more about listening than it maybe tends to be.

I spent most of my preparation this time writing a new visual toolset. I think part of why I don’t do more live visual work is out of frustration with the existing tools for it. Cycling ’74’s Jitter (now part of Max 7), which I helped write, is capable of doing just about anything with live graphics, and it’s what I’ve always used for shows. But sometimes its particular brand of flexibility can be a liability for me, creatively.

So the tools I’m using now are C++ and OpenGL. They are available on every platform, are wicked fast, and are open standards. If I want to switch to a Linux box for my next computer I can do that. Most importantly, I find it easier to read a big C++ program I wrote ten years ago than a big patch I wrote last year, and readability encourages me to reuse what I’ve built.

Thanks to Chaya, here are some camera phone videos from last week’s show at Kremwerk in Seattle. I opened up for the always-masterful Pole, who was touring with fellow Berliner MFO on visuals.