Helsinki and Tallinn gig photos

Posted in Documentation on February 12th, 2013 by admin

Live set for analog synthesizer, speaker box, found objects and room, 09 Feb 2013, Kodu Bar, Tallinn Estonia. Photos by Terje Toomistu.

Live set for analog synthesizer, speaker box, found objects and room, 07 Feb 2013, Vapaan Taiteen Tila, Helsinki Finland. Photos by Antti Ahonen.

In the rush of CTM Fest and my annual Mechanical Sound Orchestra Workshop at TAIK (04-08 Feb 2013), I realized I completely forgot to post announcements of these two rather informal gigs here. Let’s hear it for my Facebook page, at least…

Thanks to Jukka Hautamäki, Ilpo Heikkinen, Lauri Hyvärinen, Taneli Viitahuhta, Ilia Belorukov, Antti Ahonen, John W. Fail, Marika Agu, Timo Toots and Terje Toomistu for their support in the various aspects of playing and documenting these two performances.

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Marfa Public Radio interview

Posted in Announcement on January 8th, 2013 by admin

This morning I sat in the Marfa Public Radio studio with Rachel Lindley and talked about my Learning to Listen workshop. Rachel was fantastic, she really has The Voice and from the one-paragraph press release, she asked the most intelligent questions that just about any journalist has ever asked me. I really feel like this interview gives a comprehensive overview of how I present the concept of the soundscape in a workshop situation.

You can listen to the whole interview (approx 30 min) at:

http://marfapublicradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/130107-Derek-Holzer-LONG.mp3

The workshop itself at the Marfa Book Company went extremely well, with at least 25 folks both nights. In the usual style, I played several field recordings from various corners of the globe, and together we figured out what kind of of information–both subjective and objective–we can learn from a recorded or composed soundscape. Thanks especially to Tim Johnson for hosting this experience.

I will play a set for modular synthesizer, locally found objects and SoundBox, at the Michael Strogoff gallery, 124 E. El Paso St, Marfa, Texas at 8PM on Wednesday 09 Jan. Y’alls are welcome!

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Catjar in the Rye

Posted in Documentation on September 30th, 2012 by admin






“Catjar in the Rye” (or “Betty”, as she is know to her friends) is an experimental sound instrument built for Swedish composer Andreas Catjar. It combines a chaotic Benjolin synthesizer, extreme fuzz distortion unit, a speaker/contact-mic feedback system and “circuit-bending”-style body contacts into one rugged flightcase. The Benjolin features several modifications, including patchable routing banana jacks, LED lights for the three stages of its analog shift register and an external audio input. I hope to post some sounds and video later on, when Andreas has time to make them.

My thanks go out to Rob Hordijk, who designed the Benjolin circuit, and to Pete Edwards/Casper Electronics for his help in working out the modifications. You can read a few of my thoughts on using analog shift registers for chaotic sound synthesis in this post.

This instrument really represents exactly what I would like to be doing more of these days: customized design and construction of personal sound instruments based on circuits freely available within the DIY electronics community. Please get in touch if you have a project in mind!

“Catjar in the Rye” was commissioned to appear in the Institutet/Markus Öhrn/Nya Rampen theater production “We love Africa and Africa loves us”. The premier takes place on October 5, 2012 at Ballhaus Ost Berlin.

http://institutet.eu/productions/we-love-africa-and-africa-loves-us/

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A.LIVE with Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez at Basic Electricity Berlin

Posted in Announcement on September 22nd, 2012 by admin

A•LIVE Information Metabolism from Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez on Vimeo.

I will be playing a live, improvisational set for modular synthesizer, found objects and SoundBox at Basic Electricity Berlin on Friday 28 September 2012. Joining me will be video artist Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez with her live electronic microscope visuals. This will be our first, exploratory outing with the A.LIVE bio-art project, and we’re both quite curious to see how it goes. Hope some of y’all out there can make it.

Incidentally, the audio in the above video comes from the soundtrack of Machine Deva, the recent collaboration I did with my father, Steve Holzer. Interesting to hear it in another setting… Machine Deva recently won the Best Experimental Film prize at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. Way to go, Dad!

I will be offering copies of the Machine Deva soundtrack on CDR and DVDRs of the film itself some time in mid-November. Due to the extremely detailed nature of the hand-animation, which seems to be hopelessly corrupted by any sort of compression process, Machine Deva will never likely get put online. So unless you happen to be around when Steve or I screen it, this might be your only chance to view this remarkable work. Get in touch if interested…

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LAK Festival Copenhagen Documentation

Posted in Documentation on September 18th, 2012 by admin

The Rainforest project at the LAK Festival for Nordic Sound Art in Copenhagen was a complete success on many levels. The organizational team was fantastic, even without considering that this was their first ever event. While they planned for a modest 100 visitors for each day of the event, the total number turned out to be about 1500 in total. The Rainforest concert opened the festival, and continued as a live installation each day. Many thanks to Rainforest co-organizer (and true soul buddy) Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau as well as participants Anders Børup, James Brewster, Ejvind Juul Chang and Kristian Hverring for their energy and dedication, as well as to curators Jonas Olesen and Sandra Boss as well as the whole LAK team for a great weekend.

Photos by Hanne Budtz, My Lambertsen and Antonin Matejovsky. Full LAK photoset here

SNYKradio indslag om LAK festival og Regnskov 2012 by janstricker

Practice your Danish! SNYKradio interview with myself and Mads Bech Paluzewski-Hau at the LAK festival 2012 by Jan Stricker. Don’t worry, plenty of parts in English too…

Rainforest 2012 // Regnskov 2012 – LAK festival for nordisk lydkunst by My Lambertsen on YouTube.

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Regnskov 2012 in Copenhagen and Aarhus

Posted in Announcement on August 16th, 2012 by admin

Mads Bech Paulszewski-Hau and I will be running the “Rainforest” series of workshops at two events in Denmark next month: the LAK Festival in Copenhagen (6-9 September 2012) and the BY i BY Festival in Aarhus (14-16 September 2012). There are still spaces in both workshops, particularly the Aarhus one (which will be outdoors!), so please get in touch if you are interested at MACUMBISTA at the domain GMAIL dot COM.

Regsnkov 2012 is a contemporary re-interpretation of David Tudor’s series of compositions from the 1970′s entitled Rainforest. It uses various types of sonic transducers to play live sounds through a selection of resonant, found-metal objects in the performance space. A matrix mixer allows the sound from any of the performers to be sent to any of the objects, creating an immersive, tactile and spatial sonic experience.

The project is developed in a workshop format with up to 8 participants over a period of several days. The participants will work from the bio-acoustic model of an actual rainforest, where it is necessary for each species’ survival that they can both hear and be heard within their own niche of the busy forest soundscape.

You can download a PDF of information about the project here: http://macumbista.net/files/rainforest_overview.pdf

Other up and comings:

28 Sep – [w/Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez] Basic Electricity, Berlin DE (more on this soon!)
9-13 Oct – TONEWHEELS, Le festival accès(s), Pau FR
17 Oct – TONEWHEELS, RIAM Festival, Marseilles FR
22-26 Oct – Neanderthal Electronics, Danish Art Academy, Aarhus DK (TBC!)
29 Oct-02 Nov – Neanderthal Electronics, Nordic Sound Art, Copenhagen DK
05-09 Nov – Neanderthal Electronics, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki FI
16 Nov – TONEWHEELS, VisionSonic, Paris FR (TBC!)

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Video–Studio Improv 30 Apr 2012 + Norberg Report

Posted in Documentation on August 1st, 2012 by admin

Derek Holzer-Studio Improv 30 Apr 2012 from macumbista on Vimeo.

Getting the computer out of my live sound was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I work with the modular synthesizer, I feel like I have a piece of clay in my hands which I can squeeze in any direction I choose. This short improvisation was made during filming of the documentary “Learning to Listen”, on sound artists in several European cities by London College of Communication students Dann Linn, Marianna Sangita and Andi Spowart.


Soundbox at Norberg Fest, photo by possan

Norberg Report

I’m just back from my Swedish gig, where I spent the weekend gazing longingly at leggy blonds and red farmhouses, slapping mosquitoes, sipping expensive beers and teaching 25 people to build small noise-boxes in the summer sun. Concert went great, with a huge Function One sound system in the gigantic, resonant Mimer mine-shaft hall for that all-over body bass-massage kind of feeling. One of the best parts was that, some weeks ago, I dreamt that two friends from Estonia came to the festival with me. When I wrote them about it, they replied, “Roadtrip sounds like a great idea! See you soon!” So they did.

Big thanks to Sol Andersson and Johannes Ahlberg for the invitation and John Anker Corneliussen for the sound! Also managed to catch a few great sets, most notably by Carl Michael von Hauswolff and the lovely drone duo Kyrkan. Just as awesome, and tasty to boot, was James Brewster‘s Electro-acoustic cafe–a mic’ed up espresso stand with the option for extra delay or wah on your foamed milk.

Interior of the Mimer photos by possan, Derek Holzer live set at Norberg Fest by Rotwang @ 99musik.se

Another great thing was the wide range of folks who dropped by to build these little Neanderthal instuments–people who by and large would never show up at an “experimental noise” gig suddenly discovered the insane, child-like pleasure of making their own noise. A selection of these good people can be seen above. Thony Ekström has posted a 28 minute video of the workshop presentation here. I like the part where the orchestra warms up in the beginning…



Norberg Neanderthal photos by Björn Eriksson and Rotwang @ 99musik.se (last). Tack!!!

Electronics Work

I spent quite a bit of July working on this chopper with a student named Alvaro Ayuso. He didn’t quite finish it… a problem if you’re a young Spanish dude with too many friends around I suppose. Synth building is a solitary pursuit. So consider this a work in progress. Good going so far, amigo, now let’s bring it on home!

Tech details: line input, mic input, 2 x line outputs, dual VCA, 2 x VCO, dual VC Slope, Utility LFO, DC Mixer, Steiner VC Filter, Wave Multiplier. All PCBs by Ken Stone/CGS.

And finally… here’s a Serge Power Supply Unit I built for my friend Richard Scott:

Yeah, I guess it’s been a busy month…

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Norberg Festival 2012

Posted in Announcement on July 8th, 2012 by admin

The lovely folks at the Norberg Festival in Sweden have arranged for me to do an outdoor SoundBoxes workshop as well as play a concert in the super-echo-chamber mine-shaft-house there.

For the workshop, I will have a tent with some tools and parts set up all day on Thursday 26 & Friday 27 July. The parts kit for the workshop costs SEK 100, and includes all the electronics components, speaker, amplifier, microphone and a cigar box of your choice. Workshop participants will have a chance to perform with their boxes on the afternoon of Saturday 28 July at 13.30.

During the concert on the evening of Saturday 28 July, I will play an improvisation for found objects, speaker box and self-made electronics. Norberg is about the only place I could imagine The Bug sharing a stage with Trevor Wishhart, and I’m looking forward!

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Interview for Groove TV + updates

Posted in Documentation on May 24th, 2012 by admin

I was interviewed by filmmaker Maren Sextro a few weeks ago about my DIY electronic instruments, you can see the results here. In the 60 seconds of film trailer that plays before the interview, I recommend you go to the kitchen for a glass of cold milk. The video itself is very well done, on the other hand, and I thank Maren warmly for her work on this.

Still places left for the workshop this weekend, or drop by O’Tannenbaum on Sunday night for the presentation and their fine selection of Belgian ales. They have one that tastes just like vinegar that I’m not so sure about, though…

And finally, Machine Deva premiered to rave reviews at Cine-Marfa last weekend. Steve and I are still picking ourselves back up off the floor after the amount of work that went into finalizing the soundtrack and getting it to the festival. I will have some CDRs to sell of this later on, watch this space.

Students of the Sonic College (Haderslev, Denmark) and the the SoundBoxes they built with me yesterday at NK in Berlin.

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Cryptography Studies

Posted in Documentation on April 13th, 2012 by admin

cryptography (study I) from macumbista on Vimeo.

I took a quick break from some soundtracking work to build and document this little box over the weekend. I have been interested in examining the use of simple analog implementations of pseudo-random number generators, akin to those used in encryption algorithms, for the chaotic production of sound patterns. One of the simplest pseudo-random number generators is a three-stage shift register with a non-linear feedback loop, such as that found in Rob Hordijk’s “Benjolin” instrument design.

Rungler schematic courtesy of Rob Hordijk, redrawn by Casper Electronics

The most interesting part of the Benjolin is a circuit Hordijk calls a “rungler” (the rest of the Benjolin being two simple oscillators and a resonant filter). It is made up of a shift register in the middle (U4, a 4021B integrated circuit), an XOR (eXclusive OR) logic gate created by one transistor and an op-amp on the left, and finally a rudimentary Digital-to-Analog converter built around another op-amp on the right. Note the feedback from the last stage of the shift register to one input of the XOR, or what could be called the “poor man’s ring modulator”. The other XOR input comes from one of the two oscillators (P1).

Hordijk writes:

The purpose of the rungler is to create short stepped patterns of variable length and speed. [...] It needs two frequency sources to work and basically creates a complex interference pattern that can be fed back into the frequency parameters of the driving oscillators to create an unlimited amount of havoc.

The rungler is basically a CMOS shift register clocked by one oscillator and receiving its data input from the other oscillator. The output bits of the shift register are used as [...] a 3 bit code that is fed into a 3 bit DA converter. This DA eight level output voltage is fed back to the oscillator frequency control inputs. The output of the DA is the ‘rungler CV signal’[...]

When the rungler signal is fed back to the frequency parameters of the oscillators it will change the triangle waveforms and pulse widths of the oscillator outputs[...]

The rungler will try to find a balanced state. In this way it behaves according to principle from Chaos Theory. There seems to be an unlimited amount of possible balanced states and when a balanced state is just slightly disturbed it can be noted that it takes a little time to find the next balanced state, with noticeable bifurcations, etc.

Now, a shift register itself is a quite simple idea; one has several stages, and information (an analog voltage in some cases, or a binary state in others) gets passed from one stage to the next every time the shift register gets a clock signal. Passing the last stage of the shift register back to the first results in a loop, however any sort of transformation done to the last stage before it gets sent back to the first (an XOR “ring modulation” in the Benjolin’s case) means that each iteration of the loop changes. This satisfies the basic requirements of chaotic syntheses: that there is feedback, that there is nonlinearity and that there is sensitivity to initial conditions. (see Slater, Dan, “Chaotic Sound Synthesis”, Computer Music Journal 22.2 19 September 1998, pp 12-19.)

Not surprisingly, analog shift registers such as the one produced by Serge Tcherepnin were often referred to as “arabesque generators”, as in this image from Synapse Magazine September/October 1976. However, we could also refer to this structure as a Lindenmayer, or L-system. An L-system is essentially a grammatical system which rewrites itself for every new iteration according to a system of rules.

Here is Lindenmayer’s original L-system for modeling the growth of algae:

variables : A B
constants : none
start : A
rules : (A → AB), (B → A)

which produces:

n = 0 : A
n = 1 : AB
n = 2 : ABA
n = 3 : ABAAB
n = 4 : ABAABABA
n = 5 : ABAABABAABAAB
n = 6 : ABAABABAABAABABAABABA
n = 7 : ABAABABAABAABABAABABAABAABABAABAAB

(Source: Wikipedia)

In Non-Standard Sound Synthesis with L-Systems, Stelios Manousakis refers to non-propagative L-systems as being similar to cellular automata algorithms in that the data produced doesn’t branch out and expand endlessly, but rather is used as rules for determining the output of each cell. In our 3 stage shift register example, the non-linear feedback applied to the last stage before it returns to the first would be the new “grammatical rule” applied to the next iteration.

Now, another term we could use to describe a chaotically-produced series of binary numbers with a high sensitivity to the initial conditions (or “seed”) of the process which creates them is a Pseudo-Random Number Generator (also know as a Deterministic Random Bit Generator). And many implementations of a PRNG use what are called Linear Feedback Shift Registers to create those bits, which are the basic building blocks of many sorts of encryption processes.

Our 3-bit Benjolin is a far cry from the 128- and 256-bit encryption algorithms commonly used for digital security today (to say nothing of the “uncrackable” 1024-bit scheme used by the RSA algorithm), and probably bears a closer resemblance to the “shuffle” feature on my ITunes, which “randomly” seems to play back the same 220 songs out of the 22,000 in my MP3 collection. Or, as quantum mechanics pioneer John von Neumann joked, “Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.” For the purpose of creating generative sound compositions in realtime, however, these pseudo-random bits appear to provide an interesting and “musical” balance between randomness and structure.

Other circuits or projects involving the potentially chaotic use of shift registers and/or pseudo-random number generators include the CGS 34 ASR (which is of course influenced by the original Serge ASR), the CGS 31 Digital Noise, the random voltage generator from the Buchla 208 “Music Easel” and the mighty Klee Sequencer.

As a footnote, I have to add that the man who first uttered the name “L-system” to me is the same man whose film is now sitting on my desktop, waiting to be scored. So with this musing on the cyclical nature of the universe, I bid you farewell for now.

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