Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: 2009

30 December 2009

Best & Worst New Musical Instruments of the 2000s

Copied below is my response to the contributors' poll H+ Magazine published on New Year's Eve Eve, 2010: "What were the best and worst _______s of the 00s?" Everyone chose a different topic, although most people preferred to ignore the "_____" and suggest more sweeping milestones for the decade. A few months later and I'm sticking to my guns about this one...

Worst New Musical Instrument:
Guitar Hero

Essentially an electronic sample-triggering interface with near-zero control over which samples — more of a percussion toy than the guitar to whose lovers it was marketed — Guitar Hero exemplifies to me a massive step backward, the mascot of an obsolete paradigm. User input is a binary endeavor — you either march on beat to the manufacturer’s selection of Top 40 content, or suffer the annoying clicks that announce your failure. Way to perpetuate the producer/consumer divide, Guitar Hero! Way to reinforce the Pavlovian nightmare of school bells and rote learning that already undermines the last-resort creative capital of the western world.... This kind of musical training will cripple our next generation of musicians when the time comes to prove our worth next to improvising robots. And that’ll be, like, now.

Best New Musical Instrument: The Reactable

If Guitar Hero operates on the centralized, consumption-centered media-model of television, The Reactable is the musical avatar of Web 2.0. Not only is it a content-free revolution in musical control interfaces with a negligible learning curve (kids can pick it up almost immediately) that screams for collaborative applications (it can be played by as many people as can squeeze themselves around the table), but it was actually designed vision-first with these qualities in mind by an entire academic music technology department in Barcelona. And the tech they developed to make their dream a reality is applicable to a ludicrous range of “interactive tangible multi-touch applications” limited solely by our collective imagination. Watching this device in the able hands on stage with Björk last year made me feel like I’d been abducted by the future — and if the future bears any resemblance, it will be an awesome party, indeed.

(Read the whole contributor's poll at H+ Magazine.)

21 December 2009

Vanishing Act EP, Flame Paisleys, & Coming Of Age Advice

> Music

Merry Christmas, everyone! You don't need to be a believer of any kind to appreciate the mythological significance of what so many ancient cultures regarded as "God's Birthday" – the fruiting moment we re-enact each year when divine and mundane touch and express themselves in human form, when the creative force of the entire universe awakens and recognizes its animal nature, when (so the story goes) the wisest among us converge under the stars to bless the mythological hero-child of Heaven and Earth. At the same time, we're celebrating the solstice, when the sun and seasons begin anew, and decorating our revelries with pagan charms that hearken back to a deep and intimate understanding of our place in nature and the bounties of even the barrenest months.

In honor of this cold-muted rage-o-thon, I offer you my holiday blessing in the form of the Vanishing Act EP, a half-hour of expansive instrumental guitar-and-kalimba loopscapes for your trance-inducing enjoyment. It's free at michaelgarfield.net to stream or download (and then gift again to friends, if the spirit of the season possesseth thee).

Vanishing Act EP (instrumental loopscapes) - 2009

Entirely transparent about its influences from a diverse array of artists like Boards of Canada, Ratatat, Four Tet, The Album Leaf, Daniel Lanois, Tim Reynolds, Emancipator, and The Books, this recording alternates between lush, spacious ambiance and groove-in-your-seat melodiousness. It starts and ends slightly more uptempo than the middle half, and goes well with long drives home, conversation by fireplaces, dream interpretation, and the sight of naked trees breaking up into winter sky. I hope it makes your already-awesome holiday even a tiny bit brighter...

> Imagery

Before we get cracking on the new art, I want you to know that in recognition of my development as an artist over the last two years, I can no longer justify selling my old paintings for the same price as newer ones. Instead, I've deeply discounted much of my unsold work from 2008 and early 2009. Check out my gallery – every painting marked as "111" or "222" is now and forever available for $111 or $222 + s/h, respectively (about half the original asking prices).

Onward! Last week was busy – three all-nighters in a row. On runs like that, I like to explore the same thing repeatedly and in excruciating detail. For example:

Beneath Your Armor
2009 12 17 Core Dance Studio

(Big Gigaruch, Josh 23, Brandon Brown, Alala.One)
20"x30" – opaque pens on masonite
available for sale – signed 11"x17" prints also available, $20
I squeaked in at the last minute to paint at a badass graduation party where fellow members of The Fraternal Order of Raging Awesomeness At All Possible Opportunities, instrumental dance duo Big Gigantic, was joined by the excellent Garrett Sayers on bass and Ben Baruch on percussion. The rest of the night was filled beautimously by CMKY regulars Brandon Brown, Josh23, and Alala.One...

Let's put aside, for a moment, the incredible vibe of a few hundred people cooped into a dance studio to celebrate the terrifying newness of professional adulthood, and just talk about the open bar. Can you tell I was copping a rare buzz while working on this? Because I can't. Thank you, Universe, for steadying my hand.

But yeah, what a wonderful party that was. A perfect event in which to explore this painting's themes of revelation, elemental energy, and the depth beneath the busy-ness of our lives...

Order Under Chaos
2009 12 18 Santa Fe Best Of Vendors' Room & Madison's House

18"x24" – opaque pens on masonite
available for sale – signed 11"x17" prints also available, $20
I worked on the previous painting for a few hours after the show and ultimately took it in a very different direction from my original intent (What else is new?), so I decided to lay off the incessant quest for not-doing-the-same-thing-twice and ended up with this variation.

One of the weirdest live painting scenarios I've endured, this event saw my easel set up in a remote vendor's area for the Denver Santa Fe Art District's Annual "Best Of" Show. All of the music and people were down a winding hallway about three universes away, and I was squeezed behind my vendor's table up against a wall, trying not to burn myself on the radiator. But in spite of how lame it was as a vending opportunity, I ended up meeting some amazing people – including a fellow scientific illustrator, and another woman who used to work in my old haunt, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum and knows my old advisors.

As for the symbolism: I'm in the middle of Crystal & Dragon by David Wade, which is one of the most awesome books I have ever encountered. In it, he discusses the artistic and philosophical history of two competing-but-complementary worldviews in civilizations the world over: Is ultimate reality reigned by Order, or Chaos? Ideal Perfection or Constant Change? Form, or Energy? Wade's answer is that it must be both, depending on your viewing angle...and he explores how these ideas have expressed themselves, especially through the art of Islam and Taoism, in resplendent detail. So this painting and the rest in this idea chain belong to my own archetypal wonderings about how to portray these perspectives instantaneously and intuitively through live art. And it works out great – over the course of a night, sometimes I wish I were doing one or the other, but most of my paintings in the past haven't given me the opportunity to switch it up on a whim. Once again, as usual, Epic Win for the Both/And philosophy...

The Tide Of Fire Receding
2009 12 19 425 Lincoln
(Bil Bless, Christian Martin, David Seied,
((Diverse)), ground_score, BLAC)

18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
High Lucy Nations Productions out of Lincoln NE just threw a delightfully underground show in Denver and here is my proof I was there. This painting was one of those that went through wave after wave of "I went too far" and kept me puzzled for hours afterward...which is a sign that it will end up super intricate and multilayered. Behind the frothy wave of flame, the octagonal tessellation Muslims call the Breath of the Compassionate. Behind that, a deeper layer of fractal hexagons similar to what physicist Nassim Haramein says is the structure of the quantum vacuum. Perspective after perspective, peeling away...

(I got another timelapse video of me at work on this painting and should have it up on my Youtube channel soon.)

2009 12 14 Studio – Octopus Commission
8"x15" – opaque pens on masonite
I met members of secret international organization The Glittery Cephalopod Crew on Facebook, and one of them asked me to cephalopodize some masonite for them. This was a modest project but hey, I never pass down the opportunity to draw more sealife studies.

Eyelid Studies #06 & #07, 2009 12 13 & 14
8"x15" - opaque pens on masonite
available for sale – signed 11"x17" prints also available, $20
Two more in the ongoing experimental small-format series based on hypnagogic imagery. I'm fascinated by how four hearts come together to form the eight-sided star that is associated in so many cultures with cyclical renewal...

> Writing

It's not often that I get to act as a sage elder. But my friend Laura Fox's son Benjamin is about to turn thirteen and as a gift to him she has recruited her male friends to dispense him with coming-of-age advice. She's collected everyone's responses in blog form at Messages For Manhood, where yours truly offered up some of the wisest council I could muster:

Don’t let anyone tell you you feel too much – OR too little, because how do they know?

Learn not only what you love to do, but how you can put those things to work in a way that’ll help everyone with the things THEY love to do.

Remember that no matter how big and important you feel, there’s something infinitely bigger and more important that deserves your attention and participation – but also, that no matter how small and insignificant you feel, everything you do affects everything else in ways nobody can even pretend to fully understand, and you’re playing a part in something supreme and wondrous – even when you want nothing to do with the world.

There are some things that only reveal themselves to be true when you stop trying to prove them – like sleep, love, and angels. And even when you CAN prove something mysterious, describing something and explaining away its magic are not the same thing – the more answers you have, the more questions, so try not to get caught up in searching for final statements on anything or craving the security of a made-up mind.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that when something seems unsolvable, paradoxical, impossible…add a dimension and you’ll find a way to resolve perspectives that seem contradictory. (A tetrahedron is the answer to which a triangle is the question…and all 3D knots are untied by time.)

Enjoy your teen years and keep rocking that guitar!

love
Michael



15 December 2009

Youtube Music, New Live Paintings, Eyelid Studies

> Music
Audio recordings from the videos on my Youtube channel are now available for free/pay-what-you-want download at michaelgarfield.net. I'll continue to update this album as new videos come out, making it easy for people to enjoy my performances without having to wait for the video to load.

In related news, I am now sponsored by L.R. Baggs! Which means, among other things (like getting free toys), that they're featuring my video for "You Don't Have To Move" on their Youtube channel. I'll be doing more videos for them soon in order to show my appreciation for their M1 Active Soundhole Pickup, which amplifies all the weird things I like to do to guitars. In the meantime, go see the current video if you haven't already, and join me in praising the stars that it is, after all, possible to get attention from the right people.

> Imagery
Fire Feathers - 2009 12 05
Boulder Theater
Mark Vann Foundation Fundraiser: Great American Taxi,
Tim Carbone, Keith Moseley, Euforquestra,
Elephant Revival,
Pete Karsounes, & The Black Swan Singers

opaque pens on masonite
20"x30" - original for sale
signed 11"x17" prints available - $20

This was one of the most awesome shows for which I have ever had the good fortune to paint. Banjoist Mark Vann of Leftover Salmon died back in 2002, and ever since then his band has held a yearly fundraiser to support the things he cared about – music education, feeding kids, stuff like that. So the heart at this show was simply incredible. Everyone was there to remember a friend and put music to good use in helping the community. I set up in the back of Boulder Theater in their loungey area across from the bar, unavoidable on the way in or out but safe from the mayhem.

This one hearkens back to some of my earlier work, when I was less concerned with layering and more interested in vibrant fractals. To me it has the flavor of the flower cross-sections I looked at under the microscope in college, but my friend and unofficial namer-of-paintings Leesah Noble of Umba Imports dropped a title on it half an hour into the show. So fire feathers, they are.

Event organizer Jay Rizzi, one of the nicest promoters I have ever met, took this sweet pic of me in action:


Cross Pollination - 2009 12 04 & 12 B Side & Toad Tavern
DJ Rekluse & Michelle And Johnny Cat, Melissa Ivy
opaque pens on masonite
20"x30" - available for sale signed
11"x17" prints available - $20

In my friend Paul Lonely's book Suicide Dictionary, he writes beautifully of a fictional monastery dedicated to integrating all of the world's wisdom traditions. Many of the poems irreverently mix the symbols, prophets, and language of the various religious institutions to point to the ongoing lively nature of divine creativity, which has a way of throwing crazy ideas together apparently just to see if they'll stick. So here is my "Punnet square" describing the marriage of Islam and Christianity - the octagonal regenerative patterns of Islamic tiling with the crucifix and a lattice of coins in the background alluding to symmetrical union and the Trinity. Intersecting patterns meet in the middle, revealing their nonexclusivity. The center, the nexus, is richer than either axis on its own.

And in studio news, here are the first five pieces in Eyelid Studies, a series of small-format paintings (8"x15" each) I'm using to explore variations in pattern and color and to keep my idle hands from causing trouble. Plus, I can make these available to people who want original work but can't cough it up for a full-sized painting. A lot of people have remarked that some of my recent work looks like the patterns they see when they push on their eyelids, so I figured I'd run with it and actually go for a themed series. Here are the first results:

Eyelid Studies #1 - #5 - 2009 12 01 - 08 - studio
opaque pens on masonite
8"x15" - originals for sale individually or together
signed 11"x17" prints available - $20

Here they are hanging up in Dot's Diner On The Hill at University and Broadway in Boulder, where I had an extensive opening last Saturday night. It was a blast, and I'm sorry you missed it (if you did) – but they'll be hanging up there for another few weeks yet, so go get yourself some awesome breakfast and surround yourself with a floor-to-ceiling journey through the last two years of my live art:

Thanks to Loni Jones and Dot's for having my work up in there! It's a real treat for me to see so much on display in one place. Plus, the wine and pizza was awesome.

30 November 2009

Mile High Meltdown & New Timelapse Video

> Imagery

Last Saturday night I painted for my friends in the local music and art collective, The Mile High Sound Movement, at the newly-refurbished Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver. I played a fierce-but-brief setbreak jam as well – another delicious opportunity to paint and perform music at the same show – and if any of the recordings came out, I'll have those posted soon as well. But for now, suffice it to say that I had a blast and highly encourage everyone to keep their ears to the ground with these cats, because they all have entirely too much talent and goodwill to be as unknown as they are for much longer. And I'm delighted to share my newest work:

What Now
2009 11 28 Cervantes (Jeff The Box, Project Aspect, Unlimited Gravity, Earth Tones)

18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
I've recently gotten myself on an ambigram kick, which is probably the most interesting way I can start working more lettering into my designs. Words that exhibit some kind of visual symmetry not only bend the our normally-rigid rules of typographical perception, but also allude to deeper symmetries in mind and nature (at least for me) and how we bring multiple perspectives to bear when trying to make sense of our world. Plus, I wanted to come up with a kickass logo for my embryonic new instrumental electronic music project. So here it is.

Chromatin Research
2009 11 xx - 28 Studio & Cervantes (Contraband, Jeff The Box)

20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
signed 11"x17" prints available
This was one of the most satisfying projects I've ever had the pleasure to tackle – a commission for the new homepage of Colorado State University's Chromatin Research Lab, courtesy of professor Jeff Hansen. I met Jeff at the Alex Grey show back in October and both of us could scarcely believe the other exists. A live painter who specializes in his area of expertise? A molecular biology professor with a love for downtempo electronica and psychedelic imagery? Needless to say, it was a match made in heaven, and this hybrid studio/live painting was the result.

But wait, there's more! I managed to mount my camera on a microphone stand behind me at the show and get a new timelapse video. Check it out, below – and turn up your audio, because I've narrated it with a mini-lecture on the biological science and artistic technique that went into this painting.


24 November 2009

Rediscovered Mini Studio Painting

> Imagery
The Tenderest Moment Of Our Lives - 2009 06 ?? - studio
8"x12" - opaque pens on canvas
original and 11"x17" prints available for sale

I accidentally left this piece at a friend's house in Kansas City when I left for Colorado and forgot I'd taken this picture of it to share with everyone. But here it is! This painting was completed on my friend Rick's couch back in June sometime. The background is a layer of semi-metallic blue dry pigment marker, which gives the original a lovely dull sheen that shifts in changing light kind of like interference pigment (which I LOVE).

This piece captures very simply the yearning and poignancy I so often find myself striving to express in my work, be it (examples:) art, music, or writing. Behind all the bold colors and flashy technique is the same sentiment that drew a plaintive howl from all of us at the Temple Burn this year at Burning Man, when the final stairwell collapsed in flames...not a raging against the dying of the light, but a simple cry of the heart. It's what connects you and me.

21 November 2009

My Time Has Come (Jeff Buckley Tribute)

> Imagery
My Time Has Come - 2009 11 18 B Side Lounge
Jeff Buckley Tribute Night:
Jeffery Hyde Thompson & Band, Dechen Hawk, Ramaya,
Katy McNeill, Greg Isakov
, Kendra Current
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original & signed 11"x17" prints available

Last Tuesday, Jeff Buckley would have been 43 years old. Instead, the legendary singer and songwriter accidentally drowned in Tennessee's Wolf River in 1997, the day his band was convening to record a second album...and now, I like to think, he's up there with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Miles Davis kicking out the jams. So it's left to his adoring fans to carry on the tradition of his music. Last year I played in a Jeff Buckley Tribute on his birthday (17 November) at Lawrence, KS's Jazzhaus, but this year I didn't hear about it until the bill was full. So I do what I always do in that situation, and squeezed in at the last minute as a live painter.

The night was great...everyone sang their hearts out (you have to, in order to even approach Jeff's passionate virtuosity), and Jeffery Hyde Thompson's newly-formed tribute group played Buckley's entire album Grace and passed the Turing Test with flying colors. Jeff's 13-year old guitar student Aaron Kirschner kicked off the night with Jeff's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and blew everyone away. Dechen and Ramaya did a stellar version of "Everybody Here Wants You," my favorite from the album that never was. The B Side was packed, people were cheering, the whole thing was a blast. My only regret is that I should have talked with the band about setting up on the side of the stage, because there were so many people that nobody could get to me...might as well have made myself more visible to the audience.

As for this unusual painting, the first in my third year of live art, it's a little more rigid and formal than I'm used to because I wanted to put something together to honor this specific man and his work. The microphone is the one he's holding on the cover photograph to Grace. The text is a past-tense paraphrase from the title track, his uncanny song about intuiting his own demise, which also mentions waiting in the fire (hence the ring of fire). And the wings are the "black feather wings" that unfurl from the "dark angel...watching over them" in "Dream Brother," Grace's closing track and my personal favorite.

The red ribbon was supposed to allude to the red thread of life and give the whole image a bit more dynamism (red is a color Jeff used frequently in his imagery, being a Scorpio and all). But I think it ended up making it look kind of like a Christmas ornament. Which is okay. One thing I know that wasn't lost on Jeff was how it doesn't always come out the way you expect.

More about the concert itself, including photos, in my write-up at Colorado Music Board.

17 November 2009

New Live Art From Re:Convergence

> Imagery
Euphonic Conceptions just put on Re:Convergence, a two-night rager at Cervantes in Denver. It was not only a program of some of the sweetest electronic music producers in the US (including Bluetech, Mimosa, and two nights of Ana Sia); it was also yet another in an accelerating stream of massive Denver live art throwdowns. Inspired by the half-dozen or so other painters that surrounded me at any given moment, as well as some delicious muffins and cookies, here are the two pieces I churned out of the kosmic art mill (when I wasn't taking a medicinal nap in the back of the theater or gorging on brie and fruit in the unusually well-stocked green room):

2009 11 13 Cervantes (Boombox, Two Fresh, Grown Folks)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" available
Unlike the typical DNA polymers and ideal orbs, I think this one looks like someone threw a sabotage-sausage into the poinsettia factory. Or an eel discovering wormhole travel. Gaming geeks can rejoice at my not-so-disguised icosahedrons in the background (aka, twenty-sided dice)...

2009 11 14 Cervantes (Jason Sterling, Evol Intent, Mimosa, Bluetech, Octopus Nebula)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" available
I haven't been doing enough work with windows and gateways, so this was an attempt to correct that. One thing I really try to communicate in my work is the duality of what quantum physicist David Bohm called the "explicate" and "implicate" orders – the apparent world, and the secret, deeper world behind it. The silence under the noise. The pattern under the chaos. Every painting is the universe in a nutshell. In this one, the endless fabric of creation and destruction underlies the clustered crystals of material form, which in turn underlies the dynamics of life. A reminder to look past the surfaces of things...

Three New Studio Paintings

> Imagery
2009 10 28 - Snowday Vajras
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
This is the sequel to my piece Vajrayanarama...the feminine counterpart, the little sister. Getting twenty three inches of snow in one day meant cozying up at my friend's house with some pens and trying new techniques. This one started with a trellis of the Islamic Breath of the Compassionate pattern on naked masonite, covered by a semi-transparent layer of fat-tipped green marker. It inhabits a weird liminal zone between rigid geometry and curvaceous floral persuasion.

2009 11 08 - Hypnagogic Dream Tunnel
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
Start with a fake-woodgrain brushed dichromatic background. Fill with semi-regular tesselating geometric "cookiecutters." Bake for six to eight hours on your friend's couch. Presto: a breathing molten fountainscape.

2009 11 11 - Your Heart Sings Renewal
20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
I couldn't get enough of the style so I came back for more. There's something simultaneously trendy-graphic-design and eyes-closed-on-psilocybin about these in a way that has always eluded me... Given my tenaciousness this will probably end up being the second in my first actual themed series of paintings. Semi-metallic purple and intense lime green pigments really make this glow in person, and if you look closely the hearts have little fountains running out of them (hence the title).

12 November 2009

New Video: "Spokes" (Live At The B Side)

> Music
Here's my solo acoustic tapping piece "Spokes" from last week's show at The B Side Lounge in Boulder, the encore from my opening set in support of The Floozies & Fresh2Death. There's a short exposition about Bicycle Day and Albert Hofmann, to which this song is dedicated (after all, his discovery of LSD most likely saved the human species from nuclear annihilation).

Then I shred.


Spokes - 2009 11 07, The B Side Lounge, Boulder CO
(This song was originally featured on my 2008 EP Double-Edged Sword, which you can find for free or pay-what-you-want at Bandcamp.com)

11 November 2009

The Joy Of Completion

> Imagery
Ah, the joy of circling back around to tie up loose ends. Here are two paintings I prematurely declared complete, then stared at their missing elements until I had no choice but to take them back out into the field and finish what I'd started.
2009 09 10 & 11 07 Trinumeral Festival & Boulder Farmer's Market
(Pnuma Trio, M80 Dubstation, Conspirator)
18x24 - opaque pens on masonite
available for sale (email me with an offer)
signed 11x17 prints available for $15

I circled back around to take the fractals to an additional dimension, clearing up some inconsistent fillspaces. Nothing radically different about this piece from its original iteration...just cleaner and more coherent.

2009 08 08 & 11 07 Dancin In The Streets Festival & The B Side Lounge
(Hot Buttered Rum, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, Head For The Hills, Cornmeal & The Floozies, Fresh2Death)

18x24 - opaque pens on masonite
available for sale (email me with an offer)
Hard to tell from this picture, but the middle coil hanging from above is outlined in yellow, and the rest are outlined in gold. In "real life," the contrast makes it look as if one is incandescent and the rest are illuminated by it. I've been getting more and more into sheen-based subtleties that I can't adequately photograph...that said, I'm all for inspiring people to give their sleeping imagination a kick in the pants. Painting for The Floozies and Fresh2Death after opening the show for them was a lot of fun, but The B Side's doorman stole about $300 from the bands so we'll be boycotting that venue until they get things sorted out.

09 November 2009

Review: Edly's Music Theory For Practical People

Originally published at Performer Magazine.

I am a guitarist – one of a notoriously stubborn class of musicians known for kicking and screaming all the way to the treble clef.  Cadences?  Transposition?  Chord inversion?  Forget about it.  I have a fakebook.  I can read chord charts and a little tablature…after all, even The Beatles couldn’t read staff music, so why should I?

The truth is, that voice is just shouting over the other one that says music theory is important and that any practical person would recognize how essential basic literacy is to earning my credibility as a musician.  It’s not the content of music theory that puts off so many people, but the style of presentation – and no knowledge deserves to be locked up in stuffy, uninteresting textbooks, inaccessible to the very sense of fun that makes music worth learning in the first place.

Thankfully, the solution has arrived:  Edly’s Music Theory For Practical People, now in its revised and expanded third edition.  Author Ed Roseman has written an introduction to the occult universe of diatonic triads, modal discovery, whole-tone scales, and open voicings so bouncy and colloquial it’s hard not to smile while reading it.  Rife with Peter Reynold’s cartoon characters and a double helping of adorably geeky “Can you believe this guy?” professor-humor, Edly’s Music Theory is about as engaging as any introduction to an arcane and elaborate system like Western Music can be.  Lessons (although they’re not called lessons) are well-summarized at the end of each section; focused and brief workbook exercises keep the blade sharp; and all of the information is embedded in application (e.g., he introduces tritone substitution by discussing its importance in jazz improv). 


For those of us afraid to tackle the intellectual intricacies of this material, Roseman peppers the text with inspirational reminders such as, “If it is any consolation, know that you will be alive and well and playing for years to come – whether or not you take it upon yourself to learn transposition, any of the concepts in this book, unicycle riding, juggling, or gardening.”  He’s not in the game to cram information into the heads of unwilling captives – time and time again, he reminds us of the fascinating relevance and the minor cosmic importance of learning to read music, understanding the innards of seven flat nine chords, or writing slash-chord voicings.  In so doing, he takes the teeth out of a topic that for many people is too intimidating to approach.

02 November 2009

Halloween Painting: The Sweet Release Of Death

> Imagery
2009 10 31 Hyatt Regency (Haunted Hotel Colorado)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original available - 11"x17" signed prints for $15

In a dramatic change of scenery, I decided to bow out from my plans to paint for The Motet on Halloween and instead perform at a huge costume party hosted by Kevin Larson Presents. Larson does a lot of swank, high-budget mass-soirées around Denver...and indeed, this was reflected in the amazing costumery I saw that night (including a too-real Iron Man suit, the guy from Tron in full el-wire glory, Mr. & Ms. Pac Man, a seven-foot hookah, a stilted puppeteer with marionette, a stilted Thriller Michael Jackson, a female Colonel Sanders and male bucket of chicken, a score of fake cops, and about a half dozen neck-twisting examples of body painting). Metromix.com did a full write-up with 107 pictures, if you're curious, including me in my "I'm Going To Burning Man" costume (unfortunately, he didn't get the skirt in the shot):

Image courtesy of photographer Alex Jimenez, Metromix.com

If it wasn't the sexiest party I've ever attended, it was in the top three (temporary cities don't count). And I was having trouble concentrating on my work. So of course I did the only thing a compulsive balance-seeker can do: I drew a human skull. Because after all, we can only party THIS hard when we're trying to laugh in the face of the yawning abyss. Sex IS death, really. (If you don't believe me, read Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork of modern nature-mysticism, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek.)

Quote Of The Night came from some guy who stopped to watch me paint for a second and then quipped, paraphrasing Shakespeare, "I KNEW him! ...I TOLD that sumbitch to stop doing acid."

And yes, that's a moustache. Maybe if I can stick with it, I can hit Halloween 2010 as Salvador Dalí.

30 October 2009

The Studio Evolution Of A Live Painting

> Imagery

In honor of live art's transparency of process, this time I'm not going to just throw a finished piece out there and call it a day. For my latest painting, I want to give some exposition and a before-and-after, because the photograph of the finished piece verges on not communicating what is actually going on. First, the after:

2009 08 07 & 10 28 Dancin In The Streets Festival & Studio
(Darkstar Orchestra, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Billy Kreutzmann and Papa Mali, Nailhouse)

18"x24" - opaque pens, acrylic, & spraypaint on masonite
original available for purchase - signed 11"x17" prints available for $15

Once upon a time, I started by brushing on a uniform background in black, then gold acrylic paint...then I took the board to Dancin' In The Streets Festival back in August and tried my hand at the kind of colorful plaques I see coming out of Indonesia and Tibet – you know, lots of gold, intricate central design, kind of a pointy floral thing going on:

And then this painting spent nearly three months in a stack while I made disappointed faces at it. What happened to my grand vision of layering? The gold isn't really integrated; it's just sitting in the background doing nothing. All the right angles really kill the flow, and in spite of the clutter of colors and angles, it didn't give me any feeling of depth. So I decided I'd wait until the painting was least suspecting it, then pounce with gold spraypaint and turn the whole thing into Layer One.

It worked out pretty well. Boulder got hit by 23 inches of snow the other day, giving me the perfect opportunity to hole up with my friend and wire-wrapper extraordinaire Dan Donohue and devote our day to the muses. First I applied a coat of noxious spraypaint. (For those unfamiliar with illegal street art or home renovation, there's a special touch that will get the spray paint canister to spit out fat drops instead of a fine mist, leaving semi-transparent galaxies instead of a uniform blanket.) Then I followed the original implied octagons with the good old Breath of the Compassionate, an Islamic tiling pattern that signifies the infinite expanse of divine creation and destruction. Throw a snowflake in there for good measure, ignore the inner nagging voice about how the six-fold and eight-fold geometries don't quite line up, and call it a day.

The end result is one of my subtlest and deepest pieces – really hard to get a feel for from just the above photo. Here are some details that demonstrate how the spraypaint alternately hides and reveals the red underlayer, depending on the light:


27 October 2009

New Paintings From Kelli Rudick & Bonobo

> Imagery
2009 10 07 & 23 The B-Side Lounge (Kelli Rudick, Gloam & Jungle Bums)
18"x24" - opaque pens on canvas panel
11"x17" signed prints - $15
Certain events are major obstacles to my intended painting. Kelli Rudick is a badass neoclassical-experimental live looper who plays percussive guitar and several unique instruments like the array mbira and nail violin. Gloam put on a surprisingly epic show – one of Boulder's sweetest prog rock ensembles, solid beyond their years. And the Jungle Bums are a hard-hitting drum & bass collective with some pretty impressive rappers. Which meant that at both of these shows, I didn't get a lot of work done...I was too busy watching, dancing, or just hanging out. So I took this out to the Boulder Farmer's Market last weekend and set my easel in the grass next to other rogue vendors with lovely feather earrings and a massage chair. It was a beautiful and strangely warm fall day, and everyone was in a good mood. You can't tell too well from this picture, but the yellow orbs in the background have a lot of gold in them and they gleam like medallions in the sunshine.

2009 10 22 Cervantes (Bonobo, Mike Slot, Juno What, Jantsen)
20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
11"x17" signed prints - $15
I spent the first hour+ on this one with a fat-tipped green marker just making the trees, one sweeping feathery stroke after another in a state of hypnotic flow. My friend, fellow painter Tye-Dye Paul, who falls far more on the "energy painting" side of the spectrum than I do, was very supportive of this expressive and gestural work, and came over to shoot me significant looks and cast spells of blessing on the painting while I was at work. It was really intense, but he is a considerate guy and always asks before getting all up in my space. Apparently not every painter is into his extreme acts of professional friendliness. At any rate, expect more trees like these. It was a liberating new approach, and took me deep into memories of old trips out at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kansas, glowing kaleidoscopic jewelry breathing out of the bare winter woods...

24 October 2009

New Videos From The Walnut Room

> Music
Anyone who has ever talked to me about music knows that my favorite guitarist – far and away – is Andreas Kapsalis. So it was an honor – and a humbling experience – to open for him for the third time last Sunday night at Denver's finest small venue, The Walnut Room. He played in a wonderful duo with nylon string Balkan guitar virtuoso Goran Ivanovic, and Jonah Smith headlined with some soulful-but-upbeat Brooklyn pop. I only got half an hour to turn on the dozen or so people who showed up early enough to see me play, but it was worth it. Not only did The Walnut Room give me an excellent seventeen-inch walnut and pesto pizza and a pitcher of beer, but I managed to record two decent videos from my show. I hope you enjoy them...and, of course, please share them with your friends if you do! You can also subscribe to my video channel at Youtube if you're geeking hard enough. :)


Underground River (Live Remix) - The Walnut Room, 2009 10 18


Bête Moiré - The Walnut Room, 2009 10 18

23 October 2009

Cosmic Consciousness & A Custom Hat

> Imagery
2009 10 17 City Hall (KiloWatts, Big Gigantic, Emancipator, Heyoka)
20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
11"x17" signed prints - $15; full-size signed & numbered (x/30) prints - $50
I recently had the honor of painting alongside Alex & Allyson Grey, Mars-1, and J Garcia at one of the most epic parties I've ever attended, thrown by my friends at Boogie Down Productions in Denver last weekend. It took place at City Hall – not the actual civic building, but Denver's most promising new venue, three floors and a majestic outdoor balcony/lounge area that, all together, make for a ridiculously awesome event space. Plenty of corners and corridors, four stages, a fashion show, two floors of live painting, a hefty and delicious array of vendors, and some of the most lovely electronic music I've ever heard. Alex started the evening off with a sweeping survey of his work since the age of five, showing how his psychological development was reflected in a growing capacity for perspective-taking. I don't think anyone there, myself included, had ever seen such a glorious presentation initiate what ten years ago would have been called a "rave"...the otherwise insane, crowded, sweaty, intoxicated evening was still somehow activated, lucid, and open-hearted. And no doubt Alex's excellent primer on visionary art was largely responsible.

That was just one reason that this evening was one of the highlights of my entire artistic existence. Ten minutes after I started, I damn near had a panic attack about my sloppy first layer, the evidence of that day's anxiousness and confusion. But I stuck with it, and the painting ultimately took on an edgy, urban quality I've never managed to capture...and a ghostly inner glow that half captivates me and half gives me the creeps. The crowd was thick, and since I wasn't granted my own riser that night, I was getting bumped and jammed all evening. But momentum is conserved, and all of that energy traveled up my spine, down my arm, and into the piece. You're looking at the vector space of some 2,500 exultant partiers.

I should also mention that this painting was fueled by the excellent cuisine of my dear friend Araminta David, whose pre-show catering for the artists and production team was definitely on par with the quality of all other art that evening. I can't believe she got a "Guest" lanyard instead of an "Artist" lanyard. If you ever have a chance to eat her food, you had better take it. Just might change your life.

2009 10 14 Studio - Owl & Ice
In more modest news, I finally got to do my first custom hat! This was a surprise birthday present for one of my friend's boyfriend. He likes owls, and she suggested cubes...minor constraints like that really helped "narrow the search space" and focus the vision, and the hat she sent me to work on had just enough texture that it opened up new expressive possibilities with my pens. The "feather" of ice cubes on the left side was just silly enough to work, and I love being asked to do characters, which I normally don't have the nerve to attempt in a large format live context. Not to mention, someone is wearing my art ON HIS HEAD, now! Point being, I LOVED working on this hat. If anyone else wants some custom headwear, email me about it. I'd be honored and delighted.

12 October 2009

Evolutionary Biology Symposium At Entheon 2009

> Writing
Over the years, I've cultivated an identity as kind of a trickster-academic, lurking on the fringes of half a dozen disciplines and diligently synthesizing them in ways that wouldn't be options for me if I'd stayed in the tenure-track system. And it's starting to pay off. So I started a new page, evolution.bandcamp.com, for audio downloads of the various lectures, interviews, and discussions in which I've participated.

First item on the menu is an amazing discussion about evolutionary biology I had with three other, somewhat less rebellious biologists at Burning Man's Entheon Village this year – a freewheeling symposium that veered from one topic to the next (including the emergence of order from chaos, whether evolutionary theory can actually improve society, when going backward is actually going forward, and – somehow – the ethical demands that beauty makes on a person) with delightful caprice and strangely rigorous whimsy. One of the attendees came back the next day and told me that sitting in on it had been like "going to Awesome College." Here it is, folks – my first swing at being a professional public presenter of mind-blowing ideas, with help from fellow cool geeks Cory Bishop, Jason Hodin, and Ruben Valas:


If you like it, please share it with your friends! (Bandcamp has made it very easy to post worthy audio to Facebook, Twitter, and several others via a menu right next to the download button.) This talk really confirmed for me the value of conversations like this for the greater social good, as inspirational learning that reminds us of the incredibly awesome vastness in which we live and of which we are made...

New & Rediscovered Paintings

> Imagery
2009 09 13 & 22 - Trinumeral Festival & Crosstown Station (RJD2, Pretty Lights & Toubab Krewe)
16"x24" - available
I started this one on Trinumeral Festival's last night, but midway through got severely distracted by Signal Path's set and Emancipator's cute photographer, and lost all motivation. So getting the opportunity to pick it up the next week in Kansas City was pretty great. It's kind of a visual paradox, the way the ribbon interacts with what appear to be cubes. The first time I ever painted straight over another piece that wasn't going the way I'd hoped.

2008 12 xx - Studio 01
8"x12" - available
This one and the next were pieces I started and finished at my friend Rick's place in Kansas City last winter and promptly forgot about until my recent move back to Colorado. I was playing with new markers and new methods – neither of which feel very new anymore, but I'm pretty happy with these tiny studies nonetheless. They've weathered well.

2008 12 xx - Studio 02
8"x12" - available

05 October 2009

New Album: Live From Entheon Village

> Music
Here it is - my latest free live album, straight into your Eustachian tubes via the dusty wastes of Black Rock City and the electron-irrigated delta of the dreaming embryonic internet mind:

Live From Entheon Village (2009)

It's 1:11:11 of intense acoustic guitar anthems, ballads, etudes, and banter charged with the electric intensity of Burning Man and the holy playfulness of Entheon Village, one of the Burn's most progressive and conscious theme camps. It's also the best set of live recordings I've released so far. And in honor of Burning Man's gift economy ethos, I'm offering the entire album in high quality .wav format for free. Enjoy!

If you have any questions or feedback about the album, send it my way. Feel free to share it with your friends by inviting them to the cyber-listening party on Facebook. And have a beautiful day...

28 September 2009

The Coming Revolution In Audio Design

Design is not merely about changing our objects, but about changing our lives. It is not merely about improving the appearance or utility of our surroundings, but about the way we relate to them, and thus who we are. A revolution in design shakes both inner and outer worlds – and rarely is this more apparent than with new media technologies that reshape the sensory environment of our everyday lives. I recently stumbled across one such innovation – a radical twist in the world of sound engineering – and it immediately spun me into speculation on a bizarrely probable near-future world…

It’s 2015. I’m attending the premiere performance of the Houston Audioplanetarium, a marriage of science and art that guides the audience by the ears on a tour of our night sky’s celestial bodies. Using fantastic new technology, each star and planet’s radio frequencies are detuned to within the range of human hearing, then placed on a virtual speaker within the planetarium’s sophisticated audio software. Sonic qualities of each signal are modulated to trick our brains into assigning a specific, independent position, distance, and velocity for every sound source – animating the simulated sky with a vast choir of outer space’s spooky resonances as if we were actually listening to the night.
The more distant a star, the fainter its humming and moaning. The projectionists isolate constellations one at a time, and we are reacquainted with our familiar myths as they ring out in thick cinematic chords. Our virtual observatory moves through space and there are gasps as the sky comes unhinged and whizzes past everyone, each point of light and its radio howl zooming like a freight train, new stars up ahead announcing themselves with new tones. We have just navigated to the center of the galaxy to catch the opus of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. Then we zip off to listen to the strange beauty of the Crab Nebula, the Cat’s Eye Nebula, the rotary duets of binary stars, the cannonball roar of a supernova.

This virtual voyage is awe-inspiring and terrifying in its scope and realism, opening an entire sense to the realms of astronomy, revealing unexpected relationships between stars and galaxies, restoring us to wonder at the “music of the spheres” ancient science had predicted and modernity had all but forgotten. My mother, blinded by diabetes, cries tears of awe and joy at her first “glimpse” of the night sky in years.

Driving to the airport the next morning, I’m guided by a field of traffic alert signals my car stereo projects into my environment. Developed for pilots, my car’s sensors (in conjunction with a saturating network of handheld electronic devices, mounted civic sensors, and GPS satellites) notify me audibly of approaching vehicles and pedestrians, objects and obstructions in the road, and invisibly-distant traffic jams. Standard issue hardware on the nicer civilian automobiles now creates such a vivid real-time audio environment, every alert placed at actual distance in the virtual sonic sphere, that even the legally blind can drive (they have to pass a hearing exam).

Later, at work, I’m on a trans-Atlantic conference call in which the voices of my European associates seem to come directly from the mouths of their high-resolution holographic projections. I haven’t made a business trip in almost a year, down from two a month just a few years ago. The sense of “there-ness” is so compelling that sometimes I forget we still can’t actually shake on a deal.
If I’m to believe the rumors my friends are circulating, this means a new age for interrogation…a new form of psychological torture to break political prisoners by dangling their loved ones and enemies right in front of them. Fugitives are lured out of hiding by familiar voices (the technology to simulate a person’s unique vocal spectrum has existed for well over a decade). The “fireside chats” of internet media personalities have risen to a whole new level, celebrity spokespeople projected onto the street next to us. Porn stars really whisper in your ear, now.

A few years ago, when the first of these convincing phantasms saturated Hollywood, the surround sound industry disappeared overnight. Now, nobody trusts perception like we used to. Just as Photoshop made us learn to doubt the testimony of our eyes, so too do we now question our hearing. We’re no longer such a naïve culture, but something else has replaced our childlike confidence in the reality of our senses: a rigorous discernment, an eagerness to reach out and touch, a scientific sensibility that – day by day – erodes our assumptions about the nature of “reality” and has created a generation of philosophers.

It’s all due to the innovative work of one company, GenAudio, which in 2008 released a new level of “4D” audio processing software. Founded in Englewood, Colorado in the middle of the 21st Century’s first decade, their AstoundSound technology quickly exploded from its original applications in home theater and music production, rattling and rattled our society to the core, growing a new layer of thought and experience on the scaffold of our wild brains. We live in a new world of sound, and nobody saw it coming. But a few of us had our ears to the ground.
(Written for d/visible magazine.)