Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: December 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.