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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Top Secret Album Release!

Under cover of darkness, shrouded in secrecy, BitWorks Music has released the greatest achievement in kids entertainment of all time, or at least since lunchtime. It's true! Hank Hooper's multimedia album and eBook edition of "Playground Fortune Teller" is here! "WHAT?! Why didn't I know about this?" you ask. Well, our official Wizard of Maximum Propaganda is hard at work on the official Hank Hooper Propagandorium, designed to make young children cry until their computer hard drives and/or other media devices are filled with the album download edition of Hank's 17 new songs and narrated, illustrated, and exquisitely programmed eBook. If you aren't on the BitWorks Music homepage now, you can surf over and check out Hank Hooper in the catalog. You can purchase it for only $12 for the MP3 (super high quality 320 kbps) edition.

Stay tuned for more...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Slicnaton Bridges the Electro-Jazz-Classical Gap

Slicnaton recently released the new album "Trio Slicnaton", a compilation of material from four performances in early 2008 (Meredith College, The Royal Bean Coffee House, Badgerhaus Pi Party, Train Tracks Studios). Trio Slicnaton is the trio incarnation of experimental work of Nicholas Slaton (basses and electronics), Mietek Glinkowski (violin and vitar), and Julian Sparacino (clarinets and flute).
Self-described as "ambient drone noise sound", the album is also offered for licensing use in film, TV, radio, games, and other media. I would say a lot of it is great suspense film material, though some parts, such as the more peaceful, layered, flute-heavy track "nightlife", provide a more easy-going texture.
What makes the Slicnaton sound stand out is that it mixes more traditional classical instruments with heavy electronic processing and industrial sounds.

I had a chance to speak with executive producer Nicholas Slaton to get his perspective on the music.

D: I see you are doing more performances lately.

N: Yes, we are starting to do more shows and trying to promote some of the music with performances. It's definitely a change from when we started. The original catalog was compositionally electronic, needing a computer to create the music, but in order to connect with an audience you have to perform live to let people know what you are trying to do is real and not just inside a computer.
I have a lot of experience with jazz since attending NC Central for jazz performance, where I started to focus on acoustic upright, working with a bow. Through that experience, instilled with jazz history and performance practice, I got a lot of gigs in town, playing jazz or pickup gigs in the area for about 7 years. It was really exciting playing with a lot of different people, being in a lot of different playing situations. This led me to form Slicnaton.

Electronic music offers a different set of compositional aspects, a lot being improvisation anyway, combining with sampling, looping, and effects brings a new element into the music, after coming from a compositional perspective. This allows me to think about electronic sounds in a more musical way, how I can use elecronic equipment to convey an idea as opposed to just dealing with what comes out.

D: How would you describe your music?

N: My music is electro-acoustic improvisation with the goal of the realization of a composition at the end of each performance. So when we improv, we try to do it compositionally. We interact with each other in a way,and try to use ideas to communicate a song on the fly, in the way of free jazz, also mixed with live electronics. What comes out is sometimes drone, sometimes ambient, sometimes noise, sometimes sound art, so those are sort of the basic tenets of a Slicnaton show. Within that we try to find unique personalities.

The first Slicnaton album included Mahlon Hoard, a unique sax player with a personal style, and "Trio slicnaton" is the second release. I recorded a solo EP and also have an album with drummer Ian Davis.

D: So what are your influences?

N: For this music I think John Cage, Stockhausen, also people like Evan Parker, groups that sound similar like Super Silent (not really an influence, but the same genre), 21st century electronic music, and electronic music from the 60's and 70's mixed with free improv and a little modern classical touches thrown in.

D: How much is improvised and how much worked out beforehand?

N: There's a line between composition and improv that gets blurred. I would say 50% is complete improv, and the other 50% is songs I've written used as a basis for group improvisation. "storch" and "nightlife" are melodies I wrote with the intention of sampling live and looping with effects. Once we have a drone established, we move on to the next section, another suggested melody for improv use, or a series of notes, to maybe violin and bass clarinet written out, though played independently, as beginning points for improv. Once the improv has fulfilled its course you come back to a melody or initial fragments of it to resolve the ideas. I really like that format--melodically speaking it's open, not rhythmic, not pulse based, the melody is open to interpretation by the performer, who can take it wherever he wants to go, since noise and sound are all part of the mix, but we all try to keep it in a way that's beautiful and palatable to the listener and ourselves.

D: Have you had any success licensing your work?

N: We have not licensed anything yet, but I'm really interested in working with production people and media companies. The idea behind Slicnaton Publishing is to approach film, television, and new media. As a financial decision, in the music industry you have to be aware that people aren't buying the way they used to, but the TV and movie industry is still booming. If I want to make the music it has to pay for itself. That's why the goal is TV and movies. I would like to write original new material for each specific project. The music I make with others is so people can hear what we do, and that stuff is available, but more than anything I like to work on new projects. I want to collaborate with others, bring it back to the days when movies were special to listen to. In a way, if I want something better to watch and listen to, I also have a responsibility to put out my best effort to create that.

D: What equipment does Slicnaton use for electronic sounds?

N: What I bring to the gigs:
Beringer 4-channel mixer, UB-1202
Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man delay pedal
Then I do some "no-input" mixing with all the circuit enclosed. I can get sound from signals that are generated.
TR1000, a digital music study recorder for transcribing horn lines and stuff, from early days of that type of equipment, so it doesn't work very well. It has its own sounds, and can also slow down and speed up without changing pitch.
Akai MPC2000-XL sampler. Basically I use all that, and plug it into itself. For my solo playing thats how I create. With others, I set up a nice large diaphragm condenser mic and use that to sample the band live.

D: Do you have upcoming performances scheduled?

N: The next show of Trio Slicnaton is the Ava Gardner Film Fest in Smithfield (September 27th). I'm pretty pumped about putting the trio on stage as we don't have a lot of opportunity to do that--it's a lot easier solo. We also have a confirmed date in NYC, an art gallery opening October 18th. We'll put a couple shows around that on the way up there. The group is starting to play more, since up until now all of it has been studio based. Now it's picking up momentum.

D: Thanks for your insights Nick. Slaton has performed with a large number of area musicians, both as an electronic musician and a bassist. You can visit the Slicnaton website for more information on recordings and upcoming performances.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music and Arts Festivals On the Way

Driving through Chapel Hill this weekend, I could not miss the unmistakable explosion of the local population as we welcome students for the fall semester! This time of year also means that local artists of all varieties are gearing up for the arts festival season.

This weekend, August 21-23, Raleigh features Arts on the Edge, part of Arts Alive on Lichtin Plaza at the Progress Energy Center. Arts on the Edge is described as "a 3-day contemporary arts festival celebrating the vibrancy and variety of today’s art scene. From debut performances by the state’s leading theatre companies to concerts by progressive musicians to performance art that tests boundaries (and gravity!), Art on the Edge invites the audience to explore the richness of contemporary art." That sounds like a great time, but I predict the law of gravity will win in the end.

ProgDay is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, August 30-31, an international festival of progressive rock at the bucolic Storybook Farm on the outskirts Chapel Hill. There is a "pre-show" on Friday, August 29th at Local 506. ProgDay draws a dedicated audience from all over, with many traveling from out of state to attend.

One of the most popular events in the area is Carrboro Music Festival, September 28th. CMF has become a huge gathering of area musicians, both professional and amateur, of all styles, shapes, and sizes. Organizer Gerry Williams said: "This is the most incredible music event that I've been involved with during my thirty year career in and around music. Unlike many aspects of the music business, this is entirely about celebrating our community and its music. The range and quality of what we see and hear each year is simply amazing!" If you were hoping to perform at CMF, you already missed the July 20th deadline, but there may still be volunteer opportunities available. Here is the volunteer form.

October 5th at 1-6 PM is Chapel Hill's Festifall, featuring outdoor arts, crafts, music, and food. They are still seeking qualified exhibitors, and I see they also have a monetary award for "Best in Show"! That could buy you a few funnel cakes, or maybe a gym membership after you eat all those funnel cakes. For more information, contact Diana at (919) 968-2787 x216.

If you or anyone you know is playing or showing at any of these, feel free to leave your comments!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Have Fun and Help a Fan!

Here is your chance to help out an ailing friend of local music and have a great time. Cy Rawls has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment and has no medical insurance.

It has been wonderful to hear about so many events coming together to benefit Cy. You can visit his blog HERE for a calendar of events and updates on Cy's treatment. Some shows of interest:

Polvo, CGJ, Double Negative, Fin Fang Foom, Magic Babies
Cat's Cradle, Sunday, August 17th, 7:30-11:30PM

Superchunk, The Rosebuds, Birds of Avalon
Cat's Cradle, Friday, August 29th, 9:00-11:30PM

Monday, August 11, 2008

INVISIBLE Plays Free Show Tonight, Local 506

In case you missed recent shows by Greensboro band INVISIBLE last week, you have a great opportunity to catch them at a free show tonight (Monday, August 11th) at Local 506 in Chapel Hill! INVISIBLE plays a unique blend of experimental music, including a one-of-a-kind instrument: a "Selectric Piano", that "links a IBM Selectric typewriter to a keyboard--each character corresponding to a note." As the Selectric plays, it also projects the text on a screen. Each typewriter key is attached to a solenoid that depresses a key on the keyboard. Guaranteed you have never seen anything like it!

Their instruments also include drums, bass, guitar, and of course, various other electronic delicacies, so their sound ranges from electronic infused rock to other-worldly.

For those looking for more conventional music, you may still be able to get tickets to Smashing Pumpkins, playing in Charlotte at Ovens Auditorium on Friday, August 15th, and at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, August 17th. As of today there are still tickets available for the Raleigh show. (Photo: Steve Burnett)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Band in a Box Rocks

BitWorks Music artist Photon composes and arranges compositions using many different instruments and tools. He has scored pieces for dance performance (DC's Next Reflex Dance Collective) and released a multimedia album on under the name "Unit Vector".

Today he reviews the composition tool Band-in-a-Box, from PG Music.

"Like a lot of people, I always thought that Band-in-a-Box was nothing more than a glorified drum machine, but after playing with the demo I can say it is a lot of fun. Adding and substituting chords is really easy, and I'm no chord expert. Then I read this:

The amazing “Chords from MP3″ feature (Audio Chord Wizard) automatically figures out the chords from any MP3, WAV or WMA audio file, and displays them in Band-in-a-Box. Just load in any MP3 file and you’ll instantly see the chords. The Audio Wizard also figures out tempo, bar lines, key and fine-tuning from the MP3, WAV or WMA audio file.

Does it work? This function is unfortunately disabled in the demo but if it works it is a miracle to me. By converting audio to chords, it would also allow me to export these chords as a standard midi file and or an arrangement. I also could imagine improvising midi without a metronome. The metronome stifles my creativity, yet it is important for notes to fall within the bars when sequencing music."

Thanks for that review Photon! Another amazing tool we have come across is Sibelius. One feature we discovered is that you can scan in a piece of sheet music and Sibelius will convert it to MIDI and play it. It's great if you don't have sight reading skills (like me).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

David Byrne and Brian Eno To Release Album

Influential music makers David Byrne, formerly of Talking Heads, and Brian Eno, producer (Coldplay, U2, Talking Heads, and many more) and composer, are collaborating on an upcoming album, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today", their first collaboration in about 30 years.

For me, these are two of the most influential people in my musical upbringing. Eno worked closely with Talking Heads on three of their albums, and later, the Eno/Byrne collaboration "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". So, perusing the tour dates... (Asheville, NC, September 21, Newport News, VA, September 18, Baltimore, MD, September 17), I may have to just quit my job and travel around the country! (Mr. Boss Guy, if you're reading this, just kiddin'.)

You can download a track from the album at the website and check out a tour announcement from David. The downloadable track feels a lot like Eno and John Cale's 1990 release "Wrong Way Up" musically, but with Byrne's unmistakable vocals.

So, whaddaya say? Road trip?