Long time gone…

It’s been a hugely long time since I’ve posted here mainly because I was using Win 98 and firefox 2.0 and I just couldn’t get in. Now I’ve completely updated everything with Ubuntu as an operating system and it uses Firefox 3.4 or something so I’ve been able to get back into this site.
What does this mean?

I’m still not quite up to speed and the overall reason for that is that I haven’t been doing instruments and music, well I have been doing music, but not of the type reported here but have been doing art and building little bach’s and while that has needed some form of recording I’m still not completely up to speed with my peripherals and the various interconnections between those and the internet sites I used to make it all come together seamlessly in this site… sorry for not being so incredibly competent!

But the restart of Vitamin S is imminent for the year 2011 and I can feel a growin’ need to get back in with that close knit bunch of sound exploration mavericks and do some playtime with noise!

My first foray into sound sculpture, which lasted about a year and a half, was mainly about me doing stuff at home in the workshops, using the abilities I had with instrument makin’ and electronics, to make things I could use at Vitamin S… without much, or any, consideration of Vitamin S or where it could lead to. I was just basically into makin things and then having Vitamin S and the Wine Cellar as a venue to see if the things nI made worked.

Now that I’ve had a fair amount of time away from “the scene”, in it’s entirety including my own makin’ of instruments, and been into the art making in different vein, more purely sculptural, I’m at a stage now where I think Vitamin S can offer me something interesting again. What has significant effect on this is that I’ve rebuilt my workshop existence somewhat, by adding a drawing and painting “office” and also adding fibreglass, as a usable construction mode, and also rebuilding my place to sleep with the whole bunch of changes culminating in a need to move my electronics department into a smaller space and therefore review how and why I use it.

My last foray was about me trying to keep up with the experts. To try and develop my skills, in instrument making and electronics, audio, so that I could get into the playing field used and frequented by the big boys. But along the way my wise old friend Felix Delux, of Raglan, got into electronics to expand his own musical universe and his down home improvisational and laterally, but logical, experiments in acheiving things with the minimum of knowledge and previous experience in the field of electronics have had a major effect on me in the sense that the proscribed way of doing things isn’t always the best way.
Maybe it's me!

Thats not to say that my own previous attempts were wrong. They weren’t. In the long run is all very much like carving with wood. You use one set of tools to rough things out and then stand back, figure out where you’re going, and then leap back in a go at it with another set of tools more finely tuned to where you want to go.

In trying to do things the complex and professional way I learnt a lot about the building blocks of electronics but now I’m at a stage where those skills are more like a set of tools than they are and end in themselves and I think I’m ready for the second stage of my foray into sound making and being more able to par down those electronics abilities as a sideline to a more focused view on sound making and performance in line with what really interests me which is story telling.

As I’ve gotten older I haven’t ever really changed my original loves in creativity but I have gone through stages of expansion, potential and action, and then into review and subsequent discarding and paring down to essentials before jumpin back into particular veins of expression while at the same time becoming more aware of all these different set of action slowly melding together as a set of tools that will be my mature form of story telling. Everything, overtime, has come under that hat, storytelling.
tara tarah!

The sculptures, the painting and drawing, the working with sound, and the buildings and landscaping, and , I suppose, the written word as well, are all a bunch of skills and abilities that are slowly forming into an archive of tools that seem to be under that great umbrella of wanting to be able to tell a story. What that story is I’m not altogether sure or even if that question is even relevant. What does seem relevant though is that the trying to climb this particular mountain seems a fair and reasonable thing to do even if the summit I’m yearning for is still lost in the mists above me.

Over the past two days I’ve watched Hamish Keith’s DVD “the big picture” and a very good DVD “the comics show”( which is a doco made by Shirley Horrocks about NZ comics) and while the first left me enthusiastic about NZ art I was somewhat bemused about how I actually fit what is already understood about NZ art but in watching “the comics show” I not only saw quite a few people I either knew or admired, or know admire, but got a much more significant feeling that I am a part of an art field, or accepted genre, even if my own comical attempts are insignificant beside these actual publishers of text and picture.
great composition

It was, in the comics show, more the attitudes and the childhood significant happenings of the comics creators, away from fine art, that I felt a kinship too. And also the associations with music and film, as well as straight out illustration, as industries of story telling that are existing in the world within commercial and entirely pragmatic constraints and how the New Zealand self published comics has gone from strength to strength driven by a love of the medium, by it’s creators, and been able to survive and flourish against all the odds created by commercial realities.

This has so much more to offer me than any insiders guide to Fine Art, even if Hamish Keiths effort is as non smarmy and egalitarian as fine arts is ever going to get, it’s not a world that means much to me, or ever will really, simply because it’s existence, though of usefulness to me, has nothing to do with what world I existed in as a child. Whereas comics, film and popular music had a profound effect on me when I was growing up, the mediums were able to do things that transported me into inner worlds, worlds of discovery and adventure that filled me with wonder and expectation, and hope, of world that would acknowledge me and want me to dig deep and be something useful.

Fine art was never there in my youth, and if it even was, it never moved me enough to allow me those forays into imagination that were my lifeblood, the food of the mind that fed and nourished my growing awareness of the potentials of life. Fine art was just this foreign thing that had something that whispered but was unheard amongst the shouts of popular culture.

Quite Funny then how in my Adult life that fine arts is my industry of choice. And that with such reminders as the comics show I know that I am an interloper in that chosen field. I am a secret agent on the side of the hoi polloi who’s task is to derarify the high arts and bring it’s significance to a wider audience.
So much of high art is without substance, or if it has any it’s ephemeral qualities render it breathable by only a few, a poison to some, and merely emptiness to most, whereas popular culture has a wide and deep foundation in creative skill that it seem to me that a melding of the two is a necessity. To explain why it might be necesary to me to meld those two is not something I fully understand yet but on the surface the most readily available answer might be that the emulsifier required to mix the oil and water of fine art and popular culture respectively is a chemistry of sociology that is a challenge to my Mad Professor archetype that alike a Robin Hood style archetype wants to address the problematic nature of modern life and make something more suitable to humanity.

And then a melding of such as I’ve put forth is a great challenge to embark upon. One, for purely selfish reasons, to create a buying public that supports me in all my adventures with stuff, but also altruistically and with what I hope is an enlightened self interest, that such a melding of divisions, created in the past by ideas of class and race in this lead up to a post industrial society, are a necessary development if we, the human race, are to grow into all that we can be by finding the underlying similarities we all share and not by the division by surface recognition that is so prevalent in this age of man we are in at the moment.
This is by Moebius; french comic book artist. Check him out!

Sounds of hammers!

So I haven’t been here for a very long time, not sure so thats why it’s long, but I do like to write and after moving away from windows 98 and firefox 2 I’m now running Ubuntu 10.04 with a latest version firefox… so I can read this site again. I haven’t done any instrument making for ages and I’m now deep into rebuilding my little house on the backlawn. The roofs come off and I’ve given myself more interior room and made it as waterproof as I possibly can. So I’m hammering and sawing and all that sort of stuff, out in the hot sun, and it’s definitely a grounding experience but I’m also listening to all the little noises I make so who knows what mad music makers I’ll be coming up with. Prior to this I’d been working with friends Valerie and Kristin working up a set of covers to have been done at the gallery opening for “Art As War” last year… but it didn’t happen but we’re all keen to get back into it.
And after helpin’ out Morag Brownlee in her show “Birds of Paradise” I think we might be able to expand the context of a few songs and build a theatrical act of sorts.
my house expanding.

And now for something…

Hello, my names _ _ _ _ and I’m a Radio Shack Nostalgic!
Shockley and crew.
I’d like the above on a T-Shirt!
The lost tribes of Radio Shack
Please read the article before you read what I’ve written below… just advice and you can, of course, make up your own mind.

I really liked that article even though I know this stuff, we all do, but in the avalanche of it’s repercussions, the fact we all know is hardly ever mentioned. But I don’t really think it’s anything to get too concerned about, I mean it’s wasteful and kinda stupid, but, by the same token, I think it’s merely a passing phase, and adjustment of sorts as western societies find their way into a new phase of living in the world.

While the components disappear of these previous ages of DIY we have to acknowledge that the consumer culture of electronics has actually made a whole lot of things possible that weren’t when Computers and Film and Audio equipment were specialized items only available to the Big Boys. Thats all changed and while we may be losing the nuts and bolts, or at least seeing diminishing supplies and suppliers, of DIY activity the internet and cheaper and cheaper top quality equipment has created a whole undercurrent of abilities that will definitely have their day… in the not too distant future I would surmise. Whether or not the audience will increase to allow this counter culture to grow in a way we might understand as required is another story and not one I’m going to go into but it doesn’t really matter whether it grows or not. The point is that the article is symtomatic of a transitional stage in modern culture and I think the important thing to be looking at is the fulcrum point of those two supposedly divergent areas of development.

One being consumerism and the other being the creative “industries”. They are much alike the struggle that was the Unions back in the day. The argument of Unionism was to collectivise and to take that a little further is the notion that if the creative sector where to survive in and of itself, without needing the big bucks investments from the other pole, then eventually the other pole would have to run on its own fuel… and pop will eat itself!

And now the desktop…

Seems like the Laptops underway and I’m now looking at doin’ the desktop. Back’dup all the info I’ve had on it and put it on a USB harddrive as well as storing the firefox bookmarks and getting an add on to be able to copy the passwords. Also burned an XP.iso on to a CD so I’m basically ready to do the installs. All I gotta do now is list all the hardware and find XP drivers for it, as the ones I have are for 98SE and even though I can extract and store those, they may not be what I want. Soon as I’ve done that and burnt them I’ll be ready to reboot from the XP disc, load it up, defrag it, then repartition under the Linux load and install that as well.

Just a little more research to do with open SuSe, not hardware compatibilities, but with any Linux software I’d like on both machines.

Basically the desktop is my realworld internet workhorse and the laptops my audio visual workstation but there’ll be some interaction as any downloading and uploading’ll happen on the desktop, and relevant sorting out of files into formats for use, then swapping across to the laptop to be played with. Hmm…

The learning curve isn’t so steep after all, but learning to take things slowly and do research, thats a new ballgame.

Getting used to Ubuntu.

I can’t remember what I wrote last time but I think I was on my second install. Now I’ve done the third and it seems alot more stable. I had a bunch of problems on the second after a few add ons to firefox. Whether they were the problem I don’t know but suffice to say I just did another install. Once it was installed I updated straight away and once that was done I went to Ubuntu Studio 10.04 and the whole thing took about 6-7 hrs including the 3.5 hr download of 10.04. This happened at night to about 2.30 in the morning and after the download the computer wan’t another 2 hrs to install so I left it running and went to bed.

I suppose thats a good sign, eh? The fact that I’m happy to let Linux do it’s stuff entirely without me in evidence. So in the morning there it was all set up and ready to go. Then I went back and did the hardware devices and downloaded the Nvidia graphics and that installed this time without a hitch. Now I’ve kinda learned that with a new OS it’s an idea to go back to the beginning and instead of leaping into the OS like you know PC’s inside out and do add ons and plug ins to see what happens its actually a better idea to work into things a little slower. Last night I spent most of my time in preferences remaking the window colours and then downloading backgrounds to get the work surface nice and suitable for what I want. Okay, thats only comsmetic but I think the fact I’m no computer whiz and I know nothing about command lines means that me and the PC need to spend some time on the surface getting to know each other.

So instead of me standing on the surface and issueing these big commands that send streaks of lightening down into the core kernel I’m most probably better off acheiving stability in ways that I understand in real life. Basically that means getting to know the ‘puter on it’s surface and then as intimacy developes it’ll let me in deeper and respond in ways that suit us both as we’ll have developed a bond and feel safe and secure in each others presence. I mean without the actual knowledge of making this machine do what I want, as in master and slave, I have no other choice but to treat it like a friend and hope we become lovers in the not too distant future.

So the plan now is to take my time and watch a bunch of DVD’s on it, listen to some of my favourite CD’s and watch some youtube vids given to me by my good friend John about various scientific geniuses. Also I’ve got a set of ‘puter speakers that I got for a few bucks that upon opening seem to have a nice little amp in there so I’ll hook those up as the first hardware to the outside world. Once some of this is under way I’ll make tentative jumps into the audio hardware and do a little playing about with drum loops and suchlike… I think it’ll work!

Meanwhile I’m reading this book about Ubuntu

Plus I’ve joined the requisite forums to get help when needed

And now this’ll be required reading as well

So doing some reading above the first thing one has to do is get Jack going properly.
Jack’d is the underlying connectivity of all the audio so getting that up and running is paramount.
Heres the page detailing the things one does

Ubuntu Boy.

Last night I had a spare hour or so and decided to load the Ubuntu Studio DVD on my laptop. No internet connection while loading and I made a mistake about what programs were loaded so this morning I did it again. Plug in the power supply, attach the DSL cable and hit F12 on startup, choose disc boot and slid in the DVD.

All went swimmingly, got all the programs installed and immediately got on the internet without having to know anything or fill out anything. During the loading I was asked for a proxy server but I just ignored that and carried on… so I guess I don’t get served by proxy.

Linux OS’s are constrained by law to be able to carry some proprietary codecs for video and sound but all it means is a little extra setup after the OS is loaded. I tried a DVD and it wouldn’t load so I went to the help menu and the links to the needed files are within the help file so they loaded easy and then a little typing into another program, while still having the help menu open… try doing that in Windows, and push enter and DVD’s played.
Initially it’s kinda weird how Linux works but it soon becomes obvious how easy and well thought out things are. I’m just new to laptops and the windows sliding bars, with the arrow buttons, at the side of windows to move the pages up and down are a pain in “Windows” with one at the top and one at the bottom. In Linux they are both at the bottom and that makes things so much easier. And when you do something wrong in Linux….nothing happens! You know how one can get into lots of trouble in “Windows” if one inadvertantely goes the worng way or pushes the wrong button, well it won’t happen with Linux, you can’t do things wrong and even if you do you just do the right thing and your back on track.

Theres this thing called mounting in Linux where a CD or DVD thats loaded won’t autorun, it needs to be mounted first, either in the my computer menu or by opening the program you want to run it. Then when you finish or quit it won’t eject, manually or within the software, until you unmount it then either eject it manually or in the software. Might seem a little complicated but it means alot as far as having choice about how you want to do things. Even with my limited experience I’m thinking I’m going to get the hang of Ubuntu real quick simply because it echoes my own practises. Consumer electronics aren’t the same as professionally specific electronics… the same seems to go with Windows and Linux… so I’m supposing that what the Apple geeks were on about for so long… is what Linux is doing for the PC, and possibly more so as they’ve been able to learn from both!

So next fire up I’ll do music CD’s, utube vids and mp3’s etc.

And what a gorgeous desktop. Well, not exactly gorgeous but alot more hopeful than anything under the commercial applications.

In the meantime.

Got rained out yesterday. Pissing down it was so all I got done was a few frets brazed to the latest machine… but todays going to be fine all day, good Indian summer day!

Went through some old links and even though I find this chap a little irritating… I love what he does. Does lots of it and it’s good but I’d like to know more about how and the fact hes a little short on explanations pisses me off… one of the prime reasons I try and explain so much of what I do!
ines's stuff.
He started off with a blog, which isn’t going to last to much longer.
Because now he’s got a website.
The necks flat as a pancake, or was before I started putting the frets on, but I hadn’t checked the straightness perpendicularly, and it has a nice curve there… but that doesn’t really matter much. So I’m at the point where I’ll just keep adding frets and then hammer the shit out of it later if the neck comes up and then heat up each fret joint to straighten them all up… and if that doesn’t work I’ll put the belt sander on it. Basically build it then try and set it up flat and even… ish. Steel’s just to fluid too be kept straight when the method of joining involves heat. But this is how I keep relearning that fact! Try and make it do what it doesn’t really want to… but it doesn’t matter, it’s not for Rockstars doing licks at the speed of arrogance.. it’s for me!

So all it has to do is look good and sound… interesting, and it’s already done that without even having strings on it… I can’t fail!

Welded Woks

These photos below were what I acheived yesterday so I didn’t completely finish the instrument… but I did get alot done and then attached a piezo to the neck and took it out, to Vit S and played it anyways; and so did Ivan!
ready to braze.
…and a slightly different view of the same thing.
told ya so.
Now I’ll go out and get a photo of the thing kinda cleaned up and with the neck brazed on plus strengthening … bit.

The frets will be made from 6mm rod bent around some roundy thing, so they are all the same curve (not like the drawing but outer ends out in space) then I’ll get the measurements from the wee machine at windworld and braze on the top and bottom fret, they’ll be wider than the neck by about 10mm each side at the top (headstock) and maybe 25mm each side at the bottom (body) and brazed in the centre to the neck. Then by vice gripping two lengths, from the outer ends of the frets, of square tubing, 12mm, I will have a template to sit all the other frets to. Then it’s just a matter of getting them at the right length and distance from the one before and brazing them on.
When I did the neck brazing, with strengthening gusset, there was no appreciable bending of the neck, but I’ll find out for sure when I braze the frets on as the whether the neck will bend up as the metal cools and tightens. Even if it does I should be able to apply heat to the bottom of the neck below the frets to balance any stresses that appear.
I’m also thinking, and I’ve yet to have succes with this, of mounting some sympathetic strings within the neck cavity itself and the one thing that’ll make or break this idea is being able to mount machine heads. I’ve got room for the main strings by cutting up some wood to slot into the end of the steel tubing that goes through the wok, hey thats a name for this instrument, gwok – in – speel, gwokinspeel, but the sympathetics may be troublesome as the idea in my head may not pan out. Basically it’s about having a violin style tailpiece and adding a set of tuners to that and the question is whether that’ll actually fit under the break for the main strings. At the top the nylon strings will be tied into knots and simply slid into slots. The other unanswered question is how much stretch the weedcutter nylon needs before it comes up to usable tension… I’d surmise it’s alot more than steel but then again normal nylon strings don’t take too much and weedcutter nylons thicker than those and so may take less than those… who knows?

Fret calculator and other music calculators.

Welding Woks!

Last night I decided I’m going to build an instrument today. I’ve had the idea floating about for a while and because of the furniture making I’m doing, which I have started I’m going to do an instrument in steel today to setup the way I go into the furniture when I get back into it tomorrow.
Theese eze de chairoo!
I quite like the idea of one set of aethetics helping to define another. So I’ve got the backbone of one chair I’m planing to do sorted, out of two, and the second is an Ottoman that’ll have three woks as the seating bases, so if I now spend the day building a musical instrument with two woks joined together as the body the problem solving I’ll have to go through to bring the instrument into reality will set me up nicely with a set of principles to build the chairs.
Years and years ago me and some good friends were in the Red Bull Trolley Derby, I got 2k from Slingshot to build the trolley and advertise them on it’s body work, and I did a soundtrack for our performance and then we all dressed up and played make believe instruments. The instrument I had, ’cause I was lead guitarist and singer… of course!, was really neat and I’ve always thought of building something similar that really works. I’ve got a photo somewhere but God knows where, maybe on a CD, but anyways the instrument was all aluminium and I’ve kinda figured I couldn’t make one solely out of aluminium, it’d be really hard and super time consuming as well as expensive, so I’m going to make it out of steel.
Orcon man is here now to changeover so later… (changeover done and it doesn’t seem any faster than slingshot… I’ll have to have a word after checking some download speeds)

But back on the net anyways.
Heres the backbone for the top wok placed in position.
backbone for Gimbo.
… and this is the view from the top.
Gimbo top sounding thingy (chamber?)
…and here I’ve kinda stuck it all together and just run out of oxygen but I’ve got another so I’ll return the empties, to keep costs down, and then finish brazing it up. Actually I’ll go out and finish braze it then drop the empties as it’ll have time to cool down.
chamber for sound and holding of neck.
Next step is putting the neck on and then brazing on the frets after chasing down the program at Windworld to do the calculations for me.
As for holes in the top I’ll drill them later and make ’em bigger with the jigsaw then pore in some rust preventive to keep it clean…
This is a quick sketch of what I’m trying to acheive.