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Archive for June 2011

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Lovin' that new "site" smell!

 

Oooh, do ya smell that?  That’s the virtual version of new car smell.  Just sitting behind the wheel, pushing the buttons and adjusting the mirrors for the first time.  That’s how I feel right now.  Welcome to my new website!  Onyx-ashanti.com. go ahead.  Look around.  Chill out.  Can I get you a coffee?!

This new site has all the tools for the concept going forward.  As well as the updated music links (still Bandcamp because they are the bomb), there are pages for events, photos videos, THIS blog, which is now my main blog (although beatjazz.blogspot.com will remain online) the newsletter and FORUMS!!  Yaaaaay!!!  All cohesive and wonderfully easy to maneuver around and easy for me to update regularly.

So where did I get such a groovy site from?  this cat, Jason Martin, from Belzo Media contacted me last week and offered to build it and conceptualize it and everything, but that's not the dopest part.  As soon as I screamed "YES!!" back to him thru our email correspondence, he was off to the races!  He sorted out all the particulars and had a basic page up in a few hours and this beautiful site up in a few days.  He grasped the idea of where this concept can go and brought in features and designs to present it properly.  Jason is the MAN!!  He designed a site that is aesthetically pleasing while adding functionality that ensures this won’t just be showcase page, but, I hope, will be a hive of activity in the coming weeks and months.

I finally am voice capable once more.  I went and got a mic a couple of days ago.  It will be the first time I have used voice since building the new Beatjazz controller system.  I had used vocoding in the old days (read 8-9 months ago),but I have been fixated with getting the controller systems stable so I put the vocal processing on the backburner, but now I feel like I can incorporate it properly now.  Which means multiple vocoding setups, and chords (roger troutman tribute, here we come!!)

This aspect will lead smoothly into the nextbig phase of learning and implementation for me; dynamic abstractions and PD audio processing.  Up til this point, I had only used midi and datastream processing.  Now I will start to route my audio inputs thru pure data before sending them to the looper and out to the system.  This looks to be quite a bit more involved than the midi data stuff I’ve been using.  You can easily end up over in the DSP brainiac area that usually makes my head hurt.  So don't expect any grand audio centric constructs for at least a couple of months.  For the time being, it’s all about the vocoder and the looper and the stuff I learn from those two things will inform everything after that.

so that gives me 3 days to get the vocoder jumping, have studio maestro Vernon D. Hill help me to get my drums popping (this cat is heavy, Google it) and refine my, now, stable z-axis wobble bass, before dropping on cats at the Tacheles Demonstration Party Saturday night at Tacheles in Berlin.  I want to come with my A+ game not just because I want to set it off, but because we cannot let this place close.  It is too important to not gentrify Berlin to death.  I don't want to move again.  Everywhere else I have lived, is cool, then it becomes all about money then arts are seen as "a hobby" which is when you know it’s over.  In this place we are a valid segment of the population and the economy and we will not let this symbol of Berlin’s artistic heritage be converted into a high-priced Gym!  So come out and get twisted with us on Saturday night!!

1

The Golden Ratio

I spent most of last week rebuilding the hand units. As I stated in my last post, the humidity in NYC warped the cardboard, so although they were still playable, I decided to use it as an excuse to make some badly needed upgrades, namely, rewiring the internals. Read more
9

The What, Why and How of Beatjazz

I feel that I should take a moment to explain exactly WHAT Beatjazz and this controller, actually are and what they do.  It has been a little while since the last time I explained it and that was way before this controller had been constructed.  So this will be the definitive explanation of what and why Beatjazz is. Read more
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what else needs to be said?!



If this is your first time to my blog, welcome!  I created this blog at the beginning of my Beatjazz controller project at the beginning of 2011.  the entire trajectory of this project is documented here.

If you would like more indepth information, here are a few links.

www.onyx-ashanti.ning.com
www.youtube.com/onyxashanti

I'm REALLY excited by this!! yaaaaay!!!




If you have any business inquiries, contact Susanne Heiden at Susanne@onyx-ashanti.com

live long and prosper,

Onyx
www.
4

cardboard isnt humidity proof...

Ok, back to the geeky stuff.

Last week I had to rebuild the right hand control unit.  It would seem that cardboard doesn't like NYC's high humidity and it started to deform a bit.  I thought about keeping it the way it was but a) they are cheap to rebuild, costing me approximately 1.50euro and 2-3 hours, and b) I still have much hardware abstraction to do before it can be transferred to carbon fiber.

I reinforced the sides by folding the cardboard in on itself and gluing it in place.  It is now much more solid.  I placed the accelerometer underneath my index finger now which gives filter effects a much much more precise amount of control. and the FSR cushions are now glued, rather than masking taped, to the unit.  Overall the unit feels extremely solid now.  It could, I feel, last for years in this configuration.

The other big change is that I added a right-hand "twitch switch" joystick(the bulbous ball looking things).  I call it a twitch switch because by twitching my index finger, I have access to a wide array of latching combinations.  With two of them, those combinations have been multiplied.  Besides giving the system a bit of symmetry, it should provide access to as yet un-realized functionalities.  I have found it also curious that it is easier to control this joystick because it is "perceptually" parallel, rather than literally, meaning that rather than being parallel to the finger that controls it, it is parallel to the motion of said finger, which is actually about 25degrees outward.  But when I am not looking, I find this to be perceptually "straight".  So there is still more abstraction and experimentation to be done in joystick positioning.

I hope to use the new joystick to control left hand parameters which I have determined should be focused on individual instrument parameters with the right hand controlling system FX.  My test case will be a big-ole nasty ass wobbly dubstep bass.  So far it sounds like I am murdering a cow with a lawnmower, but once I get the calibration and sensor assignments "right", it should be great.  I will rinse it soon.

This week begins, in earnest, the second most important system function.  The looping system.  It will allow for a more precise level of sonic dissection.  For this stage, I will have to study dynamic abstractions, i.e., instantiating patches from scratch, in real-time.  And will start the task of making use of pure data's audio capabilities, finally.  I only need to make ONE by virtue of the computers ability to make infinite copies. if I make "one", it's all over at that point, because then it is just a matter of making PD instantiate it as a dynamic abstraction (ie, pure data assigns each copy with a specfic number which it will use to identify said abstraction as "unique") to the limits of my cpu/ram capabilities (which need a desperate upgrade.  2gb/ram on a 4 year old laptop is reaching the end of its usefulness).  

My looper will center on being simple, fast and deep.  There is already so much going on that a complex looping system would only get in the way.  It will allow me to focus on a part of the whole piece and be more like a "Live performance DAW" than live looping.  It "shouldn't" be that hard to complete this week, but I have said that before :-/

I hope to have the alpha version of the looper ready before I play the blogrebellen stage at Fete De La Musique on June 21st- 7:30pm).  The set will be "jagged" aesthetically, from all the gestural revisions to the sound architecture. I am really looking forward to playing there as well as the next Demonstration to save Tacheles on July 2nd.  There are a few interesting things coming up after this as well, but I want to wait till they are confirmed to announce them. .

Are we being good ancestors?
–- Jonas Salk, in interview on Open Mind, 1985 


1

Happily Ever After...?

Sorry it took so long to get around to writing this post.  The last two weeks has been interesting in many ways besides the obvious.  The obvious being the TED Full Spectrum Auditions in NYC.  

I am honored to have been able to participate in such an event with such an amazing array of interesting speakers!  Wow! This was definitely a TED; astrophysicists, data visualizations of the migratory patterns of skateboarders, CNC 80-sided bricks that can build unimaginable structures, medical visualizations as art!  It was geek overload!  I imagine that you will be seeing some of these cats doing big things in the future!

When i saw the TED logo onstage, i was so stoked.  Stoked, but strangely not nervous.  Well...not so strangely.  That’s what all the busking is for.  So i can drop into a set, secure in my abilities.  My only focus was to present beatjazz in the most accurate possible light...to convey the idea properly.  This goal focused my thoughts.  This was MY 6 minutes.

when i started, i jumped into something akin to a DnB vibe which, after a few bars, wasn't the direction i felt i needed to go so i changed gears and went in a different direction that was a bit more representative of my vibe in its natural state.  Fortunately, that did the trick.  It was very easy to construct a representative structure in the 6 minute time slot i was allotted.  It also didnt hurt to have a  massive associated instructional presentation happening simultaneously.  i need that for every show!  Idea conveyed.  

once this was concluded, i had a week to kill in NYC before jumping down to Philly to  play Saturn Never Sleeps, with the legendary King Britt and Rucyl.  What can i say about NYC?  It is the place of movies and mythology.  We’ve all been programmed with New York stories since we were born.  It is THE city.  So, with that said, i remembered distinctly why i decided to move to "the city" in 2005...and move away in 2006.  NYC takes a certain temperament.  I'm not the one.  But, it is a fantastic place to visit.  Especially when it is as hot as it was last week.  They have repurposed many intersections as permanent pedestrian thoroughfares.   I found this to be very cool.  Sitting at times square at 2 am, using free municipal Wi-Fi under the radiating glow of thousands of flickering LED billboards was surprisingly nice.

I also discovered that the SHARE party is still going on.  SHARE has a special place in my heart as it was the event where i discovered Max/msp and subsequently, Pure Data.  Dozens of people on laptops, communally creating ordered chaos for everyone and no one.  On this night, i ran into a friend from Berlin, Gad Hinkis, who just so happened to be the featured performer on this particular night.  He was there to play his self-built joystick controller system and did a great job.  It was also good to get a chance to make literal "noise" (as in the style) with the new control system, especially considering that noise had been a particularly hard thing for me to grasp all those years ago at said SHARE parties.

Overall NYC is easy to love and hate.  It is a wonderfully laid out city with tedious laws (bars shut down at 2am?! really?!)  You can hate it, but you can't hate on it.  It’s still a sick city and has earned its reputations, for better or worse.

On to Philly.  I really was looking forward to this trip.  So many great artists have come out of this city in the last 40 years!  I just wanted to see if it was something literally floating around in the air. Although my tricorder didn't detect any anomalous airborne particulates,   there was definitely a vibe.  Not unlike pre-gentrified Atlanta, circa 1993.  

I and my friend Peter Kirn rolled out of NYC on the Bus to Philly (bolt bus with Wi-Fi) and met up with the creators of Saturn never Sleeps, Rucyl and King Britt, at the restaurant part of Silk city where i proceeded to have a type-2 diabetes inducing meal that consisted of bacon wrapped hotdogs, and the best baked beans and dessert I’ve ever had!  So good i had to blog about it!!  Luckily we had a few hours before we needed to play, so during the "itis" coma-state, we all got to chat and get to know each other.

Both of our hosts were so very chilled and cool.  I felt instantly like i was somehow at home, and i felt more relaxed than usual about playing a new city and with someone whose projects i rate highly.  On this night, Britt was rocking a N.I. Maschine in live mode for the first time (he killed it) and Rucyl was doing something that i have been waiting to see from a singer for YEARS; as she sang, she was using an Akai APC40 to manipulate her live vocals.  It was very delicate and reserved in that she was able to mix in with everyone she sang with.  That coupled with Britt dropping the sub-frequencies live, they were a force and deserving of the many accolades i had heard about their set.

In amongst this line up was guitarist David Manley who was able to rock out solo-stylee, then, without a sweat, complete some of Britt’s ideas when they collabed early in the night.  This cat knows how to play to a dance floor!  I was definitely taking a few notes;-)

My set? Well, I’ve been playing around with this whole "perform from the dance floor" thing for the last few shows, since doing it for the first time at ARENA in Berlin a few weeks ago.  The stage is increasingly becoming the place where i leave my gear when i play, rather than where i play.  The effect is much more visceral which is useful because the first thing people think is that I’m a dancer with lights on my hands. From the floor, up close, they can see that i am making the music.  I feel that the effect owes something to close up magic.  Besides that, it just feels "natural".  Like you are where you are supposed to be but haven’t been able to be, for various technical reasons.  I know that i can’t do it for every show, but whenever i can, that's where i will be.

As with the TED presentation, i feel like the ideas that i wanted to get across, were conveyed convincingly.  I don't feel like i got hung up or caught in any conceptual ruts so, it was a rousing success. 

 These "idea ruts" are a problem that doesn't go away.  It’s easy to revisit established ideas that work.  But if you're not careful, you find yourself in a rut where the only ideas are the ones that "work". ie, overly predictable.  predictability is a tool, not a goal. that's why i like starting with something that is just "off" or simply doesn't work, then carving it and shaving it until it works, but in an unexpected fashion.    

 i look forward to keeping an eye out for the SnS project as it evolves.  the rumors about Philly being a heavy city populated with heavy cats is true and well deserved.

 Oh, and one more thing (to quote Steve Jobs)..





.I was just notified yesterday that my performance was selected to be part of TED.com.  So now beatjazz is a permanent part of the TED universe!

And they lived happily ever after...?


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