Below the jump, some revelations from a difficult year, some media highlights and some resolutions for next year.
Being a family person is hard to deal with… particularly for someone like me who in times of stress needs a lot of “alone time”. I love my family, I enjoy playing with Griffin who is growing into a real “character” (for mostly better but sometimes worse) and there is seriously no better partner than Stacey. You think there is but you’re wrong! 😉 Sometimes I wish I could go back to when I just visited every second day but this wouldn’t suit parenting arrangements and would likely cost us more money that I don’t have. Which leads me to…
Being broke is not for people with family in tow. I’m used to being broke most of the time and consequently i’m used to allocating money before it is earnt, spending it immediately and having no savings. We had Griffin last December. Then my PhD scholarship was cut-off in February (despite it showing as running till the end of this year) and of course I went into desperate panic mode. Sessional academic jobs are drying up, particularly in my field. It also doesn’t help that some universities think it is OK to delay paying you till midway through a semester. And then get called an arsehole when you complain about it. 😦
In a world of austerity there is little need for my very specific skillset. I’ve managed to find only just enough money to keep us from begging on the street. But even attempting a sea-change has been something of a failure. I’ve been rejected for even telemarketing jobs this year. That is how bad it is. Having to deal with Centrelink is demoralising at the best of times but I need to in order to cover the times when i’m not earning enough to pay rent and bills. Yet i’m on the lowest priority rating which means I still have to look for apply for all the imaginary jobs out there while at the same time getting no benefits beyond the Health Care Card and a few hundred dollars occasionally. I have been given the promise of some pretty serious work in Semester 1 which i’m very much looking forward to. I certainly hope it doesn’t dematerialise because i’m not sure what I will do. I certainly can’t live much longer as one of the underemployed precariat.
Social networking is quickly becoming an anxiety trigger. With the rise of conservatism internationally i’m finding myself engaged in distracting arguments with people, some of them friends, who seem to have just lost the plot and gone to the dark-side. I’m not just talking politics here, though our latest majority-elected state leader certainly gives the impression that the Empire is winning. I’m talking aggressive racism, homophobia, misogyny and classism. Despite all our opportunities and affordances it seems to me that the world is really becoming a more horrible intolerant place to live in.
All this poverty, depression and angst has been historically managed by some key things. Coffee drinking, music listening / making, internet browsing, movie watching, computer game playing and isolation/hermitude. This year I have had the anxiety inducing realisation that all of these things bar isolation/hermitude will be severely limited or unavailable in a post-collapse society. All gripes aside I still feel lucky to live in a country with a reasonable standard of living, have a beautiful family and the ability and urge to make music. I just need to make use of my time better as well as finding my way towards a more sustainable existence.
So what did I do this year?
I made only one album this year – this is how I released it. I made about $30 from people clicking the DONATION button on this page. But more importantly it has had a number of hits here and on soundcloud and some nice comments. So at least some people are listening. For me it is an angrier version of Remnants more suited to these times.
Instead I contributed to a number of other projects.
– I convened the Ear Ensemble at Griffith Conservatorium. This was a fun exercise in building alternate approaches to technology user in live performance. Hopefully we will continue in some way next year.
– I completed remixes for Ektoise and Company F–k.
– I was featured on the Fields compilation. Something I’m particularly proud of as it is a great compilation and I think my track (while standing out like a sore thumb) is one of the best i’ve done in a while.
I also initiated a project with Stacey called The Included Middle. We are in a minor life induced hiatus at the moment but there is material nearly ready for another release. We will get back to irregular programming soon.
Media highlights list for 2012–
Swans – The Seer
I’ve like Swans for a decade or more, however this album is something else. It doesn’t have the angsty nihilism of the majority of their work. Instead for the most part it reminds me of the trance minimalism of The Necks married to early ’70s Pink Floyd.
Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe
The women of electronica are finally getting their dues with Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire retrospectives gaining much critical attention. Laurie Spiegel was something of a forgotten legend whose name appeared as composer for some interesting sci-fi films and little else until the reissue of this album. I love it because it manages to be both musical and technical. More like Terry Riley than Switched On Bach yet leaning on the latters musicality. This is true electronic folk music from another time.
Nothing But Noise – Not Bleeding Red
It’s a terrible band name but aside from Laurie Spiegel this is the best old-school synthesiser workout I heard all year. Compared to the likes of Zombi this group (including Front 242 members) know that the key to immersive analog synth workouts is longevity. As with the Swans album, Not Bleeding Red all the tracks take their time to allow you to melt into the details.
Neneh Cherry and The Thing
I don’t have much time for home listening to Avant Jazz. I think it is something worth experienced live or not at all for the most part. But this welding of jazzy skronk with Neneh (Daughter of jazz legend Don) Cherry’s scatting really puts a smile on my face. It’s bouncing and fun without being too trite or too difficult.
Carla and Matthias, members of the sadly defunct avant-metal band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, have created a subscription based site, debuting a new track every month alongside miscellaneous films and images. It’s a personal experience akin to a family diary and the strength of their musicianship works well in an intimate setting with minimalist production and a no-genre just do it approach to composition. Icarus on the other-hand have created a patch-based album generation system so no two releases are the same. The music falls on the interesting side of post Farmers Manual digital collage music. Neither would make my top ten with a traditional album release however the diverse approaches to releasing compelling work in the MP3/Spotify age demonstrate two perfect indicators of the way forward with regards to music distribution.
Film + TV:
Holy Motors – when a movie critic states that a movie is a “thrilling ride” these days it usually means CGI action and explosions. Holy Motors is thrilling in the way it puts ideas forth and lets you work them out. Like the kind of narrative film experiment that used to be made in the 70s.
Beyond the Black Rainbow – a throughly bizarre combination of John Carpenter style synth compositions and melting Ken Russell visuals.
Beasts of the Southern Wilds – the film with the most heart of any i’ve seen this year but without the need to pretensiously crow about it.
Chronicle – a great young-adult style film that mixes Akira style “power without control changes you” storyline combining seamless CGI with pitch-perfect acting.
Patience After Sebald / General Orders#9 – both of these films were kinda boring but I really like their styles and that there is now such a thing as abstract documentary. It really suits my idea of AV works.
Sound of Noise – cute/clever satirical film about situationist style musical compositions that is hugely inspiring in this post-occupy landscape.
The Great White Silence and BFI/Mordant Music – MisinforMation – two soundtracking of other visual material. Simon Fisher Turner goes the drone like a member of Mirror to soundtrack the icey wastelands from actual footage of the Shackleton expedition. While I’m more a fan of the consistancy of the Ghost Box label than the apparent genre of Hauntology, Misinformation is about the best summary of the curious combination of nostalgia and dread evident in watching decades old public information films.
Why Poverty series – I haven’t finished watching this but i’m surprised it is even on television. Subversive without being placard waving. Depressing but necessary viewing.
Black Mirror – Charlie Brooker goes from being a predictable curmudgeon to producing some of the most Ballardian TV i’ve seen. Speculative fiction with laughs you can choke on.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey – going beyond the Bordwell and Thompson reality Mark Cousins narrates a personal journey through the history of film that includes plenty of discussion on the role of women and advance in film from overseas that Hollywood hijacked.
It’s all about the David’s this year. Because my mind was mostly elsewhere I didn’t really get to finish too many books.
David Wong – John Dies at the End / This Book is Full of Spiders were the two I did finish. The first one was hilarious and gripping. A parody of all sorts of horror/sci-fi scenarios that knows when to be funny and when to be sardonic. The sequel was quite depressing in comparison. Not that it was bad… just not very funny.
David Brin – Existence – started reading this enthusiastically but Brin is an ideas man who doesn’t now how to tell a story. The jumping between place and person really didn’t work as well as the next choice…
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas – I’m pretty sure I will like the film version of this, if only because it is nice to see someone try adapt an interesting novel for a change. I haven’t finished the book however so…
T.J. Pinch / Frank Trocco – Analog Days – still reading this and loving it. The story behind the analog synth revolution – as with The Story of Film there is plenty of interesting critique on the role of women and the way they were shunned by a patriarchal recording industry.
Soft / Hard / Ware:
Samson Graphite 49 – the desert island controller it would seem. Perfect for retiring into hermitude with some VSTi’s and the following…
Ohmstudio – initial beta-testing made me think this was a lost cause but now i’m kinda addicted to it. Really it is to the Digital Audio Workstation what Google Docs is for Word Processing. This cloud-based system is useful, particularly since we are all spread out across the world. The community aspect though is curiously like an MMO or a social network. I’m compelled to log in and see if someone has added to my drones, or to pop a beat on someones vocal track. It’s as much of a time-waster as Guild Wars 2 but I feel like I’m getting something out of it.
Virtual Modulars – as you can see from this post i’m focusing on working with Virtual Modular synth programs to learn more about the fundamentals of synthesis, and to feel like i’m putting more original thought and creativity into my music. Tassman 4, KarmaFX Modular, Vaz Modular 3 and Clavia G2 Demo all have something unique and interesting. I’m enjoying doing tutorials that have me building similar patches in each program and then seeing where that takes me. Combined with the Graphite as a controller I feel less bad about how much of a debacle the M-Audio Venom turned out to be. (Seriously any time I buy a hardware synth it ends up being a buggy piece of crap!)
Resolutions for 2013
Play with my son, not with computer games.
Work out how to do more with less in all aspects of my life. Don’t be distracted by fancy baubles. I have what I need.
In practical terms I want to learn how to use Reaktor, Synth-Edit and Quartz Composer. Aside from the synthesis learning I also have a lot to learn from Nicolas Collins “Handmade Electronic Music” book which I will maybe be teaching from next year. I’m not the environmentalist Stacey sometimes dreams about, however I am concerned enough about the way things are going to be concerned about sustainability. Not just how to sustain a family on very limited income, but how to ensure that the things I care about aren’t taken away from me because people are too narrow-minded, greedy and stupid. In light of that i’m interested in the Worldchanging movement and/or anything similar. I don’t see the total agrarian lifestyle (or even the MadMax post apocalypse world) as being one I can survive in. It appears there are options but we need to stop listening to the nihilists and naysayers and actually get things happening. Momentum is the key. Find the flow and focus on it. Be productive, look to the future, try not to drown in anxiety.
The old mayan world ended. I look forward to the new one.