Dec 27, 2019

You and Me and Us and Me and You

I like to picture that there are an infinite number or realities, all running in parallel. The entirety of my existence, everything I have ever known is but one of these. I represent a single point on this infinite line.

There are moments in your life where you feel that infinity collapse. The things, moments, and people that exist across the multitudes of possibilities. These create a mirroring, an echo, a shimmer across these realities. You are no longer you, you are the infinite you. You stand across all time. You see the infinite.

Sometimes you live this without even knowing it.

This is a blog post about infinity. Specifically infinity minus one.

The summer of 2016 was a significant period in my life. Not only because that’s when I finally completed my PhD, but behind the scenes some profound life changes started happening.


For a period of about two years, my life was in limbo. Almost everything I owned went in to storage, I had no stable place to live, no “home” as such. Everything became temporary, and ‘in between’.

It’s hard to describe the toll this takes on one’s creative process. Things that had become part of my creative muscle all begin to relax and somewhat atrophy. Even silly things like where Angie and I would regularly go to a mall food court on the weekends (to eat Taco Bell of course) and talk about creative stuff we were working on, nearly smothered by the din of “mall food court”. These small rituals and processes form an integral part of how we function as creative individuals.

One thing that I noticed very early on was that even though most of my practical creative work became impossible (things like playing drums, etc…), things that occupied a digital “space” were still functional. So things like programming became a bigger part of my life.

During this period I coded up the bulk of what will be C-C-Combine (2.0 for M4L). As it stands it is pretty much done. Perhaps some final bug/stress testing, and then of course documentation. It sounds and looks great:

(if you’re feeling sassy and want to use the stable beta build, you can download it here, and/or can watch a talk about it here)

This location-less creativity was something that I was able to take solace in. Something to occupy that part of my brain. To keep creating.

While all of this was going on I was asked to perform at an Open Ear BBC Proms at The Tanks at Tate, a huge and beautiful space below the Tate Modern in London.

For this performance, I wanted to further develop and refine some of the work with lights I’ve been working on over the last few years.

Since I had nothing but time on my hands, I decided to test, polish, and improve a lot of the core mechanisms involved in the pieces like Light Vomit and iminlovewithanothergirl.com.

With no particular idea in mind I started by working on some of the core light-related things. I compared and subsequently tweaked my envelope follower, and what kind of curve to apply while fading out. I also spent a while trying to balance the white on my DMX par lamps, so they don’t seem so cold and clinical. (I was hoping to apply this globally, as a curve but settled for just setting “white” as something warmer than “255 255 255”, which yields a very blue-tinted white with my lamps.)

Along side the light-based improvements, I started exploring some tweaks to the feedback signal path. Since this style of applying emerged organically based on a microphone and signal path I happened to be using for something else, I never spent much time refining that signal path. I wanted to test and explore some more sophisticated treatments of the core distortion/clipping to change how the system responds to feedback.

A couple of the significant changes I made here had to do with adding an oversampled pre-clipping stage in software, rather than clipping the interface on the way in as I was doing before (as per a suggestion by Alex Harker) as well as the incorporation of “New York” (or parallel) compression along with an expander (as suggested by PA Tremblay). These were enabled/disabled throughout the performance giving me more or less feedback-y-ness depending on what was musically needed. These changes really added some nuance and subtlety to the underlying signal path which is welcome, given how brutal and severe the sounding material can be.

One of the bigger things I wanted to incorporate into this performance was “polyphonic” lighting. Everything I’ve done up to this point with the DMX lights has been monophonic, in that all the DMX lights were always the same. I just used them spatially and to add some additional brightness/saturation to the room.

Towards that end, I did a lot of tests to see what kinds of interactions would look good. I have little to no knowledge of lighting and/or set design, so I just approached it as I would sonic interactions. I tried lights playing off each other, contrasting, working in a complimentary way, etc… It was difficult to test because it was hard for me to see what it looked like in context. I would often setup an idea, then call Angie over for her to let me know what she thought, and to sit at the setup so I could see as well.

Along the way I tested with colors that I quickly mocked up, thinking they looked good. I paid no special thought to the specific colors at this point. I simply pulled up the color swatch in Max and selected some, what I imagined to be, temporary colors to use in these tests.

It became apparent to me after a while that the colors looked familiar. I had seen these color combinations before…

Throughout the process of coming up with the performance, I became increasingly aware that the decisions I was making were less about things I wanted to see and hear, but rather things I had been seeing and hearing. I was swimming in the resonance of infinity. The colors I had been picking, without giving much conscious thought to were drawn from a watercolor painting by Angie which was created during another incredibly meaningful point in our lives. Quite literally, this is what I was seeing, when I was looking at light. These were the colors I was choosing to be in for and as the performance.

Coming to this realization was an interesting feeling. To realize that rather than me “mining” my life and experience in order to create art, that the Universe was mining me to make art about itself. I simple was adjacent to the infinity collapsing around me.

These moments do not happen often. But they are significant. They expose the soft faceted underbelly of the universe, and our place in it. Our existence contingent on these ripples, these smears, these blurs.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Although I do not have a “final” video of the piece, I do have a version that Angie filmed shortly after the live performance. We experimented with a couple of different lenses and looks, but it was impossible to capture the “polyphony” of the lights in the small space we had available at the time.

In the end, it serves as just a snapshot of what kind of musical and visual material I was working on at the time.

 

I also have the audio from the live version, which took place at the Tanks at the Tate.

I may (consciously or otherwise) revisit this piece at some point in the future, hoping to create a better video and recording of it, but for now it exists only as these artifacts.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

So here I find myself, finishing a blog post I started over two years ago:

I reflect on it at a distance, temporally and experientially. Remembering the significance of this performance in my life, as yet another significant life change unfolds around me.

My life is this: circles around a single point. Always.

  

Leave a comment

ABOUT

Rodrigo Constanzo
-makes music and art
-lives in Porto/Manchester
-is a crazy person

Learn from me (for free!)

I am offering free lessons / conversations / consultations / mentoring / time / support to creative people, locally or remotely.
Want in on this?!

Read my PhD Thesis!

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Composition, Performance,
and Making Things,
sitting in a tree :
Me-Me-Me-Me-Me-Me-Me

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Upcoming Performances

No upcoming performances