Different Skies 2010: T minus 21 days

Having committed early and properly scheduled it, I’m set to play at Different Skies this year. As I mentioned previously, Mike will be taking a couple years off after this year, so it’s kind of a special event.

We’ve had a number of folks who are mainstays have to pull out this year, leaving some interesting holes to fill. In particular, neither Darrell nor Allen will be able to make it (and again Allen, bet wishes for your mom’s speedy recovery!), so there’s a need for someone to volunteer to do the broadcast from the stage this year. Mike had sId he was willing to do this, but it seemed pretty unfair to expect him to not only run everything but to also handle the broadcasting duties as well, so I’m volunteering.

I have been promising myself that I was really going to set up and broadcast a Stillstream concert from home, sometime…really…and this has given me the push I need to finally get that setup in place and do it. The stage broadcast isn’t quite as exposed as a solo broadcast, and it lets me get familiar with the process before trying to both do something unfamiliar and pay original music at the same time. Since we broadcast every evening, I’ll have a good bit of experience at doing at least the basics by the time that the concert actually happens.

My new setup handles all the problems I gave myself during the 2007 concert, which resulted in one piece not getting performed at all, as both Allen and I had simultaneous rig failures that completely silenced us.

This year’s setup retains the Firebox, source of most of my woes in 2007, but relegates it solely to being an extra instrument, controlled by the SD-1. There is no computer-controlled single point of failure this time; even if I lose the Firebox, all I lose is the spare MIDI mode the computer is acting as, not every sound-producing box I have. The Firebox seems much more stable with the new MacBook (as opposed to the early-2004 iBook, which was at the limit of its power when trying to run the Firebox and the various softsynths I was trying to use).

I’m hosting the plugins in Live, and not really using it for much else. I’ve toyed with using the iPad as an OSC controller, and that looks like it has a lot of potential, but isn’t quite 100% yet – it sometimes but not always handles MIDI learn from the plugins, and it has to Just Work before I want to trust it on stage, or at least I need to feel like I know what’s going on. It seems really funny sometimes that even though I have a day job programming computers, I am so very reluctant to use them onstage.

I’ll probably post some pictures of the rig and talk a little about the setup as we go along toward DS week; there are still a few minor things to be worked out (whether or not I want to use a smaller, lighter mixer as my main mixer, since I’m only using two stereo ins right Noe, and whether I can deal with the added noise floor from the Vortex, sonic it’s my only processor, and I’ve been finding it quite useful for vocal processing).

So: more later; don’t forget to follow @differentskies on Twitter to catch micro-updates and notifications about posts to this blog.

Different Skies 2010: prepping

I’ve sent in my fee, so I’m definitely in this year. I’m probably going to drive rather than fly this year, simply because the process of flying has gotten to be so little fun (and so little rest) that driving 12 hours seems like a lot better deal.

I’ll also have the option of passing through Barstow on the way for a tiny Harry Partch moment, though I won’t be hitchhiking.

I’ve been practicing piano (as opposed to synth) technique over the last few months, and I can say that I am now thoroughly spoiled. I got out the SD-1 to record a track for the NTNS 100th release, and found that the spring-back of the keys was just Not The Same as a real hammer action. Trying to find an alternative keyboard that sounds good, won’t break the bank, has hammer action, and can be moved by one person. A tall order there…

What now?

Some interesting news this week: this is probably the last year that Metlay will be leading thngs at Different Skies.

I view this with very mixed feelings. Different Skies is of course the first place I’ve ever played keyboards live onstage (and on TV for that matter) and should it not continue after this year, I’ll certainly miss it greatly. I’ve been privileged to play with musicians way above my level, and even if I only get to do it once more I’ll feel as if I’ve been a lot luckier than many.

It will be a very different process without Mike leading it. Different Skies has been very much an expression of Mike’s ability to get the best from wildly varying people; there are several others who could do something like it, but Mike’s absence will be a big factor. He has the ability to form a rapport with nearly anyone, and is really the face of Different Skies not only to the outside world, but to Arcosanti. Different Skies may have become enough of a thing in itself to keep going even without Mike: there are several members of the core group who could lead the process and do it well.

Different Skies is quite unique: a music festival that happens because people volunteer to spend a week learning to play together and composing the music that will be played. Even if the Arcosanti version stops, the concept will live on, I hope – and if it doesn’t, it’s been an incredible ride and a wonderful chance to spend time with friends who I don’t often see in person, but who are some of the best people I know.

iTunes LP format and ituneslp.net

The site iTunesLP.net has a lot of information on how to create an iTunes LP and a sample – a reproduction of Disney’s Fantasia release from 1957 (without the tracks, but with the visuals).

This looks like it could be a good promo item for independent musicians, allowing them to provide otherwise-unavailable items via iTunes LP sales, benefiting both themselves and their fans.

Welcome Russian posters, but not spambots

I will give some of you the benefit of the doubt and assume you to to be human and not robotic – please, if you want to post, make it in English (go ahead and use the Google translator or Babelfish – we’ll understand if the English isn’t perfect).

Otherwise, if either I can’t [...]

Korg SV-1 Stage Piano

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@differentskies on Twitter

We’re trying an experiment this year for Different Skies: the @differentskies Twitter ID will be used by all the participants to do updates during the week.

Normally we have a lot of different blog entries that generally end up getting written at the end of the day or even a day or so [...]

And now, ahead of the curve with 2.8.4

Apparently there’s yet another nasty worm breaking into WordPress blogs; 2.8.4 blocks it. Looks like I actually beat the worm for a change.


iGendyn (App Store link) is a moderately interesting synthesis app that’s let’s you play with Xenakis’ general dynamic stochastic synthesis.

It’s essentially a powerful noisemaker. You can make some pretty rough-edged sounds with this; the iPhone gives you surprisingly sensitive control surface. The accelerometer-based controls are less sensitive and harder to make reproduceable gestures [...]

APC40 Hack 1: Monome Emulator for the APC40 on Vimeo

So it’s not necessary to wait for hard-to-get hardware: the APC40 can emulate a Monome, just fine.