Blogged updates from TradeMark G. and Assistant Frillypants of ECC research, discoveries, mischief, geekery, and noteworthy strangeness.

A most confusing quote from Groucho Marx

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Thursday, 04 June 2009 16:30

We're always scouring records and media, harvesting the occasional tasty morsel of audio for the enjoyment of all.  And today we found this confounding quote from Groucho Marx, which presumably is meant to be more innocent than one might guess:

"...and finally he died.  And he left a will.  And his will consisted of a celluloid dicky...  an eight ball, and three razor blades.  And besides, he owed my father eighty-five dollars, which he never did get from him."

Groucho Marx - Celluloid dicky, an eight ball, and three razor blades.mp3



EuroTour Update 2009.03.30

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Monday, 30 March 2009 07:04

Hello from Munich!

This is day 1 of 3 here, where we get a little R&R before we move on to our main event, the STRP Festival in Eindhoven (The Netherlands).  We arrived last night from London, on a Lufthansa flight which I was sure was going to totally ream us on overage fees for our hefty baggage.  Seriously, we were like 80 pounds over.  And yet, here we are, flown and fee-free, having somehow slipped by through some combination of sweet talk, charm, rock-star attitude, and being so late for the flight that were almost locked out of it.

Our show in London was intimate (that's "small", diplomatically put) -- the venue was the basement of the Betsey Trotwood (apparently named after a Dickens character, as Charles Dickens lived in the area).  Space in the basement was tight, but headlining band a.P.A.t.T. was fantastic, and as a fve-piece band they practically filled the rest of the available space there (but nearly doubled the audience).  Owner Richard was very generous with us; we enjoyed many tales of area history as the free drinks kept pouring.  Thanks to Nigel of Pickled Egg Records for arranging this.

- TradeMark & Christy


Why I Invented The Thimbletron

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Monday, 23 March 2009 11:43

The Thimbletron... fake?

Apparently some think so.  On occasion, someone will approach me after a live Thimbletron performance and ask with a wink, "So, does that thing really work?"  Puh-leeze.

In the 1990's I started seeing a problem.  Electronic music was taking over, but there wasn't a good way to perform it.  Sure, you could go on stage with a stack of synthesizers but that wasn't as impressive or useful as it used to be, especially as laptops became more capable and less expensive.  I could see where that was going.  Synthesizers weren't great because it forced the musician to stay put behind them for the whole show, but at least they gave the audience something fancy to look at.  Exchange those synthesizers for one laptop, and you can watch a stage show with all the thrills of someone answering email.

I felt this would eventually foster a mistrust of the musician by the audience.  There's a long history of people accusing electronic musicians of just "pressing a button" to cause their entire performance to happen automatically; we certainly didn't need the beige wall of a laptop screen erecting itself between audience and musician to breed more mistrust.  It seemed like there could be two outcomes: 1) the audience gains faith and trust in the musician, which I thought to be unlikely (especially for non-mainstream, lesser-known electronic musicians, which in those days was almost all of them), or 2) nobody will want to see an electronic music performance, since it's not much of a performance.

I created the Thimbletron as a solution to that.  Since the Thimbletron is mainly two gloves with sewing thimbles on the fingertips, it's wearable and portable.  Sure, the wiring to its electronics tethers you, but that's no worse than a guitarist (plus it adds to the mad science feel of the whole thing).  It's easy to learn, since triggering sounds is done by touching thimbles together, and you could touch fingertips while drunk in the dark (although I do try to avoid performing under those conditions).  Because of that intuitiveness an audience can understand it, at least in that they can watch and learn that certain thimbles trigger certain sounds.  You can stage dive with them on.  And they just look insane.

And yet some people just don't see it, or are still skeptical, and figure that if they catch me off stage and out of character that I'll let them in on the conspiracy.  And you know, I wish I could just tell that it is a fake, just a stage prop, and the whole show was prerecorded.  It would be a LOT easier than designing and building your own electronic music instrument, repairing it time and time again after wires break, and then having it malfunction anyway in mid-show.

I've heard those comments for years, though not for a little while.  Currently we do less shows with the Thimbletron in favor of the Vidimasher 3000. Even still, what I didn't realize until just today is what I wasn't seeing beyond those doubters -- the entire rest of the audience that didn't raise their doubts.  If my Thimbletron shows were to prove that electronic music can make for a good live show, those are the people who prove I succeeded.

And since you are very likely to be reading this because you're in that category -- thank you!

Although it's a very different beast, the Vidimasher 3000 has yet to get any audience doubt.  A good sign which I hope will bode well for our many future shows this year, and beyond.

- TradeMark G.



Where did the term "mash-up" come from?

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Monday, 16 February 2009 14:09

Longtime ECC fan Steve wrote with a good question, and I thought I'd post the answer here:

Q: How did people describe [Whipped Cream Mix] Rebel Without A Pause when it first came out, before terms like Bastard Pop or Mash-up? Was there a term for it, or did people just explain how you put it together? Or maybe they called it a remix?

A: In many ways I'm incredibly pleased that there's finally a term now... before, in the 80's and most of the 90's, it was very tough to convey or describe some new sample-happy ECC song to someone, especially someone unfamiliar with its cousins: collage, cut-ups, or remixes.  "Remix" was an obvious first choice, but "remix" doesn't convey the use of multiple sources in a work, and remixes are often less complex works artistically.  "Collage" tends to have art world connotations, which could be limiting if you'd like to be booked outside of a gallery.  Other art terms have also been used, including "appropriation" (Duchamp) and "recontextualization".  Other terms attempted to describe sample-based music were born of the 1960's era of tape music, another very experimental/academic world, and many of the terms couldn't shed those connotations/limitations.  (Interestingly, the term "Cut and Paste" is also born of this era, and it only escaped thanks to computers taking over the world).

"Sampling" was a good word to use -- it described music specifically, it had digital (non-tape) connotations, and wasn't an art term.  Still, "sampling" only descibed the technique, and not the result.  For a long time there weren't many results/bands to compare, so this was good enough, and "sample-based/sampling music" was a somewhat acceptable (although clunky) term I used.  But it still sucked.

So, we started making up our own.  John Oswald probably did the best with his 1990 "Plunderphonic" album.  The term was also backed by a pretty good essay he wrote, and I still occasionally hear people talk about plunderphonics as a genre of music.  I wish I could remember who, but one person coined "collage rock" (with an A, instead of "college") which I quite liked, but it was destined to be misread.  My attempt was "Plagiarhythm" (Plagiarism + Rhythm) and so I titled one The Evolution Control Committee album "Plagiarhythm Nation", which did well enough that we got our word in the dictionary!

I'm thrilled to have "Mash-Up" as a widely-recognized term to use now, but of course it comes with its limitations too -- since thousands if not millions can now make their own mashups, I risk using the term and having my music mistaken for some lame, half-baked mashup their 12 year old cousin put on YouTube.  But I'll take the risk... as a new term in the lexicon, it's got a lot less baggage than many of the other terms... a welcome switch from the other side.

- TradeMark G.

Thanks to Steve for asking, and thanks to OCCII for republishing this!


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