Tuesday, March 5, 2013


KidPlay, 2013

This video, a response to Wisconsin Death Trip (a book compiled by Michael Lesy of photographs by Charles Van Schaick and clippings from newspapers at the time that Schaick was taking those photographs), is made to be used in our class's multimedia event on Saturday. As such, it was designed to be viewed along with experimental music (I envisioned a rather droning-like sound from the previews we saw of the rehearsals), but in the absence of that music to put along with it, silence is the next best thing.

My focus in this video was childhood as a whole, taken from the perspective of people as they age. Wisconsin Death Trip features many crystal-clear, beautiful photographs of moments in the lives of the Wisconsin residents, but memories very rarely, if ever, work that way. They aren't clear or clean, and frequently aren't even coherent. I wanted to show this through the low quality of both the footage and, frequently, the camera abilities (or lack thereof) of the person taking the video. Most of the video clips I chose to use (all of which were found on YouTube) were home video-type footage, taken to be shared perhaps with family, but which ended up shared with hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people with no relation whatsoever to the children in the video.

The accelerating, frantic pace of the clips references how fast childhood seems to have gone by as someone ages. At first, it seems fairly normal-paced; but as one ages, childhood seems to have taken up less and less time, and gone by faster and faster, until only jumbled snapshots of memories remain accessible. However, the full memories still exist, even if they can't be accessed; this is true as well of the video. The clips were not cut in order to make them shorter, but rather sped up faster and faster until only a frame or two is visible from them, leaving the entire clip still there.

glow in the dark

Evan Baden, http://evanbaden.wordpress.com/about/
Evan Baden is a photographer whose completed bodies of work focus mainly on technology and its effect on current American culture.

The Illuminati is a series of photographs of people with technological devices, focusing on showing how they are at once connected (through the light from the devices bathing their face) and disconnected (they're alone, in the dark, frequently in a disused or otherwise empty space). They're printed so that the subjects are life-size, which, as Evan Baden said in his lecture in Wriston Auditorium today, leads to some interesting audience interaction with the pieces and drives home the point that people using such technological devices are frequently non-responsive to others attempting to get their attention.

Technically Intimate is another series of photographs, this one dealing with how technology affects relationships and sexual identities. In this body of work, Evan Baden recreates images or 'types' of images ("selfies," images girls or young women take of themselves in sexual positions or states of undress) from, essentially, porn sites. He aims to show how technology affects relationships and sexual identities by changing people's interactions with others, and in the images leaves several 'cues' to what is going on - such as a stuffed animal staring at a girl's nearly-exposed privates, or a poster of a man looking at a reclining, mostly-undressed girl - to indicate that the photo is viewed, and intended to be viewed by, an audience. He also attempts to show things that the photograph or video still he is referencing do not show - the surroundings, the camera 'taking' the shot, etc.

His current in progress work is Under the Influence, wherein he is looking at iconic pictures or photos of celebrities and remaking them with a focus on what the picture he is remaking is really showing and what else might be going on that the photo isn't showing.

His work can be found at his website, which, although a little difficult to navigate (click the top right-hand corner of the image if nothing loads; it's set up like a book) is fairly comprehensive. He also has a blog.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Carl Orff: the controversy, for once, isn't the selling point

 O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff
Play it while you read - it will make everything so much more interesting!

Carl Orff was a famous German composer - you probably know him from such pieces as the one above, O Fortuna, which was the beginning and the end of his most famous work, Carmina Burana. I daresay if you click play you'll recognize the piece instantly - it's an earworm, and a powerful one, which has been used to great effect over the years in everything from movies to advertising to propaganda. (You can watch the full Carmina Burana on YouTube, courtesy of UCTV.)

And the U.S. is hardly the only place that did so! In fact, most of the controversy with Carl Orff arises from the fact that he lived, worked, and composed in Nazi Germany, without outright declaring himself to be against the Nazi regime, and the Nazis enjoyed and used his music. This has earned him and his music (rather unfair) condemnations, including several absolutely scathing newspaper articles (the most recent of which was written in May 2001) and even a complete refusal of reviews on an Israeli performance, simply because his works had been performed by the Nazis.

However, while these controversies are what show up under his name in the news, it is his music education system that earned him his place in Marshall McLuhan's book the Medium is the Massage. Orff developed a system which he spread with the publication Schulewerk, designed to help young children learn musical abilities through focus on rhythm, spoken word, dance, and simple melodies.

He specifically wanted to teach younger children who had not yet been taught the 'rules' of music because they were, he believed, naturally more innovative before their ideas are narrowed by what is considered acceptable and right in music. Even Orff himself was mainly self-taught; though he did study for a time under some musical masters, he published a number of works before ever taking so much as a musical theory course, and those teachers he did study under never supported the innovative style of music he wished to pursue. In developing his musical education methods, he wanted to help children to follow their own musical innovations before they get so locked into the 'normal' style of music that they no longer can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

sound is man and man is sound

Is Music (Movement)

Is Music (Still)

Please use headphones to listen to these!

Two of the quotes that jumped out at me from the John Cage quote in McLuhan were "Man is man and sound is sound" and "everything we do is music". These two seemed a little contradictory to me, so I wanted to explore them further.

I started thinking of what music is to me: a tune? a harmony? rhythm? And I quickly realized that for me, music needs either a tune or, more basically, a beat.

A heartbeat, perhaps.

This train of thought led me to think about how humans can be music: we have beats and rhythms, even tunes inside our bodies. I decided to work with the most basic of human rhythms, the heartbeat and the breath, as the base of my project, and fill in the rest with rhythmic spoken word based on the quotes.

I ended up remaking the song about four times due to corruption in the save files - thankfully I had a backup of the original recordings saved! - so it's gone through some changes, especially to create the two separate versions. It was hard for me to decide what to do for those, because I didn't want to add anything artificial or non-human-made to the recordings, but taking anything away to make a more simplistic version didn't sound the way I wanted it to. I finally ended up playing with the panning, making one movement-filled by changing the panning of each track save for the heartbeat throughout the song, and keeping the other still, without any panning. I like the way they turned out, even though the difference isn't entirely obvious (and I have no idea how well the youtube video of the converted video file of the mp3 of the original song will convey the intent).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


line(up), 2011

The first thing that comes to mind to me when I think of how I am 'anti-social' according to McLuhan is my cosplaying. Plenty of people may have seen pictures of cosplay, or even a convention - but how many take the time to make, put on, and display a costume at one? How strange is it to spend so much time and money on creating a costume to wear for three days at a particular gathering of people?

In this photoset I attempted to convey what it's like to attend a convention as a cosplayer specifically, using photos that are not as likely to be shared with the world at large - or anyone who isn't a cosplayer or familiar with them. These photos are not of famous or world-renowned cosplays, but of ordinary people at an ordinary convention just doing what they love.

Many of the photos are older, mainly because there wasn't a convention during the time of this project which I could attend to take new ones, as I would have preferred.

The full photoset can be found on my Flickr account, here.