Saturday, November 22, 2014

this was tomorrow (flashback)

Put on your anaglyph glasses... 

Music by Michael McNabb and Bill Schottstaedt

Blurb at YouTube: 

"Mars in 3-D is a stereographic film of imagery taken by the NASA Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft from both Mars orbit and on the surface, from both lander locations, between 1976 and 1979. The original film was produced at Stanford University in 1979 using 16mm film. It is a valuable and unique historical presentation of the results of one of the United States' most important space achievements of the decade following the Apollo moon program. The film reels and related materials were eventually donated to the NASA archives at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.

The twin Viking spacecraft arrived at Mars in 1976 and operated for several years. In 1979, one member of the Viking Imaging Team, Dr. Elliott Levinthal, was by then working at the Stanford Medical School developing medical imaging technology. He received support from NASA and Stanford University to produce a scientific documentary based on the 3D imagery from the spacecraft.

Each spacecraft had both an orbiter and lander component. Each lander had two cameras separated by about 0.8 meters, which when used together could produce left/right stereo images. The original purpose of this was to determine precise distances to nearby features for programming the soil scoop arm, but it also proved useful in understanding the overall geology of the surrounding landscape. It also really brings home the tremendous human and technological achievement of seeing the surface of another planet up close for the first time in human history. And although the tests for life on Mars were then deemed inconclusive, the results are still debated by scientists today, with some arguing for a positive interpretation.

For the orbital views, two images taken by the moving spacecraft from slightly different locations were used to produce the stereo images. The exaggerated 3D that this provides dramatically reveals the topography of the large-scale surface features. The film also includes more conventional stereo images of the Viking test lander taken at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and some non-stereo scenes of the narrator on-screen.

In 1979, CCRMA was the leading center in the world for developing the use of computers for musical synthesis and composition (and arguably remains so). Dr. Levinthal approached Professor John Chowning, then the directory of CCRMA, for help in producing a stereo soundtrack for the film. Prof. Chowning turned to two of his graduate students, myself and William Schottstaedt, and we each produced about 15 minutes of music for the 32 minute film.
Restoration Project

In 2009, CCRMA proposed a concert to honor its founder and former director, Professor John Chowning, who proposed to present the concert in a movie theater and include the Mars in 3-D film. However, using 16mm projection with the original reels was out of the question due to the degraded quality of the film and soundtrack, and difficulty using outdated 16mm stereo technology. So, with the cooperation of NASA/Ames we began an effort to find, restore and convert the film to modern Digital Cinema format and 5.1 surround audio, for presentation using current 3D cinema projection technology. Several copies of the 16mm left and right film reels, as well as the original narration audio tapes, were located at NASA Ames. These were then scanned to HD video.

The original quadraphonic surround music has been re-synthesized using a software emulator, built by Mr. Schottstaedt, that exactly reproduces the functionality of the hardware synthesizer we used in 1979. This, along with digitized copies of the original narration recordings, were used to create a new 5.1 surround audio soundtrack.

For the restoration, each reel (left and right eyes), was first processed according to the following steps: Original 4x3 aspect 16mm film scanned to uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD (1440 x 1080). Converted to Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec. Imported into Final Cut Pro 7. SmoothCam filter applied to reduce film jitter. Neat Video noise reduction plugin applied to reduce very numerous scratches, dust, and tears. Some use also of CHV Repair Collection's Dropout Eliminator plugin. FCP's Sharpen, Brightness and Contrast, and Color Corrector 3-way effects variously applied for overall color correction and image quality improvements. Dashwood Stereo3D Toolbox plugin applied for final left-right alignment and color matching."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - November - eMMplekz, Advisory Circle, "Locomotion", and more

Ekoplekz continues his terrific 2014 (the recent Four Track Mind, his second album of the year on Planet Mu and even better than the first;  the Rock La Bibliotek EP on West Norwood Cassette Library) with the Influkz EP  and yet another ace eMMplekz collaboration with Mordant Music -  the C40 tape spool You Might Also Like , purchasable here

Also on Mordant Music, the vinyl reissue (or is it first time ever issue?) of Donald Fraser's OST to Geoffrey Jones's British Transport Film "Locomotion" (1975), electronic music involving playing by members of Steeleye Span would you believe.

On Ghost Box, a superb new record from The Advisory Circle - a return to sweetly creepy form after As The Crow Flies, which is a pleasant listen but never lingered in my memory. 

from the press release:
"The Advisory Circle (aka Jon Brooks) explores darker territory than on 2012’s more pastoral As The Crow Flies. This time Brooks hints at a Wyndham-esque science fiction story, where bucolic English scenery is being manipulated and maybe even artificially generated by bizarre multi-dimensional computer technology. Brooks’ strong sense of melody and composition is still evident as are his renowned sound design and production skills. Consequently the album is a rich and rewarding experience that subtly showcases a wealth of musical experience. The usual analogue synth sound palette is augmented with found-sound from antique tape reels and Brooks’ ever growing tangle of home built electronics."


There has also been alluring activity on those hauntology-outskirts known variously as West Country wyrdtronica / pastoral-industrial / Coil in green wellies

Kemper Norton's Loor

IX Tab's R.O.C. on Exotic Pylon

And this on Kek-W's label 19f3 - Concrete / Field's A Theory of Psychic Geography


Squarely back in the fold of Hauntology, this isn't a recent release  (May this year) but it's an enjoyable one

"On a day out at Pepperbox Hill in Wiltshire I watched my daughter and her friends playing and running about by the old folly. As I watched I wondered about all the things that this grand old building might have seen over the years; childrens' games, picnics, bonfires, fireworks, fights, fantastic freak outs, witches, warlocks, highwaymen, ladies watching for the hunt and the homeguard watching for an invasion. With these thoughts it was now time to record again" - Keith Seatman, blurb for Around the Folly and Down Hill.

Finally, judging by past form (i.e. the last seven years or so), there ought to be a Moon Wiring Club long-player any day now. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

scraps of life, scraps of self

Nicholas Carr suggests that" the scrapbook has become our essential cultural form, the artifact that defines the time", albeit not the paper-and-glue sort of scrapbook but "but the unbound, online variety" . Pinterest, obviously but also "all social networking platforms... Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Ello, YouTube, LinkedIn.. Blogs are scrapbooks. Medium’s a scrapbook. A tap of a Like button is nothing if not a quick scissoring."

"If we’re not arranging our own scraps, we’re rummaging through the scraps of others.“Cut-and-paste”: the scrapbooking metaphor has long suffused our experience of computers. Now, the scrapbook is the interface. The cloud is our great shared scrapbook."

The blogpost is titled "Desperate Scrapbookers" and Carr further suggests that "the scrapbook is a melancholy form", "inherently  retrospective - a means of preemptively packaging the present as memory".... "Pressed insistently forward, we spend our time arranging the bits and pieces of our lives into something we think looks something like us. If the material scrapbook of old was familial and semiprivate, the new scrapbook is social and altogether public. It’s still a melancholy form, but now it’s an anxious one, too. It’s one thing to construct an idealized life, a “best self,” for your own consumption; it’s another thing to construct one for all to see."
He quotes Tamar Katriel and Thomas Farrell's 1991 article “Scrapbooks as Cultural Texts”:  It appears, then, that scrapbook-making as a ritualized, order-inducing gesture is both an acknowledgement of and a response to the heightened sense of fragmentation which has attended the experience of modernity.” 
A connection between scrapbooking and modernist techniques of collage is one of the ideas that came up when Joy Press, a/k/a the missus interviewed Jessica Helfand, author of Scrapbooks: An American History, for eight years ago. The peg for the piece was the crafts-store-fueled fad for scrapbooking, an extension of the old paper-and-glue approach but utilising a vast array of kitschy-cute decorative accessories: "flair and foil, lace wraps and eyelets, glitter and “word fetti." -- which by 2008 had become "a nearly $3 billion industry with its own national holiday and a vast network of Web sites, groups and retreats". (Wonder how it's doing now, that industry -- whether it's been eroded hugely by the rise of Tumblr, Pinterest and the rest?).
From Joy's piece:
“It’s at once horrifying and fascinating to witness the degree to which design is being discussed online by people whose concept of innovation is measured by novel ways to tie bows,” Helfand confessed .... Helfand couldn’t dismiss scrapbooks altogether, however. Although they were often cheesy and sentimental and generic, this was also hands-on design as practiced by regular people rather than artists — an attempt to represent everyday experience through visual culture. Digging through archives, she was amazed by the medium’s rich pedigree....
 Helfand calls it “the original open-source technology, a unique form of self-expression that celebrated visual sampling, culture mixing, and the appropriation and redistribution of existing media.” 
[She is] interested in peeking at the historical shifts embedded in the way people recounted their lives: the episodes they chose to describe, the objects they included (newspaper clippings, gum wrappers, dance cards, dog tags, family photos), and even the way they laid out the pages (sophisticated modernist visual styles like collage had somehow already been absorbed by ordinary scrapbookers of the early and mid-20th century)....  These books are remarkable to look at — so individual and specific, each becomes a “repository of evidence” from someone’s life...."
From the Q/A section of the piece:
You object to the way today’s scrapbooks are so schematic, right? There are rules and guidelines for how to do them, and every element of them is premade rather than just gathering the flotsam and jetsam of your life and organizing it in a beautiful way.
By and large, what is so beautiful about scrapbooks [historically] is that they are so messed up! They are messy. They are not chronological, and they go back and forth and change things, and they rip out pictures of guys they broke up with. They’re so idiosyncratic.
... So many scrapbooks these days seem to be about other people, like — I’m going to make this about my son or my dog or the prom. But 100 years ago, a scrapbook was about you, about your experiences. And that’s why I became so absorbed by them as biographical receptacles of people’s lives. That’s why the banal things could be the most important thing. My critique of current scrapbooking materials is that it creates a meaningless visual grammar. Why would you want to follow a pattern?.... 
I have a theory that contemporary scrapbooking is a little bit of a reflection of reality TV. You look at a show like “The Biggest Loser,” or take Joe the Plumber — he’s famous for 15 minutes and now he’s gunning for a singing career. People want to gussy themselves up....  It’s this externalizing idea of, I want this to look good for everyone else so if I ever get famous my scrapbooks will show that I’m perfect. But the whole purpose was to celebrate the everyday....
What is happening to the scrapbook in the digital era, when nobody writes letters or prints out photos anymore? There is a whole community of digital scrapbookers, of course, but is the print version of the memory book going to vanish?
I was lecturing Yale undergrads, and some 19-year-old said, isn’t Facebook a scrapbook? I’m sure there’s some artist out there saving every single status update, but the digital is ephemeral and you have to actively pursue the fleeting digital evidence of our existence.
Right, you can’t just put it in a box. You have to make an effort to archive it.
But those people who are choosing to print out their photos and make scrapbooks may have the last laugh because the materials they are working with now are much more [durable] than they were before. Archivists are struggling to maintain old scrapbooks, but in 100 years these things will last, they are indestructible. There will be an entire world of material culture studies that looks at just this, these scrapbooks.

Recently recovered some scrapbooks from my mid-teens that had been in storage for decades, scrapbooks whose existence I'd completely forgotten about. And was indeed struck by how they anticipated some of the functions of a blog, albeit not the commentary or "thinking aloud" aspect. But I would stick in a right miscellany of books reviews, quirky amusing news stories, articles snipped out of colour supplements, adverts, leaflets, and other bits 'n' bobs. And looking at it now, over the course its duration (probably half a year) I could discern the shifting constellation of my interests aged fifteen or so - science fiction, alternative history, Python-style comedy, futurology pieces about consumer technology predictions for the 21st Century, a map of Europe showing all the devolution and separatist movements ... And then gradually, popping into view, early stirrings of an interest in music - the lyrics to Kate Bush's "Them Heavy People", a bottom-of-the-page micro-ad for a Killing Joke single.

By the next scrapbook - which has never been out of my reach, wasn't one of the ones put away in storage - the interest has narrowed completely. No more Marina Warner reviews of Christopher Booker books snipped from the Observer, or interviews with Michael Palin, or an article illustrated with a map of Central Europe detailing how a future Third World War could break out, based on a book written by military strategists. It's all reviews, interviews, thinkpieces,clipped out of the music papers.  I had decided who I was, who I was going to be.