četvrtak, 5. rujna 2013.

Bob Ostertag - A Book of Hours (2013)

Glasovi pobacani po zidu kao da su komadići jetrica i onda sastrugani kvantnim saksofonima.
Stockhausen u doba ludih mikrofona.



feat. Theo Bleckmann, Shelley Hirsch, Phil Minton, Roscoe Mitchell

ompleting A Book of Hours has me thinking about Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge. Both works were commissioned by WDR Radio Köln, both are primarily vocal, both are "sacred" in their own ways, and both address the meeting of the human body and human technology via the electronic manipulation of voice. Yet in other ways the two works are opposites.
Stockhausen's work was completed in 1956 and is very much a product of its time. Like many of his contemporaries, Stockhausen believed that the timbral resources of acoustic music - voice and the instruments of the Western orchestral tradition - had been thoroughly explored and exhausted. Further explorations in timbre would henceforth occur in the electronic domain, which promised to make sound far more malleable, and give composers far more precise control, than acoustic music ever did. For Gesang der Jünglinge, Stockhausen wanted to create a seamless continuum with human voice at one end and purely synthetic sound on the other. By breaking down the human voice into its sonic components and then recreating them electronically, the composer hoped to transform the resulting hybrid voice in ways previously unimaginable. Electronic music was still in its infancy, and the tools available for the electronic manipulation of sound were extremely crude compared to the tools we have today. But Stockhausen devised an ingenious (and extremely laborious) method for creating synthetic equivalents of recorded human voice, as well as a system for extrapolating those sounds in ways not possible with a human voice.
Then, just a decade later, a new generation of improvising musicians uncovered vast worlds of previously unknown sound (at least to Western ears) in exactly those instruments and voices that the high art composers of the 1950s had dismissed. Prominent among this new generation were Roscoe Mitchell, a young saxophonist in Chicago working in the newly formed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and Phil Minton, a vocalist in London's new "free improvised music" scene. This new generation was joined a decade later by younger musicians including vocalists Shelley Hirsch and Theo Bleckmann, myself, and many others.
The musical resources developed by these musicians was staggering: Derek Bailey's guitar harmonics, Anthony Braxton's extended techniques on a diverse assortment of reed instruments, Evan Parker's combination of circular breathing and reed overtones, Lester Bowie's trumpet vocalizations, and much much more.
How could it be that the high art composers of the twentieth century, as obsessed as they were with being the "pioneers" of new sound, failed to notice this motherlode of sonic possibility that was right under their noses all the time? The answer lies in the very notion of "composer," which reached its zenith of ossification in the twentieth century. By Stockhausen's time, the composer was understood to be an exalted creative genius who retired to his (yes, it was almost always his) tower from where he contemplated the world, deciphered the correct set of instructions for creating the best possible music, and passed these instructions down from on high in the form of symbols on paper to the lowly instrumentalists who were then to execute the instructions. In fact, some twentieth century composers thought that the most profound promise of electronic music was the liberation of the composer from reliance on necessarily imperfect human interpreters for the realization of their musical visions. Stockhausen himself was perhaps the paradigmatic example of the twentieth century genius composer, and the many claims that Gesang der Jünglinge was "the first masterpiece of electronic music" were specifically intended to both burnish his credentials as such, and to usher the figure of the genius composer into the electronic age.1
The vast world of sound unearthed by the following generation of improvisors was simply not available to "composers," for the only route to these new musical worlds was through the direct, bodily encounter with the instrument itself, hour upon hour, week by week, year after year. And this had to be accomplished without symbolic instruction getting in between the musician and the instrument. The encounter of human body and instrument had to be as intimate as possible.
Among all the discoveries that resulted, none was more compelling than the discovery of the range of the human voice, the original instrument. As evidence for this claim, I submit the work of Phil Minton, Shelley Hirsch, and Theo Bleckmann in A Book of Hours, each one utterly unique and beautiful.
When Stockhausen wrote Gesang der Jünglinge, his choice of vocalist was largely inconsequential. Any voice would do, even a child's, because the real development of the composition would be done electronically. The voice was just fodder, "source material" in contemporary parlance. My approach in A Book of Hours has been just the opposite: the choice of musicians determined everything. If any one of the four musicians had been different, a completely different work would have resulted. And they most certainly could not have been children. This is music that could only be made through the accumulated musical wisdom of decades of individual musical exploration. It is no coincidence that two of the musicians, Roscoe Mitchell and Phil Minton, are in their seventies (born just three months apart in 1940). Thus the subtitle, Gesang der Alten.
Another big discovery of the fifty years since Gesang der Jünglinge has been that the electronic manipulation of sound is not the panacea that Sockhausen's generation imagined. Yes, the tools available are far more sophisticated than what Stockhausen had access to at WDR in 1956. And yes, these tools have given rise to entire genres of electronic music, as well as sub genres, micro genres, and so on. And yet electronically synthesized sound always carries with it the instantly identifiable thumbprint of the synthetic. Which is why, in A Book of Hours, I have chosen not to electronically modify the sounds created by the musicians, which I find to be incredibly rich and compelling. Any electronic "processing" I might have performed on them would have had the inevitable effect of somehow reducing them, of flattening them into something less multidimensional and organic. So the only electronic processing I have done is to use a synthetic reverb to place the musicians, who recorded their material separately in different locations, into the same synthetic "space."
And yet, though the sounds in A Book of Hours could never have resulted from the instructions of a composer but could have only been created through improvisation, the composition I have created could never have been improvised. The music is far too deliberate, from the meta structure down to the details of each specific phrase. There is almost nothing here that is presented as it was originally played or sung (with the exception of some saxophone parts, which were indeed incorporated "as is"). What I have done is splice: hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of splices.2 I have also done some slight time stretching or compressing, and equally minor pitch transposition, of the original material. None of this was done to change the "sound" of the musicians, or to make them appear to sing higher or lower or faster or louder than they can. Rather, these slight changes were done to make the parts fit together better. And this was a difficult challenge, because the project began with each of the four musicians recording a set of solo improvisations, separately and without any knowledge of what the others were doing.
A Book of Hours is thus precariously balanced between improvisation and composition. The actual singing and sax playing is far too intimate to the body of each musician to have possibly resulted from the musicians attempting to execute the instructions of a composer, while the economy of detail and deliberateness of structure is far too tight to have possibly resulted from improvisation. Is A Book of Hours composed or improvised? It is both and neither.
Like Stockhausen in Gesang der Jünglinge, I have tried to fashion a work that resides in what roboticist Masahiro Mori termed the "uncanny valley" between human and machine. Mori suggests that humans respond positively to robotic replicas of themselves if the replicas are not very exact, but when the replicas' likeness to humans crosses a certain threshold they fall into an "uncanny valley" where our delight turns to revulsion. But unlike Stockhausen's work and indeed so much of the terrain of the uncanny valley, I have tried to make something that results not in revulsion but retains a sort of organic beauty. (I find Gesang der Jünglinge nearly impossible to listen to today, much more of a Frankenstein nightmare than a flowering of the future).
Finally, Stockhausen claimed to be a devout Catholic, and Gesang der Jünglinge was all about praising God. Eventually, Stockhausen's claims about his special relationship with God fused with his stature as genius composer into a sort of amalgam of God and Stockhausen that was absurd. Books of hours were medieval prayer books that provided prayers for each hour of the day, and date to a time when clocks were new enough to be thought to have religious significance. (Then again, the laptop on which I created this work is run by a clock, which divides time not into hours but into 2,660,000,000 parts of a second, and there are indeed some devotees of technology that approach this fact with a religious reverence.) I think of A Book of Hours as devotional music for non-believers, or, in the words of my friend Our Lady J, gospel for the godless. The devotion it expresses is not to any god but rather the beauty of the world in which we live, as made manifest in the breath, the voice, and the reed. The subtitles are taken from psalms, chosen by the criteria that they should make no mention of God.
In all of this I am further developing the compositional techniques I created in the 1990s with my Say No More quartet and its four recordings. There also, I began with solo improvisations recorded separately, which I then fashioned into compositions via thousands of splices. The only methodological difference between Say No More and A Book of Hours is that there are digital tools for altering the pitch and duration of recorded sound that were not available in the 1990s. The Say No More project progressed in cycles, with the composition I created on the computer from the fragments of the solo improvisations in turn becoming the "score" that the live ensemble used in its performances; the live performance recordings then becoming the source material for another composition spliced together on the computer; and so on. Given the present world financial crisis, I am unsure if the resources to pursue A Book of Hours through a similarly ambitious set of cycles will be available, and at any rate I am traveling much less in an effort to reduce my carbon footprint in the face of global warming. But I will be happy even if the present recording is the final stop for A Book of Hours, as I find the recording quite beautiful in and of itself. My most heartfelt thanks to Roscoe Mitchell, Phil Minton, Shelley Hirsch, and Theo Bleckmann for allowing me the honor of working with their incredible music without restriction.

1 Stockhausen did engage in musical improvisation, but always in ensembles under his direction, and he adamantly claimed authorship of these "compositions," even when the score was almost non-existent (as did John Cage and many other avant-garde composers). He also continued to write for both acoustic instruments and electronics throughout his life. More to the point here, neither his improvisations nor his writing led to the sort of deep encounters with extended instrumental technique that are my subject here. 2 Interestingly, it was not a composer but the pianist Glen Gould who first pointed out the profound implications of the splice, implications which we see all around us, from iTunes playlists to club DJs. See Glenn Gould's seminal but under appreciated essay, "The Prospects of Recording."

Read a review of A Book of Hours featured in The Wire here

In his essay accompanying this wonderful album, New Mexico-born composer Bob Ostertag draws a link between his work and the great Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge, and this had me thinking that symphonic-styled compositions centred and based on the human voice are comparatively few and far between, even in the world of avant-garde music. It could be that vocals are unpredictable and less precise than strings, piano or reeds. Or maybe the surge of electronic instruments in the latter half of the twentieth century gripped the imaginations of composers so much that the voice just became another tool to play around with using electronic equipment, another element that could be manipulated beyond recognition. Who knows? But A Book of Hours displays most emphatically how powerful an instrument it can be in the right hands. To assemble the 50-odd minutes of A Book of Hours, Ostertag utilises the extraordinary talents of three unique vocalists, Theo Bleckmann, Shelley Hirsch and the great Phil Minton, as well as The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s genius reed and horn player Roscoe Mitchell, who has released some dazzling works of his own this year himself. The three singers have neatly contrasting styles: Bleckmann’s series of moans and cries sounding positively arcane alongside Minton’s alternately creepy and comical set of glossolalia, hiccups, hisses and borborygmi, whilst Hirsch’s screams, whistles and shrieks are unsettling to the point of evoking the banshees of Irish myth. But as the early segments progress, and Ostertag injects discreet, subtly balanced electronic textures, the three voices start to meld and criss-cross until it becomes increasingly difficult to recognise who is producing which sounds. Ostertag wears the spiritual intentions behind his composition on his sleeve, and as Mitchell interjects restrainedly with fluttering flutes and parping horns, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with the cosmic intentions (and even possibilities) behind most sacred music, except here the spiritual is ripped away from the moorings of specific cultures or time (“devotional music for non-believers” is how Ostertag describes it). Indeed, around 25 minutes into this suite-cum-symphony, Ostertag’s electronic undercurrent becomes more insistent, with a restless rhythmic background weaving in and out and around Mitchell’s increasingly insistent horn lines and the unhinged vocalisations of the singers to provide a ceaseless forward momentum. Ostertag’s talent lies in how he expertly combines the improvisatory talents of his collaborators with his own, more deliberate, contributions, slowly folding the former into the latter as the piece builds up surges of drone and sustain. At the close, Roscoe Mitchell launches into some freeform saxophone madness as Bleckmann, Hirsch and Minton jabber and speak (shout) in tongues around him, and it feels like you’ve stumbled onto a demented nighttime ritual from another dimension, one where the people involved are celebrating themselves rather than some totalitarian deity or deities. This segment dissolves into a series of quiet huffs, toots and sighs from all performers (bar, perhaps, Ostertag) and the entire piece ends like sunlight breaking at dawn. The comparison with Gesang der Jünglinge may apply in terms of technique (although Ostertag has a more improvisational approach than Stockhausen), but as a work of spiritual and intellectual music, it is very much a radical work of art. - See more at: http://www.theliminal.co.uk/2013/08/bob-ostertag-a-book-of-hours/#sthash.SI5YCxUd.dpuf. - Joseph Burnett

Motormouth (2011)
Bob Ostertag plays the Buchla 200e
[free download / additional info]
w00t. (2007)
w00t is a free, internet-only release composed entirely from fragments of music from video games.
[free download / additional info]
Living Cinema

Living Cinema Presents Between Science and Garbage. (2004)
Recording of live cinema performance with film maker Pierre H�bert. [Tzadik DVD Edition 3002]
[ additional info / purchase ]

Say No More Project CDs 1 & 2. (2002)
Originally released separately as Say No More (1993) and Say No More in Person (1994). Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2002. With Joey Baron (percussion), Mark Dresser (bass), Gerry Hemingway (percussion) and Phil Minton (voice). Assembled on computer from fragments of solo improvisations. [Seeland 521]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Say No More Project CDs 3 & 4. (2002)
Originally released separately as Verbatim (1996) and Verbatim Flesh & Blood (2000). Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2002. With Gerry Hemingway (percussion), Mark Dresser (bass), and Phil Minton (voice). Third and fourth and final cd from the Say No project. Assembled on computer (3) and recorded live in Gent, Belgium (4). [Seeland 522]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Dear Prime Minister. (1998)
With the students of the Hansa Gymnasium. WDR/Hansa Special. Special release through the Hansa Gymnasium and WDR. A UNESCO project to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

All the Rage. (1993)
Kronos Quartet plays Ostertag's transcriptions of gay riots in San Francisco. Libretto by Sara Miles. [Elektra-Nonesuch 79332-2]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Burns Like Fire. (1992)
Riots, country and western, and gospel. Companion piece to All the Rage. Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2001.
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Sooner or Later. (1991)
Solo. Based on a recording of a Salvadoran boy burying his father. RecRec Music (RecDec 37) Re-issued on MVORL/Seeland in limited edition in 2001. [Seeland 514]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]
Solo Improvisations

DJ of the Month: Bob Ostertag Solo Volume 2. (2002)
Solo improvisations. [Seeland 526]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Like A Melody, No Bitterness: Bob Ostertag Solo Volume 1. (1997)
Solo improvisation. Seeland 508. Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2001. [Seeland 508]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

PantyChrist. (1999)
With Otomo Yoshihide (dj) and Justin Bond (vocal). [Seeland 510]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Fear No Love. (1995)
With Mike Patton, Fred Frith, Justin Bond, Lynn Breedlove, 15 others. [Avant 041]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Twins! (1996)
With Otomo Yoshihide (dj). Resampled "twins" of parent tracks by Herb Robertson, Chris Cutler, and Yagi Michiyo. [Creativeman 0030]
[ additional info / purchase ]

Attention Span. (1990)
With John Zorn (alto sax) and Fred Frith (guitar). Rift Records (Rift 14) and RecRec Music (RecDec 33). Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2001.
[ additional info / purchase ]

Voice of America. (1982)
With Fred Frith (guitar) and Phil Minton (voice). Recorded in concert in London and NYC. RecRec Music (RecDec 907). Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2001.
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Getting A Head. (1980)
With Charles K. Noyes (percussion) and Fred Frith (guitar). Uses unorthodox instrument built from tape recorders and helium balloons. Rift Records. Re-issued in MVORL limited edition in 2001. [Seeland 516]
[ download / additional info / purchase ]

Fall Mountain: Early Fall. (1979)
With Ned Rothenberg (wind instruments) and Jim Katzin (violin). Recorded at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. [Parachute]
Performing the works of other composers:

Anthony Braxton: Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978. (1995)
Live performance from 1978 released as 2-CD set in 1995. [hatART 2-6171]

Eugene Chadbourne: The English Channel. (1978)
Eugene Chadbourne's large ensemble extravaganza, featuring many young East Village improvisors, including John Zorn, Fred Frith, Wayne Horvitz, LaDonna Smith, many more. [Parachute]

Burdocks. (2001)
"For half a century legendary scholar Christian Wolff has created a very personal musical response to John Cage's challenging experiments and three of his most distinctive compositions receive inspiring performances here by a collection of San Francisco and New York's best and most imaginative performers. Fred Frith, Joan Jeanrenaud, Bob Ostertag, Miya Masaoka and Stephen Drury are just a few of the remarkable players percussion virtuoso William Winant has brought together to pay tribute to the fascinating work of this conceptual visionary, who performs at the piano with an all-star ensemble on his most famous composition Burdocks."

Fred Frith/Keep the Dog: That House We Lived In. (2003)
2-CD set of concert recordings of Frith's ensemble from the 1990s. [Recommended Records FRA 3]

John Zorn: Pool. (2003)
Re-release of one of Zorn's earliest game pieces first issued in 1979. [Tzadik 73163]

John Zorn: The Parachute Years. (1997)
Multi-CD set of Zorn's early game pieces. [Tzadik 7316-7]

House of Discipline (with Mike Patton and Otomo Yoshihide).
Included on AngelicA 1997, a compilation of performances at the Angelica music festival in Bologna, Italy, 1997. [I dischi di angelica 3]
Improvisations with John Zorn and Fred Frith.
Included on AngelicA 1994, a compilation of performances at the Angelica music festival in Bologna, Italy, 1994. [I dischi di angelica 1]   

Live Projects

Current Live Projects [ pdf ]

Past Live Projects

Spiral Yugoslavia Suite
Say No More
Desert Boy on a Stick
House of Discipline

Listen to a compilation of tracks selected and introduced by Bob Ostertag, author of this month's Collateral Damage article on giving away his back catalogue online and how the web is changing the way we listen to music.
Above is a compilation of tracks from various points in Bob Ostertag's career. Alongside his music, Ostertag is a film maker and author. His recent book Creative Life: Music, Politics, People And Machines is a musical and political memoir collecting together a selection of Ostertag's essays. His fifth (as yet untitled) book is about to be published.
"Arms And Legs"
from Motormouth: Bob Ostertag Plays The Buchla 200e (2011)
Released this month, Motormouth: Bob Ostertag Plays The Buchla 200e is a collection of tracks played on a Buchla 200e, Don Buchla's re-issued modular patch cord-based synth from the 1960s. Ostertag says: "I first started playing a Buchla 200 at the Oberlin Conservatory in 1976 at the age of 19. Two years later I dropped out of school with a Serge synthesizer, first to tour with Anthony Braxton, then I moved to New York City where I formed what became known as the 'downtown music improvisation scene' with John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, and others. At the time, modular synthesizers were considered studio devices, and the fact that I was taking one on stage and attempting to improvise at the frenetic pace and turn-on-a-dime style of the downtown scene meant that I was off on a tangent all my own.
"Playing a modular synthesizer like the 200e requires that one think about music in a very particular way. It is a very different experience from working with notation, timelines, MIDI, or keyboards. But it's also very different from working with music software, even software that is specifically designed to mimic the behavior of old modular analog synthesizers. Essentially, one has to think geometrically: each module generates certain shapes, and then you make the music by overlaying shapes in different ways."
"Getting A Head" (with Fred Frith)
from Getting A Head LP (1980)
"Getting A Head was made 31 years ago, with Fred playing table-top guitars and me playing three reel-to-reel tape recorders linked by helium balloons and and a variable-speed motor (part instrument and part sculpture). The record marks one of the first, and to this day one of the only times, that tape manipulation techniques developed by the early generations of electronic composers for use in the studio were adapted for live performance and improvisation."
"Voice Of America Part 1" (with Fred Frith)
from Voice Of America LP (1982)
"It was the beginning of the 1980s and from my apartment on the Lower East Side of NYC, the world seemed to be going crazy. Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as President of the United States, something that at the time was nearly unthinkable. The hostages who had been held in the US Embassy in Tehran were coming home to a tumultuous welcome that would unleash a malignant wave of patriotism to sustain the country through the wars of the coming decade: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, and more.
"I had just returned from my first trip to Nicaragua, and was experiencing severe readjustment trauma. I turned on the TV and started recording cassettes. All you got that week-end was Reagan's inauguration, the hostages' return, game shows, and American football's Superbowl, an annual extravaganza showcasing everything that is ugly in the culture. Fred Frith had just come to NYC and I had a concert with him that night. Without discussing it with Fred, I took my TV tapes, as well as others I had brought back from Central America, and played them through my synthesizer during the gig. This was before the days of samplers or even affordable digital delays. I assembled a series of cheap cassette recorders, each modified to malfunction in a particular way. I also had a stack of looped cassettes of various lengths from telephone answering machines which I used for sampling live, then manipulating by playing them back on the screwed-up tape decks. As the 1980s wore on, rappers and others developed a whole new form of music out of sampled fragments of politically charged media clips, but this was before that."
"Sooner Or Later Part 1"
from Sooner Or Later CD (1991)
"This was the first music I made after leaving the NYC music scene to spend a decade working with the revolutionary movement in El Salvador. The source is a recording of a young boy burying his father, who like thousands of others had been killed by the Salvadoran National Guard. The only sounds in the piece are the voice of the boy talking about his father, a woman next to him crying, the shovel striking dirt and rock as the grave is dug, and a fly buzzing around the mic."
"All The Rage" (with the Kronos Quartet, text by Sara Miles)
from All The Rage CD (1993)
"All The Rage was developed from a recording I made of a queer riot in San Francisco in October 1991. The string parts come directly from the riot: screaming, windows being smashed, chanting slogans, and people shouting "go for it" and "burn it" as the California State Office Building was set on fire. In some parts this took the form of a minutely detailed transcription of the pitch inflections of the recorded sounds. In other sections, the process from tape to string parts was more complex, and the relationship between the two less obvious. Much of the peculiar sound of this music comes from the whistles that many queers carried as a basic self-defence tool, which emerged from people's pockets by the hundreds during the riot. The whistles used in performance by the Kronos Quartet are provided by Community United Against Violence, a San-Francisco-based organization which assists victims of queer-bashings. All The Rage had its world premier at the Lincoln Center in New York City. It was a nice feeling to have a queer riot night at Lincoln Center."
"Say No More" (with Phil Minton, Mark Dresser and Joey Baron)
from Say No More CD (1993)
"I began the Say No More project by asking each player to record solo improvisations separately without communicating, and without any instruction from me. I then took the resulting tapes and, using a digital editing system, broke the solos into fragments and assembled a "band" piece by piece from the splinters, resulting in this recording. Probably the first group in the history of music to release a CD without having played a note together or even met.
"After the release of this music the project continued. The group got together and toured performing the compositions I had created on the computer using the fragments of their improvisations, and we released a live CD. I then put the live ensemble recording back into the computer, blew it apart into fragments, and created another CD. The group then learned that material, toured, and recorded another live CD. So this was a cyclical project, alternating between virtual and human, virtual and human. It was another project that was almost impossible to find work for. Computer music venues said it "wasn't computer music." Jazz venues thought I was destroying human improvisation with a computer. I suspect that if I was doing this now it would receive a warmer reception."
"Feet So Low" (with Justin Bond and Otomo Yoshihide)
from PantyChrist CD (1999)
"This is one of my favorite projects, featuring transgender chanteuse Justin Bond, who was relatively unknown at the time but has gone on to take drag performance to heights formerly unheard of, playing Carnegie Hall and other major venues. One critic wrote, "To say that this has made me radically rethink my use of the word 'queer' is an understatement." That comment made me very happy. It was almost impossible to book concerts for it at the time."
from w00t (2007)
"w00t was my first free download recording. It is a collage made exclusively from fragments of computer game music, all of which I shamelessly and honestly said I had pirated. It comes with beautiful artwork by John Cooney: a collage with images from all the same games from which I took the music."
- thewire.co.uk/


Raising expectations (And Raising Hell)
Co-authored by Jane McAlevey and Bob Ostertag
New York: Verso, 2012.
Creative Life: Art, Politics, People, Machines
University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Collected essays

The Wire, October, 2009 [JPG]
Fundamentally Sound, October 4, 2009
Happily, The Future, January 31, 2010 [Part 1] [Part 2]
Fuse, 2009 [PDF]
Critical Studies in Improvisation, 2010

People's Movements, People's Press : The Journalism of Social Justice Movements
Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
A history of radical journalism in America. Chapters on the journalism of the abolitionist, woman suffrage, gay and lesbian, and environmental movements, as well as the underground GI press during the Vietnam war.

The Yes Men: The True Story of the End of the World Trade Organization
New York: Disinformation Press, 2004.
(Published anonymously as the Yes Men, co-authored with Mike Bonano and Andy Bichlbaum.)
The birth of "identity correction:" activists travel the world posing as spokespeople for the World Trade Organization.

Book Chapters

"The Underground Press: A History,"
in Geoff Kaplan, ed., Power to the People:
The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1967

University of Chicago Press, 2013.
"Social Movements and the Printed and Electronic Word"
in Alternatives on Media Content, Journalism, and Regulation:
The Grassroots Discussion Panels at the 2007 ICA Conference

Tartu, Estonia: Tartu University Press, 2007.
Outlining the historical research that went into my book People's Movements, People's Press, I address some of the vexing issues posed by the transition of social movement journalism from the printed to the electronic word.
"All the Rage," in John Zorn, ed., Arcana: Musicians on Music
New York: Granary Books, 2000.
Technical and detailed discussion of "All the Rage," a string quartet transcribed from recordings of queer riots in San Francisco, and premiered by the Kronos Quartet at Lincoln Center. The CD of "All the Rage" can be found here [link to the CD web page]

"At a Dead End?" in Hannes Leopoldseder and Christine Schopf, eds., Ars Electronica 1996
Vienna: SpringerVerlang, 1996.
Essay about serving on the computer music jury in the 1996 Ars Electronica festival. Widely reprinted in many languages, usually with the title Why Computer Music Sucks, which it was given in a reprint which appeared in Resonance.         


The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician
AlterNet.org, April 2007
QuestionCopyright.org, April 2007
Kunst und Politik: Nach dem Elften September   [ PDF ]
MusikTexte, Number 100, February 2004
Essay will also appear in forthcoming book, Creative Life
Human Bodies, Computer Music   [ PDF ]
Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 12, 2002
Literaturen Vestnikî, 14-20 April, 2994 (Bulgarian translation of english)
Essay will also appear in forthcoming book, Creative Life
All the Rage   [ PDF ]
Arcana: Musicians On Music, John Zorn, ed.
Granary Books, NY: 2000.
Balkan Journal   
This essay was excerpted in the British music magazine The Wire and will be a chapter in my forthcoming book Creative Life

Why Computer Music Sucks   
Originally published in published in LMC, Texts on Improvised and Experimental Music from Resonance Magazine. Volume 5 Number 1


The following archive is by no means comprehensive. I have made no systematic effort over the years to archive reviews. The following is simply a list of those articles which by chance had ended up in my drawer when this web site was made. Many of these articles are older, as at a certain point I stopped saving press about my work. There was just too much of it.
It should also be noted that just as the vast majority of my concerts have been presented in non-English speaking countries, the vast majority of articles about my work is not in English. This includes all the more scholarly articles.
Concert organizers looking for press quotes for publicity purposes will find the "Brief Quotes" and "Selected Extracts" sections useful.
- Bob Ostertag

-English Press-
New York Times
On a Mission to Make Soul Unpredictable
Forum: Popular Music

New York Times, April 9, 2006
Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
Between Science and Garbage at Merkin Concert Hall

New York Times, January 14, 2003
Kronos Quartet   [ PDF ]
New York Times, April 28, 1992
Duo's Individual Statements   [ PDF ]
New York Times, September 9, 1989
Fall Mountain's New Music   [ PDF ]
New York Times, date unknown
Shoot out the Lights   [ PDF ]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, September 30, 1992
Stop the Osterizer, I Want To Get In   [PDF]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 17, 1993
Kaleidoscope: Bob Ostertag's new album, Like a Melody, No Bitterness, is a new chapter in a multifaceted career   [PDF]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 17, 1993
Mondo 2000, 1993 (large file, full color)
Bob Ostertag   [ PDF ]
The Wire, Issue 151, September 1996
Ostertag's Osterizer   [ PDF ]
Wired, June 1995
All the News That's Fit to Sample
Bob Ostertag Talks to Phil England   [ PDF ]

Resonance, Volume 3 Number 1 - Winter 1994.
Living Cinema
‰íSpecial Forces’Äö turns Lebanon war into art
Jewish News Weekly, April 27, 2007
Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
Between Science and Garbage at Merkin Concert Hall

New York Times, January 14, 2003
Taking Out the Trash   [ PDF ]
City Pages, September 12, 2001
Give Me an Orange   [ PDF ]
Last Plane to Jakarta, Fall 1999
PantyChrist   [ PDF ]
Torso, October 1999
PantyChrist   [ PDF ]
Q.U.E.E.R. Zine, July 1999
PantyChrist   [ PDF ]
ink 99, May 19, 1999
PantyChrist   [ PDF ]
East Bay Express, April 23, 1999
PantyChrist   [ PDF ]
Faster than Sheep, date unknown
Say No More
Say No More   [ PDF ]
Jump Magazin, 1999
English translation in right column
Sooner or Later
Bob Ostertag: Attention Span | Bob Ostertag: Sooner or Later   [ PDF ]
Oakland Tribune, March 31, 1991
Tape Beatles plunder a media-mad culture; overwhelming realism from Bob Ostertag   [ PDF ]
Pulse, Number 100, 1991
Sooner or Later - Review   [ PDF ]
High Performance, Fall 1994
All the Rage
Gay Rage Takes Center Stage at Center for the Arts   [ PDF ]

Bay Area Reporter, November 18, 1993
The sound and the fury
Remy Charlip and Margaret Jenkins forge street anger and creative tension into "All the Rage"   [ PDF ]

SF Weekly, November 17, 1993
Collaborators Build Rage From Riot   [ PDF ]
San Francisco Sentinel, November 17, 1993
Politics and Process
New Music from Kronos Quartet   [ PDF ]

San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, November 15, 1992
Yugoslavia Suite
Artist Examines Contradictions of Kosovo War   [ PDF ]
Hartford Courant, September 13, 1999
Attention Span
Bob Ostertag, Attention Span | Bob Ostertag, Sooner or Later   [ PDF ]
Cadence, January 1992
Bob Ostertag: Attention Span   [ PDF ]
East Bay Guardian, August 1991
Voice of America
Voice of America - Reviews   [ PDF ]
OP Magazine, Music and Sound Output, Down Beat, 1983-1984
Earliest Work
Three Good Records   [ PDF ]
Village Voice, January 7-13, 1981
Things That Go Bleep in the Night   [ PDF ]
Soho Weekly News, October 18, 1979
Brats in the Musical Playpen   [ PDF ]
Soho Weekly News, 1979
Avant You Should Listen   [ PDF ]
East Village Eye, August 1983
Fall Mountain   [ PDF ]
Coda, date unknown
Assorted Concert Reviews

Victoriaville Festival 1995   [ PDF ]
Cadence, July 1995
International Musique Actuelle - Festival Victoriaville   [ PDF ]
Exclaim Magazine, May 1995
Festival Musique Actuelle   [ PDF ]
Coda Magazine, March 1992
Victoriaville 1991   [ PDF ]
Cadence, December 1991        
Why I No Longer Give Away My Music

Bob Ostertag’s article (below) about how the music industry makes it increasingly difficult for musicians to share their work online for free got a massive response on On The Commons. Ostertag shares some of the reactions here.
Update from Bob Ostertag
My article seems to have fostered a lots of discussion on OTC, on FaceBook, and around the web. Many shared their own experiences with unjustified “take-downs” of their music off the Web. For example, this form Eva Orgidea:
“Last week Youtube added a copyright notice in one of my videos (a mere sound performance I did in a gallery) saying part of the content was owned by Harry Fox agency. I felt so offended, that I disputed the claim and simultaneously deleted the video. I do not want, in any shape or form, to get involved into those huge corporate names… Nevertheless although I removed the video I am aware that if they do not find my dispute legitimate, they will terminate my Youtube account.”
Others wrote in defense of the people at SoundCloud, which they argue are doing their best given the circumstances, and that their dispute resolution system is actually fast and fairly simple. But beyond discussion of which music and video hosting sites are “good guys” or “bad guys,” the bigger point is that there is a strong incentive for “false positives” built into the whole netbot-auto-take-down system. The software that SoundCloud, YouTube, and others across the web began as a service used by the big labels to analyze music content directly at CD pressing plants to prevent unauthorized mass duplication, That system is now applied to everyone. It is strongly in the interest of the big corporate labels to over-detect rather than under-detect. The result is a system in which the interest of the handful of superstars of the world in not missing out on a penny of their millions in royalties trumps the interest of the vast majority of musicians in getting their music heard.
On YouTube, artists the netbots have identified as violating copyright may now be offered a choice of taking down their video or allowing the alleged copyright holder to advertise on the page. The incentive for false positives here is even stronger, since the more false-positive takedown notices get sent, the more free advertising is muscled from people they have no relationship to: legal, artistic, or otherwise.
Finally, there is one clarification in order concerning my account of the YouTube takedown of Jacques Sirot’s video, which we ultimately traced to netbots operating on behalf of the Seeland label associated with the group Negativland. My intention was to use that story to illustrate how easy it is for copyright-policing-by-netbot to get out of hand, not to question the integrity of Seeland or Negativland. I consider Negativland to be innovative artists, trustworthy collaborators, upstanding individuals, and personal friends. When we finally figured out what had happened, the Negativland people were as horrified as I was and acted immediately to resolve the situation.

A publicity photo for Ostertag’s 2011 synthesizer album Motormouth, which is still available for free digital download
In 2006 I gave my music away. That music had previously existed on CDs and LPs (yes, I began making music in the days of vinyl and tape). I moved all of it to the Web, downloadable for free.
Today, seven years later, I see that giving away music for free is not as easy as I had imagined. In some ways, it turns out to be impossible. The reasons why this is so say a lot about creativity,property, and power in a networked world of corporately owned digital commons policed by netbots and stochastic algorithms.
My music is now available under a Creative Commons “Attribution-Non Commercial 2.5 License,” which allows anyone to download it, copy it, remix it, slice and dice it, and so on. They just can’t sell it, or profit from it. If they incorporate it into music of their own, they should note that they did so, and since they used my music as their source material for free, they should not charge for their music either.
But that’s all just words. In the real world, I have no resources with which to enforce those conditions. And as we shall see, the problems I have encountered in
this endeavor have been entirely in another direction.
Deciding to do this was the easy part, since the “record business” never worked for me in the first place. This was no big surprise, as the record business never worked for most musicians. What is surprising is how many musicians seem either to not know this or to have forgotten it.
The whole structure of the industry put corporate interests first, musician interests a distant second. Actually, this is not quite true. The biggest stars get taken care of pretty well. Lady Gaga should have no complaints. But many people would be shocked to know how many bands whose names they know and CDs they bought never saw any money from those sales. For musicians like myself making “non-commercial” music which does not fit easily any any genre or marketable category, the situation was hopeless from the start.
My income comes from concerts, not recordings (I have performed internationally since 1978). For most of my audience, before the Internet came along just finding my recordings was a major undertaking. Concerts in various parts of the world were often attended by people who travelled long distances to get to the show, hoping to find some recording for sale which they had heard about but were never able to find.
Enter the Internet. Suddenly, world-wide “distribution” of audio recordings – which had formerly required an infrastructure of pressing plants, trucks, ships, planes, warehouses, retail shops, accountants, lawyers, and more – became instantly available to everyone at the push of a button.
Who needs the “record business”? What was a difficult, tentative, and ultimately impossible decision for big name groups like Radiohead was a no-brainer for me. I wrote an essay called The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician that was widely read and commented upon. I was invited on to the board of a non-profit called Question Copyright, which is all about trying to create a real digital commons.
The first thing that happened after ‘freeing’ my music was that people began to access it in far greater numbers than previously possible. My first release to bypass the CD stage and go directly to the Internet for free download, w00t, was downloaded about 40,000 times. And the total downloads of all my recordings has gone well over 100,000. (Since numerous sites now offer my music for downloading I do not have an accurate total).
But I have learned that “accessing” music and actually listening to it are two different things. Free downloading has created a kind of collector or hoarder who is unique to the digital age. In my university classes, I query my students about their downloading habits, and everyone who is deeply into music has figured out how to download music for free, despite the best efforts of the record business to stop them, and have far, far more music downloaded to their laptops and iPods than they will ever have time to listen to in their entire lives. Gigabytes and gigabytes of meaningless data. These same students invariably report that they have actually listened to all the music they paid for.
If a virtual tree falls in a virtual forest and no one opens the file, does it still make a sound? This is a real conundrum. If by “commons” we mean, say, communally owned pastures in England, we are talking about finite resources that were valued as such and cared for accordingly by the surrounding community. But if by “commons” we mean a vast expanse of server farms that seems capable of expanding without meaningful limit, then we are speaking of something very different. Have I cheapened my music by not monetizing its recorded artifact?
For most people for whom new music is an important part of their lives, however, the most relevant commons has become iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and so on – Web sites that allow the user to begin from their favorite music and then link outwards to music that has been somehow identified as similar. College kids and fanatical collectors might work late into the night figuring out how to get their files for free, but for most people, the sites listed above are the main way they discover new music. And these sites do not accept music that is free. They are all about making money. By giving away my music for free, I seem to have shut myself out of the new “commons”.
The Mysterious Case of the Missing Copyright
Jacques Sirot is an independent French artist and film-maker. He used my music as the soundtrack for one of his recent films, as I have made clear he (and everyone else) is free to do. Making sure to dot every i and cross every t, when he posted his film on YouTube he noted: This Creative Commons film uses Bob Ostertag’s music, Say No More, which is distributed with a Creative Commons license; its usage has moreover been personally agreed by the musician.
Yet soon after the film was posted, it was blocked for copyright violation, with a notice that “it may have content that is owned or licensed by IODA [Independent Online Distribution Alliance].” Jacques appealed:
“This video contains elements protected by rights of the author in question, but with the appropriate license or written authorization of the holder of those rights. Bob Ostertag was notified of this use of his music (which he distributes via “Creative Commons”) and granted his authorization. I believe in good faith that the claims described above are not valid, and that I hold the necessary rights to the contents of my video, for reasons cited. I have not knowingly made a false declaration and am not voluntarily using this contestation procedure in an abusive manner to undermine third party rights. I understand that the forwarding of fraudulent contestations can lead to the closure of my YouTube account.”
He received the following reply:
Dear Jacques Sirot,
IODA has reviewed your dispute and reinstated its copyright claim on your video, “TSUNAMI”. For more information, please visit your Copyright Notice page.
Yours sincerely,
The YouTube Team
Working with scholar Sally-Jane Norman, Jaques spent considerable time researching the matter, and eventually contacted me, and I spent hours more looking into it. Finally I figured out what had happened.
Years back, I released some CDs on Seeland, a label run by the notorious media guerrilla group Negativland. Negativland was famously sued for a parody of a song by U2, which made them into icons of free expression and resistance to absurd claims about the reach of copyright. I had left their label years ago when I put my music under the free Creative Commons license. As is often the case with tiny, underfunded labels, there had been a disagreement about accounting, with the Negativland people arguing I owed them money for unsold CDs that were returned by stores. Just the sort of thing that led me to give up on small labels and give away my music. Well, it turned out that, without informing me, Seeland had continued to collect royalties on that music in an effort to recoup what they claimed to be their losses. Through a byzantine circuit of contracts and enforcements, the banishment of Jacques Sirot’s video from YouTube for copyright violation, for using my music which I had given him and everyone else explicit permission to use, was the result of a secret account collecting royalties on my music operated by a label that had built its reputation on resistance to overblown copyright claims!
Kanye West vs. Etienne Noreau-Hebert
There are some Web sites, like YouTube, SoundCloud and BandCamp, which are set up to allow free music and video sharing. But even these are problematic. They are policed by “netbots,” software algorithms that constantly search for sounds allegedly owned by someone or other. My friend Etienne Noreau-Hebert recently uploaded a new work to SoundCloud, to share with others for free, and received back the following reply:
Our automatic content protection system has detected that your sound “121223-Muhamarra-v0.3” may contain the following copyright content: “Love Lockdown (as made famous by Kanye West)” by Future Hit Makers Of America, owned by Big Eye Music. As a result, its publication on your profile has been blocked.
Kanye West, of course, is a major figure in the world of corporate hip hop, with megahit records, movies, a fashion line, and more than 30 million paid digital downloads of his songs. Etienne is an unknown musician making abstract electronic music he would like to share with others for free. There is nothing in his music that sounds even remotely like Kanye West. But some netbot has judged that Etienne has infringed on Kanye’s rights, and so Etienne’s composition is banned from SoundCloud. Perhaps there is someone at SoundCloud to whom Etienne could appeal, if he dug through their web site, sent the emails, waited through various levels of phone robots, etc. Perhaps not. But Etienne is giving away his music for free. Where is he going to get all that time? Or rather, he is trying unsuccessfully to give away his music for free.
Little guys like Etienne are not the only victims of netbot police. The YouTube live stream of Michelle Obama’s speech during the last Democratic Convention was suddenly shut down midsentence by YouTube’s “preemptive content filters,” leaving viewers staring at a black screen with text informing them that: This video contains content from WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappel, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
If you want to know who rules the roost on the Internet, that list would be a good place to start. A live webcast of the Hugo Awards for science fiction writers was blocked when a netbot ruled that the stream was showing copyrighted film clips. This was true, but the Hugo Awards had secured permission to use them. No one told the netbots. YouTube’s “preemptive content filters” repeatedly blocked footage from NASA’s Curiosity rover Mars landing, even though the images are in the public domain.
Music for Almost Free
My newest work is A Book of Hours, featuring the extraordinary vocal talents of Shelly Hirsch, Phil Minton, and Theo Bleckman, as well as saxophone legend Roscoe Mitchell. I have decided not to give this one away, but to use a relatively new service with the unlikely name of CDBaby. CDBaby will host the files for download on their site, with all the now-standard ability to share, comment, and so on. But more importantly, they will place the music on iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and so on. I have to pay them for this service, and they will not accept my work unless I charge for it. I have chosen a very low amount: $1.99 for nearly an hour of music. All my previous works will remain available on my web site for free.
In a way this feels like a retreat from the across-the-board music-for-free stance I have taken for the last seven years. But really I am just trying to keep my head above water in the digital deluge.
- See more at: http://onthecommons.org/magazine/why-i-no-longer-give-away-my-music#sthash.1RzUp5qd.dpuf

An Interview With Bob Ostertag

By:Gregory Taylor September 13th, 2005

Bob Ostertag is a music school dropout who has since performed all over the world and has collaborated with the likes of John Zorn, Fred Frith, drag diva Justin Bond, and the Kronos Quartet. In this interview he describes his creative process and what inspires him to design his technological instruments.

Visual People

Tell us what you’re doing now.
Well, let’s see… I’m touring my Yugoslavia Suite, which is a multimedia thing for video and audio and live performers that uses a combination of Max and MSP on one computer and Imagine on another computer. I’m preparing my second CD of solo improvisations which will all be done with Max and MSP and game controllers. I have two new quartets… one with Fred Frith, William Winant and Joan Jeanrenaud, and one with Joan Jeanrenaud, Theo Blechmann and Denman Maroney. I’m touring my trio Pantychrist with Otomo Yoshihide and Justin Bond. Let’s see, I know there are some other things in there… oh! I’m doing a project with Joan Jeanrenaud and Jim McGee, an artist in El Paso. Actually, that’s the next thing on my plate, that Joan and I will go to El Paso to do this recording with Jim. Then I’m going to teach in Slovenia for a few weeks in September.
Where are you touring the Yugoslavian suite?
Well, I just came back from… we did it in Austria, at Steim in Amsterdam, the Nancy Festival in France, in Lyon, Victoriaville in Quebec, at the Futuresonic Festival in Manchester, at CNMAT, and in Winnipeg… so generally around.
You attempted to take it to Serbia first. You ended the comments in your diary with a discussion about the intentions you had, beginning with work whose content was so explicitly political and bringing it to the people where it was. You talked about the difficulty of finding the space in which the kind of interaction that you wanted could take place. How do you think that doing the work, or performing it, has changed as a result of your going there? Did that change the way that you organized what you did, or did it change your attitude about how you presented things?
Well, I was going to make a third movement to it that was going to be based on videotaped interviews with audience members after the piece was performed in different parts of the world, and I dropped that idea. So that’s probably the biggest change. There were actually two challenges that really grabbed me about performing that piece in different places. One was that there was so little political space available in the former Yugoslavia. It’s like people didn’t even have the space to think about it. They would just have a sort of visceral reaction to it. But the other problem is the problem of working with images, as opposed to sound. This is the first piece I’ve ever done that uses images as a central element. Actually, that’s not true… I don’t typically use images.
But you often collaborate with people who emphasize stage performance or visual imagery.
Sure. But there’s something about using documentary imagery. The way I think about it is this: we all hear sound differently. If I sing a note, or play a note on a trombone or whatever, you’ll hear it slightly differently than I’ll hear it. We’re all different people, and we bring our own histories to how we perceive things. But we see images really differently, much more differently than we hear sound. If you took images like the images that I used in that piece, and you show them to people in former Yugoslavia, where they’ve been bombarded with those images for the last ten years, and they know them inside out, they probably are familiar with every image I use, and can identify the people in it. Not only can identify the people in it but the place it happened, and they probably know why that was an important moment, and why somebody would want to take a picture of that, and they’ve probably thought about that moment inside out for the last ten years… and then you show it to somebody from the United States, and they don’t even know what country it’s from. It’s pretty hard to imagine that you’re going to make a piece that will work in both places, and all the other places I’ve taken the piece. So, that’s a hard one. Sure, I’ve done things that are sort of the sonic equivalent, where I’ve used documentary audio that was quite politically charged, but it’s still different.
Found material, material whose content is explicitly identifiable with a given circumstance, seems to be at the center of much of your work. You’re doing something with both visual and audio material now, and you’re saying that the two are really different. I think many of us would see visual images as more public, in the sense that we can get them from someplace. Your point of view is that even though that’s ostensibly the case, they’re more immediate. They’re public all right, because I can get them from forty places, but it’s a given image at a given time at a given place, and when I go to Yugoslavia and show that image, something different happens.
It’s true. I just think that people are primarily visual people.
That’s a great thing to hear a composer say, isn’t it?

Performance Anxieties

In the department of redundancy department… I just did another piece called “Between Garbage and Science” that was a theatre piece, and that’s the first time I’ve ever worked with an actor on stage. That was really a difficult experience. There was a filmmaker, Pierre Hebert, and an actor, Baltazar Lopez, and myself, and we were all onstage, and we really wanted to make a piece where the three elements of actor, film and sound were sort of equal. It was really hard. People perceive with their eyes first, I think, and if you give them something to look at, it’s very hard for them not to perceive the sound as an accompaniment of what happens in front of their eyes.
Do you feel that that’s a difficult thing to manage when you perform live? For a very long time you’ve been involved in the creation of the equivalent of your own instruments. When an audience goes to a concert hall and sees a grand piano, unless it’s played in a very unusual way the audience brings a certain set of expectations… ways in which a piano player transduces small motor coordination into noise. Seeing a performance with a game controller means that the audience doesn’t have those things. Does it ever concern you, for example, that they’re distracted from the sound you’re producing by trying to figure out how Bob does the trick?
That’s one of the big problems of performing electronic music, of course. I’m sure everybody who would read this interview on the Max web site has thought about this stuff. Actually, the game controllers are very new for me. I’m actually new to writing my own software and so forth. For ten years I used an Ensoniq keyboard… I did all my stuff on a keyboard I bought at the rock and roll store. But I don’t have any keyboard facility at all… for me it was just a bunch of buttons. I thought about that a lot. When I first started using it, it felt very disconcerting to be sitting on stage in front of a keyboard, and then an audience would come in and expect you to play this keyboard, and then you’d be using it as a bunch of switches, and display none of the facility that people would expect you to display when you sit down at a keyboard. For a while that really bugged me. Then I got so used to it that it stopped bothering me.
I played that thing for ten years, which was another deliberate choice of mine, because I think in electronic music people are in such a rush to get the latest thing, and to upgrade their system, and to get something faster and with more voices, that they never actually learn to play anything. I think particularly if you’re going to perform, then you have to develop some kind of… not virtuosity, but you have to learn to play something. That takes a long time – you can’t learn to play something in a few weeks or a few months. So I stuck with the same instrument for ten years even though there were much newer things that had more buttons and more whistles. I got to the point where I think people responded. They were sort of surprised that I wasn’t playing a keyboard, but even though I was just hitting these buttons and scrolling through menus and stuff, I was comfortable enough that… I sort of had it in my bones.
You developed a virtuosity not in the keyboard end of it, but in the Bob Ostertag bank of switches.
Yeah. I think it’s something very physical, and something that has very much to do with your body. I think you have to be comfortable putting your body into the performance. I got to the point where I could do that, and I think people responded to that. After a long time I finally relaxed about it. Now I’ve switched to a powerbook and a joystick…
Has the problem returned?
Oh yes, absolutely. I’m going to have to work with this for quite a while…
Well, basically you’ve said that’s why people have trouble with electronic music. You’ve actually done the upgrade, and you’re now faced with the same problem that everybody who upgrades constantly faces all the time. The only difference is that you go a decade between re-inventions instead of six months.
Right. An interesting thing about game controllers is that almost everybody has used them at some point. Not everybody, but certainly many of the people who come to my concerts have used them.
It’s a much more common thing.
Which is the same as a keyboard – most people at some point in their life have sat down at a keyboard or piano and doodled around, or have even taken a few piano lessons as a kid or something. So when you sit down in front of a keyboard, there’s a resonance with the experience that you’re having. It’s similar with joysticks, actually… people know, well, you can move it this way and that way and twist it, and hit those buttons…
It seems like their familiarity might allow them to connect more immediately with what you’re doing in terms of content, because there’s less mystery about it. Probably a little more mystery than a piano, but in the same sense they sort of know that at some point it’s not going to burst into flames, and you’ll have to actually touch it for something to happen.
You know, it took me a while to get the bugs worked out of using the joystick, so while I was doing that I did some shows just sitting on stage with the laptop. I actually did two shows in proscenium stage theaters with full theatrical lights where I was just sitting on stage…
…and how did that feel?
It felt really… clerical, like I should have been doing my taxes or something.
Bob Ostertag, CPA, on stage.
I had no problem with the music, I thought the music was just great, but it felt really strange.
Was it your sense that the audience responded that way too?
Well, I made a point to ask people, and people said that it was jarring at first, but then they just got into the music and stopped watching me.
I think there’s a whole techno/post-techno scene where that’s pretty much the rule. Four guys sitting at tables in front of a laptop while you’re supposed to dance. It’s pretty dislocating.
I thought about, well, what I should do is just walk out on stage and then when I start to play, turn the lights out, and then turn them back on when I’m done, because there really wasn’t anything to look at all. I’m not satisfied with that either, because people want some kind of connection with you if it’s actually a live performance. I’ve also been querying people after the concerts where I’ve used the joystick, and even though I don’t feel like I’m really playing it in the way we talked about – I don’t feel physically relaxed, I don’t feel it as an extension of my body or anything – people responded very differently than when I was just sitting at a laptop.
I would imagine that, particularly with the Yugoslavia suite, there is a sense in which the identification of that particular tool with the kind of computer mediated game version of the tremendous violence of the visual images must pack some structural wallop. If you were interviewing people about death squads it would be different. The use of that particular tool would have a very different meaning.
Well, in that piece we actually put a video camera on my hand with the joystick, and we mix that image in with the other images. So, we actually try to use the full weight of that image. In the first half of the piece I’m essentially playing a computer game that we made… it’s like I’m bombing Yugoslavia. That’s actually how I initially got interested in using the joystick, because I wanted to have one to fly this plane in Yugoslavia Suite, and then once I had one and got it working, I thought I could use it for other things.

Electronic Motivations

You’ve described your feelings about being physically present when you perform. I’m curious about how you came to using electronic means in the first place. At the time you started doing it, it was certainly much harder to do than it is now. What was it that led you to perform instead of writing pieces for Joan Jeanrenaud, say?
I didn’t start out with this perspective. Actually, there was a time when I was so much younger where I actually wanted to remove my body from the performance, that was one of the appeals of electronic music.
Is that because you were shy or uneasy about being physically present?
No, I think it was more… I was really obsessed with sound, and I was really obsessed with listening. I mean, we could psycho-analyze me on many levels about the decisions I made at this particular point in my life…
Then I’d have to charge you, Bob.
[laughs] At one level anyway, I was really obsessed with sound.
Was that obsession with sound explicitly connected to the collection of its meanings in the world as your work is now?
So it was pre-political, sort of.
Yeah. So, first I got obsessed with Jimi Hendrix, and then I got obsessed with electric Miles Davis, and then, you know, I went from there. Since I started out playing guitar in garage bands, I really wanted to move away from that into this… sort of what I imagined as a terrain of sound. I had this very naive and youthful idealistic view of what electronic music could be.
Do you think that the percentage of improvisation and open-endedness you do now is greater than when you were in your garage?
No. Pretty consistent.
I’ve heard you say before that you feel that’s a strong way to characterize your work – the improvisatory nature about it.
Well, some of it is and some of it isn’t, you know? Yugoslavia Suite is about half and half. This thing I’m going to write for Joan is going to be completely notated. It’s rare that I actually completely notate something. But then again, I think of my CDs as compositions, and those are entirely fixed. You know, it’s recorded onto a CD and there it is, burned right into the [knocks on table]… whatever the stuff is that you burn it into on a CD.
The exciting high register philosophical term for that is a concrete particular. Isn’t that a great phrase? So your CDs are concrete particulars.
[laughs] When I was in high school in the garage it was pretty much half improvised and half written. I had a nice band. I played guitar, and we had a drummer, percussionist, bass player, oboe, English horn, two trumpets, and a piano.
That’s a pretty big band! You wrote all your own material?
Yeah, the oboe player and I wrote all the material.
I would have guessed that you grew up with piano lessons and then basically discovered that going to electronic stuff gave you some kind of control and input into things that traditional compositional practice didn’t.
No, no, not at all, not at all. I wasn’t really given any musical encouragement at all. My family wasn’t interested in it. I started out playing guitar in bad rock and roll bands and then started writing my own stuff, and put together this band… the orchestra in my high school was good, so I went through the orchestra and asked the first year of every instrument if they wanted to play in a band. That’s how I ended up with a band. Then we got these Heathkit fuzztone kits, so we had all these little electric gizmos for the trumpets and the oboe. I started adding more and more pedals to my guitar, and pretty soon I was more interested in the pedals than the guitar.
The devices for the horn… that sounds like a Miles Davis thing.
Yeah, that was the idea. I was really into Miles Davis. I still think Bitches Brew is one of the absolute seminal musical experiences.
So why and how did you come to embrace electronic technology? And how did you come to combine this interest with pretty passionate political engagements and questions of identity?
Why use electronics? Well, electronics are rare, and they’re everywhere, and they’re one of the most provocative things out there. If you’re fourteen years old, and you’re starting to play rock music, one of the first things that you encounter is electronics. If you’re somebody like me who doesn’t have much natural ability or skill in the lot of the conventional parameters of music, like pitch and melody, and rhythm but have an affinity with sound, and you feel that your ears are good at grasping sound and manipulating it, then electronics is certainly where you go… particularly if you have an electric guitar, and you start buying fuzz pedals and wah wah pedals. You start wondering how those little gizmos work. You start thinking about how to record, and then all of a sudden you’re into mixers, and yeah… it’s a completely natural progression.
You know, I’ve never had any studies, so… [laughs] I’ve had a very, very limited amount of formal study, and fortunately the little bit I had was with people who encouraged me. I went to Oberlin for two years, though not as a conservatory student. Because I was only there for two years and because I wasn’t a conservatory student and was taking electronic music courses as a college student, I actually didn’t have any of the course requirements that the conservatory kids had. I actually completed their electronic music course the first year I was there, because that was all I took… which was a funny thing, because the guy who ran the electronic music department was criticized for that. I thought I should have been given a prize or something, but the Dean told him it made the program look bad if a student could do it in a year.
You’re probably one of their best failures, then.
That whole conservatory was just the embodiment of that… I really remember thinking that to me, if you were going to teach music, then the fundamental thing that you should be teaching people is that they have something unique to say through sound, and that they should trust that and go with that. The whole message of that conservatory was the exact opposite of that. The whole message was that you probably don’t have anything to say at all.
…and since you don’t, it’s best to learn how to reproduce the work of others who did have something to say.
Yeah, and they convince you of the Herculean task ahead of you. It’s just awful. So, yeah, I have very little training. I always sort of train myself for the project at hand. The things I know how to do are the things I’ve been required to do for the projects I wanted to do, and I don’t know how to do much else.


Do you find that your interests as a composer are directed by the tasks that you set for yourself given your ideological involvement, or are they tasks which come to you? In other words, has your understanding of the power structure of the world come from the investigation of making pieces?
You’ve brought those kind of passionate engagements to bear on the tools, or as you’d say it, the few things you do know?
Well, to explain better what I was trying to say… I just did this piece, Yugoslavia Suite, and it’s the first time I’ve used video. I didn’t study video, and I didn’t take any video classes, and I’ve never really been particularly interested in video… but then I had this project I wanted to do, and I thought, well, this needs video. So then, I got into video. When I did Spiral, which used a text by David Wojnarowicz, where he described his own dying process and used the metaphor of turning into glass, I wanted to play it on glass instruments. I’d never built instruments before, but I got into it because I wanted it for that specific project. When the Kronos commissioned me to write a string quartet for them, I actually hadn’t written notes on paper since high school. So I thought, okay, I guess I better get back into writing notes on staff paper! So I really try and take it a project at a time.
Did that project come to you because of content? In the case of the Kronos project, did you choose the background and context for All the Rage, or did they approach you about something with that content, or was that something that you chose to do?
They heard my piece Sooner or Later, which is a pretty politically loaded piece, and they wanted me to do something like that. They wanted me to do something about rainforests, and I didn’t want to do that. First of all, it’s important for me to say that most of my work doesn’t have an explicitly political theme… it’s just a little subset of it that does. But when I do it, I try to choose themes that I have some sort of direct and personal connection and engagement with, and not just look out at the world and decide to make a comment about the hole in the ozone layer or something. So I didn’t want to do a rainforest piece. I actually had this idea to make a trilogy of pieces about grief, anger and joy, and Sooner or Later was the grief piece, so I wanted to do one about anger. Then there was this riot in San Francisco that I was a participant in, and took my tape recorder to and recorded… so then I proposed to them that I make a piece for them out of the riot. They liked that idea.
Did you ever do one on joy?
I haven’t gotten around to the joy piece yet. Joy is harder. I’m doing this series with documentary source audio, and I haven’t really found one that I would use for a joy piece that wouldn’t be cliché. The first two pieces, I think, use pretty exceptional audio source material. It’s not so easy to come by that stuff. I’ve got my eyes out for something to do the third piece, but I haven’t found it yet. I had a recording that I wanted to use… I went to a prayer meeting of a Christian sect in Silicon Valley… it’s quite remarkable what they do. They have these prayer meetings that are similar to prayer meetings where people would talk in tongues, except instead of talking in tongues, they laugh. They call it Holy Laughter, and they go up to the front, and the priest puts his hand on their forehead and they fall down giggling. I wanted to get a recording of that. I thought, you know, given the history of what Christians have done in the world, falling on the floor and laughing was really one of the better… [laughs] So I went and made a tape of it, but I ended up not using it. The tape wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, because I felt too intrusive making the recording at the meeting.
When I was in my early 20s I got really into politics. But in much the same way that I do these pieces, it was just a project at a time, and I certainly never studied anything, but I started volunteering for this and that, and of course, there’s a circle you get into when you’re in those kind of political groups. If you’re freelance, and everyone else is working for a 9-5 job, and they say “who can take the film to the developers tomorrow?” , you’re the one who can do it, and you get sucked right in. Pretty soon all I was doing was organizing, and the music had just disappeared. It disappeared for ten years.
But your entry into politics, was there any connection with your artistic work?
Yeah, actually I went to Nicaragua after the fall of Samosa with the intention of making a record of Nicaraguan music for this record label that Fred Frith and I were running at the time. I decided that music was not the most interesting thing that was happening there, and I stopped playing music for about ten years. Eventually I did study some stuff about politics, but that happened a little later. So I always just try to take things a project at a time, and trust your instinct and your intuition. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I never made a decision to stop playing music, for example. It was more that I made a decision to go back to it. At that point I was pretty far into politics, and I hadn’t played music for a long time.
What do you think brought you back to it?
The short answer is that after several years I discovered that there was not as much political space for somebody like me in the Central American left as I had imagined when I first got into it. I also discovered that my connection with American culture and with music was maybe deeper than I imagined when I got out of it.
In some respects, even though it took you a lot of time, that’s a fairly valuable insight. Most people spend much of their lives never being able to get more than the vaguest sense of what’s important to them.
Fred Frith was actually the only friend from my musical life that I’d stayed close to all through those years. I’d been telling him that I was thinking about playing music again. He called me up one day and said “are you serious about it?” I said yeah, and he said “can you be in New York for rehearsals in a couple of weeks?” I said “I guess!” Then all of a sudden, there I was in Fred’s band, and we were off on tour. I hadn’t thought about electronic music for almost ten years. I had never heard of midi. I had never heard of a sampler. I had to go to the rock and roll store and find an instrument to play, and buy it, and read the manual… [laughs]
Was it dislocating to go back?
It was really dislocating! It was an extreme Rip Van Winkle experience. The technology had completely changed, my friends had completely changed… when I left music, John Zorn was this totally unknown guy I did gigs with in his girlfriend’s apartment for audiences of four people. It was utterly a shock to discover that he was a star. All kinds of things.

Why Max?

The pieces that you’ve decided to do are connected to the tasks that you’ve set for yourself. The things that you know are the things that you need to do to do the thing that you want to do. Why on earth would you use Max?
Because I had been using the Ensoniq keyboard for ten years, and I felt like I had mined it. I felt like it was time for something new. It was funny, you know… I hadn’t kept up on new keyboards or anything, so I went shopping. I didn’t find anything interesting to buy. It’s funny… when I first started in, quote, electronic music, close quote, it was really a pretty obscure thing to get into. It was pretty much assumed that if you were into synthesizers, you were into experimental stuff. All the synthesizers that were made were made with that in mind. You could buy a Buchla, or you could buy a Serge, or you could buy an Arp, or you could buy a Moog, but they all lent themselves to doing pretty experimental things. Now it’s exploded to the point where if you ask someone who’s twenty years old what electronic music is, they think you’re talking about dance music. Nobody’s first idea, when confronted with the term electronic music, is experimental music, at least not with younger people. Now instead of four companies that make synthesizers, there are dozens.
Do you have the sense that the equipment that’s available to you is less open?
That’s exactly it. A corollary of this explosion is that the companies that make these things are under all this market pressure to manufacture for this market, which is a market of people that are interested in doing a pretty narrow range of activities with these boxes. Of course, you could make interesting boxes, but since the potential profit if you make something popular is much bigger than it was before, everybody wants to go for that.
We can blame the DX7 for ruining the world, in that sense.
No, I wouldn’t do that… It’s an ironic development that now we have machines that are much more powerful, and much faster, and much more sophisticated, but the things that people build them to do are much simpler than what people were building them to do in the late 1970s.
So I couldn’t find anything. I had been resisting getting into computer programming for all these years – I had no interest. People from the computer music world… I think for a long time they didn’t take my work seriously because I was playing instruments that I’d bought at the rock and roll store. Their idea was that, you know, if you were a serious computer musician, then you’d be writing your own code. My response to that was always to listen to the work that they made. If there’s something magical about writing your own code, then I don’t hear it. I was really convinced that engineering and music-making were pretty unrelated activities, and certainly that software programming and music making were really completely unrelated activities. In fact, the fact that many people tended to confuse them was one of the sources of a lot of the really bad music that was coming out of that part of the music world.
The kind of formalism that says here’s an algorithm, and here’s what it sounds like for forty-five minutes.
Yeah! They get interested in the code, and then they think because the code is interesting, the music is interesting… but those two things almost never go together.
You’re not a big systems art guy, then, are you?
[laughs] No. So my idea was always to position myself next to the engineer. So in the late 70s, when I was playing a Serge synthesizer, I got to know Serge Tcherepnin, and we’d talk about his modules. Then when I started using the Ensoniq I got to know the engineers of Ensoniq. We had a lot of interchange back and forth. So that was always my idea: that the right place for me as a composer was next to the engineer, in a real give and take with the engineer, but not being the engineer. But, when I couldn’t find a new instrument to buy that interested me… I had become friendly with David Wessel over at CNMAT, and he was really encouraging me to jump into Max… so I did it.
I think David probably recognized what you really wanted.
Well, David’s a real champion of technology.
But a champion as it sort of as an engine of idiosyncrasy. I don’t see that technophilia in him at all.
No. It’s funny, I was just thinking that normally if I were calling someone a champion of technology I would be insulting him… but with David, not at all. So he was very helpful… and off I went. I’m still not 100% convinced it was a great idea. For one thing, I’m not sure I enjoy computer programming.
Do you think it’s changed the pieces that you make?
Yeah. I definitely have a more flexible instrument than I could have purchased off the market. It definitely reflects the idiosyncrasies of my music and how I want to work it. All that’s true.
But you’re building harpsichords.
Well, the thing is… I’m a very compulsive obsessive guy. I’m an utter workaholic, and once I start a project I can’t put it down. I’m not sure computer programming is a healthy activity for me to get involved in. I’m not sure I like the person that I’ve become when I get completely immersed in Max programming.
You need somebody who really loves you to say “Bob, stop, put it down!”
Composing music, for example, is in a way better suited to my disposition, because there’s a limit to how many hours you can sit and compose. Your ear gets tired, and you notice. It’s not always obvious what the next thing is to do. It’s obvious that you need to put it down and go swimming, or go see a friend, or see a movie, and come back to it in a day or two. With programming, I feel like there’s never a logical ending point. The next thing to do is always staring you right in the face.
You always have the question of efficiency or elegance looking at you too.
Also, once you build a piece of software up to a certain degree of complexity, in order to work at it at all, you have to sit down, and it will take you a few hours to really be back up to speed to where you were, and where all the different pieces are. You know that if you stop, and then you start again, it will take you a while to get fully acclimated to where you were again.
Wouldn’t that be the case if you were building a better oboe?
No, I think it’s something very particular to programming. I’m not sure I like it.
Do you like what it does?
Yeah. I find that I’m acquiring this huge body of arcane knowledge that is useless for anything but its immediate purpose. For instance, when I was in El Salvador, the things that I would learn during the course of my day to day work, I thought were applicable to all kinds of things, and I could turn around and apply them in other fields, or in other parts of my life. But, you know, the kind of information that you have to amass in your brain in order to troubleshoot the Apple OS is not knowledge that’s going to lead to any other knowledge.
… or perhaps the community of people with whom you share it is different, or is distributed in different ways.
Uh… I don’t know. I was thinking about this the other day. I was talking with a friend, and he pointed out that that’s true with any type of engineering skill. The knowledge that you acquire to work on cars isn’t really applicable to anything but working on cars. Which is probably true… which is maybe why I’m not so happy being an engineer. On the other hand, I seem to have an aptitude for it. On that level I enjoy it, I feel like I do it well, and I love making things. I love making CDs, and I love making compositions, and I like it when I have a program that works, and there it is, and it can run…

The Biggest Prize

You described working with the Ensoniq for a long period of time and developing some facility to it. Part of the facility you develop is based on the fact that the person who made the instrument made some decisions for you. When you program you get to make those decisions yourself. Do you find that you’re sort of tweaking the instrument that you’ve made, or are you making instruments to suit a task?
What I’ve done is I’ve made a general purpose instrument. That’s basically the one and only thing I’ve done with Max and MSP and it’s taken me two years, and I’ve pretty much got it. I have, you know, a general purpose instrument that I can make compositions on, or I can do improvised concerts on, or I can do whatever on, and it’s got a video component and an audio component and… that’s what I’ve done.
But that’s fantastic. You’ve got a piano!
Well, it’s not quite a piano, but it’s something. It’s more sophisticated than the Ensoniq was. It’s more sophisticated than any of the samplers I’ve seen on the market… at least in the ways that interest me. In some ways I’m sure it’s more primitive, but in the ways that interest me it’s more sophisticated. But there’s always the thing that you can always be adding a new feature, or making something a little more elegant, instead of spending time playing the thing. With the Ensoniq that was never an option. If I was working on it, I was playing it. That’s a problem. It’s a problem because fundamentally I think composing and making music is about learning to work within limits. Basically I think all compositional techniques come down to setting yourself certain limits and then struggling against them. Whether you’re writing a fugue, and you’re going to follow the rules of a fugue, or you’ve decided you’re just going to use a twelve tone scale, or you’re going to write in D major, or you’re going to make a whole piece where you use no sounds except the sounds that you recorded at a riot, or whatever… it’s all about setting limits, and then struggling against them. I think when you’re writing your own computer code it’s very easy to forget that. Computers offer this vision that what they’re about is not limits, but about endless possibility. I think that’s a trap. I think that’s why a lot of people who write their own code never manage to finish any compositions… and when they finish them, they’re not very interesting. So, that’s a problem, a problem I have to develop my own personal discipline around. When to say the thing is done, and now I’m going to learn to play it.
Would I be correct in assuming that I’ll know if you’ve done it successfully if your performing output goes way up?
Yeah. I think this is a problem with all of this technology in general. I particularly see it with younger folks in their 20s who are getting into electronic music. They’re deluged with this market stuff. Particularly now that I’ve gotten into multimedia stuff, and I’ve played at a few of these multimedia festivals… boy, when you get into that it’s really easy to forget that making art is about working within limits. You see these kids who get obsessed with the idea that making multimedia art is about more. It’s always about more: more technology, more capability, more voices, more video processing, more this and that. They’re surrounded by all these boxes! I think it’s hard for them to see…
If the only way that you think about the tools you’re given is a collection of decisions that have been made for you by someone else, then the way that you expand your vision is not to take or create a new tool, but rather to acquire a new piece of gear. The traditional marketing hype that surrounds that is about crafting this message that says if you buy X, this is the collection of decisions I’ve made for you, but it will allow you to express your personal vision. At the heart of that is something really pernicious. I guess I can see why it must be so attractive… compared to finding yourself as you did in a way, in the wilderness, creating an instrument with a blank slate. What would your perfect instrument look like? That’s a frightening question.
Yeah. I’m really happy that I didn’t sit down at a Macintosh screen with Max booted on it until I’d played the same sampler for ten years. I’d spent ten years thinking about the features I really wanted that I didn’t have.
If you’d been faced with those tools when you were in high school, would you have ever finished a piece?
I really wonder about that. I really wonder if you haven’t spent a lot of time working within constraints that somebody else defines for you, how do you decide what you want? I don’t know.
Yeah, especially when you’re surrounded by a culture that’s trying to convince you that what you want and what you need are the same thing.
So I even impose arbitrary limits. I think a lot of composing is about imposing arbitrary limits… or even limits that aren’t so arbitrary. A lot of people use so much gear on stage. I just took that Ensoniq keyboard, that was it. I just thought… how many things can I play? If I really want to be able to play it, if I really want to have a facility over it… so what I did was the keyboard got checked in checked luggage. I called the airline and asked what the biggest box you’re allowed to carry on was. I had a box made that was that size, and then my rule was if it didn’t fit in the box, I didn’t use it. I won’t say who this was, but I can remember a music festival in Italy where I shared a bill with someone who was a pretty big name in academic computer music. It was the two of us. I showed up with my keyboard, we set a level, and the sound check was done. He brought all this stuff! The sound check took two days, and at the end of the two days he couldn’t get it to work, so he did something acoustic.
That’s the recurring nightmare of every Max owner. It’s doesn’t work, it’s taken you twelve hours to do it, and you’re standing out on stage with a banjo.
Since I’ve started using Max I’ve been in several situations where my system has crashed during the concert, or the concert has started late, because the system is much more complex. That drives me completely berserk. George Lewis, for example… it doesn’t bother him! His attitude is that this is computer music, it’s experimental… this stuff crashes! That’s part of the idiom. You reboot, and you go on.
If George Lewis is doing a Voyager gig with his trombone and the system crashes, he’s still got the trombone.
I can’t do that. So that’s been really stressful for me. I cannot explain how stressful that’s been.
Do you see a way out of it?
Well, to make an instrument that works and not mess around with it. That’s one. I’m pretty much there, actually. I just did a tour of France with Otomo Yoshihide. That was the first tour where I had my joystick, and I had my laptop, and I felt like I was back to where I was with the Ensoniq. I walk in, my sound check takes five minutes, I boot it up, I set a level, it works… I was really happy, because actually it works better than the Ensoniq worked, and it weighs about one tenth…
…and it’s idosyncratic.
One of the things that makes me most happy about it is I can go on tour and not even check any bags. I can’t tell you how happy I am when I get off the plane and walk past the baggage carousel. There’s this inner peace. It’s the best thing about the whole experience. The biggest prize for going to Max is that I don’t have to carry around that keyboard any more.

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