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Music Production: Maurice Rickard
12/16/2016 Maurice Rickard: This Is Not a Bill

A couple of months of intensive composition work went into the soundtrack for this healthcare-themed dance piece by Mita Ghosal, with a sculpture-based set by Jonathan Shapiro, and it was equally rewarding--I got to work in a number of styles and genres, and got to flex aesthetic and emotional muscles, and got to stretch a bit. Excellent work by Mita, Jonathan, and the dancers. While it seems like a lot of work for one night (I was up very late several nights tracking, editing, and mixing), I'm planning on putting out this EP-length collection. Stay tuned.

12/31/2014 Maurice Rickard: Weekly Beats retrospective

My practice of doing one piece of music per week has, I think, paid off: I have 52 pieces of music now that wouldn't have existed if I wasn't doing this. Some, particularly during the first six months, weren't so good. Others after that had a kind of charm and character, and some were authentically good. It's gratifying.

At the end of the year, for a few minutes, it looked like the Weekly Beats site was going to accept more submissions, but then that got corrected. My response was...disappointment. So I'm going to keep going on Soundcloud--look for my stuff there.

11/05/2010 Maurice Rickard: Lili Coffee*Shop

Inspired by this past summer's Pittsburgh Jandek performance? Sure you are. So why not learn a few Jandek tunes (or spoken word pieces), grab an instrument, and come on down to the Eighth Annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night? It's an intimate venue, so there'll be only low-powered amplification, and you probably shouldn't bring, say, eight SUNN stacks or a 70s prog-rock drum kit. But your guitar, bass, flugelhorn, accordion, bullroarer, or waterphone ought to be just fine. I dunno, surprise us.

As ever, the only rules are that you have to cover a Jandek song, or come to listen. Lyrics will be available if you need a refresher. And it's all ages, and free. 8:00PM, Friday, November 5, 2010.

(Note: new venue as of 11/1/10!)

3138 Dobson St., Pittsburgh PA 15219 (Polish Hill)

11/06/2009 Maurice Rickard: Morning Glory Coffeehouse

You might not be able to get Naked In The Afternoon, but you can show up fully clothed at the Seventh Annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night, on Friday, November 6, 2009, and perform one or more songs by the enigmatic Houston-based singer/songwriter Jandek. Actual interpretation and arrangement are up to you, but there are some space constraints, so acts smaller than full-band-size would be best. That is, no full drum kits, no stacks, no Keith Emerson keyboard rigs. There will be low-volume amplification, and that all-important reverb for the vocals, and that's about it. As always, anyone can perform...but you have to cover Jandek tunes. (We'll have lyrics available if you need a refresher.)

The details: The show starts at 7:30 (ish), Friday, November 6, at Morning Glory Coffeehouse in Morningside: 1806 Chislett St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206. All ages. BYOB. Free.

If you notice the date, you'll see we're breaking with tradition a bit: due to an already-scheduled show, this year's show will be on November 6 (Jandek Day observed) instead of the 5th. Maybe yinz all can do a private observance on the 5th, and come on out for the 6th. So don't just Pass By The Building or have Second Thoughts, but ask yourself "What Can I Say What Can I Sing," Show the Man Your Picture, and come on out to the Seventh Annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night. You'll almost certainly Come Through With a Smile.

Morning Glory Coffeehouse, 1806 Chislett St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, Friday, November 6, 7:30 PM. All Ages. BYOB. Free.

09/03/2009 Maurice Rickard: WRCT

It's time to return to the WRCT live show, this time performing solo. What'll I do? I have no idea. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, BuyExpensiveDrinksCore, dark ambient improv, the newest batch of yoctonaut pieces, and--maybe, just maybe--some scaffo. Curious? Who wouldn't be? Tune in for the triumph, stay for the disaster and cathartic tears. I'll see you...on the radio.

88.3FM Pittsburgh, or live Internet stream. Thursday September 3, 2009, 9PM.

07/17/2009 Maurice Rickard: International Children's Art Gallery

After a bit of a dealing-with-other-things layoff from public performance, I'll be re-emerging with a solo set as part of Sonica Electronica, a benefit for Pittsburgh's International Children's Art Gallery. On the bill:

All the way from Oakland, CA, Matt Davignon (Ribosome Music) will be improvising soundscapes with heavily modified and processed drum machines (they sound like synths, actually).

Legendary Pittsburgh music innovator Steve Sciulli (Life in Balance) will unleash some of his latest work on synth, wind controller, and will most likely bring other surprises.

Master guitarist Mike Klobuchar will supply his expertly created ambient guitar loops and textures to reboot your mind.

Given the experimental side of the show, I'm starting to think I'll bring my more listener-friendly work (BuyExpensiveDrinksCore), some of which was most recently heard last summer on WRCT, along with some new things in that vein. Loungey, fuzzy, loopy, hypnotic...what's not to like? Not too many people have heard this stuff yet--you can still be among the first. Or I might play all the way "out"--who knows what the mood will be? We'll also do a collaborative improv at some point, surely.

No cover as such, but there will be a request for donations to support the Gallery, and (we hope) defray Matt's travel costs. We'll see you--and you hear us--there.

International Children's Art Gallery, 5020 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224. Friday, July 17, 2009, 7:30PM. All ages. Donation suggested.

11/05/2008 Maurice Rickard: Your Inner Vagabond

It is indeed that time of year again: leaves are curling up and dying, falling from trees in colorful death-droves, and there's that peculiar decaying aroma of politics in the air. Should you be anywhere near Pittsburgh on Wednesday, November 5, consider stopping in to Your Inner Vagabond for the sixth annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night.

As ever, the guidelines are simple: anyone can come and play, but you have to cover a Jandek tune. Any style, genre, instrumentation, or approach is welcome. Aesthetic risk-taking is actively encouraged. (Hey, last year I did a no-input all-feedback version of "Down in a Mirror.") Unlike previous years, however, we have room for a drum kit. Anyone up for "John Plays Drums"?

This year, we're hosting the evening at Your Inner Vagabond, a very comfortable coffeehouse and world lounge in the happening Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville. Decor is very Middle Eastern--carpets, pillows, low tables...the perfect setting for someone to tackle "Khartoum," for instance. YIV serves a wide variety of delicious teas (iced and hot) and often astonishing Middle Eastern and Subcontinental desserts, as well as coffee. While no alcohol is served, you can BYOB.

Also, it won't interfere with your voting. Come on out! See you there!

4130 Butler St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201. Wednesday, November 5, 8PM. All ages. Free, but order something to eat or drink to show some support for the space.

08/23/2008 Maurice Rickard: The Secret Show

Time for another show...with a few twists. I'll be doing my recent trip-hoppy BuyExpensiveDrinksCore (although...this time, you cant!) using the new baritone guitar, for some extra core-moving bass frequencies. This show gets rolling Saturday afternoon, and I'm on at 5PM sharp (not Rock Time). And it's a benefit for the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. How can you lose? Come on out, hear music, and know that you're doing something nice for animals. I'll be joined by plenty of other performers, as well:

Surviving the Odyssey doing their blend of electronica, trip-hop, ambient, synth-pop, and electro dance music. DJ Dale Cooper will be stirring up some irresistibly danceable tracks. Bass Clown will bring the deep house, soul, funk, jazz, and other booty-moving music. TurnStyles does all kinds of music, and for this evening he'll be spinning the funky house. Make sure you're in it when he does.

And you'll get a chance to meet some animals up for adoption. See you there!

The Home Economics Building in South Park, South Park PA. 3:30 PM until midnight. $5 benefits the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.

1. From Pittsburgh take the Liberty Tunnel and take 51 S. towards Uniontown.
2. Get on 88 S./Library Road.
3. Follow Library road to the park entrance following the signs.
4. Veer Left onto Corrigan Drive and take that into the park.
5. Follow Corrigan Drive till the T in the road and make a right onto Brownsville road.
6. Make the immediate Left into the parking lot. The Home Economics Building is to the right of the Buffalo Inn.

07/17/2008 Maurice Rickard: WRCT

Things have been quite busy of late, but there's time for a live show tomorrow morning--and you won't even have to leave your chair for it. I'll be live on the radio, at WRCT as part of their 24 hours of live bands. I'm on at 10am EDT/9am CDT/1400 GMT, doing a set of the BuyExpensiveDrinksCore/Fripp-hop that I've been working on lately. And I'll be seriously under-rehearsed, so be sure to tune in and snort derisively if you have the chance.

Also stick around, because Unfinished Symphonies are up at 11am, Karl Hendricks at 2, Narse at 3, Steve Pellegrino's Dragging the Stone at 4, the Harlan Twins at 5, Amoeba Knievel at 8, hell--they're all worth hearing. Here's the full list:

12 am - The Skirt Tasters
1 am - Buddy Nutt
2 am - All By Myself
3 am - Dronetastic
4 am - Ladybeard Vs Several Conclusions
5 am - Engines
6 am - Flying Death Head
7 am - Anita Fix
8 am - Wizzard Mountain
9 am - Triangle & Rhino
10 am - Maurice Rickard
11 am - Unfinished Symphonies/ Mr & Mrs Funky
Noon - The House Of Assassins
1 pm - The Beagle Brothers
2 pm - Karl Hendricks
3 pm - Narse
4 pm - Dragging The Stone
5 pm - The Harlan Twins
6 pm - Boca Chica
7 pm - The 4 Roses
8 pm - Amoeba Knievel
9 pm - Dreadnots
10 pm - Weird Paul
11 pm - Emily Rodgers


05/24/2008 Maurice Rickard: 517/521 Lincoln Avenue, Bellevue, PA

Here's another installment (actually two installments) of my new, very listener-friendly, swanky, loungy, trip-hoppy BuyExpensiveDrinksCore (aka Fripp-hop). The occasion is a fundraiser/art/wine-crawl in the (believe it or not) dry town of Bellevue, PA (so it's BYO). I'm appearing once again at the stunningly full-of-character 517/521 Lincoln Avenue shop+gallery+office+thing: I'm playing on the third floor from 5PM to 5:30, and then again on the second floor from 6:30 to 7PM. So you'll have a chance to check out a fencing competition (!), someone calling her- or himself Ginger, and a belly dancing troupe (why am I not playing that? I dunno...dunno who the dancers are, either) before I go on again. I'll venture that enough is going to be happening that you'll be pleasurably entranced--or at least distracted from the inevitable--from start to finish. You can find out who all's playing by checking out the official site.

Will Ableton Live hold up under the processing load? Will my 70s-era EHX Big Muff pedal not crap out on me? Will I have enough hands/feet/fingers to manage all this stuff live? There's only one way to find out, I guess, and that's to show up.

517/521 Lincoln Avenue, Bellevue, PA, 5-7PM (times are exact!). $5 donation; BYO, or at least it was last time I checked.

04/22/2008 Maurice Rickard: Club Cafe

Come on out immediately after the polls close to celebrate your having voted in a primary that may actually...something! I'll be joining My Boyfriend the Pilot (the Dolly Parton of dark ambient) and Ivenfeint (the not-Dolly Parton of dark ambient) for my first Club Cafe show in quite some time. (Maybe four years? Geez.) This time, we're doing an experiment: expect listener-friendly atmospheric grooviness and swankerie, with occasional bursts of spicy noise.

I'll be debuting some new pieces that have a kind of loungy, even trip-hoppy vibe. I've also found a very satisfying distorted guitar tone I've been enjoying, so that'll go over the top of everything else. (Should I call this Fripp-hop?) Kevin Smith of the Bureau of Nonstandards heard one of these pieces and said it made him feel like he should be buying expensive drinks, so rather than Dark Ambient, we're thinking of calling this Buy Expensive DrinksCore--the kind of thing sure to go over well in an establishment that serves drinks at all kinds of price points.

Show time is 8PM DRT (Daylight Rock Time), so I'll go on at 8:30 PM ED/LNT (Eastern Daylight/Local Network Time). See you there...and my set will be early enough that you should still be able to see me, even considering that you may be consuming expensive drinks.

8PM Tuesday April 22, 2008. Club Cafe, 56 S 12th St., Pittsburgh, PA 15203. 21+.

12/22/2007 Maurice Rickard: Your Inner Vagabond

I'll be joining trancemasters Life In Balance for their winter solstice show, Om for the Holidays, Solstice Blessing for Sacred Space, Saturday December 22, at the excellent new space Your Inner Vagabond. Life In Balance will recalibrate your energy for the new year with an ambient set of synths, flutes, and quartz crystal singing bowls. The current plan for me is to start ambient, but move into belly dance rhythms in 9/8. I'll be joined by belly dancer Steffi, and possibly a few others from Tribe Taksim. Right now I'm making the one a bit easier to find, so I'm not throwing the dancers off. Previous sets were a bit tougher to dance to, but this one should be much more inviting. Feel free to dance, or just lounge on the many pillows, cushions, and rugs around the space.

There will also be some speakers, discussing the solstice, the turnover of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, and other things. (From what I understand, you should be able to pick up your new Mayan Calendar at any Mayan gas station or Mayan bank.) Also available will be Your Inner Vagabond's excellent Middle Eastern desserts and teas--perfect for a chilly winter night in Pennsylvania. See you there.

4130 Butler St. (42nd and Butler), Pittsburgh, PA 15201 (Lawrenceville). Saturday, December 22, 8 PM. All ages, $10.

11/30/2007 Maurice Rickard: Your Inner Vagabond

I'll be doing a short 20-minute set at the Globalista Jam at the fine Your Inner Vagabond. Check out an eclectic mix of performers while enjoying amazing tea and desserts--it's really quite something. This set's going to be research and development for some recent ideas: a new tuning, possibly, as well as some reconfiguring of my recent sets. It should be fun.

10/26/2007 Maurice Rickard: Divertido

After a bit of a break, it's back to performing--this time with belly dancer Steffi and drummer Mike Yaklich. We'll be playing from 7 to 11 at this month's Final Fridays in Lawrenceville event, at the fine store Divertido. Expect some ambience, loose improvisation, dance music (of course), food and beverages, and a festive vibe. See you there.

Divertido, 3701 Butler St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201. 7-11, Friday, October 26, all ages, free.

06/29/2007 Maurice Rickard: Modern Formations

It looks like I'll be bringing the electronic belly dance music back to Modern Formations, for a short (20-minute) set during the Globalista Jam. More as I know it!

04/28/2007 Maurice Rickard: Art All Night

I'll be performing a short piece to accompany Tribe Taksim as part of their performance at Art All Night. I'll be doing guitar and uke through the laptop as usual, though I may concentrate on the saz-tuned guitar this time out. Also, if we find an amenable spot, we may park ourselves there for an unscheduled performance and improv or two.

3rd floor, 41st and Foster, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. All ages. We're on at 9:20.

04/25/2007 Maurice Rickard: Modern Formations

The return of Guitar Clouds! Part of the Woodlab series at Modern Formations.

01/26/2007 Maurice Rickard: Electrobelly2 at the Rex

It's time for another tribal fusion bellydance extravaganza with dancers Amethyst, Shanti and Astarte once again bringing their impressive work to the Rex...and this time with a narrative. I'll be playing guitar/uke/laptop, but with a significantly new flavor--one of my guitars is now in saz tuning, and it's become something of an obsession of late. Plus I'm working up some new arrangements and new pieces, so my segment will be largely new, and tied into the story. And we'll have other live musicians! In addition to me, it'll be psychedelic trance duo Life in Balance, bringing their holistic, vibratory explorations to the Rex...and I'll be joining them toward the end of their set.

Also on the bill, so Amethyst tells me:
Pre-recorded music by various artists of electronica, tribal and bellydance rock
Luminescent props and funky costume styles
Open Dance Floor with DJ Matt Monroe (Humanaut crew) (Tribal, Industrial, House music) and DJ Defiant & Godfather Sage (DC/Baltimore) (Drum and Bass)!

Come on by! You have nothing to lose but the lack-of-bellydance in your evening!

Friday, January 26, 2007, The Rex (South Side), 1602 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203, 8 p.m. - midnight, $10 Cover, 21+.

Over the years I've had varying experiences doing shows at the Rex, and this was one of the highs--lots of love in the room this evening! As happens, I was running late for load-in, but managed to wedge the Mini into a small space behind the Rex, so only had to walk around the front carrying pretty much the limit of gear I'm capable of doing in one trip. The extra is from my bringing the saz-tuned Heit Deluxe. Just as I was getting into the space, I got a call from Steve from Life In Balance--he and Ami were loaded in, waiting for me so I could keep an eye on their stuff while they checked out a gallery crawl (fine by me--I'd been planning on hanging out the whole night anyway).

Due to my not getting in the house until 7:25 or so, my available time was tight. While I was setting up, Anne stopped by with her vegan take on a popular chocolate-coated peppermint confection which was quite tasty and restorative. Awesome. Tuning went longer than I'm used to, now that I'm tuning three instruments, and the saz-tuned Heit doesn't really hold tuning that well, so I was getting a bit nervous about being out of tune immediately when my set started. I did manage to get a monitor soundcheck and be set up by 8...though soundman Denny and I didn't quite connect on a full soundcheck through the monitors. (It sounded good to me, and I'd thought we had gone through an FOS soundcheck. I had a lot on my mind, apparently.) Finally I was set up, though, with audience already in seats by 8. I hung out chatting with Godfather Sage and DJ Defiant, a couple of nice guys from DC and Baltimore with really good taste in drum 'n' bass. While I was waiting for things to begin, I saw my friend Dan walk in, and he mentioned that some other friends were joining him as well, so that was a plus. Good timing, too--in a few minutes the program would get started. Oh, and it was being taped for release on DVD. So there was a bit of pressure, but I couldn't let it distract me.

The cane dance was up first, and quite dramatic on the stage. I went around stageside so that I could make my entrance unobtrusively at the end of the piece. Nice bonus: Astarte scrupulously avoiding the laptop stand, even while swinging a cane around. That's control.

My set started with Shanti, and it started pretty much as planned--with more rigid beats at 180, gated to distortion. I put a typical guitar line over top, and started adding beats, putting the guitar line through stutterers and slicers as well. Some of the deep bass, apparently, was felt quite physically in the room, which was nice. While I kept recording loops and moving them into non-recording channels, I quickly found that advancing through the beats as I'd planned was also going to turn off some of the samples, so I had to do some patch editing during the set to prevent this.

Gradually I built up layers and changed the beats in a way that even now seems pretty good, though at the time I had some issues with swapping between the two guitars, having to unplug the one and plug in the other (no new AB switcher yet). When I brought the Heit in toward the end of the first section, it did sound good and in tune, though listening now I apparently got confused as to where the 1 was at times, and kind of drifted around the beat at first. Damn. The chaotic section I'd planned did work ok, although I really should have had the percussion gated at the time--it doesn't sound broken enough without the gating. (I really should have had most of the patterns gated into distortion for the first part.) And I have to say that the saz-tuned Heit sounded pretty good when beat-sliced.

Amethyst had relieved Shanti during this section, and by the time Astarte came on, I was able to make the transition to 130. In retrospect, I spend way too long at 180 bpm--certainly more than I planned. The 130 section was looser and more organic, with more consonant volume swells from the Kalamazoo, and ultimately the uke, doing the kind of exotic minor key thing I tend to do in these pieces.

After Astarte went off, I'd expected Shanti to come back on, but what they'd had in mind was that after their solos for the DVD, this was my solo. At the time I wasn't sure if they were coming back, or if I was running too long (I kind of was--long by three minutes) and should end things, or step out for a solo (with the uke, a bit, but not with the guitars). I did loop the uke and reverse it, and underneath that added the Heit on a drone, which maintains the exotic mood in a way. So at the time the end of my set felt kind of like a half measure...though listening back to it, it works.

So while there were some uncertain moments, my performance was not at all bad, and of course the dancers were awesome...though I'm often a bit too busy to watch the dance much. I must have done reasonably well, though, as I ended up making a number of CD sales of the earlier belly dance stuff! So, another bonus.

Coming offstage, I saw that Min of My Boyfriend the Pilot was in the house, too, and caught the last bit of the set--she said she dug it, which was nice. Particularly at that point, I had no idea how it'd gone over. Other friends concurred, and I spent some time touching base. The DJs were digging it as well. One common thread seemed to be the surprise of the uke sounding the way I tend to use it, as opposed to the plinka-plinka that people are expecting. So, cool.

The dancers then did more pieces to prerecorded accompaniment, all of which was quite engaging, and even striking in movement and the use of costumes. This is a really good group of dancers. Each has her individual style, but they also work very well together, and you should check out their next performance.

By the first intermission, we had Steve and Ami back, so while they didn't see my set, they got to see some of the dancing. At the second intermission, I pitched in to help them set up. We put Ami in the middle, with the bowls elevated in front of her on a table, which just happened to be at the right height and angle to pick up the colored lights from above, so they seemed to glow in several colors--neat. Steve's new Radius keyboard was really nice, particularly in its ergonomics--the laptop fits right on a little shelf next to the main module.

Theirs was a really enjoyable set--they accompanied Shanti in a kind of mermaid dance, and Steve's new synth patches had a very Gong-esque underwater feel, and Ami was really stoking things along with the percussion (it was a bit tough to pick out the bowls from where I was standing). Great stuff. As we'd agreed, at the end of their first piece I ran up and joined them for a 10-or-so-minute jam, during which Steve did synth, flute, and pennywhistle, and I alternated between beats, both guitars, and uke. We really hit the pocket after a few minutes, it seemed--for my part, it was when I started adding consonant drones from the Heit, getting into the rhythm of it and showing my Branca connection, though the uke (and backwards uke) and the sitar-like string of the Kalamazoo also made appearances. I wasn't quite sure how to end, and in fact probably missed a good ending cue, but Steve covered for us by launching a Shepard tone for that endlessly-rising effect. And we were done. One more dance to pre-recorded music, and it was on to the open dance floor.

I touched base with the friends who'd come to the event, and eventually we broke our gear down. Rather than load out right away, we had a beer, chatted a bit, and loaded out. On my way out, I got some more appreciation from audience members who invited me to go drinking (I declined--it was midnight; time to get home), but settled for a CD. And Amethyst and a friend of hers helped me load out, saving my back and knees a bit. And soon I was home, listening to the set, and deciding that it indeed had its moments. I'm looking forward to the DVD, as well.

Extra bonus: now that many Pittsburgh bars, performance venues, and restaurants are non-smoking, I actually managed to leave the Rex not smelling like I rolled around on the back of Satan's tongue. The only smoke in the air was the vanilla-scented fog machine. I'm impressed. Now I can reconsider playing bars.

11/10/2006 Maurice Rickard: Arts in the Autumn at Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills

I and the belly dancers of Wicked Temple will be taking our act up to Pittsburgh's North Hills, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills' third annual Arts in the Autumn festival. We're playing the opening night, Friday November 10, from 7-9 PM, and sharing the billing with a piano player. Rather than doing sets straight through, we'll be alternating for some variety. And there'll be visual art, as well as the ability to talk to the artist(s). Considering how great this went last year, we're all stoked to be playing here again.

I'll be playing atmospheric tribal ambient music on electric guitar and electric ukulele through the PowerBook, and I'll also have CDs for sale. The dancers of Wicked Temple will do co-ordinated dancing as a group, as well as individual solos. Expect mesmerising dance, trance-inducing music, and an open, contemplative mood. See you there!

2359 West Ingomar Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, (412) 366-0244. Saturday November 12, 3-4 PM. Map

Another good gig here. Some initial signs were ominous, but in the end it all worked out nicely. I hit the road at 5:45 and got in a bit after 6:15--surprisingly little traffic, and not any trouble finding the place (as I'd been here last year). No dancers, however, and since Amethyst wasn't joining us, I didn't have cell numbers handy. I set up, though, and placed a call to Astarte's cell to give her my number (got voice mail). I had my own screwups, in getting shocked by my Alamo amp at one point, before I flipped the ground switch. (I really should rewire it as three-prong.) One other factor I'd have to deal with is that the g-string on the Kalamazoo is now bottoming out a little bit, but in an interesting way--it kind of sounds like a sitar, so I planned just to roll with it for now, but to do any other style of music, I'll need to give the truss rod an eighth of a tweak.

I'd have been rather concerned about the time except for the fact that we were sharing billing with a cocktail pianist, who would go on first. The plan was to alternate 20-minute sets, to keep things from getting stale, and this really saved us at this point. A bit after 7, I was leaving a voicemail for Amethyst, when suddenly Astarte appeared--she and Shanti had been calling back and forth trying to get directions straight, and while she got my message, the part where I left my number was garbled, and she'd been hoping I'd call back. Great...but she did get there, and gave me Shanti's number, so I could check in with her--in her case, Mapquest proved to be not so accurate. (In my case, I'd rejected Google Maps last year on the best way to get to the church--the church's own directions were much better.) So now we'd have at least one dancer for the first set, and likely two--our third, Vitriol, had car trouble and had to cancel.

At this point the opening had started, so--I said this was a good gig--we were able to check out the hors d'oeuvres. Soon, though, it was time to go on, and Shanti did appear, so we'd be at full strength for the set. I started a similar set to the previous week's set, again starting out at 140 bpm, and combining straight traditional drumming patterns with embellished ones and abstract electronica beats all at the same time. Things went reasonably well, and I kept the vibe and groove going, though at times it seemed to me that I wasn't doing enough actual live work.

At our break, Shanti and Astarte suggested that I give them an audio cue 10-seconds before set-end, and I decided on Ash's zils from the Electrobelly show, which I had cued up. We refueled while waiting for the next set at 8, and I decided to kick things up to 180 bpm, though unlike last week I'd do it with the recording running, so that the tempo change would be recorded. This one seemed like another good one, and some of the percussion textures were setting up into good grooves. (As happened last weekend, at one point the pianist came up and talked about what I was doing, wanting to see what the process was.)

The cue with the zils worked, and I brought the set to an end a minute early, but the dancers expressed some concern that they were getting worn out--the culprit was the fast, complex percussion programming. So for the next set, I took the tempo down to 130, and the result was much more open and contemplative. This was also from my increased use of chordal volume swells underneath everything else, and building up some higher-pitched swells in Looplex, and some melodic uke playing. I think the Delayifier repeats were a bit more present at this lower tempo and added to the spaciousness. I was even moved to work in some ring modulated guitar. Modulation frequency is difficult to set accurately with the pedal, but I chanced on 168 Hz, making B and E fairly consonant bell tones. I cued Astarte at the two-minute mark so she and Shanti could dance together, and then it was 9, so out with the zils.

And we were done! We wound down a bit, packed up, and got paid--a nice way to end the evening, and it's always enjoyable working with the UUCNH.

11/04/2006 Maurice Rickard: Private party, the Bruno Building, Pittsburgh, PA

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it turned out to be quite a nice evening. I knew it was a graduation party, and that apparently they'd also hired a magician and boxing midgets, so I wasn't sure of the vibe. That uncertainty aside, we had decent preparation: Amethyst and Shanti had danced to my music before, and we set up a rehearsal with Amethyst and Astarte, as Astarte hadn't danced to my music yet. I also spent time organizing the percussion samples, looking for sets of loops that worked well together, so I'd have a general plan for moving through the set. I changed strings the night before, and discovered that the winter low humidity has kicked in, and the neck has lost some relief--currently, one string in the low frets is bottoming out in a sitar-y way. Not enough time to correct that before the show, but I resolved to go with it, if it came up.

Parking was right across the street from the building (the offices where our host worked), and I quickly got hit up for honky tax. I showed up at the door right as the dancers arrived, so we all went in together, and immediately encountered the boxers.

We were sent on the slowest elevator in the world, not to the sixth floor, where we'd be playing, but to the fourth floor, which was empty. Apparently here was our staging area. I headed on up to do my setup, and immediately was met by someone who surmised I was the musician, and asked what she could get me. (Water.) Already this boded well. I set up near the front of the office, next to the DJ, and here again things went smoothly--I had enough cable to get into the PA comfortably. We didn't start on time, though, as by showtime I hadn't seen the dancers upstairs, and went to look for them. As you'd expect, our paths didn't intersect, but by the time I was back up we were ready to go.

We'd agreed on three dances choreographed to other people's short pieces (which I had), separated by longer sets of mine, and that's what we did (largely because Amethyst reminded me right before we started). After the first prerecorded piece, I started at 140 bpm, and the set was pretty strong, apart from some early uke feedback. Early on, I also dropped in Ash's vocals from July's Electrobelly this past summer, and that added a nice texture to things. I tried to keep up a regular regimen of changing things--new melody, new rhythms, new textures, whatever--to keep the audience's attention from wandering. At one point this was a bit difficult, as one of the audients came up to talk to me during the set, with some (positive) observations about the uke, and some curiosity about the software, but he quickly realized that I was busy.

I tried to keep an eye on the dancers so that I wasn't making any major changes during a single dancer's set, though sometimes the audience blocked that, which was ok--better to have a lot of interested people. At one point I noticed that Shanti had taken a tray of pizza from one of the servers, and balanced it on her head while she danced, which was a nice touch. After about 20 minutes, I made the rhythms more sparse and cued the next prerecorded piece. During the break, I kicked up the tempo to 180, and did a bit of other prep. For the second part, I kept things more abstract, did some remixing, and also did record some new stuff. I played with the gate plugins to get a bit of distortion and attack cut effects, and I did notice that we lost a few people from time to time, but we had some others taking their places. Even with the audience shifts, I felt energized enough that at one point I busted out a conventional solo, which is usually a sign that I'm having a good time (unless, like some gigs, it's a sign that I'm pissed off, but this time it was the good time sign). I did mistakenly give Amethyst a visual cue about five minutes earlier than I should have for the last pre-recorded piece, but it worked out, and we moved into the last pre-recorded piece, in which the dancers used canes as props.

I did do some outro music out of stuff I'd done earlier in the evening, though the vibe didn't lend itself to an encore. Instead, we headed to the bar, picked up some food, and talked to a few interested people. Soon, though, we were told we all had to move downstairs to the fourth floor, which was empty--this made sense, as people were crowding around computers, and in any case I had to head down there to get my jacket. This was less of a good thing for the DJ, though, who had to tear everything down and set it up again down there.

Once downstairs we hung out, talked a bit, and tried to determine how long to stay; in the event I headed out at 10. As I was leaving, some guests commented on the uke, and noted that they'd not heard this cute instrument--apparently they'd arrived late). Unfortunate for them, but it was nice to have the interest. I was home quite soon after--maybe 10:20, though apparently the party was swinging rather late. A good gig.

08/26/2006 Maurice Rickard: Oakland Square

At the last minute, here's a gig. It'll be a free afternoon show outside, in Oakland Square, to accompany a neighborhood party/community gathering kind of thing. I'll be doing the solo guitar/uke/laptop belly dance tribal ambient breakcore that I've been doing (like at Electrobelly), and I'll once again be working with Steffi Brüninghaus, which we're both excited about.

So what'll happen? We're not sure. She may bring in a few other dancers from the troupe she's working with. I may get through the set without hitting the space bar on the keyboard. In any case, we're sure to entertain you, unless it rains. That's right, we're depending on the weather to hold out, which it just might.

So it's free, all ages, and there'll be other stuff going on there, too. C'mon by and check it out.

Sunday, August 27, 2005 at 4:30, Oakland Square, Pittsburgh, PA. Map.


Ouch. This was in many respects a nice day, but I went a long way toward screwing it up. Steve Pellegrino said he'd like to sit in, which would be fun, and the general vibe was good. We followed a singer-songwriter who did a good, short set, and then we were into ours, but the problems started quickly. Sometime early on, I hit the num lock key and didn't realize it, and as a result my keyboard command to check on my MIDI configuration actually turned off quantization. I'm used to cuing drum patterns before the bar line, so that they'll start on the one of the next bar, but with quantization off, it's all instant. So that's right: I'm accompanying a dancer, and I keep moving the location of the downbeat. Great. Due to this distraction of trying to figure out what was wrong, I didn't spend enough time or attention on varying things that could be varied to generate interest. I'd also been told we'd be doing 45 minutes, but kept it to a hair over 20 minutes. Still, later Patricia asked why I played so long. (No, not too long; it just seemed that way, because I suck.) The next act up said, "Now we're going to play some real music." On the other hand, Steffi and Steve said they had a good time, and various people in the neighborhood lobbied us heavily to move in, so I must not have offended them that much...or maybe these were just latecomers. Other parts of the day were good--people were nice, the other acts were good, and just as the whole show was over and we loaded in the PA and everything, only then did the downpour start. The event timing was good. But it's still tough to get the bad-set taste out of my mouth.

07/21/2006 Maurice Rickard: Electrobelly at the Rex

Time for something a little different: I'll be doing a short set at Electrobelly, an evening of electronic music and dance, organized by Amethyst. I'll be doing about 15 minutes of guitar and ukulele over traditional hand drumming patterns...and what's shaping up to be breakcore. And I'll be accompanying the amazing classically trained vocalist Asha Black, so this is really going to be worth hearing. (True to form, I'm still working on the music, which will probably change between the time you read this and showtime.)

I'll be on at 10:30, but you'll want to check out the whole evening. There'll be DJs, a VJ, and many performances by different dancers--think of it as a bellydance rave, including an open dance floor later in the evening. How can you lose? By not going, that's how. See you there.

Friday, July 21, 2006, The Rex (South Side), 1602 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203, 10 p.m. - 1 a.m., $10 Cover, 21+.

This was the first time out for the MacBook Pro, and there were surely going to be issues: two plugins I frequently use (Delayifier and Looplex) hadn't yet been ported to Intel, so I had to work with what I had. In the case of Looplex, I'd simulate it with the dub delay plugin from the same developer (mda). Other new things: the set would be more breakcore-like, faster, with lots more percussion than I've been using...and this time, with vocals. So it'd be interesting to try to keep from feeding back. It ended up being a tough ride due to the monitoring, but the audio was good. There was a nice vibe going with the vocalist, and the dancers were really on the changes. Not only was Asha doing great singing, but she'd also brought some zils which added another element to the percussion zoo I had going on.

The attention of the dancers helped me a great deal, of course, when I hit the space bar by mistake (I think the thought at the time was to get one thing to line up with another by restarting all the loops at the same point...but of course that stopped everything). The dancers saved me, however, by smiling and bowing, as though everything had been planned, and we got quite a bit of applause. Ash and I decided to do another piece, which went reasonably well also.

Afterwards, I caught up with a couple friends who'd attended, and they said they'd liked the set, which was nice to hear, though I was a bit troubled by the space bar screwup at the end. Other sets were very well done. At one point I was looking around for Amethyst to thank her for saving the set, and couldn't find her--she was in costume onstage, and it took me a while to recognize her.

The rest of the evening continued the thread of very impressive dancing, though at the beginning of the open dance floor, I loaded out and joined my friend Dan for a drink or two at a bar down the street. Overall, a very pleasant evening.

06/10/2006 Maurice Rickard: Western Pennsylvania Fairie Festival

I'll be making the trek up 79 to Cooper's Lake early Saturday morning to play an AM gig (11:15 AM, main stage) at the first annual Western Pennsylvania Fairie Festival. I'll be there to play for Erin Price and Pittsburgh Gypsy Dancers. Erin's done several shows as part of Wicked Temple, and we performed together several times at Blue Light last year, as well as that glorious show at the UUCNH in November, along with the Konono No. 2 show in January. Wow--has it really been January that I last played with the dancers? Astonishing.

It's been too long, so expect us to dig into this show with great enthusiasm, especially as I'm ready to get back to performing now that I'm mostly healed from my broken finger. I'll be doing the guitar, uke, and laptop tribal ambient/IDM that goes so well with belly dance. Expect a positive outlook to the music's tonality, some further modern touches to the rhythm, and a general lightness of spirit (and of finger, now that I don't have to heft that swollen beast around...but please, no crushing handshakes). I'm not sure what Erin and the dancers have planned, but surely you'll enjoy it.

There's much more going on than just us, of course: our partners in ambience Life In Balance will be shifting the electrons your way, and let me tell you, they're freshly quantized and exotically controlled. (2PM Saturday, main stage, guided meditation on Sunday at 10:30, and another Sunday performance at 11 AM.) Plus, we may busk, so be on the lookout for Irish music being played on a bright yellow ukulele. (That's no more absurd than my playing Middle Eastern electronica on a uke, I guess.) So you can bask in the cognitive dissonance, as well.

Also there are several other performers you may recognize, notably Heather Kropf, as well as Candice Night of Blackmore's Night (not sure if Ritchie himself will be there, but he's been at several Fairie Festivals this year, so I'm told). (No, if he is there, he probably won't play "Smoke on the Water.")

So come on up, if you're into the Renaissance Faire scene: both days, Saturday and Sunday, 10AM to 7PM (though I'm only playing Saturday morning), and only $10 to get in. For more info, see the festival's site. See you there.

11:15 AM, Saturday June 10, Cooper's Lake, Slippery Rock, PA

I haven't listened to it at this point, but it seemed good at the time.

The drive up (early!) was pretty quick and painless, apart from construction for a mile or so before the exit. Still, I got there on time. Just off the highway though we were, this was a peaceful landscape, with rolling hills and farmland. Pretty nice.

As I loaded in (with Ash's help--thanks, Ash!) I could check out the current act, a solo acoustic singer/songwriter, who was dressed for the event (medieval gear), and fit in really well...to the point that I wondered how I'd go following him. Despite a bit of confusion during setup (how the power was going to run, mainly), we made our start time, and yes, most of the audience wandered away. Once the dancers started, however, many of them came back, and brought more with them. So for a morning show, we had a decent crowd.

The set moved smoothly, though I don't recall any standout musical moments. While I don't have to have the finger taped up or splinted anymore, I still noticed some pain when anchoring with the pinky, and on doing the pinky volume swells. This was a bit of a surprise, since generally everything else with the finger is fine, and there's not a lot of force on it with the swells. We'll see what's going on at the next checkup.

For much of the rest of the day, I hung out in the merch tent, talking to people and making a couple sales. I'd not brought any of the Clif bars we'd bought as a lunch plan fallback, but happily one of Pittsburgh's fine vegan bakers was there, so food was available.

I'd hooked up the PowerBook to the battery-powered Pignose, so I demoed the CD at a reasonable volume for people all day. One thing that became notable later was that I chose not to reboot the G4, which I've often done before shows. This was a good decision, as the last few reboots had resulted in my having to keep trying to get the thing to power up all the way. This, in fact, turned out to be the last show with the venerable PowerBook G4, as shortly afterwards, it stopped booting at all, unless one tried hundreds of times. But these problems were still a few days in the future.

Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to make sales and stay warm--it was quite cold for a summer's day, and so when Steve and Ami played their rousing set, I made sure to stand in the sun and soak up some infrared. Their set has really become as tight and powerful--they really know how to draw people in. Great stuff. We didn't busk, as it turned out--there were plenty of other things going down, with roving puppeteers, pirates, a parade, and other performers. (There was something of an alliterative theme there, looking back on it.) Also, no Ritchie, but his wife was there, apparently. Ultimately, late afternoon rolled in, and it was time for me to head home...so that we could attend the free Tom Verlaine concert that evening! A pretty good day, then.

01/26/2006 Maurice Rickard: The Even Bigger Show

First we had the BIG show. Then we had the BIGGER show. Now there's the EVEN BIGGER Show! How big is this show?

* Unfinished Symphonies rocking the joint with his witty, urbane musical musings on the not-so-cheap plastic organ

* The belly dancers of Wicked Temple, accompanied by the atmospheric tribal ambient music of electronic guitarist/ukulele player Maurice Rickard and electro-flautist Steve Sciulli

* As far as we know, the world's ONLY Knonono No. 1 cover band, Konono No. 2! If you dug K#1 at the Warhol, get ready for Pittsburgh's own fun-loving music luminaries to take a whack at duplicating K#1's extremely catchy, distorted groove. On board are Mr. & Mr$ Funky, Tommy Amoeba, members of Amoeba Knievel, the Stem Cell Liberation Front, and the Hope Harveys! How can you lose? Well, by not going to this show, that's how.

When is it? Thursday, January 26 at 9PM. Where? Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15224 (right near Penn and Main in Bloomfield/Lawrenceville). Map. How much? $5. And it's 21+. See you there!


Glorious. We had a buzz, we had an audience, and the vibe was right. Even the road-rage-addled cab driver doing 50 in a 25 zone couldn't spoil it. (The one unfortunate part of the evening.) Load in was a bit arduous, because I was carrying the keyboard and the new drum, a gift from a friend, so I did it in two trips, with help from one of our K#2 players.

Rob had said he thought we'd be in the house by 9 for a last rehearsal, with show time to start at 10, which seemed a bit late of a start, but he had called it exactly right. We had a few friends witnessing this, along with one actual audience member, and for a while I thought it was going to stay that way for the show, but no--after our rehearsal, people started pouring in. The rehearsal had some good portents, as well--Ami from Life In Balance was dancing to our rehearsal, so it seemed we were in fact hitting our groove. After this, Steve Sciulli and I did our brief soundcheck (brought a preamp for him, both of us through my PowerBook), and we were ready to go.

My conversations with people before the show kept being interrupted as even more people I knew showed up--the dancers, my friend Constance, other people we knew--and even more importantly, did not know. The buzz Rob got going in the City Paper was going to help us a lot here. The place ended up with a lot of people, in fact.

Rob's Unfinished Symphonies set was first, which he did in the personage as Bill Clinton. His ideal pop sense was fully on display, to the obvious pleasure of the crowd. I felt a bit guilty for continuing conversations, though.

Due to the late start, Rob wanted a quick changeover and a short set, so we figured on doing a half hour. Steve and I were ready to go, so we gave the dancers the heads-up and began. As of this writing, I've yet to listen back to the performance, but my overall perception at the time was that a) I was glad Steve was there to contribute on flute, as he was supplying some really strong melodic lines and textures that the piece needed, and b) I myself was rather rusty in using my system, not always coming up with compelling ideas, and sadly missing opportunities to loop Steve's lines at the best times, or to process things in interesting ways. But then I'm often unsatisfied with how I'm playing. I was at least careful not to break the rhythmic flow for the dancers, so that was a positive thing. The dancers, of course, did a great job, or so it seemed to me, when I could see them to the left or right of the K#2 music stand blocking my view of the floor.

At the end, we got a lot of applause--or, perhaps, the dancers did, and we just basked in it. Still, it was neat. (If weird for me at the time--I seemed to want to keep making acknowledgements and announcements, rather than wait the appropriate interval for the applause to run its course.)

A bit of a break, some congratulations from friends, and soon we were back on as K#2. When hitting the drum (double-headed Indian drum), I'm always a bit worried about hurting my hands, because I don't know what I'm doing. I figured out some methods that weren't hitting the edge full-force, but which still allowed the head to ring, so that helped.

In addition to the drumming, I'd also be adding psychedelic keyboards from time to time. Many of the K#1 songs are in the same key, so what I'd do is turn the PowerBook's volume down, hit a few distorted metallic keyboard notes into the dub delay on infinite, and let the ostinoto go, turning up whenever there seemed to be a hole. On a couple of the tunes, I took a full-out solo. Nice. At one point, Mr$ Funky addressed the dancers, asking if they'd consider just following her around and dancing as part of her life--another ringing endorsement. So we had a good groove, a good vibe, plenty of applause, and money from the door. I even dropped three CDRs. Quite a good evening.

11/12/2005 Maurice Rickard: Arts in the Autumn, Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills

I and the belly dancers of Wicked Temple will be taking our act up to Pittsburgh's North Hills, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills' Arts in the Autumn festival. While the festival goes for three days, we're playing on Saturday the 12th, from 3-4 PM (the festival runs from 10am to 10pm on Saturday, so definitely come to spend some time. )

I'll be playing atmospheric tribal ambient music on electric guitar and electric ukulele through the PowerBook, and I'll also have CDs ffor sale. The dancers of Baya will do co-ordinated dancing as a group, as well as individual solos. Expect mesmerising dance, trance-inducing music, and an open, contemplative mood. See you there!

2359 West Ingomar Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, (412) 366-0244. Saturday November 12, 3-4 PM. Map

Well. There are gigs, and then there are gigs that remind you of why you're doing gigs in the first place. This one was quite glorious, with the most attentive, receptive, welcoming, just all-around pleasant audience I've had in a long time.

It was a bit of a busy morning (and hey, quite a musically busy week), dropping off Patricia and the boy so they could attend a family party later in the day, and I got some work in, as well as putting in a string order at the Acoustic Music Works (I'm almost out of D'Addarios) before hightailing it up 279. Google Maps, oddly, suggested a really circuitous route, and the church's own directions were much clearer, so I went with those. After a lot of "Is this it? Did I miss it?" moments, I got there just fine, and started loading in. Nice building, lots of friendly people asking questions about what I was going to do. On my way back out to the car for the second load, the dancers called, looking for directions. In a sign of how the day was going to go, one helpful member of the church community stepped up, got on the cell, and guided them in, no problem.

I brought in the rest of the stuff, and loaded into their meeting room, which is a large octagonal room with a lot of light, and very good sound. I didn't have direct boxes to plug into their PA, but I'd known this in advance (good communication), so I'd brought the Pignose amps as a fallback, which would work pretty well at the lower volume we'd have here. I set up, answered a few more questions, and by the time we had all three dancers, everything was ready. The room had an encouraging number of audients.

We were given a brief introduction, and then Amy and I explained what we were going to be doing (in her case, mixing the dance styles; in my case, why uke--it's an instrument originally from Portugal, and stringed instruments near the Mediterranean have a Middle Eastern heritage). And we were off! As with the RCT solo show, I started with the kind of thing I'd been doing, and gradually introduced more "modern" electronic beats, got minimal, remixed my stuff on the fly. Shortly after we started, there was an influx of more people. I'm not surprised to see people leaving during a set (I've played some really inappropriate venues), but seeing people flood in was nice. I know the dancers are the main draw, but I wasn't chasing anyone out.

A few technical problems cropped up--I had a bad ground going to one Pignose at one point, but reached over and corrected it, and the Pignoses crapped out a bit on some low bass notes, but overall this was good. I was able to watch and play to the dancers, I could hear myself, and people were into it. I was a bit concerned about being too samey, but the remix section varied things enough.

Amy had mentioned that they'd wanted not to have to dance the whole time, so we came up with the idea that they could go out into the audience at the end and encourage them to dance, and it worked really well. One could feel the point of attention in the room broaden, and people did get up to dance. Rather than end it here, they did a few more solos, and I slowly faded my loop. We were done, and it was overall pretty good. Not only that, but we made some decent donations (split among all of us) and I dropped six CDs. They asked if we'd like to come back next year, and of course I'd be glad to do it. A really good experience, all the way around.

Rather than go straight home, I had a party to get to, so I continued North, hopped on the Turnpike, and headed East, watching the light fade and enjoying the glow of a very good (and early!) gig.

10/27/2005 Maurice Rickard: At Kiva Han

The weather's getting colder, nights are getting longer, and we're all wondering just where the hell summer went. What to do about this? Well it's a Thursday evening, so let's belly dance, just like we used to at the Blue Light District events. This time we'll be in Oakland at the Forbes and Craig Kiva Han (so you can warm yourself up with coffee, tea, chai, vegetarian entrees, all kinds of things), and we'll be inside (so no cold bellies).

To make this clear, I myself won't be dancing--the dancers of Baya will be doing that. I'll be playing electric guitar and ukulele through the PowerBook, as well as triggering ancient and modern percussion patterns, remixing my performance on the fly (just like the recent WRCT live show), and flogging my latest CD. And Baya will be doing a special Hallowe'en dance they've worked up (for which I did a remix--good thing I'm sending this so I know to bring the remix), so you don't want to miss this.

Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, Pittsburgh (Oakland--right near the Carnegie). 7PM. FREE, though we'll be passing the hat, or veil or something. All ages. Directions here: Map.

A good evening, actually, but at the time it was a struggle. The night before, I worked on expanding the rhythm tracks I was using, particularly in the remix section, and developed a fairly high level of complexity at times. I did something similar before my solo WRCT performance, which had gone well, so I thought I'd try it here, too.

I gave Mr. Funky a ride down to the venue, and we struggled with parking. What's with Craig Street? It didn't used to be this bad. So we were running a bit late, but setup would be quick--instead of futzing with the Kiva Han PA, I'd be going right into the two little battery-powered Pignoses, so that was convenient, although I'd have to worry about exceeding their bass frequency.

Once I got into the performance room, I did have to ask a couple at one table if they'd mind moving. When I mentioned belly dancers, they resolved to stay, which was nice. I set things up and tuned, which went smoothly. Now all we needed was the dancers, who did arrive one by one, and in fact we'd have a new dancer as well. Excellent! We also were joined by Ryan in the audience, and it was nice of him to drop by, especially as I couldn't make it to the show he'd done with a new band a few nights before.

We made our entrance together, and I noted that there was now a hipster woman sitting right up front, not facing the performance space. I figured she'd either move back or we'd chase her out; we'd find out soon enough. I tweaked the volume, which people said was ok, and off we went. This set was unusual compared to the Blue Light District sets, as I actually could see what the dancers were doing. On the street, they had to be to either side of me, and it was often difficult to watch what I was doing and to follow them too.

I set up some loops and textures, and observed some walkouts, including the hipster. Either the volume was too high, she didn't like the music, or she just wasn't in the mood for belly dance. Most others stayed, though, even though some of the sections got a bit too loud in my estimation, and I should have notched down the PowerBook volume a touch, or the Pignose volume. (I did pull down the volume in Live whenever it seemed high to me, but it would have been better to get it right from the beginning.)

Some sections seemed to work reasonably well, others not--notably some attempted key shifts in a bass line that just didn't work with anything else going on, some loops that I think I'd left on a bit too long. My transition to the remix section wasn't particularly smooth, either--I was hitting one or another control in Live, and it just wasn't responding. Instead, the audio froze mid-bar, and when Live recovered, parsed it all as a stop command. We got applause. Nice, but oops. Rather than have to start over in a new setup, though, I advanced to the end of this arrangement and started the remix section, clumsily. Also, some of the nifty pitch shifting sections ended up waaaaaay too loud here, so I had to crank back on them in a way I didn't have to at RCT, for some reason. Some of the new rhythms were too bassy for the amps to handle, so they farted out at times, and the new rhythm arrangements got to seem too dense to me. Overall, I was concerned that the thing didn't hold together, and was mere noodling.

There were moments of playing that I liked, though, and both Mr. Funky and Ryan seemed to be getting into it. We didn't lose any other people, also, so that helped the vibe. We got to about 40 minutes and stopped--that's long for a dancer's set, but a bit short of what would be a full set for me. One of the dancers couldn't make it, so we couldn't encore with the Hallowe'en dance, but even so, things were good. We hung out, got some coffee and desserts, and all chatted for a while. Some of our audients were with the new dancer (mother and sister), and they bought one of my CDs, which was nice. (I'd been very slow on the person-to-person sales of late.)

A bit after eight it was time to move on, so Mr. Funky and I checked out the new and promising bar in the old Penn Cafe space--now called Brillobox. Perhaps late this year or early next will see a show there. And perhaps with dancers, as well.

09/22/2005 Maurice Rickard: WRCT: a live show (Maurice Rickard and Death Pig)

The iTunes Store! WRCT 9/22!

I was going to delay these announcements until I got everything moved over to the new email list program, but since my solo appearance on WRCT is this week, it's best to get this out now.

The iTunes Store!
First up: My latest disc, Music for Dance, is now available for purchase on the iTunes Store! Just fire up iTunes (admit it--you were running it already) and download that sucker.

Considering that Apple's holding the line on low download prices (link), there's no reason not to buy! Download copies for everyone in the family. Plus if you're belly dancing, you'll get in better shape. How can you lose?

It's also available in shiny disc-shaped form from CDBaby and from Tower Records, believe it or not. Hey, it was news to me. As always, you can also download it from onezero music, where prices are so cheap, I'm almost paying you.

Live on the Radio!
So that's right--I'll be returning to WRCT: A Live Show, doing a half hour set of the atmospheric yet friendly belly dance music I've been doing of late on electronically processed guitar and ukulele. Can I make this work without dancers in the room? Maybe those of you out there in radioland can dance to it at home. That may be enough. There's only one way to find out, though.

The second part is looking like more abstract beat-oriented IDM. I'll also do a set of my no-input abstract soundscapes--that's right, the return of Death Pig! Very few people have actually seen a Death Pig set, and you won't this time, either...but you can hear it. You owe it to yourself.

This will be a live, in-the-studio performance over the radio (88.3 FM), which will also be streamed over the 'net at http://www.wrct.org/ in both .mp3 and .ogg formats. Even if you're in Pittsburgh, you might want to tune in over the 'net, though, as a transmitter failure on September 6 has signnificantly reduced their range. Thursday, September 22, from 9 to 10 PM EDT (GMT-4).

Well this was a whole lot of fun. I scheduled the SCLF for a gig in October, and it also turned out that the Live Show crew really needed someone to take on the first show of the term, so I volunteered to do a solo set. As prep, I wanted to give myself some additional channels for noise, and add some new percussion lines. I wasn't too attracted to the idea of filling an hour with the kind of stuff I've already done, and I didn't want to get partway through the set only to find I was out of ideas. I'd always rather have too much material than too little, so I thought of this second section, in which I'd remix the first. I added some deep bass drum beats to one channel, and sparse percussion to another; it all seemed to work in rehearsal.

I'm glad I did one of these in-studios with the Funkies in January, as I realized I could load in from the loading dock--not so important with my usual light rig, but add all the Death Pig pedals in there and it gets too heavy to do in one trip or over long distances. My January experience also helped me find the station once I got inside (some people who work down there have no idea where it is). I loaded in, moved the car (free parking in the nearby garage after 5), and came back in to set up.

I'd brought the music stand for the PowerBook and the preamp, so that I could reserve their table for the DP effects, and that plan worked out as I'd hoped, although I had to be careful not to whack the guitar's head into the table. My own sound check went well, and then we learned that no sound was going to the console--turns out, someone had removed the batteries from the DIs. That fixed, we got levels and were ready to go 15 minutes before showtime. I chatted a bit with Jason (Underwater Culprit) and got focused, although I felt pretty focused already.

Showtime came, and I started with the usual belly dance rhythm and volume swells (well I am technically promoting a CD that people haven't heard yet). I kept my 20-minute time limit in mind, and quickly brought in uke, grabbed some loops, reversed them, advanced through the various traditional rhythms and variations. The reverse uke--and reverse-half-speed uke--worked quite well.

I'd thought that some Television-list people might be listening, so I felt a bit more comfortable playing melodic guitar lines, and got somewhat spirited at one point. Also helping was my inclusion of the pitch-shifting delay, set to two delayed octaves, which gave me a canonical bassline to play against. Quite exciting in the moment. The most "solo-y" solo I'd grabbed as a loop, and so was able to scrub over it immediately. One mistake here was that I'd ended on a series of one-per-bar low E hits, which worked well enough in context, but when I looped just that section, it quickly got out of sync and didn't sound so hot.

At 20 minutes in, I signalled a shift so that Jason could do a station ID, and I slowly introduced more noise without breaking the flow--buffer overrides, hard gates on the percussion, and introducing the newer bass-heavy patterns and sparse percussion patterns. I did play some guitar in this section, but generally it was obscured by the buffer override. I'm pretty happy with the result--it generally was a good twisting of the first section, more spacious, more abstract, the new percussion section is actually kind of atmospheric, and the new beats maintain the groove well while being distinct from the previous belly dance patterns. What didn't work here was that I occasionally leaned too heavily on the buffer override manipulation (scrolling between parameters; often I should have just left it in one place), and I should have had more variations on the groove of this section--as it is, it's kind of a steady-state thing. Overall, though, I'm excited about this direction for future shows.

After 20 minutes of that, I signalled another change, started taking out loops, and fired up the Death Pig rig, arming recording on a separate input channel in Live. As often happens with DP sets, I didn't have audio at first, and left one loop running to cover the silence. Of course, it wasn't a constant loop itself, so there were a few dead air gaps in there, but that's the nature of Death Pig. Overall a rather quiet set, but atmospheric and at times even harmonious. There's actually a lot of stuff in there to like, including an ominous bass ostinato. Some of this may see the light of day at some point.

A brief announcement from me and one from Jason, and we were done. While I packed up, we chatted and the staff prepared a CDR of the show, which was ready by the time I was back to cart out the second half of my gear. Quite a successful show, I thought, though I don't know how many people heard it--at least two for sure, so apply your standard listener multiplier. A good experience, and I'm looking forward to doing the October show with the SCLF, and possibly some other events here in the Winter term.

09/20/2005 Maurice Rickard: Music for Dance on the iTunes Store!

My latest disc, Music for Dance, is now available for purchase on the iTunes Store! Just fire up iTunes (admit it--you were running it already) and download that sucker.

Considering that Apple's holding the line on low download prices (link), there's no reason not to buy! Download copies for everyone in the family. Plus if you're belly dancing, you'll get in better shape. How can you lose?

It's also available in shiny disc-shaped form from CDBaby and from Tower Records, believe it or not. Hey, it was news to me. As always, you can also download it from onezero music, where prices are so cheap, I'm almost paying you.

08/18/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Blue Light District, South Side, Pittsburgh

It's time for another belly dance gig on the street on East Carson, for the Blue Light District night. Once again we'll have excellent dancers working in traditional, tribal, and modern dance idioms, and I'll be playing variations on the percussion-heavy guitar/uke/PowerBook improvisations. I may even have found a way to reduce the distortion out of the little Pignose amp, but I'm of two minds about this--if I went cleaner, I might lose that nifty Konono No. 1 vibe. In any case, check it out.

Thursday, August 18, 7-8 PM. 1102 East Carson Street, South Side.

This was another fun one--as with the Co-op show, we brought the baby along to show off, as this would be an outside show with my control over the PA.

As prep, I'd reconfigured the percussion tracks, adding some more "modern" patterns, and also spreading the patterns over three channels, so that I could play up to three simultaneously. The result is a constant rhythmic flow, without the jarring transitions that have been bothering me. I have to offset the sample quantization from one bar to a half bar, though, so that I can get more complex interaction between parts. Works nicely, although when I want to start my own recordings right on the bar line, I have to remember to change it back.

As with the last gig on the street, we had two dancers, and this time they added zils to the arrangement, which I quite liked--I like the sound of them, and they fit very well into the percussion arrangement. I played some things I liked, though perhaps the real advance on this one was the constancy provided by the offset rhythm patterns. I saw an old tourmate across the street, and felt oddly disoriented when it turned out not to be him. A few photos were taken of the dancers (and me with them; my appearance in them will be chalked up to new-parent tiredness). Our friend Mary Ellen dropped by, and we followed up the show with an early social night out with the boy.

07/23/2005 Maurice Rickard: live at Zenith Tea Room

This is a private gig--a bachelorette party for one of the members of the belly dance community. I like mentioning this to male musicians, though--their eyes get wide, and they offer their services as roadies. It's unlikely to get particularly wild while I'm there, as this is in a public restaurant, and the real festivities will probably take place afterwards, at which point I'll be home.

The plan is for me to play a short set of varying tempi, and then cede to another dancer's pre-recorded soundtrack. After that, looks like I'll be fed--the perfect evening for a musician.

Zenith Tea Room, 86 South 26th Street, South Side, Pittsburgh.

The second of two gigs in one day. We'd done some rehearsal for this, since the dance was more choreographed than the way we often work, and there'd be a changeover at the end, so that two guest dancers could do their own choreography to a CD they'd brought.

It turned out that the performance was a surprise for the woman whose party this was, and it was neat to see her reaction. The other patrons seemed a little surprised themselves, and kept watching the dance while trying to look like they weren't. For the performance itself, I was actually prepared for a lot longer of a set than we ended up doing. I hit the usual landmarks, but made some changes in the guitar and uke sampling, grabbing shorter phrases more frequently, and having them overlap more. I didn't want to vary the tempo much, though, as I didn't want to throw anyone off. The dancers formed a semicircle, and individuals would step out for solos, and I expected that everyone would take one or two solos. I was gearing up for a next major variation when I saw the cue for me to end it, but no problem. So I shut off loops and the recording, and watched the two guest dancers do their planned set--quite elaborate, and fast. And the vegan dinner and conversation afterwards were also very good, and by 8 or so I was on my way home.

07/21/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Blue Light District, South Side, Pittsburgh

It's time for another free, all-ages live belly dance gig for the Blue Light District. We start at 7, and go for a half hour or 45 minutes. Expect new beats, a different flow, as well as the atmospheric electric guitar and electric ukulele you're used to. Come by and say hello, or just bask in the electric uke vibes.

1102 East Carson Street, South Side. Map.

Another pleasant evening doing the dance music--the weather coöperated, the dancers were enthusiastic (though regrettably one of them injured a toe on the concrete), and Jim Brenholts stopped by to check out the scene live.

I wanted to change some things up for this set of performances, so I thought I'd move through several different tempi--speed things up as they got more intense, slow them down to give the dancers a break. In practice, I adjusted the tempo too quickly, and it struck me as more than a bit jarring when I did this, rather than a smooth transition between sections. Still, particularly in the fast sections, things were different enough that I did some playing I rather liked, and perhaps some of it's releaseable. (I haven't yet gone back and listened to it, though.) The dancers liked the set, as did Jim, and we grabbed a coffee afterwards for debriefing. Still no sales resulting from this, but it certainly is an enjoyable evening out.

06/25/2005 Maurice Rickard: Media Tonic 2 at PFMI

This is the Really Big Show of the summer: performance artist/accordionist/drywall whisperer Stephen Pellegrino is putting on a massive live show around his piece "Calling Mr. Conrad" as part of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Media Tonic 2. Steve will be playing, of course, but there will be other acts as well, since the whole thing's going from 7 to 11:30. I'll be doing at least two sets (one guitar/uke-through-the-laptop, and possibly one all-feedback or all-drone set), if not three or four total, when you count collaborations. There will also be a number of non-'Nyayzar acts, too, elsewhere in the building. (Including, I've just learned, John Doe of X.)

As Mr. Conrad was the Pittsburgh-based developer of commercial radio, there is a radio theme going on--it's station NYZ, broadcasting from the alternate dimension of 'Nyazar. In fact, while the musicians and other performers are in one room, the performances will be broadcast via microradio to radios elsewhere in the building. Pretty slick, huh? But wait, there's more: we'll also be incorporating visual performers, including belly dancers, a radio-only mime, and other diversions.

So mark your calendar and start setting aside your spare change: for this evening of entertainment (including a whole range of non-'Nyayzar stuff going on elsewhere in the building), you'll be ponying up $15. If you only have to spend $15 at the Filmmakers this year, make sure it's this $15 at this event. We'll see you there...on the radio.

477 Melwood Ave, Pittsburgh, 15213 - (412) 681-5449. Map.

This had the makings of a significant show, but a series of negative events tends to wear one down. For an evening show, load-in was oddly early--I met Steve down there at 10:30. I planned to bring my gear later, but for the morning I helped Steve set up the room--arrange tables/chairs, set up a background, test the transmitter, etc. Steve had asked which direction foot traffic would be coming from, so we arranged the performance side of the room to face the door, and allow people to come and go freely. We put down dropcloths as the background, and also mounted one as a backdrop--not bad looking.

I returned home, sat out the hot day, did work, and prepared for the show. For quite a while I've been threatening to do an Earth-inspired drone piece, and put the EH Big Muff Pi distortion in the bag. There were snags, though: ironing my shirt (dress code) made the place as hot as it could possibly be, and as I was heading out to the car, I noticed the shirt was stained. Great. I hadn't been able to make dinner, either, but at least there would be food at the venue for the performers, I'd been told.

Various frustrations of the day had built, and on the trip down I realized what state of mind I had attained. In Zen practice, there's what's known as "beginner's mind." In my case, I had attained what I'll call "blow me mind," the state in which one's first reaction to any bad or even inconvenient news is simply "Blow me." At the Melwood Screening room, I had to park waaay back in the lot and schlep the gear all the way. On the way I ran into Mike Yaklich, who'd be drumming for us, and we commiserated. Turns out we were pretty much in the same frame of mind.

We got our performer badges, and arrived at the installation room to learn that we'd been told to set up...facing in the wrong direction. Most of the foot traffic would be at the entrance immediately behind us, and if people wanted to come in the audience-friendly door, they'd have to go down to the end of the main hallway, take a turn down toward the restrooms, tack back along a rear hallway, and somehow find us. There was no way we were going to have time to break everything down and move it, so we put a map on the door, and hoped that people felt like following it around to the back hallway.

At this point I could either snag some food and a drink, or be a professional and set up my gear, so I opted for professionalism to guarantee that I'd be set up by showtime. When I was done with my setup and went in search of the food tables, though, they were pretty much depleted. The staffers tried to be helpful, directing us to other tables, but those too were depleted. There was, apparently, plenty of beer and wine, but I didn't want to be impaired for our sets. In the end, I scrounged a few vegetables, a small amount of cheese, and a petit four in the hopes that this would be enough to get me through the evening. Indeed, others weren't so lucky.

We didn't start at doors-open time, there being so few people who made the trip around to the back hallway, and we started essentially an hour later, with a bit of an audience. We had yet another musician with us--a young man named Luke, who'd be on guitar. He happened to have his own EH Muff, and was apparently quite open to experimentation. There--that was one good omen. We did some old 'Nyayzar favorites, as well as a couple new pieces of Steve's and it went down well, although we had audience members drifting out moreso than in. Another good omen--the Funkies drifted in and checked out a chunk of the sets.

The plan was to play several sets through the evening in different combinations, so after the first piece I had a bit of a break, and wndered around, checking out the other installations. The food was not replenished anywhere, and there appeared to be no plan to restock.

Back down in the performance room, it was soon my set, so I busted out some of the belly dance stuff. I seem to have held people for a while, but most of them moved on--was this the fault of my playing, or was it just the smorgasboard nature of the event? Parts of what I did were pretty good, and Steve jumped in after a while, which was nice. The gradually dwindling audience irritated me, though, and I took out some cumulative frustration by ripping out some more direct, overdriven, less textural modal lines--probably the straightest I've ever played in public.

After some other combinations of players, Steve announced a break, but since I'd just returned from one, I volunteered to do the fuzz drone piece I'd wanted to do, and Luke was willing to join in. I announced notes to him (based on the cycle of fifths), we droned, I grabbed loops for additional texture, and we gradually chased everyone out of the room except for a couple stalwart listeners. It was nice, although unfortunately the recording I made of my signal chain doesn't include Luke's contributions. The next step is to work out more of a structure to this, and do it with the large group.

Things seemed to wind down during the next round of performances, though people were still walking around, and I quickly set up to do another belly dance piece, which was pretty much ignored--what draws them in on the street apparently does little for the Filmmakers audience. After a command performance for Steve's wife Mary, our hungry and grumpy crew broke the gear down and called it a night.

06/16/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Blue Light District, South Side, Pittsburgh

The last few belly dance gigs have gone so well, I'm doing yet another, this one once again outside of Ethnic Artz, a fascinating store on East Carson Street. Things get started at 7PM. The event is free, the dancing excellent (ranging from traditional to tribal to modern), and the music richly textured percussion samples, live electric guitar, and haunting desert uke. I'm serious about the uke, too. You'll dig it. See you there.

1102 East Carson Street, South Side. Map.

About a week before this show, I'd gotten an email from a gentleman who plays ukulele, and who'd be in town for the Senior Olympics (table tennis), and who wanted to meet up. I'd figured that he'd done a web search on Pittsburgh and ukulele in order to get my name, and we worked it out that one of his available times was during this show. So not only would I have a gig, but I'd have a chance to meet a more experienced uke player, and with any luck I'd pick up a few pointers or techniques. If I was really lucky, he'd dig the set.

I'd had a number of things going on this week, and there was a possibility that scheduling for the day would be difficult, but things worked out--I was significantly early for the show, got good parking, the weather was clear and warm, and I was in a good frame of mind, even without having done one of these shows in a few weeks.

Rather than rent another preamp, I thought I'd bring a long extension cord and siphon some power from Ethnic Artz, and that worked out, even though I was pretty much at the outer limit of the extension. Since I was so early, I did a leisurely setup inside the shop and chatted casually with the owner and a few customers, as well as a photographer who'd taken many of the shots displayed (and for sale) in the shop. He was a musician himself, a keyboardist, who apparently has quite the array of gear at home. In talking about what I was doing (guitar and ukulele for belly dance), he mentioned to someone that he thought it was a "stupid" idea (um, gee, thanks) until he heard it (oh, well, thanks). So I take that as a compliment, I guess.

Eventually a few dancers came by (as did the vegan baker--people, you have to check this out) and we started setting up. As I was running my gear outside, I noticed one older gentleman coming up on the scene and checking things out; my vibe was correct--this was ukulele player Dick Jeffers, in from Houston. I asked him to hang on to my little $27 Mahalo uke while I set up, and of course he was welcome to try it. I'd mentioned that it was quite a low-end piece of gear ("good" ukes start in the low hundreds), but he liked it--I knew it sounded good and played well in my limited uke experience; apparently it compares respectably even for people who are playing more painstakingly made instruments.

I did my soundchecking and tuning (headphones, as usual), and answered a few questions asked by some prospective audients, and soon it was time to get started. Off we went, and my end of the set wasn't bad, although I'm a bit bothered by the feeling that I'm just going over familiar ground here and not pushing things, as for me Music seems to appear most frequently when I'm on the edge of something new, not knowing what I'm doing. Maybe it's the heightened attention that I have to have in those cases, and, lazy being that I am, turn off when I don't absolutely need it. This kind of slacking is something I need to train myself out of. So it was a reasonable set, though there were more bad notes than usual, so it seemed (guess it's the feeling of pressure, playing for a real uke player). I was afraid I was boring people, but may not have been--for one thing, the dancers had said they'd be dancing for a half hour or 45 minutes tops, but we seemed ready to blow past that, and I brought things to a close at 10 to eight.

I packed up, loaded the car, and Dick Jeffers and I joined two of the audients for an excellent Thai dinner at Thai Me Up, several blocks up Carson, where discussion ranged across several topics, but concentrated on ukuleles and Dick's lifelong experience with the instrument. Afterwards, we did get a chance to play ukes back down at Ethnic Artz--more of a uke lesson, actually, as Dick ran through several of his arrangements of classic tunes ("Jeepers Creepers," "42nd Street," "Button Up Your Overcoat," and others). Quite an education for me, and it's obvious why he's in demand as a teacher and performer. Very good guy, too.

At 10 or so, the owner had to close up shop, so we said our goodbyes, and I was home shortly thereafter. One of those evenings that justifies why one does all this.

05/22/2005 Maurice Rickard: 26th and Smallman, the Strip District

Sunday's edition of the dance performance, at 26th and Smallman in the Strip District (Map). Dancing will be from 10-4, and I'll be playing from 1 to 2. Come on down and check it out.

Day two of this street festival, and it went rather smoothly. Same spot, same set of people, but this time we set up in the opposite direction to get any foot traffic from Smallman Street, as there seemed to be fewer people in the middle of the blocked-off street.

My performance was about par, although I worked in a rather neat little key change at one point. Unlike yesterday, we took a few breaks rather than running straight through the hour. During the last set, we noticed a local news cameraman and reporter filming us; as would inevitably happen, I was playing a particularly uninteresting guitar part during this segment, and by the time I'd picked up the uke, the camera was off. Ah, well. Still, after the set, the reporter came by and got names for the segment, if it were to be used. She pointed out that she was an intern, and had no editorial pull, but any publicity is good. It doesn't count as publicity, though, if the segment isn't used. They weren't covering the street fair, but a robbery of the Spaghetti Warehouse, which was across the street from us.

After we broke things down, I picked up a tasty vegan dessert at the vegan baker's table, and agreed to meet up with the dancers at the South Side Beehive for debriefing. Before leaving, though, I had an interesting talk with someone who was helping out a painter with a nearby booth--he'd rather liked the set, and had notably wide-ranging musical tastes. Cool. I packed up the car, headed over to the South Side, and consumed yet more vegan desserts with the dancers before we were joined by--surprise!--the baker again. A neat group of people, and it'll be interesting to keep working with them. Should you come out to these shows, with any luck the baker will be there. Highly recommended.

05/21/2005 Maurice Rickard: 26th and Smallman, the Strip District

Considering how well last night's dance performance went (even with the rain!), we're doing two more this coming weekend, at 26th and Smallman in the Strip District (Map). For music, expect some IDM-ed up hand percussion samples, ambient guitar, and haunting, ancient ukulele. The dance will range from traditional to freeform, with anywhere between four and six dancers in full costume. Much like last night, there *will* be a tent, so weather won't be a factor, although it's supposed to be nice.

Dancing will go on from 9-5 on Saturday, and from 10-4 on Sunday. I'll be playing from 1 to 2 both days (about the battery duration I can be sure of across all the devices at this level of activity). I will have CDs for sale, including this recent music for dance. So come on down and check it out. Or make like a number of people last night and drive by, honk, hang out the window, and shout incomprehensibilities as your car speeds past. Either way, it's free. See you there.

26th and Smallman in the Strip District (Map). 1-2 PM, all ages, free.

This show was one of those triumph-over-adversity shows. While loading the car, I dropped the uke--only a cosmetic scar, thankfully, but it definitely freaked me out for a minute. I'd realized right before leaving for the show that I'd probably not have a table for the PowerBook, but I could swing by a music store and pick up a heavy music stand that would work. (Steve from Life In Balance introduced me to this concept--thanks, Steve!) I had to stop by a store anyway to get a new strap button for the Kalamazoo, as I noticed last night that the one at the base of the guitar had cracked. I guess 38 years of setting the guitar down on its base was too much for the old plastic part. I hightailed it to Pianos 'n' 'at, which in fact did have both chrome strap buttons and heavy, foldable music stands. I bought the widest one they had, which did in fact turn out to be exactly the width of the PowerBook and the preamp--score!

I jammed back downtown to get to the venue, a corner in the Strip District, and made it about 10 minutes before showtime. We'd be under a tent offered by friends of the dancers, who were showing off some sculpture and fashion items, and who were extremely welcoming and friendly. (Thanks for letting me use your space!). This was good--I could keep the sun off the PowerBook screen; otherwise I'd have a difficult time seeing what I was doing. I set up in one corner of the tent, but then it was decided to move the stage to the other side so we'd get more foot traffic from the festival, and be seen by people who'd sat down at the food area. So I moved my stand, and the PowerBook almost took a dive off it, but I caught it in time. Close one.

We started playing, and it went pretty well. I'm still a bit dogged by the little Pignose speaker clipping on loud bass frequencies, but I can't complain--it's performing great for its small size. The set I played was roughly equivalent to the one I did this past Thursday--not bad, but not possessing the compelling center of the set from May 18. You really should check that out.

Why the internal disconnect? In live performance there are a lot of variables to have to consider, and there were a few extras for this outside show: for one, despite the bright sun when we started, there were a couple instances of actual rain during the set, and the dancers got soaked. I was under the tent this time, but it made things difficult for them and for my tent hosts, who lost a vase of flowers to the wind, and had to keep adjusting the tent's side panels. Another complicating factor was the band who were to perform after us. They set up and started jamming on half-assed classic rock covers while I was still playing. I guess their thought was something like "Duuuh, girls! Dancing! They'll dance to our stuff...because we, uh, rock." I persevered, though, and we finished the set. Talking to the dancers and the vendors later, I found that they too were quite irritated at the band, and said that what I was doing was much better, which was nice to hear.

I broke down the gear and loaded the car up, and we all dispersed--none of the dancers stuck around for the next band, who in fact probably did not get a chance to play in the heavy downpour and lightning storm which started a few minutes after we all left. I suspect that with their huge PA and plugged-in amps, they had to forfeit, as well as losing any audience they might have had. Bad day to be them.

On the way out, I listened to my pre-mix CD of the rehearsal from the 18th, and I'm really enthused about releasing this one.

05/19/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Blue Light District, South Side, Pittsburgh

In another move in my tour of non-traditional performing venues, I'll be accompanying a troupe of belly dancers at the Blue Light District event on the evening of Thursday, May 19. We'll be performing in front of Ethnic Artz at 1102 East Carson St. Should be fun. Rehearsals have been very promising--I'll likely do several layers of atmospheric guitar parts, looped over each other live, along with semi-IDM treated hand percussion samples. I'm probably also going to sneak in some pieces I'm working on for another project. Sonicly, it'll be rather like my Whole Health Expo set--only this time you'll have more to look at than just a guy hunched over a laptop.

See you there!

1102 East Carson Street, South Side, outside Ethnic Artz. All ages. 7-8PM.

The portents were good on this one. In the event, a righteous victory over adversity, although the musical advances were made the day before.

A while back Steve from Life In Balance mentioned that he'd been talking with some belly dancers about doing live music for their performances, but wouldn't be able to make all the gigs, so would I be able to do something like that? Since I'd done music for belly dance before, yeah, it seemed like a fit. The downside? All of the upcoming gigs were outside with no AC power, so I'd need to be on battery. The PowerBook was fine for this, and I could borrow a Pignose 20 amp from Steve Pellegrino, but I'd have to work something out for the preamp.

So I got in touch with Amy, the main dancer of this group, and she was enthusiastic. The first rehearsal went well, and the dancers in general dug what I was doing (basically a retread of what I'd done in June of 2004, but new to them). In the rehearsal space, the Pignose had a surprising amount of balls--just turn that thing up a quarter of the way, and off one goes. For that one, I remained plugged in, though, not sure of how much battery life there'd be, and needing to plug in the preamp. Do note, though, that if you buy one of these rechargeable Pignoses, follow the instructions about charging the batteries. It's been working well for me, but I think a lot of people may ignore the documentation on it. They're lead-acid batteries, and you need to keep them charged or they'll die permanently. Like I say, I've been lucky, but I've also been careful about the recharging. In practice, if well cared for, they have a pretty amazing battery life, in fact, so it's worth preserving.

The day before the rehearsal, I opted to rent a Bass Sansamp from Pianos 'n' Stuff. At first I thought I might just haul out the Big Muff (hey--it's battery powered), but a test proved that while it was glorious, it wasn't appropriate for this stuff, since there was no clean option. I'm tempted to do an Earth-like sludgecore/dronecore project with this thing, after I hit it with some contact cleaner. But in the meantime I needed to check out my other, cleaner battery-powered options. Turns out there wasn't much to buy down in the price range I wanted, but rental was extremely cheap--$5 for the few days I'd be using it, or $10 for the whole month. I'd brought the guitar, the PowerBook, and headphones so I could check out how they actually sounded, and the guitar Sansamp seemed to subtract a lot of tone in its amp simulator circuits, while the bass Sansamp sounded more like the actual instrument. So I went with that.

Steve Sciulli showed up at Pianos 'n' Stuff to hang a bit while I checked out the scene, and we discussed the sheer level of gear he has to carry around--this just for a flute player. Back in rental, he picked up a mandolin and just messed around with it, but still displaying his usual high level of musicality. I observed that if he started playing mandolin, he'd probably end up needing a semi for all the related gear.

The Wednesday rehearsal (May 18, the day before the gig) was to be a tryout of the all-battery setup, and it all performed surprisingly well. In advance of this (and following up on a suggestion from Beth, another of the dancers), I worked up some traditional drum patterns and embellished them, as well as arming some randomized stutterers to keep things varied. I'd also created a Live setup that would let me do the set as one constant stream of music, without stopping. I couldn't use my MIDI footpedal, though, due to the no-AC requirement. This time, though, I thought I'd add the uke.

The off-the-grid rehearsal went well--very well, in fact--staying at a moderate tempo and pretty much sticking to one mode, I nonetheless moved through a series of rhythms and moods, alternating guitar and uke, swells and plucked notes, and forwards and backwards samples in a way that surprised me. I've been listening to the result quite a bit, in fact, and I'm tempted to put it out.

The day of the show itself was rather hectic, but I managed to be in the appointed place at the appointed time to join Amy and her boyfriend for an appetizer before heading down to the designated performance zone, on the sidewalk outside Ethnic Artz. Some friends would be arriving, as would Steve and Ami Sciulli. The rehearsal had gone well, I had the right level of energy, and was getting positive response from the dancers. The store owner was a fellow musician, and was also supportive. What could go wrong?

The weather, as it turns out. The rain started very lightly before the performance began, and I thought maybe I'd be able to get through without having to move inside, what had begun as sparse droplets soon became actual rain, and I had to move things inside. Due to the loop-based nature of what I was doing, I could unplug the guitar, uke, and preamp and still keep the show going, as long as the PowerBook was still connected to the amp. The battery-powered nature of the setup was also helpful here, since I wasn't drawing from actual mains. So I reset everything up inside the shop, with the amp in the door pointing out, but no sooner did I get set up again than some resourceful person set up a tent right outside, so I'd be able to see the dancers (kind of useful, if one's actually playing for them). I brought the gear back outside, and continued, the only real fallout being that there was a long stretch of the same old stuff just going on and on and on and on, since I wasn't making any changes to things in Live, what with all the moving activity.

For audience, my friends Dan and Michelle did show up, checking out the show from across the street, from nearby, from inside the shop, and Michelle took several photos. Local electronic/noise artist Min of My Boyfriend the Pilot also came by to check out the gig, and Steve and Ami Sciulli did drop by as well, contributing some spur-of-the-moment flute. Very nice.

So how'd it all sound? It sounded ok, although now with the Pignose turned up to project in this unforgiving environment of buses, cars, and other sonic distractions, I had to turn it up at least halfway, which brought on the resonant frequency rattles, serious distortion on low notes, and the speaker crapping out at similar high-level low tones. Kind of a drag, and distracting, but this little Hog-20 wasn't designed for bass or keyboard frequencies. I did get some nice uke playing in, and explored some musical motives that I liked from the rehearsal, but I think overall this one failed to have a shape. I may revisit this, but I think the rehearsal was thematically stronger.

How was the dancing? Great, actually. The dancers freely combine traditional techniques and other dancing forms, working individually and in sub-groups with each other, for an ever-changing improvisatory approach that works really well with my improvisation. Sadly, I didn't get as much of a chance to watch what they were doing as I probably should have, since I was often preoccupied with the rain, grabbing loops, changing rhythms, etc. But what I saw was really good, and the dancers are wonderful to work with. Generally when they'd switch from one solo performer to another I'd try to change the rhythm, but my location next to them, facing the same direction (a repeat of my setup for the belly dance show with Steffi last June) made it difficult to be consistent with that. A lesson for me for next time.

A sociological note: while we were playing, plenty of cars would slow down, a passenger would roll down the window and hang out, apparnetly hitting on the belly dancers. I guess some people do courtship this way, but I'll tell you: it wasn't working in this instance. Gentlemen, the hollering and wooooooo screams just put the women off.

I ended my set as the PowerBook battery ran low (estimated remaining time under 50 minutes), a byproduct of how much the hard drive was being used, the power behind the audio out, and the brightness of the LCD monitor (which I needed to have rather higher while it was light outside). Steve kept playing, though, which was good--the dancers could keep going for a while, and he did a rather nice tempo increase which I'll probably steal for a future piece, to keep things from being monotonous. After bringing my gear inside for a liesurely packup (and to plug in while I burned CDRs of the rehearsal for the dancers), I chatted a bit with Dan and Michelle, talked with the owner of Ethnic Artz (a drummer himself, and appreciative of the music, too!). I also talked for a while with Min, who'd stuck around for the whole thing, and was in fact interested in having me play the Electric Boogaloo performance series she's curating, likely for the June 18th date. Look for details once this is confirmed.

It's still somewhat surprising to me that the dancers are into what I'm doing, and it was good to be reminded of that after the show. They all headed off to get dinner, while I joined Steve and Ami for a couple rounds of good beer and good conversation at Iguana, after which they dropped me off at home. In all, quite a nice evening, even with the weather, and boding well for the future.

05/07/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Starlite Lounge

In a bit of a surprise last-minute development, I'll be playing again with Steve Sciulli of Life In Balance at the Starlite Lounge this Saturday. It's another installment of A Three Penny Opry, and this time we're going on first, at 8 PM sharp to 8:30 PM. Expect atmospherically processed shakuhachi and flute, as well as atmospherically processed guitar and ukulele for a doubly atmospheric experience. (This may well be verging on the hyperbaric, since there's so much atmosphere going on.)

Also on the bill are several Pittsburgh-area folk and folk-related acts (so once again we're technological and stylistic outliers here, but what's life without variety?): Heather Kropf, Frank Bienkowski and Robert Wagner doing an in-the-round set, with Dave Wells and filk artist Randy Hoffman doing featured sets. Steve Sciulli and I are on first.

I believe this will be a pass-the-hat event as was the last one, assuming the hat does get passed, and I'll be bringing some new merch, for those economically inclined. So come on out.

8 PM sharp, Starlite Lounge, 364 Freeport Rd, Blawnox, PA 15238-3440, 412-828-9842. Map

I wasn't really happy with my playing at this show, and my volume level was hot to the point that Steve had to keep turning up and Ami wished she'd been mic'd, but we seem to have made good impressions on at least some folks, and in that sense, it was a good gig. And now, listening back (which I don't tend to do much these days), my contribution wasn't half bad.

I'd spent the day from fairly early on until after 6PM helping my father move from his Paleozoic Win95 box to (thankfully) Mac OS X on a different box. I'm glad to do it, but it did consume a large chunk of the day, and I had to run home, eat something, pack, and hightail it to the venue, so that I could set up before our 8:00 PM start time. I reached the Starlite a little after 7:30, hauled in, and started setting up. I didn't have much margin until showtime, but made the best of it, setting up and tuning to the iSpectrum oscilloscope before plugging two leads into the PA. Steve suggested I buy the kind of music stand I've lately been able to use as a laptop stand (either his or the venue's, whenever possible), and I just might--it's one of those solid all-metal ones, as opposed to a completely-folding model.

Audients were filtering in while we were setting up, and there were plenty of other acts, so the pressure was on not to go over our allotted time. As I was setting up, one woman asked if I'd brought an Ebow, which could have signified either of two things: she was conversant with experimental guitar playing, or she was jokingly calling me out on the way that the lot of us seem to play with ebows. As it happened, I had decided not to bring the ebow or the slide, and create these effects instead with my fingers. Any embarrassing aspect to this question was entirely mine--there certainly are times when one couldn't fling a dead cat without hitting someone with an ebow, so I was honest--I'd left it at home.

I tuned up and we started with (of course) drones, moving into denser territory. I had difficulty picking out what I was doing from the overall texture, but apparently everyone else had no such trouble. I mostly concentrated on Looplex textures, but I also included some uke tracks in there. Steve alternated between flute (no shakuhachi, as I recall) and using the keyboard to manipulate samples in Live, while Ami tried to get the acoustic bowls up around our volume levels. Occasionally Steve leaned over and informed me of a key change, so I'd adjust. I was glad that I'd mapped the continuous control foot pedal to the feedback on Looplex, so I was easily able to turn things down from time to time, to adapt to key changes or instructions that I had too hot of a level. In a half hour we were done, so we quickly broke down our stuff while one of the other performers covered the time with some jokes, including observing that it was unusual to hear a ukulele sounding like, well, the way I play it.

After packing up and moving the gear out front to the bar area, Steve and Ami and I hung out for a while, talking about various things--music, mutual acquaintances, personal history, etc. We were joined by Annette, a painter and the person who'd asked me about the Ebow. Turns out she's quite conversant with avant garde guitar, a fan of Robert Fripp (an influence on me, to be sure), a guitar player herself (classical), and likes to paint to the kind of music we were doing. She said she quite liked the set, and bought a Guitar Clouds disc, which I hope she enjoys.

I hung out with Steve and Ami a bit more, decompressing from the day, and also checking out songs by Heather Kropf, whose songs, piano playing, and voice were all impressive indeed--in fact, over two weeks later, the one song's still in my head. Keep an eye out for her. I also got a chance to hear one of Robert Wagner's classic songs from the prime Pittsburgh punk days as well. In all, a rather full evening, a good chance to hang out, a decent set, and a new listener. Things are good.

05/01/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Whole Health Expo

Considering how well yesterday's shows went, I'm doing another set sometime Sunday afternoon, and probably another collaborative set with Life In Balance. I'll probably be playing at 1 or so, with the collaborative improv at 2 or 3. If you're planning on coming to the Expo, drop by on your way to the hyperbaric chamber or a workshop or something. (No, I've not tried the hyperbaric chamber, although some people have mentioned they were trying it. As for me, I need less pressure on me, not more. I need to get into the vacuum chamber or something.)

It'll be an echoey set of guitar and percussion samples, plenty of looping, and probably some backwards stuff. Who can resist backwards audio? Not me, that's for sure.

The Pittsburgh Expomart, 105 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA. Just off Rt. 22. More info, including downloadable PDF Guide and Speaking Schedule can be found here: http://www.wholehealthexpo.com/

Something of a letdown from yesterday. I was fighting a cold, but revived enough to show up. I stopped for some espresso to take in with me, and realized that the Expo Mart is designed in such a way as to prevent convenient traffic flow for this purpose. I ended up leaving the mall complex and coming back in from the other direction, but I was in the house before 12:30.

Steve and Ami were already playing, so I thought I'd set up as quietly as possible. While I was laying out the gear, one older gentleman approached and asked, "What's the point of all this?" He seemed to indicate the music. "Are they selling tapes or what?" So I directed him to the merch table and sold him one of the Life In Balance CDs. He said a few disparaging comments about the people playing yesterday (um, that'd be us, Pops), but I figured what the hell, it was nice closing a sale for them. He was followed in quick succession by a few women who were interested in what Steve and Ami were playing, so I sold two more by the time they were done at 12:45.

Apparently, that level of positive interest was unusual for today. They'd been approached several times by pushy, aggressive people complaining about the volume level, even though what they were doing was actually very gentle. I wasn't selling anything, so I did a set from 1 to 1:30, which was very consonant and probably ok, but not memorable at the moment. If anything, it was raw material for something else. I did a bit more live looping, and if nothing else, all these sets in a row are helping me learn to navigate the pedalboard I've set up. With the volume this low, though, it's hard to tell what's actually happening with the sound at times.

During a break, I sold another copy of the set from yesterday, and then spent a lot of energy on some potential customers who ultimately bought nothing. Steve started playing some solo keyboard and flute, so I went over and joined in on processed uke, a combination that ended up being very nice. Again the volume was so low that it was hard to figure out exactly what effect the processing was having, but at least I could hear the uke acoustically. I recorded my side of the improv, but Steve's copy of Live crashed after 20 minutes or so, as it tends to do when global recording is enabled. Still, a very nice mix.

After this, we hung out at the merch table, and Steve and Ami made a few more sales. We got a complaint from one woman who had wanted to see us play at 3, when here we'd just ended. Uh, you did hear us, if you were around anywhere. But she was upset that we didn't stick to the schedule, and instead gave Steve and Ami an hour of downtime before their workshop. One woman came up, started asking questions, and grabbed the quartz crystal bowl on the table a couple times, which is rather troubling--people don't always know what these cost (a lot), and often don't know how to handle them. While this woman seemed reluctant to buy any of the Life In Balance CDs, asking if we had a tape she could hear to preview their work, it turned out that my $5 price point was more attractive to her, and at Ami's suggestion, she bought my Circuits of Steel tour CD (with the sets from Chicago, St. Louis, and Muncie). It was quite interesting to watch this all unfold.

While Steve and Ami did the workshop, I hung out with the merch and the gear, and not much happened apart from my taking the chance to pack up, although the woman who complained about scheduling came back to make the same complaint again, and another woman's pre-toddler launched a quartz crystal at one of the Life In Balance CDs, cracking the jewel case and causing a de facto sale. Steve and Ami finished up the workshop and started packing up their gear, and shortly after that I was on the way home.

Overall, a down day from the first one, but still, a chance to sell a couple discs, hang out, and get more comfortable using the MIDI pedal board.

04/30/2005 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Whole Health Expo

At the invitation of Life In Balance, I'll be doing two afternoon shows at the Whole Health Expo on Saturday, April 30.

I'll be doing mainly ambient looping, a bit of sampled dumbek percussion, and may just haul out some of the things I've been recording recently. I'm playing on the main stage in the exhibit hall, at 12 and 4 PM (assuming they let me go on again after the first set) on Saturday, but be sure to catch the other acts as well, particularly Life In Balance. Considering the ethos of the Expo, I'd bet that my darker stuff is out, though I'm still toying with the idea of an Earth-inspired fuzz drone piece. I'll also be busting out some new merch. I'm performing under my own name, as unfortunately realized last night that I could have billed myself as Funk Shui. Ah, well. Should be fun.

Admission: $12 for one day, or $20 for both Saturday and Sunday. For that admission fee you get to wander the booths, see other performers, and check out workshops by Life In Balance (Sound Healing Meditation) and painter Jill Palermo (discussing her Cellular Portraiture, which is well worth checking out). There are also other workshops on topics such as eating healthily, crisis management, weight loss, reiki, and various other healthy/self-help/spiritual/etc. kinds of things.

Other performers:

Life In Balance: crystal bowl and shakuhachi trance-masters continue to expand their sonic palette. Shows at 11AM, 2PM Saturday (with a workshop at 12PM), and shows at 12, 3, and 5 Sunday.
Faith Stenning: Celtic harp and voice lesson, 1PM Saturday.
Sonador Yoga: 3PM Saturday

That's all at the Pittsburgh Expomart, 105 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA. Just off Rt. 22. More info, including downloadable PDF Guide and Speaking Schedule can be found here: http://www.wholehealthexpo.com/

Well this was quite a surprise. Heading into this, I'd figured that this wasn't really my audience, and I'd assumed that there would be friction, considering some of the other shows I've played which weren't to an experimental/noise/improv crowd. Sure, this was an expo, and people were wandering around rather than sitting and listening (generally speaking); sure, I probably wasn't what most of the attendees listen to normally; sure, I had one less-than-focused set in the afternoon; and sure, we got several requests to turn down. But. I got some very enthusiastic responses from people, and sold more CDRs than I've probably sold at any one show. In short: quite a morale booster.

Several life factors combined in a way that I didn't devote the kind of preparation time I'd wanted to, but I did get a chance to burn a number of Guitar Clouds and Death Pig (retitled "Life Pig" for the occasion) CDRs, as well as some UCoCo and a new set of speech sample poems, which will appear on onezero music fairly soon. I headed out around 10 AM, and found Steve and Ami from Life In Balance already set up (they'd done so the previous night) and laying down some sounds. I set up next to them, and spent some time tuning (while I wore headphones--no audience-audible tuning) while they played to a smattering of people. It was shaping up to be a bit of a drag, it seemed, with bad weather, sparse attendance, and a general lack of interest. I helped them move some stuff down to their Sound Healing workshop room down at the other end of the exhibition space, and then hightailed it back to finish my preparation and begin playing at noon.

I'd modified my most recent Ableton Live template to give me a number of options for performing, including some soloing, some looping, possibly some guitar clouds, and co-opting the "Scimitar Dance" percussion I'd arranged last year. I started my noon set with volume swells, laid in the ring modulator, but it wasn't really cloudlike, and the ring mods and the multiple looplex plugins vastly increased my processor use, which was potentially dangerous.

I also threw in some simulated tape delay and some stutter, which I liked quite a bit for breaking up the drone. I stuck with the pseudo-clouds for too long (in retrospect), about 10 minutes. I may just throw in the towel on these, unless I get the Pure Data/Jack combo up with this concept. As it is, the clouds aren't happening in Live, and I need to accept that. At about 16 minutes into my set, though, things began to get interesting--I brought in the "Scimitar" percussion, stuttered it, grabbed bits, ran them backwards, half-speed, etc., while recorded a few volume swell loops, did similar manipulations on them, and soloed over the top (a lot of high E on this). For the next half hour or so, I did a respectable job of mining this vein (though I probably could have switched things up more than I did). At one point one vendor came over to tell me to turn down, as someone was Reading not far from me. Well, reading is fundamental, so I turned down.

After I'd been playing about a half hour, a woman approached with some questions about the music, which she found to be very calming and conducive to meditation. Since I had loops going, I set the guitar down and talked with her for a few moments. She was interested in what I was doing right then, and wanted to know what discs I was selling that were similar. Rather than steering her to something convenient for me (and most likely not what she really wanted), I told her to check back with me in a half hour or 45 minutes or so, and I'd sell her a disc of the very set she was listening to at the time. I'd set up global record in Live, which would let me easily reproduce everything I was doing, and I could render this out and burn her a CD of the set she was hearing at that moment. Slick, but not unique--in fact, the Residents were doing much the same in the early 90, being able to sell at intermission a few cassettes of the first set on the King and Eye tour. I'd not be able to make cover art for this before giving the CDs out, but I'll work something out to get art to those who have emailed me.

I finished the set to little attention, although Ami came up and said she really liked it, being able to hear it in the workshop room. (I guess the sound did indeed carry.) I started the rendering process, exporting what I'd played and my effects settings (and changes) to two-track audio, meanwhile having to clear the stage for the harpist, her vocalist, and her roadie. There was rather a lot of gear onstage (I'd thought it would just be harp), so I really had to clear it. I managed to do this, though, and loaned them a much-needed 1/4" cable. At this point I went in search of some water, and learned that one vendor was supposedly giving it away. It turned out that he had a few little sample cups of water in front of him, and several cases of his bottled water behind his table. No, he wasn't giving out bottles of water, so I thought I'd ask him what I'd need to do if I wanted to buy his water. He said I could go to the grocery store. This was strange--here I was offering to buy his product, and he turned me down. So I said that this didn't do me any good, since I was thirsty now, and went out to a convention-center-owned concession, buying bottled water for $2.50. Water was followed by a Clif bar for lunch, and just hanging out at the CD table, occasionally checking on the export or the burn. Eventually I had the CDR burnt, and tracked down my interested customer, poised to enter the hyperbaric chamber. Cool--first sale.

The rest of the day I hung by the table, surprisingly often talking people into buying one or more of the discs. I'd tried to steer them away from the more dissonant stuff, although a few felt drawn to it. (I hope they're not disappointed, but I suspect they will be on some level.) The Guitar Clouds were a top seller, but there was a lot of interest in the 12:00 performance. When Life In Balance went on again, I manned the merch and sold several of their discs and a number of mine. Cool. I spent some time reconnecting with a friend by cell, and also preparing a new setup for my upcoming set. During this process, I encountered several interested parties, including one woman who bought a whole array of discs, including the 12:00 set, speech sample stuff, Life Pig, and UCoCo. Awesome! Quite flattering.

My next set was at 4, following a yoga demonstration, and I'd planned on doing some Clouds, as well as more keyboard and uke work. In the event, the clouds did not work at all in this manifestation, and I spent way too long in boring cloud drone mode. (Not all of my modulators or delays were functional, either, and I was sure I'd activated them all. Damn.) I did add a little keyboard here and there, but I didn't have the attention to invest in making it work. Fortunately, Steve played some flute over top at times, giving people something to focus on, but I really fumbled that set. Another distraction was that in doing my many volume swells, I finally exceeded the lifetime duty cycle of the volume potentiometer of my rhythm pickup in the Kalamazoo. I've already replaced the bridge volume control (at which time I bought several potentiometers) so I have the parts lying around, but it's a drag with this guitar, since I have to take off the bridge to take off the pickguard, and then I'll have to start over again with setting the intonation. Discovering that I'll have to do this brought a kind of negativity to the set. One redeeming feature was that toward the end I started playing uke, and the layered-up echoing ukes were both beautiful and haunting. There really is something about that instrument.

Following this, I sold only one CDR to a friend of Steve's and Ami's, which was a nice redeeming of my second-set screwup. We also decided to do one collaborative jam, which was nice except for having some difficulties in self-monitoring due to my volume being turned down, probably Steve hearing uke feedback and minimizing it. Still, we did the group improv until Steve's implemenation of Live crashed, as it tends to do when he maxes it out. Not bad.

A bit more hangout and schmooze time, and it was 7--time to pack it in (hey! an early show!). Considering the response, I'm headed back tomorrow. Pretty neat. And I've already seen positive email comments, too.

01/19/2005 Maurice Rickard: live on WRCT

Late notice, sure, but it's not like I'm asking you to go anywhere--just turn on your radio. I'm joining Mr. and Mr$ Funky and Marty (and a slate of other deep thinkers such as The Tortured Genius, The Dirty Poet, and Heather Mull) live in the studio of WRCT, 88.3 on your FM dial.

The theme? It's The Chronic Show, during which we'll tell you Everything You Need to Know about Everything--how to play guitar, cure a hangover, exert your genius upon the world--you know, that kind of thing. I'll be doing a new speech sample poem which is taking shape THIS VERY INSTANT. You can't afford to miss it, because hey, it's free.

WRCT, 88.3 FM, 9PM, TONIGHT. Free, unless someone's making you pay to use your radio.

After the energy I'd expended on Tell Ya One Thing, I was reluctant to do another speech sample poem, but Mr. Funky asked me to, so after a month or so of thinking about it in the back of my mind, I went ahead and got started, giving me about a week and a half to do it, along with other stuff I was working on. As often happens, when a project's completely formless, it's hard to make those first decisions and get started, and sometimes only a looming deadline forces to choose initial options from what could be infinite possibilities. The first decisions affect everything that come after, so the stakes are high, but at the same time it almost doesn't matter what your initial choices are, as long as you make them, so from that point of view the stakes are low.

One of the things I'd been dreading was the long editing process I'd gone through with Tell Ya One Thing, which took three days to assemble. I also hadn't gone through all my raw material in a while--and I needed some new material, too--and picking out the promising snippets is a long, time-consuming process, as well. Rather than hanging out listening for W's latest speech, I went to the Prelinger Archive for source material, downloading various promising films, watching them, making cue sheets for good material, stripping the audio out of the films, converting it to .aiff, and cutting the snippets out.

Then it was time for the editing, which I was doing in Ableton Live this time. In my Arrangement View experience with Live, I wouldn't have the four different editing modes one has with PT--shuffle being the key mode for something like this, as it lets one move samples in between other samples, and the program takes care of butting their ends together precisely. A little experimentation, however, revealed that I could work in Session View, stacking the samples up, and then when finished drop them over in Arrangement View, where they'd be laid end to end with no gaps. Perfect.

Going into Wednesday, I had about a minute done with a bunch of orphan samples left over, and had blocked out half a day to finish arranging them. What surprised me was how easy this actually was in Live--with just a half day left before the show, I ended up with a total of six strong minutes of material, a much, much higher rate of productivity than I had with PT. Awesome.

I loaded up (PowerBook, preamp, uke) and drove to the studio, parking maybe a five-minute walk away. I stopped at the University Center information desk to ask how to get downstairs; the guy on duty said, "Any way you want," to which I asked, "How about the nearest staircase?" Then I got some information out of him. Mr. & Mr$ Funky drummer Marty was already in the house, and we were just awaiting the rest of the crew. The Funkies arrived next, and we got set up quickly--we were doing a live on-air event which couldn't wait for us, so we had to hurry. Generally setup was straightforward, although I had some issues with the monitoring. We used headphones, but we didn't have individual cue mixes. The headphones were of all different impedences, so we had to swap around to find the best headphones for us. (I ended up with a loud pair, and chose to wear hearing protectors under the phones.) Heather Mull arrived, but opted not to wear headphones, as she was going to read from her old 'zine Pawholes.

There was a script for the whole show--Mr. Funky set the running order, with the songs and guests setting up a kind of dialectic. We did the soundcheck, put notes on our set lists, and off we went. For most of the set, I just sat and checked out Mr. & Mr$ Funky's high energy existentialist rock and The Tortured Genius's job-negotiating tips for women and the rest of us. Heather's first reading on the etymology of certain terms was on the edge of radio unfriendliness, and the DJs put her on a 7-second delay. I let rip with "You Must Be Completely Satisfied," the new plunderphonic poem. With the headphone-only monitoring, Heather (who had none) had no idea what was going on, and Mr. Funky missed the first part. But I knew I had a hit as Mr$ Funky kept stifling laughter, and the DJs held up a sign to ask me if a lot of the samples related to bowling, which they did.

Some further Funky tunes, another brief sample I'd prepared on the evening's topic, more from the Tortured Genius, another round from Heather, and some poems by the Dirty Poet, and it was time for the last Funky song, "Joke," to which I would contribute processed ukulele. I went with a delay, a Leslie simulator, and the buffer override for quite the psychedelic experience. Rob said he quite liked it. And we were done, choosing to repair to Kelly's for the remainder of the evening, where I had a couple beers, a bit of bar food, and kept the hearing protectors in. A fun time was had by all, and we got a board CDR recording of the set.

10/02/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at Kiva Han

Mr. & Mr$ Funky have been doing a series of shows with psychoactive chemicals as the conceptual theme--they're not offered or consumed at the show, but the shows do simulate their effect. They've had the Psilocybin show, the Methamphetamine show, and now, on October 2, it'll be the Quaalude show.

Mr & Mr$ Funky and Marty   will     bring       the         (slow)           rock,             the Tortured Genius will perform another searing, fourth-wall-breaking monologue, and I'll be supplying some guitar-through-the-PowerBook likely to function as a CNS depressant. It'll be so relaxing, the only place to have it is a coffee shop. So come on down.

Saturday, October 2, 9PM. All ages, free. Who needs controlled substances when you can have...the Quaalude show?

Kiva Han, Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

This was a fun one, actually, even with a few miscues on my part, and apparently some dashed expectations from segments of the audience. Busy day, though--things were stacking up socially, with dinner with out of down friends the night before, lunch and wandering around with them afterwards, the show in the evening, a friend's wedding shower (Patricia attended; I sent my regrets), and a dinner/hang out offer from another friend. We'd been on the go all day, essentially, and when I got down to Kiva Han, I was surprised that I had any focus at all. Curiously, I was the first performer in the house, and was pleased to see Jim Brenholts from the electronic music community. He'd been talking about wanting to see me live, and finally had a chance.

Marty came by with the drums, and we'd figured out a setup, along with how to accommodate Kiva Han's troubled PA. Mr. & Mr$ Funky arrived, and we gradually got the gear together. Jim was eager to hear the uke through the PowerBook, and it's always a wonderful thing to hear, but it wouldn't be coming until later in the set. At one point I did see my friend Dan had come in, which was another good vibe. For the bulk of the set, the Funkies would be playing many of their own songs, and a few covers...veryyyy slooooowwwwllyyy.... And it was, in fact, hilarious, particularly on the groovy "Funky Ninja" (to which Jim contributed gong). Drummer Marty and I would look at each other from time to time and laugh--apparently he'd never had a chance to concentrate on the lyrics before, and derived new joy from them.

There was a break for The Tortured Genius, as Jacque continued her investigation into the nature of genius, and whether or not it is necessary to be "tortured" to be a genius (whatever that is). Deeply thought-provoking and engaging as always. During the Funkies' sets and the Tortured Genius performance, I was just sitting back there with the band and watching the proceedings. Sadly, perhaps because the show was running a bit late, or perhaps because the show was more rock than electronic, Jim had to cut out before my spot with the uke. Well, next time. It was, in fact, rather unfortunate, because we came to the uke section right after he left--a dozy, creepy version of Jandek's classic "Message to the Clerk." I had the uke going through multiple ring mods and short delays on one channel, and Rob's vocals going through them on the other, occasionally turning the mic pre up and down to let it ride on the edge of feedback through both the mic and the uke. Very creepy and hilarious.

After this, I had my solo spot, for which I did perhaps the purest version of "Tone Beating" yet--I used only guitar, grabbed loops in the Line 6, sampled them in Live, and pitch shifted them there for maximum control over the beats. There were some interesting interference patterns there, although I wasn't happy with the discrete pitch jumps in the pitch control, and I mistakenly shut off recording for half a minute--long enough for the piece to change so that I can't do a clean cut. Still, it had a meditative, yet somewhat assaultive effect.

I followed that up with a guitar cloud, which was a bit of a challenge for me in that I now had the Kalamazoo in Glenn Branca's tenor octave unison tuning. Despite my disorientation, I had some textures that were nice, making some use of the dramatic flourishes possible in this tuning, and the audience seemed to dig it. I'm wondering if maybe this should see release sometime.

Afterwards, I chatted a bit with A. Vish, ex-lowsunday and Hedwig and the Angry Inch drummer, who'd dropped by to get a vibe on what I'm doing. He's doing some interesting dark synthpop as Carol Blaze, which sounds a bit like Skip Spence fronting an electro band. Definitely worth a listen. And perhaps we'll work together in some capacity, but I get the sense that I'm likely more free-form than his work requires. (And I find myself wondering if perhaps my sites give people the impression that I'm a bigger deal than I really am.)

After packing up and loading out, Dan and I opted to hang out for a while to get caught up on conversation on what's been an eventful year for everybody. So, good, social vibes all around.

07/24/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Eye

Saturday, 7/24, at 7PM, the Eye on Penn Avenue in Garfield hosts Rare Electronics Night, consisting of live electronics--improv, IDM, noise, DJs, and more! I'll be bringing out some beat-oriented work, struggling to realize the Platonic ideal performance of the next piece in my election year series, and doing at least one guitar cloud. And maybe something else, too--who knows? Not me, yet, anyway. The rest of the lineup:

Syne.Lapse.Variate will rock the twitchy IDM, while Rowark and Shadowdancer bring their own particular approaches to MIDI box chaos and order. Manherringbone will either lull you with washes of tonal noise, or drill new holes in your eye sockets...and there's only one way to find out which it is! DJs Darkfader and Cutups will supply the turntablism, and there will be assorted madness between sets. (Although everyone will be set up in advance, so changeovers will be quick.)

Things start around 7 or 7:30 with Cutups, so I'm likely to go on somewhere between 8 and 9. The whole evening will run from 7 to 2, so stick around! It's all ages, and only 5! Measly! Dollars! See you there.

Saturday, July 24, 7PM. The Eye, 4814 Penn Avenue, Garfield. (A bit closer to town than the Garfield Artworks, and across the street.) All Ages.

A decent enough set with some good moments, but at the time I didn't think I was hitting the kind of level of concentration I'd like to hit. In a way, this was another set like the Garfield Artworks one--something's in transition, and I'm not going to be producing results I'm completely happy with until I'm through the change.

Chris (Shadow Dancer) set this one up, as a bit of a showcase with more performers. It promises to be a late one, but I wouldn't be able to stay the whole time, as Patricia's job this summer requires her to be in the house at 7 the next morning. (On a Sunday, no less.) For this reason also, I'd be going on early.

I'd found a parking place around the corner, but something right out front opened up, and I moved to snag that one, only to learn that those spaces weren't cool for the whole evening. Eventually, though, Chris would be heading out to get more people, so I'd be able to snag his spot.

The Eye itself is an interesting venue, essentially a large, open warehouse. Big stage, set way back, lots of tables, a private party area behind drywall, a curio/vintage clothing store, and a restaurant. Gradually our people started filtering in. Cutups got his turntables set up, and Rowark staked out a space for his MIDI box. I moved a desk behind Cutups and set up there--there was no real need for me to be at the front of the stage, and this made changeovers a lot easier. I soundchecked with a bit of the belly dance piece, and liked what I was playing, so I felt pretty good about this set.

Cutups started spinning, and the PA was quite beefy--lots of volume in that room. We didn't have much audience and the evening was quite young--lots of light outside, so I went out front for some air and conversation. Eventually, though, we had enough people, and Cutups had put in a full first set, so I took the plunge.

There were a number of people I'd not seen before, so I began with the poem. Unlike the Garfield Artworks show, however, the audience was a bit far away, and I couldn't hear much reaction. Possibly the details were being lost in the room, or the volume was too high. After that ended, I thought I'd get more beat-oriented, so I did the belly dance piece, which suffered from a lack of ideas in the solo, unfortunately. Apparently I'd lost touch with what I was doing in the soundcheck, and couldn't get back to that. Or I'd exhausted my store of ideas. Next up I went with the new W piece, and while at the time I let some segments go on way too long ("I went to the United Nations, and I told them...'I flew fighters. And I enjoyed it.'"), with some editing this performance isn't half bad. (So now you can check it out here.)

I opted to ratchet things down for the end of the set, and did two guitar clouds, the first another version of that dissonant B I've been doing, which did work rather well, particularly with the new percussion style I've been using. I'm getting better results with the delay modulation now that I'm more familiar with the G interface. The second piece was based on tritone relationships with a separate channel for clean soloing. The first time I did this second cloud (back in May), I thought I'd wandered a bit, but this one worked better, and the improv seemed to go somewhere. I closed with "Red Fiber," although it was hard to tell how it was received, with the audience so far away.

No CD sales, but I did hang out a bit out front and talked with Manherringbone while the other sets were going on. Some very nice performances from Syne Lapse and Rowark, and at that point I had to split. Overall, not a bad night.

06/24/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Garfield Artworks

Subject: Cheap, cheap, cheap Garfield Artworks show, Thursday 6/24!

In what's shaping up to be a busy performing season, I'll be playing a showcase on Thursday June 24 at the Garfield Artworks, a space I've long liked but not yet played. I'll be reprising the piece I just did for a belly dance, although I'll be making some additions to it. And I'll trot out some old favorites, as well as a guitar cloud or two. And probably a surprise of some kind to shake things up, because I'm just like that.

I'll be back on the bill with Manherringbone, who will either lay down some intriguing ambient textures, or take the top layer of enamel off your teeth. Which will it be? Only Bob knows for sure. Relative Q will be doing some downtempo IDM, and Shadowdancer will be letting us in on his experimental techno MIDI box magic. He's a good guy, too, and brought a lot of people into two Club Cafe shows last summer. So come on down and check it out.

Also, if you're going, email me--due to scheduling issues, I may need a ride to the venue. I'll get you in.

Thursday, June 24, 8 PM, all ages. The cost? One! Measly! Dollar! It's cheaper than staying at home! Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., in rapidly gentrifying Garfield, Pittsburgh.

This was another set I wasn't exactly happy with, but there were some nice aspects--an actual audience of some size (see the photo--quite a witty, urbane, and attractive group, no?), an overall pleasant evening, a CD sale(!), and continuing my recent practice of bringing guitar clouds back into the set. The negative aspects: less-than-ideal performance on the W piece, and an ill-considered decision to incorporate W samples into the belly dance piece. I also went on way too long with these.

Despite the fact that I was the first person to come in (not needing a ride to the venue, happily--our car scheduling worked out), the place started attracting a bit of a population, perhaps from the low ticket price, some promotion, and Manny's decision to have a book sale at the front. I was up first, which is fine by me. Since there were some new faces, I started with the poem, which tends to build some rapport through humor, although the humor isn't really sustained through the set. I next did the belly dance piece with the additional W samples, and I'm starting to admit that I'm just not connecting with a second W piece. I think I'm burnt out on this. Also, I let the rhythms go on a bit too long and ran out of soloing ideas. The speech samples here meant that I had way too much to do, with the playing, the choosing of the loop points, the samples, and nothing got the right amount of attention. The first W piece ("Bush League") is generally OK, and I get some traction there, but this piece was best when it was new. Y'know, yeah, he stumbles, he misspeaks, etc. and it's such an obvious point, it's made over and over again. Still, I did both W pieces, which is pretty much overload.

I followed this up with the tritone cloud in B, which seemed to open something up for a little while, and Music seemed to be happening here. Interestingly, the frequency and delay settings were very similar to "Cloud 1 (440)," which I'd never written down, so I now have a chance to notate that piece. I incorporated some guitar percussion and played with the delay modulation, which had some nice effects, and the piece was kind of promising in places, giving me hope for doing more of these. As a set-closer, I'd prepared some shills in the audience to call out "Freebird!" which was my signal to do "Red Fiber." It went over well, if possibly a bit shrill in this long, rectangular room. Some people seemed to have dug the set, notably Bob (Manherringbone), who expressed a liking for the clouds, which was once again reinforcing.

Relative Q were up next, and they did some nice work with guitar and bass, joined by drum tracks. Nice guys, too. Sometime during their set I answered some questions about the poem asked by one woman who had been doing some home recording of her own, but not yet taken it into performance; she actually bought the last copy of this run of the poem. It's all online now, if you want one.

Manherringbone came up next, and did a very nice set of processed microphone feedback, ranging from ambient to noise. The set had a good structure and shape to it, and it was a bit of a disappointment that he wasn't recording it. I would have put it out. Following Bob's set, Chris ("Shadow Dancer") did his friendly beats and textures with the MIDI box, and we were done. Bob had some car scheduling issues of his own, so I stepped in to help. We got a chance to talk music, sound, and improv for a bit before I dropped him off. Looks like we'll be on the same bill in a month at the Eye, just down the street.

06/19/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Schoolhouse Yoga, music for dance

Our neighbor is a belly dancer, and this Saturday we'll be doing a collaborative performance. She'll be dancing and I'll be providing the electronic ambient guitar-and-PowerBook soundtrack. This is likely to be just one 5-10 minute number out of the whole evening; the rest of the troupe will be doing dances of their own. There are many excellent performers in this group, and you should check 'em out.

Start time is 7PM, and the door cost is $5. A map to The Schoolhouse Yoga can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2suvz

Saturday, June 19, 7PM. $5. All ages.

The Schoolhouse Yoga, 41st and Foster, right near the 40th St. Bridge, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. (412) 401-4444.

Did my playing suck? I sure thought so, but the phono record proves otherwise.

I'd been working on percussion tracks for this show for a couple weeks. They were all based on traditional rhythms, which seemed like the right thing to do, but a couple days ago, I threw them all out--they just weren't happening, so I started over again with rhythms that sounded sort of exotic, but which were my own. Lots of dumbek samples (really, mostly the same one pitch-shifted and otherwise tortured), along with some bell percussion and a few breakbeat hits. Showtime had been getting close, so I burned some example tracks for Steffi. Turns out, a lot of what I was doing was too IDM and too complex to dance to; even though I could feel the pulse, it was too obscured for a non-IDM listener. So over several sessions I simplified it, although less than I thought I'd have to, as Steffi'd got more familiar with the piece. I'd also been practicing the Hijaz scale, the fifth mode of harmonic minor, for the guitar section.

We had a meeting about the piece, and based on this I changed part of my approach--I'd set up the rhythm track in Ableton Live's arraangement view, with the thought of quantizing at the bar level and switching between bars at will, but I found that a) this took away from my ability to concentrate on guitar, and b) made the piece way too long for such a strenuous dance. So instead, I set up a reasonable four-minute arrangement. This had the advantage of giving us some clear cues ahead of time, and giving me more head-space for playing.

A few hours later, it was time to head down, which we did together. Steffi did a demonstration of the sword balancing for our landlord Jim--quite impressive. We got down to the venue shortly after 6, and there were several dancers already in the house, figuring out running order, and other prep. I got set up; Steffi'd told me that they needed a mic, so I was prepared, but I'd have to change the wiring right before my set, and right afterwards, too.

While Patricia and I were waiting for the dances to start, my friend Dan came by, so I'd have even more support in the house. The dances were quite interesting, and the dancers came from a variety of demographics, making for a nice welcoming diversity. After seven dances, it was our turn to go up, and I quickly realized that I'd forgotten a couple steps in my rewiring tasks. So we lost a bit of momentum, and the interim seemed way too long, but I got it together.

I started the rhythm, faded in the chords, to be looped, and started playing up the Hijaz scale I'd been working on...only to realize that I had, in fact, started playing the Aeolian mode for the first three notes. Um, great. Rather than start over, though, I kept going and played the Hijaz scale immediately after that. And...it worked! I completed the loop and switched over to the lead channel for some soloing, and I reversed the background loop. While I was doing all this, Steffi was dancing with her sword, and balancing it on her head. The one mistake I made in setting up was facing the audience, and so I couldn't watch the dance easily without turning. It would have been better if I'd set up to face the dance space, so all I'd have to do to watch and respond directly to the dance would be to look up. Next time.

I felt that I'd hit a few clams here and there, but overall the four minutes went well. I did, however, see Steffi do her dramatic drop with the sword still balanced. At the time, I was less than happy with my part of the performance, with the clams and with the wrong scale at the beginning, but listening back to it later, it wasn't bad at all. (In fact, there's quite a bit to like about it, and I've been listening to it a lot, so it's up now at onezero music.)

We hung out for the other dances, including a large group dance which Steffi was part of, and we encountered some old acquaintences in the audience. The evening was over quite early, and with all this time ahead of us, we all repaired back to the house for cocktails and hors d'ouvres on the deck. A very nice evening, some great dancing, and a performance that surprised me.

05/15/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at the Schoolhouse Yoga

On Saturday, May 15, I'm headed back to this amazing room (an enormous third-floor elementary school gymnasium) for a solo show. Because of the room's great echo, I'm going to be concentrating on ambient stuff, but don't be surprised to hear my recent remix activity come out (Such as my "Freebird" remix or my Bowie remix) should I be in the mood.

This is part of the Live@ Series (http://www.pghevents.com/) at The Schoolhouse Yoga (http://www.schoolhouseyoga.com/) in Lawrenceville. (A correct map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2suvz) The idea behind these is to have early, all-ages, alcohol- and smoke-free performances in nontraditional spaces. The early requirement means that I'll be starting at 7PM sharp, and the whole thing will be over by 8PM. And yet...the promoter thinks people will pay $10 to see me play for an hour. As this seems unlikely, I've attached a coupon good for $5 off admission! Just print it out and bring it to the gig, so they'll know you're down with my sound. (If you don't see the attachment, get it from http://mauricerickard.com/mr_51504_coupon.pdf)

That's Saturday, May 15, 7PM sharp. All ages. The Schoolhouse Yoga, 41st and Foster, right near the 40th St. Bridge, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. (412) 401-4444.

Back to my old pattern of being disappointed with my playing while it was happening, only to realize later that the set wasn't half bad. The audience was small, and entirely made up of my partisans (Steve Pellegrino and family, and Ryan Sigesmund), but on the other hand the audience was quintupled from the last time we all played here, and I did get to experience this room again. I'd spent much of the day preparing G for the full-scale return of Guitar Clouds (I'd done a couple of them the last time out with Unfinished Symphonies, but this was the first time since losing the use of the software that got me through 2003 (Girl; I'm using its successor G now, in addition to Ableton) that I'd be constructing most of a set around them. The prep was promising--some actual Music was occurring. I didn't want to play myself out, but I thought that I kept it balanced between getting prepared and exhausting my ideas. How should I pace the thing? How long should pieces be? Would I be finished by 7:20 without any additional material? Would I run long? All concerns.

I had to pick up an amp from Steve to give me stereo output, so I left early, got the amp, and was in the house by 6:20 for the 7:00 start time. Turns out that they do have a PA down there, but it's not set up, and there's no explicit permission from the Schoolhouse Yoga to use it, so I stayed with the amps. Setup was easy, though, and then all I had to do was wait for the audience. Steve and family turned up right before 7, which meant that I could start on time.

I'd been debating what running order to have, since it's been quite a while since I'd done a set of Guitar Clouds. In the event, I started with a G setup in A, at 60 bpm. I used to use the easy auto-pan with Girl, and the auto-pan with G is a bit different, so I manually panned each channel. One problem presented itself right away--the cloud built up fairly quickly, and it was difficult for me to hear any space or definition in what I was doing. It seemed like pure texture. Some of thie problem was how I'd positioned myself, to the side of the amps. Out in the room, though, apparently it sounded better. Listening back to the recording now, there's a nice Eastern sitar-like quality to the guitar on this one. I relied a fair amount on plucked notes, which do offer a kind of landmark for listeners, and an interesting part came a few minutes in when I did some volume swells with downward glisses.

There's been a sameyness to some of the clouds, though, so I'm going to need to spend more prep time working out a good combination of delay times. At some point during this piece, Ryan walked in, which was a nice addition to the audience, so I thought I'd acknowledge him by dropping in some percussion. This worked all right in the beginning, with slowed-down bass hits that really spread throughout the space, along with some spidery guitar percussion. I might have made a wrong decision with the percussion in adjusting the speed to set up a backwards groove to play over, although on listening to it I can say it kind of works. I popped the granulation in and out on the backwards drumming to aleviate the tedium, which it did, a bit, although I think overall I let this section go on too long, and I definitely made a misstep with a piercing looped slice of percussion that I pitch changed in two separate glisses. And yet...there's something mysterious about this piece that makes me inclined to listen again.

The next cloud presented another problem--I'd saved this set as a variation of the first one, and it turned out that it wanted to launch with the percussion playing. Oops. This was another one in A, but with a different tuning--based on a tritone--and so it was significantly darker at the beginning than the first one. It seemed kind of shapeless, though, so I dropped in more granulated percussion, but soon gave that up. I had set this one up with an additional channel for straight playing--not into the cloud--with a bit of a wobbly delay on it, for that Frisell-like thing I've been getting into lately. I failed to consolidate this at all, though, probably because the cloud was fading, and the piece lost shape again until I re-built the cloud and "soloed" over it again, though I again lost the thread into some scratchy guitar sound that now sounds like a broken connection, but I recall doing something deliberate to get this. I brought in some Ebow guitar toward the end of this, and I think that used correctly it (and the other things I tried) could have saved this piece, but it's still about as tedious as I feared at the time. So, another one to work on.

The next piece was another dark piece in B, at 70 bpm, and it (once again, sadly) began with a percussion misfire. There's that scratchiness again, which might be grounding issues or something from touching the strings and letting go. I really don't remember where it came from. I covered it with some guitar percussion and an ominous low E buzz. A few short pick drags added a tribal-percussion vibe to this one that actually worked, which gave way to some intentional 60-cycle hum, and more pick drags, string percussion, and one nice sound I was getting by mashing the low E and A down onto the pickups. I brought some low drones in over this, which gave way to another ominous buzz and more percussion. I finally broke it up a bit by bringing in some delay modulation, adding another post-human insect culture kind of vibe, before letting it all fade. It's a pretty simple piece, but it has some promise. I'll have to bring this into another performance.

For the next couple of pieces, I switched over to Ableton Live--first up was that second election-year piece I still haven't gotten a handle on, although this one was somewhat more promising of a performance, and I wish I'd captured it right to disk. (The room was so live that the speech ends up kind of mushy on the room recording.) The fragmented percussion worked, and I dropped in some harsh, distorted guitar at the right moments. Damn, I'm going to have to give this one another try.

As encores, I did "Red Fiber" and "Bring Me the Lion" the new Bowie remix I'd been working on. My audience seemed to dig it, although admittedly they're all biased. Still, it was enjoyable, and I made a few bucks. (Curiously, the promoter mentioned that I'd have gotten more if I hadn't used a coupon...but I think without the coupon, I wouldn't have had an audience.

So, from a delayed point of view, a pretty good evening, and afterwards (after dropping off Steve's amp and my gear) I joined Patricia and Ryan for a soireé at the Funkies', where a good and avant-garde time was had by all.

04/16/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at Kiva Han

This is an interesting one--my man Unfinished Symphonies/Mr. Funky has set up an evening of collaboration. The evening will begin with some solo Unfinished Symphonies on the phony organ, and then I'll join in on uke and PowerBook. The Tortured Genius (who might bear a resemblance to another member of Mr. & Mr$ Funky) will supply a baffling, enlightening piece of performance art, and I'll do a short set of guitar clouds to round the evening out, and celebrate the new incarnation of Peter Nyboer's performance software, now called G. And there may be an encore. (If you've been following my recent musical activities, you know which one it is.) So come on out, drink some coffee, and observe...a new chapter in Pittsburgh's cultural life.

That's this Friday, 8PM, at the Forbes & Craig Kiva Han. While there's no cover charge, we will pass a hat, or a bucket, or the desiccated husks of our souls. So throw a buck or two into the void. See you there.

An interesting evening! I'd had a couple rehearsals with Unfinished Symphonies, to prepare for my uke additions to his work--the songs are always fun to play, and I'm not sure where he gets them all from--he writes a lot of songs, and I should probably release a bunch of them (it's something we've talked about). One of the tunes would have feedbacky gong uke processed in G, and the rest would be processed by various VSTs in Live--mostly two different flavors of distortion, some simulated tape delay, some ring modulation, and even some simulated Leslie speaker. (Behold the power of free VSTs.)

We had some soundcheck issues with the noisy Kiva Han head, but we figured out its secrets enough to begin--you have to start with the graphic EQ flat, and then cut a couple channels a few db to get the optimally minimal hum, and you have to avoid one of the channels, which is broken. We did the tunes, and it worked well, although the straightest of the tunes from the rehearsal (a fun one to play) was struck from the set. At one point, I looked up and saw that Ryan and Amadeo had stopped in to check out the show, which was nice--we weren't dependent on the couple of hapless patrons we'd trapped. Good tunes from Rob, though, and his rousing nihilist anthem "Live Music Is Dead" is a lot of fun. Generally I was just providing texture, although at times I was out of ideas, and went for uke feedback and the Hendrix eat-the-uke playing with my teeth. One of these is enough, probably, and I should have saved it for later in the set, but what the hell.

Our set over, the Tortured Genius told a fascinatingly raw autobiographical story about, well, being a genuinely misunderstood and underestimated genius while at the same time cutting a watermelon into a basket shape. Striking and moving, with some strong resonances. I'm eager to check out her other performances, too.

My solo set was up next. Matt Yaich and a friend came in, but left shortly after I started, perhaps on the assumption I'd be playing for a long time (I wouldn't). This marked the return of Guitar Clouds in a live setting, so there were some snags. I'd spent a portion of the afternoon working up a G set with presets for all the different frequency relationships I'd wanted to use, only to find right before I left for the show that G had amnesia about the presets. Yikes. I'd been testing these clouds and tweaking them to come up with interesting options, only to find them gone. So I slapped a couple together quickly, and hoped for the best. The first cloud, based on A, was unfocused and not terribly interesting, but the second one really latched for me, particularly with the guitar percussion I build up, with some higher-fret work over the top. Mr. Funky agreed, as well. Sadly, for whatever reason I didn't successfully record this part of the set to MiniDisc, but it was good to know that I could get something happening with G.

Ryan had brought his new Nikon D70, and took a lot of photos. One of me was conceptually interesting, though not flattering, sadly. It would have been nice to do a post-show hangout, but I needed to be up early the next morning, for a trip to Nashville--I'm having all my hits rerecorded by Nashville session musicians! Actually, it's a family thing, but I find the session musicians explanation amusing, and have been using it whenever possible.

Next show coming up in May!

03/29/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live, SubLab at the Lava Lounge

Yet another show (#61) is coming up, courtesy of my man DJ Translator (and Blackfish keyboardist) Greg Galbreth. He's launching the new every-so-often performance series SubLab at the Lava Lounge, and the first night is Monday.

I'll be busting out a couple of the W-related pieces (including the "Bush League" single, available at onezero music), celebrating the return of parallel ring modulation with some ambient droning Guitar Clouds, and just possibly entertaining a request. If you make the right one. (You know what to do.)

We'll also have Greg's new project AlphaBeta (keyboards/turntable and percussionist Matt Montgomery), Yves Jean kicking it acoustic style, and Andrew Nease doing...something. Not sure what it is, but rumor has it that some aspect of it will be big by one or another metric.

I'm not sure what the door charge will be, if any, but things get rolling around 8:30-9:00 or so. Not sure of the running order, either, but I suspect I'll be first or second. So mark this date on your calendar with a Sharpie, glitter lipstick, or Dave's Insanity sauce. See you there.

2204 East Carson Street, South Side. (Just hang a right off the Birmingham Bridge, and look across the street.) 412-431-5282. 21+. 8:30 PM, Monday March 29.

An interesting night in several ways, although I wasn't satisfied with my performance. I got in the house around the same time as the other musicians, but before the sound guy, so I tried to figure something out. Turns out, the subwoofer I'd put my stuff on would be needed, so we set up a couple monitors that wouldn't be used. Gradually some audience filtered in, friends of Yves Jean and Greg, largely, one of whom happened to be an entertainment lawyer, so we had an interesting talk about some of the issues presented by my intended set-closer. I kept an eye out for a friend who was in from out of town. Yves had to get going fairly early, so it was agreed that he'd go first and I'd follow, which was fine by me, as I'd wanted my friend to see the set.

Yves's bag is very radio-friendly singer-songwriter jam-band stuff, and apparently he does a fair amount of touring behind it. I could tell that the audience was significantly composed of fans and friends from the claps of recognition that greeted many of the songs. Toward the end of his set I wandered out to the front of the bar, and there was Rick G, fresh up from the hotel with a work friend in tow, right on time! Excellent!

I began my set with the poem, as I've tended to do with audiences unfamiliar with my stuff. I saw a few people out there laughing, although it wasn't quite the response I usually get. With Yves having left, it seemed that many of his friends weren't into sticking around either. I launched into a somewhat challenged version of "Bush League," in which I was running a few too many VSTs and slowed the Ableton Live interface to a crawl--the processor use percentage was definitely higher than I'd ever seen it before. I also spent a fair amount of time struggling with coming up with interesting guitar lines while varying the samples, and swimming upstream through the molasses interface. In any case, this took another dent out of the population of the bar. Maybe these folks were crypto-administrationists or something. If so, I figured I might as well push it, and did the second W piece I haven't yet performed to a releasable standard. I wasn't fully happy with this one either, although I wasn't helped by the monitoring situation, which...wasn't--I was listening to the echo off the room. I'd thought of doing a guitar cloud for this one, experimenting with G, the successor to the late, lamented Girl program I'd been using, but Greg told me we were running late due to a late start time, and so I thought I'd wrap it up with "Red Fiber".

I introduced it by asking if anyone had any requests, hoping that some indie smartass would say the inevitable. This not being my audience, however, I was glad I'd briefed Rick on this ahead of time, asking him if he'd mind shouting it out for me if no one else did. As there weren't enough indie smartasses in the house, he did in fact have to make the request. So I played it, but it was difficult getting the right timing for the scene changes, with my having to monitor through room reflections. And I was done. There was a smattering of applause, and I hung out with Rick for a while to talk, although he and his co-worker had to head back to the hotel.

Greg's new project with the percussionist was up next, and they were quite good. As ever with Greg's stuff, one feels wittier, more urbane, and more sophisticated when listening to it. Check him out as either DJ Translator or with the percussionist as Alpha Beta. During the set, I was talking with Greg and Sarah's friend the entertainment lawyer, who assured me that I was within my free speech rights with Red Fiber, but woe betide me if I try to make any money off it. A point to remember.

Andrew Nease's set came late, but I was happy to hang out for it. He was doing the acoustic singer/songwriter thing, but with a twist--the over-the-top quality of his songwriting and performance could be chalked up to intense emotion, and to an ironic parody of the same. He obviously knew he was flirting with excess, so one couldn't laugh at him, but he kept the irony from being a cheap laugh by having genuine emotion in the work. I found it quite interesting, uncomfortable, smart, and funny. I dug it. Well done.

And the evening ended, late. As I went around the corner to get the car, one gentleman urinating against a dumpster shouted out to me that he liked the set. Somehow this seems appropriate. When I got home, I decided to do a canonical version of "Red Fiber" which would benefit from good monitoring. And so it was complete.

02/23/2004 Maurice Rickard: The Dark Night Cabaret

Hot on the heels of Mr. & Mr$ Funky's The Last Supper at the 31st St. Pub last night (music and food provided by members of the Pgh. music community's hipoisie), I'm turning right around and doing another show on Monday, this time as part of the Dark Night Cabaret, which is held at the University of Pittsburgh's Studio Theatre (the one in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning).

I'm not sure who all's playing, or in what order, but I know I'll be continuing my election-year series with the recent single, a new political piece or two, and possibly hauling something or other out of the back catalog. Since my relatively cruelty-free testing on various audiences has shown them to respond best to the fractured IDM beats, expect some more of those. Dance to it, nod your head to it, twitch to it, whatever--it's your nervous system, so bring it on over.

8PM Monday February 23, Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning basement level. All ages. I dunno, isn't it like $5 or something? It's a whole evening of entertainment encompassing the whole range of human emotion--comedy, tragedy, drama, the whole bit. See you there.

Again, only at a significant remove am I getting a chance to write this up. I'm a slouch. In retrospect, this set of mine was marked by an unsettled and unfocused quality, the very first wave of an extremely nasty cold which would bring me down for the better part of a week and a half.

I knew I wouldn't be able to do guitar clouds for this one, so I spent some time preparing an expanded second W piece in Live, and some fallback pieces based on the ones I whipped up for the late January Kiva Han show. I also had a lot of paid development work to do, and tried to juggle all this, and my concentration during the set suffered. The beginning signs were during load-in, when I had trouble setting up--not because it was difficult, but because I wasn't sure exactly what sound reinforcement I'd be facing, and some critical parts of my attention were already distracted by the oncoming cold. I wasn't being as flexible or enthusiastic about meeting the uncertainties of the setup as I'd usually be. Still, we worked it out.

I was up first, and got good response from the poem (easy--there's not any variance as such in this, but I did screw up the initial triggering of the piece. "Bush League" was up next (listen to it at onezero music), which I did passably, but I wasn't pleased with how I kept up (or failed to keep up) the guitar end of things. The second, newer Bush piece didn't hold together for me. I liked some of the samples, as did some audients, but it didn't cohere. I was lacking the attention I'd need to bring it off. I shoehorned in an ill-advised piece involving speech samples from other people in the Administration, but by this time the point was beaten into a little greasy spot. As if that wasn't problematic enough, I also went for a kind of honors circle of ill-advisedness and did an Ableton Live version of "The Apparition," during which I tried to let it ring out, but hadn't disabled all the loops. Oops. We faded at the board.

The other acts--a video, a reading, a promising singer/songwriter in the country/folk space (also playing a Kalamazoo! His is acoustic, and from the '30s) were much more succinct than I, but nonetheless I seemed to make a few new well-wishers. I sold a few CDs, got paid for my share of the door, and was able to pay my parking with some left over. I declined the post-show drink, and went home feeling exhausted from the beginnings of the cold's misery, which would dog me for the next week.

02/19/2004 Maurice Rickard: The Last Supper--Live at the 31st St. Pub

After just a few weeks, I'm back in the saddle again, this time for Mr. Funky's latest concept, The Last Supper. Artists will be preparing a small meal onstage for a few audience members, and then playing. (I don't know what I'm doing for that yet; there won't be any heat going on, so I can't do my regular cooking.) Unfinished Symphonies will be there, and Dave Mansueto, too! And as for the other players, we have Amoeba Knievel, the Hope Harvies, and a couple of people I'm forgetting (sorry!). But come on out and have a listen! I'm going to try to prepare a new W piece for the occasion. And while you're at it, head on over to onezero music and listen to the last one.

Thursday, February 19, $5, 21+, probably starting around 10:30 or so, given the way 31st St. Pub shows go.

Well, it's quite a while after the fact that I get around to writing the review, but this was a fun night. The concept was that everyone would put together some kind of dish, and do a short set. I debated what I was going to prepare, and finally settled on hummus--a couple cans of chickpeas, some lemon juice, tahini, cumin, paprika, and Bob's your uncle. Whole Foods has been selling these sheets of flat Middle Eastern bread, which seems more biblical than pitas, so I went with those. I blended most of the ingredients in advance, leaving a few to be stirred in onstage (after all, there would be no heat), packed my gear, and headed down.

Parking karma was good--right outside the stage door, in a MINI-sized space. Other performers were filtering in, and I commandeered my usual bar-height table for the laptop, and lugged it behind the PA speaker near the stage door. After a brief soundcheck, I hung out for a bit to wait for showtime. One of the performers was Gary from the Viragos, who turned up in the Jesus role, helping to serve food, wash feet (dunno offhand if he was washing his own hands between these two services), and provide an appropriate atmosphere.

First up was Mr. & Mr$ Funky and Marty, who turned in a fine set of their witty, erudite rock--including some food-related tunes, one from the point of view of a lascivious hamburger-obsessed petty criminal, and a cover of the "we like the moon" song that's been shilling for Quizno's. During the latter, Mr$ Funky sliced up some subs, which Marty, Gary, and Dave Mansueto took around to serve the hungry audience.

Next up was Tommy Amoeba, who performed several hilarious songs a capella ("I'm going into the laaaand of, XXXXXX's Devilled Haaaaam, I'm...." etc.) while he made (quite tasty) salsa. As ever, well done. As I recall, The Gothees were up next, doing their goth take on various bubblegum hits, as well as some originals and non-bubblegum covers ("Love Will Tear Us Apart"), and a serial blending of Orange Julii. Also notable was the Gothees' singer, a person we've seen around and thought of as Pittsburgh's über-hipster.

Dave Mansueto had his own brief set, during which he introduced me and narrated my mixing of the hummus. Since Mr. Funky had asked me to make it "theatrical," I decided to do it Butoh-style, with slow, deliberate motions while Dave improvised his narration. It may have worked, and people might have gotten a bit out of the hummus, although when I tasted it later I think I could have used a lot more cumin and lemon juice. Some garlic wouldn't have hurt, but I don't think people had intended to play Hummus Roulette.

The Hope Harvies followed my set with their toaster strudel and a set of their peppy, ironic, actually complex tunage. 109 Starchild Avenue brought the Galaxie 500/VU drone thang (Rob suggested I do something with them at one point, which I would if asked), and Styles for Modern Living ended the evening with an astonishingly energetic boy/girl/drum machine take on Joy Division/early New Order--no bad thing at all. Check 'em out if you see they're playing. I dug 'em.

Much to my surprise, even with all this going on, some money was made as well. A fine evening, if late and smoky in that 31st St. Pub kind of way.

01/27/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at Re:PULSE, Kiva Han

As if the Club Cafe gig isn't enough, the next night I'll be playing a solo set at the revived Re:PULSE series, in the expanded Kiva Han at Forbes and Craig near the museum. This will be a guitar-and-PowerBook exploration, and my first time out solo with Ableton Live as my software, so expect...something different, but you were expecting that anyway. It might be an audio retrospective of 2003. Also on the bill are the tastefully doomy Requiem and the powerful, unpredictable noise and/or ambience of Manherringbone. It looks like I'll be up first, so come by early.

Three sets in two nights! You can follow me around like I'm the Grateful Dead or something, except you can keep your job, bathe regularly, and sleep in your usual bed with full control over your environment. Plus, no patchouli-drenched hallucinating weirdos. (There will, however, most likely be weirdos of other varieties, should you require them.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2004, 8PM. Kiva Han coffeehouse, Forbes & Craig, Oakland. All ages, $2.

This was a fun one. Not all pieces were successful, but the ones that were, really were. As with last night, the weather was rather nasty, and the two other scheduled acts couldn't make it. Instead, we got Jordan Decay (who laid down some interesting literary goth action) and my dawg Kerry Holocaust from the Circuits of Steel tour. Good to see him again.

Steve Pellegrino and I had planned a Surprise for the evening, but the weather being what it was (snowy and icy), he couldn't make it, which was fine. I was more concerned about the pieces I was going to do, since the night before was the last gasp of the Girl software I'd been using. I spent a chunk of the day on trying to compile an OS X VST from open ring modulator source code, but, sadly, no luck. I was having promising, but not definitively successful, results, meaning that guitar clouds were out of the question. So I spent some quality time with Ableton Live working up some new pieces, most notably a new piece with a bunch of recent Bush samples. That wasn't quite enough for a whole set, though, so I also worked up an audio diary of 2003, with the thought that I could use it both for a piece I'd be contributing to Re-Record Romzine, and for an audio installation I'd have at the upcoming Sonic Bridge symposium. We'd see how it would go.

As the drive was a few short blocks and the MINI's great in snow, getting there was no problem. I snagged a bite to eat (a very tasty veggie sandwich on foccacia) and set up. It was great reconnecting with Kerry, who's back in town after several sojourns farther afield. I chatted with Jordan Decay a bit as well, before deciding to get my set rolling.

While attendance was sparse, the weather still being bad, there were more paying audients than had been at Club Cafe the night before. As most of them were new faces, I opted to start with the poem Tell Ya One Thing, which got the appropriate surprise and laughter, and works well as a gesture of non-self-important goodwill. I opted to do the new Bush piece next, which went over very well. I set up some low E volume swells into the Line6, which I had playing into Live while I manipulated it with VSTs and introduced the samples. The more amusing edits elicited the right response--some vocal chuckling, and Manny shaking with laughter--although I sadly succumbed to the temptation to re-play some of the best ones. Still, it worked, as did my occasional guitar accents. The end was something of a revelation for me, as it was much more IDM than I've been doing. I'd tortured some breakbeats into unrecognizability with Live's envelope editing capability, and then applied a buffer override. After swirling the XY controller around for a while, I found a nice tonal stutter, and added some modal guitar and some E minor chords. Nice.

The next piece wasn't so successful, because the environmental samples (a lot of DC and NY subways) devolved into a pool of white noise. For the last piece, I'd wanted to do a guitar cloud, but found that Girl wouldn't launch. Or it would launch, but crap out on me whenever I'd go to adjust the delay feedback. Oh, well. I quickly dropped a bunch of old movie samples into Live, and made a bunch of noise with the Line6 and VSTs. And then I called it a set. While I might have lost some goodwill in the second part of the set, the first part was good enough that I managed to sell a Death Pig CD to fellow ambient noisemaker Ryan Unks, and get some good feedback from other folks as well. Not bad at all.

Jordan and Kerry were both good, and this time Kerry didn't break anything. (I'd made sure to move my gear out from the performance space before he came on.) Another nice thing was finally to see a copy of Greg Gillis's new Girl Talk CD, on which I'm credited with photography. And he did use a lot of the photos from the tour. Anyway, good vibes all around. Afterwards, Manny split the door (hey, more cash!) and I gave him a ride over to his new pad. And I was home at a reasonable hour, too--a good night.

11/10/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at CB's 313 Gallery, NY, NY

I'm hauling the PowerBook, submixer, looper, and guitar back to NYC on Monday November 10 for a set at CB's 313 Gallery. Stop on by for a set of dark ambient noise, low-ratio ring modulated guitar drones, delay glitches, at least three different varieties of feedback, and samples ranging from the dystopian to the amusing. Or just go to their site and check out the live stream, apparently. C'mon up and introduce yourself. Buy a cheap cdr (including the new Death Pig no-input set from July!). Lord it over your friends as the next big thing, or just stand in the corner, unfavorably compare me to better-known performers, and wearily sigh to your hipster friends at work the next day that I'm soooo 12 hours ago.

Monday November 10, 9PM, CB's 313 Gallery, 313 Bowery, NYC.

Well, after a string of warm 'n' fuzzy gigs, this was cold 'n' snarky. Despite the vaunted and musician-friendly reputation of the parent club, this room next door is non-happening, offputting, unpopular, and home to a curious policy about recording oneself on one's own gear, delivered in a "by the way" aside when one is packing up.

We left around 10 AM, and surprisingly made great time--we reached the Holland Tunnel at 4PM, and made it to Manhattan shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, I always seem to navigate incorrectly once I get out of the tunnel, and end up pointing downtown, having to find my way back along Church and then Canal. Being somewhat more familiar with lower Manhattan, I figured I'd follow Canal to the Bowery, and head up to the club. Sadly, there's no left turn there, and from the lane I was in, the only option was to cross the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Once there, we made it around the block and back onto the bridge, and...I missed the little connecting street from which it was legal to turn right on the Bowery, so we went up to Elizabeth, followed it to Houston, and then finally turned right.

I parked in front of the club with the thought of leaving some of the gear there while we got dinner. From the noncommittal responses of the staff, I ultimately decided not to leave anything there, and instead just carry the stuff with us. We parked the car in the garage on Elizabeth I'd intended to use last time, and we walked a few blocks down to the hotel, checked in, got dressed for the evening, and hit the street to hail a cab up to Old Devil Moon. This time, we both had the tofu and portobello "ribs," and they were--as expected--excellent. Special mention should be made of the mac 'n' cheese (Swiss in there?) and the cole slaw (apple vinegar? lemongrass?), which were also exquisite.

We caught a cab back down to the club, where I transferred some environmental sounds from the summer off of the MD recorder to free up a disc. We sat in a booth by the bar while I did that, and while I tuned up. During that process, a band by the name of Op Amp set up while Amir, the soundguy, produced howls of microphone feedback. Still, I managed to tune through a combination of a software frequency analyzer and bone conduction (after I'd put in the hearing protectors). Then we moved over to the seating area next to the stage, where I put my rig (mostly) together.

Op Amp proved to be a heavily-Sonic-Youth-influenced band with a PortaMoog and some good grooves. I had a pleasant chat with one of the guitarists/bassists, who said he'd stick around for my set, although he didn't. Same thing with the folk artist up next, who did some singer/songwriter stuff and a slightly muddleheaded version of "Cat's in the Cradle" (in which he flubbed some pronouns such that it seems the dad wants to grow up to be like the son). Meanwhile, I prepared the Girl software setup to process things in G (for something a bit different).

By the time I went on, there were a few walk-ins hanging out in the seating area, with the other performers gone, and a few people up by the bar. I couldn't find my guitar strap, though, which meant I'd have to play seated--distinctly less interesting visually. I started with a drone piece, and it went fairly well as an example of what I'm up to. Sometime during this piece, the walk-ins walked out. I shifted the tuning to A, increased the bpm, and added some guitar percussion. For the third piece, I brought in the speech samples (from the "perversion" and "rubber" sets), threw in some room tones from the mic, some assertive delay glitches, and at the end did a version of "The Apparition" which I rather liked at the time--the difference tones really got the room beating. So...it was a set for the benefit of myself, Patricia, and anyone who might have tuned into the live stream, if their server was working. I broke down my gear, and we were largely ignored...except by Amir the soundguy, who, with the bartender and presumably Michelina, solicited $20 from me for daring to record myself in the club. (He claimed that "the usual fee" is $40, but that he'd "talked [Michelina] down to $20" as I hadn't been informed of this up-front.) Note that I wasn't using any of the club's equipment for recording. If you play CB's 313 Gallery, be warned of this.

If what passed for the club's self-absorbed cliquey scene hadn't killed the vibe, this last bit certainly did. I retrieved the guitar strap (in the booth we'd been in before), finished packing, and we shook CB's cursed dust from our feet. We walked over to the hotel to drop off the gear, and we soon found ourselves at First Street and First Avenue. We had drinks and a late bite to eat at the heartening and impressive Boca Chica on the corner--don't miss the green chile and tomatillo stew.

Later, that night in the hotel, I started these notes and found an open wireless node. To my anonymous benefactor, God bless you. In and among the mail were some well wishes from friends, and regrets from those who couldn't be at the show. I'm actually kind of glad they didn't spend their money there. In the morning, before leaving, I checked my logs for the previous day and saw some evidence that some people were at least trying to listen to the live stream. I see that CB's is planning on charging for the streaming of portions of archival shows (probably not mine, but you never know). I'm inclined to make this show freely available here, if there's any interest. Also on the plus side, on Friday and Saturday I'd received some positive interest from some people on mailing lists I'd sent the notice to, folks in Chicago and Australia. So who knows, there may be some good to come out of this gig, but otherwise the overall experience has taken the place of the Lemp at the bottom of my quality gig list.

10/19/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Boogaloo, Brooklyn, NY

It's fall, and the urge to get something going has prompted me to glom onto a show coming up at Boogaloo in Brooklyn NY on Sunday, October 19. I'm playing the opening night of Burg(h), a month-long show of Pittsburgh visual artists.

As ever, I'll be performing a set of guitar processed through the laptop (using Peter Nyboer's Girl, a looping pedal, and a submixer for multiple feedback loops), resulting in sounds ranging from ambient drones to dystopian sample noise, and possibly even some beats for the hip kids. My slot's probably any 45 minute period within the range of 9:00 to 11:00, which at it's worst theoretically isn't too late for people who have to work Monday morning. Come up and say hi, buy some merch, or just stand there with your arms folded and nod slowly and knowingly.

Boogaloo can be found in Willamsburg--the current epicenter of the hipoisie. Bring your too-tight high school athletic T-shirts, emo glasses, John Deere caps, and guzzle some Pabst...or don't, and stare coldly at those who do. See you there.

Sunday, October 19, 8PM to 4AM (my set's probably somewhere between 9:00 and 11:00 range...maybe on the early side? I dunno; I was told 10, but so were other people. It's your typical indie rock chaos.) 21+ (I think), no cover.

Many thanks to Jack Robinson for setting this one up.

Boogaloo, 168 Marcy Ave. between S. 5th and Broadway, South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. (718) 599-8900. J-M-Z train to Marcy, or L train to Lorimer. Map here.

Report: Sunday
Wow. Sometimes strange, sometimes not entirely optimal, but ultimately very, very good.

We got a late start (11:00), having a number of things to deal with before we left, including a "spindle failure" error of my PowerBook's Superdrive while attempting to burn a few more CDRs for the car. Yikes! At least I'd burnt all the merch the night before. Anyway, we got on the road, made our calls, and jammed to NYC.

I was a bit tired and in need of good coffee, and to my eternal regret believed the PA Turnpike signs that advertised the presence of *bucks at the Midway Service Plaza. (Not that I'm all that enamored of *bucks--mainly because their coffee's got a lump of Plutonium or something in the bottom that keeps it unreasonably hot for like 50 years after being served, but on the Turnpike and in other middle-of-nowhere places, it's certainly a reasonable minimum coffee standard.) So I believed the sign, but it turns out that there's no *bucks there. The best I could do was Cinnabon, which serves cappuccino from one of those automatic cappuccino machines--no actual human barista input. What they served me (for $3.00, I'll add) wasn't coffee. From the first sip, I could tell that. What was it--leper jizz? Burnt dirt? No idea. So I threw it out, and we continued to the Sideling Hill Service Plaza, which actually did have a *bucks. So I was good to go.

I ended up doing the whole drive, which wasn't unreasonable. Our only snarl was in advance of the Holland Tunnel, where like eight lanes go down to two. That process took us about an extra half hour or 45 minutes, during which we fielded a few more phone calls. Getting out of the tunnel, I made the mistake of turning right instead of left, and sent us downtown. After some Kentucky windage, I navigated us back up toward Houston, made the block, and decided to park in a quasi-legal spot for the moment. I checked in while Patricia hung with the car; I came back and gave her the room key while she ran up and changed. I figured no one would be terribly upset if I changed my shirt in the car; no one seemed to notice. Patricia came back quickly, and our next goal was to put the car in a garage for the duration of our trip. I'd scoped out a very affordable garage nearby on Elizabeth Street, but a) the hotel desk clerk had said that parking was "actually on Mulberry," and b) the street sign at Elizabeth and E. Houston was out, so I failed to turn up that particular street and ended up with the garage on Mulberry. OK, so we were running late, and it was a garage. We went with it.

We weren't sure, but I'd thought there was a possibility of a few people from the Television list and the MINI messageboard showing up at a 'net friend's restaurant in the East Village, Old Devil Moon. I had a bit of Black Halo (that peculiar aura that prevents one from getting a cab), and we walked up as far as Sixth or Seventh Street before we finally got one, and gratefully put down our burdens (all my gear and merch) for the ride over to the restaurant on 12th. Dennis was there, and was the perfect host for the perfect dinner. Old Devil Moon does this New York spin on Southern/Cajun/Soul Food cuisine, with plenty of vegetarian options. The decor is welcoming and entertainingly funky, and the food is flat-out amazing. I had the jerk tofu, while Patricia had the tofu BBQ ribs...and we were knocked out. The entrees were delicious. My side of sweet potatoes was equally tasty, and Patricia's side of mac'n'cheese reached a kind of comfort food apotheosis. It was extremely affordable, exquisitely tasty, served in ample portions...I can't think of a single thing not to like about it. Just go. Drop everything you're doing, and go.

Soon it was time to leave to get to the club, so we reluctantly took our leave and cabbed it over to Brooklyn. (Our driver was a fascinating Hatian drummer; it'd be interesting to hear him sometime, but it's unlikely that we'd have that chance.) The club, Boogaloo, was a few doors up Marcy from the intersection of Marcy and Broadway, so we didn't have to schlep stuff very far. It's in the basement of a brownstone, and is quite the nice space. There's still some finishing work to do, but it's definitely a hip little club. I set my stuff down, and we picked a spot on one of the couches to wait for the people we'd invited. We got into a conversation with an ex-Pittsburgher who was now living in Hoboken, and then connected with our longtime 'net friend Philip Obbard, whom we'd last seen in Chicago for the Television show there. Turns out, he has a familial 'burgh connection, too, so maybe we'll run into him on the home turf sometime.

I wasn't able to talk for very long, though, as my set time was fast approaching. It turned out that my contact from the MINI board was already in the house, but I hadn't got around to him at that point. I'd only figured it out when I overheard him asking the DJ when I'd be going on; happily it worked out that by the time the DJ finished up and I set up, he and his posse would be able to go out and get a bite to eat first.

Set up was a bit of a problem, however--the full PA wasn't set up, so I'd go through the DJ's PA. That was fine, but there weren't very many horizontal surfaces on which to put my stuff. Ultimately, one of the bartenders dug up the covers for the turntables, and I was able to rest the PowerBook on that. And, somewhat late, off I went. There were quite a lot of people in the bar, although many of them were talking rather than listening. Since I was right there at the DJ board, I had a choice of how loud I could make myself--I could turn way up over the conversations and possibly send people outside, or I could, in the spirit of Erik Satie, "mingle with the sound of knives and forks at dinner." I opted to blend in, and occasionally crest over the conversational level to let people know I was there.

It was a bit difficult to hear myself as well as I'd usually like to, but having made my decision, I stuck with it. Since I didn't want to take chances with the timing, I avoided guitar percussion, although I added the use of a mic that was picking up the conversation in the room, and brought that into the piece in several places as well. As it got closer to 10:30, I could see the New Alcindors setting up, so I brought things to a close. Philip had come up to take a look at what I was doing, so I gave a little demo as part of the piece. At the time, I didn't think the improv had much of a shape overall, but listening back to it, it really does have some moments. I chatted with Philip and my MINI messageboard contact, as well as a few other Pittsburghers who were in the show, and I managed to sell a number of discs to people, too. Ironic that one comes all this way to network with other 'burghers, though.

The New Alcindors started up, significantly louder than I was, but they had much more of a groove thing going on, so the audience was receptive. Conversation became difficult, however, and most of our guests left. The set was quite good, though--the last time I'd seen them, they were a trio, and the addition of Jennifer (ex-Ladybug Transistor) on keyboards really helps fill out the sound.

Next up was Phat Mandee, who turned in a set that was impressively torchy, moving, and silly (particularly the 'burgh accent fugue), along with some excellent moments with Tommy Amoeba (multiple layered jumpsuits, and the interjection of "I got cat class and I got cat style" into "16 Tons"). Well done!

We hung out a bit longer talking to the DJ--another Pittsburgher, and Jack asked me if I'd do another set. At this point it was midnight, I was packed up, and I had an appointment early the next morning, so I had to decline. Apparently two of the scheduled acts hadn't shown (Jwan, it seems, couldn't get a ride, and Barrett Black, for unknown reasons, failed to appear).

We called for the car service, and headed back to the hotel. Quite a long couple of days.

Up early, parched, and hungry, so we headed a few doors down to breakfast. Yonah Schimmel's next door didn't open until 10, sadly, so we went to a deli next to the also-closed Katz's, and hit the subway for the trip up to midtown, (the subway much cleaner than we'd expected) where I had an appointment to take a guitar lesson from Richard Lloyd. He's an amazing teacher, as it turns out. I'm the guitar equivalent of Kaspar Hauser in many ways, and he was able to focus right in on the weaknesses and inadequacies in how I use my left hand--and give me exercises to correct them. He also has some very perceptive points about theory I found very enlightening. Quite a lot of information in an hour and a half, and I was glad I'd gone back on caffeine for the session. If you're anywhere convenient to New York and want instruction from a true master, get in touch with him through his site. His exercises will be worth working on for years.

Afterwards, Patricia and I checked out the Garment District and Times Square, but decided that we'd best get lunch back downtown. As I'd had that CD burning issue before we left, I thought to stop in the Apple Store in SoHo to see if they could do a quick Superdrive swap while I waited. After a substantial wait to talk to one of the Geniuses and another wait while they determined whether or not they had the part and could replace it before Tuesday morning, it was decided that no, they couldn't. So we were free, and we wandered around SoHo a bit to connect with some lunch, which we did at an amazingly tasty little Italian place while we debriefed.

A bit more wandering and a break put us on the street with several free hours, so we headed around the corner from our hotel, and stopped by CBGB. They weren't open as such, but Hilly let us have a look around, as I'm sure he's done with countless other music tourists. As expected, the room holds a kind of resonance, but doesn't hold the resonance of the music we've come to know and love. We stopped next door at CB's 313 Gallery, where I talked to Micheline, the booking agent, and gave her a CDR from the tour. Patricia was impressed, but I just noted that I'd consulted my "what would Robert Press do?" wristband, and figured that he'd do that. Around the corner on Houston again, we noticed an amazing open-air shop of...stuff. Ornate windows, old pinball machines, audio gear...quite interesting.

We headed to Union Square, although given the line we were on, we had to walk several blocks East, and then down Broadway a bit to check out The Strand bookstore, indeed an amazing presence, and we scored some good books--a ballet book for Patricia, and for me a monograph of Gordon Matta-Clark, whose work really blew me away some years ago when I encountered it at a retrospective. At the time I didn't pick up the exhibition catalog, and have been kicking myself since. This isn't the catalog, but makes up for it by having a lot of photos--probably more than the catalog, and having nice features like a cut-out binding.

After a couple hours at the Strand, we continued uptown to Times Square north, the neighborhood of "Iridium", where we'd be realizing yet another lifetime goal of mine, seeing Les Paul perform. He's obviously hurting from the arthritis and slowed some by age, but this was a highly enjoyable show. He has a good band behind him, and even with the simple melody lines he's playing, his Tone is still there. A few tunes in the set exist to give the other guys a chance to cut loose, and there are some long breaks during which Les and the guys engage in entertaining banter. Overall, the feeling is one of hanging out with some people who are just having a good time--and what could possibly be wrong with that? (I did the obligatory fanboy thing of meeting him after the 10:00 show was over. Totally nice guy who doesn't have to sit there and meet the long line of people, but does anyway.)

We got up fairly early and headed down to Ground Zero to pay our respects, and walked the perimeter of the WTC site. It's impossible for me to conceive of the scale of what happened here, not having seen the buildings close up while they were standing. Now, of course, it's a construction site, surrounded by offices where many people still work. It's amazing that some buildings nearby sustained as little damage as they did, like St. Paul's Chapel.

We jammed back up to the hotel to check out (a process during which I dropped a CDR with the desk clerk, who's in a post-rock band in the city), and then headed next door to Yonah Schimmel's for knishes. Yonah's happened to be listed in our guidebook, for very good reason--these were the Platonic Ideal of the knish. Truly amazing. The potato knish was significantly lighter than I'd imagine such a thing to be, and the apple and cheese knishes were very tasty as well. We consumed about half of our orders, and got the rest to go. We stopped by the garage to leave the knishes and all the gear in the car (by this time my back and knees were not happy lugging all this gear, and I regretted having chosen the garage that was two blocks farther on.

Still, we managed, and then had to get down to TriBeCa for my appointment at La Monte Young's Dream House. The Dream House isn't open on Tuesday, but I'd negotiated a private session there as a premium for my joining the MELA Foundation as a member. Unfortunately, we were running a bit late for the 11:00 appointment, and I had us get on the V train going the wrong way. I woke up to this fact before we left Manhattan, and we had to wait a bit for one going in the other direction, but we headed back uptown, and took the A train down to Canal St. Finally emerging from underground, we were able to call MELA and explain our lateness; it worked out ok because they had to take some additional time and fix one of the channels delivering the piece. So we cooled out for a bit at a restaurant a block or so away, and then came back up to the Dream House.

The current piece there is called "The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119." Sure, it's a mouthful, but it's also the entire score. That's a description of the frequency ratios of the drones that make up this piece, and there's a more useful description of the piece's structure here.

As we ascended the stairs to the second floor landing, we could begin to hear and feel the piece, mainly through the bass drones, throbbing like generators. Up at the third floor landing, one of the staff met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and gave us the literature packet. And then we were led in. The whole space seems to be painted and carpeted in white, but all of the lighting is in a particular shade of purple/magenta achieved by combining lights of different hues. In the back room is a sculpture of raised surfaces, which cleverly brings out these constituent tones.

Up above the hallway to the front is another sculpture, this one a neon version of Marian Zazeela's writing and saying (as I recall) "The Dream House." In the large front room are the large speaker enclosures in each corner, emitting the drones. Along one wall were the instruments set up for a rehearsal later that day, along the back wall a little memorial to Pandit Pran Nath, at the front, three windows overlooking Church Street (covered in magenta film), and hanging from the ceiling are two curved metal sculptures that slowly turn, revealing different shadows on the wall (cast by lights pointed at them from the center of the ceiling).

Being in this room is quite unlike any other experience, I think--the drones are quite loud, but didn't bother my ears, as there are only 32 (or more likely 35, according to Gann) frequencies in the piece. (Unlike, say, a cymbal crash, which is way more frequency-rich and potentially damaging.) As I walked around, the interference patterns of the piece changed, giving rise to changing tones where the reality was a static set of drones (revealed when one stops moving). As a result, I spent a lot of time turning my head and experimenting with it. At times, just shifting the angle of the information packet I was reading changed the sound, and at one point a yawn caused a major dropout of the higher frequencies. It's participatory in a way that possibly no other compositions are, and the participation takes place solely inside your head. That's not a metaphor for "psychological" or "imaginary"--your head really is the venue of the Dream House.

We spent about an hour inside, although admittedly the drones got to Patricia after a while. Leaving the space, I had a very weird feeling from my temporarily attenuated hearing at those frequencies, not at all like post-concert attenuation. It was like the negative ghosts of those tones were still with me, just as one's eyes were still compensating for the magenta. Quite striking, and worthwhile. (And for people coming on the usual Thursday to Saturday, only $4. How can you lose?)

We headed back up to our neighborhood, got our car from the garage (more expensive than the one I'd planned on), drove quite easily out of the city, and seven hours later, were home.

08/16/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Re: PULSE, Kiva Han

I'll be opening for Cotton Casino from Japanese psych-improv-rockers Acid Mothers Temple. Also on the bill will be the last area performance of Holocaust (he's accepted a job with PETA--congratulations, Kerry!), and Entropy Man.

I've become reasonably disenchanted with what I was playing on tour, so I'm planning on doing something a little bit different. Oddly, it looks like my rig will begin expanding again, as I'll be using the submixer and will reintroduce some pedals back into the setup. And maybe I'll mic some stuff, too. It all may have some detectable entertainment value; I dunno. So come out and see for yourself.

Kiva Han Coffeehouse, Forbes Avenue & Craig Street, Oakland, Pittsburgh. All ages, $5, 8PM sharp, baby.

Well this was a hard-to-interpret evening. A few nights before, I had some time to try out a new idea for my setup, and it went quite well. I went with a more Unindicted Co-Conspirators kind of setup--going through the Yamaha submixer instead of the M-Audio DMP3, and putting the PowerBook in as an effects loop, as opposed to being the only option for the signal. I also added the Line6 delay as the other effects loop. And instead of returning the loops in the actual return, I brought them into unused channels. This meant that I could route the return from either loop into the other loop, or feed it back into itself, and in my rehearsal Thursday night, I found that the feedback of PowerBook into itself was quite beautiful. I was excited.

I'd hoped to do a piece using Bidule, as a kind of shout-out to Xanopticon, who introduced the software to me when I was on tour. In my experiments with Bidule, however, I couldn't get it to process live audio--it turned out I was going about it wrongly--until I'd heard from the guy who keeps the FAQ. So I had the method, but hadn't spent enough quality time with it to do exactly what I wanted to do with it. But hey, I figured I could drop it in at the end of some piece and have it contribute.

The afternoon of the show (after spending much of the day on an intractable data problem for work), I set up to rehearse this setup again, and mess with Bidule some more. In the actual event, this rehearsal...just wasn't as good as Thursday night. In fact, it kind of sucked. Something was off, particularly in the feedback realm. I couldn't get the beautiful, complex tones I was getting during the first rehearsal. At this point, there was little I could do about it, so I got ready for the show, loaded up the car, headed over to Whole Foods for some Umi sushi, and then cruised down to Kiva Han.

I was quite surprised to see the glass wall that faces the street covered with newspaper. This was not a good thing. This was true only of the right-hand performance room, however, not the left side with the cappuccino machines and the cash register, so I went in and asked if they were, in fact, having the show. Manny was in the house, and yes, the show was happening. Manny'd gotten tired of people hanging outside, and looking in at the show without paying, so he hung newspaper. All righty, then. Also, for something different, we would be setting up by the now-newspapered glass wall, with the speakers to our right, facing perpendicularly to the direction we were facing. this was to become a problem.

I set up in the far corner, and then Andy (Vorpal) came in. It was good to see him again--he'd done some very enjoyable sets at Club Cafe. I learned a few days before that Andy was added to the bill because Kerry had already left town for PETA. Entropy Man, which was actually a couple of guys, came in and set up a large number of pedals; I moved my rig to the center to give them room. Bill and Cotton showed up, too, and unloaded their vast array of pedals, a Theremin, a guitar, and a bass, along with some other toys. We wouldn't have room to set up fully simultaneously, but it'd work out.

There wasn't much in the way of audience at first, so we just hung out for a while. As I was outside chatting with Andy and his posse, I saw Ben Cox, coming down the street, a pleasant surprise as I hadn't expected him to make it. We hung outside chatting for a little while, and I gave Ben a tutorial for my digital cameral. Then it was time for Andy to get started, and turned in a very nice IDM set for forty or so minutes. In some spots, he got very quiet, almost lowercase; some other pieces ended abruptly in a way that suggested software issues, but the endings worked well nonetheless. It was enjoyable, but I was in a bit of a weird mood--I was eager to get going and not lose my edge before playing.

After Andy was finished, the audience collectively went outside to recover from the heat, so there was a bit of a gap before I could start. Finally I went outside and rounded people up for the set. I found myself dealing with an unusual amount of hum, probably from my orientation in the room, but I began, this time with pick percussion and harmonics for a decidedly lowercase feel. I added a few volume swells, and then planned to add some further clicks by turning on my mic, and inadvertently hit the audience with a blast of feedback. I hadn't soundchecked the mic with the PA--duh. The mic was routed into the PowerBook, so those blasts were around for a while, but at least the ring modulation created a melody, and people thought it was deliberate. I routed the PowerBook's output back to the input, and blurred the feedback a little, which wasn't a bad effect against the drones I brought in. Having reduced the mic's gain, I finally did the switch clicking for percussion against the pick sounds, going between that kind of thing and the volume swells for most of the rest of the piece. I did ultimately play with the delays for some variation before ending with a pile of some short swells. Something of a sadly restricted sonic palette on this 10-minute piece. Nonetheless, there was some applause, although at some point some people walked out. (Some others took their places, however.)

I changed my ring modulator and delay settings for the next one, and started on the long volume swell drone. I'd mistakenly entered a delay value into one of the ring mod settings, and ended up with this high-pitched buzz for the drone, but it did have a nice effect. This one began rather ominous, and I played around with sending the PowerBook to the Line6 for looping and reversal before bringing in some radio interference. When I tried feeding the PowerBook back into itself, I struggled to keep it from howling, but I did have some nice edge-of-feedback tones while I played with the delay times. In anticipation of our trip to DC in a couple days, I brought in a Thonked sample of the Metro for atmosphere, which worked well in this dark drony thing I had going. For variety, I again resorted to some granularity and delay manipulation, and then went into drones and civil defense samples for the delay-manipulated drone and feedback climax. This one went over pretty well.

As I was announcing the last piece, Manny got on the mic to announce the next act, and I had to tell him I wasn't finished. I started this time with pure PowerBook feedback, trying to develop the tones I'd worked with during rehearsal, but instead having to contend with high-pitched slapback feedback due to my having the delay mix at less than 100% delayed. While annoying at the time, in retrospect it has a kind of lowercase charm, especially with the delay manipulation. I gradually brought in some guitar, but then went back to the feedback, which was a mistake, as it cut off any development I had going, and introduced an element of tedium. I started a Bidule patch, which had sounded rather cool on percussion samples, but was kind of lame on guitar. The next problem was that having Bidule and Girl open at the same time brought the PowerBook UI to a complete crawl, so while audio processing was still going on, it took me a while to quit from Bidule...and while I was trying to do that, pretty much all that was happening in the audio domain was fade-out--yet more tedium. Finally I ended it with more feedback and delay manipulation.

Ben bought a Guitar Clouds disc, which was nice of him, and we all moved outside for some air. Entropy Man was up next, although I lingered outside as it was getting quite stuffy in Kiva Han. At one point, though, I heard a crashing sound from the performance room, and rushed in to see what had happened; apparently Entropy Man struck by moving my mic stand, causing the mic to seek a lower energy level by sliding out of the clamp and hitting the floor, denting the ball. Damn. It's a cheap mic, but I've had it for years and always tried to keep it in good shape. I can probably push it out, though. I did hang out to listen to their set of interesting harsh noise made by assorted effects pedals, but I couldn't bring myself to go in. Ben moved on, while I hung outside with the other audience members and with Bill, Cotton, and Manny; it started to rain and we huddled under the awnings. Entropy Man's set was short, and soon we were ready for the main event.

Bill asked if I minded Cotton using my mic, which I didn't, although I mentioned that I'd be happy if there were no mic-eating (after all, I'd just been on tour with Girl Talk), which it turned out there wouldn't be. They set up their vast array of pedals, Bill's guitar and bass, and Cotton's Big Briar Theremin, and asked for volunteers to operate the DV camera. No one seemed to be coming forward, so while I was hoping to get my notes down about my own set, I volunteered and stood near the doorway with the camera. Their set was quite spacy and hypnotic, and it's hard for me to remember how long it was--time did seem to suspend. Cotton played Theremin as though she were dancing with it or swimming toward it, and she contributed some processed vocal drones and screams, while Bill used the guitar and (alternately) bass as noisemakers through the pedals. Most strikingly, he used two walkie-talkies to throw vocal noise through the guitar and bass pickups. As Cotton played, the Theremin tilted on the stand's ball joint until the body was vertical; this seemed to amuse her.

I tried to keep the camera steady and reasonably tight on them, although I did do some slow zooms to move between closeups and tight group shots, as well as compensating for their motions (kind of a rebellion against the usual pomo shakycam method). At one point I realized that I was aching a bit from being in the same position throughout the set, and shifted. It was kind of weird being in the same room with them, but also watching the set on the camera's LCD monitor. Ultimately the battery died, so I took up the slack with my digital camera, and was able to watch more of the show without the intermediation. Quite enjoyable.

We hung out for a bit afterwards, chatting and swapping CDs. Good stuff, great people, and apparently they'll be back in town in October, last I heard. So good connections were made, although my performance was less than ideal. At least I have some clues as to what the actual problems were.

05/12/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live performance at Club Cafe

The Wired Mondays at Club Cafe series continues Monday May 12 with yet another core sample of Pittsburgh's electronic scene. In reverse chronological order, these are:

* The insane Gameboy innovations of mad-scientist/inventor 8cylinder

* The ear-grabbing clicking, popping ambience of Rowark

* And samples, beats, and textural guitar experiments (including a piece I'm working on from raw material supplied by Madonna's "What the f*ck do you think you're doing?" .mp3, so I might do the Yngwie piece, too.)

As ever, we'll try to do a set of collaborative improvisation if there's time. What else were you doing on Monday night? Do they even have TV shows on Monday? Beats me. So come on down.

Monday, May 12, from 7:30 to a wage-slave-friendly 10:30. 21+, $3 cover. Why, that's almost nothing, especially when compared to the cost of, say, a magazine subscription, CDs, or groceries. Hell, you weren't going to eat them anyway.

In some respects, this was quite a happening evening. In terms of my own personal set...not so happening for a variety of reasons, the biggest one of which is that I've been sick with some persistent cold, and it left me without a voice, in addition to feeling physically miserable. Still, the show must go on, so on I went. I decided in advance that I'd type all my announcements into the PowerBook, and have the speech program read them. Not a bad idea, but it was a bit lost on the sparse audience. When I started, there was barely anybody in the club, although the other performers had come and Mike Klobuchar (from Clutter, and who had also gotten me the gig at Gems of the World last year) had showed up. He also helped me with my monitor levels while I was playing.

First up, I did the Madonna remix using Girl, which went well enough, though it lost focus by the end. I followed that up with a related piece using the same sounds, but using Cosmetic, a beta sequencing program from the creator of Girl. Alas, one can't save sequences yet, so I had to build the piece live. Nonetheless, there were some moments worth listening to, although it didn't quite have the same vibe as the rehearsal I'd done at home. The first couple of pieces I did, there was (as I heard, anyway) absolutely no applause from the sparse audience. Which might have been deserved, but it certainly added a weird alienation to the PowerBook saying "Thank you very much."

Next I did the Yngwie piece, which I now think was kind of a mistake. I didn't really engage the piece at all, and having the guitar non-distorted didn't work well. Interestingly, when I bring in one sample from the piece, Girl consistently overloads everything--ultimately to break it up completely--until I reset the audio. People later told me they thought this was part of the piece, which isn't bad--it does kind of fit. But...there wasn't enough coherence in this piece.

Last I did this guitar drone piece I'm doing by using four different-length delays in Girl that are on near-infinite repeat. Again, not as bad as it could have been, but nowhere near as good as the first time I tried it out. By this time, people were in the house, which was a good sign, but I don't think I made the best impression on them.

Rowark was next, doing a very nice ambient-with-beat set on the MIDI box. Not only was the quality high, but Rowark's friend Chris really got out there and brought people in! There was quite a crowd, largely due to his efforts, and the set went over well. Chris did a piece of his own afterwards, using his own MIDI box, and it was quite nice, too.

8cylinder was up next, and turned in a more varied set than I've heard from him in the past, or so it seemed to me. There were abstract sections, beats, noise, the whole gamut, and it was done well. Afterwards, we had a bit of time for the improv, but I learned too late that 8cylinder had powered down, and it wasn't going to work out for me to run back and mute him, so he didn't participate in the jam. Nonetheless, it went well with Chris and Rowark on the MIDI boxes, although they were quite loud in the sidefills. (I learned later that...I'd had the wrong monitor channels up, and the sidefills weren't necessary.) Still, not bad--another decent evening at Club Cafe, helped significantly by Chris's efforts to bring people in. So even though I was ill and to some degree out of it, there was a definite positive cast to the evening.

04/26/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Jozart Studios, California PA

California, here I come! Hot on the heels of the last show comes yet another, on Saturday, April 26, an out-of-town gig in the small-yet-apparently-vibrant college town of California, Pennsylvania, about an hour south of the city of Pittsburgh. I'll be doing couple of short sets during the afternoon, sometime after 12:30, and ending sometime before 4:30, I'd think. (I haven't been able to nail down a more precise time, although as I say I'll apparently be doing more than one set. Apologies for the lack of specificity, but hey, you never know--this show could actually happen!) I'll be experimenting more with Girl, and may just make the leap this time to not going through the amp at all, just putting everything through the laptop. Hey, less to haul up the steps. We'll see.

Also on the bill is Ben Cox, a fellow Pittsburgh Electronic Musician who's slated to play an upcoming Re:PULSE show, doing his layered and intricate ambience.

Directions can be found here by choosing the driving directions option.

Saturday, April 26, Jozart Studios, 333 Second Street, California, PA 15419. Free, all ages.

I wasn't sure quite how this one would work out, as it was new territory for me both physically (never been there before) and in terms of performance (I wasn't taking the effects or amp; just going direct into the PowerBook through the mic pre). That's growth for you, however--one needs a challenge in order to do any of it. I was a bit tired from helping a friend move the night before, and from my unfortunate discovery in the middle of the night that the generic copy of Claritin® doesn't last quite as long in the body as does the actual brand-name stuff. Or maybe I've built up a tolerance in the last few days. In any case, I was quite tired in the morning. This domain's email was working again, though, unlike the day before, and that was a bright spot.

I assembled my gear, discovering to my frustration that I seem to have donated some cables during Monday's Club Cafe show. Damn--so even if I'd wanted to, I wouldn't have been able to bring effects pedals. Well, less to carry. I got a shower, called Manny (to whom I was giving a ride), loaded up the car (feeling like I was forgetting something), made some coffee for myself, and headed on over to pick Manny up, which reminded me that I'd forgot the merch box. Back to my place, which was on the way, at least, and on to the deep Mon Valley.

It's been a while since I'd been as far south on Route 51 as the location of the interchange for the new Mon-Fayette Expressway, and it was something of a changed world. The road was indeed new, virtually untouched. (The idea of the road in the first place is that the teeming masses in that area, desperate to get into the city, will surge forward in wave upon money-spending wave, once there is a direct section to Pittsburgh...which might come through my neighborhood, if it's ever built. What'll happen if it is, of course, is that around 10% of the city's population which would like to move far out of the city, but still within commuting distance, will hightail it out of town to these farther-flung--and cheaper--reaches.) Still, nice road, even though no one's on it.

It was a fairly quick trip down to the town of California--less than an hour--and the town itself turns out to be quite small, rather quaint, and to have a number of people doing their best to get an arts community happening. The venue was at one time the old 5 and 10 store, accounting for the wide steps and high loft-like ceilings in the second-floor space. The room sounded good, too! When I got there (glad that I'd kept the rig minimal), Ben had already set up, and was hanging out with his wife and daughter.

After exchanging greetings, figuring out where I should set up (next to Ben, as it turns out), and scaring up a small table, I started my setup process while Ben got his programs organized and the first act went on--electric piano, electric bass, and drums. The first tune sounded very Ben Folds-like, an observation backed up by their second tune, a bowdlerized version of "Song For the Dumped." (Well, there were kids in the audience.) Various other covers followed (Led Zepplin, Billy Joel of all things) in the style of Ben Folds, and overall it was quite well done. During this time, however, I had a hard time hearing my own setup through the headphones, due to their volume, and tuning was impossible.

Ben Cox was up next, and he turned in a nicely consonant ambient set with the mighty 100-pound Kurzweil and also his significantly lighter Ovation acoustic with piezo pickups. The sound was nice, but...a bit quiet, expecially after the Ben Folds group. Arguably they wanted to keep us low so we didn't dominate the other stuff going on, but I think there was plenty of unused margin that could have been ceded to us. I finally managed to get tuned up, at least. And in any event, Ben's set was quite nice, and while he was playing I managed to get comped on lunch.

My set was up next, and I found this one to be better overall than the last Club Cafe set. The big difference was having everything going through the PowerBook--I could concentrate just on Girl, and not have to split my attention between controlling the software and controlling the whole guitar/effects/amp chain the way I usually have. Instead of doing separate pieces, I did one long continuous one for 22 minutes, starting with ambient ring modulated guitar, and slowly introducing more percussive sounds and samples. Listening back to it now, at some points it's actually kind of difficult to differentiate the guitar from the pre-recorded samples. (I also learned that my first set got written to the MD as monaural, for whatever reason.)

The texture ended up being rather nice--one feature of the software I'm happy with is the ability to apply low-frequency oscillators to just about anything, including ring modulation, which at frequencies below 20 Hz becomes a tremolo effect. I did introduce actual beat samples, but only let them run straight for a few iterations before changing their speed or putting them through granular modulation, some of which could actually work in a more lowercase setting. I kept building the layers up and manipulating the samples, though, and at a few points my set bordered on power electronics. A few guitar drones and swells put us back in the ambient camp for a while, then more beats took us out, and deconstructing them put us back in. I'm definitely in a transitional phase here.

Eventually I decided to try recording a sample of the processed guitar and then reintroducing it for processing. The moment I tried to bring it back in, however, all audio ceased for about thirty seconds, long enough for people to come to the conclusion that my set was over. Audio did come back briefly, but the set was de facto over. I had, after all, mentioned to a few people beforehand that I was using beta software, and if it shut down on me, I'd treat the interruption as the end of a piece. So it worked out.

Apparently the set was rather quiet, which Ben and Manny thought was a bit of a disadvantage, but probably worked out ok for me, especially at the few moments where I got mic feedback from the monitors or the PA. In any event, my set over, I got some lunch and wandered around for a while, just checking out the festival that was going on, talking to people, that kind of thing, although the rainy weather kept me from wandering too far afield. (Manny mentioned at one point that he'd taken ten minutes and walked around the business district.) A few folk singers were up next, and after they played I went back on.

I combined some drones (some of which came from low-level feedback) with broken-up granular beats, and finally a slowed-down breakbeat for a kind of dub flavor, before going back into drone territory, which was brought to an end by a software freeze. Starting again, I combined some environmental samples with things I've pulled out of the old film archive, treating them granularly. Going back into guitar drone and reverb sample territory, I was eventually joined by Ben on synth for a duet in the last six or seven minutes of my set. Very spacious and nice.

Then it was time to leave, so I packed up and we headed back to town, where the sun was finally breaking through the clouds. I hadn't sold CDs, I didn't expressly get paid, either, but I was comped in lunch an amount greater than the cost of the tolls getting down there, so I was happy. And it was another attempt at making a set with the new software, and not at all bad for going exclusively through the PowerBook. Even with a few crashes, not a bad day.


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Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Chicago, St. Louis, Muncie
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Guitar Clouds
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