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Curtis Roads: Atomic Decompositions & Gifted Granulations


Atomic decompositions (from the title above), is actually a tendril of Curtis Roads’ research, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Decomposition, as in spectral, is Roads’ mainstay. Many of the WMDs (weapons of massive decomposition) in Roads’ technical arsenal could be labeled microsound (indeed his book on the subject, Microsound (MIT Press) is an excellent academic narrative that allows the reader to adjust to the idea and learn of the possibility of soundscapes culled from compositional constellations computed and rendered via sonic particles and quanta of rarified and compressed air.

Below the level of the musical note lies the realm of microsound, of sound particles lasting less than one-tenth of a second. Recent technological advances allow us to probe and manipulate these pinpoints of sound, dissolving the traditional building blocks of music—notes and their intervals—into a more fluid and supple medium. The sensations of point, pulse (series of points), line (tone), and surface (texture) emerge as particle density increases. Sounds coalesce, evaporate, and mutate into other sounds.

Composers have used theories of microsound in computer music since the 1950s. Distinguished practitioners include Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. Today, with the increased interest in computer and electronic music, many young composers and software synthesis developers are exploring its advantages. Covering all aspects of composition with sound particles, Microsound offers composition theory, historical accounts, technical overviews, acoustical experiments, descriptions of musical works, and aesthetic reflections. The book is accompanied by an audio CD of examples.MIT Press synopsis


The approach (Wikipedia… *sigh*):
Microsound includes all sounds on the time scale shorter than musical notes, the sound object time scale, and longer than the sample time scale. Specifically this is shorter than one tenth of a second and longer than 10 milliseconds, including the audio frequency range (20 Hz to 20 kHz) and the infrasonic frequency range (below 20 Hz, rhythm).

These sounds include transient audio phenomena and are known in acoustics and signal processing by various names including sound particles, acoustic quantum, sonal atom, grain, glisson, grainlet, trainlet, microarc, wavelet, chirplet, FOF, time-frequency atom, pulsar, impulse, toneburst, tone pip, acoustic pixel, and others. In the frequency domain they may be named kernel, logon, and frame, among others.

(1971 Nobel Prize (Physics)) Physicist Dennis Gabor was an important pioneer in microsound. Micromontage is musical montage with microsound.

Microtime is the level of “sonic” or aural “syntax” or the “time-varying distribution of…spectral energy.”


Indeed Roads is no newbie when it comes to musical signal having written (another recommendation) one of the books on the subject: “Musical Signal Processing.” He also authored “The Computer Music Tutorial” (MIT Press) a telephone book sized tome for those of us excited to handle business in Csound rather than a looper or some other such piece of highly abstracted user level software that has most of your composition built into its menus and allows anyone with fingers (not even sure of the opposable thumb) and a mouse to “make beats.”


The Computer Music Tutorial is a comprehensive text and reference that covers all aspects of computer music, including digital audio, synthesis techniques, signal processing, musical input devices, performance software, editing systems, algorithmic composition, MIDI, synthesizer architecture, system interconnection, and psychoacoustics. A special effort has been made to impart an appreciation for the rich history behind current activities in the field – MIT Press.

Following the heavy percolations and Sasquatch-sized musico-historical and compisitional footprints of innovators like Iannis Xenakis and Nobelists like Gabor is no small task, but having the opportunity to hear Roads give a talk at ACM Siggraph some years ago and becoming familiar with Roads’ work (both sonic and textual… But always grammatical) I believe he is a wonderful leaf in the academic/musical phylogenetic tree of applied signal processing, criticism, education and sound science.

Rhoads’ compositions, software and writings can be found on his website, amongst other particulates of information,bits served up as bitstreams that splash across your monitor and from your monitors like literary and musical liquid. Apt for a composer whose primary focus is reducing sound and ideas about process into atoms and then allowing them to flow into our neural structures, dancing and jumping from basin to basin and in attractive and accessible currents, eddies and rivulets.

His Self-reported Research Agenda:
My research interests encompass electronic music composition, digital audio signal processing, sound analysis, and related areas. In 2007-2009 I was Co-principal investigator of a research group focusing on dictionary-based pursuit of analyzing audio signals: the analytical counterpart of granular synthesis. This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. I am also interested in the general topic of modeling granular processes: different rules apply when handling a million things as opposed to one thing.

My initial attraction to computer music was prompted by a fascination with algorithmic composition processes coupled with digital sound synthesis. In this same period, I began experiments in granular synthesis of sound, which is of continuing interest. This expanded into the broader field of microsound, i.e., the analysis, synthesis, and transformation of sound on a micro time scale (less than 100 ms).

An encounter with Xenakis’s original UPIC system in 1986 led to an interest in graphical visualizations and notations and their counterpart in sound synthesis by graphical means. I have collaborated with a number of artists and engineers on visualizations of my music, including Brian O’Reilly, Woon Seung Yeo, James Ingram, Garry Kling, Bob Sturm, and Aaron Mcleran. The related issue of data sonification remains of interest, and we are exploring this prospect in the UCSB Allosphere.

I am also interested in three-dimensional spatialization of sound. I am currently engaged in a project to generatively upmix my two-channel composition Modulude to 128 channels for projection in the UCSB Allosphere.

My scholarly interest in the history of electronic music is long-standing and I have collected many artifacts. Finally, I am convinced that reflection on aesthetic philosophy is essential to artistic practice, so questions of aesthetics are always in the foreground of my thinking. My forthcoming book Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic is my statementtechniques, signal processing, musical input devices, performance software, editing systems, algorithmic composition, MIDI, synthesizer architecture, system interconnection, and psychoacoustics. A special effort has been made to impart an appreciation for the rich history behind current activities in the field on aesthetic philosophy.



Maya Hayuk @ Hammer Projects (Maya’s Dream)

On the night of the Saltzberg con(tra)Thurman mindfulfest, I happened upon an epic and completely resonant surprise: large scale murals by Maya Hayuk!!!!


Mindful Deets:
Co-presented with the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

An authority on religion, spirituality, Asian history, philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama, Robert Thurman advocates for the relevance of Eastern ideas in our daily lives. Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher, author, and cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. Thurman and Salzberg are co-authors of the book Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier.


My beloved said it must be like Maya’s Dream up in that enlightened bitch!!! Holla! (No disrespect intended… In the reals.)


Spectral Deets (full color):
With their symmetrical compositions, intricate patterns, and lush colors, Maya Hayuk’s paintings and massively scaled murals recall views of outer space, traditional Ukrainian crafts, airbrushed manicures, and mandalas. Hayuk weaves visual information from her immediate surroundings into her elaborate abstractions, creating an engaging mix of referents from popular culture and advanced painting practices while connecting to the ongoing pursuit of psychedelic experience in visual form. For her first one-person museum exhibition in the United States, she will make a new site-specific mural on the Lobby Wall. Hammer Projects: Maya Hayuk is organized by Hammer assistant curator Corrina Peipon.


More than 2,500 years ago, there was a king called Suddhodana. He married a beautiful Koliyan princess named Maha Maya. The couple ruled over the Sakyas, a warrior tribe living next to the Koliya tribe, in the north of India, in what is now known as Nepal. The capital of the Sakya country was laid out across the foothills of the Himalayas and called Kapilavatthu.




21 SEP – 7 DEC 2013

M+B is pleased to announce Greet the Dust, Matthew Porter’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. On view is a selection of new works ranging from Matisse- and Braque-inspired multiple-exposure still lifes, to landscapes from Tasmania and Montana, as well as a portrait. The title refers to a statement made by King Gustav V of Sweden in 1930 upon the return of the remains of three polar explorers. Their bodies had been recovered, by chance, 33 years after a failed balloon attempt to reach the North Pole left them dead on a remote island in Norway. Matthew Porter: Greet the Dust runs from September 21 through December 7, 2013, with an opening reception for the artist on Saturday, September 21 from 6 to 8 pm.

Photographic analogue materials are well suited to using multiple planes of depictive information­. Film allows for the accumulation of discrete exposures on a single piece of material. It is the record of the event, the visual reference of the subject, the template by which one composes, and the agency of the process. Within the frame, objects stack on top of one another, blend where they overlap, and flatten pictorial space. The process allows photography—a visual language of boxed, still images—to collage multiple topics into single frames: colony collapse, Herbert Matter posters, Navajo blankets, Arne Jacobsen chairs, and ash from an artist’s studio destroyed by fire. Together, they form a reticulated pattern of overlapping subject matter.

I have an Arne Jacobsen knock-off chair in my studio, I see them scattered throughout the institution where I teach part-time, and they adorn the lobby of a glowing, glassy-faced condominium that I pass on the way to the subway. Mine is black, but the others are brightly colored, functioning like garnish on the pale, monochromatic hues of open, semi-private spaces.


One of the works, Isle of Mountains, features a small bowl of dirt—dark, moist, and brown against the pale blue of a table. It was scooped from the ground in the Tarkine region of northwest Tasmania, a sprawling rainforest known for frequent reports of Tasmanian Tiger (or Thylacine) sightings. While officially declared extinct in 1983, the last known Thylacine died in captivity in 1933. Because of the large amount of unexplored territory in Tasmania, it is difficult to prove that the animal no longer exists. It is possible that the bowl contains the remains of a Thylacine, dried up and returned to dust.


In 1908, Matisse reflected in a written apologia that he had failed to link his technical ability to any particular conceptual conceit. In his own words, his paintings did not “go beyond the purely visual satisfaction such as can be obtained from looking at a picture.” Taken out of context, this statement could erroneously give the impression that Matisse believed his paintings to be merely meretricious decorations, yet it would be unfortunate to traduce them using the Marxist belief that the economic and political conditions of an artwork’s production should subjugate its aesthetic properties. His work actually contains some of the early provenances of modernism—pictorial compression of space and a nagging anxiety about a shifting cultural identity—despite the perception of his Fauvist, bourgeois complacency.


Matthew Porter (b.1975, Pennsylvania) received his BA from Bard College in 1998 and his MFA from Bard-ICP in 2006. Porter was recently profiled in The New York Times and included in the “After Photoshop”<\a> at the Metropolitan Museum Art in New York in 2012 (see below), as well as the International Center of Photography Museum’s “Perspectives 2010.” His work has been exhibited in galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London and is held in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Statoil Collection (Norway). Porter’s curatorial projects include “Seven Summits” at Mount Tremper Arts, “The Crystal Chain” at Invisible Exports, and “Bedtime for Bonzo” at M+B, which was an ARTFORUM Critics’ Pick in 2011. He is the co-editor of Blind Spot magazine Issue 45, and his writings and interviews have been featured in Triple Canopy, Blind Spot, and Canteen. Porter teaches part time at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and his first monograph will be published by Mack Books in early 2014. Porter lives and works in Brooklyn.

T 310 550 0050
F 310 550 0605

612 North Almont Drive Los Angeles CA 90069

Related Past Exhibitions:


After Photoshop
Manipulated Photography
in the Digital Age
September 25, 2012–May 27, 2013

This installation explores various ways in which artists, including Nancy Burson, Filip Dujardin, Joan Fontcuberta, Beate Gütschow, and others, have used digital technology to alter the photographic image from the 1980s to the present. Featuring approximately twenty-five works drawn from the permanent collection, it serves as an addendum to the special exhibition Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop.


Over the past twenty years, photography has undergone a dramatic transformation. Mechanical cameras and silver-based film have been replaced by electronic image sensors and microchips. Instead of shuffling through piles of glossy prints, we stare at the glowing screens of laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Negative enlargers and chemical darkrooms have given way to personal computers and image-processing software. Photographers have always used manual techniques to alter their images, but digital cameras and applications such as Adobe Photoshop have made the process quicker, easier, and more accessible to many more people—both amateurs and professionals—than ever before.

Today, the manipulation of photographic images is ubiquitous—in magazines and advertising, in police work and medical imaging, and increasingly in the snapshots of vacations, weddings, and graduations that we email to friends and family and upload to social-networking websites. It is not surprising that artists have seized upon these new tools to realize their visions and to spur reflection on the medium’s past, present, and future. This exhibition presents a selection of photographs and video in which artists have used digital technology to modify and transform the camera image or, in some cases, to generate convincingly realistic photographs with no real-world counterparts. Whether imagining alternate realities, reinterpreting classic works of art, or exuberantly defying the laws of gravity, these artists and others are pointing the way toward a new conception of photography as a malleable medium with an exquisitely complex relationship to visual truth.

Faking It
Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop
October 11, 2012–January 27, 2013


Accompanied by a catalogue and a free iPad app

The urge to modify camera images is as old as photography itself—only the methods have changed. Nearly every type of manipulation we now associate with digital photography was also part of the medium’s pre-digital repertoire: smoothing away wrinkles, slimming waistlines, adding people to a scene (or removing them)—even fabricating events that never took place.

This international loan exhibition traces the history of manipulated photography from the 1840s through the early 1990s, when the computer replaced manual techniques as the dominant means of doctoring photographs. Most of the two hundred pictures on view were altered after the negative was exposed—through photomontage, combination printing, overpainting, retouching, or, as is often the case, a blend of several processes. In every instance, the final image differs significantly from what stood before the camera at any given moment.


Whether modified in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, or commerce, the pictures featured in the exhibition adopt the seamlessly realistic appearance of conventional photographs. They aim to convince the eye, even if the mind rebels at the scenarios they conjure, such as a woman bathing in a glass of champagne or a man brandishing his own severed head.

Over the past two decades, digital technology has made us all more keenly aware of the malleability of the photographic image, and many lament a loss of faith in the testimony of the camera. What we have gained, however, is a fresh perspective on the history of the medium and its complex relationship to visual truth. Through today’s eyes, we can see that the old adage “the camera never lies” has always been photography’s supreme fiction.




San Francisco has always been proud of its sign painting tradition, and the city’s New Bohemia Signs shop has been keeping that art form alive with their hand-painted custom sign business. San Francisco Sate University and its art gallery will honor New Bohemia by hosting SignAge, a collection of hand-painted signs from the artists at the shop.