Facebook Announces Launching of Alternate Reality

by Keith Blakely (UPI)

Coming under increasing scrutiny from media watchdogs and social realists alike, the Facebook corporation announced today that it would be launching an alternate reality to compete with the earthly existences familiar to most users of experiential-based atmospheres.

Facebook users have increasingly been commenting on their profile pages about links that have taken them not to another Web page but to an entirely different environ, noting either frustration at or fascination with the experience. Event invitations, for example, a popular way to let fellow users and people tagged as “friends” on the site about parties, performances or other terrestrial occurrences, have been seen recently to take the user to the actual event, rather than another Web page containing relevant information.

“This is just an example of the inventiveness of our community and the possibilities created by using open source protocols,” said Facebook CEO and co-founder Matt Zuckerberg. “It’s the same thing as all of the savvy developers out there creating apps for iPhones, only these are more submersive.”

But critics have blasted the new applications, saying there are inherent risks in blurring the lines between actual and chosen life situations.

Frantz Beacon, an academe with the accredited online reference think-tank database Wikireality, said that the new interfaces pose some serious problems, although as with anything those problems are the result of user carelessness and not the program itself.

“It’s true that you shouldn’t be interacting in online communities when you’re trying to get something else done,” Beacon said. “Just as it’s true that you shouldn’t be breastfeeding while operating a car, or sending text messages under anesthesia. These things have their times and places. Web sites don’t kill people, people do.”

But to some it’s not as easy as that. Blogger Jenny McClems was doing research for her popular New York nightlife site when she accidentally clicked on a pop-up ad and found herself in the middle of an unidentified casino.

“It was terrible,” she said. “I’m not anti-gambling, but it was 11 in the morning and I was only wearing a robe. I didn’t have my purse, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have an ID. And once you get there, with all the lights and activity, just try finding an ESC key.”

According to programmer and new media theorist Evelyn Marie, however, these changes are the wave of the future, and people should get used to negotiating different reality complexes at the same time while they can still be turned on and off.

“By 2020, most people will concurrently be interacting on terra-based and cybernetic platforms, probably several of each,” Marie said. “It’s going to be a totally rad network of overlapping instantaneousnesses, where everyone is free to cross-rationalize varying circuitries of interactivating realizations. It’ll be crazytown.”


Shit From an Old Notebook (Winks and Nods to D. Boon)

Notes from Keith Rowe press conference Festival Internationale de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, 2004

This press conference really should have been video-taped. A stare-down between a handful of journalists and an artist is, more often than not, a pretty drudgerous thing, especially if it happens before noon. But Rowe is a fantastic conversationalist, and would much rather be interesting than be bored. The meeting culminated in him taking one of us witless scribes to the doorway to look at a vase of flowers in the hallway and to consider how they change with just the slightest shift in vantage. It really should have been filmed. Below are the direct quotes I managed to gather.

"If you put four very clear things together, you get chaos. If you take four very clear colors and spin them, you get brown.

"The fetish of sound of the Berlin school in the last three to four years is beginning to break down. The fetish of volume that get in Tokyo in the last two or three years is beginning to break down, just in the last few months.

"What is the meaning within this? What is profound?

"When we listen to Brahms, we have a sense of what profound is, but what is profound electronic music?

"Personally, I think interplay with other people is horrible. I really don't like it. We have interactions and we have juxtapositions. I think juxtaposition is much more interesting.

"If I'm sitting here playing and listening to the piano, suddenly I'm not here as much. The interesting thing is to listen without thinking about the history of the piano.

"When I laid the guitar flat, it changed from an expression to a reflection. The consequence of that is I think we ditched gesture very early on. You tend to be reflecting the environment rather than reflecting your expression of the environment. I can put an electric motor ext to the pick-up and it reflects the environment.

"The room is a highly complex concept. The room involves the physical nature of the room you're in but it also includes the history of painting, the history of music. It includes you and whoever is in the room. It probably also includes the war in Iraq and all the Palestinians that have been killed. It doesn't just include the acoustic properties of the room.

"The most profound music that has been made probably has been in quartet form ... you could argue that.

"Tal Farlowe, Charley Christian, Wes Montgomery, all my favorite guitar players, they really developed their own languages. You have festivals where they're supposed to pay homage to Django Reinhardt, and they rip him off."


Soundtrack to an Earthquake

Haitians Find Lifeline In Local Radio Station
by John Burnett

From the moment the earthquake struck in Haiti, one radio station has been on the air around the clock acting as a lifeline for Haitians in Port-au-Prince and around the world on the Internet. Signal FM 90.5 has evolved into a community bulletin board for missing person reports, rescues, body collection, survival tips and solace.

Mario Viau, who started the station 18 years ago, has become somewhat of a hero over the past two weeks. Graffiti on the wall outside the station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville reads: "Viv Mario" ("Long live Mario").

"We were just like the phone; we were the phone of the country," says the 52-year-old owner and general manager. "There were people on one side and people on the other side, and we were just the instrument in the middle that was saying exactly what was going on in Haiti."

When the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, Signal FM was playing "Hotel California." The Earth groaned and the building shuddered, but just before the DJ ran out, he had the presence of mind to hit the "repeat" button.

So for the first 30 minutes of Port-au-Prince's descent into hell, the only thing you could hear on the radio was the Eagles' standard — over and over and over.

Read the full NPR story here.


Shit From an Old Notebook (Hugs and Kisses to D. Boon)

I got to speak briefly to Pamelia Kurstin in February, 2006 immediately after the first of Issue Project Room's Theremin Society evenings. What I hoped would blossom into a feature about the new wave of thereminists failed to garner much editorial attention. As I recall, the interview went very quickly over a beer and a fast walk down the street to an apartment that wasn't hers in Brooklyn, while she was packing and rushing to the airport. Here's a few lines that stood the test of time and saved notebooks.

"I didn't know what scene was out there. I just saw the documentary and thought, "oh, I want to do that.' I'd tried other instruments. I didn't understand that there weren't other people playing it.

"I wish I could sing and then I probably wouldn't play any instrument.

"If you go out on the street and there's someone playing a violin, you know more or less what to expect, but when people see a theremin they're just infatuated with someone moving around.

"I don't want it to sound like a theremin. I'd much rather it sound like a voice or something.

"I think a lot of musicians dismiss it as being a toy or think it's impossible.

"I would never criticize, even if someone is doing something that's giving you a splitting headache, as long as they're not murdering you.

"It's something that can be taken so extremely seriously and also it can be laughed at.

"After I saw the documentary, I saw Clara Rockmore play. She set a standard for it for her time and she was doing something that nobody thought was possible. It was so important, the documentary came out and there's a document of her playing."


Shit From an Old Notebook (Tea and Scones to D. Boon)

Notes from the 30-something-by-the-time-it-was-all-over-hour 2006 Bang on a Can Marathon. I attended the whole thing. Having failed to sell a review of the event, I decided to keep experiential notes.

Sat 7 pm

This is my third weekend away from home. Two weeks ago I went to Quebec. Last weekend to DC. Today I traveled the length of Manhattan to spend 26, 27 really, hours in the World Financial Center Winter Garden for the Bang on a Can Marathon. By volume, I'm carrying as much today as I took to DC. Much of that, however, is a double wide comforter and a pillow. But being as it seems a remote part of the city to spend the weeked, I've also brought nourishment:

3 liters of water
2 bananas
a container of hummus
a bag of pita bread
a box of raisins
a can of mixed nuts
a box of granola bars
2 cans of taurine drinks

Probably more than I'll need. Definitely. But it will be good to have stuff to share, or trade, on this new music urban camping trip. I also brought some Stri-dex pads. Excellent camping tip.

The bagpipes are warming up.

It took me forever to get here. Going to DC, including the cab ride to the airport, was probably quicker. The A train was out of service - had to take a shuttle bus 30 blocks south. And then was compelled - with provisions in tow - to go to Academy Records where I'd seen a John Lee Hooker record I never knew existed. I don't have a player with me (hardly seemed necessary on the way to a solid day of concert) so I won't be able to hear it until tomorrow night.

There's a woman holding her ears to block out the bagpipes. Why do I think she won't last through tomorrow?

I'm obsessed with trying to plan when to sleep. I know I won't be awake the whole time. I did manage to sleep until 10 am today, but that would still be a good 40 hours awake, which I know I can't do sitting in one place most of the time. I am looking forward to being bleary and exhausted tomorrow, tho. I do think BOAC's record of Eno's Music for Airports is pretty beautiful, and it might be a nice thing to sleep through as well. It's a different level of music appreciation. That's from 1-2, and could lead me in to a nice snooze until the Steve Reich piece at 4:30. The most important thing is Iva Bittova at 10 am, when I'll certainly be awake, whatever has happened in the ensuing hours. I'm going to go see if I can find out about restaurant hours. Despite a wealth of healthful snacks, I might want a meal at some point.

Bagpipes are a brilliant way to start the marathon. They're set up in the back of the room. My neck would be sore if I had to turn my head backwards on this metal sofa until this time tomorrow.

There are a couple of givens to BOAC for me. First, it's pretty much all going to be of pretty high standard. Second, it will for the most part all be composed, which means it won't be my favorite music. So i've committed to 26 hours of stuff I'll appreciate more than love. Which is OK. But Chris Adler's "Signal Intelligence" is fantastic, making me realize that my favorite composed music is often for percussion. I just bought a CD of traditional Chinese percussion compositions - I'll have to go home and listen to that - after the John Lee Hooker CD and the Iva BIttova DVD I bought, that is.

There's a huge line outside Starbucks. They close in 10 minutes. I get 16 oz of espresso. A guy in line takes a photo of the shop. A manager comes out and tells him he's not allowed to take photos of Starbucks. I ask him why and he says "It's against the rules, inside or outside the store. It's just one of their rules, like you're not allowed to take a dog in the store." As he might be the only purveyor of caffeine for me tomorrow, I decide not to press the issue.

The Lois V. Vierck piece was also performed off the main stage. My friend Bruce and I didn't even realize there was a performance going on and talked through it. I felt bad.

11 pm
The Books turn out to be a happy surprise. 2 young guys from Massachusetts, guitar and cello with Todd Reynolds sitting in on violin. Songs, video, light, entertaining. They get the most applause so far tonight when they're introduced. They drew a crowd. I'd never heard of them. Do young people make more enjoyable art? Not better, not more refined, but maybe they're still feeling the freshness of their own ideas. Maybe by virtue of youth they're able to be lighter, more carefree, of wilder eyes. They were something like Byrne / Eno, something like something else, but I forget already. And not much like B/E either, really, except for the found vocal thing. A bit like the Knee Plays, though.

12:40I love being at a concert where people are walking around with pillows and blankets under their arms. My right arm is hurting a bit. It's the left arm that's the heart attack one, right?

1:00Music for Airports is the second big applause getter beforehand, so far, at least beforehand. Michael Gordon's piece "Gotham" was well received, and deservedly so. He makes orchestras rock like nobody. It's been a while since I've listened to Music for Airports, either the Eno or the BOAC version. The last time, I think, was actually in an airport, and it worked quite well, though I can't remember when or where that was. Placing a memory of an airport is kind of like trying to imagine what goldfish think about. But is it possible the ensemble is rushing it? Probably not. I probably just remember it slower than it is. I wonder how they're keeping pulse - seems like the pianist and the percussionist are in charge. Makes sense.

I brought a pack of gum (Dentyne Ice Arctic Chill - the best gum) that only had one piece left in it. I feel as if I should have held out longer before chewing it. A fair number of people are clearing out after the first movement. What did they expect? "Baby's on Fire"? Not that that wouldn't have been cool - and for that matter it'd just be cool to have a roomful of people thinking about "Baby's on Fire." Still it's surprisingly full. My first crowd estimate - oh hell, I don't know. More than 300, I think.

This atrium feels a bit like an airport - the reverberating voices in the back compliment the piece beautifully.

I'm feeling fine after the Music for Airports lie-down, and kidding myself into thinking I'm set for another 20 hours.

3 am
Thing's are getting rough. Juara Molinera's [failed to get the right name here] introduction was a bit bedraggled, and then tech problems delayed her start. She has to be on, though. It'd be hard to be a working musician - no being susceptible to jet lag or insomnia, you gotta be pro. There's still a few hundred people here, and we're getting over the "don't talk to strangers" mentality. One fellow had to leave after the Varese to drive to DC and get his wisdom teeth pulled. It wasn't, I'm pretty sure, in reaction to the Varese. A woman I met earlier asked if she could borrow my blanket, but then quickly asked it it was "stinky." I assured her it wasn't, tho it probably has cat hair on it. She told me that in a previous life she'd been married to a Chicago gangster and had died in a car accident. I liked her - whereas on the subway I might have tried to ignore her.

Nothing compares to the feeling of waking up and brushing your teeth to Music for 18 Musicians.

Steve Reich was the mile marker for many people here. The roar of applause woke all the sleepers up and we've suddenly dropped from about 250 people to 50 or so. A long, quiet solo piano piece by Michael Harrison, Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation has begun and I haven't had caffeine for 6 hours. I wonder if I'm up for the day.

There's a little meeting of security guys or something, 3 of them standing in the aisle and talking too loudly, their radios squelching on and off.

It's amazing how much bodies effect room temperature. It's gotten pretty cold in here, but even when it was crowded it seemed like the temperature would go up when people were moving around between pieces. The security guards are now going around and making people sit up.I might have to go get some Claritin.

A tour group walks through, to see real and true bedraggled NY new music afficianados in their natural habitat. I get busted for lying down. My friend Matt B was told by a security guard he couldn't stand to listen. Apparently the only allowable posture is seated.

10 am
The players actually never play together at the same time ... "hocketing" ... so fast it's actually physically impossible for them to play it." (playing with separate click tracks) John Fitz Rogers

5:15 pm
At this point there only two kinds of music: the kind that sounds like how my head feels and the kind that doesn't. They're equally good.

7 pm
Meredith Monk's Three Heavens and Hells is far and away that best thing I've heard here. With the best qualities of Gertrude Stein and Lucian Berio, it made me feel wide alert insane. It was just an excerpt, and even if (maybe especially if) the full piece is just more of the same, it will be crazy beauty.

More composed percussion - Julia Wolfe's Dark Full Ride reinforcing my adherence to my recklessly generalized claim about percussion and composition. It reminds me of the dual-drummer Melvins, except without The Melvins in it.

John Fitz Rogers' Once Removed also great percussion composition. Of course Monk's choral piece was very composed and had no percussion. I don't feel like trying to reconcile that, tho.

[later, unstamped]THIS IS SO ASS!


High Bias (in sum)

So. What did I learn? Well, I'm not sure I expected to learn anything concrete by quizzing musicians about what they think about their relationships with journalists. I had already learned by having conversations with several that there's no one answer.

Being a survivor of daily paper work, however, I tend to want there to be rules. But I'll also gladly take money from the tourism bureau of some foreign country in order to travel there and cover a festival. Conflict of interest much? Yeah, the worlds of political and arts journalism are not the same.

That said, maybe what was most enlightening to me about this endeavor was what came by way of nonresponse. About 1/6 of the people I asked to do this actually did. Again, I don't know what I expected, but that seems low. And while this is all hardly scientific, it was interesting to note that in general it was younger musicians willing to do it. Maybe they have more time, maybe they are more engaged, I don't know. But one very well established musician over 50 seemed shocked that anyone would participate in such a thing. Jaded much? I don't know.

That does seem sad to me, but what do I know? Most but not all of the musicians and most but not all of the arts journalists I know are nice people. And if I had to draw once conclusion from this experiment, I guess it's that most but not all of us aren't quite sure what our relationship should be.

It's been fun, though. And I'm going to start another template interview in a couple months. In the meantime, I'm going through old notebooks looking for unpublished fragments to type here.


YLWTR & trains

Sunday, January 10

Two sets of video motion and audio stillness with the duos of Kurt Gottschalk / Philip Gayle and Bryan Eubanks / Gil Arnò 
(8 pm) $5, $10 minimum
at Monkeytown
58 N 3rd St
(btw. Kent & Wythe)
Williamsburg, Bklyn

In YLWTR, Kurt Gottschalk and Philip Gayle explore bright and quiet currents with acoustic strings, percussion, waterphone and accidental video. Bryan Eubanks will coax circuitry to audible life in accompaniment to Gill Arnò's projections involving media decay and amnesia. Subjective relations between memory and place will be questioned.

Kurt Gottschalk - http://spearmintmusic.blogspot.com/
Philip Gayle - http://www.myspace.com/philipgaylemusic
Gil Arnò - http://www.m-i-c-r-o.net/mpld/
Bryan Eubanks - www.rasbliutto.net/bryaneubanks