Back from the Spark festival in Minneapolis. Visiting the festival was a good experience. Once again it was proved that no matter how much work you put into preparing for a performance, there are things that can, and will, go wrong. I had been working for several weeks to rewrite the control program for etherSound in order to be able to perform it in USA at the Spark festival. Instead of relying on an external service to receive the SMS messages (as I have done in previous performances) I implemented support for connecting a cell phone to the computer and was able to receive the messages locally. I was able to test the system before I was leaving and it worked fine. I had purchased a used Nokia phone with triband support that supposedly would work in the 1900 MHz frequency band used in northern America. As it turned out, Nokia made two versions of this phone of which only the second version had the 1900-band implemented. The one that I bought was obviously one of the dual-band models - and this I found out the hard way. The dual-band model is identical to the tri-band model unless you know what serial numbers to look for.
In the end, I set up the system for e-mail interaction for a short demonstration one night. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out very well since, at the site the piece was running, the only way to send a message was from my computer wich was also running the control- and synthesis software, and soon enough, one user managed to close down the control application. Anyway, the e-mail version was kind of boring, since it didn’t have any of the privacy nor the mobility of the SMS version. And, to look at it from the bright side, it was actually a good thing that I got to test it this way - it made it very clear to me that this piece is really about the mobility of the mobile phone and the clash between the privacy of your own cell phone and the music played back in public.
It was a good thing that the main reason I went to Minneapolis was to present my paper. I met many interesting people and learned many things about ongoing work related to my own research. As always at festivals, the music presented ranged from really good to not so good. Interesting is to note the big aesthetic differences between the (northern) European and the North American electroacoustic music. I heard many pieces where pitch and harmony had much greater significance than what I seem to hear over here. I saw/heard many video works as well and remains somewhat ambigious to the genre. It obviously draws interest from many composers but I still have trouble with the relation between the narrativity of the images and the abstract music in many works. I will try to expand this in future posts.