Michael Connor
Since 2002
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America


The Impossible Music of Black MIDI


The machine on which Conlon Nancarrow created his player piano rolls. Photo by Carol Law, 1977. Collection: C Amirkhanian.

In 1947, the composer Conlon Nancarrow—frustrated with human pianists and their limited ability to play his rhythmically complex music—purchased a device which allowed him to punch holes in player piano rolls. This technology allowed him to create incredibly complex musical compositions, unplayable by human hands, which later came to be widely recognized by electronic musicians as an important precursor to their work.

A similar interest in seemingly impossible music can be found today in a group of musicians who use MIDI files (which store musical notes and timings, not unlike player piano rolls) to create compositions that feature staggering numbers of notes. They're calling this kind of music "black MIDI," which basically means that when you look at the music in the form of standard notation, it looks like almost solid black:

 

Blackers take these MIDI files and run them through software such as Synesthesia, which is kind of an educational version of Guitar Hero for the piano, and bills itself as "piano for everyone." It's kind of brilliant to imagine a novice piano player looking for some online tutorials and stumbling across, say, this video of the song Bad Apple, which reportedly includes 8.49 million separate notes. 


Red Burns, 1925-2013


We were deeply saddened to learn this weekend of the passing of Red Burns. On Saturday, NYU's ITP department announced her passing with a statement. "After living several full lives, one of which we were a part of at ITP, she died peacefully at home surrounded by her children. Red lives on strongly in the thousands of lives that she redirected at ITP." 

We offer our deepest condolences to those in our community who were close to Burns. 


The Voluptuous Blinking Art of Teletext


With its blocky, low-res graphics and clunky interaction, the television-based information retrieval system known as teletext seems out of place in today's world of touchscreens and flatscreen TVs. But in an excellent blog post on the history of teletext art posted Friday, Goto80 (aka Anders Carlsson) pointed out that the medium is still very much in use in several European countries. In fact, the iPhone and iPad app for Swedish teletext was one of the most popular iTunes downloads in that country 2011. And as Carlson writes, among the latter-day fans of the medium are numerous artists, from JODI to the participants in the 2006 Microtel project that inspired the title of this article to the participants of the second annual International Teletext Art Festival (through September 15).


The Week Ahead: Analog Sunset (Down Under) Edition


Analog Sunset at Ludlow 38.

In 2009, I went to an amazing event at 38 Ludlow called Analog Sunset, which took place on the night that analog television was due to be turned off in the US forever, giving way to the digital broadcast future. Three artists going by the moniker Off the Record (Ethan Breckenridge, Liz Linden and Phil Vanderhyden) had piled up a stack of old TVs in the space. As the appointed hour approached, more and more urgent warnings began flashing at the bottom of the screen; the announcers on Univision grew particularly animated. And then, not at the same time, but—with true analog precision—one by one, over the course of several minutes, the televisions faded away to static. (Auspiciously, Liza Béar of Send/Receive was in attendance.)

Later this year, the analog sunset will hit Australia, as that country moves to solely digital broadcast. To mark the transition, Emma Ramsay and Alex White are organizing a series of events and broadcasts under the name Tele Visions. They're looking for new and existing works that engage with TV as a medium; the deadline is next week.

Now, without further ado, here is our weekly roundup of Events, Opportunities and Deadlines, culled from Rhizome Announce.


Art & Technology According to Powhida and Townsend


William Powhida and Jade Townsend's drawing Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes (2012). Detail.  

William Powhida and Jade Townsend's drawing Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes is a depiction of the art world as a medieval battlefield populated by warring factions, complete with a legend identifying each faction in language that is part literary epic, part incoherent rant. It's an excellent time-waster, both funny and irritating. For example, one part of the drawing depicts a suburban hinterland where burghers gather outside the church of Thomas Kinkade (above). Steve Lambert can be seen rolling by with his "Capitalism works for me!" sign, one of only a few artists found in these uncharted middlebrow realms. (Lambert toured the large sign across the US, asking people to vote on whether the sign is true or false for them.)