independent study documentary: "Phasors Built My Hot Rod"
// week4:

"What to do when things break down."

The plan this week was to hold a practice session in a central location (the Japanese Room @ ITP). Right now, we're unsure about the format for the concerts. Personally, I don't know where my instrument fits in with the others'. I wanted this jam session to be a turning point where we'd start to jell as a group, where instruments that don't fit neatly into traditional categories would find a working performance relationship with each other.

There was a lot of discussion on the listserv about this practice. I looked forward to it for the entire week, and built my plan for the documentary around taping this practice performance and exploring the issues surrounding it. Of course, the only person who shows up is Taku, the only person to tell me for sure that they wouldn't make it.

It was an error on my part, because I should have sent a stream of emails out reminding people to show up. They're busy with school and all things related, but I was too. I've committed a lot of my time to this project in the hopes that I was touching on something really deep within the community, and catching the birth of a "new instruments scene" in New York City with great potential. I thought that the others were just as committed as I was, and some have told me as much, but the truth is that I've overestimated everything up until this point.

This could be a documentary about failure, if I'm not more careful. And at this point, that seems like an interesting direction. After watching all the NIME '03 footage from our performance at Tonic, seeing instruments fail and sometimes outright break in front of a crowd of over a hundred is very sobering. I spent all morning trying to get SoundShell working right, finally tearing apart the magnetic hammer because the damn thing doesn't work right and keeps falling apart. Then I go to Hans's and Brian's birthday party, expecting to take some good footage of Hans's live audio installation, but it doesn't work, either. I can't forget that what we've built are prototypes, and prototypes break. A lot.

Talking with Yuriko was great - we had a good conversation in the Physical computing lab, and I had the video camera on me, so we moved to the couch and I got her (and my) thoughts on tape. She's a good person to talk with because her instrument is one of the most non-portable, fragile, and complicated devices to come out of the NIME '03 class. Her drum is too large to transport by hand, so she needs a place to store it, and a large vehicle to transport it in. Right now, pieces of it live in a few distant locations all over downtown.

The kicker is that she's very dedicated, and her drum is very dramatic and insteresting to watch in a performance. I'd love to have her play in the "rhythm section" of the group, but the logistics are difficult.

The week ends with an email from Gideon D'Arcangelo, our past NIME professor, both complementing us and asking us some difficult questions: How will this be arranged? Will there be a composer, or will it be freeform? Will there be a conductor? Will there be solos? And what about past NIME performers?