Chachi Jones, in action. Did he look like he was checking his email? Yes, I’m fairly certain that’s what that egg whisk percussion instrument was for.

As digital musicianship grows, it’s critical to have places like Robotspeak. This small, basement-level music shop on San Francisco’s lower Haight is a brilliant music tech boutique by day. On regular evenings, it becomes a venue, packing in fans of genre-bending electronica. Walk off the street, and you feel like you’re in someone’s basement — someone with lots of toys and a great affection for throwing great musical parties.

I got to play Robotspeak last month on a program with some terrific players: the legendary Daedalus, armed with the prototype device that inspired the Monome, the fabulous Chachi Jones, and the sonic explorations of acoustic ensemble Pineresin. Thanks to the power of video, we can share a little bit of that performance with you, complete with discussion of the tools. Tools are not incidental, either: it’s great to see the range of ways people approach exploring sound and performance, even in this small cross-sampling of artists.

My favorite video it the outtakes, but I’ll resist the temptation to start with that — suffice to say, yes, all of us laptopists face the same problems. Be sure to look to the end for that one.

I had an incredibly great time — there’s nothing like being in a really supportive venue, one that values musicians taking some real risks. Now, the videos:

Before today’s slick-looking Monomes, there was this, more rustic, wood version. And no one can play it like virtuoso Daedalus.

May was a Maker Faire edition; I personally obliged by trying some sets that were in beta. The beautiful documentation was shot and edited by Andrew Cavette.

Peter Kirn

Ed.: That name’s familiar. Not sure why. Y’all have rightfully bugged me to put more of my actual stuff so you know what my own work sounds like, so I’ll swallow my shyness and put this first.


Chachi Jones



More Robotspeak

For more of this series, here’s the season opener:

Robotspeak’s free concert and artist Q&A series “Sessions” kicked off 2007 with a thunderous robotic belch on 01/31/07. You’ve got 0mnis0und’s Casio SK1-infused Ableton Live session with live drumming. Snareface’s MPC rocking, beer-spilling, cell phone-ignoring bleep funk. Then Puzzle’s relentless hardcore drum & bass outfitted with wah-pedals and repeater delays. Behind it all Doolittle puts a giant-breasted insect woman on a pane of glass and a psychotic weepy-eyed robot on the wall. To hear the whole show, look for Robotspeak’s audio-only podcast on iTunes.

Robotspeak Sessions 3.5 “Maker Faire” Edition, on the Robotspeak blog/magazine

  • squidgee

    The plugin name you're looking for is Replicant. It's actually one of my favorite effects, it kicks serious ass.

  • Yeah, I remember now, of course — I was sleepy. 🙂 Replicant is brilliant.

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  • sprouts

    thanks so much for posting the videos! its always enjoyable to see, as well as hear live performances.

    was resolume and ableton sync'd in any way?

  • This is great. Thanks for sharing

  • Thanks Peter!

  • nkem

    Peter, I was at the show. You commented, "I think I put everyone to sleep with that one…" and while I can't speak for everyone else, it was extremely low energy.

    While I'm being candid in my feedback, I liked your opening piece best. The piano and arppegios were really nice. Most of the pieces seemed to lack development and the drum sounds were really thin/cheap-sounding, and perhaps that was the intent. (compare to chachi's for example.) From the performance angle, we all could have been watching someone sitting down, checking email & wouldn't have been the wiser. Constant fiddling with the visuals distracted from the music imo.

  • Well, nkem, I always appreciate candid feedback. This particular setup for visuals was new, and I didn't convince myself that it was necessarily one I'd stick with — so I was sharing, not necessarily advocating. I was personally happy, though, that Robotspeak gave us a laboratory to push sets in some new directions and see what happened.

  • Classic comment regarding "checking email".

    – … but I've got Max/M.I.L.K. running Jittery Twinkly 2.8 and a custom made Reemur controller with a monome hacked into a Sega Genesis with Speak n Tweak bending a johnmoogerfoogerty!

    Even if you're just using a mouse all you have to do is get into the music you are making. Nod your head a little and shuffle. Have some fun.

  • I generally don't check email on MIDI keyboards, but point taken. What is your actual setup, McManus? (Or is that it?) 🙂

  • Peter, thanks for posting this stuff. Living far, far north of San Fran (not to mention a long way from almost all points cool) its a lot of fun to see what is being done elsewhere. And thanks for showing your own stuff too. Its nice to put a face (and sound) to the website that so many of us spend so much time on.

    I've alway thought that the checking email look was kind of Miles Davis cool.

  • nkem

    It is if you're Miles Davis, but then again, who is?

  • Miles Davis would've used gmail.

  • Oh sorry Peter. I didn't mean you, I was addressing the "checking email" criticism in general. You looked fine. I really would like to have seen the visuals and the full show.

    When people make that criticism it isn't about the gear, which they haven't a clue about anyways. Its about your body language, attitude, and meta-physical swank.

    We all know you're the shit Pete. Just give us a little "vibe" and look more like you're surfing for porn instead.

    I also use an Edirol pcr-a30 which I really don't recommend. I keep waiting on getting a trigger finger as I know they'll drop a new version right after I do.

  • Such a great post. Great music, Peter. I really wish I could have been there.