blog / updates

  • This is the Moog3 at the Mills College Tape Music Center, originally San Francisco Tape music center, founded by Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, and Morton Subotnick.   Subotnick bought this moog with a grant from the Rockefeller foundation.   It’s fairly amazing.  Modular synthesis is a whole different type of music.   It’s quite enjoyable to make music where the keyboard seems irrelevant.

  • W̶r̶o̶t̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶r̶a̶n̶g̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶ ̶"̶S̶o̶n̶n̶y̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶S̶u̶n̶s̶e̶t̶s̶"̶ ̶a̶l̶b̶u̶m̶.̶   Rejected.

  • Seasick / Sadness

  • Tuesday Fest.

  • Tmrw night, will be sharing a brand new work of immersive art, done in conjunction with Gray Area Art + Technology, ICST, swissnex San Francisco, and the Swiss Consulate, San Francisco. It’s called “Pray for Rain.” It’s gonna be really great, show opens at 7pm.  It’s actually the meet-up for SF creative coders…. anyways.  I will show the piece.  Largest interface i’ve ever worked with…. 16 channel ambisonic sound, 4 huge touch screens. It has 12 spinning cubes of clouds. If spun for the right duration and in the right sequence, you get a special surprise…. And, oh yes, there’s 4 other big cloud cubes. All activated by touch. It’s really cool! come say hi. i’ll be drinking a whiskey. Gray Area on mission street! i think it costs $5.

  • Two Interviews w/ Pauline Oliveros regarding humor, theater pieces, SF tape music center, and her 1965 work “Pieces of Eight”

    Here are two interviews I did with Pauline Oliveros, b/c the world needs laughter and she is really hilarious.


    Skype Interview with Pauline Oliveros

    PO: Hi there Bill, how you doin?

    BB: Doin’ great.

    PO: Good.  Alright, what’s happening?

    BB: I’m here in the studio here at Mills.  It’s the studio that has your name on it.

    (laughter)

    BB: I just wanted to start off by saying I love the humor in your piece.

    PO: Oh, you mean “Pieces of Eight?”

    BB: Yeah.  I got ahold of the original score and a lot of things popped into my head.  I try to do humorous things too, but sometimes it seems like in order to do humor well you have to be absolutely serious about it.

    PO: That’s true, I think.  Pretty much… deadpan.

    BB: Do you agree that humor has healing power?

    PO: Oh, absolutely.

    BB: In that sense do you think that there is a relation between tour theatre works and your work now with the Deep Listening Institute? You know, healing, breaking down boundaries…

    PO: I guess there’s some kind of relationship.  Those theater pieces I did in the 60’s and 70’s… the humor was a way of breaking down audience resistence to something new.  With the humor, you can get away with a lot more than without it.  So it was a form of disorientation.

    BB: I love that kind of stuff.  So do see it as a product of its time and place?   After a certain amount of time, you didn’t need to go down that road?

    PO: I think things changed.  Things do change.  But it certainly isn’t out of the question that I might do something else.  

    BB: I feel humor is necessary.  I remember last year we had this great discussion on neuroscience.  I read one time that laughter evolved as a way of recognizing and defusing false threats.  It releases endorphins into the body to counteract norepinephrine.

    PO: (laughter).  Right.

    BB: Did you see the Fluxus pieces happening at that time?

    PO: Oh, of course.  I put on a Fluxus festival at UCSD sometime in the 70’s.  

    BB: Oh.  Ha. I guess so.

    PO: Dick Higgins was upset with me because I put a whole bunch of pieces together so they were happening at the same time and he was saying “This is against the tradition of Fluxus.”  (laughter) Because Fluxus pieces would often be using the performance ritual of various kinds… they would do the pieces is tuxedo, using the concert ritual.

    BB: I see that in your early works too for sure.   So it was a product of that time and place?  Just a much more rigid culture to react against?

    PO: The 40’s and 50’s were staid, I guess you could say, and very stuffy and the 60’s the breakdown of that kind of stuffiness started to happen.   Dress code, for example.   You couldn’t be in college looking the way you do.  

    (PO points at BB’s threadbare sweater)

    BB: And I’d probably have to shave my head.  

    PO: You’d need a haircut and a suit and tie.

    BB: I really love looking at your score and the precision of your score.  It reminded me of a computer program.  I used to do this program called “The Game of Life.”

    PO: Oh, I know that one.

    BB: You create these boundaries and then within the boundaries you allow chaos to occur.

    PO: Ok.

    (awkward pause then laughter).

    BB: Ok, do you see that in the work or am I just fantasizing here?

    PO: No, I don’t see it that way.  I wasn’t involved with computers or programming at that time.  I began to make pieces that I think of as algorithms when I made Sonic Meditations, for example, which are actually recipes, which is the same as an algorithm, which is a set of instructions that produces a result.  

    BB: When I was in Alaska this summer doing a residency, the whole group I was with did the Tuning Meditation.   It was great.

    PO: Thank you.  That’s a good one to study, in terms of the attention process that goes on.

    BB: The “Pieces of Eight” is really elaborate.  How long did it take you to write?  Some of those details are crazy, like all the player’s costumes and all that.

    PO: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff.   I wrote it in 1964, I think.  

    BB: Yep.

    PO: You guys know better than I do, these days, with you taking that course with David [Bernstein].

    BB: Yep.

    (laughter)

    PO: The first version of it, all the ideas were there, but the really complete instructions that are in the published score weren’t there, and the reason for that… I ran into a really terrible performance of it, of “Pieces of Eight,” by a professor with his students and it just… I realized I had to spell out things a lot better than I had for people who had no experience with this type of performance practice.  I don’t remember exactly when that was…

    BB: The original was probably developed with people you knew and trusted…

    PO: Right, yeah.

    BB: And then when you send it off into the world it has to be really strict.

    PO: It really does.  Otherwise you get stuff that can’t abide.

    BB: They take it as a license to do their own thing.

    PO: Exactly.  To make the piece work, it has be like what I’ve put forth in the score.

    BB: The score has to be performed absolutely seriously.   Just like when you have to do serious stuff, you have to be able to laugh before and after, right?

    PO: (laughs) That’s right.

    BB: Necessary for survival as a human.

    PO: (laughter)

    BB: So Barney Childs commissioned this, correct?

    PO: That’s correct.

    BB: He seems like a really interesting guy.

    PO: Oh yeah, Barney is very special.  He championed a lot of new music.

    BB: He seemed a real American original, you know?

    PO: Yes, he was.  He was that.  And he has a lot of interesting pieces also.  I don’t know where his archives are.

    BB: It’s at Redlands.

    PO: Oh yes.  He taught there.

    BB: He was also dean of Deep Springs College.

    PO: Oh, Deep Springs is amazing!

    BB: I want to send my kids there, someday.

    PO: I went up there and it was a remarkable experience, because it’s way out in the middle of nowhere.

    BB: Yeah, out near Bishop, in the Eastern Sierras.  Did you ever teach there?

    PO: I didn’t, no. I just went up and did a thing there with him.

    BB: I’m trying to get ahold of yall’s correspondence.  They have have his archives at the library there at Redlands.

    PO: Oh.  Well, that’s interesting to know because there probably should be a connection from Mills to Redlands to get access to those letters.

    BB: I think it would be an interesting portrait of a time and a place.

    PO: Definitely.  And at that time we wrote letters!  And mailed them to each other!

    BB: Now we do it out of novelty.

    PO: (laughter)

    BB: People from other countries have remarked that the best part of America is the postal system.  They deliver on time.

    PO: Well, probably say goodbye to that.

    BB: I was listening to the 1964 performance [of Pieces of Eight] and there’s some really fantastic performers on there who went on to do such amazing stuff.  From the 1976 recording, it seems the most audible thing in parts is the laughter!

    PO: (laughter)  Yes, there were some pretty funny things happening.

    BB: One piece on the program involving a popcorn maker…

    PO: Yes, Bob Moran’s popcorn piece!

    BB: Which reminds me of your snack there (motions towards bowl of popcorn).

    PO: Ha, yes, I’m having some popcorn right now.  Here you go! (holds handful of popcorn towards the screen)

    BB: On an unrelated note, there’s this weird pop blues guy from the 60’s named Captain Beefheart and I saw in a documentary that while they were recording their album “Trout Mask Replica,” a pretty interesting recording…. he was obsessed with your music.

    PO: We never met. I did hear about that. But yeah, like I say, I never met him.

    BB: What a great connection there.

    PO: Yeah, fun.  So are we done?

    BB: Yeah, just wanted to return back to humor for a second.

    PO: I try to stay with it.

    BB: It seems like it’s necessary more now than every before.  The human psyche is not equipped to deal with so much stimulus.  We’re in a low-level stress situation all the time.

    PO: Yeah, that’s true.  I think you’re right.  We’re asked to process so much, you know, we’re in a global culture now, it’s not just local, but some people are trying to treat global culture as local culture.  I think we have to find some new ways of relating.   We’re asked to empathize and sympathize with events that are very distant from us.   It’s a virtual kind of empathy.   Also, the feeling of helplessness, the feeling you can’t help things.

    BB: Yeah, that’s a symptom of the modern era.  In my more paranoid moments, I think people who are benefitting from the way things are, they want people to feel that way. Disempowered.

    PO: That’s right.  So we have to find new ways of empowerment in order to make our way in the world.  And it’s important to have compassion. But then you really have to act locally.

    BB: I’m all about personal responsibility, recycling and all that.  But I read recently that in terms of consumption – energy consumption, water consumption, consumption of resources – consumers only account for about 20 - 25 percent of consumption.  The rest is these large entities, corporations, the military…

    PO: Correct.

    BB: So even if everybody was doing all they could…

    PO: It would only be a drop in the bucket, so to speak.  (pause)  Well, the bucket is filled with drops.

    BB: Yeah. You can never tell how far something will resonate, right?

    PO: That’s right.

    BB: It can continue far beyond what you imagine or what you see. In good and bad ways.

    PO: I certainly have lived long enough to experience that.  ( laughter)

    BB: Anyways, back to humor. It seems like with the humor in your theatre pieces, it was a good way to get everybody engaged, to get everybody on the same level.  Audience and performer together.

    PO: “Pieces of Eight” worked well at SFTMC for our audience. It was really pretty hilarious.

    BB: I’m interested in humor because I attempt to use it myself.  It just feels good.  It wakes you up.

    PO: And I think now is a good time for us all to wake up!


    Email Interview with Pauline Oliveros

    BB: The 1965 recording of Pieces of Eight in the Mills College archive, is that the original recording from the University of Arizona?

    PO: That is the recording of the 1964 performance at the SFTMC I believe.

    BB: What revisions did you make in the piece for subsequent performances?  (e.g. the 1976 performance by the SF Chamber Music Society)

    PO: I can’t remember revising the piece for that performance. I did make a much clearer score after a disastrous performance that someone tried to do without really understanding the piece.

    BB: Have you ever participated in a performance of the piece?  Did the SF Tape Music Center ever perform the piece?

    PO: No I have not performed Pieces of Eight. Yes, the piece was performed at the SFTMC.  This was a good performance!   I have no idea what the performance at the U of Arizona was like. It was produced by the composer Barney Childs.  The performance at the SFTMC had all the props called for and the staging was excellent. Warner Jepson was the conductor.

    BB: When Pieces of Eight was performed in Arizona, did they actually send you their pocket change?

    PO:I don’t remember receiving any pocket change. It would have come from the offertory at the end of the piece.

    BB: The Arizona performance was put on by the Tucson New Art Wind ensemble.  Did you write Pieces of Eight thinking specifically about wind instruments?

    PO: Yes, because the conductor was the weather cock.

    BB: When did you meet Barney Childs?  How did you become acquainted?

    PO: I can’t quite remember the first meeting. Barney was very much a part of the new music scene in the 60s and did much to champion the composers of the time.

    BB: On his score for Music for Almost Anybody it’s written that you requested that piece for the SF tape music center.  Was it ever performed there?

    PO: I don’t recall a performance but it very likely would have been performed.

    BB: Can you recall who performed on the 1964 performance of Pieces of Eight at the SF Tape Music Center?

    PO: Warner Jepson - Conductor, Terry Riley - flute, Morton Subotnick - Clarinet, NAME - Oboe, NAME Contra Bassoon, Stephen Wenrich - Horn, Trumpet - Stan Shaff,  Stuart Dempster - Trombone memory fails me here.

    BB: Stuart Dempster specifically mentions this piece as changing his perspective on music.  Do you have any thoughts about why this piece specifically was special to so many people (or perhaps just to Stuart)?

    PO: Well - the theater of the piece was outrageous and poked fun at a lot of the canon particularly conducting and Beethoven.

    BB: Were there other pieces happening at the same time that you felt were operating in a similar spirit?

    PO: Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender were doing theater pieces as well.

    BB: When you made revisions in 1973, you mentioned these were because of a disastrous performance.  When / where did this happen?

    PO: I don’t remember how I happened to be present at the performance. The players were from Bowling Green.

    BB: How did the performer mis-interpret your score?

    PO: They simply did not understand the performance practice.

    BB: Did they have your permission to perform the piece?

    PO: I suppose that they did otherwise they would not have had the score.

    I have to thank them for the bad performance as it prompted me to clean up my score and make it far more explicit that it was.

    BB: Some of your works are called “Theatre pieces,” and indeed you even used that phrase yourself.  Do you view what you’re doing now as a continuation of your theatre pieces, or was that a specific phase, a specific time in your life?  An exploration that went its course….

    PO: I am always interested in theater and the possibility of bringing about change. I am not currently involved in the kind of theater pieces that I was composing in the 60s and 70s.

    I have been collaborating on larger scale pieces since then.

  • “Earth into Aether” + Abbey Road EP

    For the last 9 years I’ve been self-releasing records with the help of dear friends and colleagues.  This coming January, it’s all coming to fruition in a special way.

    Very excited to announce my upcoming record, “Earth into Aether,” will be “Record of the Month” in London’s famed Rough Trade Shops for the duration of January.   Rough Trade is perhaps the best record shop in the world.  So it’s an incredible honor.

    You can read what they say about the record and pre-order it here:

    http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/98915

    As the album’s title suggests, it begins in one place and ends up elsewhere.   It was initially imagined as 4 separate records.  It’s now a 2XLP set with very special artwork and die-cut sleeves.  

    When you order the record through Rough Trade, you will receive a 5 song EP recorded in a single day at London’s famed Abbey Road studios.   These recordings/songs are some of my favorites I’ve yet made.   A good incentive to purchase, hopefully.   The EP also features a nice type-written letter and lino-block print cover.   It’s a special package and only available through the Rough Trade shop.

    A few tracks are on my bandcamp for streaming:

    https://billbaird.bandcamp.com/

    It’s a UK only release for now, so if you’re stateside and want the new stuff, you’ll need to get it through Rough Trade.

    Thank you for all your support over so many years.  It’s been a long, weird slog, but I’m coming up for daylight and the air is clean, clear and sweet.

  • Steep Ravine campsite is one of my favorite places in the world.   There’s even a hot springs cave there.   It’s way cool.   Although the last time I went in there I literally had to crawl over a couple who were basically humping in the hot spring.   Ewwww.   The guy sitting next to me kept talking about how he was gonna “align his chakras, get in touch with chi, then go crush it at work.”   I think he was a financial analyst for a tech company.   What?

    When I got home from the hot spring the next day, I had this weird rash up my posterior.   Not the “healing” I was hoping for, but, hey, I enjoyed the cave.   Hot springs junkies are weird people.   There’s always these old men with the “perma-grin,” this endless smile.   It’s like, uh, stop smiling.   You look kind of silly.   I wonder if he smiles at all times or only when he’s in the hot spring.   Like, he’s getting fired, he’s getting a coffee, he’s at the dentist getting a root canal, and he’s still got that “perma-grin” stapled to his face.   Hot springs have their benefits I suppose, if one can smile one’s way through a dental procedure.