Monday, July 28, 2008

Bob Ostertag

Bob Ostertag

Bob Ostertag is a San Francisco based composer and musician. One of a growing number of experimental artists to upload his entire catalog of recorded work for free download on the internet, he's written an extensive article on the subject, titled "The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician." Check it out HERE.

He's a Professor of Technocultural Studies and Music at the University of California at Davis, and is well known for his work with artists such as the Kronos Quartet, John Zorn, Mike Patton, Anthony Braxton, Lynn Breedlove and Justin Bond, to name just a few. He's also an instrument builder, journalist and activist. Find out more at his website.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Bob Ostertag...

*Name: Bob Ostertag

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: No

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I try not to classify myself.

*Another genre descriptor: There is a record store in SF called Amoeba Music. They have a bin called "Extremely Unusual" and they put my CD's there. I guess I am ok with that.

*Location: San Francisco

*Original Location: Albuquerque

*What is your creative/artistic background: 50 years of life.

*History: 36 years.

*Born: 1957, in Albuquerque, NM

*Motivations: I am always happier when I am making things. And happier still if my activities are collaborative and also take into account the world around me and the needs of others.

*Philosophy: I don't really know much about philosophy. I wrote a book on these questions which should be out this year. It is called "Creative Life: Music, Politics, People and Machines."

*How would you like to be remembered: At least he tried.

*Web address:

Episode 212, Some Assembly Required

Episode 212, Some Assembly Required

01 DJ Zebra – “Break through love”
02 Listen With Sarah – “My Crow's Soft Sounds”
03 Forty One – “I like cuckoo nuts”
04 McSleazy – “A Little Know How”
05 Steve Fisk - “A Short History Of Music”
06 Negativland – “Favorite Things”
07 Whimsical Will – “Hey Roger!”
08 Lenlow – “U Hide 2”
09 Silica Gel – “Beauty Bugaboo”
10 Bob Ostertag - “w00t (segment)”
11 DJ QBert – “Nineteen”
12 B'O'K - “A Bodyguard Of Lies”
13 Brian Joseph Davis – “Ennio”
14 Negativland – “Our National Anthem”

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Natasha Spencer

Natasha Spencer

Natasha Spencer is a visual artist from Chicago, Illinois. She has a BFA in painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and has worked as an installation artist, using nature as her canvas. She experimented briefly with sound collage, during her time at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the results of which appeared on Illegal Art's 1999 release, "Extracted Celluloid." The film from which she appropriated her sounds (all of the artists on the release were asked to use samples from films alone) was the 1939 classic, "The Wizard of Oz."

Often regarded as one of the standouts on the release, I was thrilled when I got ahold of Spencer online and was able to obtain the full version of the track. A shorter edit of the track had been used on the compilation. I was able to play the full version and another track she'd created, using the same source material, in Episode 72.

She and her husband run an art installation service in Chicago, and you can see some of her artwork at the website for their business. Check it out HERE.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Natasha Spencer...

*Name: Natasha Spencer

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: No

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Digital Deconstructions

*Location: Chicago, IL

*Original Location: Cleveland, OH

*What is your creative/artistic background: My background is in the visual arts. I received my BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art in Painting/Drawing (1994). My introduction to sound came during my master’s degree in Time Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1998). The persistence of Lauren Weinger, the chair of our department, was really the only reason I ever step foot into a sound suite. To be quite honest, I was quite intimidated by the idea and had no real sense of what to do or where to begin. At the time my thinking had been focused on “ritual in popular culture” and how “things” acquire icon status. My first memory of this growing up in the 70’s was the annual television broadcast of The Wizard of Oz; so, I started there. The first three minutes came together my very first night in the sound studio. It surprised even me and I “ran with it”.

*History: I always had a creative bent but didn’t get serious about it until I was 17 years old.

*Born: Cleveland, OH

*Motivations: “The House She Flew In On” is a contemporary parody on the American film classic, The Wizard of OZ . Through the utilization of digital soundtrack technology, lines from the original film where isolated, cut and edited, freeing them from their placement in the original narrative construct, allowing for the emergence of an alternative story line. Characters voices sound familiar, but their relationship to one another is seriously altered, challenging the images we hold of them in our memories. Ambient sounds were later recorded and layered in, amplifying “the action,” contributing to the radio play format. Not having completely dissected all I needed to with The Wizard, I focused my thinking on Judy Garland’s solo “Over the Rainbow.” Although I started by manipulating sound, the end product is a compilation of both sound and image. I was fortunate to take up residency at The Wexner Center in Columbus, OH, where I completed the video. The House She Flew In On: The Video uses the framework of the film The Wizard of Oz to explore both the predictability and the discrepancy that exists between sound and image in a film narrative. With the aid of digital technology, dialogue from the original film was isolated, cut, and edited, freeing it from its placement in the narrative construct, allowing for the emergence of an alternative story line. The corresponding visual imagery was then synced accordingly. What we see becomes a direct result of what we hear, producing a relationship where two different actions compete for the same sound simultaneously. And with that my exploration of OZ was over, thankfully. I haven’t delved into sound or video since, but have returned to working as a visual artist.

*Philosophy: When I look back at the history of my work, the common thread running through it is an investigation into what we see or experience on a daily basis. I feel a close affinity with and great distance from the scientific process; while the artistic and scientific need and method of investigating a problem can be quite similar, art is dependent on culture while science is independent of it. Perhaps in another life, I’d prefer to explore the left side of my brain!

*How would you like to be remembered: At this point in my life, I’d like to be remembered for having a sense of humor. God knows how easy it is to take life very seriously, especially when there are so many serious issues to be confronted. If I’ve learned anything from my relationship with the creative process, it’s that playfulness can lead to answers the conscious mind can’t grasp.

*Web address: Some artwork is represented here, however the site is primarily for the art installation and collection design business my husband and I run:

Episode 72, Some Assembly Required

Episode 72, Some Assembly Required

01 Public Works - "Sudden impulse"
02 Splatt - "Shirt (You've mashed carrot, sir)"
03 Sudden Head Trauma - "(untitled)"
04 The Bran Flakes - "Play yr instruments"
05 Christian Marclay/Otomo Yoshihide - "Elephant memories"
06 Wobbly - "Guy guy"
07 Natasha Spencer - "The house she flew in on (full version)"
08 Natasha Spencer - "Somewhere"
09 Protocol Helix - "Cheque (kopkilla)"
10 Escape Mechanism - "Signify"
11 John Oswald - "Replica"
12 Antediluvian Rocking Horse - "Abnormal recovery"

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Monday, July 14, 2008

David Weir

David Weir

David Weir is a composer and a musician, a student and a teacher. He describes his collage work as a kind of anti-war political mashup, though not in the traditional Bastard Pop sense. I've heard a lot of collages over the last few years which take recordings of the voice of GW Bush, and other politicians, using them to comic effect, and/or to create political messages... Weir is doing similar things but in a much more thoughtful way than I've found to be the norm.

There are tracks to download at his website, where you can find out more about this Australian cut-up artist, HERE.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with David Weir...

*Name: David Weir

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Downloading Dissidence: Music to Mobilise in the Age of iPod.’ That formula of ‘catch phrase: other little bit elaborating on catch phrase’ is a dead give away that this is an academic project. In non-academic arenas I’ve been calling it ‘The RogueSounds Project.’ Joey Skagg’s recently posted a feature article on the project under that name.

*Do you use a pseudonym? RogueSounds. This was inspired by Noam Chomsky’s book Rogue States.

*Members: Just me (David John Weir). I used to be a guitarist. Then I became a singer, then a songwriter, then a producer, programmer, bass player - whatever. Now I don’t kid myself that I’m any of those things – but I do them any way.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I’m confined solely to the digital realm – through circumstance rather than principle. All of my precious vinyls got left in the sun when I moved interstate. Ruined. If I did own a reel to reel tape player I’d probably still be drawn to the editing possibilities that the digital platform allows – although what people have done with tape is incredible. In fact, maybe tape manipulation facilitates better art. The unlimited ‘undo-ability’ of digital audio perhaps makes for a more ‘disposable’ attitude. The ‘mistakes’ that are clicked away in an instant, might, in a non-digital environment, be incorporated to create something more tangential, more contingent. I suppose there’s less ‘risk’ during the creative process with digital production. You withhold the risk until you actually submit the mix to a listener. Then you face the music like everyone else.

*Another genre descriptor: I’ve been calling what I do ‘political mashup.’

*Why you use this descriptor: It’s not strictly mashup at all, in that I don’t blend existing recordings of songs. The mashup element is in the conflating of two separate texts – the political speech narrative I construct, with the music backing I compose. I like the ‘mashup’ term because it suggests to me the postmodern sensibilities that typify the current age: ambiguity around authorship, collage, a proclivity for mixing genres and the appropriating of cultural texts to create new texts. My pieces are obviously political. Mashup as I hear it is not ostensibly political at all. It’s been politicized by the copyright issues it raises – and these of course are complex, and I think, profound in what they reveal about power structures and the pervasiveness of their influence on everyone.

*Location: I live in the Tweed Valley, Northern New South Wales in Australia.

*Original Location: I was born and bred in Perth, Western Australia.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I played in several bands in Fremantle/Perth before realizing that I needed to create from behind the scenes if I was going to get anywhere. I’ve been successfully behind the scenes ever since, still ‘getting’ rather than ‘being’ there. I’ve composed music for film and theatre and even taught high school. Now I’m doing this PhD.

*History: I discovered the guitar in 1977. I’ve been earning money as a musician since 1986. I’ve been creating political mashup since 2004, when I decided to go back to music school and do honours.

*Born: I was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1960. My parents arrived from Newcastle, England in 1959. Apparently, no one bothered locking their cars in Perth back then. Things have moved on.

*Motivations: The post 9/11 period has seen the politicization of a lot of artists. The sense of shock following the attacks was fairly universal I believe. Even as the smoke was still clearing you could hear beating war drums fading in. Australia’s prime minister at the time, John Howard, was a backward looking conservative; big business friendly – and a close personal friend of George W. Bush. He appeared to be committed to following the lead of the ‘war president’ no matter where it was heading. This dismayed and embarrassed many here, who felt that such a degree of hatred focused upon a whole nation (or a whole economic/social paradigm) demanded at least some self reflection, not just by the US but by all of the so-called first world. And there were voices (even in the US, where national pride and the sense of ‘security’ were severely dented) calling for a measured reaction, a pause to ponder the possible roots of such tragedy. Those who were calling the shots wouldn’t countenance these responses, typecasting pleas for caution as traitorous attempts at appeasement by leftist excuseniks. The media, instead of challenging increasingly dubious government allegations of hidden weapons and grave and imminent threats, fell obediently into line. I thought it would be fitting to capture some of this media wall paper and construct alternative messages from it. It allowed me to not only express my dissident views in relation to the war on terror but also hopefully highlighted the media’s complicity in government attempts to justify their actions.

*Philosophy: My 2004 production, Collateral Voices – from which Mass Distraction is taken – was really channeling my grief for the people caught up in the war on terror; not only the ‘collateral casualties’, but the soldiers also. I saw all of the victims as either cannon fodder or ‘disposable’ bystanders who had the misfortune to be in the way of the ideological agendas of duplicitous people who held a lot of power. While Iraq was being ‘democratized’ into a rubble-strewn hell hole, Australia was taking a hard line on refugees, locking them up in high security penitentiaries deep in the desert. A climate of heartlessness seemed to have descended upon us. Collateral Voices reflected that climate. My latest work – the RogueSounds stuff - is quite different. It encompasses a broader range of contemporary themes - war on terror, climate change, hegemonic global capital among them. These are all political issues in the end; they inevitably come down to the question of power and how it regulates populations through instruments like the media and the judiciary, inculcating value systems that ‘normalize’ violence, grooming unquestioning complicity to endless consumption while legislating in ways that serve corporate interests over the public. All of the stuff that culture jamming is in resistance to really. I’ve discovered a lot of other anti-war political mashup online – some of it really cleverly done. Practitioners of the art enjoy considerable agency in the construction of meaning. My problem is that, from what I’ve heard, this agency is generally deployed in acrimonious ways. The attack and ridicule gets very personal. While this is understandable – and sometimes very funny – in the end maybe it’s just a case of shooting the messenger. All of that bile aimed directly at Bush might be better channeled into rethinking the entire political/social structures we’ve created, with all of their rules and assumed ‘truths,’ prominent among them being that violence is a legitimate way to resolve grievances. I’ve tried to take another line, imagining the iconic political figure of President Bush having a sort of ‘awakening’ in which he does reflect upon the violence and misery his decisions have propagated. This reformed character is born in The Redemption of George W. He’s a work in progress, appearing in other pieces as an advocate for peace and honesty. I’m not sure where he’s headed yet.

*How would you like to be remembered: I don’t know if I’m ready for that quite yet. I’d like my work to be thought of as an attempt to utilize technology creatively in the quest to envision a less violent, more equitable world.

*Web address:

Episode 211, Some Assembly Required

Episode 211, Some Assembly Required

01 A plus D – “Behind These Cannonball Eyes”
02 Splatt – “Hedvig Nagila”
03 Splice of Life Faculty - “Spliceway to heaven”
04 People Like Us – “Smash & Grab”
05 David Weir – “Mass Distraction”
06 Wobbly - “Girl. I Getchoo. Oh Oh Oh”
07 DJ Matt Hite – “Me & You & Yazoo (Short Mix)”
08 team9 – “Only a lullaby”
09 Sucking Chest Wound - “War On Drugs”
10 Pauline Pantsdown – “I don't like it”
11 Wayne Butane - “Dead monkey arcade”
12 Mr. Dibbs – “Skin Therapy”
13 Jeffrey Sconce - “Lacan-bot”
14 Ergo Phizmiz – “Aubers Vespers Farnaby Absalom Mix”
15 DJ Cal – “Power of Human”

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

July 6, 2008

This week's episode (#30) features our 2002 phone interview with Lloyd Dunn and John Heck of The Tape-beatles, so there is no new Q&A this week. Instead, pay extra close attention to this week's episode, visit their website and to find out more check out our archived Q&A's with both The Tape-beatles and Public Works...

Thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson

Episode 30, Some Assembly Required

Episode 30, Some Assembly Required
(Featuring an interview with The Tape-beatles)

01 The Tape-beatles - “Scream scream scream”
02 The Tape-beatles - “Sing sing sing (sing sing)”
03 The Tape-beatles - “Listen to the radio”
04 The Tape-beatles - “From the tide or the wind”
05 The Tape-beatles - “Desire”
06 The Tape-beatles - “XT92-007”
07 The Tape-beatles - “Frog story”
08 The Tape-beatles - “Mind problems”
09 The Tape-beatles - “Grave implications”
10 Public Works - “Foundation”
11 The Tape-beatles - “The changing world”
12 The Tape-beatles - “Joy and power”

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