Like always this mm-cc is a long time coming. This will be the last mm-cc for a bit because it’s the last month of summer. It’s not over forever by any means. I told Jenny we’d do it monthly for the summer and then we could take a break. Not that she dislikes them. She actually looked forward to them because it was a time we could have friends come by and talk. Just time to switch it up a little.
We decided to make this mm-cc an all-day BBQ. I actually drank a bit more beer than coffee this time around. Musically, it started off slower than most. I didn’t have the instruments and mics set-up until about 11am. After that we mostly sort of tinkered one instrument at a time. Eventually, we got up some momentum and recorded a few songs with multiple instruments. It was nice, though, that it was an all day BBQ because I kept the instruments up all afternoon and every once in a while I could take a break at the modular and start another small jam.
The players on this song were my pal Jeff Numainville on the Microkorg (really the star instrument on this one). Jeff changed up the sounds of the keys quite a bit and each of them were right on. I played the bass and the modular. Actually, I setup the patch on the modular first and then we all played to that patch. My buddy Mike Goggin played the guitar for a section. I believe he added some xylophone in there somewhere as well but I can’t remember. My friends Dantes Rosete and Inthia Seabrooks both composed some music strips for the music box and we recorded those separately, although it matched beautifully with what we had played. Actually, the music box recordings really make the track in my opinion, my favorite part. And finally, my buddy Rene Cardona added some percussion as well as a bit of harmonica. I had my monome running an app called Mash and it was live sampling from one of my microphones. Rene recorded sounds into Mash and played with them on the monome. Finally, I took the 15-20 minute jam into ableton and condensed it into a 5 minute song.
The visual aspect of these mm-cc’s sometimes excite me more then the music. I like the opportunity to listen to what we’ve done and think about what kind of visuals could go with it. This time, for a about a week, I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to experiment more with macros and possibly fluids but I didn’t want to do the same oil and water stuff I’ve done before. I searched out some fluid experiments on the net and found Ferrofluid. I had seen ferrofluid videos before but this time I saw a “DIY How-To” video on making your own Ferrofluid. I decided I’d try it out.
That same afternoon, with the thoughts of playing with magnets running through my head, I suddenly remembered iron filings. I remembered playing with that toy where you could use a magnet to adorn a cartoon character with iron filing mustaches and beards. Then I thought, “Where can I get iron filings?” I found some DIY methods on the net, like tearing up a steel wool pad or taking a file to an iron nail and grinding it down but the best suggestion came from a youtube video where a gentlemen posed the same question to himself. He realized that if you visited a local mechanic who had the ability to do brakes then you would find a plethora of iron filings. Well, he was right. I walked across the street with tupperware in hand to a nearby mechanic. It was a little funny describing to him what I was looking for but once he understood he showed me to a giant bin absolutely brimming full with them. I filled my tupperware and hit the road.
The ferrofluid didn’t work out unfortunately. Not sure what went wrong but I decided I’d try again later using one of these recipes. I did film the iron filings though and they looked really cool under the macro lens. I made two towers out of books and bridged the gap with a little mirror I’d gotten from ikea. And then focused my camera at the iron filings, lit them up with a small lightbox and began waving the magnets under the mirror. My buddies Jeff and Matt joined me for the shooting. It was quite hypnotic to see through the camera. It had a natural stop-motion quality to the movement. If you got in real close it suddenly looked more like a forest of pine trees than a bunch of iron filings.
After the shoot I didn’t feel like I’d had my fill of experiments. The next day at work I thought about it some more. I looked up DIY electro-magnets on the net and discovered that it’s quite easy to make an electro-magnet. All you have to do is wrap a copper wire around an iron core (in this case a six inch iron nail) many many times and then connect either side of the coil to an electrical source like a battery. I wasn’t thinking a battery in my case, I was thinking the modular. I thought, “What would it be like to send a rhythmic pulse to the iron filings, for example an LFO?” Well, it took a couple of tries to make an electro-magnet strong enough to amplify the magnetic pulse. I decided coil two iron nails side by side to increase the size of the electro-magnets core. Then I coiled the crap out of it. The more coils, the larger the core and the larger the current all make for a stronger electro-magnet. I taped the magnet to the bottom of the mirror I had my iron filings on and connected it to my amplifier via speaker wire. Then I sent an LFO to the amp and voila, I had iron filings moving to a rhythm. Pretty cool. I played with this setup for quite a while getting all sorts of different angles, trying out different speeds, trying out different voltage sources, like an Envelope Generator, playing with the attack and decay. I found it difficult to make the iron filings do anything other then flicker but nevertheless I thought it was super cool to be using the modular to control an electro-magnet.
So that is pretty much the story. I cut the footage together and here it is below. I hope you enjoy!