Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Steampunk Moves Between 2 Worlds

May 8, 2008

Robert Wright for The New York Times From left, Deacon Boondini, the Great Gatsby and Giovanni James of the James Gang share a vision with the designer Alexander McQueen.From The New York Times By RUTH LA FERLA Published: May 8, 2008>>read more.     “MEET Showtime,” said Giovanni James, a musician, magician and inventor of sorts, introducing his prized dove, who occupies a spacious cage in Mr. James’s apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Showtime is integral to Mr. James’s magic act and to his décor, a sepia-tone universe straight out of the gaslight era.      The structured clothing of the steampunk movement.       The lead singer of a neovaudevillian performance troupe called the James Gang, Mr. James has assembled his universe from oddly assorted props and castoffs: a gramophone with a crank and velvet turntable, an old wooden icebox and a wardrobe rack made from brass pipes that were ballet bars in a previous incarnation.      Yes, he owns a flat-screen television, but he has modified it with a burlap frame. He uses an iPhone, but it is encased in burnished brass. Even his clothing — an unlikely fusion of current and neo-Edwardian pieces (polo shirt, gentleman’s waistcoat, paisley bow tie), not unlike those he plans to sell this summer at his own Manhattan haberdashery — is an expression of his keenly romantic worldview.      It is also the vision of steampunk, a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines. First appearing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, steampunk has picked up momentum in recent months, making a transition from what used to be mainly a literary taste to a Web-propagated way of life.       To some, “steampunk” is a catchall term, a concept in search of a visual identity. “To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance,” said Jake von Slatt, a designer in Boston and the proprietor of the Steampunk Workshop (steampunkworkshop.com), where he exhibits such curiosities as a computer furnished with a brass-frame monitor and vintage typewriter keys.      That definition is loose enough to accommodate a stew of influences, including the streamlined retro-futurism of Flash Gordon and Japanese animation with its goggle-wearing hackers, the postapocalyptic scavenger style of “Mad Max,” and vaudeville, burlesque and the structured gentility of the Victorian age. In aggregate, steampunk is a trend that is rapidly outgrowing niche status.

Laptop concert linking Stanford and Beijing

May 1, 2008

A student uses the keyboard to control the sound produced from his 6-speaker array (seen at left) during a rehearsal of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra in the Knoll building on campus in Palo Alto, April 24, 2008. Ech of the 20 speaker arrays is built from an IKEA salad bowl, amplifier kit and car speakers.The ensemble of 20 musicians is comprised of under graduates, master's students and doctoral students from the university community. (David M. Barreda / Mercury News)Laptop concert linking Stanford and Beijing signals world has changed 6,000 MILES APART, PAN-ASIAN FESTIVAL MUSICIANS USE THE NET TO COLLABORATE IN REAL TIME FRom the Mercury News By Richard Scheinin Article Launched: 04/30/2008 03:55:21 PM PDT photo by (David M. Barreda / Mercury News)>>read more.     Do you remember the Jefferson Airplane doing a tune called “Fat Angel” in 1968? It was recorded live at the Fillmore (whether in San Francisco or New York wasn’t clear from the album jacket), and the lyrics went like this: “Fly Translove Airways, gets you there on time.” Very trippy, very mesmerizing, very new. You listened and knew the world was changing.     Tuesday night at Stanford University’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium, there was a concert titled “Pacific Rim of Wire,” and, 40 years after “Fat Angel,” it evoked similar feelings of mesmerizing newness. It was a night of electro-acoustic, trans-global music-making: Musicians at Dinkelspiel (the Stanford Laptop Orchestra, as well as players on traditional concert instruments) were literally – via the Internet, in real time – performing with musicians in China (on a smaller array of electronic and acoustic instruments).     The musicians in this “networked performance” – part of Stanford’s ongoing Pan-Asian Music Festival – could see one another, hear one another and respond musically to one another. The 200 or so listeners in Dinkelspiel could watch and hear not only the musicians on stage, but the musicians in China (6,000 miles distant and 15 hours ahead of California), whose images were projected on a giant screen at the rear of the stage. The small audience at Beijing University could see and hear everything happening in Dinkelspiel.     The combined sounds of two continents droned and pulsed, highly ritualistic, at times gorgeous, unfolding like electronic flowers, full of new moods and colors and tonalities – and, occasionally, they were a mishmash.     Still, the players were communing across the planet: This was the real Translove Airways.      I can’t say that Dinkelspiel is “the new Fillmore” – where all this goes is totally up in the air, and, besides, I’m a neophyte with this music.     But as was the case in the ’60s, what happened Tuesday night was about more than the music. It raised basic questions: What does it mean to “be here,” when here is there, and there is here? For that matter, what does it mean “to see” in this age of Skype and networked performances? After all, the musicians in China were seeing us, literally, and we were seeing them.     The concert was as much a technical as a musical coup, and the folks at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) deserve credit for instigating and carrying it off in conjunction with the technical people in Beijing – who could be seen sipping bottled water and waving to the Dinkelspiel crowd during the performance.