Counterstream Radio is your online home for exploring the music of America’s composers. Drawing upon New Music USA’s substantial library of recordings, our programming is remarkable for its depth and eclecticism. The station streams influential music of many pedigrees 24 hours a day. Keep listening and discover the sound of music without limits. Click here to open Counterstream Radio.
For years, we’ve heard from new music folks all over the country about the need for a centralized new music events calendar. Over the last year, we’ve been working to address this need, and today we are excited to announce the full launch of event pages on our platform. These pages give artists the ability to create and promote their events and offer audiences the ability to discover upcoming events they are interested in attending. Showcasing the breadth of new music creation around the country in a way that promotes artists and develops audiences is the driving mission behind event pages.
An example of an event page.
How Do I List My Events?
Anyone on our site, regardless of whether or not they have received a grant award, can create an event page. To create an event page, log in (make sure to register first, if you haven’t already) and navigate to the My Events page. You can get there by hovering over your name in the right corner of the navigation bar above and selecting “Events” from the dropdown. Next, click “Create an Event!” This takes you to a form where you can add all relevant information about your event such as a description, an image, a location, a link to purchase tickets, as well as tag anyone else who is part of the event. Once you’ve filled out the form, you can preview and publish your event page.
Once your event page is published, it becomes visible on your profile and the profiles of the other users you’ve tagged as part of the event. Your event page also appears on the Browse Events page of our site. Here, anyone can explore event pages based on location and keywords. Upcoming events also appear in the “On Our Calendar” content stream on our Explore page.
We are also cooking up new and interesting ways to showcase events on our homepage by connecting them in streams with other content on our site, like NewMusicBox articles, projects, profiles, and media. We want to amplify your work, and featuring what you’re up to on our homepage is one way to do that. Keep on the lookout for some of these content streams on our homepage soon.
In addition to showcasing events on our site, we’re also actively promoting event pages through social media, email, and other means. A weekly events email list we piloted this past year in New York City was successful, and we’re working to expand these sorts of email lists to other cities around the country.
How Do I Find Events I’m Interested In?
To find an event, visit the Browse Events page of our site. Here, you can sort through both upcoming and past events, refining by location and keyword search to discover exactly what you’re looking for.
There is also a more passive way to discover events on our site through the “On Our Calendar” content stream on our Explore page. While logged out users get a quick overview of upcoming events around the country, if you’re logged in and have entered your location on your profile then you will see upcoming events near you.
We’re continuing to tweak and refine event pages to better serve your needs. If you encounter any bugs, have questions, or want to offer suggestions for event pages, feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected].
Tune in to this page to watch the Bang on a Can Marathon live stream from 4-10 PM on Saturday, July 30. This year, the Marathon is taking place at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) as part of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival.
Below is the approximate schedule for the Marathon:
New Music USA has announced its fifth round of project grants awards, totaling $276,770 in funding to support artistic work involving a wide range of new American music. The 53 awarded projects include concerts and recordings, as well as dance, theater, opera, and more—all involving contemporary music as an essential element. Awarded projects from all five rounds can be discovered, explored, and followed by the public via media-rich project pages.
New Music USA President and CEO Ed Harsh commented, “We continue to be amazed and humbled by the incredible array of great projects brought to us by artists around the USA. We’re committed to doing everything we can to increase the amount of money we’re able to distribute in support of this groundswell of meaningful work.”
To date, an additional $33,000 over our program’s original budget was made available through the actions of New Music Connect: The Network for Friends of New Music. This additional investment adds support to projects qualified for funding as part of our grant program’s panel process. New Music Connect is designed to connect and engage individuals from across the United States to advocate for and empower the new music field.
In response to feedback from artists who were surveyed following the two inaugural rounds of the program, the fifth round continued to include a special focus on requests of $3,000 and below. Approximately 47% of grants awarded were in this category. The next round of project grants will open for requests in March 2016, and decisions will be announced before July 2016. Including the awards announced today, New Music USA’s project grants program, launched in October 2013, has now distributed $1,482,340 in support of 283 projects.
Brooklyn-based sound artist and composer Bernd Klug has turned the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York into a social musical instrument. His art installation, traces of [dis]location, spans three floors and uses the architectural structure of the building to create multiple points of engagement. traces of [dis]location runs until September 16 and is free and open to the public.
A single wire weaves through a room at the basement level, connecting at various points to contact microphones, transducers, and hooks on the walls. Each point represents a different geographic location of an institution or individual who was involved in some way with the installation. As one walks through the room, the strings build up feedback, ultimately shortcutting the transducer with a loud snap.
Up a small flight of stairs is the second level of the installation, titled Bearing, which Klug created in collaboration with visual artist Johanna Tiedtke. Here, the pair showcases prints of visual traces of visitors to an earlier version of the installation at Galerie Freihausgasse Stadt Villach in Austria, which were captured on zinc plates in the floor and have since been scanned to UV prints on translucent paper. Beneath the prints, now hung at ACFNY, sit a row of turntables that continuously play the sonification of the same traces.
At the top level of traces of [dis]location is a small room with two speakers that represent a sonification of the building. The amplified soundscape includes the sounds of the building’s sewage system, elevators, and fire board, as well as a police scanner monitoring the neighborhood. Electronic noise is also gathered from visitors’ cell phones, adding to the low hum that represents the building itself.
On September 11, 2015, the string quartet The Rhythm Method will premiere Klug’s accompanying composition for the installation, string quartet and skyscraper. The group—consisting of Marina Kifferstein, Lavinia Pavlish, Anne Lanzilotti, and Meaghan Burke—will play different aspects of the installation itself, from bowing the strings on the first level to engaging with the electronic noise generated on the top level. The Rhythm Method’s repertoire will also be inserted into the installation through short recorded clips and manipulations by Klug.
We’re tweeting from both the 2015 Bang on a Can Marathon and various Make Music NY concerts all day today. Tune in to this page to watch the Bang on a Can live stream and follow our coverage. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting at us (@NewMusicBox) with #BangMarathon2015 and #MakeMusicNY.
Niche music genres are nothing new. They existed before hipsters, before Stravinsky, and before Mozart. However, in the last two decades there has been a blossoming of niche music genres, made possible by technological advancements such as personal computers and Digital Audio Workstations as well as decreasing costs to build home studios and widespread use of the internet. As more and more people are creating music, they are subjugated less and less to the genre-defining artists of the status quo. The result is the emergence of countless niche genres, each with its own unique following.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating niche genres to recently surface is Black MIDI. Created by self-proclaimed “blackers,” Black MIDI exists almost exclusively on YouTube in the English-speaking world, with total video views numbering in the millions while total subscribers for teams (groups of blackers who collaborate on Black MIDI tracks) remain less than 50,000. Black MIDI is presented on YouTube as a video recording of a MIDI file containing millions of individual notes played back through a sequencer.
The term “Black MIDI” refers to the moments in a piece where the notes, if displayed on a traditional two-stave piano score, are so dense that there appears to be just a mass of black noteheads. The increased density of notes also affects the computer, which is sometimes unable to process all of the notes within a particularly complex section. The goal of Black MIDI is to approach this processing failure without actually crossing that line. “We try to make it insane—but not too insane,” says Jason Nguyen, the person behind the major Black MIDI distribution YouTube channel Gingeas.
The origin of Black MIDI can be traced back to Japan in 2009 when the first blacker, Shirasagi Yukki @ Kuro Yuki Gohan, created the first black MIDI and uploaded it to the Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga. The piece is based on U.N. Owen Was Her?, the theme song from the extra boss level in the Touhou Project, a vertically scrolling Japanese shooter video game. The use of Japanese video game music has since remained iconic to Black MIDI.
For the next couple of years, Black MIDI spilled over from Japan into China and Korea, where it continued to grow. It was not until 2011 that the genre took off in the West, the first major hit being this upload by YouTube user Kakakakaito1998. Typical of Black MIDI’s early style, the video features a traditionally notated two-stave piano score rather than a MIDI piano scroll alone.
Once Black MIDI made its way to the West, it was not long before blackers began refining the creation and presentation of their niche form of art. Blackers sought to solidify their identity, which led to the creation of Guide to Black MIDI and Impossible Music Wiki, the latter of which was created by Nguyen and the other blackers with whom he frequently collaborates. Both sites serve as an introduction to and codification of Black MIDI.
Blackers also began pushing the limits of their art, adding more notes (numbering in the millions) and making the visual presentation as important as the sonic presentation. Black MIDI became a marriage of visuals and sound, a cascade of colors and patterns paired with an ordered complexity of notes. While the popular songs of choice remained music from Japanese video games, blackers also started making black MIDIs based on recent pop songs.
As computer-processing power increased, Black MIDIs also became larger and included more notes than before. In addition, much of the software was updated to 64-bit, which positively impacted RAM usage and allowed playback of even larger files. The continued growth and evolution of technology also allowed blackers to develop tricks to fill their videos with more notes.
“My videos are edited for no lag,” says Nguyen. “They aren’t real-time: I record the MIDI program slowed down, and then speed it up in a video editor.” This technique takes less of a toll on computer processing power and RAM.
In addition to software and visual changes in Black MIDI in the West, English-speaking blackers established their own team, BMT (Black MIDI Team). Teams, including BMT, consist of a number of blackers who serve various roles, from blackening songs to creating the videos and hosting them on YouTube. This collaboration creates a virtual production and distribution chain that ensures blackers get their work out to as many people as possible through several main YouTube accounts—including Gingeas—while also being credited for their work. Additionally, while BMT is separate from the other major teams that exist in China and Korea, they frequently collaborate with each other on videos and MIDI tracks.
The lack of a major Japanese team brings up an interesting observation: Black MIDI has since disappeared from Japan where it originated. According to Nguyen, Japanese blackers “are analogous to those TV shows where there’s a mysterious founder of a civilization that is not really known throughout the course of the show.” The Japanese blackers have now assumed this role of a silent creator. Although the forebears of Black MIDI are long gone, the Black MIDI community has spread around the globe and is thriving.
One can’t help but draw comparisons between Black MIDI and Conlon Nancarrow’s studies for player piano. Both Nancarrow and blackers have tested the possibilities of note density in their pieces, creating astounding polyrhythms and textures in the process. In addition, the method of note entry is essentially the same between the two. However, Nancarrow’s medium was acoustic while the blackers’ is digital. In some regards, black MIDI could be construed as the 21st century’s response to Nancarrow.
Despite this apparent connection to Nancarrow, the Guide to Black MIDI claims it does not exist and that Black MIDI was an independent evolution: “We believe that references to Conlon Nancarrow and piano rolls are too deep and black midi origins must be found in digital MIDI music world” [sic]. Notwithstanding the blackers’ contentions, there are obviously significant similarities between Nancarrow and Black MIDI.
More recently, other artists have been creating music from a combination of both Nancarrow’s acoustic techniques and the blackers’ digital techniques to achieve intricate musical effects. For example, electronic composer Dan Deacon has written multi-layered player piano tracks that create an acoustic sound more complex than Nancarrow and are only made possible through the addition of modern MIDI technology and a Digital Audio Workstation. While Deacon’s style is entirely different from both Nancarrow and the blackers, the techniques he employs remain the same.
Though only one of many niche music genres that are internet-exclusive, Black MIDI stands out as unique. The simple melodies and tonal harmonies combined with the possibility of near or total computer processing failure are captivating. Additionally, Black MIDI’s connection to visual art adds a third dimension that makes the art form even more engaging. For a genre that has only existed for six years, it is difficult to tell where black MIDI is headed or where its influence will plant its seed, but for the time being I’ll enjoy the ride and listen to this along the way.
Apr 15, 2015
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