Friday, April 06, 2007

Check it out -- in celebration of the release -- finally! -- of the fabulous new album by The Focus Group, We Are All Pan's People, two morsels of ghostificatory data:

1/ I knew that Morton Subotnik by the late Seventies was exploring a compositional technique he called "ghost electronics" but only just stumbled on the fact that he actually built a machine called the "ghost box"! Viz,

"The next step in Subotnick's use of control voltages was the development of the "ghost" box. This is a fairly simple electronic device, consisting of a pitch and envelope follower for a live signal, and the following voltage controlled units: an amplifier, a frequency shifter, and a ring modulator. The control voltages for the ghost box were originally stored on a tape, updated now to E-PROM. A performer, whose miced signal is sent into the ghost box, can then be processed by playing back the pre-recorded tape of E-PROM, containing the control voltages. As neither the tape nor E-PROM produce sound, Subotnick refers to their sound modification as a "ghost score". By providing the performer with exact timings, coordination between performer and the ghost score is controlled. "
[quoted from here]

No, I don't really understand it either to be honest. This below is a better description of how it worked musically:

"The "ghost" electronics make no sound on their own, but alter the amplitude, frequency, and location of any sounds produced as the electronic score is playing. In his works for this technology, Subotnick explored the effects of these manipulations on a variety of instrumental combinations, from single instruments to chamber ensembles. The rather simple electronic manipulations in the "ghost" electronics nevertheless produce an interesting range of timbres, depending on the tone color of the instruments being manipulated. "

[quoted from here, where you can actually download some of the music produced by these methods]

2/ Tasmin, my youngest, is at that age-- she just turned one--where she likes to pull stuff out of where it's kept. Books, CDs, DVDS.... strangely the vinyl has remained largely unscathed for some reason, although there was a hairy moment the other week when she started rummaging with the 2step shelf: I couldn't give a shit about the Brasstooth 12 inch she hurled across the floor but when her paws clasped the Doolally I let out an ungodly shriek. The promo DVDs and advance videos, residues of Joy's stint as a TV critic, seem particularly alluring: every bloody evening I have to scoop them up off the rug, where they're densely layered like shale on a beach or slates on a cottage roof, and shove them back onto the shelves. Anyway, one day recently Tasmin had dug particularly deep into the recesses and her excavations exposed, lurking way in the back... but, well wouldya believe it, a promo video cassette containing the entire first series of Look Around You, which I'd completely missed. I loved the second one, styled something like a cross between Tomorrow's World and How, but the first series is much more in Ghost Box territory, being modelled on morning TV for Schools and Colleges and Open University programming and having that creaky pedagogical air, badly lit and queerly cropped footage of experiments, curt instructions from the presenter to "write that in your copy book", that kind of thing... Even the series logo, as seen on the front of the course textbook, looks kinda Ghostboxy/J. Housy. And what do you know, one of the eipisodes, or rather "modules", is about ghosts -- you can actually watch it here, along with all the other modules. Better still one of the experiments in it is titled "The Haunted Laboratory". Check out also the ghost quiz at the offical Look Around You site.

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