MUSICHear samples from the artists of Different Skies
Different Skies 2005
Particpants in Different Skies
2005 (top row): Dave Fulton, Paul Nagle, Giles Reaves, Brian Good, Doug
Wellington, Greg Waltzer, Tony Gerber, Paul Vnuk, Jr., Jeff Kunzelman,
John Duval, Howard Moscovitz. (Middle row) John Goff, Bill Fox, Mike
Metlay, Jim Combs, David Tristram. (Bottom row) Otso Pakarinen, Tim
Walters, Rus Foster
The following journal and links document the week's events at Different Skies 2005.
Folks began arriving Sunday evening and by just after lunch on Monday afternoon, the stage began to fill up with people and equipment. Tim Walters was the last to arrive around 5:30pm but Doug Wellington, having driven from Tucson, picked several attendees up at the Phoenix airport and up to Arcosanti, returned to Tucson to record his radio program and return to Arcosanti with the PA system.
The stage setup seemed to come together easier and quicker than last year and there is a wonderful assortment of equipment; from drums and drum processors to laptop systems, to Nord Modular, to keyboard rigs, to guitar setups, to interesting electronic devices.
Dinner was a wonderful pot roast with olives, salad, avocado, hummus, pita, falafal, baklava.
The video system is setup and the projector is being tested as I type in the amphitheater. I see bees, I see bees.
The sun rises around 6:20am. Gin's incredible croissants started everyone's day. John Goff lost a filling at breakfast and Giles is not feeling well. A temporary PA system was setup and several jams helped to shake out the system. A MIDI sync system using Mike's Studio 5 is put into place connecting a couple of P3's, Greg's Nord G2/Emu XL-7, Paul Nagle's Roland V-Synth, and Mike's rig. Different groups of musicians continue to get their setups ready for performance and start the process of sound balances.
Lunch was Thai curry beef, noodles with peanut sauce, salad, brownies.
Tuesday, 4 PM
Hello, everyone. I hope all's well with you in the outside world.
I'm not much of a "blogger", not really knowing what people look for in blogs, but I'll do my best to communicate what has been going on here for the first couple of days of Different Skies 2005.
Monday was to be our setup day, in which (in a perfect world) we would get on stage, find our places, set up our performance rigs, wire up and fire up the mixer and PA, and get MIDI sync networking all done. In actuality we're not quite there as of this time Tuesday afternoon, but we're still much further along from a technical standpoint than we've been in previous years.
So what's been going on? Well, a few of us arrived on Sunday night, as Arcosanti was able to provide lodging for us (usually we don't get rooms until Monday), and a few of us even got cars unloaded and gear set up on the Amphitheatre stage, which was a bit rumpled in the carpeting but otherwise unharmed by the recent flood that inundated the area. Giles Reaves arrived Sunday night, followed by John Goff of SSI, and then Otso Pakarinen and I. We visited with Jeff Kunzelman, who lives here at Arcosanti and who already had his gear on stage, before calling it a night.
Monday was a day for arrivals, setting up, lots of hellos and meetings, and a couple of disappointments. There were a few bits of failed gear that we're working around as best we can, some impromptu master classes on how some of the toys here work, and a lot of forward movement on the stage setup. People arrived in waves from the Phoenix airport, with some folks driving in late and arriving for dinner.
A quick rundown of the dramatis personae, in terms of people and gear:
Jim Combs of TouchXtone is back for his second year, with a P3 sequencer (keep count of these, guys), a Nova, a JamMan, a Remote 25, and my old ER-1 which I was happy to see again.
Greg Waltzer (Xeroid Entity and a gazillion other bands) has his usual rig: the XL-7, Nord G2, Micro Modular, and of course the TriWave PicoGenerator, the handmade box of hellendamnation that's rocked every DS for three years. The nicest part of what Greg's brought, however, is his wife Hong, who's joining us for the week.
Bill Fox has his lap steel and Telecaster, LoopStation, Headrush, Nanoverb, GT-5 pedals, and a PC laptop with some softsynths controlled by a borrowed Novation X-Station 49. Bill's best quote so far: "Gee Mike, if you press the right buttons, things happen the way they're supposed to."
Paul Nagle has a borrowed V-Synth, a BOSS DD-2 delay pedal, and a PPS3 Custom Sound Lab running on batteries. I have GOT to get me one a these tings.
Rus Foster has shrunk his rig a bit since last year, getting rid of the Simmons pad set, but still has a Radium controlling a desktop PC running softsynths, a Korg 01/W, DigiTech 2120, Planet Earth, Echo Pro, Quadraverb2, DM5, Octapad, two guitars, and a GR-30 guitar synth. And a bunch of percussion shakers and rainsticks and a didjeridu. Yikes.
Brian Good has his usual soprano sax and EWI3000, Nord Micro, PC laptop and soft synths, and Kaoss Pad 2.
Paul Vnuk Jr has also shrunk his rig a lot, but is holding forth with a HandSonic, a Wavedrum, a Novation X-Station 25, PC laptop and softsynths, a Wedge, and an Electro-Harmonix 16-Second Delay.
Jeff Kunzelman has a huge rig (living here, it wasn't hard to move): ER-1 MkII, FutureRetro Revolution, P3, circuit-bent Speak and Spell, Nord Rack 2, native American flute, M-One XL, Warp Factory, and Akai filter module. Cool.
Tim Walters has a Mac laptop running supercollider, an Ozonic, and an LXP-5. His Beyerdynamic M500 ribbon mic seems not to have survived a bad plosive, so he's now using a Shure SM57.
Howard Moscovitz (Xeroid Entity) is here for the first time, and has a Nord G2X that he's doing all sorts of sick stuff with.
John Goff has had a rough start at Different Skies; attempting to use an Echo Indigo io PCMCIA card, he did a hot swap (remember when we had to worry about such things?) and may have completely fried his PowerBook. Hopefully a replacement is on the way. He's using an Evolution MK25 and two UC33es to control Live and Reason. (John also lost a filling at breakfast today.)
Otso Pakarinen is doing everything on a PowerBook with Edirol PCR-M50, as usual. He's been distributing salmiakki like, well, like candy. This is the first year he hasn't brought tracks for people to learn, and he's very relaxed and enjoying himself a lot.
Tony Gerber of SPACECRAFT fame seems to be having a blast at his first Different Skies. His rig includes a Hand Roll keyboard, a borrowed Edirol PCR-M1, an Alesis Micron, a PowerBook, a Strat and an Alvarez Yairi acoustic guitar, native American flute, and some harmonicas.
Giles Reaves has a truly sick percussion setup based on capturing and processing sounds live in Pro Tools on an iMac G5, with a small drum kit, lots of cymbals and percussion, an Edirol PCR-50, a PCM-70, Presonus Central Station, and an Octapad.
Dave Fulton is back after an absence last year. He's playing a Nord Electro 2, a Nord G2, and a Minimoog Voyager, with an iMac G5 running Pro Tools, a D-Two, and a PCM-80.
John Duval is also back, once again a guitarist after a fun time at a mindSpiral gig this spring, with his Parker Fly, a POD 2.0, a P3, Morpheus, Evolver, Line 6 Delay Modeler, PCM-80, MPX 1, Millennia Media preamp, and Boomerang.
And I guess that leaves me. I was toying with the idea of a laptop rig myself this year, but had to abandon the idea when we had to shift over to using my laptop to record the show... so I went Old School and brought my Oberheim Xpander, which I've now had for over 20 years, plus a Prophecy, Kaoss Pad 2, and Wedge. And my solid body electric mandola, through a MagicStomp.
David Tristram is back on video synthesis again, and also brought a pair of congas and a Roland Juno-D, we hope to get him in and playing as he's a great keyboardist.
Perhaps as significant as who's present is who's absent; Dave Lovelace was prevented from coming at the last minute, and we're missing Bill Stunt, our FOH engineer, due to the CBC strike. And Doug Wellington has spent the past two days shuttling people to and from the airport and taking care of last-minute business in Tucson, a 5-hour round trip from here, and in all of that has not yet managed to get us our mixer or PA. As I type this, he's several hours overdue to FINALLY arrive with the gear we need to get moving, plus Chris Kuborn who will be filming a documentary about this year's DS. Doug's rig is undetermined as yet but will include a P3....
What else? Hmmm. Howard killed a scorpion in the shower this morning; there's a Black Widow spider living in the alcove at stage left, guarding three large egg sacs; and we carefully removed a large and evil looking bright green spider from Dave Fulton's Nord Electro today, and let her go. (We named her Cynthia.)
John's in good spirits despite the threat of not being able to play with no computer; everyone has been great about volunteering gear and cables when necessary; several folks are taking the quiet start of the week as opportunities to work with newer gear they may not have mastered yet; and Giles has just come back into the theatre after spending most of today sick in bed with a stomach bug.
We have set up a temporary PA rig and are using the Behringer mixer we used last year to at least get folks up and hearing themselves, and are using multiple subgroups to create headphone mixes for subsets of musicians, who are already creating music like mad. Most of us are relaxed and in high spirits, just enjoying being back here. Our first formal gig is at 2PM Thursday, for the kids from the Orme School, the local performing arts high school. We'll pull something together, I think.
It's very quiet this afternoon; despite not having the PA yet we've licked a lot of the early problems and are well on our way to a great year, and everyone is very mellow. There's been lots of good food and drink, and the starry nights are gorgeous. Everyone at Arcosanti is very friendly, and the croissants, as always, rock our world.
More later, if I have time. Thanks for reading.
Dinner is pork chops, mashed potatoes, fried tofu, salad, cookies
The PA has arrived and is being set up. Several groups are jamming under headphones in practice. Chris the videographer has arrived and begins to document. The group retires to the SkySuite for specialty ginger ales and beer telling tales into the night. Dave Fulton locks himself out of his room.
Lunch was various pastas (some with bacon, some with spinach).
Much of the time spent today was on PA setup and sound optimization. Paul Nagle led a P3 master class giving a year's worth of knowledge in about an hour. We'll attempt another hour tomorrow.
Once the system was available several jams commenced. A group meeting listed out 19 possible to be composed compositions that have been suggested and participants raised hands to divide and conquer what needs to done before Saturday night. A really wide selection has been suggested, from Berlin School, to Jazzy, to Ambient, to pure noise, to pure electro-acoustic, and even a vocal piece.
Dinner was an incredible maranaded paprika beef, potatoes and several types of rice, salad, apples, and brownies for dessert.
We continue to wring noises and buzzes out of the PA. Absynth and Absinth make the heart grow fonder.
Wednesday 10 PM
As I type this, I am more at peace than I've been all week. This evening we went through that marvelous inversion point that has happened at every Different Skies so far... when one minute we're thinking, "How the heck are we ever going to pull this off?", and the next we're thinking, "Oh man, we are gonna WOW the audience come Saturday night."
I am so unbelievably lucky to be working with these people. They're incredible. It takes a while to take aim and pull the trigger, but once you do, you know they're going to obliterate the target beyond recognition.
We spent the morning and most of the afternoon dealing with an increasingly frustrating series of minor problems with the sound system, including getting a headphone monitoring system in place, wiring up sidefill monitors for people who want to work without headphones, and setting up a clean distribution system to get the main mix from the console to (deep breath): the engineer's headphones, the video recorder, the webcasting hardware, and the spare audio recorder for the documentary shoot. We ran out of proper cabling just shy of the target, and worked miracles with adapter widgets and reroutings. There are still issues with the recording setup, but we have backups being made that are of good quality.
After dinner, we started rehearsing the songs (over twenty of them) that will make up the show. The first piece, an ambient soundscape entirely constructed of reverberant spaces (working title: "When I Die, Bury Me In Reverb"), was a slam dunk. The second piece and third piece, melodic short subjects for guitars, keys, ambient percussion and woodwinds, were equally beautiful (the group performing them had been rehearsing on headphones while we worked with the sound system). And the pieces after that all came together nicely after a run-through or two. Suddenly we'd gone from having nothing at all to having a third of our show ready to roll, three days before show time. It's all due to the professionalism and dedication of these musicians, not to mention their patience with their frantic and scatterbrained coordinator.
Tomorrow we'll have a brief performance/master class for the students of a local performing arts high school; aside from that the day will be devoted to rehearsals, debugging the primary recording system (we hope), picking an order for the pieces, and making up a program for the show.
I am thrilled.
Oh, I almost forgot: Chris Kuborn is now here documenting the show on video, and Doug Wellington is now set up on stage with two Evolvers, two Adrenalinns, an Edirol PCR-A30, and a Yamaha bass. We're now twenty strong and sounding great. Bring on the rest of the week!
Lunch was a fennel sausage dish, with salad, a tofu medley.
Round 2 of rehearsals during the morning and early afternoon. Then a group of high school kids from Orme School came by for about an hour of lecture from Professor Mike on the wonders of electronic instruments, a short jam by the assembled, and a show and tell one on one with individual instruments. Then the rehearsals resumed.
The video by Giles Reaves has been updated with more people and correct identifications!
Dinner was Pork Loin, either pasta or grain, salad, and a really nice kinda Boston Creme pudding cake.
Rehearsals continued into the evening.
Several rounds of rehearsals today culminating in two concert tech rehearsals, one before dinner and one after dinner. Then a couple of all star jams went on until around 11pm. Everyone retired to the Skysuite for conversation and libation and the party broke up around 1:30am.
There are many photos taken, but updates to the web site will occur as time permits until after the concert. Chris has interviewed all but three people for his documentary.
Lunch was a mustard chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad.
Dinner was several types of Pizza, salad, some tasty leftovers.
A day to sleep in although the blazing sun does nothing to help. Musicians and video artists slowly make their way to breakfast or the amphitheater. There will only be spot rehearsals today, but mostly it is loose time to prepare for the evening show, and then the return home.
This evening's concert will be webcast.
Log on to
in quicktime player
file -> open url -> rtsp://220.127.116.11/differentskies.sdp
The show starts at 7:30pm MST (the same time as California). We recommend logging on a few minutes early and make sure you have the required software installed (we don't want you to miss anything!)
Saturday 930 AM
Ah, breakfast at Arcosanti... fresh croissants from the Bakery, hot tea, and conversation. Everyone's very relaxed here, as last night's technical rehearsal went pretty smoothly. There were a few hiccups, but overall we were pleased with how things went. We hope that tonight's show will be as good, if not better.
Unlike last year's show, which was organized in two parts – first a set of songs by small groups of performers working together, then long-form "all-star jams" afterwards – this year's program is set up as a series of musical vignettes, almost 30 of them in a set lasting about 90 minutes. The longer pieces, in various styles, are linked with shorter transitional pieces called "arx." Each piece has a leader who organizes and conducts it, either solo or with collaborators. Anyone who wished could have suggested a piece and volunteered to lead it, and most folks did. Everyone chose to play on at least two or three songs, and some folks worked on more than ten!
I thought that folks might enjoy seeing the format of the show, as it might help them follow along if they choose to tune into the webcast.
The show opens with walk-in music called "Metaphysical Dysfunction", generated by Paul Vnuk Jr., Brian Good, and Rus Foster on dueling instances of Native Instruments' Metaphysical Function, an algorithmic noizglob generator. A quick introductory speech is made, and then we're off and running. There are, at most, short pauses between songs, and most of the transitions are crossfades.
Rested Development: We start off the show with a bang, with a live percussion piece organized by Rus, with Paul V and Giles Reaves backing him up, Tim Walters on frame drum, Jim Combs on egg shaker, and Brian on sax.
Oriental Carpets: It's fascinating how just a tiny dollop of Otso Pakarinen turns any song into Ozone Player... here Otso leads Howard Moscovitz, Greg Waltzer, and Paul V in an upbeat sequenced/live piece.
arx – antinnit!: Otso takes us out of the previous piece and sets us up for the next with a brief study in looped Absynth mixed with Paul V's treated Theremin.
Floating Point System: a gentle, lyrical piece led by John DuVal on electric guitar, joined by Dave Fulton on keyboards and Tony Gerber on electric guitar.
Drums & Drones: a tribal ambient piece, deep electronic textures mixed with native winds, percussion, and loops. Paul V leads Rus, Otso, Tony, Giles, and Mike.
arx – la gitarre engloutie: a Telecaster swims up toward the sunlight from the depths of the ocean, piloted by Bill Fox.
Idumea: a traditional shaped-note hymn about life and what comes after, sung by Tim with a backing ensemble consisting of Jim, Paul Nagle, Greg, Tony, and Giles.
When I Die, Bury Me In Reverb: a concept piece where all or almost all sounds are reverberant spaces with little or nothing of the impulses that create them. Giles leads Tim, Otso, Brian, Paul V, Dave F, Bill, and Mike.
Volcanic Tubes: a melodic/ambient construct led by Greg, with Howard, Bill, Tony, and Giles.
The Last Native Speaker: mysterious and clangorous soundscaping from Tim, with John D, Jeff Kunzelman, Paul N, Brian, Dave F, John Goff, Tony, and Giles.
arx – quantized: Howard rattles off a beautiful interlude on an unusual time-quantization patch on his Nord G2X.
Heavily Armed Primate: shuddering sound clouds resolve into a jazz-funk freakout led by Brian, with Howard, Dave F, Rus, Bill, Paul V, Giles, and Doug Wellington.
arx – first church of the vco: Jeff carries us along on a gentle chordal pad wash, setting up what comes next...
Aeolian Web: a sequenced/melodic piece organized by Greg, with Jim, Paul N, Howard, Bill, John G, and viviographer David Tristram, who has keyboards and congas set up by his video control setup.
Grade D (But Edible): abstract tastiness from Jeff and friends: Tim, Paul N, Howard, Greg, Paul V, and Mike. Listen for the horrid Xpander shriek that signals the transition to the next piece!
Dividing The Octave: John Goff leads a slow, focused construction with each of the players taking particular notes in particular octaves to build a spacious drone cluster. Tim, Jim, John D, Howard, Bill, Tony, Paul V, Paul N, and I participate.
Daddy G: woodwinds and guitars predominate on this piece led by John D and joined by Tim, Tony, Dave F, and Giles (whose brief illness at the start of the week inspired this mournful tune).
arx – handwaving argument: a Theremin solo by Paul V.
Acoustic Space: acoustic and processed instruments in a non-synthesized soundscape created by Tony, with Jim, Brian, Howard, Tim, Rus, David T, Paul V, Bill, and Giles.
Bruits de la Nuit: night sounds and textures by Bill, with Otso, Paul, Howard, Dave F, Rus, and Paul V.
arx – clockworks: tick tock tick go the sequencers! Mike leads Jim, Jeff, John G, and Paul N on a merry flight through crushingly constrained MIDI sync. Watch for the Happy Clockworks Dance!
Pianobomb: David Tristram's piano hurtles from the skies with talons gleaming, as John D, Greg, Dave F, Bill, and John G cower in abject terror.
Marconicide: Tim Walters presents a symphony of the airwaves in four movements, accompanied by Jim, Otso, Howard, Dave F, Bill, and Tony.
arx – man dorin desu ka?: Mike didn't bring his aebea this year; instead he has the Mando-Stick, a tiny solid body instrument with a surprising tone whose plaintive chords lead to...
Return Of The Son Of Wire & Impact: a Different Skies tradition returns! No keyboards allowed... only guitars and percussion. Mike and his Mando-Stick direct John D, Bill, and Tony on lead guitars, Rus and Doug on rhythm and bass guitars, and Paul V and Giles on thunderous electro-drums. w00t!
Serene & Beautiful, Inc.: And at last it's time to come down from the rush of the past hour and a half with a soothing ambient confection for dessert. Paul V leads Otso, Jeff, Paul N, Brian, Mike, Rus, Bill, John G, and Tony.
Whew. This was all conceptualized, composed, and rehearsed in the time since about 3 PM Wednesday.. we're a little fried. That's why everyone is off enjoying Arcosanti, running to town for some barbecue, buying last-minute gifts, or in my case, handling a bunch of last-minute crises while trying to write this blog (which still needs to be turned into tonight's program!). I started typing at 930 AM... it's now after 2 PM, and things get really nuts in about 2 hours.
Wish us luck.
Dinner was either cedar grilled tuna steak or leek tart, with veggies, pea or carrot soup, and a custard with berries dessert.
Sunday 25 September 2005
Well, aside from Giles Reaves, who's currently driving all over the USA on a sort of working vacation, we're all safely home, tired but satisfied. The final show on Saturday night was a huge success, with the audience absolutely loving our 90-minute opus. We received effusive praise from Dr. Soleri himself and a very nice writeup in the papers, and are expected back again next summer, as to date we're the most popular event on the 2005 event schedule for all of Arcosanti!
The time after the show was taken up first with a series of short jams... because we came late to the whole jamming thing this year there were a number of genuinely inspired moments but nothing like the huge slabs of amazingness that characterized 2004. Then, after the audience was gone, we settled our accounts and broke down the stage, distributed and traded CDs and DVDs to whomever had them coming, and had a few last drinks before turning in well after midnight.
Everyone got home in his own way the next morning; Otso and I had some adventures that delayed our return by almost 24 hours (details in the Differentskies Yahoo! Group archives under "Postcard From The End Of The World" if you're curious) but he made his flight okay and I spent the next several days trying to recover my work situation and get my family used to having me back. Now, a week later, things have settled down enough for me to write this final blog.
I would like to thank everyone who was involved in this year's event for making it the best ever; we had a great time and made some great music. I salute you all, my second family.
Now, as for the music itself...
Right now I'm dealing with TWO sets of DS tracks. One is the released music from last year's show, which was pressed just in time for THIS year's show. It's called Arcs & Angles, and contains over 90 minutes of music from the 2004 "all-star jams," edited for length and combined with computer visuals from David Tristram to form an intensely absorbing audiovisual experience on DVD. As I type this, several copies are on their way to Filmbaby.com, where they'll hopefully be available for sale in a week or so. When they are, you can bet I'll be mentioning it here!
Also going up on sale at CDbaby.com is a very limited edition promotional CD of Arcs & Angles; it's audio-only and has most of the DVD's tracks plus one unique track. If you want one, buy it now, because when they're gone, they're gone forever.
Then there's the audio from this year. We didn't talk about it much during the week because when you're working around a problem you're too busy to complain about it, but we had some issues this year that left us with a large amount of audio that can be turned into releasable product but not in as neat a form as we'd hoped. Before we can put any sample tracks up or create a CD of the event (no DVD this year, sorry) we have to assemble this material in one place, listen to it, and edit it, which will be no mean feat. We may have a sample or two of low-bitrate stuff from the live webstream of the show, but it will be very small sections of a much larger work. We'll sweeten the pot with some other free tracks that will be added on a regular basis, so please check back on this site throughout the year for more goodies!
Thank you for your support and attention... we're proud of what we've done so far, eager to get more great music out to you all, and hopeful for more such events in the future. Stay tuned!
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