Thursday, May 26, 2011

The End


Hello Cloudracers,

In 2008, I set out in the world to seek excitement and adventure, and I found more than I could have imagined. For two years I lived in Germany, and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

I have decided now, to bring my Berlin blogging to an end. As you are most likely aware, I moved to Portland in November of 2010. I had full plans to return to Berlin this summer, but we all know how plans sometimes do not exactly pan out. I am now sorting things out on the west coast of the US, while simultaneously continuing my growth as an experimental electronic artist under the moniker Renset. I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way over the past few years, those who treated me like family, friends willing to transcend language barriers, and people who showed me new places and taught me new things. I would not have gotten very far without you.

Those who are interested in my work as Renset can follow me on renset.net. You can also contact me via rensetmakesnoise (at) g mail (dot) com.

All the best,
Phil

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bridgetown


Everything has radically changed in the past few weeks. I am now living in Portland, Oregon. Mandie is still in Berlin, and is obtaining her masters degree in anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. I will be back in Berlin in about a half year or so, and then plan on obtaining my own masters degree at De Montfort University in England. For now, I'm staying with some friends and am searching for a job so I can save up a bit for school.

I flew stand-by and the trip started out great. I caught a flight in Berlin, sat in first class and made friends with the woman sitting next to me. Things took a turn however in NYC where the flight was overbooked and I did not get a seat on the flight to Portland. I ended up with a morning flight, and spent the night in the airport. Not sure if any of you have experienced JFK overnight, but if not, let me assure you, it is not comfortable. The chairs are no good for sleeping, and the only flat place I found worth sleeping on was made of marble which was cold and hard. NYC is of course currently swarming with bedbugs, so there was no way that I was going to sleep on the floors. They also play smooth cool jazz which seems to be rather loud when it is not accompanied with the background noise of hundreds of people, and on top of everything was just something else that made it tricky to sleep. After a night of walking back and forth through the terminals I finally got on a flight to Salt Lake City. This was exciting because I got to see all the snow capped mountains and the Great Salt Lake as we flew in. It started snowing a bit while I was there. Ultimately, after 33 hours of being either on a plane or in a secure airport zone, I ended up in Portland.


Before my relocation, we switched up our situation in Berlin as well. We no longer have an apartment in Tegel by the lake (oh how I miss the lake!), and now have an apartment in Schöneberg. Mandie does not have to make the hour long commute to the university that she had to make from our old place any more which is extremely helpful. The move was exciting. We had mostly everything packed, and on the weekend of the move, we had lots of friends come out to help. Sarah and Rene stopped by and helped us with the truck. Our friends April, Olaf, Natalie, and Donna also came by to help carry all of our heavy boxes. We managed, despite the cold and wet conditions, and an angry lady fighting us for parking (she tried to run me over!), to get everything inside the apartment successfully.

In my last few weeks in Berlin, I was somewhat productive. I constructed a distortion unit out of the guts of an old cassette player. It can be found by following the tech link on my website. I also attended Sourcefabric's ON2: Test Signals, a two day workshop, presentation, and lecture series about digital and web-based radio. We explored all sorts of interesting real world applications, talked with people from around the world, and I participated in a workshop for Campcaster, an open-source radio station management program. Hilary, a good friend of mine, and I recorded two sessions in my studio using an instrument he created called the tromboscillator. It is a custom designed modular synth that uses the trombone to modulate the onboard oscillators. Usually he performs solo with this device, but I convinced him to bring it over so that I could have a go at the controls while he played the trombone. I had a blast playing with him and hope to do so again as soon as possible. I aim to have some tracks posted as soon as I get them ready. Between these two tromboscillator sessions, I made my way to Leicester, England to visit De Montfort University. I spent two days meeting and talking with the music technology department, other post grads, professors, directors, and so on, and got a feel for what I will be getting myself into when I go there for my master's degree, hopefully in October. I was impressed with what a strong community this program has. They are great people and I think I will get along great with them. While I was there, I attended a symposium where I got to listen to post-grads, professors, and artist, present their projects or talk about their work. Later that same evening there was a concert where many of the speakers either performed or had their audio and/or visual works played for the audience. When I went walking about the town, it didn't take long to get my bearings. I found an old cathedral where I was lucky to to have the chance to hear the pipe organ being played, Roman ruins in the city, and a great market in city center. I ate Indian food and went to a few pubs with members of the department. Neal, a doctorate candidate in the department, was even generous enough to let me crash at his place while I was there. After my visit, I decided that I really like the people, the program, and the town enough to be sure that I want to pursue a degree there.

Before leaving Berlin, I had plans to meet up with Ayaka, a good friend of mine at a whiskey lounge. She came up with the idea of making it a goodbye party, which naturally I thought was a great idea, so I invited some people unsure of who would actually come. It turned out that many of my Berlin friends came out to have a drink and spend some time with me before I left! I was very happy about this. I miss them all and look forward to seeing them at the end of summer next year.

And now, I'm in Portland. As far as the job hunt goes, if anyone has any ideas or Portland based contacts, please let me know. I've been to well over 100 places so far, and I have to say that the job market is rather bleak. Portland is nice though. The people seem to be fairly progressive, and are very into natural foods and healthy living. There is lots of nature around. Susan has shown me the Colombia Gorge and several waterfalls including Multanoma Falls. There are really big trees here, and all the trees in the forest tend to be covered in green fuzzy moss. It is very wet here, and more often than not, it is raining. We went to the Pacific coast to a place called Cannon Beach which has a huge rock called Haystack Rock. There are lots of tide pools around this rock full of green and pink sea anemones, hermit crabs, and bright starfish. Something that also struck me as interesting, was a small river flowing diagonally on the beach. Flying in, I saw three huge volcanoes jutting up over the clouds. Mt. Hood is the closest peak to Portland. At about 40 miles from the city, it is still visible from here, and is an amazing sight. I want to climb it, but have sort of realized that it is much more dangerous than I previously thought. We shall see.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things


Mandie and I had a weekend of museums which was rather nice. We checked out the the Museum der Dinge, which means the museum of things, and it is exactly that. Various collections of stuff, everyday items, junk, and etc. on display in glass cases. The emphasis was on design and a running question; what is kitsch? There is also an archive of photos and documents related to the architect/furniture and product designer Herbert Hirche. One of my favorite things there was a suitcase which contained 45 shades of gray, each given a name by Hirche. The names are great! Check out the list below, and don't be afraid to copy and paste them into a translator if you don't understand them all.

1001 Nichts
1002 Ungewißheit
1003 Vorahnung
1004 Nebel
1005 trüber Tag
1006 bedeckt
1007 verhalten
1008 Elegie
1009 verstimmt
1010 Langeweile
1011 dinstingiert
1012 Melancholie
1013 diskret
1014 steril
1015 Verzicht
1016 monoton
1017 morbid
1018 Verklemmung
1019 muffig
1020 Nieselregen
1021 Dämmerung
1022 November
1023 Trübsinn
1024 Monogamie
1025 alles Scheiße
1026 kraftlos
1027 Erschöpfung
1028 Hemmung
1029 Leid
1030 getragen
1031 verloren
1032 nimmermehr
1033 Reue
1034 Versagung
1035 Misere
1036 große Misere
1037 Depression
1038 düster
1039 Klage
1040 hoffnungslos
1041 völlig hoffnungslos
1042 Abschied
1043 Finsternis
1044 Untergang
1045 letzter Gruß


After having some hot chocolate and playing some chess in a cafe, we stumbled upon a digital multimedia exhibition which focused solely on individuals who helped to hide or protect Jews or others who were being persecuted during the war.


The most involved museum we went to was the Märkisches Museum. It covers all sorts of things that reflect the evolution of Berlin. We learned about the early settlements of the Slavic tribes and saw models of the city during various stages of development. There is a really cool mechanical stereographic photo viewer from the 1800s that has old 3-D photos of the city and people. It was interesting to see how they were dressed, or to see things in older times that I recognized from now. In one room there is a display of mechanical musical instruments. I put a 2 cent coin into one and it played a lively tune on a barrel organ. While checking out one city model, a very enthusiastic guard came over and started to tell us about various parts of the model. He started to quiz us on various buildings in the model, including several which were designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. We were surprised to find that we knew the majority of them. I asked him about a previous model I had seen about something that just didn't sit right with me. In the model, there was a large wall built around the city of Berlin (picture). The wall was one of the impenetrable sort, and there was even a moat which was fed by the river. It was so large that I couldn't accept the fact that it simply no longer existed. I figured that there had to be some trace of it somewhere, and as it turns out, the guard said I was right, and that the S-bahn stations Jannowitzbrücke and Alexanderplatz, are both built on all that remains of the ancient barrier. The museum also had loads of art, photographs, coins, torture devices, and various other things that told a bit of the history and the story of how Berlin came to be the city it is today.


After adding to our growing knowledge of Berlin, we exited a train station and found ourselves in the middle of an enormous demonstration against nuclear energy, or Atomkraft. I read later that there were some 100,000 people protesting. lots of signs, stickers, fliers, interesting costumes and outfits, whistles, drums and other noisemakers. There were even protesters in the grocery store stocking up on drinks and snacks, which made an entertaining sight. We got some noodle boxes and sat on the steps next to the station in order to watch the procession pass by in a near endless stream of noisy color.


Not far from the Märkisches Museum, we bought a TV from a girl. We were going to carry it home but it ended up being way to heavy for us to manage it across the city, so Mandie ran off and then returned with a shopping cart. After loading it into the cart, we made our way slowly back to our apartment. We also picked up a dvd player, which in combination with the TV has made movie nights much easier and more enjoyable. We have also hooked up our free cable, and now we can watch German television.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Renset is Online

I have finally uploaded my new website, as well as my tech site. The message below is quoted from the Renset news blog. Thanks for the support!
I'm very excited to announce the new site for my sounds and projects! Everything is new so there are still bits to smooth out.

Things to note:
  • The tech link will open my tech website in a new tab/window.
  • When listening to tracks, make sure to click the drop-down menu to access more track options.
  • In the lower right-hand corner is a contact link. Feel free to send any comments! Also in the lower right-hand corner is a share link, so please help spread the word!
New features will be added as they are developed, so check in every now and then to stay updated and to see what is new!

Enjoy,
Renset

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Month on My Own


Mandie is back from her really long vacation. She was gone a little over a month. We went the other day to see the new movie, Inception. It focuses on dreams which I found to be relevant to my recent attempts on learning to lucid dream. Anyway, this entry will cover a few things that happened in the time Mandie was away.

My quest for monitor speakers that I highlighted in my previous post ended up being fruitful. I have a pair of very nice monitors and have organized my studio and integrated them into the setup. They sound excellent! I'm going to be much happier working with my sounds from now on. If you haven't heard any of my tracks, check out my soundcloud account to listen. The latest track, Ghost in a Groovebox was made solely with, and demonstrates my rekindled relationship with my drum machine. I am also on official.fm now, but the content there is only a small selection from my soundcloud tracks. I made the account two days before the switchover from fairtilizer which caused a few glitches, but everything has been smoothed out and it is working fine now.

I attended a workshop where artist Teresa Foley conducted a live recording session and presented her project, Locally Toned. It involves recording sounds that relate to specific locations and turning them into ringtones that are available to the public free of charge. I brought along my induction coil and the rewired insides of a CD player and used them to make my tones. There is a video of the workshop where I pop up between 4:18 and 4:56, though I must say that my favorite part is the short bit at 5.50. Also, I am the proud new owner of the orange Magnus Organ that Jonathan plays in the video to make his tone. After the workshop, I thought about Teresa's question, what does Berlin sound like? Some ideas came to me, and I sent them to her, and the next thing I know, we had made plans to go out and do some field recording. I took her to the Französischer Dom where we made recordings of the bells from inside the tower, as well as the squeaky door that led out onto the cupola. We also took a ride on one of the noisier U-Bahn lines to catch some of the screeching of metal wheels and train brakes on the rails that echo inside the tunnels. I was surprised and excited when Teresa handed over her recording gear to let me capture some of the sounds on my own. You can hear all the tones on the Locally Toned website, as well as read more detailed information on the Locally Toned blog. I make an appearance in the August 4th, 5th, and 17th entries.



In response to an ad on Craigslist, I ended up with about 76 movies on VHS, a VCR, the remote and a SCART adapter. They were free with the donation of some beer, and good titles too. I can't wait to go through them all. The only problem is, we don't have a TV!

My friend Carmen went back to Spain. There was a farewell party in her flat. I was sent to get some ice at the store, but the store were all out. Improvising, I went to three convenience stores before trying my luck in a bar around the corner. The bartender told me that she could only give me a little, so we loaded up a few scoops into a plastic bag I was carrying. This was more than enough to keep our Sangria cold. It was a delightful evening with lots of fun people and delicious food, including la tortilla de patatas!

I went to this month's 11 performance. 11 is a performance involving two invited artist utilizing cracked media and unstable systems, held on the 11th of every month. The two artists this month were turntablist Maria Chavez and electro-acoustic artist Ignaz Schick. There were some interesting sounds produced, but I was not completely into the overall performance. Still, I had a good time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Surreal

Yesterday I set out to buy a set of monitor speakers. I figure it is about time in my life to treat myself to something that sounds good. For years I have worked with small guitar amps and crappy computer speakers, and I can't wait to be able to hear things the way they actually sound and not distorted or improperly equalized. So I end up at the store, and of course the guy helping me starts telling me how crappy Behringer products are and that I would be better off getting something else. I know that they are not top quality like Adam Audio or JBL. That is why I can afford them. Anyway, this is where the story segues into something unexpected and beautiful.

I left the store as I wasn't getting anywhere with the snobby audiophile and was headed off to another store to see if I would have any luck there. I get out of the train and am walking down the street, around a small playground, and as I'm rounding the corner, I start to hear what sounds like a drum circle. I didn't think much figuring a bunch of hippies were hanging out in the park, as I got closer, I see that it was in the street, there were people with a large banner and lots of white lawn umbrellas dancing and playing drums, shakers, and other purcussion instruments. I thought that perhaps it was a protest or demonstration, but was wrong again. As everyone passed a leaf covered basketball court, a man laying on his back in the leaves starts playing along with a trumpet. A melancholy yet jazzy tune juxtaposing the lively drums of the street procession. Further along, I saw some people weaving a tangled web of red string around trees and lamp post. As the crowd reached the end of the small street, I noticed a park bench and a person completely covered with green cloth as if grass had completely enveloped the bench and the person as they were sitting there. The small parade stops, and down the intersecting street came a man playing a violin inside of a large blue paper-recycling container that was being guided down the street by two coffin bearers, all three in suits. Two decorated Volkswagen beetles joined in behind them and the man played his weepy tune as they slowly made their way down the street, holding up a few confused cars along their way. We reached a small courtyard where the man was then shut inside the container. Scattered about the courtyard were several performers. A girl slowly danced while paint was poured all over her. Another girl did slow acrobatics on the bike racks swinging about a long cluster of tooth brushes. There was a line of about seven girls in duct tape bikinis brushing their teeth. They would turn and rinse their mouths out with one of many bottles of water lined up behind them. As their teeth got cleaner and cleaner, they began spitting and rubbing on each other. Somewhere in the distance a man played a flute. There were people walking around hugging people who gathered to watch. I was given a paper boat. After a while all the drummers started to play again and the whole courtyard was soon filled with people dancing.

I'm not exactly sure what it was that I came across, though I'm sure it must have been connected to the art school. I know not the why, but I do know that it was a very whimsical and surreal series of events to randomly come across. I never did make it to the store. Today started out with an angry rumbling sky, which seems not so angry now that it is raining, perhaps I'll try again today.

Follow up:

I went to another DJ shop, and it wasn't there. In its place was an installation of giant letters, the kind from old buildings and storefronts with little placards telling the fonts, manufacture dates, designers, and any interesting historical notes. It was as if I has walked into Sesame Street. Every was room filled with letters and words, or fractions of words, sparsely decorated with pigeon-proof spikes and broken neon tubes.

As for the speakers, I finally just decided to order them online.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Le Placard


Yesterday, I played a set for Le Placard Headphone Festival. Initiated in 1999 by Parisian musician, Erik Minkkinen, Le Placard is a nomadic festival that presents concerts listened to solely with headphones, a novelty that has attracted an international following and given rise to an extensive network of enthusiasts, musicians and promoters. The 2010 Berlin Blitz Placard was hosted by N.K., and consisted of 12 hours of intimate headphone performances from a variety of musicians and sound artists. Listen to the sample based on my performance below using headphones or quality speakers.

Le Placard Sample by Renset

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quack!


Oh it is hot! I know that it really is not that bad, but the past two days have been much warmer than I am used to them being. The duck above was a mini installation that I put together for Mandie's desk simply titled, Duck in Stereo. I wired in two speakers into her quacking flashlight friend, and she was very excited upon finding it and pressing the button to hear her duck with a much stronger voice! It was all temporary, and the little quacker is safe and back together in one piece.


This past weekend, Mandie and I hopped on a train and headed out to visit Fred and Regine in their beautiful home in Solingen. It was very nice to take a break from the city and relax for a while in the country side. Anna was also there for the weekend. It was wonderful to get to see them all again! All of our meals, and tea, were enjoyed outside, either on the terrace or in the garden. It was great that it was finally warm enough to do so, and the garden was so beautiful! Regine's cooking is something I could never tire of. She makes delicious food! I noticed that my German has been steadily improving. We spoke German the entire time, and I'm finding that I can understand much better than before, though I still tend to be the quite one of the group. I even managed to discuss the technical details of televisions while I bounced ideas off Fred ragarding my electronic tinkering.


Thank you Fred and Regine for a wonderful relaxing weekend! We hope to see you again soon!