Wednesday, September 11, 2013

obligatory six-month update

hello, little blog! how have you been? things have been pretty good for me... well, except for the one incident...

back in july, virago & i went to milwaukee to see four legends of midwest breakcore: stunt rock, abelcain, doormouse, and anonymous. (doormouse, you may recall, headlined the after-party at our wedding.)

the show was great, with three of the performers effectively coming out of retirement for the show. the music was great, we got to chat and catch up with doormouse and stunt rock, and made some new friends. and we did other fun milwaukee stuff like dining out (milwaukee loves friday fish fries and something called "pulled ham", which is like pulled pork, except it's ham), record shopping, and the obligatory brewery tour.

then on the way home, we were cruising the chicago freeway when another driver "fell asleep" and crashed into my rear bumper at full speed. (i don't know how you fall asleep on the freeway at 3 in the afternoon without drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition, but that was her story.) we were then pushed down the freeway an unknown distance, hit the curb, and spun around 360 degrees, ending up in the left lane with a broken front axle.

somehow, despite the fact that the chicago freeway is pretty busy on a weekday mid-afternoon, we didn't hit the median or any other vehicles. we could easily have been killed, but escaped with only minor injuries (virago had some back pain for a few days, but that was it). but of course my car was totaled, and the six-pack of new glarus beer i had picked up to bring home was in the trunk right at the point of impact, sending beer and broken glass all over the trunk, and damaging a few of the records i'd brought with me for trade.

so that sucked, but at the same time it became an opportunity to get a newer car. after getting our insurance check, we headed out to terry lee honda (chosen because it was the best-reviewed honda dealer in the metro area, and after going there it's clear why) and now we have a 2011 civic—the same model as my previous car, only 10 years newer, in black, and a touch more blinged out.

so, near death experience aside, things have been good. i've been keeping busy. i finished a new release called taco meat, coming hopefully soon on a german label called betonblume. it's a bit glitchy, with some wack cylinders-style sampling but this time with beats—with actual drum programming (and not just sequencing percussion sounds sampled from somewhere else). i'm really pleased with it.

i've been making tons of art as well, and getting work in art shows. this summer i was in a show called run, computer, run (show is over but you can still view my piece on the website). i also have work in a show called _ģ̶Ł̶1̶ɫ̶C̶ʮ̶_Δ┌┼---\/\/\/\/\/\/!┬---jonCates_(AKA "Glitch Art with jonCates"), which opens tomorrow in saskatchewan as well as online at then later this month i'll have a piece in a show called money as error. and i'm currently working on something pretty cool for the wrong - new digital art biennale, which opens november 1. all that, and i post new work daily at, and a couple other things in the works i probably shouldn't mention yet. and did i mention i'm still doing my weekly net radio show Active Listening / The Act of Listening on

so yeah, i've been productive. stay tuned for future updates (though following me on facebook or tumblr will probably yield better results than relying solely on this blog).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

just how bad is soundcloud's "automatic content protection system"?

as many of you know, one of my music processes is is a form of sonification (or audification) where i trick my computer into opening various data files as if they were sound files, and then i make music out of the resulting sounds. (i wrote a tutorial about it here.)

a while back i posted an old song called "denial of service" to soundcloud because i was thinking about including it on my recently-released album on the DLL. the song is what you might call "pure" data sound, in that every sound in the song is made of this sonified data. so imagine my surprise when i got an email from soundcloud that they'd taken the song down because they thought i had sampled some house song:

i repeat: every sound in my song is taken from sonified data. no drum machines, drum samples, or any other instruments were used. but somehow my song still triggered an automatic takedown for uncleared sampling. i didn't even run any audio effects on the samples—they are all clean.

want to hear for yourself? here is my song (warning: fairly abrasive). and here is the song they think i sampled (warning: fairly mediocre). no human who listened to these two recordings would think they had anything in common.

as a glitch artist/musician, i find this fascinating. what could this algorithm be hearing in my song to make it think i sampled some house track? in terms of tone, timbre, tempo, and meter, these two recordings could hardly be more dissimilar. but to a bot, they apparently sound alike. somewhere in there, indiscernible to mere human hearing, the two must have some tonal sweep or polyrhythm in common. or some checksum came up with the same result by chance. it's hard to even speculate about how this may have happened without knowing more about how their bot works.

but it's also frustrating that my song has been pulled down based on such a laughably false accusation. and although i'm certain i will win the dispute, it's annoying to have to send soundcloud my name, address, and phone number, as well as tick seven checkboxes threatening to sue my ass off if i'm lying:

of course, there's no way for me to take soundcloud to court for wasting my time or for issuing bogus threats. all this because of a poorly programmed bot. in a way i'm lucky that my song obviously doesn't contain any "musical" samples of any sort. what would happen if i had made some housey track that just happened to use the same drum hits, or just sounded similar?

update: within a couple hours of filing a dispute, i received the following message:

thank you for providing feedback in regards of the upload:
stAllio! - denial of service

This notification is to inform you that your upload has been released to your account.
The SoundCloud team

so although it's reassuring that these disputes are reviewed quickly, it's alternately fascinating and horrifying that such a thing could happen in the first place. and i must wonder what would've happened if my case hadn't been so open-and-shut.

Monday, January 07, 2013

summoning ghost frames

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