We Missed You In New Orleans

This last week saw several Cycling ’74 folks leaving behind their solitary monastic cells and journeying to the great city of N’awlins [New Orleans, to the rest of you] for the 2006 ICMC computer music conference and festival. Although no words will suffice to describe what remains after Katrina’s passing, the dignity and pride of the inhabitants or the Big Easy, or the warm welcome from Tae Hong Park and the fine folks at Tulane, here’s a modest report on what we saw and heard (and ate).

Okay, we admit it — we’re going to be a bit Max-centric. Part of our reason for being there (besides the beignets and the blackened catfish) was to see what people were up to in this corner of the universe, and to solicit and collect input and suggestions for what people in the electroacoustic world might like to see in Max 5.0. That all sounds like lots of observation and careful note-taking. But it wasn’t all work, exactly.

We don’t know about you, but we’re inveterate patch oglers, always on the lookout for the elegant interface that clearly lays out a thoughtful design (in this case, Arne Eigenfeld’s installation “Kinetic Energy”).

But it wasn’t all patch-ogling. There was also the paper and poster sessions where we heard about work in progress, madly scribbling URLs of sites that included interesting new Max objects for things like Ambisonics or cool talks or papers about Jamoma, Fuzzy Logic, or sample-accurate metronomes.

But it wasn’t all geek fun. We were spirited off one evening for a cruise on the riverboat Natchez.

For a performance of music with nobody named Chuck, Max, C. Sound, or S. Collider sitting in with the band. Remind us to perfect those swing algorithms.

This year’s keynote speaker was Max. No, the real Max — Max Matthews, who delivered not one talk, but two. The first was an extended reminiscence about the development of the technology we all share and use.

Not content to look backward, Max spent the second half of his talk the next morning talking about his current interest in phaser filters. We all sang happy birthday to him, secretly hoping we would all age so well.

Did we mention concerts and the chance to hear some amazing performances? We did — morning, afternoon, and night.

Unlike the fine cuisine of New Orleans, gorging oneself on computer music seems remarkably free of unpleasant long-term side effects.

We heard some jaw-dropping performances that left us saying, “So that’s why they were asking about that on the Max list a couple of months back….”

The ICMC tradition has been that one goes from hearing an evening of concert pieces in an auditorium to a decidedly more relaxed location for an “off-ICMC” evening of work of an often decidedly different flavor, where Max sheds the cummerbund and tails to cavort with cellphone images sent from around the world and around the room, new hothouse hybrid audiovisual ensembles, and channelled voices of reconstituted Surrealists. Although our memory of the performances certainly wasn’t a big blur, our intrepid correspondent’s pictures were.

I believe that the properly hospitable Southern turn of phrase for all this is “…and a good time was had by all.” This phrase, in particular, occurred to us on the last night after the final concert, when we made our way down to the Cafe Brasil in the French quarter to soak up that backbeat one last time, to enjoy a last foaming cup of Abita on draft, and shake off our sadness at having to leave a great week in a great city behind.

It was great to see everyone, and great to hear your input and suggestions on what will be Max 5.0. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Gregory Taylor, Cycling ’74

We Missed You In New Orleans

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