2021 in review

A year of computer music, audio-visual performances, net-label Kamizdat work, and a lot of online streaming"

pt.1: Computer Music & AV

In April and May I published two short releases with two tracks each - "noether" and "traven". I'm proud of both of them, especially because they are part of my journey to write open source code compositions, currently in SuperCollider language. Publishing complete algorithm/ic score of a electronic music work is encredibly appealing to me. These two releases are some kind of continuation of work on 'ark/d, amorphic' album from 2020. These two releases were also supported by patrons via my Patreon page. I'm looking forward to write more compositions like this in 2022 - I really hope I can put more regularity into my daily/weekly schedules in able to increase the frequency of such releases.

This past year also marked progress on the field I was intrigued by for quite a while - livecoding. Thanks to multiple invitations by Ljudmila Lab to On-The-Fly and Algopolis projects I was thrown into cold water and forced to come up with live performance(s). Although I'm highly critical about what I have done (read: unsatisfied), I'm very happy to have actually tried and done it. This brings invaluable experience and for that I'm grateful, since I know better what works and what doesn't - at least from my perspective.

Audio-visual performance project trans.fail was originally concieved as more or less live-streamed performance, but because of an invitation to possibly the best cinema venue in Ljubljana - at Slovenian Cinemateque - I obliged and somewhat upgraded the slighly unfinished project from the year before for a live 'IRL' setting. I also performed it online for KIBLIX festival later. Second 'episode' of this ongoing research project manifested itself as a premiere of trans.fail/desktop in December. In a way I'm very unhappy with this rendition but from some other perspective it satisfies and realizes at least some of my ideas about where my work is headed. For now the plan is to really finish it and do a rerun in early spring of 2022.

On collaboration front I was grateful to have worked once again with Matija Ferlin, this time on his solo performance of quite different proportions - a three hour-long stage piece, a collage of texts and choreography, all accompanied with complete rendition of Bach's Matthew's Passion from start to finish. I have worked a lot on voice recording, slight edits of the music recording, spatialisation and mix of music and voice, and added granulations of start, intermission, and end. Some of these must be done live. We played premieres and reruns in Pula, Paris, Ljubljana, Vienna and Zagreb. There are more tourings in the schedule in 2022. Oh, and most of the time, I'm doubling as scenography transport executive (van driver and loading/unloading manager).

Within the project Technoblurlesque: Image Snatchers, I have - among others - produced two tracks I'm quite proud of: Gucci Guči and Slovenian remake of Independent Woman pt.1 (Charlie's Angels) originally from Destiny's Child. These are tied to feminist critique through satire and (movement) performance, mostly using music and burlesque. I also did tons of work with video and streaming.

I am very happy we did a quite interesting live-streaming version of Jitakami v.2018 audio-visual lecture body performance and how it turned out. I'm yet to get back to the full recording of the stream to publish it.

In September 2020 we started a series of regular online meetings, some kind of short introductory SuperCollider weekly workshops for women and trans folk. We continued with this until late May 2021. All-in-all it was about 40 sessions. It was a great experience for me that gave me quite a lot to think about how to proceed. I hope to be able to reboot it into partialy low intermediate level this spring.

This fall I also worked on a professional foley, dialogue cleanup and audio mix for film/video production (four 5-minute films about safety on internet) and that was another great learning experience. I also created soundscape music for an exhibition installation 'experience' produced by Art Rebel 9.

In conclusion of this perspective, computer music and audio-visual work perspective, personaly I am happy to objectively see and reflect on what I had done, but also I want to do so much more, with absolutely more focus on more frequent releases.

pt.2: Kamizdat

I want to start this chapter of '2021 in review' with a criticism. Kamizdat is a boutique netlabel which is supported by national and local cultural subventions (Cultural ministry and City of Ljubljana) and most importantly by the Emanat Institute. Our ethos is support of local production, mostly that with completely non-profit, non-commercial, exploratory and even outsider direction. In years of operation we found a clear path in terms of vision we want to follow or at least stick to. Our mission is well set: local suport, but poorly executed. I very strongly feel that in 2021 our executive function was abysmal. I don't want to go too much into details, but three points I do want to point out: 1) more than half of physical releases were available after the release (and promotional concert), 2) we were so late with production that promotional campaign completely missed any targets in most cases, and 3), gender ratio (M:F) is 3:1 (11:1 in case of a compilation).

There are quite clear reasons for these huge pain points (for me at least), and also some good sides of this coin (that I'll get into in few sentences), but I feel it's important to evaluate these critical areas where improvement must be made or I won't be happy running this label anymore.

With these fails loud and clear on the papers I can look into some personal achievements. We released 7 releases, among those one huge compilation of 25 tracks on netlabel day. We organized 6 concerts in our 'Rentgen' cycle, all of which were live-streamed in more or less professional manner (live direction, multiple quality cameras). There's a lot of room for improvement, but for our small team and resources we had, these live events (and streams) were still quite an achievement and I'm proud of them all. I created graphic design for three releases and three events. I also wrote liner notes for three of the releases.

This year we also worked with a near-by concert venue (Kino Šiška) for all but one of six events and was quite happy to work with them - mostly it was quite friction-less and end results were of high quality. Was was especially overwhelmed by audience response in numbers for last three concerts. It somehow felt that by sticking to one single venue for most of the year (something we weren't doing in previous years) created a stronger sense of continuity for the audience too.

I still sometimes feel like this label should be a stronger community project, perhaps a cooperative, also because it is quite a lonely endeavor. I have collaborators and I want to work more on delegating work (and responsibility) to other collaborators. Again, I have to make a solid plan for these goals and, most importantly, execute it in time! In the similar way, I also have a strong desire to write some kind of transparency report where I could communicate to artists that we have released how we are doing financially.

I want to make 2022 a better Kamizdat year in many aspects.

pt.3: Streaming

Since the COVID19 pandemic struck early 2020 it was soon clear that live streaming will need to be used, especially in places where cultural events like theatre, dance shows and concerts were suddenly not allowed. Towards the end 2020, after infections and deaths soared in Slovenia we (at Emanat) started to prepare a adapation of our feminist contemporary technoburlesque Image Snatchers into a live-streaming format. Since the contents are more often then not criticism through satire, remixing and reusing popular songs and images streaming platforms like YouTube or Twitch were out of the question. In the past I was also always trying to work with selfhosted solutions so we tried with Open Streaming Platform in December of 2020 and it scaled really badly, server couldn't cope so many people trying to watch (at least 150), plus the streaming team was not really experienced with theatre shows to say the least. We grinded through but it was a painful learning experience.

In 2021 we decided to try again, with different software (OwnCast), some of our own hardware and new streaming/camera team. This time it worked quite differently. OwnCast is much smaller (minimalist) piece of software which from the start doesn't try to replicate a portal like Twitch but rather has a goal to provide a single streaming channel, and does that well. After the transcoding different sizes/qualities on the server the size of the audience does not have any significant influence on server's processor. We were lucky to be working with a very good film/video/camera person who worked hard to make every scene as best looking as possible. They also had some quality lenses and equipment that contributed greatly to the aesthetic of the stream.

I was extremely happy with these new streamed productions. Of course some things went wrong and a lot of it could be improved, but this was really in the direction I quite liked. So, we produced Image Snatchers twice (february, april), Jan Rozman's Thinging solo, Maja Delak's group choreography Just for Today, and my own audio-visual lecture performance Jitakami v.2018. Each of these five live streams were put together with a lot of attention to adapt original live stage situation into different, media-conscious, form, going beyond the problem of "it's simply not the same as IRL version!" and use the medium of live video streaming to transform the work instead. And I feel that we achieved this to a great effect.

Since we had the infrastructure working to a very different degree than before (e.g. using OBS also allowed much more freedom in compositing of cameras and visual layers, etc) it was a logical step to use it for our Kamizdat concert series Rentgen. We streamed six concerts/performances this way, learning a lot about lighting and other equipment along the way. We were also hired in different capacities to stream other's events. Counting them all, this year I worked 24 live streaming events.

In conclusion I must express gratitude that free/libre software like OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and OwnCast actually exist.