A review of a performance in San Diego:
"The Convolution Brothers, consisting of Cort Lippe and Zack Settel, ended the program with Gandy Bridge IV. ... This piece was definitely the most technically complex of the concert, performing real-time convolution of both sound files and their own voices using the ISPW. One example which raised more than a few eyebrows and laughs, was a duet between Mr. Lippe and Mr. Settel, using an Otis Redding song as the convoluted soundfile. The impression they created as they jumped from one sound to the next, was that of two kids playing....their performance contained moments of real music and novelty....
-Mark Danks, Fall 1995 Computer Music Journal , MIT Press
A review of a performance at ICMC-1997 in Thessaloniki:
"The finale for the evening's entertainment was presented by the hilarious and talented "Convolution Brothers," Cort Lippe and Zack Settel. Entitled "Gandy Bridge XI," this improvisation was the comedy highlight of the evening, and was the funniest computer music this author has ever seen. Billed as an "ISDN" performance, the premise was that Zack Settel was in Florida and was to perform in real-time with Cort Lippe, and that they were not completely set up or ready when it was time for them to perform. Thus, the first few minutes were spent while they presumably fiddled around with the network, Settel nervously and periodically querying, "Did you get the ping?" Cort was also testing out his microphone and would whisper into it while furiously setting levels, until an enormous burst of noise erupted from his equipment, leaving him spluttering and frantically reaching for knobs. After a few minutes of this sort of thing, Settel's video feed over "ISDN" showed smoke pouring out of his equipment and filling up the room. Simultaneously, from offstage, a cloud of smoke was gathering. Shortly, Settel came coughing and staggering from the wings, without pants. Needless to say, the remainder of the performance was equally wacky, with bizarre voice processing of sentences such as "preference is to be given to compositions in a major key" and "the double bass is to be played only with a bow," as well as the judicious use of a PlaySkool PS-468 toy vocoder. The audience seemed to truly enjoy this gem of a performance; it was a rare moment of humor expressed in a crowd of folks who are known for their seriousness. The ICMC should continue to encourage this sort of activity, because it allowed the audience to laugh at itself via the performers onstage and (if temporarily) drop the seriousness of attitude in the conference setting. Certainly, the gags of the Convolution Brothers hit home, and everyone in the crowd seemed to enjoy the opportunity to laugh together. Overall, the Midnight Cabaret concert on September 28 was a terrific success and this author hopes to see many more like it. Perhaps because of implicit expectations of being entertained, the audience was quite demanding. The normal bounds of propriety were eschewed in this context, and if the audience didn't approve of a work, they were surprisingly vocal about it -- grumbling, hooting, heckling, and talking. While there were situations in which this created some inappropriate behavior, it was an amazing inversion for computer music, which has in the past developed much of the technology upon which the major commercial music styles are based, but which has not benefited from the success of those forms. Here we were presented with a glimpse of a possible future in which thoughtful, computer-based music might be refreshingly normalized to an "entertainment" environment, instead of its usual place in a concert-hall. The concert progressed nicely from a very quiet and introspective beginning to a rather raucous and hilarious conclusion. None of the pieces had more than two people on stage, which, although it made sense given the constraints of transporting equipment, seemed a shame in retrospect. Many of the great live performances (particularly in improvisational genres) do best when there are at least three people on stage whom to trade ideas off of. Perhaps this is an area that could be useful for computer music -- filling up the space on stage with human beings to facilitate more interesting live performances.
-Teresa Marrin, Spring 1998 Computer Music Journal , MIT Press
The latest on our clandestine activities. . .
The following is actual CONVOLUTION BROTHERS correspondence with ur-convolution brother (cbro#0) Miller Puckette:
From: The Convolution Brothers
To: Miller Puckette
Please find the enclosed ISEA submission (concert) proposal with
attached submission form. Also, please note that our demo video has
been sent under separate cover to John Baptiste Barriere.
If you have any questions, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on concert piece
"Gandy Bridge XII"
featuring The Convolution Brothers (Cort Lippe,Zack Settel)
duration: 20-30 minutes
Bio Notes for performers:
Cort Lippe and Zack Settel are two middle-aged white males with issues, bank loans and good dental records. One is slightly smarter than the other, but both are morons, as is evidenced by their serious music or use of language. They also do weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Technical requirements for Gandy Bridge XII
On-stage space requirements:
20' X 20' or larger
one sharp focal point about 15' diameter (from above)
some low ambient back-lighting
two chairs and a low table (approcximately 36" X 30")
Screen Projection for Mac Powerbook: min. res. : 1024 X 768
Projected on large screen behind performers
Via ethernet or modem (high-bandwidth connection 128bps+ preferred)
house technician to assist with lighting, projection and sound adjustments
one two-hour rehearsal in the concert space not including the general rehearsal
Equipment provided by the performers:
1 Apple Powerbook with stereo Audio I/O midi controlers
1 small stage mic. submixer (eg. Mackie 1202)
Equipment provided by the concert producer:
1 screen projector (1024 X 768 minimum res.)
2 electric guitar style amplifires (Marshall preferred)
1 smoke machine (for theatre or disco)
Stereo, with sufficient power.
Please include one or two sub-woofers in PA system.
From: Miller Puckette
To: The Convolution Brothers
Subject: ok try this...
Here's an updatred and ISEA-readied version of your program notes...
The Convolution Brothers Present: GANDY BRIDGE 12
Since 1994 the Convolution Brothers have presented a series of partly precomposed, partly improvised performances in Tokyo, Helsinki, Grenoble, San Diego, Guanajuato, Gainesville, Thessaloniki, and now, Paris. The performances are collectively called "Gandy Bridge." The materials for the piece are reworked extensively from show to show,often drawn from recent experiences gleaned as the Brothers grapplewith life in the late twentieith century. Paper, radio, TV, and the internet stream into our homes, faster and faster and louder and louder. Our ID and credit cards have attached magnetic strips which only a computer can read. Cars, airplanes, and other threatening machines are increasingly controlled by other machines, often in feedback configurations. Databases we can't access know where we live; how much money we have; how many dental fillings; which home security system. The phone rings late at night; the caller turns out to be a machine selling a religion or a cable TV system; our own answering machine takes the call.
For the Gandy Bridge pieces, the Convolution Brothers have developed a series of so-called vocoders: real-time software programs which can project the timbre on one sound onto another one. These are used to combine their two voices, or one of their voices with prerecorded sounds, in a variety of different ways. For example, using the timbre of a live voice, prerecorded music or other sounds can be made to voice messages that augment or contradict their original meaning. The sound transformations are carried out using the formidable MSP audio processing language, developed by Miller Puckette and David Zicarelli.
The CBs are among the roughly half-dozen masters worldwide who have unlocked the secret of real-time frequency-domain processing (It has been rumored that the MSP software was deliberately designed to make this extremely difficult in order to keep the circle of initiates as small as possible.) The Brothers have occasionally released some information about their techniques in hard-to-find, highly specialized publications such as the 1996 IEEE Mohonk Conference proceedings. Signal processing experts have so far declined to comment in print on the CBs' work. For reasons which remain obscure, it has proved difficult to obtain clear information from the CBs regarding their piece. It may well be the extreme complexity and sophistication of their work which make their attempts at explanation hard to understand. Musicologists are also seeking to find out what might have motivated the CBs to develop Gandy Bridge. Our own researchers have so far found one document dated 1995 whose meaning is still under debate:
From: The Convolution Brothers
To: Miller Puckette
Yo Mr. puckman, In our confusion, Cort and I are not sure that you
have been sent the correct program notes (Cort brought this to my
attention in a recent email, where he complained about systematically
not receiving his due credit each time a concert promoter furnished
program materials on the C. Brothers). In any case, I do recall
sending you some materials but don't remember exactly what.
Apparently the latest title for our work is "Gandy bridge XII",
though the title "your name here" was recently used in the program
notes for and proposal that we sent to the Boys Club.
Do you require any additional material for our act? I personally
don't care what the program notes look like; I am more concerned
about the following, which and are listed by importance:
1) Wine and hard liquor supply (including access)
3) swimming trunks
4) hand guns -zk
P. S. Despite the rather extreme nature of some of the sounds that
MSP might emit in this piece, the CBs have asked us to assure the
audience that no actual harm is done to the hardware during the
Thanks, Zack Settel and Cort Lippe
(the convolution brothers)