Monday, April 6, 2015

Beautifully Uninformative

Part of my scientific research is to evaluate and visualize large biodiversity datasets around a type of insect commonly known as Plant Bugs (Miridae). The dataset is big, comprising of around 1.5 million specimen records from Natural History collections (

These visualizations can easily take on a life of their own leaving their descriptive and scientific nature behind, transforming into objects of beauty and disinformation rather than clarification. The illustrations are not random nor imaginative as each of them is powered by the same dataset of Plant Bugs - where the insects were collected, their food plants, and dates of that collection event. These simply exist as an alternative representation of a highly complex natural ecosystem as we have recorded and translated into discrete pieces of information.

Histogram 1 & 2: Collecting event based on plant family with
mixed up columns and rows.

Histogram 3: Plant diversity for every
insect species. The graph is so dense many of the 
columns just appear black.
Network graphs are some of the most striking on the Web and found in publication. Outside of demonstrating that a network is complex, it is very difficult to make them visually informative but fairly easy to make them striking. This is demonstrated with Host Network Graph 1, which is the product of using only the defaults of the R igraph package.

Host Network Graph 1: Default color scheme with all nodes arranged circularly. Only a few of the most numerous edges are visible. 

Art remains interrelated with the possibility of scientific discovery or description since the dataset originates from actual ecosystem observation. Highlights of information can be found in graphs simply made for visual pleasure. The two network graphs below are an example of graphs that convey some truth about Plant Bugs and the way they function in complex ecosystems. In Host Network Graph 2, the plants that the bugs eat tend to be the nodes that have several edges coming from them like fireworks scattering. Reminiscent of constellations, the pattern indicates that many plant bugs are fairly plant food specific. In other words, plant bugs are very selective about what they eat, leading toward isolated groupings of nodes and edges.

In Host Network Graph 3, green nodes are plants eaten by Plant Bugs. The large green circle indicates that more plant bugs like to eat this plant than any other. This network graph, with its giant green node, makes it clear that plant bugs like to eat pine trees.

Host Network Graph 2: Insect and plant interaction are rather isolated.
Host Network Graph 3: A host plant network for Plant Bugs with one favorite plant.

Friday, January 16, 2015

More Irene Moon Titles on FMA

I was looking for some old stash of merchandise to take to a friends record store in West Philadelphia tomorrow. Suddenly, to my shock, most of it has actually been sold. Amazing, I thought closets of some recordings would be around forever. I am in the process of putting all of the old recordings on Free Music Archive for everyone to do as they please. So, please do!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nine Fingered Thug review in Sound Projector

Somehow missed this review when it first came out, but never to late to appreciate it! Here is a reposting:

‘Bitter Ballads’ (HOLLOW BUNNY RECORDS HB005) by Nine Fingered Thug is just totally excellent, from its twisted Matt Minter cover art to every second of its EP-length grooves. While Buffalo Bangers pay explicit homage to various late-1970s New Wave bands with their sound, Nine Fingered Thug are far more eccentric and artistic and while it’s possible to characterise this record as some species of punk-inflected monstrousness, it’s just got so many elements that don’t fit neatly – including the mannered snarly vocals by Samuel M.Z. Mintu and the utterly spooked-out organ work from the great Irene Moon. Come to that, what’s the madcap Irene Moon even doing in a “band”? 2 The two songs here are both hymns to a pair of subversive visual artists, Hans Bellmer and Unica Zürn 3, and the insert includes a photograph of the duo nursing one of their doll constructs. The lyrics, especially those for the ‘Hans’ side, are sympathetic to the dark side of these far-out modernists, while also spinning a nightmarish yarn out of free-form streams of surreal poetry. It’s a genuine attempt to crawl inside the heads of these strange creators. Mintu, credited with “grumbling” as well playing the bass, grunts out these unwelcome visions of ugliness from a deep part of the psyche. There’s also the guitarist Services Lobo and Dabney Scott Craddock IV on drums, and I mention all four players because I can hardly credit the bizarre sound they make together – guitars and keyboards shining dimly among a fug of rather awkward rhythms – rather like a gothic version of Butthole Surfers. Also I enjoy they way they don’t really sit comfortably together as a band; each one plays as though they were making a completely different record from the others. Nothing but praise have I for this slab of grotesque beauty. Probably received some time before June 2011 but was released in 2010.
  1. Many UK punks acknowledged their love of Marvin’s work; this coincided with EMI’s release of the compilation 20 Golden Greats (0C 062-06 297) in 1977. 
  2. Of course she was a member of The Collection Of The Late Howell Bend. 
  3. Others who have explicitly professed their obsessions in this area are Stephen Thrower and Alfredo Tisocco. 


Frankford Hall * 1210 Frankford Ave * Philadelphia, PA 19125
Monday, April 28 6:30pm – 7:30pm

A showy reintroduction to some of the natural world’s icky organisms, by the researchers who cherish them. Discover how the human response to be repulsed is all quite explainable.

Itchy Itchy Scratch: Insects That Make Your Skin Crawl and the Lovely Reasons Why (Irene Moon & Yon Visell)
Does the sound of bees buzzing make your skin crawl? Why does the site of a cockroach give us the creepy-crawlies? Sing and dance your way through this surrealist entomological performance and discover how the sensation of touch affects human perception.

Pond Scum and You (Richard McCourt)
What is that slimy green stuff on the wall of your house?  What's in that green goo in your swimming pool?  They are algae, or a some would call them, pond scum, and this multimedia presentation will highlight the world of these strange tiny plants, which despite their not so nice reputation turn out to be the most important plants on earth.  

Partners: Frankford Hall, Drexel University, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, American Museum of Natural History

Your hosts:

Katja Seltmann (American Museum of Natural History)
Yon Visell (Drexel University)
Richard McCourt (Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Irene Moon and Blevin Blechdom at Silent Barn, January 18

Performing Saturday January 18 at Silent Barn.
603 Bushwick Ave. Brooklyn.
Show times: 800p.m. - midnight.

I will be performing with Yon Visell that evening.

Other acts that evening not to miss:
....Blevin Blectum....
... Tom Swirly: .......  .
....Sylvia Sexton ......
video for Ms. Sexton's set provided by ...... Naval Cassidy .........

Sunday, December 1, 2013

resonance104.4fm interview December 10th

photo: Jon Wozencroft/Touch
Coming 10th December Mike Harding interviews Katja Seltmann with Irene Moon about insect harmonics. Part of the Long Wave radio series, these Begonia Society members will be included in Long Wave 10, on December 10, 2012 at 10.30pm in London (530 New York) . Dont miss it!

Long Wave is broadcast on resonance104.4fm

Track listing:

1. Backing music: Irene Moon. Organ, electronics and insects (flies and cockroaches)

2. Darker Florida (Irene Moon and Pax Titania) - For the Cat People
from the album: History of Darker Florida vol. i. [tin cans and twine, cassette, 2008]
instrumentation: Piano, electronics and insects

3. Graeme Revell: The Insect Musicians - Invaders of the Heart

4. Treehopper courtship sounds from Reginald B. Cocroft (

5. Scientifically Speaking with Irene Moon - Fly me to the Blossom
from the album SUPLICO [Gods of Tundra, cassette, 2000]
instrumentation: Organ and crickets.

6. Mika Vainio - Outside the Circle of Fire | Hazard - Debugged
From the album Star Switch On [Touch, CD, 2002]. "The artists were commissioned to use the wildlife recordings of Chris Watson published on Stepping Into The Dark and Outside The Circle Of Fire as source material."

7. Insect Collage - Ants, wasps and other insects...
featuring recordings by Mike Harding, Tom Lawrence & Jana Winderen

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hal Harmon of Musique Machine Review of new Pod Blotz/Auk Theater split

Pod Blotz/ Auk Theater - Split LP [Nihilist Records - 2013]

This new LP from Nihilist Recordings features the pairing of sonic oddities, Pod Blotz and Auk Theater. Pod Blotz is the solo project of multi-media artist and photographer Suzy Poling. Auk Theater is the brainchild of longtime experimentalist and professional entomologist, Irene Moon. I will be upfront in admitting from the outset that I have a penchant for weird split records. The stranger the pairing, the better (at least in my mind). Of course, I’ve been burned before by artist pairings that sound good on paper, but in actuality were a pretty terrible idea. With both hope and trepidation I proceed.
On side A, titled Volcano,  LA artist sound and visual artist Pod Blotz offers 5 eerie synth driven compositions with fittingly haunting vocals. Stylistically, the tracks that make up Volcano hold a certain kinship with bands like Prince Rama and Pocahaunted, however with aggressive synth pulses and static flourishes. Dare I say industrial sounding at times. Add to the mix some chilling Moog organ and you’ve got a real creepshow on your hands.
Auk Theater offers a single 22 minute track for their side, however broken up into several digestible “phases” as is announced before each new section of sound commences. On this recording, founder Irene Moon is joined by Trevor Tremaine of Hair Police and other musicians to present listeners with an auditory iteration of her self-described absurdist theatre. While I’m somewhat familiar with Moon’s work, her being active in the experimental music scene since the late 90’s, this was my first foray into Auk Theater. Their side is a wild trip consisting of: chimes, spoken word, wind instruments, keys, maracas, percussion, and minimal synth. The minimal, yet effective use of instrumentation really highlights the poetry of Moon’s vocal stylings. Along with Moon, Tremaine adds some of his own singing toward the end of the track over a repetitive percussive beat. The mixture of spoken word and various instruments reminds me of Jane LeCroy at times and early Cerberus Shoal at others. I’m not sure to what degree the recording was planned or improvised, though I’m guessing the latter as the piece sounds very spontaneous and whimsy.  While the end product might be a little schizophrenic to some, pretentious to others, I quite enjoyed the variety of the endeavor. I bet this would be quite a spectacle to see live.

This album was quite a surprise. While I enjoyed the parts on their own, the sum really elevated the project into something special. This is definitely an album that needs to be heard and enjoyed in totality. No need to cherry pick your sides on this one.