Taking 'nonstop' music to a whole new level

Sep 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm
Saturday, Mark Mallman and his band of trusty technologists started the world's first transcontinental, non-stop bio-musical webcast (or, "Marathon IV: Road Rogue," as the team refers to it) during which they will travel from New York to Los Angeles over the course of 7 days — continuously creating and webcasting a live musical soundtrack as they go.

Around 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon, the roving composer and his friends pulled up in front of MOCAD in a tricked out, 1992 GMC Vandura van. The stop at MOCAD was the second of several "open houses" along their journey -- essentially, an opportunity to throw the doors of the van open and let the public take a look inside.

Of course, the small crowd of curious spectators gathered outside MOCAD, needed more than a quick peek to make sense of the scene unfolding against the backdrop of the Vandura's velvet blue interior.

Mallman, who works as a professional composer for film and TV when he's not participating in marathon song cycles, breaks it down like this: During the day, he wears the Emotiv mind controller, a spider-like device resting on the crown of his head, and uses a program called MINDsynth to create his musical soundscape. At night, he puts on a hacked MindFlex toy and heart rate monitor that transmit his somnolent beats live on a laptop as he sleeps.

By transmitting via cellular broadband networks during the day and Wi-Fi at night, he hopes to ensure one continuous, 150-hour "song." In actuality, the music (whether during the day or at night) has an ambient, chordal sound to it — mostly electronic vibes with 140 pages of lyrics being read over top by a computer program at random. In addition to his own bio-rhythms, Mallman uses an iPad, and other, more traditional musical instruments like an electric guitar and a Yamaha keytar.

To add to the experience, Mallman's technologists have installed six cameras throughout the van which enable them to capture the strange musical event and stream it live, 24 hours a day, to their website where thousands of people tune in to check on their progress. As an added bonus, Mallman says, the Road Rogue van will also stop overnight to invite special guest musicians into the van for improv sessions.

Although Mallman admits that it's been "stressful every minute," to keep the continuous stream alive, he's had more experience than the average musician with lengthier than usual jam sessions. "I've been doing this for like 12 years," Mallman says. "In ’98, as a joke, I did a song for 26 hours and we had a blast.

Every year it got more crazy."

Before Marathon IV, his longest song lasted 78 hours — that's three days-plus straight with no sleep. Needless to say, the EEG and EKG bio-generative music controllers that he's using this time around came about as a means to beat the 78-hour record while eliminating the very real effects of sleep deprivation experienced last time.

Despite some speculation that his latest pursuit is either a publicity stunt or a bid for a new world record, Mallman candidly admits that the whole thing is really just for fun. "There are all kinds of conceptual offshoots, but really it's just kind of a funny idea gone haywire," Mallman says.

So why do it? "I don't think there should be a reason why. It's really inspiring to people when they realize you did it for no reason. That's why you dance. For no reason. That's why you write a poem. It's just for fun."

The crew hopes to arrive in Los Angeles next Saturday evening, a brand new, 150 hour song under their belt. Visit their website m4.qwikcast.tv to hear the tunes and view their progress.