Shelly Blake-Plock (b. R. Richard Wojewodzki, 1974) is an American entrepreneur, musician, and author. He is old enough that many of the things that either he published or that were published about him in the 90’s and oughts have disappeared from the web, thank god.
Blake-Plock was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He holds degrees from Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins University, and in 2014 co-founded Yet Analytics, Inc., a software technology firm that works in the space of experience data and learning analytics. The firm was awarded the Nielsen Data Visionary Award at TechCrunch Disrupt, San Francisco in 2015 and provides services to corporations, academic institutions, and government customers. Prior to and concurrent with his work in technology, Blake-Plock had and has been deeply involved in the creation of music and literature.
In the field of technology, Blake-Plock’s expertise is in the xAPI data specification — a military spec designed to allow for the interoperable tracking of human learning and performance. He has has written widely for both academic and general audiences. Articles and papers include “xAPIsec: Towards an information security protocol for xAPI” published in the xAPI Quarterly, “Embedding Cyber-Physical Systems for Assessing Performance in Training Simulations” presented at the Interservice / Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference, and “Benefits of xAPI Profiles Extend Across Development Teams” published in the trade publication Learning Solutions. Blake-Plock is chair and managing editor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Learning Technology Standards Committee Technical Advisory Group on xAPI (TAGxAPI) where he edited the first “Technical Report on xAPI Implementation” and is founding chair of the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering (ICICLE) and serves as managing editor of its Proceedings.
Blake-Plock was a co-founder of Ambiguous City Records in 1993, while he was still in high school. After helping to manage the production of several 7-inch records of local punk and indie rock bands, he released his own full-length cassette recording titled The Lonely Ornamental Music of Shelly Blake (1995) which was mostly recorded on the outgoing message of an answering machine. It was followed by several musical releases including Color Notation on the Sociopathway (1995), The Kindest Cuts (1996), Secret Breathing Lessons (1996), “Twenty-five Cent Games for Five-and-Dime Prizes” on the Magic Eye Records compilation Magazines Sell Sex (1997), Folk Blues and Things to Use (2000), Drug Warriors (2001), Novel Great Americans (2002), Apache, What Apocrypha Have You? (2004), What a Queer Thing, Democracy (2005), and Discourse and Correspondence (2006).
“The Lonely Ornamental Music of Shelly Blake (1995), Color Notation on the Sociopathway (1995), The Kindest Cuts (1996), and Secret Breathing Lessons (1996) were lo-fi masterworks; emotionally raw, breathtaking poetry.” — Jim Santo, Demouniverse, NYC, (2000) cf. Ambiguous City Records
“These living room recordings by Maryland songwriter Shelly Blake range from minor-key acoustic-guitar confessions (“The Dear Devil In Me Likes The Dear Devil In You”) to noisy, unsettling improvisations (“Sailing In the Boat”) to upbeat, piano-driven ditties that recall the naivete of Daniel Johnston’s early tracks. The rough-hewn minimalism makes for a lively and honest listen.” — Paula Carino, AllMusic Review of Discourse and Correspondence (2006)
Starting around 2006, Blake-Plock’s musical interests turned to free improvisation. He and Matthew H. Welch produced The Violencestring, featuring a multi-character libretto set to a majorly free improvised score, in 2007. It was released in Europe by Umlaut Records.
“One of my recording philosophies is the idea of reductive editing. I use the example of sculpture. There are two forms of sculpture. There is either assembling something out of things and putting them together, or there's getting the rock and chipping it down and reducing it to the final form. I think a lot of people tend to do recording that first way. They keep adding things to it. This is done completely the opposite way.” — Blake-Plock on the process of producing The Violencestring, “Work in Progress” by Sam Sessa, Baltimore Sun
From 2008 to 2012, Blake-Plock was a board member of the High Zero Foundation — organizer of the annual High Zero Festival of Experimental Improvised Music — and a member of the Red Room Collective. His festival performances included sharing the stage in collaboration with Dan Deacon, Kenta Nagai, Wobbly, Jon Rose, Jennifer Walshe and many others. He has also performed as a member of John Berndt’s Second Nature — an improvising orchestra.
“As the night before, the final set at High Zero was a high-energy free-for-all. The performance was like a film loop of a train repeatedly hitting a car. Shelly Blake-Plock swirled cross-currents of feedback against his guitar amp and Rose Burt responded in kind with her baritone sax. Kenta Nagai and and Kate Porter were natural sparring partners: him unleashing a taut Chuck Berry scrawl, her pushing a fierce vibrato against the bridge of the cello. In the final minutes of the all-too-short set, Will Redman pummeled his drum kit, looking like a polished '50s drummer out of hell.” — Lars Gotrich, NPR Music, A Blog Supreme: High Zero Festival 2009
In 2009, Blake-Plock curated The Art of the Set Up: Sound Objects as Artifacts featuring works by Alessandro Bosetti, Peter Blasser, Bonnie Jones, Andy Hayleck, Mike Muniak, and Melissa Moore at Maryland Art Place. The following year, created a sound installation for the Megapolis Audio Festival.
In 2011, Blake-Plock took a brief musical detour into honky-tonk music with a group called Oella — named after both an old mill town and an Incan goddess. They performed at Shakemore in 2012 and released a lo-fi recording of the set. They performed their final show only months later at Baltimore’s Center Stage in 2013.
“But did want to say thanks to CityPaper for anointing a lo-fi bootleg of our Shakemore set as the ‘ninth’ best ‘local country album’. Seriously, that's both very cool and completely hilarious.” — Oella
In 2016, Blake-Plock began working with Matthew H. Welch again, this time on the SIGINT project. They released their first album — The Unreliable Narrator — and in 2018, Blake-Plock launched Anacamptic Media to release new music from that project as well as from his electronic music project called Pentary Th’ Mos. In the summer of 2018, Blake-Plock began writing soundtracks to accompany works of fiction, starting with his own novel, Qubit Hound.
Literature and Visual Poetry
Blake-Plock was a member of the Dudley House Writers’ Workshop from 2001 to 2002 where he focused on writing new poetry and producing new translations of Ancient Greek poetry. With fellow member, Phillip John Usher, he edited and published the multilingual poetry review Annetna Nepo. His own short poems were published between 1991 and 2001 in Ant Magazine, Baltimore City Paper, The Wisconsin Review, The Windless Orchard, and The Dudley Review. In addition, he contributed to the space of visual poetry and text-based mail art, participating in a number of exhibitions and actions including with Vortice Argentina, AUMA, and Artpool P60.
In 2003, he published a book-length poem titled Baltimore which was premiered in a reading at Lehman Hall, and in 2010, he wrote and then shelved a novel about Enochian vision magick. Since 2013, he has been working on a book concerning esoteric ritual based in part on the W.B. Yeats’ Castle of Heroes and A Vision. In 2018, he completed work on a science fiction novel with the working title of Qubit Hound.
Blake-Plock lives in Elkridge, Maryland with his wife, the architect MJ Wojewodzki. They have three children. And a few cats. Shelly drives a Jeep. And has a bad knee. He sometimes walks with a cane. He prefers coffee to tea. Sometimes he responds to email, but it is easier to catch his attention on Twitter: @blakeplock.