Nothing new on the pipe front. I've lost track of what pipe I'm on, but will be heading back to the workshop soon.
RIP George Harrison.
October 16, 2001. Dave Fulton is headlong into finishing up the next Synthetic Block CD. It is going to have a good home, and will announce the release information soon. We also talked about a future collaboration CD, which I'd like to do since we have the same musical sensibilities. Although we've never played together, I think we'd work well on structured and improvisational materials.
On the pipe front the learning continues. Finished pipe 5 a few weeks ago. As mentioned before, the bowl walls are too thin, but the finish came out nice: just a bit of tripoli and the usual wax and buff. Pipe 6 is also complete. Another billiard variation. I tried stamping this one and broke the stem. I then broke another stem while I was trying to seat it properly. A third stem was too small for the pipe's proportions, so I put that aside for another day. Finally, the fourth stem worked out fine. The first pipe of a quality that I'd be willing to sell. Two small sand pits knock down the price a bit.
I started pipe 7 today. Drilled the holes. This one has a large 1-inch bowl, because the smaller sizes chatter and really knocked up the side. I figured out the briar block was not secure enough against the drill press table and was vibrating, causing the bits to hit the wood off-center. I held the vise down tight and gave it go with the large bit. Smoothed out most of the bowl, tho the top is still craggy and the upper sides are pitted. Should be able to sand everything out, but I fear the dimensions of the bowl may result in a hot smoke.
I also began experimenting with carved finishes. The first uses a small wire brush to give a sedimentary-layer effect to the pipe. The other finish uses small bits to carve at the finish, resulting in a rough, volcanic surface.
September 20, 2001. After a week or so, Iím still unable to communicate verbally, poetically, or musically the events of the 11th, and Iím not going to try.
In an effort to equalize on the night of the 11th, I completed pipe 4. I used a cherry stain that was really red. I buffed really hard with tripoli and it muted the stain a bit so that the pipe looks light brown with some red streaks that look a little like blood. This coincidence is not lost on me.
Iím almost done with pipe 5. Itís a bit of a pot shape. I decided to try a large tobacco hole, but itís too big, thus the walls of the bowl are too thin. Oh well, live and learn.
September 10, 2001. Work continues on pipe 4. Iíve done most of the rough hand-sanding and will move onto 240 grit tonight. The junction between the stem and the shank is good so far, but Iím still not entirely satisfied that the pimo tool canít do more than a 5/8Ē diameter square for the stem. It seems a little smaller than that to me. Iíll have to work on using a spade or forstner bit to square the end because I donít want to be limited one particular stem size. So far there are no major flaws, and I think for this one Iíll try a different color stain, perhaps cherry.
Still need to tackle carving and stamping.
September 8, 2001. Iím losing track of what number pipe Iím working on. Iím only numbering the ones that make it so, actually, Iím on pipe 4 now. The ďotherĒ pipe 4 was actually pipe 3. Enough of that. So the other night I set up the mortise tool up and drilled a couple of holes in a 2x4. Slid the stem right in, nice and flush. I quickly deduced that even tho the mortise tool is supposed to square the end, it helps if that end of the wood is square to begin with. The next block I drilled yesterday for a nice start to pipe 4 (if it makes the journey). Nice fit at the stem and mortise.
Also no flaws in the briar so far. Today I did the rough shaping with the three different sizes of sanding drums. Tomorrow, Iíll start the rough sanding and move up to shaping the shank/stem junction. More briar should be here Monday.
September 6, 2001. Pipe 5 bit the dust shortly after writing yesterdayís entry. Just couldnít get the mortise/tenon connection to work. Very frustrating. This is a recurring problem I have to fix. I have the right tools, I just have to figure out what Iím doing wrong. Iím going to practice this on some hardwoods to see if I can figure out what is going on. Particularly disappointing for this pipe, because the bowl was coming out nicely.
I ordered some more briar and stems today so Iíll have to wait a few days until I can start a new pipe. This will give me time to solve the tenon/mortise problem, hopefully.
September 5, 2001. Finished the new pipe 4 the other day. Came out pretty good, except the shank, which is a little off the angle. The best thing about the pipe is that the wood was flawless, so I got a nice finish. I've decided to just number the pipes as they are finished, so the ones that bite the dust are taken out of the sequence. Pipe 4's shape is a squat billiard, with a slight bend to the shank. I also did a slight bend in the stem to follow the curve of the shank. The stem is a short round saddle. The drill press helps a lot and make the job go faster. Still experimenting with the optimal speeds for the different tasks, but so far so good. Sanding goes quickly on the press. The bad news is that the flexible shaft bit the dust. It was cheap, but I don't think I'm going to replace it anytime soon. I'm doing just fine with the sanding drums in the drill press.
I started pipe 5 yesterday by drilling the holes. Today I did all the rough sanding. This one is another modified billiard, but with straight sides. As with most of the other pipes, it's gained a slight curve in the shank, even tho this was not intentional. I may do some more sanding tonight.
August 31, 2001. Pipe 4 bit the dust last night. Again, the problem was the junction between the stem and the shank. Just couldnít get it square after the initial success. I had accidentally sanded part of it and needed to redrill it, but was unable to do so satisfactorily. Next thing I knew I had gone too far up the shank. I had bought some spade bits to make larger squaring than the pimo tool allowed, but it really did not help when Iím drilling by hand. Since this is the second pipe that has died due to the same problem, Iím going to break down and get a drill press. Iím going for a Ryobi at Home Depot for $100. Iíve read some good review of it for the net; you canít beat it for the price. This should solve a lot of my problems and let me do adjustments on the fly. My original intention was to just use my fatherís drill press once a month and do the drilling on a bunch of blocks at a time, but I really need to be able to do cuts at will. Now, Iíll need to find space for it in the shop. I may have to move the grinder I use for drum sanding and buffing. I can also use the drill press for this, but weíll see about that.
August 29, 2001. Did the rough shaping of pipe 4 last night. Itís become smaller than I expected because I had to keep resquaring the shank. The fit is still not perfect, but will do. I use the PIMO mortise/shank combo tool and Iíve not been completely satisfied with it. To be fair, you really need a drill press to use it properly. But, it limits the diameter of stem that you can work with. It seems to take up to 5/8Ē stems, but in most cases I want to go bigger than that. Even some of the stems that measure that size of smaller still seem to big for the square the tool makes. Iím going to have to start using a forstner bit to square the end and see if that helps.Iíve also been a little unhappy with their countersink. Itís obviously just for high speeds, because low ones (3250 rpm or less) just digs into the wood. I bought a cheap countersink and Home Depot and was able to drill a nice countersink with a hand drill last night, so I may just stick with that.
I use an old grinder with a chuck adapter and drum sanders to do most of my shaping. I start out with a 1-1/2Ē drum with a 50-grit sleeve to do the rough shaping. I then move on to a 1Ē drum with an 80-grit sleeve to do some shaping in spots where the larger drum wonít reach, particularly in the area between the bowl and shank. Then itís on to a small ĹĒ drum to do the final shaping before hand sanding. Most times Iíll start with an 80-grit sleeve and move to a 120-grit. I also use a flexible drill shaft (about 50Ē), which lets me maneuver better. Once the shape is pretty much there, it hand sanding time from 150-grit through 240, 320, 400, and 600 grits. Then I go over the pipe with a 0000-grade pad. I start sanding the stem once I hit the 320 grit.
Iíve been able to do about a pipe a week, but this last one has gone quicker than expected. As I get more experience, Iím able to work faster.
On the music front, Iíve started conceptualizing the next set of music. Tentative title is ďVariations on a Theme of Absence.Ē Point for figuring out the origin of that one.
August 28, 2001. Finished pipe 3 last night. The last grades of sanding went pretty quick as did the staining, polishing and buffing. Came out nice, altho there are a couple of nicks I thought I had sanded out. And a couple of spots on the stem that wouldnít sand out. The join between the shank and the stem was not perfect, but close enough for now. Definitely a step above the first pipe. Iíll probably start another one tonight. Iím going to try a circle cutter on the top part of the bowl to get a nice round shape: both previous pipe are not very round.
August 27, 2001. Iím almost done with pipe number 3. Pipe number 2 bit the dust big time. I carved the first pipe from a kit and it came out pretty good, altho there are some big sandpits. I also did a little bend to the stem, which gave it a nice look, basically a modified dublin. Of course, I trashed one stem trying to do this. Not that it matters, since I cracked the shank on the second pipe kit I bought, at least I was able to salvage the stem. No the pipe kit block I use to test out mortise and carving ideas.
For pipe 2, I was doing a bent pipe with an apple shape, but I screwed up the mortise and had to abandon this pipe. I had four blocks which I succesfully bored tobacco, mortise, and airholes, but I got a little carried away on the countersink for the bent mortise and ended up resawing the shank down to nothing.
Thankfully, pipe 3 is faring better. Still learning my way around tenon turning tho. Each mistake is a big learning lesson at this stage of the game. Anyway, Iím up to 320-grit sandpaper for the handfinish, and hope to be staining in a couple of days. Thereís a few flaws, but I still have no carving/rusticating technique down, so Iíll have to live with them. Thereís some nice birds-eye grain on the bowl top that should look great once the pipe is finished. One side also has a nice straight grain.
Still trying to figure out a way to stamp the pipes; the stamping set I have is too big (1/4Ē), so Iíll have to buy another or just scribe something. For now, Iíll just use a ďBĒ and perhaps a number.
Iím having fun learning my way around this craft, and have given myself a test period of 10 pipes to get to something Iíd be proud enough to sell. At some point Iíll explain the steps I go through when constructing a pipe.
August 2, 2001. Interestingly, it's been another month since the last entry. Lots of activity going on, but not all related to music. On the Sonic Approach front, I've done some more slight tweaking. Now it's off to Dave Fulton to master and do some fine tuning. I hope to be able to announce the CDs home soon.
On other fronts, I've finally begun to craft handmade briar pipes. I belive I mentioned I wanted to get into this last year. After spending a weekend about a month ago cleaning out the garage, I was finally able to reclaim my workshop. Since then, I've been slowly outfitting the shop with tools and supplies necessary. I actually finished the first pipe last week. It came out a lot better than I thought.
I've constructed a business plan that outlines how to take this craft into a business opportunity, but time will tell. The remainder of this year is devoted to learning and honing, while stockpiling tools and supplies. More on this later...or perhaps on a different site.
July 2, 2001. Can't believe it's been a month since the last note. Anyway, there's been yet more changes to the next CD. The two new tracks, Bed of Sphinxes and Hazy Prisms did replace the other three. I've also done another new track, Sonic Recoil, that starts just as Inevitable is fading out. It's a recap of the first two tracks with a little bit of Doused thrown in at the end. It's not really a rehash, but has some recognizable touchpoints that bring the disc to a nice conclusion. Right now the CD runs at about 63 minutes.
I'll hopefully have more official news soon, but the signs are that Sonic Approach will be released on a good label. I don't want to mention any names until everything is finalized, but it's definitely a label you'd know of. More as it happens.
June 13, 2001. After some comments from the field, I've revisted the recording and am in the middle of making revisions. For me, the second half of the CD is a bit different from the first. So, right now, I've replaced Drunken Shadows, Wholes, and Four Days On with two new tracks Bed of Sphinxes and Prism (title may change). Inevitable will remain as the last track, although I've added a few parts to it to flesh the piece out. One other thing that will change is the segues. The last four tracks didn't always segue naturally, so for now, the first three tracks will segue. Then Bed of Sphinxes, Prism, and Inevitable will segue. So the disc will have two suites, so to speak. Total time is 55 minutes, which seems natural for this set of music. I'm also going to work on a more compact Drunken Shadows>Wholes piece that will be about 8 minutes. I should have the recordings done by the end of the week.
June 4, 2001. I have a finished master recording of Sonic Approach. After a number of aborted attempts, everything went smoothly last night. No glitches at all. It is in need of a nice mastering job, but the sound is good and as even as I could get it. As mentioned before, each track segues into the next and thereís a nice feel overall, with each track coming naturally out of the one before it. The benefit of all this work is that I could easily recreate the disc live, although Iíd probably not do that. Iíll get some samples up soon. The disc clocks in at about 65 minutes. Hereís the track listing:
The Quartz Marsh
Four Days On
May 29, 2001. A lot of arrangement and recording of solos this past weekend. All parts have been sequenced and now the task is to record the disc with seamless segues. Itís coming together, but slowly. Spring Apart is now two separate tracks; even though they use similar sounds, they sound sufficiently different to warrant separate titles. The first part, what was once Spring Apart, is now called Drunken Shadows, while the newer second part is called Wholes.
There are two difficult segues: from Doused to Drunken Shadows, and Four Days On to Inevitable. The first segue is tough because loading Drunken Shadows causes the patch Iím using to perform the segue to hand up. In the second case, Inevitable starts out quite soft and is hard to hear out of the patch Iíve used to segue. One approach that does work is to have Inevitable to start just as the segue patch dies out. I tried this last night and it sounded pretty good, but Iíll have to recheck it tonight.
Also difficult is adding the new track marks as Iím recording, since Iím using my hand to play the segues.
May 25, 2001. I added a couple of new parts to Four Days On, as well as modified some of the sounds. The mix is robust now, but the track works better as a shorter piece. This works out well because Spring Apart has expanded to the 15-minute range, so out of that, Four Days On will formally end the journey as a five minute track. Inevitable will then finish out the disc.
I started to write a new track, but it seemed quite related to Spring Apart, so Iíve used the same sounds, added a few new ones and it seems to flow well, but Iíll need to give it a few days. This weekend Iíll be finishing up this part and practicing and getting down some of the solos. Next week will be dedicated to recording, as Iím still shooting to have a finished recording to send out by the end of next week.
This yearís memorial day band gig is in question due to the weather, but hopefully we wonít get rained out.
May 23, 2001. The structure is complete for Four Days On. It runs about 11 minutes. I need to add a few more parts: One seq. line, a synth string line, and some other sound effecty thing. Right now, the mix is just too thin, and I canít really hear the bass. Probably need to tone down the reverb. Iím sure after tonight it will sound much better. I replaced the bongo line in the original with a bass marimba line, and the descending drum machine line is done with a square wave descending, which gives a bell-like sound. The tune works without the drum machine, but I need to bring the sequence line out a little more to give it an aggressive fell. Four Days On is traditional Synthblock, in that it consists of recurring loops that build upon each other. It flows easily out of Spring Apart, which itself is now about three minutes longer. It just seemed to get going before it ended. This piece has a bit of White Eagle-era TD feel to it, which is totally unintentional. I donít think Iíve listened to a TD disc in about three years. It will be interesting to see how I can get Inevitable to flow out of Four Days On, since itís such a strange tempo (45 bpm) and relies on a step flanger for the main sounds. This is one of the cases where the sequencer is used as a recorder, with no reference to the beat or bar lengths.
May 22, 2001. Worked through putting together some sounds for Four Days On last night. Also set up a number of the patterns that the track will be based on. Tonight I will finalize the melody and start constructing the piece, which should be complete by the end of the week. I expect to have the recording of the CD complete by the end of next week. For the most part, I just need to practice the solos and decide if I want to sequence them or just improvise each time I record. Rotation is now called Spring Apart.
In unrelated news, I picked up the new remasters of the 80s King Crimson output: Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair. I have mixed feelings about the studio recordings now. Live, they were great, and I was lucky to see many of the concerts they put on, which has always left me wanting as far as the studio albums are concerned. Discipline is great, and there are good parts to Beat, although I still think Neurotica worked better as the instrumental Manhattan. But TOAPP still doesnít do anything for me. Oh well, the CDs were cheap. On the other hand, Iíve been listening to a lot of 1970 Soft Machine (Third, Noisette), and like the fire. More tomorrow.
May 21, 2001. Had a very productive weekend in the studio. The first 40 minutes of the CD are complete: The Quartz Marsh>Sonic Approach>Doused>Rotation. In/to just didnít work out in this recording, so itís gone. Tonight, Iíll keep going with Four Days On. Iím trying to not use the drum machine or beats with this tune, to keep with the spirit of the other recordings. Iíll use some sequences to simulate the driving drum beat of that one.
May 17, 2001. Finished The Quartz Marsh and Sonic Approach yesterday, and Doused is about halfway done. Doused is similar in execution to Engine Room, tho itís different compositionally. Both rely on a background bed that supports a bevy of solos. But where Engine Room stayed in one key for the entire track, Doused moves through several keys.
I came up to the XP-50ís sequencer limitations last night regarding memory. I wasnít able to record Doused in that the sequencerís memory was full. The workaround is that after Sonic Approach, Iím able to play some chords and then load up Doused while the chords are sustaining. Itís seamless, and will come in handy for recording the rest of the disc. If I can, Iíll have In/to and Rotation follow on the same recording file; if not, Iíll just do some real-time playing while the songs load up. By the way, the title of Rotation will probably change.
May 15, 2001. Evaporate is now two tracks: The Quartz Marsh and Sonic Approach. The Quartz Marsh fits the title: a soundscape of synthetic dragonflies darting in and out of the metallic rushes. Both tracks will be finished tonight, and Iíll be moving onto Doused, which is partially recorded and emerges out of the end of Sonic Approach.
Iíve given myself some parameters for this release. First, Iím using the XP-50 exclusively, with no expansion boards. Also, Iím trying to not use the Korg drum machine, although it will probably appear on Four Days On because the drum line is an integral part of the piece. Regardless of the lack of beats, it still sounds like Synthetic Block. The closest comparisons, although only in sound and not in composition, is Eardrum (off the first disc) and Book of Formation.
May 14, 2001. Work has begun on the next Synthetic Block CD, tentatively titled ďSonic Approach.Ē It may even be on a label and I wonít have to press it myself. I consider my MP3.com CDs an experiment that has failed. I can sell more if I go the traditional route, so if no label is interested Iíll have to fund it myself. More on this as it happens.
All the music has been written and Iím in the process of recording the CD now. I expect it to be complete by the end of June, with the goal of a release by the end of the summer. Here is the track listing so far: Evaporate>Doused>In/to>Rotation>Four Days On, Inevitable. In/to and Inevitable are on my MP3.com site now, but these are new arrangements and recordings. The first five tracks will segue into one another, while Inevitable stands alone. Four Days On is a different arrangement than the track played at the Gathering last fall. More later.
Feb. 5, 2001. I've just released a new CD of older Synthetic Block material, entitled Driving Backward. This release contains some tracks from older cassette releases and is available exclusively through MP3.com as a DAM CD, which contains audio files that can be played on any CD player, and MP3 files that can be accessed on any computer. I'll be releasing another DAM CD in the next week or so, entitled Book of Formation, which contains reworked and rerecorded tracks from days past. More info. on this release as it happens.
Jan. 3, 2001. Happy new year everyone. Sorry about the lack of updates, but I've been preoccupied. I recently started a new job, and that has cut into my free time. On the music front, not a whole lot is new since the Gathering show in September. I got a good deal on a used XP-50, so I'm back to my main workstation. I sold the JX-305, and will soon get a couple of expansion boards for the XP.
Since the Gathering, I've written one new track, "Book of Formation," I've also reworked two of the new tracks that I debuted at the Gathering, "Strangely Inward" and "Four Days On" on the XP. So I have three tracks right now, with a couple of more in the works. I'll try to get a new disc out this year, but no promises. It's not like the world is breaking down my door for new music, so I'll go at my own speed. Most likely it will either be a CDR or an MP3 DAM release. I don't see any labels being interested in releasing my music at the present, nor can I break even pressing my own discs. To date I've recouped a little more than half of my investment in "The OppositeÖ" CD.
I've uploaded three older tracks to my MP3 page from Organizing the Struggle, a 1995 cassette release. I'll probably upload a few more tracks from other cassettes to comprise a DAM disc of older tunes. I may also press this as a CDR with an original version of A Science of Forget from 1996 that runs about 40 minutes. Actually, it's version 3, but is too long for an MP3. The title for this collection is "Driving Backward: A Collection of Floating Relics."
September 25, 2000. Thanks to everyone who came out to the Gathering last Saturday. Special thanks to those kind souls who bought some CDs and stopped by to chat. It was gratifying to spend some time talking to folks who are passionate about electronic music. Chuck, Jeff, and Art deserve special mention for putting on such a fine concert series. I'll try to outline a blow-by-blow account of the evening for those who couldn't make it, and as a glimpse into the amount of work the mighty trinity of Chuck, Jeff, and Art put into the Gatherings.
I arrived at St. Mary's church, smack in the middle of the UPenn campus, at about 4:00 pm and was immediately greeted by Chuck, who helped unload what little gear I had. I like to travel light, and on this occasion, my rig consisted of the Roland JX-305, a Korg Electribe R drum machine, and a small Boss mixer. Once inside, I met John Duval of Dweller, who was in the midst of setting up. I took a few minutes to absorb the space. The church had nice high ceilings, and a generous amount of stained glass around. There was a dark medieval quality to the architecture and lighting; I could see why this building hosted space music concerts. During the next hour, the other two Dweller members, Dave and Lon, showed up and we all set about getting our gear in place. Chuck and Jeff were busy setting up the lights, while Art got the sound system ready. It's amazing the amount of wires that were snaking around the stage. John had a Roland Juno, an Oberheim OB12 and an Emu Vintage Keys. There was also an Oberheim Cyclone, as well as some processing gear. John used a Yamaha guitar that was MIDI'd to Casio and Emu UltraProteus synths. He had a bunch of floor pedals, as well as some other synth and processing equipment that I can't recall names for. Dave had a Nord Lead 2, a Microwave II, and a lot of MOTM modular stuff. His gear was mighty impressive.
I set up in front of Dweller, with my gear slightly to stage right. This would allow me to quickly move the keyboard to the side after my set was done. I was initially going to stand, but decided on sitting. We had planned to do a joint encore, and I would have obscured John if I had stood. Anyway, I did my soundcheck at about 5:30 pm. I was pretty much done after five minutes, and tried to get out of the way at that point. Shortly thereafter, Dweller did their soundcheck. My god did they sound good. They had a nice organic analog sound that was very much in the mid-70s TD vein. There was also a nice Pink Floyd vibe to the music.
The lights and fog machine were also tested out during this time, and I was confident that the sound and the lights would be spot on for the show.
After a quick bite to eat, my wife and I headed back to the church around 7:30 pm. There were already some folks who had arrived. I spent this time talking to Chuck and then to Dave. The plan was that after Dweller's main set, I would join them onstage for a short "encore." Dave suggested the key of Dminor, and we left it at that. After hanging out at the back of the hall for a few minutes, Chuck let me know the show would start soon, and I headed for the front. I waited off to the left. Chuck went and turned down the house lights, while Jeff brought up the "mood" lighting. After an undeservedly flattering intro by Chuck, I went up and sat behind the keyboard and started the drum machine. I went on at about 8:20 pm and ended about 9:15. My set was as follows:
Four Days On
Organizing the Struggle>
Point of Seeing
Silver Sky is from the first CD, while Organizing the Struggle is the title track from a 1995 cassette release. The other pieces were new, while India is a John Coltrane tune.
I had a few clams here and there, but nothing too noticeable. Due to the darkness of the hall and the nature of the lights for the stage, I really couldn't see anything in the audience, and they were not far away or anything. The sound was amazing and full, I could hear it echo off the high ceiling, altho this was not what was heard from the audiences' perspective. After the initial tune, I plowed ahead with the next three tunes, which morphed into one another. During Four Days On, I read some poetry, which seemed to go over well.
It was a blast to play the set, and was pretty relaxed. Again, it was nice to hear my music loud in a live setting. You just don't get the same effect holed up in a studio. At times, I thought the drums got a bit too techno, so I'd quickly move to the next programmed drum line, but other than that, I have no complaints. Judging from the comments, I'm considering putting India on the next CD. I'm also comfortable enough to do some spoken word on the next CD as well.
After a short break, I settled into the front row with my wife and got ready for Dweller. The guys played two pieces, with the first at almost an hour. The first piece started off very atmospheric and ambient. Later, some sequences kicked. It was evident there were some touchpoints built into the piece, but there was a nice improvisational quality to it. The new line-up works well and the guys were enjoying themselves. From the audiences perspective, John was on the left, Lon in the middle, and Dave on the right. Although the sounds melded together into a nice cohesive unit, I could tell who was playing what most of the time. John did a nice share of mellotron and piano sounds, while Dave handled the analog filter sweeps and otherworldy percussion, and some leads. The two of them shared the sequence and arp lines. Lon did a lot of string sounds, sound effects, as well as lead sounds, all on the guitar. I know these descriptions are pretty simplistic, but they had a huge sound. At times I was reminded of TD's Encore album, but the music was distinctly Dweller's.
After a short, more driving piece, that actually sounded like Phaedra in spots, the guys tried to call me up, but Chuck intervened: the hour was late and there wasn't any time. I was a little disappointed, but I'm glad they didn't try to cut their set in order to accommodate this. We'll just do it some other time. After some time talking with the audience, I packed up the gear and headed for the hotel. I caught part of my set on Chuck's radio show. All in all, one of the highlights of my music career.
Again, thanks to all those who came to the show. Thanks to Kim and the gentleman whose name I didn't catch (sorry) for selling CDs and working the door. Special thanks for the last time to Chuck, Jeff, and Art.
September 18, 2000. Spoke to Dave Fulton of Dweller last night. All I can say is I look forward to hearing their set; it's going to be a scorcher. I don't envy the trip or hauling the gear they need from the other coast.
I see that the new Access Virus rack will sell for about $750. This may be the extra unit I need to fill out my sound. But I don't see such a purchase for a couple of months. Again, although I'm not using much gear, I'm squeezing as much out of it as I can and have achieved a pretty full sound for some of the tracks. Of course my experience live is never the same as studio, so I go with no expectations.
I've read some interesting comments in the Discipline Global Mobile guestbook concerning the recent Guitar Craft course that I didn't attend. It sounds like some participants didn't feel Fripp and the others teaching the course engaged the students enough, whatever that means. It sounds like it was a big crowd. I thought that the course I went to (March 1990; 30 people) was large, but this sounds like it was over twice as big. I'm still working through material I got from that week about what it means to be a musician and human being.
Case in point. As I mention below, I'm in a spate of model making, which is kind of humorous in it's own way. But, the amount of time and detail necessary to produce a good, or at least not a crappy, looking model is large. I find this translates to other parts of my life where I'm now paying a little more attention to detail. It's easy to overlook a detail here and there, and I find myself asking, "is it really necessary to sand this little plastic burr down." But if I don't do that to more than one item, they combine to become a larger mess. It's easier to deal with the details as they come, no matter how insignificant they seem at the time, than to try to fix the culmination of overlooking many small details later.
September 15, 2000. I've posted an excerpt of the poem Four Days On, which is part of the piece of the same name at the Gathering show next week. I've been continuing to run through the set each night, and it's down enough so that I still feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants, yet not so much so that I'll become confused. Anyway, my experience is that no matter how much I prepare there are always inevitabilities of time and space that creep in. In other words, there will be some goofs.
My main points of working now are on the solos, particularly the melody line in one of the older pieces that I want to play instead of sequence. I'm also trying to ensure that the solos are not boring.
I'm really looking forward to hearing Dweller live. I have a feeling they are going to have a lot more equipment that me. My gear will be the Roland JX-305 and the Korg Electribe R. I'm not even planning on bringing a mixer; I'll route the JX-305 through the Electribe's inputs. The Roland has internal effects, which I'll use, while the Korg does not. As I mentioned on an earlier entry, I don't see this as a problem since we're playing in a sanctuary. I'll have to wait until the soundcheck to accurately judge the natural acoustics of the space.
I've recently tried my hand at plastic model building after a 25-year layoff. I've been finding it very relaxing, almost meditative. It's nice to follow a pursuit that doesn't cost much money (most models are less than $10) and that is just an end in itself. Right now I've been doing WWII planes, and have some NASA pieces on deck. I recommend this for anyone looking for a nice relaxing pursuit. I use nontoxic glues and acrylic paints. Just don't expect the end results to look like those air-brushed beauties that you see in magazines. Over and out.
September 12, 2000. Sorry about the past week of silence, but I was on vacation and laid low. Less than two weeks until the Gathering, and everything is under control. Set remains the same, and I've got everything down enough to allow for a fair amount of improvisation. Should be a fun gig. I dropped the idea of the clarinet tho; just couldn't get it to fit in to my liking. I'll probably try one more time.
September 1, 2000. Finally got a smartmedia card last night to back up all the songs from the JX-305. Now I can rest easier. I had visions of all the music getting wiped out for whatever reason and then having to start from scratch. Now everything for the concert is backed up, and the card will be carried separately to the gig.
I would have liked to report that I won a Jomox Xbase09 on ebay, but I was outbid. The highest I would have gone is $600. Someone got it for $610. That's the way it goes. With ebay, you have to figure out what's the most you'll pay for something and live with it. Even if someone gets the item for just a little bit more.
Anyway, I've been intrigued by the Xbase09 and would at some point like to get one. But at $750 new, it's a little pricey. I've been thinking of adding more drums and building a sound around lots of drums and minimal synth sounds. So far the Korg Electribe and the JX-305 have great drum sounds and Roland X0X-style programming. What I may do is get something like a Novation Drumstation, since on the sequencer side I can use the Korg or the 305 for line programming. Regardless, I'd like the Xbase09 at some point.
August 31, 2000. A slight change in a new tune name. CPL593H is now Strangely Inward. The other titles are set as below: Fusebox, Four Days On, and Point of Seeing. Still have not tried the clarinet over the two tracks I planned on using it for, but I have made lots of progress in seques and solos. Soon I'll be playing with headphones to realize the final balances.
One point I'm thinking about now is effects. The church will most likely have its own natural reverb, so I'm leaning toward turning off the reverb or else a lot of the sounds may be lost. However, since the church's natural reverb is not controllable, there may not be enough, or too much, depth for everything. What I'll probably do is set up the effects as if I was recording, and just experiment a little during the soundcheck to make sure everything sounds reasonable.
By running through the set almost every night, I'm coming upon the parts of the show that don't really work well, at least from my perspective. For example, there are places where the drums are a little too busy, places where I can see the audience getting bored because of some repetition. So these are parts I need to revisit and change a bit. Of course, there will be some type of light show, so there will be some other focus at times.
As with every show, no matter how much I prepare, there will be flubs. Missed notes in solos, parts not turned on in time, or turned on too early. Since the tunes are pattern-based, for the most part, this shouldn't be a problem; there's no set length for each track. They can go slightly shorter or longer. I have an hour to play and will adjust the length of tracks as I go. There are certain ones that have a nice groove and could go on forever; others have more of a finite feel to them and get a little repetitious sounding after a while. So there will be a mix of shorter and longer pieces.
August 29, 2000. Uh, oh, two entries in one month! I've started working on the set for Sept. 23 in earnest. The program of music runs about an hour, which is good since that's the time allotment I have. Right now, I'm working out the solos and sounds, with an eye (or ear) to how it will be for the folks listening. Most of the songs are fluid, in the sense that I can make them longer or shorter at will. This is made easier because a lot of what I do is based on patterns. Thus, the whole "song" is not sequenced, just the parts. So I can trigger the different parts at will, while playing others on top, soloing, or just sitting back and watching all the lights blink. In a sense, the evening will be full of improv., but there will be a net.
Still working on the poem, so no news there, tho I will post the draft soon. I haven't pulled the clarinet out in a few days, but plan on trying it out over a couple of the tunes soon. I'd really like to use it, but it depends on a few factors. Clarinets are notorious for not playing in tune with other instruments. To remedy that, players usually "tune" the horn to other instruments by pulling out the barrel slightly or using a barrel that is tuneable. I'll have to address this situation soon. Believe me, the sound of an out-of-tune clarinet over a synthesizer bed is not the most pleasant sound. Also, since the clarinet is a reed instrument, and reeds need to be wet to play properly, I'm confronted by the timing of the instrument's use. Since I would be using the horn later in the show, I'll either have to suck on the reed during a track, leave the reed in a cup of water, or buy a synthetic reed that doesn't require moisture.
Playing another party with the band this Saturday. Pretty much the same set as May. Since I haven't touched the bass since then, my fingers hurt a bit from the practice we did the other day. Still, it's worth it to play with live drums.
I'm coming out of a jazz phase and have been listening to lots of Steve Hillage and Hawkwind. Got to love that space music.
August 21, 2000. I've moved the previous journal entries to the archives, so click here to view older entries.
Preparations are now in full swing for the Gathering in Philadelphia on September 23. In case you're just joining us, I'll be opening up for Dweller at the Threshold. I'm set to play an hour's worth of music. I've written four new pieces for the show. Only one has a definite title, "Four Days On." There's a poem in progress that goes with this composition, and I'll link to it once it's in a presentable state. The titles for the other three pieces are in flux, but for the time being are "Point Of Seeing," "Fusebox," and "CPL-593H." There's a bit of trivia with that last one; see if you can figure it out.
I'm also planning on playing two older synthblock pieces and ending with a cover. All the music is down and I'm working on the arrangements now. Some of the pieces will be linked together for a seamless experience, but there will probably be a pause or two between some of the tunes. A minimal amount of sequencing will be employed, but there will be no backing CD or DAT; I'm going to do as much live playing as is possible with the equipment I'm using.
The equipment I'm using now is a Roland JX-305 and a Korg Electribe ER-1 drum machine. I'm getting a pretty full sound out of both. Four Days On will contain a poem reading, but I'll probably limit the poetry to that one piece only. I've recently taken up the clarinet and may use that, but I'm still deciding. It would fit into one of the older pieces, as well as the cover I'll be ending the show with. More tomorrow.
May 25, 2000. Thought I'd write some thoughts about the new Crimson disc, The Construktion of Light. In one word, amazing. I had no expectations for this release, but was blown away by the whole thing (save for the overwrought lyrics at the end of Larks' Tongues IV). They sound so much more tight and on fire than the Thrak band, a disc which I still can't get into. The instrumentals alone on the new CD are absolutely on fire, especially the first part of the title track. I can't wait to see this band live. I'm actually glad that they'll be playing the whole disc in concert. Fripp, in particular, sounds nimble and upfront. Good to hear him have to carry more of the weight with a smaller unit.
I also picked up Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Elements, having not been able to afford the full six-disc Chronicles. Very cool to hear Baba O'Reilly as an orchestral version. The synth intro. is definitely one of the things that got me into synths to begin with. I remember hearing it blaring out of the radio when I was 7 and wondering what was making that sound. I know there's a real long version of just that synth/organ backing track and I'd love to hear the whole thing. There's a three minute excerpt on the Elements disc.
Tonight is the last band practice before the annual party this weekend. Should be fun. Not only am I playing bass, but also singing a few tunes. Also looking forward to playing the synth solo on From The Beginning, which I pretty much have down.
Sat down last night and worked out some stuff on the new synth, but ended up getting frustrated; nothing new there. I don't care if the 305 is a dance or groove synth, what I came up with sounded like another synthblock track, close in lineage to Ping, but different enough. Oh, well, so much for a new direction!
May 23, 2000.The concert for Sept. 23 is definitely on. I've been started to work on a set over the last few weeks. I'll kick into high gear in another week or so, after the annual Memorial Day classic rock jam session where I spend the day playing bass.
I was originally planning on doing a number of pieces from both CDs. But after working out the material, I have to admit that I'm kind of bored playing those tunes. I'll probably do what I mentioned below: play a track from each disc, with an emphasis on the new material for what will be CD three.
I recently bought a used Roland JX-305 for a great price. This synth was only out for awhile before it was discontinued by Roland. Basically, an MC-505 with a keyboard, the synth is built with live performance in mind. The sequencer is pattern based and the sounds are geared toward the dance market, although there's a smattering of other sounds as well. A bit more constricting than the XP-60 from a user interface and sequencer viewpoint, but I don't mind a challenge, and the synth engine is similar. You can also do X0X-type programming via the LCD screen.
I also picked up a Korg Electribe ER-1 drum synthesizer. There's great sounds that can be made from this little box, and it's inexpensive too. I've already programmed a load of drum sounds and patterns, and will use these as the basis for some new tracks. I'll post some new material once it's in presentable state.
I picked up a neat CD set the other day, called "Ohm: The Early Electronic Gurus of Electronic Music." It's on the Ellipsis Arts label. Three CDs and a nice booklet, the packaging is really superb. The set covers early electronic experiments, up to a track from Schulze and Eno. The focus is mainly on the academic bleeps and bloops stuff. All the classic names are there: Luening, Ussachevsky, Sobotnick, Riley, Schaeffner, etc. I also discovered a bit of my wife's family history in there as well. Ussachevsky's track "Wireless Fantasy," was a commissioned work that had to use morse code signals as its basis. Ussachevsky was introduced to Edward Raser, who had a wireless museum in New Jersey with lots of antiquated and rare equipment, which Ussachevsky recorded for the piece. Raser was my wife's grandfather and I've seen some of the equipment he used. I remember hearing this piece in high school when I took a class in electronic music, so it was neat to read about that. My wife got a kick of that bit of trivia.
March 3, 2000. I'm starting anew here, so all previous entries are in the archive now, which can be accessed from the link below.
The first bit of news is that it looks like I'll be opening up for Dweller At The Threshold at the Star's End Gathering on Sept. 23 in Philadelphia. This concert series is certainly one of the only regular concert series in the U.S. that hosts electronic music. Chuck van Zyl's dedication to this niche of the music industry is a constant source of encouragement for me. Without knowing how much time will be allotted, I plan on playing mostly new music, with a track or two from each of the two SB CDs. I'll also record the event and this may become the third SB CD, but we'll see. I'll use this space to maintain updates on the state of the new music.
As is my usual mode of operation, I'm in "incubator" mode now. What that means is that I do a lot of thinking about ideas, but don't actually sit at the keyboard and play. For the first time, I'm not rushing this stage and will put the ideas in motion once the time is right. Contributing to this is the disappearing winter here on the East Coast. My studio is in a room of our house that we don't heat regularly, which means it can be a bit uncomfortable to work in. In winters past, I've moved my gear to a different room, but with two kids now, that's not possible, so I've not done a lot of keyboard playing in the studio. We have a piano in our living room that I'll often use to sketch ideas, but for the most part the electronic equipment has gotten a break.
What I've been playing a lot of recently is bass. My first love as an instrument, and probably the one I still feel the most affinity to, it's been a good learning experience with concentrating on the instrument again. Besides new musical ideas, it's good to feel proficient on an instrument with strings. Despite almost 25 years of picking up the guitar, I've yet to feel a sympathetic resonance with the instrument. The closest I ever felt to being a guitar player was while taking a Guitar Craft course with Robert Fripp in 1990. Besides blowing my head off in terms of the other players there, I received enough material about what it means to be a musician and a human being to work on for a long time. There's going to be Guitar Craft course in Sept. in New Jersey, but given the time and money involved, it doesn't look like I'll be able to attend. This has created a disturbance in me that I'm not really able to articulate yet, but hope on these pages soon. The bottom line is that, once again, I'll have to try to make my way down the path without the support of a community.
The new CD is doing well, and I thank all who have purchased it. I'm about halfway to recouping my investment and fully expect to be able to fund the next CD. Most likely I'm not even going to send it around for consideration to other labels because it's just not worth it at this point. It's also easier to make the money back when doing it yourself.
January 3, 2000. OK, I've been horrible at keeping up this page. Let's get up to speed. The new disc is out and is available at Backroads, Hypnos, Synth Music Direct and Groove Unlimited. The disc has been getting good airplay around the country, particularly on Echoes and Star's End. There will be an upcoming review in Expose, and some online reviews. That's all for now.
October 26, 1999. Go to new CD page to see what the cover of the new disc looks like. I'm expecting to receive the disc any day now, and will gear up to get the music out there as quick as possible.
October 5, 1999. The Opposite of Staring Into Space is now at the manufacturer. I expect to have the discs back by the end of the month. And after a couple of weeks setting up some distribution, it should be available by the middle of November. Once I get proofs back of the graphics, I'll post them to the discography page. I'm crossing my fingers that the cover looks ok. I had my wife design and make up the files for the disc so that I would'nt have to rely on the manufacturer for design. With these disc firms, you can get a great price, but what they do for the artwork leaves a lot to be desired. If they simply output the files straight, I should have no problems. Also, I sent them a CDR of the music so that should go smoothly. More soon.
September 28, 1999. The big news is that the second SB CD will be released in November. I'll be putting it out on my own Ironing Board Recordings label as a regular release and not a CDR. The artwork and all the music is together and will be sent to the manufacturer at the end of this week. I'll post the artwork soon, as well as some sound samples of a replacement track for "Careful With That Fax Machine." After several listens, and some other's opinions, I've decided it didn't really fit and so have replaced that track with another, "Engine Room." "CarefulÖ" is still on mp3.com for anyone interested. The disc will be available direct and through some select e-music dealers. I'll post the particulars soon.
I haven't been doing much e-music lately and have instead been playing a lot of bass in the last month. One thing that is certain is that the next phase of music will be a bit different than what came before. The Opposite of Staring Into Space is more the closing of a chapter than the start of a new one. Regardless, I'm still proud of the music and looking forward to getting it out to all who are interested. More soon.
September 2, 1999. Well Summer is over. The keyboards have sat idle lately, and the guitar, while I've reaquainted myself with bass. I bought a Warkwick after wanting one for over 10 years. Now I'm amp shopping. Right now I have a SWR on loan and it's pretty good, although I'm leaning toward a Gallien-Krueger. On the SB CD front, I've found a manufacturer, and the artwork is in the design stage now. Track listing is pretty set, and I hope to post the artwork soon.
July 2, 1999. Sorry it's been a long time. I've recently renewed my active service in poetry, so expect to see some new stuff in that section of the site soon. Besides pulling some of my favorites from the bookshelf (John Ashbery, George Oppen, and Marjorie Welish), I've also started writing again. Just as I had a layoff from the guitar, so with poetry, although I did do a bit of teaching a couple of years ago.
On the SB front, there's not much new. Since I've gotten no response to "The Opposite Of Staring Into Space," I'm gearing up for it's release on my own Ironing Board Recordings by the end of the summer. Whether it's a CDR release or not is still up in the air. I've also started sketching out some new ideas for the next phase of material, incorporating guitar. I've been learning my way around the XP-60; definitely a great step up in terms of usability. In other news, Chuck Van Zyl played "Shoal" on his Stars End radio show last week.
June 7, 1999. Please visit the News page for the link to my version of King Crimsonís "Sailorís Tale." The track was originally done for a proposed King Crimson tribute disc a couple of years ago. Since that project never got off the ground, Iím happy to see the track land on Elephant Tape. As Iíve mentioned before, I really enjoy doing "covers" now and then; it takes the pressure off coming up with new material and allows me the opportunity to put a new slant on tunes Iíve enjoyed for years. In this case, the 309 drums give the track a contemporary feel. Also, there was no way I was going to attempt to recreate Frippís massive solo, so I used some synth lines in the Guitar Craft style to basically rewrite the finale of the song.
In the coming week or so, I should be able to post the address on mp3.com where Iíve placed two full-length tracks from The Opposite Of Staring Into Space: "Arc" and "Careful With That Fax Machine." Iíll probably put more tracks from the CD up there, but I wanted to see how those two would work out to start.
Speaking of "Careful...," Bill Fox played the track on his EMusic radio show last week. Besides some labels that Iíve sent the disc out for consideration, I also sent a copy to Bill and to Chuck at Starís End. Both Bill and Chuck have played material from the first disc and from the GoldTri compilations, for which Iím eternally grateful. Hopefully, Iíll get some positive news from one of the prospective labels, but Iíve already set the wheels in motion to release the disc myself if need be.
In other news, I had a bit of an equipment epiphany a couple of weeks ago. Youíve probably noticed by now that I go through a lot of equipment. If I could afford it, Iíd probably have a lot more, but since I canít, I usually sell one piece to acquire another. Anyway, through the past year or so, Iíve gone through a number of modules trying to settle on a piece I could grow with. Iíve never been entirely satisfied with anything Iíve gotten, and I wonít put the blame on the equipment, because most of it has been top-notch (the Microwave 2 and the 309, in particular). One piece that Iíve never had the desire to sell was the XP-50. As my main keyboard, controller, sequencer, I felt particularly lucky to find a workstation that I never grew tired of. Through all this module buying and reselling, Iíve often been frustrated at the lack of time Iíve had to explore the nether reaches of the XP-50ís capabilities. Although I created my own patches, and used the synth and sequencer to their full capabilities, I always felt there was more in there if I only had the time. So, the epiphany was that instead of searching for the perfect module, I would just upgrade the XP-50, and thatís just what Iíve done. Last week I received an XP-60. There are a number of upgrades from the XP-50 that make the 60 a powerful machine: a better user interface, better digital/analog converters, more sequencer memory, an arpeggiator, and additional outputs. This last point was important. For a time, the XP-50 was my only synth, and I used the fact that I did everything with one synth as a selling point. The problem was, that I couldnít run different sounds to different outputs to an external processor. This led to a sameness in the sound, which became a problem in more complex passages. Now with the 60, I get around this problem and can still limit myself to one synth, although Iím sure my view on this will change in the future. Since the synth engine and sequencer formats are the same between the two synths, I can use all the sounds and songs Iíve created with the XP-50. Now letís see how long I can go without wanted more equipment...
May 25, 1999. Thereís some new MP3 files posted of material from the second CD, The Opposite Of Staring Into Space. Thereís excerpts from most of the tracks except two, After and Trylon, which are more ambient.
Other than that, not much else new. All the copies of the disc have been burned and are ready to be sent to prospective labels. This should happen in the next week or so.
April 29, 1999. Still immersed in a guitar world, and enjoying the Strat. The 503, however, proved to be somewhat inadequate. After playing the Strat through a real amp, the shortcomings of the Zoom unit were evident, specifically, it squashed the character of the Strat so it sounded pretty dull. I bit the bullet and bought a POD, which so far Iím very happy with. The character of the guitar is still present, but it sounds like itís played through the many amps the unit models. Thereís also lots of effects to liven up the sound. What Iíve been doing is routing the POD through the power amp input of my bass amp, so it completely bypasses the ampís preamp. Sounds good, but a little too much midrange, probably due to the ampís 15-inch speaker, which I dial out with the POD. Like with synths, itís nice to use knobs on a processor instead of menus. The POD also comes with Emagicís Soundiver, which I loaded onto my PC, but havenít had time to play around with yet.
I also canceled the order for the Headrush. I decided that since there was no way to synch the loops to my keyboards, it just was going to be a headache. Iíve also read some comments about some noise with the unit, as well as the click of the pedal becoming part of the loop. The POD has a three-second delay, which when I set the feedback high gives me some basic looping and sound on sound. Line6, the folks who put out the POD, are coming out with some effects pedals that "model" a delay, modulator, and distortion. So, whatís with modeling older stomp boxes? Do they make sure they get the noise down as well? Anyway, the delay is supposed to have a 12-second delay with looping capabilities, so Iíll check that out when itís released.
Iíve been listening to a bit of Jeff Beck lately. "Cause We Ended As Lovers" is absolutely amazing. What he gets out of guitar with little or no effects is staggering. You can hear how much he changes the pickup selector switch to modify his tone. His new one, Who Else, incorporates some more electronic moments and is interesting, but doesnít really match System 7 for guitar-techno.
On the Synthetic Block front, well not much is new. A few months ago a new label was interested in putting out the second CD, but they seem to have dropped off the face of the earth, which isnít the first time this has happened. I tend not to get excited about offers unless I see it in writing. Really, I see why people release things themselves. When youíre not going to sell many copies, whatís the point of spending so much time searching for a label. But having said that, Iíve compiled a list of 12 labels that would fit with my music, and Iíll start burning some discs soon and sending them out. Iím hoping to learn by the summer if Iíll be putting the disc out myself. Then I have to decide if I want them pressed or do CDRs. Iím leaning toward CDRs for the second disc (if I have to do it myself), and having a third release pressed. More on this as it develops.