March 31, 2008
A guy with the screen name of Professor Wombat turned me on to an essay by William James
last week- an essay written in 1906 about the nature of man and his justification for
war. In it, James warns against the rising militarism in Japan and Germany and recommends
that we humans had better find something to occupy ourselves with that feels as powerful
as war- or else. I guess we all know how that turned out, eh?
Well I'm such a yokel that I never knew about William James before. Here we are,
so far beyond the turn of the 21st century, living lives that William James had
pretty well understood back in 1906. He's written things about the value of belief
which I'm just now delving into. I think my favorite thing about his writing is
that he's not afraid of inserting the odd joke here and there.
Speaking of beliefs, wouldn't it be strange to think that a random turn of
cards could tell us anything about ourselves? This is the basis for the belief in
Tarot. I like the pictures, myself, but I'm learning to do a little interpretation
as well. Here's the heart of my last inquiry, the part of the layout called "the cross":
There in the center, underlying all, is Death. Isn't that appropriate somehow? Crossing Death
is the nine of Staves, symbolic (at least in my imagination) of persistance against adversity.
So the root of the situation is a struggle against death. A chess game, perhaps?
At the bottom is The Hermit, one of the Major Arcanna. The Hermit is all about
introversion, thinking, separation. He lies inverted, which I take to mean not the
opposite of his character, but a diminished influence of his character- a hint of
the hermit rather than the full blown, living-in-a-cave hermit. This represents the
inner or unconscious force.
At the top is the conscious feeling- and what a feeling! A guy with ten swords in his
back! That's gotta hurt! They say that this card is often a bit overblown, however. The
idea of betrayal indicated here by so many swords is overly dramatic. The martyr, or
playing the victim.
To the left of center is another victim, I think. This card represents a situation which
is passing, which should be allowed to pass. The poor woman is bound, blindfolded, and
surrounded by a fence of swords. The feeling of being caught in a trap here. To the right
of center is the situation or the conditions to be accepted. This is the Ace of Wands
(or staves) which represents the creative force. Such a positive symbol for change!
Isn't it interesting how, if I believe in these symbols, I can create a story around them
and apply it to my own life? I think I could apply this particular arrangement to
anyone's life, to tell you the truth. The question is, would it have any practical effect?
That comes back to James again...
March 28, 2008
I also do windows.
Oops, I gave it away! On my drive every day I've noticed this architectural feature
and although I've tried to find out why, no one has been able to give me a definite
answer. I would like to document this more thoroughly, but meanwhile you will find
a large version of this here.
March 24, 2008
I'm a member of a music industry discussion group... at which, I must admit, I usually
just get drunk and try to pick a fight with the biggest guy in the
room... all online, of course. There's some good and interesting people there, but
most of them are committed to salvaging what they can of the music industry such as it has been,
in the sense that the industry has control over what people hear and how they hear it.
As you probably know, I don't see much future in that, and I have said so for years. This site
is actually my argument against that way of thinking.
Checking in yesterday I discovered someone there who I mainly agree with, and here is what
David Barrett has to say.
(L)et me first describe what I think the problem is we're
trying to solve. Without some general understanding of that (if not
agreement), there's no way to evaluate if my proposal is any good.
Essentially, I think the problem boils down to the simple fact that
today's music listeners overwhelmingly reject all available options for
compensating their artists for digital downloads. The numbers speak
for themselves (and have been well discussed elsewhere), the most telling
of which is *over 95% of all downloaded songs are pirated*. And that that
fraction is increasing.
There are two major theories as to why this is:
- One theory is virtually all listeners are simple criminals that just
don't care that they're taking food off of artists' plates. Proponents
of this theory assume that the only way to make listeners pay is with
legal threat, as given the option they won't pay a dime to anybody.
This is the basic foundation of digital rights technology, copy
protection, culture taxes, "good enough for commerce" sampling,
compulsory licenses, covenants not to sue (aka, protection rackets),
and other really happy sounding technologies and business models -- all of
which have failed, are failing, or will fail if tried.
- Another theory, which is a bit more radical (but completely obvious
to anybody outside the music industry), is that the options being
presented to listeners today are total shit. The theory is we're not going to
eat shit just to make symbolic gestures in support of our artists. Given
the choice between symbolically supporting our artists while stuffing
the pockets of The Man, or not supporting anybody, we overwhelmingly
choose the latter.
So there are two ways to frame the problem. We've discussed futile
attempts to solve the first problem ad nauseam. My proposal attempts
solve the second (much easier) problem. But the important thing to
recognize is no matter what the solution is -- and this is truly
Tomorrow's solution will be entirely unlike yesterday's.
The solution going forward will be entirely different than the solution
we had in the past. No matter what solution we go with, different
people will get paid, in different amounts. There will be new winners
and losers under any system, as well as a new balance struck between
the rights and expectations of artists and listeners. Anybody who claims
otherwise -- that we're going to smoothly transition -- is trying to
deceive you. Furthermore, and here is the second most important thing:
Tomorrow's solution will be selected in an arbitrary manner.
That's not to say it'll be a random process -- not at all. But like it
or not, the old system is dead and will never come back. We have no
choice but to select a new system (or continue with none at all), and
there's no way to pick one even remotely similar to what we're losing.
So it's up to us to choose who the new winners and losers will be (to
the degree we can even predict), and that choice is purely subjective.
That's not bad -- we all have our personal views on how we'd like to do
things different this time around. But nobody can claim that his
personal view is the One True View to which all others should bow.
Which brings me to my final most important point:
Tomorrow's solution will be selected on principle.
That's not to say that it *should* be selected on principle, but that
it *will* be. There's simply no other way to make a decision. There's
too little data available, and our prognosticative ability is too
constrained. Everybody's got a favorite plan for the future, and it
might pay out more to some or less others, and nobody's got a goddamn
clue. So when forced to make a decision without ample data to guide
us, we've no choice but to fall back on the principles that we believe to
be true, and find a solution that is consistent with those principles.
As it stands, it's unclear whether the criminalist or idealist factions
will come out on top. But the trophy will go to whichever camp can
rally stronger around a tighter set of shared principles, and put
forward a more compelling solution aligned with that. The criminalists
have shared their vision of the future already, and frankly, it's
Here's hoping the idealists can come together and take back the
March 21, 2008
Well, it feels like spring around here now! Our recording session went well. I
need to get together with some of the Old Time Liberation Front to do some
of the mixing, but I thought that this one sounded so good just as it is that I'd
post it up as a teaser-
Feeder Mice Jig.mp3
We'll call it the "rough mix" but there's hardly anything rough about it.
March 20, 2008
I got aholt of a big ol' pile of microphones for this'a here recording session tomorrow.
All the favorite brands- Shure, AKG, Neumann (Neumann!). Thing is, I don't get to
record strings often, and I thought I'd better "bone up" on the old transducers, heh.
See, I recorded through each one, at both near and far distances, and even took photographs
so I could determine the convincing winner of the contest- well, guess what?
Once you get above a certain level of quality, there ain't diddly-do-difference between these microphones.
Not that I can hear, anyway. There is a subtle difference between the close and
the far micing- the far micing sounds more natural- gee, imagine that.
What I was looking for was some real, screaming, in your face, god-love-it-that's-a-fiddle differences
here- nope, it wasn't to be. Maybe tomorrow something will jump out. Whatever- it'll be fun
to say "oh, this one is the perfect mic for your instrument"!
March 18, 2008
All right then. I have engineer friends who will swear up and down that electro/mechanical
devices must obey the laws of physics and follow determinalistic laws. Fine. Then explain
how the CD burner in my Yamaha recorder could consistantly fail yesterday, using three different types of
CD media at different temperatures and times of day, yet today, that same CD burner
can function 98% normally? Is it date related? Are we talking about moon
Frankly, I wish the thing would just go up in smoke, then there would be no question about
replacing it, but in fact they don't make replacements anymore, so it's a bit more
complicated than that. I pulled the original CD burner out and tried a slightly
older one, which failed totally. When I put the original one back in it worked (almost)
flawlessly. One failure out of about 12 songs.
Whatever, I'm glad for what I got. Now I'm ready to use this machine to record a session
on Friday. Meanwhile...
Some things take their own sweet time. My friend Steve told me about this band
for years and, being an asshole, I never bothered to listen to them. Well, while I was
waiting for my CD burner to fail tonight I went and listened to Donna the Buffalo.
Man! That's some good playing and stuff. If you search around a bit you'll find a
jam they do on You-Tube with that banjo guy Bella Fleck... it's remarkable. I
want to play with Donna the Buffalo sometime. But, being an asshole, I'll
probably never get the chance...
March 17, 2008
Ryck Kaiser played fiddle here a few years back on Morning Role Call.
He's just announced the formation of a new band,
Hot Club du Jour. There are sound files on
their site for downloading- sound pretty hot!
I listened in at an Old Time Liberation Front rehearsal today in preparation
for a recording date this Friday. Violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, vocal- and
on Friday, another violin. It's the first I've heard them as a group and I'm not
disappointed. You'll enjoy this one (if I can capture it).
March 15, 2008
A new featured song- with dish'o'bbs percussion, and Ezra Shade popping
March 13, 2008
I've been hassling with recording gear all week. Things aren't working just right, and it
may be that it's my own fault, and the solution is just to patiently clean things
up on a hard drive, one song at a time. That has been very little fun, but then tonight I found
this little gem and it made it all worth it.
My Old Father.mp3
My Old Father.ogg.
I don't remember recording this. I do remember working on the hook, and then
I thought that I remembered that someone else used this line for a hook, so I thought
I had given up on it. Obviously not.
I can make out some of the words, which are OK, but the retarded "la la la" parts
are my favorites. For me old mates... be sure to crank it!
March 09, 2008
I was mostly happy with the vocal for Unstoppable but I wasn't wild about
the mix. I've been mixing and remixing since last Thursday. I got up early in
the morning and mixed. I completely tore the song down to its basic parts and
mixed. I mixed through big speakers and through little speakers. Nothing was
I won't go into all the tricky little things I learned on the way, like the fact
that the talking drum and the top end of the bass guitar were stepping all over
each other, but I got to a point where I thought that the whole thing was
extremely slow in tempo and that I had just better drop it. I was pretty
far away from whatever it was that made me want to make this song happen. But
the song is Unstoppable! I mean, I couldn't just give up on a song called
Unstoppable, now could I?
So I let a full day go by, then once more into it, this time working out what it
was that got me into it to begin with. A mix can go in many different directions.
So, with your kind indulgence, here's mix number 5 (at least), the "radio edit" version.
I'm not going to promise it's the last mix- but it's very, very close now...
March 06, 2008
OK, last night I banged away at the vocal for Unstoppable. I've read a lot about
the recording process and studio session work, and by most accounts, the best take of
a lead or a vocal usually falls well before the band or the producer decides to call it quits.
It seems to have happened to me- after about 7 more attempts, I decided that I had
enough for one night. When I listened back to take number 3, it just jumped out as the
obvious one. It wasn't nearly so obvious when I sang it!
Here I am two days ago on the morning I wrote the lyrics for this song. Some rock star.
Buzzed! -but not on false drugs!
March 05, 2008
Yesterday morning the lyrics for this latest song came together for me.
I don't know how "unstoppable" the vocal is though- I have a hard time avoiding:
(1) Neal Diamond dramatic excess, and
(2) Shirley Temple gee-wizz!-ness
They say that the secret is to just be yourself, but "they" may not understand that
there isn't one, single "self" when it comes to singing. Oh sure, some people have
developed a signature sound all their own- and that's the goal, afterall. But what is that sound?
It's hard to find one "sound" to convey the total range of emotion I want to work with
in my writing.
I don't think many singers are able to move around much- when
you hear them you identify the emotion that mainly defines their "personna".
My natural voice makes people cringe, (or just look at me funny) so I've got some
work to do there!
So, who do you think are some singers able to cover a wide
range of emotion, from intimate confession to something like this exuberant optimism?
I'm thinking David Bowie off the top of my head...
March 02, 2008
It's about the process today. Some of you may remember a song I was working on
last year, I was calling it Guitar? I ran off a rough mix
Well, I came back to it after finishing up Faith. I started tearing it apart.
First I came up with some drums to compliment the talking drum part. The next thing
to go was the bassline. I liked it, but it was taking over too much.
After that, I started fixing things that were "wrong". The rhythm guitar part wasn't
played very well so I re-recorded it. Several times, actually. Then I wondered how
12 string guitar would sound on it. It sounded good, so I doubled it up.
All this time I've been trying to come up with a melody and some words. I fooled
around with a piano, because it's easier to pick out melodies on a piano, and I came
up with something "Beatle-esque". You can never go wrong with "Beatle-esque" when it
comes to melodies, I always say. I still don't have any words- or actually, I do
have some words, but they're silly. I need more serious words.
Then there came the lead guitar. It's all pretty much been done before, but after doing
something like Faith and Extemporaneous #1 maybe it's not so bad to do things
that sound more familiar. Anyway, here's tonight's mix of what's still called
although it might turn out to be Unstoppable.
March 01, 2008
It was bound to happen. Robert Bobby will be hosting a house concert at his
wonderful new digs this coming April 6th, featuring singer/songwriter
Mr. Bobby's playroom is a fine place to hear music in an intimate setting. I was
a little worried that we'd find him down there on that stage one day, dressed in spandex
and hollering MONITOR!, with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a busted guitar in the
other, but now it appears that he's doing the "right thing" and inviting others to play.
I'm informed that donations are $15 per person- which goes straight to Michael Smith. That's the
way these house concerts work, folks. Two sets with an intermission, B.Y.O.B. Chez
Bobby seats around 30, so get your reservations in now. Just north of Wrightsville, PA.
Easy access from Rt. 30. Contact
Around here, news is that I'll be doing a live-ish recording of Maya deVitry's outfit
the Old Time Liberation Front later this month. This is going to be fun!
Somewhere in this featured live recording you can hear a bit of Maya fiddling- the last
song of the night from the Stable Jam recordings of 2006, Angel Band.