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January 31, 2010


January 29, 2010

On a theme... here's a guy sharing what it's like for him living in Japan. It's funny.

Don't know why but I've been curious about Japan lately. The usual encyclopedic descriptions and tourist board videos weren't doing it for me... they were a start, but they tend to dismiss (or try to hide) the real facts about the place- things like the pan of the skyline of Oita this guy shows early in his video, where you see all the refinery(?) towers and the haze over the city in the morning. Japan- it's like New Jersey!

Meanwhile, Steam Powered sponsors have a new song this morning. Check out Northern Lights by Craig Wise in the catalogue.

January 28, 2010


I can't remember how I acquired this thing, but it's never worked for me. I've had it apart...


...and it's really very simple inside. In these days of computers and digital signal processors, what this thing does (when it's working) is like pouring water out of a bucket. Or something.


Why, ever since I used to visit Uncle Alfred up in Canada, where he would build his own radios in a room off the main house, I've been fascinated with these little tanks and towers. I even went to school to learn about this stuff, but try as I might I never had the knack. So my attempts to get this working again have been in vain. That is, until now. Now there's the internet, and lo and behold there's a guy who has devoted a great deal of time sharing his knowledge about these puppies. I think I'll have another go at getting it working soon.

January 26, 2010

On a mission of mixing tonight. Kregger couldn't make it over so I took the opportunity to work on another mix of his song Northern Lights. Heck, it's only been a year...

I dropped in a snare part the other night. That snare part filled a very puzzling gap in the song. See, the song builds, over a long period of time, and there was this good moment at the end where all the drums come in, but there was a long stretch before that where it needed something, and the snare part turned out to be what.

Tonight, I actually listened to what we had done so far. Sometimes, you gotta just step. My mix was very muddy. There were one or two highlights in it, but most of what was there was buried. So, a remix.

And while focusing on the midrange of the mix, I wanted to hear a Fleetwood Mac song to compare it to, get a reference. And while looking for that, I found The Fleetwoods' Come Softly To Me, which, now that I think of it, is probably the best recording of all time.

See for yourself! Just Google "Fleetwoods Come Softly" and you'll hit LaLa com, or something, and you can listen to it. Make sure that when you do, you are ready to listen. Really listen, in a quiet place. There are some things on that recording that are very spooky. Spooky good!.

And this is spooky, too...

January 24, 2010

The latest issue of Tape Op magazine has an interview with recording engineer Oz Fritz. As it turns out, he worked with Tom Waits on Wicked Grin, which I consider to be one of the best records ever made. Here's a little something he has to say about that.

...the studio had great vintage gear and a nice-sounding room, but it was incredibly poorly maintained... Because of the problems we encountered I wasn't ready on time... By five or six I still wasn't ready, the band was itching to go and Tom had shown up, and they're playing, and Tom says "Just start recording. Wherever you're at, just start recording"... I hit record and they were playing, and the first thing they did ended up being the first song on the record.

And so was created one of the funkiest recordings ever made- Baby's leaving town on the two-nineteen... It's a lot like what was reported about the making of John Hiatt's Bring the Family. Thing Called Love might be my second favorite recording of all time.

Coincidence?  I think not!
Wait a minute... I have a great idea! I, too, can make a perfect record! I think I'll call it:

Coincidence?  I think not! Hunker Down

While strolling thru the park one day... I came upon this stumper:


It looked like a dead tree bleeding a bunch of orange McDonalds ball-pit balls. On closer examination...


...they turned out to be some kind of fruit, or large seeds. They're about the size of oranges. Any guesses as to what this is about?

January 21, 2010

"I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it."

Brian Eno.

January 20, 2010


Once upon a time people made tapes. Now it's hard to even find a decent working tape player for them. Kregger brought this one over to have me transfer to something digital, and I'm glad he did, because it's some wonderful singing and playing on here. I'll try to get permission from the folks on it to post some of it up.

January 19, 2010

Oh, if I only had more time... I'm working myself up to a good rant this morning, but no time to flesh it out. The basic thing is how the coverage of politics (and indeed, society/culture in general) in America reflects the two things we really worship here- Respect for Property and The Hit. (There's probably a third thing. Everyone knows you need three things...)

Just ask yourself this- who owns Haiti?

January 18, 2010

Continuing with the Ralph Toro song collection, today we feature Sittin' Here Thinkin'. Like the last one, Watered Down, this is a piano song, but this time Ralph is in pop tune mode. It's under three minutes, it's got some hooks and it's tight as a tick. Just click that Featured Song link there on the upper right...

January 16, 2010

One of the things search engines find here is my Kurzweil RG100SE page. I've just completed yet another repair to the old thing, and have extended the page to include how to fix the dreaded non-sounding key.


I had recorded the entire Fishtank Ensemble show from last Wednesday night, but unfortunately, the little i-pod doesn't have any sort of input gain control. Not only that, but it seems to be optimized for recording lectures- which would have been fine for some of the show (they were playing acoustic instruments in a recital hall), but at times the bass got a little slap-happy, and at times the audience did. So I'm tempted to process this recording and pass it off as something picked up on the shortwave, or recorded from a Soviet television broadcast circe 1953.

Here's a teaser. Let me tell you, this last song continued for about 8 minutes. By the end of it, even us Pennsylvania Dutchies were clapping along in time. The only thing missing was a big old bottle of Ouzo...

Fishtank Ensemble Finale.mp3

January 15, 2010

Dad left me his radio. He used to sit around listening to the police bands on this little radio. It also picks up short wave, and sometimes I like to tune in to unknown broadcasts. Here's a good one, world beat, with commentary.

Short Waves01.mp3

January 13, 2010

There was a good show last night at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music in Lancaster. A band called The Fishtank Ensemble played.

the Fishtank Ensemble

Sort of wacky, sort of crazy... let's put it this way. Not since Ed Sullivan died have I seen a lady demurely place a hand saw between her legs and bow it.

Ah, but speaking of sort of wacky, sort of zany Gypsy bands, where have I seen something like this before? Oh yeah, Lancaster's own Modern Icons.

the Modern Icons

In a way, last night's sold out show at that beautiful facility was due to many, many performances by Robin, Steve and Charlie, who introduced a lot of us around here to the idea of a woman with a violin playing something other than chamber music.

January 12, 2010

Here at the beginning of the year many long-timers are re-sponsoring. I'm always happy when that happens. I have no way right now of keeping track or reminding people when they should re-sponsor, so here's an idea. What I may do is set a date- say, Groundhog Day- when all sponsorships officially "turn over". Then, when you sponsor for the first time, you get whatever's left of this year up til the next GHD. That way everyone falls due at the same time.

Anyway, thanks to Scott and Joe for hitting that sponsor thing. I'm also thinking of posting all your names on the sponsor page. Would this encourage or discourage sponsorship, do you think?

Speaking of listener supported enterprises, here's Kulaks Woodshed, a live music venue somewhere out west that webcasts shows and relies largely on donations for their operations. They've been hosting excellent performers on a regular schedule for years. It's fun to tune in and chat live with the folks there on the left coast- I only wish I could stay up late to watch more often (shows start at 8:00 PM Pacific).

January 10, 2010


Lincoln Center? Check. Carnegie Hall? Naturally. Worldwide television and radio broadcasts? Done that. Now, look at the smile on her face when Sara finally gets her shot at recording in the Steam Powered Studio!

(Just remember- those aren't merely washers and dryers and paint cans- they are strategically placed resonant chambers and sound diffusers.)

Sara came in to record a part for the Gadjo Playboys' song Duck Yoke. She is wonderful to work with, and her old Italian cello rings like a bell. Here's a little sample, recorded in mono on my i-pod from the next room, just to give you a taste of how fine it sounds...

Duck Yoke Sample.mp3

Me and Scott were just about in heaven sitting there listening to her play. We should have a mix of this song finished before too much longer...

January 07, 2010

Back to Ron Cook and the conclusion of the Ron Roy Radio Show. The boys finish the program on their feet, with some fine fiddling by Ronnie on these songs. First, a duet with Arthur.

Steamboat Whistle Blues.mp3

Every radio program must include some sacred music. This one redeems itself in the end.

I Saw The Light.mp3

And so, until next we meet, good evening.

A Pleasant Good Evening.mp3

There is plenty more from Ron Cook to come- mostly sitting around the kitchen table sort of stuff. Maybe we'll hear some of what those sons of his were doing with his tape machine as well... check the Studio Archives for earlier segments of this "radio show".

January 04, 2010

Doug has become the first sponsor of the decade! Thanks! Somewhere, a Spons-O-Meter has registered a little bump.

Lots of the links are working now.

January 03, 2010


There was a live session today, with Rue De La Pompe. I've always liked recording in this room, with its oddly shaped spaces- it diffuses the sound nicely.

Here's a bit of video of that session- recorded straight to stereo on this little beauty, Dave's Nagra. (audio on this video is not the real thing- it's from the camera)

January 02, 2010

Welcome, new decade.

If you've followed along here at the Steam Powered website for a while, you probably realize that the last design- that wonderful ketchup-and-mustard colored design- has been around for a lot longer than most of my website layouts. Back in the day I changed the look of the site at least once a year. It was fun and I was trying to find something easy for people to use.

But I never really liked that last one. I modeled it on some popular commercial sites, thinking that people would recognize the layout and feel comfortable with it. I picked the colors for the same reason that fast food places pick those colors.

But I'm not selling cheeseburgers any more. I have some principles, you know. Number one: no advertising. Number two: no flash scripts that you have to wait to load before you can do anything. Number three: No "Welcome!" page. That's really about it. I did try animated graphics for a while (deer, squirrels and bunnies) and may do so again, so I'm not ruling that out completely. (Sorry if you missed that one)

So with the new decade and all I decided to revamp the site. I wanted to be fresh and hip. I decided I might try an actual web-site editor rather than hand-coding the thing in HTML. Oh, the fabulous thinks I might think! I went out on the web looking for some clue as to the direction of the hippest, coolest designers- Berlin, Milan, Madrid, Detroit... New York, well, everybody hates New York unless they live there.

What I found was that "ugly" is the new thing. I suspected as much. My 20-something daughter loves "ugly" design. I can see the appeal- it's catchy, it "pops", it makes a statement...

So here we are. I've incorporated some "ugly" elements in my website design. As it turns out, the hand-coded HTML I was doing totally lends itself to being ugly. I can be ugly without even trying! I hope you love it.

(oh- some of the links are broken, of course. That's "ugly" too. But I'll be patching them up in good time.)

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