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He conducted the London Philharmonia often in the late 1940's and early '50's, and made recordings with them, one of which is Beethovan's 6th. Otherwise known as the Pastoral Symphony, due to the inclusion of birdsongs, babbling brooks and thunderstorms.

The 6th was something I grew up listening to, along with a couple dozen other classical works. It wasn't until sometime after I'd left home and went out looking for my own copies that I understood that classical recordings are... different from each other. I mean I knew this on a rational level, but it never occured to me that the music itself could feel so completely out of step with the way I thought it should be, depending on which orchestra and conductor recorded it. So, without being able to learn what versions I had grown up with I was left doing without. Oh, I lucked upon one or two that I liked, but mostly, other versions were... meh.

So I was delighted to find a version of the Pastoral that not only hit the same grooves I grew up grooving to, it improved on them! Karajan's version with the Philharmonia from 1953 is not the one I remember so well, but it amazes me because there's stuff in it I never heard before. It's the mix, I guess, the emphasis Karajan has put on the various parts, and having just watched this documentary about him, I can safely say he was in total control of these things. I mean, the man was, at one time, a Nazi.


(Funny, isn't it, how you can hold two opposite things in your mind at the same time!!!)

What he did with the piece and the orchestra was amazing. First of all is dynamics. The quiet parts are like whispers. I've read that most classical recordings only hit about half the dynamic range intended by the composers, but it seems Karajan was going there. Secondly, it's the balance between the melody and the harmonic background. Karajan brings up the background to the point where it's almost equal to the melody. When a composer has spent the time writing out parts for an orchestra, do you suppose they wanted most of it played as if it was mush, like grey wallpaper? Those parts in the "background" are cool, now that I can hear them! The melodies are plenty strong enough, they don't need to be accented at the expense of everything else.

And the third thing (there has to be a third thing) is the tempo. Karajan was accused of making his orchestras play too slowly, but something I have learned as a musician is that it's a hell of a lot harder to play well slowly. He rehearsed his orchestras until they could do it, and in the process they actually heard what it was that they were playing. Now we can hear it too.

the base

Continuing on the development of the "floor wax/dessert topping", here's the idea for the lamp that becomes a vocal mic stand...

vocal mic stand

...and a drum overhead mic stand.

overhead mic stand


Sky Blue Safety Express






old glory

After careful consideration I decided to try to preserve that old floor lamp of mine. I mean, that's patina!


I thought about what made that lamp special, and decided it was that most of the light from it was projected up at the ceiling. Where it indirectly lit the room. Would a floodlight pointed up do the same?

Fiddled around with different light bulbs, decided to reduce the light coming out the side with a plastic diffuser. Added a stainless steel ring for good measure.

the stack

I needed an accent on the top edge of the diffuser... a pipe clamp works! Found one with some character.

put a ring on it

After all of that, I swapped out the stainless ring for the original glass globe. This makes for a subtle side illumination, with most of the light directed up. It's suprisingly a lot like the old 300 watt bulb- without the heat. And it doesn't need a lampshade.

the glass

That is some schmoove illumination.



the base

On a long term project- the best machine shop in the entire world came through with some heavy-duty machining this week- a couple of counterbores, some tapped holes and milling, in steel. Steel is cool.

new steel

Steel is also heavy, which can be a good thing. I imagined using these parts as the base for an overhead mic stand, and today I got the chance to rig it up to find out if it might work. Here we have the base with a couple of aluminum trusses bolted to it, supporting about 5 lbs of motorcycle chain 8' off the floor.

mic stand

That chain represents a typical overhead microphone for a drum kit- or even a pair of them if that's the way it must be. This arrangement isn't even the slightest bit tippy. I don't know how much the base weighs, but it's enough.

That's all well and good, but my other idea was to replace an ancient floor lamp I have here. This lamp has been with me basically forever. The last major thing I had to do to it was replace the mogal base socket with a standard one, but without the 300 watt incandescent in there the effect just wasn't the same. Loved the way this lamp could warm a room- and a basement!

old lamp

It even had a special holster for Lord Chet! (there were few flat surfaces at the old studio, mon...)

chet holder

Anyhoo, that's history now- those mogal base three-way bulbs got too hard to find, and they didn't last very long. Without the beauty of the light it cast, the lamp was just an ugly old thing, and apart from fond memories, it wasn't adding anything positive to the studio. Time for it to go.


This was the first idea for its replacement. Although the shade is tatty, the idea fits right in with my current 1933 mania. I thought "what if I replaced that shade with something else?"

three rings

three rings v2

The first couple of "something elses" seemed pretty cool- I was thinking of placing LEDs in each ring and having separate controllers for them But there was that old floor lamp, just out of the frame, faithfully illuminating the germ of its own replacement. Suddenly, I had this idea...



Eureka! It carries the old lamp into the new format. So elegant!


Next- find a way to make this both a dessert topping and a floor wax!

Here's the problem...


Shelves with stacks of boxes on them. Stacks of boxes under those stacks. The box I wanted was always under and behind other boxes.

Here's the solution. A big old set of shelves to hold the boxes.


This is the "dry fit" of the shelf assembly. I reached out to a couple of experts when it came to how to assemble these pieces- thanks Silverback, thanks Tony Izmonie! I learned that wood glue acts as a lubricant. Didn't know that...

Everything went together like a charm, other than my sad pin-nailing work. You know what they say about brick-laying.

After a couple of hours I had an assembled set of shelves sitting on the floor- but it needed to be hung on a wall. I approached this like a pharaoh...


Here's a shot of the "pyramids" going up. Stage one involved lifting the top of the thing onto those sawhorses over there. (which had been right about where the stack of milk crates is now) Stage two involved flipping the bottom up and over onto that stack of shelves and that aluminum frame under the shelves final location. Stage three involved lifting the top end up off the sawhorses and resting it on the milk crates.

stage 4

Stage four was simply stand on a chair and flip the shelves up onto the aluminum frame. It was so easy after I thought of the milk crates and the chair- I was planning on trying to use that big stick to push up on them from stage two, but that seemed a little risky...

I didn't notice until stage 4 that I was getting a milk crate failure. Shelves are heavy!

crate fail

Prior to "Egyptioning" the shelves up here I had sussed how to mount them. I needed to tie into wall joists. Originally there was goint to be a back on the shelves, and I could have just screwed directly through it into the joists, but something told me that the weight of that assembly would require even more Egyptions, and I guessed that the finished assembly, with its interlocking shelves, would be strong enough without it. I hope I guessed right!

I mounted this cleat to two joists. The right side of the shelf will rest on it.

right cleat

I mounted this cleat to one joist. The left side of the shelfs will screw into it.

left cleat

The reason for this was that the left-hand joist runs right against the window frame, so I couldn't mount a bracket inside the shelves there. I also added two major brackets into joists at the top of the shelving unit, mostly to keep it from pulling away from the wall with a load on.

Rocking the back of the shelf assembly up onto the bottom cleat was fairly easy, then I shimmed it up there to attach the other mounting points. So happy when I pulled the shims out and the thing stayed in place! I was tempted to hang on it as a test but something... something... something told me that I had better not.


As it is there's gazillion lbs of reel to reel tapes and cassettes and ADATs and phonorecords and wire and stuff on those shelves now. Easy to get at!

There are sheet goods stashed under the shelves, which is why they needed to be hanging. Did I mention that?