December 29, 2013

Japanese Techno Girl Love MC-202 & TB-303 etc.




My brother Josh just showed me this girl's videos. I don't know how I missed this! Her music isn't really my thing but I do enjoy her presentation.

December 17, 2013

December 11, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Little Friend I Never Knew - The Roland System 100M 180 Keyboard Controller


Sometimes growing up means letting things go, even our dreams. And sometimes being a Quaker means doing without things we don't really need. I have long dreamed of owning the Roland 180 Keyboard Controller, the perfect little companion to my mini System 100m. So adorable, look at the two of them together! But a few months back I decided that having a keyboard controller the same size as an SH-09 or SH-1 keyboard didn't make any sense, no matter how cute it was. So I made the grown up decision to let go of my dream of owning the 180 and bought the infinitely more practical 184 -- a four voice polyphonic keyboard controller. And I'm so glad that I did. Today my decision was solidified, when I happened upon an auction for the 180:


This is the first time I've ever seen it sold on it's own, and in mint condition no less! But I've made up my mind. This post is my final farewell to the 180. I hope you find a good home!


November 22, 2013

Björk - Bukolla 1977


I heard this song once in the late 90's and thought it was incredible. I still think so! And I'm so glad to have it back in my life.

November 19, 2013

Cascading Slopes - The Horns of Archenland


My band, Cascading Slopes, first album, Towards a Quaker View of Synthesizers, was released today by Plastiq Musiq. Here is a music video for The Horns of Archenland directed by Nathan Schroeder (The September Equation).

http://www.plastiqmusiq.com

November 18, 2013

5¼" floppy disks


Available December 1st from Plastiq Musiq.



Available 1988 from the Walt Disney Company.

November 14, 2013

I've always thought the Jupiter-6 was weird

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, I'm sure some beautiful music has been made with the Jupiter-6, but just aesthetically, it doesn't really match anything Roland was doing at that time. Weird color scheme, weird buttons and knobs. And I played with one for the first time today and was pretty underwhelmed. The filter does that thing a Juno-106 does where you can hear it stepping through all those notches on the way down. And being made out of plastic instead of metal doesn't help either. I guess I've gotten pretty picky with equipment in my old age. Have any of you had a good experience with a Jupiter-6?

November 8, 2013

Reunited with Old Friends


I lent my Juno-6 to a friend a few years ago, and I just got it back a couple days ago (I also caught up with the friend I lent it to, so, reuniting with old friends that way too!). The Juno-6 was technically my first "synthesizer" I ever owned. I did have the RS-09 before the Juno-6, but that's not really a traditional synthesizer with that standard Oscillator, Filter, LFO, Envelop Generator set up. And to a twelve year old, an RS-09 is hardly a synthesizer, I didn't come to fully appreciate the true beauty of the Roland RS-09 until much later in life. But back to the subject at hand! I plugged in the Juno-6 last night for the first time in about four or five years. I was instantly transported to the basement of my parent's old house in Salem Ohio. I used to have a little room in the basement where I kept all my music equipment. The room was right under the porch of the house and all the walls were made out of rock and I called it "The Synthe Cave".  Sort of like how Batman had The Bat Cave. It was like that only for a lame little kid playing with synthesizers. 

The Juno 6 really is a great instrument. I love the way it's laid out, very intuitive!  And the arpeggiator is great. I think it's a really good keyboard for writing songs on because it's polyphonic and it has that arpeggiator, you can turn that thing on and crank up the release and have these really lush, full chords going. 

One thing that struck me as odd though, since I've been using so much vintage Roland gear for so long, is that there is no range selector for the oscillator. There is a transpose switch by the pitch bend wheel that can change the octave three ways, and the keyboard is so long that I guess you really don't need a range selector for the oscillator. It's just so standard on most synthesizers that it almost makes the oscillator seem a little naked or something. 




I also got this little guy back from the repair shop yesterday. The filter has never worked since I got it so I finally got that fixed. Now it is it's own unit. Fully formed. I like it so much more than I thought I did now that it's whole. It's like a little modular SH-09. Roland really did a good job making these things. Even when they went modular they still thought very practically, very musically! Both LFOs have delays built into them, and the output of the LFOs can be attenuated by half, which is so much more sensible of a signal to be applying to anything, let's be real! I think I'm about to have a real musical adventure with this mini System 100m!

It's funny, when I started this blog I thought the System 100m was the holy grail of synthesizers (as you can see from the top banner and background). I never thought I would own one. And here I am! I guess the lesson is to always follow your dreams. But on a side note, I'll also say, these are all just things and appreciating them for what they are is fine but people are infinitely more important! It's nice when things (common interests) bring people together. For example, I've met so many great people and had so many wonderful interactions through this blog. 

I have more to tell you about the repairs but I'll save that for a later post. WINK!


October 29, 2013

Taking A Step Into The Future


If you've been following this blog for any amount of time you'll probably know that taking any step into the future (even a very small one) is very hard for me to do. But after years of touring with a Roland ProMars, RS-09 and synthesizers.com modular system (for bass -- eventually switched to a Moog Minitaur), I've made the switch to current equipment! Still all analog: 2 Moog Slimphattys and a Moog Subphatty. My main reason for this is that the old Roland gear was constantly breaking down, I had it in the shop between almost every tour, what a pain! The other season is that all of these pieces have patch memory and midi - two things I avoid like the plague while working in the studio - but in a live setting they can be quite useful. So, rather than me having to constantly twiddle knobs on the Moog Minitaur every time the Decay of a bass sound needs to change (which is quite often!), I can program those changes and they can happen automatically. But, because the front panel of all these machines stay active (a step up from the ProMars!) I can still reach over and adjust any sound at any point. 

And speaking of programing, I'm doing all the sequencing from an MPC-1000 and it is a nightmare. If anyone knows any tips or shortcuts for that thing, please let me know in the comments of this post. But I suspect it's just as awful and difficult as it seems. 

Anyway, I suppose I'm somewhat excited about this new set up but also a little scared. Onward and upward!

October 25, 2013

Burning Hearts - Various Lives


This is a little more rockin' than I usually talk about here, but I've been listening to this band a lot lately (they're perfect listening for this sort of weather), and look there, she's even playing a Roland Juno-60. How nice! I do strongly recommend their record Aboa Sleeping, it's full of lush synthesizers and little CR-78 drums. 

you can get all their music from shelflife.com

October 20, 2013

Brynjulf Blix with Roland S-50 Live Norwegian Broadcasting


This is from a later era than I normally post about here, but I am interested in these samplers. I think being able to hook up the computer monitors to them is really terrific. There may be one of them in my future... not exactly sure how I'd incorporate it into my own music (or if I would at all). Anyway, this video is all Roland S-50 sampler with the internal sequencer - no other instruments. With Roland GP-16 processor and Lexicon 480 reverb.

October 9, 2013

Roland 184 Four Voice Polyphonic Keyboard Controller


So, I bought a 184 CV keyboard controller. It came in the mail today and I am loving it! I have a modest synthesizers.com system with three VCO's that I'm controlling those with it. It sounds very.... synthesizer-y. It's hard to describe. I sometimes hear people say that true, analog polyphony sounds like a VHS tape. I think this is true, because you can get the oscillators to not be perfectly in tune with one another and it gives the pitch that sort of warble that one often hears on a VHS tape.

My plan is to build up my modular system to have a VCO, VCF, Envelope Generator and Amp for each of the four CV outputs of the 184. I'll keep you updated on the progress. It will probably be very slow moving!

October 5, 2013

The Hammond Novachord


I only just found out about this thing. It's considered by some to be the word's very first synthesizer, from 1939. It's fully polyphonic and it sound incredible! It has 146 tubes in it! My favorite sounds in the video happen at 1:25 and 4:20. It almost has a vocal quality about it.  I also like when the guys are talking about how simple the design is on the outside but how complex it is on the inside, then one of them says something along the lines of "It's like a swan, gliding gracefully across the water, but below the surface it's paddling like crazy."

October 3, 2013

The Last Unicorn


A couple nights ago I went to a screening of The Last Unicorn. It was one of my favorite movies as a kid and continues to be interesting and strange for me to this day. The film is "on tour" right now with the Author of the book and screenplay, Peter S. Beagle. Before the movie there was a question and answer session with Peter. There were a lot of people there who were way bigger fans than me (costumes and all), so I didn't ask any questions. Peter also wrote the screenplays for the animated Lord of the Rings movies that came out around the same time as The Last Unicorn and both were produced by Rankin / Bass who are most famous for their Christmas specials (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Twas the Night Before Christmas...)






It was really neat to be there with the author and feel sort of connected to the past. If you've never seen the move I highly suggest it. There's something really off about it, but that's what makes it special and different from Disney animated movies. You can watch the trailer bellow or if you'd like to catch it while it's on tour (for the next two years!) stay tuned to the website  www.lastunicorntour.com




September 28, 2013

One Little Star


One of my favorite songs. They don't write 'em like this anymore! The harmony at the end is mind blowing.

September 9, 2013

It's Been a While


Once again I'm apologizing for how quiet it's been around here. But maybe quietness is thematically appropriate for a Quaker blog? The truth is, I've discovered, this blog is sort of a home away from home for me when I'm traveling, and I haven't been traveling in a while. I've actually just moved to a new apartment with my little family. We're so happy here, and a strange little twist of fate is that I'm living about a block away from a little analog synthesizer store now. I just dropped off the Jupiter 8 and ProMars for a little tune up today. Oh, and one other thing I should tell you about (David sent this to me today, thanks David!):


I didn't know there was a Roland museum in Japan! And I still don't know exactly were it is. I must try to get there next time I'm in Japan.  Anyway, that's all for now. I do have a few things in the works that are very close to being revealed, but all I can say for now is stay tuned!

August 19, 2013

Alternative Music

Do you ever just get tired of listening to music? I do. But I also listen to a lot of music. I just love to listen to things though. So, sometimes when I get really burt out on music I look for alternatives to the types of music I normally listen to. I recently revisited Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasoning (it can be rather nice on a long plane ride). And the sound that's occupying my ears these days is the Eurovision contest. Here's Spain's offering in 1979:




August 9, 2013

Armen Ra



Somehow Armen has slipped through the cracks for me. How is it that I'm just now discovering him? I guess Theremin players don't really interest me in and of themselves. I've always loved Clara Rockmore, but it wasn't just her playing, which was incredible, she also had a cinematic, otherworldly quality to her. I bought a theremin from Big Briar (Bob Moog's company in the 90's) when I was about fifteen years old and it came with a VHS tape of Clara playing at a dinner party (if you look for videos of Clara, these are the first you'll probably find). I watched it all the time. 



Armen Ra is one of the top Theremin players in the world right now, he's performed at The United Nations, Wiener Konzerthaus Mozartsaal Vienna, Lincoln Center and the Disney Concert Hall in LA. I always thought when Clara Rockmore played the theremin it sort of sounded like a violin (which she had played from a young age). When I heard Armen's playing I instantly said "Wow, it sounds like a woman's voice!". And sure enough in interviews he says that he's most inspired by sopranos and tries to make his theremin sound as as mellow and non-buzzy as he can. And like Clara he's also pretty other-worldly as well --almost like a Klaus Nomi type character. He actually looks like he could have been related to Clara Rockmore! Don't you think? There's a documentary in the works about Armen and I am so excited to see it!

August 7, 2013

The Littl' Bits



A recent comment from Joachim got me thinking about my favorite tv shows from when I was a kid. I liked all sorts of stuff but I think shows about little people (who usually lived in the forest) where at the top of my list; David the Gnome, The Little Troll Prince, and The Littl' Bits!

August 3, 2013

Tomorrowland at Twilight



I've spent many evenings in Tomorrowland. Watching the sun go down and the crowds empty out as they go off to find a place to watch the parade. Now when I'm there it's like driving past an old house one used to live in. I know it's ridiculous to feel like that about a public place, especially one that thousands of people walk through every day, but I do. I feel like we had a special connection, me and Tomorrowland, like I understood her on a deeper level than most people who came through just looking for a cheap thrill. I loved it just as it was; I didn't see the need for constant updates in order to stay relevant (because of course that is a losing battle!). But the fact of the matter is that Tomorrowland is part of a larger kingdom that does what it must to survive. So now whenever I see an attraction updated, or worse: removed, it's like seeing your old house painted some color that you never imagined it being, or burned to the ground. Why do we grow so attached to things and places? It's inevitable that they'll change… or we'll change and they'll stay the same. And that is why it's much better to be attached to people, at least that way there is the possibility of growing together. 



I suppose you're probably wondering when I'll talk about synthesizers again, since that is the theme of this blog. Well, I don't know. I guess I can tell you what's going on right now. We're playing a music festival tonight in Spain and my ProMars started having crazy tuning issues just before I left home, so I brought my SH-1 instead. The implications are that I won't have my preset sounds to work with, so I'll be doing everything on the fly. I'm kind of excited to do it. I've been practicing a good deal. There is a little switch on the SH-1 that let's you select between two different envelope generators to effect the VCA. I never cared about this feature until now... I'm very grateful for it. 

August 1, 2013

A Renewed Admiration for George MacDonald


I've read a few of Macdonald's fantasy books, and did enjoy them somewhat. The language of his time is a little harder for me to connect with than the simple langue C.S. Lewis uses, esp. in his books for children. Speaking of Lewis (as I usually do), it would be fair to say now that because Lewis was so informed by Macdonald's theology, he even said in his introduction to MacDonald's Anthology: "I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself!", that in turn I also have a renewed admiration for Lewis. But of course I already knew a great deal about Lewisian theology, and my admiration for him was already full so I expected no less! ...But now I know of the source, which is George MacDonald.

I should begin by saying that I'm completely and utterly repelled by Calvinism. I always have been, but more so the older I get. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who are Calvinists and it doesn't diminish my love or respect for them, I simply do not agree.

One Calvinists figure I particularly disagree with is Jonathan Edwards. His sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God says it all:

"The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not - at this very moment - as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who - at this very moment - do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath."


While, I do believe that Heaven or Hell has already begun on Earth for those who choose them, I certainly don't believe that God is tormenting anyone in Hell. I might also mention that Edwards didn't think very highly of Quakers (as made evident in his Distinguishing Marks). So, MacDonald wrote in an Unspoken Sermon on Justice:

"From all copies of Jonathan Edwards’s portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing. Not such a God is He concerning whom was the message John heard from Jesus, that He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."


And there you have it. I fully agree and I also turn with loathing from Jonathan Edwards’s portrait of God, though I don't believe we were ever pointed towards it to begin with.

July 31, 2013

An Expostulation by C. S. Lewis



Against too many writers of science fiction

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?

July 30, 2013

A Short Documentary About Cleaning A Korg Lambda



I recently came across this video about how to clean a Korg Lambda. It's by the same guy who did the Korg Lambda demonstration video I posted a while back. I think his music is just brilliant! I wish he would make a record. This cleaning tutorial is accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack that I presume he recorded entirely with the Lambda played by hand. 

It looks like he put a lot of work into cleaning this thing out, I can't imagine directing a video at the same time! But this really is a wonderful video. There are some truly magical moments, like when the keys return to the keyboard towards the end. Could you imagine stumbling across this video on a local PBS late at night?


July 28, 2013

July 27, 2013

What Went Wrong With Disney’s Worlds Fair



I'll get back to color theory in a bit, but I wanted to share this article with you real quick. While, Epcot may not be everything it was originally intended to be (or even anything close) I still love it and so do a lot of people. I feel like we're able to love it for what it is while still being remorseful for what might have been (which is the first city of the future). It's interesting to find an article this blunt, but it was published in 1983 so the author didn't have the myst of nostalgic time between himself and Epcot the way we do.  And it's not as if he has some sort of personal vendetta agains Epcot, he's just speaking frankly. This is the preface:

With Epcot, Walt Disney turned his formidable skills to building a city where man and technology could live together in perfect harmony. The result is part prophecy, part world’s fair. Here, America’s leading authority on technological history examines this urban experiment in the light of past world’s fairs, and tells why it fails where they succeeded—and why that matters.

You can read the whole article here:
http://www.americanheritage.com/content/what-went-wrong-disney’s-worlds-fair

July 20, 2013

A Christmas Yet To Come


I've never got on board with the whole "Christmas in July" thing. To me Christmas is snow and cold weather and right now it's ridiculously hot! I can't stand it! A Christmas Yet To Come is a much nicer way to think of it, I'd say. Not celebrating Christmas in July, but, rather, looking forward to the actual Christmas.

I just found this song Carol of the Bells by Joseph Byrd. It has a nice folky feel to it. I think a lot of synthesizer music pre-Kraftwerk hadn't really harnessed the power of the sequencer. I seems like it took them a while before they'd figured out how to lock together different sequences on different tracks so you ended up with one sequenced track and everything else played live around it. I think that's what's going on here: a nice, lose, organic, synthesized, future Christmas song. 

July 18, 2013

DEUX


So, I have to give credit to René for this one. He sent me their song Dance With Me tonight and I was instantly hooked. I had heard one song by Deux before but it didn't really do anything for me and I never gave them a second thought. I never really got into the supposed "cold wave" bands, save maybe Nine Circles. They all seemed a little too cold and lifeless for me (I guess that's probably the point!). 

Anyway, this song, Felicita, is my favorite I've found so far from Deux. But I've only just scratched the surface. How exciting to have a new band to get into! That's all for now. Goodnight.


July 17, 2013

Man in the Moon



Sorry it's been so quite around here lately! This blog is not dead, I promise you. I've just been so busy with a few projects - I'll show them to you soon. 

I found this little moon at a junk shop today. I think he's swell. What do you think?

June 26, 2013

Poetry For Peace

Peter and I are going to a "Poetry for Peace" open mic night tonight at my Quaker meeting house. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm going to be reading Snow in Madrid by Joy Davidman (The lovely and talented wife of C.S. Lewis). Here is that poem now:

Softly, so casual,
Lovely, so light, so light,
The cruel sky lets fall
Something one does not fight.
How tenderly to crown
The brutal year
The clouds send something down
That one need not fear.
Men before perishing
See with unwounded eye
For once a gentle thing
Fall from the sky.


June 21, 2013

Roland Foresta


What is Roland Foresta? A new product? No. It's an installation of sorts that Roland is setting up in various stores across America. It's a "quiet and comfortable space in which you can select the instrument that perfectly suits your needs and lifestyle". This basically means a corner of the store that Roland has laid down a square of carpet, set up their pianos and added a fake tree. Am I hating on it? No! I love it! It's ridiculous! It makes no sense whatsoever. But I do think it's a feeble attempt to cover up the fact that their current product line is a snooze fest. 

I know that Ikutaro Kakehashi is obsessed with forward progression and all that, but give me a break! You can't reinvent guitar strings, they are what they are. The voltage controlled oscillator is the guitar strings of synthesizers. As soon as Kakehashi is no longer with us, I imagine Roland will take the plunge back into some serious analog gear. It's unfortunate that he can't embrace it though and be a part of it's wonderful return before he's gone -the way Bob Moog was. 

It's so strange, looking at the Roland Gaia SH-01, Kakehashi is fine with having an analog "style" layout (traditional oscilator, filter, amplifier architecture) but not with having the true analog circuitry to back it up. Who cares about 64 note polyphony? No one. No one will ever need to play that many notes at once. Roland, you don't even have to fully commit, take a hint from Korg and just dip a toe in. Make some little toys, see how you like it.

And that's the end of my rant for today. If you'd like to know more about Roland's amazing new marketing concept: 



May 30, 2013

Don't Analyze


I think listening to The Cranberries' song Analyze is a great way to start a day. I do that sometimes. Today I listened to it ten times in a row. It has such a positive message. I've always had a problem with analyzing things too much --mostly when someone isn't nice to me.  It can really put me in a bad mood. I just dwell on it and analyze every cross word they said. It happened recently and for the first time I said to myself "Why am I letting this effect me so much? What is the quakerly way to deal with this?" and I just let it go.  I don't know that I've ever done that before. It's good to know you can still learn and grow when you get to be my age. The only thing you have any control over is yourself, and if you can help it, why let petty things effect you? 

Here's a lovely version of Analyze that The Cranberries performed at the Vatican's Christmas Concert in 2001 with a full orchestra. It looks like Dolores is having a little trouble with her monitor at the beginning, but by the first chorus she pulls it together and slams it home!





I just bought The Cranberries new album Roses. It's actually over a year old now. I'm always a little afraid when and band goes away for so long and then comes back. It can never really be the same. But I love them too much to not listen.

I also got my first pair of glasses today. I don't have a terribly strong prescription and I could never really afford them before so I just went without. But now that I have them, gosh, everything is so clear. I think I'm hooked.

May 28, 2013

Matterhorn Lagoon


Here's a nice, old photo of the Matterhorn with the Monorail and Submarines all in the shot. If there was a city like this, I would live there. 

May 4, 2013

Zdeněk Miler - Měsíční Pohádka (1958)



A lovely little cartoon; sort of reminds me of The Nutcracker (one of my all time favorites). I think if I ever find myself with a lot of time on my hands I'd like to make an all electronic score for this. 

May 1, 2013

What's That Sound?


I think my sonic palette is increasing with age. I don't know if it's a natural occurrence or if I've forced it, but suddenly subtle nuances in sound are very important to me. I don't think I'll ever be one of those audiophile guys; the range of sounds that interest me is too narrow. But I do enjoy a much broader rage of sound than I used to and I'm interested in knowing how to create them.

Perhaps this will lead to some future articles here. I've been reading a lot lately, and experimenting, about synthesizing bowed, string sounds. I've also found that my taste for food has broadened with age. People always tell you, "You may not like it now, but you will when you're older.". I never believed it. I still preferred ice cream to anything else into my late twenties. And while I still love ice cream, I've also acquired a taste for dill pickles. Never thought that would happen! Just in time for summer too... what a blessing!

April 29, 2013

Rainy Days and Mondays and DIN Sync


Are things so boring that I must resort to talking about the weather? Well, actually I've always thought that weather was an interesting topic, and I think it increasingly with age (there is also an outside influence). Anyway, It got me thinking about how weather can effect one's mood. Usually on dreary, rainy days like today my mood reflects the weather, but I guess I'm just so content with the world right now that it hasn't. Also, I'm currently re-reading The Elements of Style (the second edition with the lovely introduction by E. B. White) because, as you've probably noticed, I have rather poor grammar and virtually no writing style. In the book the author talks about how we must always assume that the reader is in some sort of peril and it is the job of the writer to pull him out of it. So, in that regard I believe I've failed you, reader, with my last two posts. 

I, of all people, know how easily one's mood can shift; with my pitiful emotions always so close to the surface.  All it takes is something as common as a toothache or a broken heart and suddenly the world comes crashing down again. When that happens, the trick is to always be as productive as you can. Write a list of all the things you're going to accomplish in your day and then do them! I know when you're on the wrong side of joyfulness that all the songs you try to write sound awful and all the pictures you try to draw don't come out right. But keep trying! Something is bound to happen. And if nothing else, you can take some comfort in knowing that you didn't let your gloom get the best of you. 



What do I have on the books today? Some experiments involving my Garfield Electronics Mini Doc controlling my Roland CSQ-600 sequencer. After a little research last night I'm wondering if the mysterious "CSQ Sync" is just Sync24. If this is the case it could solve all my problems (or at least one of my problems). 

April 24, 2013

Oh, Virginia!


I must be getting old; I've really been enjoying my mornings. Today it was with Virginia Astley. She's the only new (well, new to me) artist that I've fallen in love with in the past five years. She really does exactly what she wants, doesn't she? How inspiring! It would seem such a simple concept to make music that sounds just as one thinks it should. Why are we so inhibited? I'm listening to her album 'Had I the Heavens'. It was hard for me to get past the perfection of 'Hope in a Darkened Heart', but I'm starting to think 'Heavens' is some of her best work. It's a little more understated than '...Darkened Heart'. And while I do miss Ryuichi Sakamoto's production, it's also nice to hear Virginia more in her own world. 

I've been hoping the cold weather would last, it's my favorite time of year. But it's hard not to enjoy the drops of golden sun today. I've got all the windows open and can hear a lawn mower off in the distance. It's so nice not living so deep in the city anymore. When I was a kid I used to think it would be strange to live so close to a cemetery. Now that I do, I rather enjoy it. It's very peaceful... especially with a hot cup of chai tea with honey and fresh ground cinnamon. Too much information, I'm sure.

Anyway, the point is: I love Virginia Astley. I think she's perfect in every way. And I'm glad that I'm me and I'm glad that you're you. We're all exactly who we're meant to be. The more we can accept that fact about ourselves and others the more we can live harmonious, happy, simple lives. We do have the heavens!


April 23, 2013

A Brisk Morning with Dance House Children




I woke up much earlier than usual today. It was still somewhat dark out as I made my way to work and it was cold too; maybe the last cold day we'll get. Surely the last day I'd be needing my big coat with the hood that zips up to cover half my face. While deciding what music to listen to on my walk I came across Dance House Children's 'Jesus' album. It's such a wonderful and somewhat jarring way to start one's day. The first song, 'Once Upon Your Lips', is mild enough for early morning listening but then we launch straight into the most intense song on the record: 'The Locket Maker'. It is so ridicules that a song with that title would sound the way it does. I was reminded of when I was a kid and discovered this music. It had tricked me into thinking that I loved electronic music --which of course I do, but I mean real electronic music with those pounding, four-on-the-floor kick drums, machine-gun-snare rolls and all sorts of needlessly harsh sounds.

Walking along the busy highway with the freezing wind in my face and 'A Lull In The Fairest Maple' blasting in my ears, I was instantly transported back to my basement bedroom when I was twelve years old. Having one of my "raves" which involved Christmas lights draped across my keyboards and me laying on the floor by myself looking up at my miniature disco ball spin around while I listened to Dance House Children. I was clearly confused by musical genres back then. I thought because Joy Electric had a song with the word 'disco' in the title that I enjoyed disco. I thought I was having a "rave" in my bedroom as I lazily blew soap bubbles in the constant flicker of a strobe light. Years later I'd see an episode of the news program 20/20 with Barbara Walters that would effectively dispel all of my delusional ideas about raves. 

I was so naive when I was young, and I look back on those years fondly; especially the years when I transitioned between my future plans of a life in the circus to my interests in electronic music. For me, discovering Ronnie Martin's music, Joy Electric and Dance House Children, must have been like when C.S. Lewis first read Phantastes by George Macdonald (because of course I'm very like C.S. Lewis). I used to miss it all so much and wish I could go back there. I thought life could never be as good as those innocent times. But I don't wish that anymore. Mornings like today remind me that I don't need to go back. It all still exists inside my head. I am still there. I'm still me. I haven't changed, there's just more of me. And it's hard to imagine now but I suppose when it's time for me to die, I'll be alright with that too. By then I'm sure I'll have had listened to Dance House Children millions of times and had enough perfect brisk mornings, sleepy kisses, cups of tea and buttery english muffins to cary me off, quite satisfied, into eternity.



April 16, 2013

Matterhorn Mountain & Tomorrowland


I've always thought it was so brilliant the way they put Matterhorn Mountain right on the border of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. It really adds a perfect amount of nature to an otherwise cold/futuristic landscape. Too bad the Matterhorn was never added to the Magic Kingdom's mountain range in FL.

April 9, 2013

Delia Derbyshire: Once a Queen of Narnia?


I recently came across this photo of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram just hanging out at a party it would seem. I was excited because it's the most recent photo I've seen of Delia --I've actually never seen a photo of her that wasn't in black & white. Isn't it amazing that this is what electronic music wizards used to look like? Where did we go wrong? I also came across this quote from Delia that I thought was rather interesting:

I came from - what they’d like to call themselves - an upper working class Catholic background in Coventry. I was there in the blitz and it’s come to me, relatively recently, that my love for abstract sounds [came from] the air-raid sirens: that’s a sound you hear and you don’t know the source of as a young child… then the sound of the “all clear” - that was electronic music. I mentioned the Catholic bit: I was taken to benediction as a child and it was all in Latin -plain song hymns in an abstract language. After the worst Blitz I was shifted to Preston, where my parents came from. It’s only today that I’ve realised that the sound of clogs on cobbles must have been such a big influence on me - that percussive sound of all the mill workers going to work at six o’clock in the morning."
Delia Derbyshire



It got me thinking.... Delia would have been just the right age to have been sent away to live with a professor during the war and potentially find doors to other worlds through wardrobes (...or whatever). It would certainly explain her "otherworldly" sensibilities.  Here's a photo of a young Delia in here would be Narnia days:


 


March 27, 2013

Sequencing, etc...


While I still believe my Roland CSQ-600 + TR-808 set up is the most fun and physical way to sequence music, I'm starting to realize that fun isn't always the most important thing. What is the most important thing? Variable gate times. So I'm finally getting around to working with my MC-500 (thanks to David for those program disks!). Still haven't gotten very far, but I'm excited about the possibilities. I'm hoping that using this in conjunction with my Jupiter-8 will help to strengthen the otherwise feeble bond between me and the JP-8.

I realized this will be a difficult switch from what I'm used to, so if I give up on the MC-500 I have a back up plan and that is the MC-202. I'll still have adjustable gate times but with not quite such intense editing. And that will work just fine because my wonderful friend Jon S. just made me a handy little din sync multiple. So now I can distribute a din sync signal from my MSQ-700 to my TR-808, MC-202 and Garfield Electronics mini doc. It will be nice to finally be able to have all three of those machines running at once. 

In other news: I've jumped on this chia seeds bandwagon. I don't understand how people can just mix it in with a glass of water and drink it. I've been mixing it in with my oatmeal in the morning. I like it alright but it does make my breakfast look like bird seed. 

March 13, 2013

Cascading Slopes LP, Plastiq Musiq



Pleased to announce that Plastiq Musiq will be releasing the Cascading Slopes album, Towards a Quaker View of Synthesizers, this spring. 


February 23, 2013

Sesame Street and Electronic Music

I've been thinking (and dreaming) a lot lately about Sesame Street. I was obsessed with Sesame Street as a kid and then maybe outgrew it --but only for a very brief time. By the age of ten (when I decided to officially begin my career in puppetry) I was full blown back into it. 



 I just finished reading Caroll Spinney's The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch) and I'm currently reading Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. The other day I came across a passage in Street Gang that caught my attention:


Here are a few examples of what they're talking about:






Now, I don't know if we're meant to take that passage literally --that Jim Henson owned his own personal Moog synthesizer. But it is not outside the realm of possibility. Enter Herb Deutsch (stage right)...


Herb served as Director of Marketing and Sales at Moog Music from 1979-83, and also as a marketing and development consultant to the Roland Corporation.

But Deutsch wasn't simply a Marketing Director for Moog, he helped invent the synthesizer as we know it today. He has been credited with the idea of using a keyboard interface with a synthesizer and he composed the first piece of music ever for the Moog synthesizer (Jazz Images - A Worksong and Blues).

So how does this all tie together? What is the proverbial glue used in the book-binding of this most intriguing of all historical, electronic music mysteries? 

Well, it is a little know fact that Herb Deutsch was also a marketing and development consultant to...  Jim Henson's Muppets.



[Grover with the ARP 2600]

So you see, it's all true. There was an electronic music conspiracy behind Sesame Street to brain wash the youth of the 1970's and 80's. I'll leave you with this one final piece of concrete, water tight evidence:


Case closed.