August 19, 2015

The Electric Mayhem and Vintage Roland Stuff

I was just watching The Muppet Movie (1979) and I noticed something interesting...

Here we have Zoot with a Roland TR-77 drum machine.

And here's a shot of the whole gang with a Roland Space Echo just above Scooter, and the 77 is just under it. 

I used to watch this movie all the time, but I probably hadn't seen it in about ten years. I noticed all sorts of things that never occurred to me before. Maybe I should write a review. Would you like that?

July 2, 2015

Sonia Manzano Retiring from Sesame Street After 44 Years

Sonia Manzano the actress who played Maria on Sesame Street for the past 44 years is retiring. It makes me kind of sad. I grew up with Sonia, she was always my favorite human on Sesame Street. She always seemed more real than any other humans on the show. She had deeper emotions; she would get frustrated and angry sometimes like that amazing scene at a grouch restaurant with Sandra Bernhard in Sesame's feature film Follow That Bird. And sometimes she would get legitimately sad: there's another scene in Follow The Bird where Maria is reading a letter from Big Bird that ends with Big Birds asking "What's wrong with me?". I remember once I was watching that movie with my little sister (I think I was about fifteen years old and she was about six), when we got to the part where Maria reads the letter my sister stopped watching it because she said it was too sad.

Looking back now it's interesting to realize how beautiful Maria is - something you don't really notice as a kid. But she really is stunning. She even inspired this Buzz Feed post a few years ago called Maria from Sesame Street Was Hot. But really, it's all about her personality. She was never a cardboard cut out of a person. She was a person who would get annoyed, scared, upset, happy, sad, etc... and she'd always learn from her mistakes. 

Here is an amazing scene where Maria is nervous about asking for a raise at the fix-it shop:

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch Follow That Bird. It was robbed at the 1985 academy awards.

Sonia, thank you for all the years and sincerity you've invested in children's education. You are a national treasure!

June 30, 2015

June 7, 2015

Grey Town, Lilith, etc.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in that grey town in C.S. Lewis' Great Divorce. I become more and more specific in what I like that everything outside of that narrow window is completely uninteresting to me. And this pushes me away from other people and closer to myself. I think it's a good thing for an artist, but very bad for a person. And since I am both (in a lose sense),  it's hard to find the right balance. Sometimes I think I've found it and then I sink into a reclusive state for days on end and feel somewhat crushed by my own... well, I don't know what really. My own tastes? My own self? But it's hard to want to continue relationships with people when all you ever had in common with them was drinking a little more than one should. I think it's important to continually experience new things, learn and grow. But I don't think that necessarily means taking on new friends and relationships and more than one can manage. Life!

This Friday the C.S. Lewis Society will be discussing George MacDonald's Lilith. I've just started reading it. So far it is my favorite thing I've ever read by MacDonald. Almost has a Great Divorce feel to it.

June 5, 2015

Roland SH-5 Computer Section

Interesting that the CV & Gate inputs and outputs of a Roland SH-5 are under the heading of "COMPUTER".

Corita Kent

I'm really obsessed with Corita Kent right now. Thanks to René Pérez for introducing me! Here is a terrific little documentary about her and her artwork:

I love when she says "I think assignments are limitations and helpful in so far as they are limitations because they allow you to do something instead of everything. Assignments make a choice and say 'work within this area' and that in a sense frees you, you are free not to do everything."

I've always agreed with that logic. And it's one of the reasons I make music the way I do. There is a real freedom in working within limitations. Because you are free to do "something instead of everything". No one could ever do everything! So, it's nice to narrow your aperture and do "something" really well. And I think the eloquent way she explains this is great for young people and students to understand and appreciate the idea of an assignment, rather than to dislike it. 

Rosy Thomas' Production Design for Look Around You

I don't know if you know of this show Look Around You. It is really wonderful. Here's a little clip from one of my favorite episodes, MATHS:

Anyway, I just stumbled upon Rosy Thomas' website and saw these terrific still shots of the production design she did for the series. She really nailed it!

See more at her website:

June 2, 2015


So, I saw Tomorrowland in IMAX and I loved it. I mean, this movie is deeply flawed (how could it not be?) but it's just so much fun. Athena (pictured above) was by far my favorite part. I wish they had showed more of her back story. 

June 1, 2015

Renaissance - Closer Than Yesterday

Just discovered this lovely song. Annie Haslam's voice is the perfect blend of Julie Andrews, Hayley Mills and Nico. Bless her!

PQMQ. Soviet Remixes

Here are three remixes from Plastiq Musiq artists of songs from the new Soviet album. I really love the Nikmis remix. It's very plastiq-y.

Download for free at

May 7, 2015

R is for Roland - a Roland Book

A few friends have sent me messages today about this book. It looks very nice. Not sure if I'm going to get it or not. But there is a limited supply so I'd better decide quickly! I'm leaning towards no, but I'll probably live to regret it. Life!

April 29, 2015

I'm Super Busy

This is the first week in a long time that I have something planed for every night. For someone who doesn't get out much, it's a little overwhelming. Here's what's going on: tonight I'm going to the Quaker meeting house to play board games and have a discussion about death. Tomorrow I'm going to a class called Electronic Voices: The Physics of Sound. On Friday Peter and I are going to the movies. Saturday we're going to a concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, the concert it called WITH LOVE to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, I'm super busy, but all nice things. 

Update: the class tomorrow night has been postponed a few weeks. So, that will give me a little time to collect my thoughts about death. 

April 22, 2015

Birds of North America by PQMQ. Workshop

I am excited to finally announce an album that I've been working on for over a year now. It was made with field recordings of bird sounds and analog synthesizers. I'm delighted with how it all turned out. My fellow members of the PQMQ. Workshop really delivered. And I've also realized a life long dream of making a song with Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer). Stay tuned for more details!

April 16, 2015

Mini Electronic Music Library

I have a little collection of electronic music books I keep in my studio. I thought it would be nice to post a picture of them here. 

In other news; tomorrow I'm off to the Midwest Analog Synthesizer Meet Up with David, Jon and Andrew. This is my second year going. Kind of excited, I think I'm going to take a few modules with me. Stay tuned for a full report!

April 15, 2015

Roland System-500

Well, it's finally happened! Roland is making actual analog synthesizer modules. They are eurorack size and will supposedly be released this summer for around $300 each. Most of them are double modules (two VCOs two filters, two ENV). They sort of look like a hybrid between the System 100m and System 700. These are being made in collaboration with the Malekko company and you can see the small Malekko "M" logo on the bottom of the modules. 

My first thought was that I was a little bummed that there was no pre delay on the LFO part of the phaser module. That very natural singing sound of delayed vibrato has been a staple of almost of all of Roland's vintage gear (including the System 100m).  But it looks like that feature does exist in the System-500 - buried in the middle of the Envelope module. My only other complaint is that the high pass filter is just a switch of three different modes. Would have been nice to have it's own dedicated slider or knob for full control. 

All in all I'm pretty thrilled about these. Welcome back Roland!

Here is Roland's official statement: 

"Roland is also pleased to announce the development of the System-500, an all-new, fully analogue modular synthesizer based on two of the most revered electronic instruments of all time - the System-700 and System-100m. Designed exclusively for Eurorack, the System-500 delivers classic Roland sound with all the advantages and reliability of a modern instrument."

April 9, 2015

Il Guardiano Del Faro

It's been ages since I've found any new (new to me!) music that I've enjoyed. This stuff is really hitting the spot!

April 3, 2015

BBC4's Britain On Film, Featuring Daphne Oram

Here's a great little feature of Daphne Oram in her home. Colorized too!

March 29, 2015

And One More Thing About the Roland CSQ-600...

This is just a fun little tip, but if you're having trouble playing a line by hand (maybe it's just a little too complicated for your intermediate keyboarding skills), you can program the notes into a CSQ sequencer and then all you have to worry about it playing the gate, and not the notes. You could do this by hooking your keyboard gate output to the CSQ step input and then just hit the keys in whatever rhythm you like. Or just press the forward step button on the CSQ. I guess this is an electronic music studio "life hack".

March 28, 2015

Sonic Maps

Years ago when I started Mild Slopes I felt like there weren't any blogs about old fashion (or, shall we say classic?) electronic music that also had much of a personal touch. They all seemed like they were written by computer programs - characterless explanations of gear, links to auctions, or just pages and pages of photos. I thought it would be nice to add a human element to the thing. Well, I'm happy to say that there is now one other that I know of. Sonic Maps definitely has my vote for the best new blog award. I actually think of Sonic Maps as a sort of sister blog to Mild Slopes. But make no mistake, it is not just more of the same. Sonic Maps has a personality and spirit that is all it's own! 

So check it out for yourself, subscribe! It is frequently updated and delightful:

March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

I woke up this morning at the Quaker meeting house in Manhattan to the sound of bagpipes. What a nice way to start one's day! It's the first day of spring and suddenly it is snowing here, seems like that's always how these things go. Anyway, I've decided to start working on a "switched-on" version of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet. I actually started it a little yesterday. Today I'm trying to make some real progress with it so that I'll continue on with it. Who knows what will happen, but it's a fine project for me right now. 

March 16, 2015

Moog Sticker

This Moog sticker arrived in the mail today with no explanation, there was nothing in the envelope except the sticker. I guess Moog Music Inc just thought it was important that I have this sticker.  It's a nice sticker and I'm glad they sent it to me. Thanks Moog!

Walt Dinsey's Fantasia - Deleted Scene: Clair de Lune

March 14, 2015

Different Covers

When I was a kid and I'd go to a library or book store I'd never been to before, the first thing I would always do was see what different covers they had for the Chronicles of Narnia. There were so may different covers (especially back in those days) and they all fascinated me. I came across this cover that I've never seen before today and it reminded me of this.

March 13, 2015

Korg 770

This little guy came into my studio a couple weeks ago. I actually traded a Roland MC-202 for it. I've never really been too excited about Korg products. I had an EX-800 and a DW-8000 when I was a kid but nether of them are much fun to play with (though I did think the EX-800 was somewhat interesting and sometimes imagine getting another). Anyway, I'm really loving this 770. The shape and size of it are just perfect. I mean, this is really what you see when you close your eyes and imagine an analog monosynth. And then the way things are labeled, there are controls called "traveler", "singing level", "scale noise". It's actually a little confusing at first, and I've played tons of different synthesizers. But it's that bewilderment that makes it so exciting. It makes it seem more experimental than most synthesizers, more radiophonic perhaps. 

And it sounds great! I mean really great. It's strange because the controls are somewhat limited: just a switch with two setting for the resonance level on the filter, same with LFO and envelope amount. All sort of really strange things that should be limiting, but somehow don't seem to matter so much. I don't use this expresion much (because it's kind of stupid) but this synthesizer truly is more than the sum of it's parts. 

Here is a great little piece from S.O.S about this era of Korg:

And here is a song that I suspect must be using the 770, if not... it's channeling it's spirit for sure.

March 12, 2015

Scotch "Living Letters" Magnetic Tape

These living letters were meant to be sent in the mail and even came in plastic, mailable cases. How wonderful! I wonder if something like this is what the "Abominatron" explanation was recorded on that Bob Moog sent to Herbert Deutsch?

I was trying to find a clip of that to play for you here, but I can't seem to find one online. Well, you can listen to one on the iTunes website here:

It's track number two. I do suggest buying the track though, it is well worth the 99¢.

March 10, 2015

A Petition to Publish Delia Derbyshire's music from the BBC Sound Archive

Someone has started a petition to have Delia's unreleased work published. I can certainly get on board with that! Looks like they're still a ways off from their goal, so please sign and spread this around however you can. 

March 5, 2015

Sir Ian McKellen in Narnian Attire Designed by Pauline Baynes 1957

Just kidding. But in another universe where Pauline did designed costumes for Narnia stage productions, couldn't you imagine?

This is actually a photo of Ian Mckellen in 1957, but as Henry V. You can follow him on instagram for more like this:

I think Ian is the all time winner of best use of the TBT "throw back thursday" hash tag.

February 27, 2015

Joy Electric Melody Vinyl

This finally arrived, a couple weeks ago actually. I'm pretty thrilled with how it turned out. What a record!

Get your copy, while you still can at

I saw Ronnie last sunday. Justin Jolley and I were in Ohio for the weekend visiting family and Jon Sonnenberg (who is practically family at this point!), and we decided to drop in on Ronnie at his new church. We talked a bit about some future release ideas. We have some interesting stuff up our sleeve! After that we went back to Jon's place and played a wicked game of scrabble.

February 6, 2015

Morton Subotnick - Butterfly #1

I love the concept of this record. Four pieces played on the Buchla Electric Music Box, each one a different butterfly. I don't think I love the execution though. It doesn't really sound like a butterfly to me. It sounds like a boring, sort of radiophonic drone. When I think of a butterfly I think of frantic motion! 

As with all of Subotnick's stuff, I try to imagine what it must have been like to hear it back when it was released. Probably a bit more exciting. And I don't say that to excuse how boring it is! Just to give some slight perspective, or ideas for a different perspective. I remember when I found a cassette tape of his Silver Apples of the Moon when I was in high school. I was pretty excited about it.  which reminds me, I've been meaning to post Wendy Carlos' review of Silver Apples from Electronic Music Review Magizine. It's a scathing review, but also somehow very nice and complimentary? Only Wendy.

January 28, 2015

Pacific Fast Mail Sound System II

This is one of the most wonderful, interesting, strange things I've ever seen. It's a synthesizer that's only purpose is to imitate train sounds. At first I couldn't understand what this could possibly be for, and I'm still not certain but I suppose it must be for the serious (very serious) model train collector - which, will probably be me and Peter someday. 

Turns out Matrix Synth did a post on this years ago. So, rather than repost their pictures I'll just direct you to said post:

It is so interesting because mixed in with the more common synthesizer parameters such as cutoff, tone, echo and reverb you also have throttle, exhaust, wheel noise and bell.

There's also a module that plays three cassette tapes on a loop called the "Quadratape 3 Player"

January 15, 2015

Ginger Is The New Pumpkin

For years I've been obsessed with pumpkin flavored things. Ice cream, soap, eggnog (yes, there is pumpkin flavored eggnog! Thank goodness.). But the new flavor of the season is ginger. I don't know if it has something to do with my developing adult palate or if it's just a wonderful flavor. There is a ginger breakfast cereal that I just can't get enough of. But anyway, here is a picture of me having a nice cup of ginger tea this afternoon.