Music

Why Harpsichord?

“All the pieces are performed on an instrument called the harpsichord – have you heard of it?” This is me, describing my Canons album to someone whose musical interests I don’t know. If the person turns out to be a classical music buff, they might be slightly offended by my assumption that they could possibly not know what a harpsichord is. On the other hand, if the person isn’t “into classical,” they might look at me with a blank stare, if they don’t just assume I’m using a fancy word for… maybe.. the harp.

Considering that my canons can also be performed on piano and could be arranged for other instruments altogether, I wanted to say a few words about why I sought the harpsichord’s particular voice for this project.

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Diversions

It’s really not April Fool’s Day

I’m going to try my best to persuade you that today is not April Fool’s Day. You might recall that I’ve tried this before, and from my perspective things went well, so if past is prelude, this is going to go great. My new arguments? First, April Fool’s Day should occur in April but many people consider the current month to be huhtikuu. You may have been told that it’s April Fool’s Day but if that were so, you should expect that people are fooling you. In fact, people seem to shout “April Fool” immediately after doing something discrediting. Although The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC are reporting that today is April 1, 2017, these have all been declared to be fake news organizations by the President of the United States. Today is April Fool’s Day if this sentence is right — I’m sure we can agree on that! – but this sentence is not right because I assert that pigs are turquoise. April Fool’s Day probably happened on November 8, 2016 and it hasn’t been a year since then. Proponents disagree as to whether the day should belong to one or many fools (April Fool’s Day or April Fools’ Day), and while there’s ongoing controversy, celebrations should be deferred. April Fool’s Day is not a public holiday in any country so it can’t “be” April Fool’s Day in any official sense. Besides, the only kind of institution that would establish a holiday for hoaxes is not to be taken seriously. And given the overwhelming preponderance of non-hoaxes that have already occurred today, we should call it April Seriousness Day. Lastly, it can’t be April Fool’s Day because it’s actually International Edible Book Day. Today is the day when people eat books. And if you still think there’s truth in April Fool’s Day being today, perhaps you didn’t hear the news of truth’s passing?

Music

Gamelan

Announcing the release of my Escher’s Drum EP album.

You may have already seen the video of percussionist Gavin Ryan performing this piece on bongo, tom-tom, and cymbal, but Gavin went further and created a second version using Indonesian Gamelan instruments, available now for the first time.

The use of tuned percussion transformed a purely rhythmic composition into one that’s filled with active melodic motifs. In a wonderful surprise, these motifs turned out to have an intentional, composed quality to them even though they arose as a direct consequence of assigning one fixed pitch to each part. Gavin’s experiment uncovered a totally new dimension of this piece that’s not visible in the score, and in so doing he created a unique sound where traditional Gamelan meets the mathematical arena of rhythmic tiling canons.

The album consists of two tracks, the drumset version and the Gamelan version of Escher’s Drum. Great care has gone into the recording, mixing, and mastering to achieve the best possible sound, so if you like the streaming preview, please download the full-quality tracks.

Photography, Places

Condos

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While Gothic arches, reaching upward, symbolize aspiration to heaven, here we see them reach towards a substituted objective, one that is more immediate: luxury condos, burgeoning above what was once Holy Trinity Church on Shawmut Avenue in Boston’s South End. A wish has been answered, but it is not the wish of those who prayed here. This photo, captured at night, shows the construction site aglow.

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Music

Audio Mastering

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I thought I’d share what I learned in the process of having my Canons album mastered. First of all, what is audio mastering? The credits of almost every album say “mastered by so and so,” but what does that mean? For much of my listening life, I’ve had the vague notion that mastering is about refining the sound of album before you release it. In fact that’s basically right, but there are some important distinctions to make.

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Photography

Storefront Apparitions

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Three images from two walks in Union City, New Jersey, March 10-11, 2017.

Mannequins in storefront windows are a perennial fascination of street photographers, including the present blogger. Mannequins by themselves are eerily intriguing, and combined with street life reflected in window glass, they seem like alien observers of the human world. Though these immobile but well-dressed window-dwellers are an obliging subject, it is not every dayfor me at leastthat an attempt to photograph them succeeds in capturing the full extent of their ghostliness.

To be precise, only the first two images show mannequins; the third shows a praying statuette for sale in a religious supply store.

On the technical front, these images have had some color adjustments but no other editing. The effects are achieved in lens, by shooting with shallow depth of field and focusing on the distant reflected material while blurring the forms on either side of the windowpane.

Music

Searching for “X”

As I was preparing my Canons album for release, the distribution service I’m using asked me to name several famous artists I “sound like.” I listed Bach first (thinking of his canons from the Art of Fugue and the Goldberg Variations), and then Bartok (thinking of his contrapuntal pieces with nonstandard tonalities in Mikrokosmos).

For any musician with an appropriately deep reverence for Bach and any semblance of humility, it would seem outrageously immodest to say that one “sounds like” the master himself. (Similarity to Bartok is not a claim to be made casually either.)

But I was being asked to liken myself to a famous composer—the question had the requirement of self-flattery built into to it—so I complied. My answer prompted me to reflect on what my relationship to Bach actually is, and to what extent sounding like Bach has been a goal in my efforts.

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