Thursday, February 11, 2016

Audio Note

The photo below is from a little Mardi Gras performance in a local French restaurant. Because of space considerations, we had just four players, along with a couple of guest vocalists. On the left you can see one of the speakers, and just a bit of the other can be seen near the bottom of the wine rack on the right. The mixer is right behind me, where I could easily turn around a tweak the settings, and the mics for the guest vocalists are on top of the speaker on the left. The mic for my occasional vocals is attached to my music stand and the foam cover is just barely visible above my music books.

The main thing I want to point out is how the speakers are set up so they work at least as much as monitors for us as they do to put sound out to the audience. Since I started performing publicly about ten years ago, I've discovered a lot of people have been traumatized by overly loud sound systems, which sometimes are so loud one can't carry on a conversation, and sometimes actually hurt one's ears they're so loud.

The way they're set up here, if they're too loud, we the players will be the first to know. The sweet spot for the sound was right in front of us and a bit to the right. People siting at tables in that area said the mix was very good. I recorded the gig with the recorder up near the tin ceiling in the corner of the room back above the left shoulder of the person taking this picture. From there the vocals, the only thing amplified, are not as present in the mix. The catch is, had I turned up the sound enough for the mix to be good there, people would have had to yell to converse. So there's never a perfect solution. 

Monday, February 8, 2016


Thanks to Kyle Gann friending me on FaceBook, a lot of new music has come my way. I particularly like this one for two reasons. 

First, there's the marvelous slowness of it. I've always thought there was room for a lot more very slow music, and I even made a CD trying to fill that gap, but this piece is way slower than anything I can remember encountering, while not becoming boring. It has the effect on me of recalibrating my sense of time, getting me to realize I'm not as calm and relaxed as I'd like to be. While it's almost ambient, there's always the sense of meant structure (at least to me).

The other thing is that this piece recalibrates my ears. By the end of it, I feel my ears are hearing much more delicately than usual - that there's greater depth to the soft sounds than when the piece starts. It's as if my ears are relaxing along with my time sense.

Terry Jennings's 1960 piece for solo piano 'For Christine Jennings', played by John Tilbury. From the CD 'Lost Daylight', which features music for piano and electronics by Terry Jennings and John Cage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shamanic American Music

Since I think that music can have beneficial effects, I also have to accept it can have negative ones, and that there are probably cases where whether the effect is positive or negative depends upon one's perspective.

It's also the case that music has had its shamanic uses down through the millennia, and my feeling is it probably depends on the shaman as to its effects.

This video popped up a few days ago, and to me, it's an obvious shamanic use of music. I'd known about this event, but had no idea Jean Luc Goddard had filmed it.