Posts by: Mike Michaels

Verizon FiOS and other must-haves

When you think about working on music at home you typically think of killer gear–maybe a $6k Bottle from Blue Microphones or the newest version of ProTools HDX.  It’s easy to think of the hardware as the most significant portion of your studio but the reality of things is that comparatively speaking you’re not going to spend nearly as much time using those as you are these three things: A super-fast internet connection, a computer that can handle having a dozen resource-heavy applications open, and a work station that makes those fourteen hour days feel like nothing.

1) Verizon FiOS

It’s fun to fantasize about having a T3 connection running in and out of your basement but unless your wife is bringing home the big bucks that’s probably not going to happen.  Getting even the most basic home version of FiOS is going to be more than suitable for your sending of 30GB files around.  It’s blazing fast and if you’re able to dig up a Verizon promotion code then you’ll only be paying about $100/month down from about $150/month.  Other services, like AT&T’s U-Verse are also excellent if you’re out in the country a little bit more. I’m not sure why Verizon doesn’t extend their FiOS service that far out of major cities but for whatever reason they don’t.

2) MacBook Pro

There’s really no point in extolling the greatness of this machine.  It’s appropriate for everyone, can do everything, and somehow retains its cache as the “insider” machine despite being the market dominatrix.  If you don’t have one then you’re probably not doing something right.

3) Work Station

It’s easy to see why people skimp on this but when you’re sitting down in the same spot for days and days at a stretch you want to be comfortable and in a work environment that’s conducive to getting stuff done.  For about $1800, you can get something like this which is great if you don’t need an audio keyboard. For something a little more budget-friendly, you can pick this guy for about $400. If you have your own recommendations I’d love to read them in the comment box!

Laws of Nature

laws_of_natureFirst let me say that I cannot claim that this post is my own creation.  I was doing some house cleaning on the site and found what lies below buried in the “drafts” folder.  It was initially set up in a table format; however the table fit poorly on the page; and when I say “poorly,” that is an understatement – which is probably why it never made it out of the “draft” box.  Anyway, I liked the content and sought to clean it up so that it could be published – enjoy.

Grundman’s Law:  Under the most carefully controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, humidity and other variables, the system will perform as it damn well pleases.  (Bernie Grundman; Mastering Engineer & Educator).

Knight’s Law:  A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the pants.  (Mickey Knight; Mickey Knight, Diacoustic Lab, purveyor of styli, lacquer blanks, and Gear, and creator of this list).

Hidley’s Law:  Nothing is impossible for a man who doesn’t have to do the work.  (Tom Hidley, Studio designer, Westlake Audio).

Duncan’s Law:  When in doubt, mumble.  (Kent Duncan, Kendun Recorders. Recording and Mastering Facility).

Evan’s Law:  Every man has a scheme that will not work.

Hulko’s Law:  A theory is better than its explanation.  (Lee Hulko, mastering engineer, Sterling Sound, one of the original owners).

Storyk’s Law:  The amount of work done varies inversely with the amount of time spent in the office.  (John Storyk, Studio Designer).

Woram’s Law:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”   Propounded by Sci-Fi writer, Arthur C. Clarke, 1962.  (John Woram, Engineer and Author).

Nordahl’s Law:  Everything goes wrong at once.  (Tore Nordahl, Studer & Neve. Now a consultant).

Emmerman’s Law:  In a crisis that forces a choice to be made among alternative courses of action, people tend to choose the worst possible course.  (Mack Emmerman, Criteria Studios, Miami FL).

Tarsia’s 1st Law:  The obvious answer is always overlooked.   (Joe Tarsia, Sigma Sound, Philadelphia)

Tarsia’s 2nd Law:  When booking recording studios, pick any two out of three:  Fast, Cheap, or Good.  (Mike Tarsia, Sigma Sound, Philadelphia – 2009).
– You can get your product fast and cheap … but it isn’t going to sound good.
– You can get it cheap and good … but it won’t be done fast.
– You can get it good and fast … but it won’t be cheap.

Snoddy’s Law:  It works better if you plug it in.  (Glenn Snoddy, recording engineer. Discoverer of Fuzz as an effect. Fuzztone Origin):

Harrison’s Law:  There is always an easy answer to every problem – neat, plausible and wrong.  (Dave Harrison, Harrison consoles, inventor of inline console topology)

Meadow’s Law:  It won’t work.  (Glenn Meadows, Masterfonics)

Westlake’s Law:  The first 90% of the project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90%.  (Westlake Audio, purveyor of Gear and studio systems).

Harned’s Law:  Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can.  (Jeep Harned; founder, MCI)

Schnee’s Law:  Anything that begins well will end badly.  It is important to note, the converse of this law is not true.  (Bill Schnee, Engineer and Producer).

Stone’s Law:  Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows.  (Chris Stone, founder and owner of the Record Plant, aka Farber’s Fourth Law).

Golden’s Law:  A man with one watch knows what time it is.  A man with two watches is never sure.  (John Golden, mastering engineer: Artisan Sound Recorders, Kendun, K-Disc, and John Golden Mastering.aka Segall’s Law – 2009).

Perry’s Law:  If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.  (Ken Perry, Mastering Engineer – 2009).

Garay’s Law:  An object will fall so as to do the most damage.  (Val Garay, Engineer and Producer).

Kelsey’s Law:  Make three correct guesses consecutively and you will establish yourself as an expert.

Lightner’s Law:  If it happens, it must be possible.  (Bill Lightner: mastering engineer @ K-Disc.-2009).

Steele’s Law:  Social innovations tend to the level of minimum well being.

Guy’s Law:  The probabillity of a given event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability.  (Richard Guy(?)).

Moyssiadis’ Law:  As soon as you mention somethng, if it’s good, it goes away; if it’s bad, it happens.  (Dave Moyssiadis, mastering and recording engineer – 2009(?)).

Capps’ Law:  If it can find a way to wear out faster, it will.  (Capps makes disc recording styli).

Lippell’s Law:  If a research project is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.

Neumann’s Law:  Whoever has the gold makes the rules.  (Georg Neumann, microphone God.(see also: Temmer’s Law)).

Calbi’s Law:  Nothing is as easy as it looks.  (Greg Calbi, mastering engineer: The Cutting Room @ Record Plant NYC, Sterling Sound, Masterdisc. – 2009).

Marino’s Law:  Everything takes longer than you think it will.  (George Marino, mastering engineer: The Cutting Room @ Record Plant NYC, Sterling Sound.- 2009).

Todrank’s Law:  There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who do not.  (Bob Todrank, purveyor of Gear).

Brosious’ Law:  The components you have will expand to fill the available space.  (Ham Brosious, then with Audiotechniques, Gear Purveyor. Now with Digibid, Gear Purveyor of the new Millennia).  Ebay ended up eating Digibid’s lunch; they are now toast.

Ingoldsby’s Law:  You cannot determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.  (Brian Ingoldsby; MCA).

Merten’s Law:  The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything.  Stability is achieved when you spend all your time reporting on the nothing you are doing.

Sax’s Law:  All laws are basically false.  (Doug Sax, The Mastering Lab).

Zentz’s Law:  Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.  (Alan Zentz, Mastering Engineer and studio owner).

Ludwig’s Law:  The other line moves faster.  (Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer).

Dozier’s Law:  Negative expectations yield negative results.  Positive expectations yield negative results.  (LaMont Dozier, Producer & Songwriter).

Rettinger’s Law:  Nothing is ever a complete failure.  It can always serve as a bad example.  (Michael Rettinger, Acoustician).

Ricker’s Law:  Experiments should be reproducible – They should all fail the same way.  (Stan Ricker, Mastering Engineer, half-speed mastering God).

Boden’s Law:  If an experiment works, you must be using the wrong experiment.

Hansch’s Law:  Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. (Jo Hansch; Mastering Engineer: Festival Records -Australia, Kendun, Artisan Sound Recorders, K-Disc, Dinkum – 2009)

Eberle’s Laws:  (1) Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.  Appears to be part of Murphy’s Laws.  
                           (2) No matter what results are expected, someone is always willing to take it.  
                           (3) No matter what occurs, someone believes it happened according to his pet theory.  
                           (4) No matter what the result, someone is always eager to misinterpret it. 

Fulginiti’s Law:  In a heirarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion.  (Greg Fulginiti; Mastering Engineer, Sterling Sound, Artisan Sound Recorders, Masterdisk)

Reese’s Law:  There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one.  (Mike Reese; Mastering Engineer: The Mastering Lab-2009)

Leek’s Law:  An experiment may be considered if no more than half your data must be discarded to obtain correspondence with your theory.

Cato’s Law:  The merchandise you need the quickest will be shipped the slowest way.

Gray’s Law:  In any collection of data, the figures that are obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, contain the errors.  (Kevin Gray; Mastering Engineer).  Corrollary 1: No one you ask for help will see the error either.  Corrollary 2: Any nagging intruder who stops by with unsought advice will spot it immediately.

Simpson’s Law:  There is a quantity which, when multiplied by, divided by, added to or subtracted from the answer you get, gives you the answer you should have gotten.

Berra’s Law:  In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.  (Attributed to Yogi Berra).

Anderson’s Law: Nothing takes 5 minutes.  (Jim Anderson; 2009 AES Past President)

Karl’s Law:  When time is of the essence, all fixes have failed, and the show must go, then: one man’s buzz is another man’s line noise.  (Karl Johnson; Audio Engineer)

Hufker’s Law:  If at first you don’t succeed, you’re using the wrong hammer.  (Eugene Hufker Contributed by his son, Barry Hufker Recording St. Louis, MO)

Stamler’s Law:  80% of the problems in audio are caused by a bad connection someplace. (Contributed by Paul Stamler).

Stuart’s Law:  The worse they are, the more verses they know.  (John Stuart, recordist of more folksingers than you can shake a stick at).

Temmer’s Law:  If I don’t make or sell it, it isn’t any good.  (Stephen Temmer, Gotham Audio, importer of Neumann  Microphones.).

Wilcox’s Law:  In any endeavor, two thirds of the work is done by one-third of the participants.  (Peter Wilcox; Wannabe dobro player (by his own admission)).

Blasingame’s 1st Law:  When operating in the vacuum of a studio, time moves faster than anywhere else in the Universe.  (Joe Blasingame; Blasingame Audio Productions St. Louis, MO)

Blasingame’s 2nd Law:  No matter how fast and effective an audio engineer works, to the paying client it’s like molasses.  (Joe Blasingame).

Simpson’s Law:  When you reach for the knob, the _____ player will stop playing.  (Keith Simpson).

Jaeger’s Law:  The evaluation sample is always in the 99th percentile of the performance range.  (Rene Jaeger; Analog Design Engineer, Loud Technologies)

Welti’s Law:  If you’ve worked through the problem forwards and backwards, checked your math, consulted your intellectual superiors, and made invocations to the Gods, and still your hardware setup is giving the wrong result, you will find that it’s a bad cable.(Todd Welti; Staff Scientist, Harman International).

 

In the spirit of honesty and fairness, upon getting the above all spiffy, I did some searching on the internet to fix some missing info, and found that these laws, as well as more, are already on www.aes.org – I just want to give credit where credit is due.

Patchwerk: control a real massive modular synth from your browser

In 1973, Media Lab associate professor Joe Paradiso was an undergraduate at Tufts University. It was a time, he says, when information and parts for DIY projects were scarce, and digital synthesizer production was on the rise. But, he decided to tackle creating a modular synth. Paradiso gathered information from manufacturers’ data sheets and hobbyist magazines he found in public libraries. He taught himself basic electronics, scrounged for parts from surplus stores and spent a decade and a half building modules and hacking consumer keyboards to create the synth, which he completed in the 1980s.

That synthesizer, probably the world’s largest with more than 125 modules, is now on display in the MIT Museum.  Through the magic of the interwebs, Joe has created a system that lets you control the synth through your browser!

Patchwerk lets you control a massive analog synthesizer from your browser, and streams the results back to you and everyone connected. The interface on this site is linked to a physical synth cabinet connected to the world’s largest homemade modular synth, currently housed at the MIT Museum. Turn a knob here, and Patchwerk will turn a motorized knob on the cabinet. If someone at the Museum grabs a knob, you’ll see it turn too.

Watch Joe describe the synth:

You can try out the synth right here (just enter your name, and switch to “control”), and you can find out more about it here.

If you don’t feel like playing with it, you can hear a live 24h stream of the synth right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(3/11/2012 Update:  Unfortunately though this link no longer works)

How to tour in a band – by someone who’s done it lots

Multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Smog and more) has gained a cult following in the last couple of years for looking like a hirsute Viking and being a general percussion bad-ass in whichever band he’s currently playing in.

I found this post on http://beenlookingforthemagic.tumblr.com/post/1427157150/how-to-tour-in-a-band-or-whatever-by-thor-harris and thought it struck a chord (pun intended) for any young band taking it on the road for the first time.

How to Tour in a Band or Whatever
by Thor Harris

1-Don’t Complain. Bitching, moaning, whining is tour cancer. If something is wrong fix it or shut the fuck up you fucking dick. goddamn.

2-If you fart, claim it.

3-Don’t Lose shit. Everybody loses shit. Don’t fucking do it. Asshole.

4-Don’t fuck anyone in the band. There are tons of people to fuck who are not in this band. Dumbass.

5-If you feel like shit all the time, drink less beer at the gig. You will play better & feel better. What are you… a child? Some have the endurance for self abuse. Most don’t.

6-Remember the soundman’s name. He will do a better job.

7- Eat oranges. Cures constipation & prevents colds.

8-Masturbate. Duh… Where & when? Be creative. You’re an artist right?

9-If YOU can’t carry your suitcase 3 blocks, it’s too goddamn big.

10-Respect public space in the van. Don’t clutter, you Fuck.

11-If you borrow something, return it. Not Fucked Up.

12-Do not let the promoter dick you or talk you out of the guarantee. If there were not enuf people there, it’s their fault.

13- Driver picks the music.

14-One navigator only (usually sitting shotgun). Everyone else shut the fuck up.

15-Soundcheck is for checking sounds. Shut the fuck up while everyone else is checking.

16-Don’t wander off. Let someone know where you are.

17-Clean up after yourself. What are you… a goddamn toddler?

18-Touring makes everyone bi-polar. Ride the waves as best you can and remember, moods pass. So don’t make any snap decisions or declarations when you are drunk or insane.

19-Fast food is Poison.

20-The guestlist is for friends, family & people you might want to fuck. Everyone else can pay. They have day jobs.

21- Don’t evaluate your whole life while you’re sitting in a janitor closet waiting to go on. You think you’re above having shitty days at work? Shut up & do your goddamn job.

This list was written under the influence of lots of esspresso & anti-depressants while on tour w/ such greats as Shearwater, Swans, Smog, Lisa Germano, Angels of Light, Bill Callahan & many more. I hope this list will help you get along w/ your co-workers whatever your job is. Contributions to the list by Jordan Geiger, Kimberly Burke, Brian Orloff, Brian Phillips Celebrity Gang Bang, Kevin Schneider, Jonathan Meiburg, Michael Gira and some other folks.

Thanks for not being an asshole, Thor Harris

The Shackle Stick

Shackle is a band. They just released The Shackle Stick, a pressed paper designer memory stick containing audio and video from Shackle’s concerts. Included in the package as an added bonus is the Shackle multiplayer music card game. This card game is based on the digital interactive improvisation system that Shackle uses in their performances.

Shackle is Anne La Berge on flute and electronics and Robert van Heumen on laptop-instrument. Their aim is to explicitly and subtly exploit shackling in both concept and material.

shackle |ˈ sh akəl|
1. used in reference to something that restrains or impedes.
2. a metal link, typically U-shaped, closed by a bolt, used to secure a chain or rope to something.
Old English of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schakel ’link, coupling’.

More info at http://shackle.eu.

Roy Sablosky and The Blue Serge

I was lucky enough to have Roy’s Blue Serge in my arsenal of synths way back when. It was a fantastic machine, a brilliant collection of modules, devoid of oscillators, suggesting a rather warped view of sound construction on his part! I had plenty of oscillators on other panels, so it wasn’t an issue at all. The initial patch of what was to become “The Flight of the Atom Bee” was done on the Blue Serge. In the subsequent days and weeks I built the rest of the sounds, I used quite a number of modules, many for control voltages, others for some kind of processing. It was an alchemical, exploratory, serendipitous process …

For my own website, I asked Roy to write about the Serge panels he built as a student at CalArts and subsequent stories. Herewith Roy:

I am going to just put down my recollections in order of their emergence into my present-day consciousness (such as it is).

As the centerpiece of my Bachelor’s studies I had been working night and day in the CalArts electronic music studios, which were centered around two immense Buchla boxes (and several rock-solid, washing-machine sized, verybeautiful-sounding Ampex tape recorders). The Buchla was a blast to use: so flexible, an infinite palette of lovely patterns and textures. But one thing was not optimal: the sound! I don’t know why, but the Buchla tended to sound weak. Feeble. Tentative.

I remember that at one point some young composers visited from UC Riverside (?). One of them presented a tape composition made on a Moog. Though I disdained the Moog as a way too conventional machine the sounds on this guys’s piece were big and fat and juicy and powerful.

Again, I don’t know why this would be. But around this same time I heard that Serge Tcherepnin was making a modular machine similar in concept to Don Buchla’s but even more flexible and it had a muscular sound comparable to Bob Moog’s.

When I say “flexible” I mean that just about any output could be fed into just about any input and something reasonable would happen. For example, Buchla’s oscillators put out a signal in the 1-volt range — “line level”,like a CD player. And they used “audio” (grounded) cables, like a CD player. This put the “audio” signals in a different category from the “control voltages”. You could make an adapter to plug an oscillator into the”control” input to an envelope generator but nothing much would happen because all the “control” circuits had a 5-volt range.So this is all very technical but the point is that Serge’s machine used the same (ungrounded, 5-volt banana) connectors everywhere, so you could plug anything into anything else. For example, you could feed the output of a filter back into its input and it would resonate like a blown reed, just a beautiful tone. My Serge box didn’t even have any “oscillators.” I used filter feedback and envelope generator feedback as my signal sources.To buy my Serge machine I applied for a small ($1,200) student loan — a tiny fraud I justified to myself on the basis of the Necessity of Art.

It was great being down there with a small contingent of extra-serious avant-garde composers. You could get a discount by showing up at Serge’s factory in a really crappy part of Hollywood and soldering the thing together yourself. Serge had even prepared poorly Xeroxed how-to kits for his customers. So there we toiled away like busy bees, listening to Mort Subotnick’s very strange “Four Butterflies” for background music.

The inspiration for my blank panels with no labels came from Gary Chang, who told me he wasn’t going to bother with those decals himself. “A piano doesn’t have labels,” he said. “You just have to know which key is which.” So I just spray-painted all my panels a solid midnight blue – my favorite color. The thing looked like a musical instrument from another planet.

People would ask me how in heck I remembered what all those socket and knobs did and I said, “Well, first of all, I put the whole thing together.”

Greg Jones also bought a Serge machine and we used to perform together. How we got hooked up with the proprietors of the Savoy I’m not sure. (We were possibly inspired to try by the Philip Glass Ensemble’s adventurous and electrifying appearance at the Roxy.) Somehow we had heard that the Savoy folks were trying to put together some very eclectic and adventurous sets. I think Cabaret Voltaire had played there or something.

Greg and I showed up and they treated us with extreme skepticism because we looked so straight. But when we played them snippets from our album they said, “OK, this is pretty intense. You’re on.”

There were not a heck of a lot of people there but I was very proud and excited to be playing in a club in North Beach. Our set was not modified fora rock audience, it was mostly what we had put on the album, very abstract.

But parts of it were a serious fucking wall of noise, and at least a few audience members found it unexpectedly inspiring (at least this was an impression I collected somehow). As a seemingly random arrangement we opened for a Hispanic punk band called the Plugz. At some point in our show someone had complained about the volume; when the Plugz went on the lead guitarist(I don’t remember his name) warned the crowd, “We play really loud, so hold your assholes.”

Though it had been really fun I do not think we ever did another nightclub gig.

*****************************

Roy also is an amazing illustrator: here is an image he did for my novel, Flapping.

The Serge Modular Synthesizer and the Origins of “The Flight of the Atom Bee”

Flight of the Atom Bee by Knox Bronson

It was heartbreak and the loss of a major printing account that forced me into the studio to create my first finished pieces in my newly rediscovered life as a musician. Heartbreak is always heartbreak: the loss of the income forced me to stop telling myself I just needed one more piece of gear to make that perfect track.

The first two pieces I did were “The Big Shimmer” and what was to become the title track of my first cd, “Flight of the Atom Bee.” The bassline of “The Big Shimmer” came from the Serge, as did several other sounds. On the “Flight of the Atom Bee,” the Serge was used for the generation of both the Bee and the Birdie sounds, along with the single note drone of varying timbres and textures.

Construction of the Atom Bee sound took about a week of experimentation to make. The Birdie was a lot simpler, comprised of mostly the Serge New Timbral Oscilator. There were several key control voltages that were used throughout both patches.

Unfortunately, this is not the photograph of the Bee patch itself: there were five positions across several panels where banana cables were piggy-backed five-high, routing control voltages hither, thither and yon. And, of course, many more spots where plugs were stacked two-, three-, or four-high, a symphony of brightly colored spaghetti strands.

The three blue panels on the left were built by Roy Sablosky at CalArts in the late 1970’s. None of the modules had any markings whatsoever, although ins, outs, CV, and audio were color-coded. {This was the era where a squadron of guerilla synthfreaks surreptiously comandeered part of a building on campus to create a de facto serge assembly plant. “Built by bohemians on speed for bohemians on speed,” as Sound Transform Systems mastermind Rex Probe put it in his inimicable delicate style.}

Roy, and collaborator Greg Jones, both students of Mort Subotnick, performed selections from their landmark electronic album No Imagination at the Savoy Tivoli in San Fracisco’s North Beach in the very early eighties using the blue and four-panelSerge systems. When they performed a piece of Roy’s, Forced – possibly the most acoustically violent piece of pulsed and gated white noise ever created- at top volume, the punk rockers in the audience went berserk and started screaming, pelting them with projectiles of various mass. It was not pretty. To be honest, I could empathize with the audience in this case. Forced was a brutal piece of music, an ear-shattering sonic onslaught.

The beauty of the Serge systems is the great range of sonic texture, color, and expression one can coax from the open architecture.

In the case of The Flight of the Atom Bee, the Analog Shift Register module in the center blue panel actually engendered the the whole piece. I was experimenting with it, sending bucket-brigade control voltages to an oscillator, timing pulse generated by the TR-606 drum machine (on the right of the picture) and achieved, after a time, the bee-thought cascading counterpoint which opens the song. I called Jeffrey McEachin, then known as mr808 on the Analogue Heaven mailing list, and played it for him over the phone.

His response  after a moment:
—It needs a space cricket sound to go with it.

I got off the phone and fiddled around or a while, unable to construct a cricket sound to my liking. And suddenly, the thought popped in my head: No, it needs a bee sound. I will always be grateful for mr808 putting me on the insectoid path to satori. I played electron slides-and-ladders for the next week to create the sonic Bee and other audio components for the piece.

In the picture above, we have (in the foreground) a Serge Touch Keyboard and a custom panel of oscillators and modifiers built by Rex Probe and crew at Sound Transform Systems in Oakland. I used the TKB for voltages  to micro-tune the drone and also the filter cutoff and resonance for Atom Bee.  On the panel behind the TKB I used  the New Timbral Oscillator in conjunction with a Precision VC Oscillator to create the birdy sounds – modified only by a Roland Space Echo on the recording.

The Bee was comprised of three separate sounds: the buzzing of the wings, the whoosh as the bee banks left and right, and the slightly exaggerated, distorted wing-stress sound as wingtip vortices create momentary turbulence.

The four-panel box in the back was built by Serge Tcherepnin himself in the mid-seventies. It was at one time in the experimental music department at Mills College in Oakland, Ca. They paid composer Greg Jones with as payment for writing a manual for their new Serge system. He paid me with it for designing a new logo for his company.

This box was the core of the Bee. The basic buzz came from one of the three old oscillators in the upper-left panel. A simple saw-tooth, modulated slightly to round-out the waveform with a rising and falling control voltage. There was also, the obvious rising and falling pitch generated by the Dual-Slope Generator over on the right. The DSG also triggered the Stepped-Function module to send out another voltage to raise and lower the over-all pitch of the buzzing bee, in steps, of course.

The distorted wing-stress sounds were made with the Triple-Wave Shaper and mixed in with VC Gates.

The Whoosh was filtered white-noise and the phase-shifter, which Greg Jones pulled out of a Mutron guitar pedal and kludged into the panel on the lower right. Also gated.

These three elements were mixed and sent out in a mono feed to another Roland Spaced Echo.

Timing pulses all generated by the Roland TR-606, which can be heard on the song. The only other sound on the song was the chord, which was made by a Roland JX-8P with the keys taped down and fed into the mixing board.

Timing pulses all generated by the Roland TR-606, which can be heard on the song. The only other sound on the song was the chord, which was made by a Roland JX-8P with the keys taped down and fed into the mixing board.

The whole Bee patch ran non-stop for over two months in the Love Shack studio. There were times where I thought perhaps the Bee had taken over my mind. It wasn’t a bad feeling.

I couldn’t turn the synths off because I was afraid that if any components cooled, it would affect tone, or pitch, or timbre. Finally, hearing the Fear in my voice, mr808flew down from Portland and helped me record the song. He also recorded a 26 minute mix which I will post at a later date, with his permission.

Recording of Flight of the Atom Bee was one live pass, mixed on the fly, using a noisy old Soundcraft mixer that had been used at Eli’s Mile High Club, a blues institution, in Oakland for many years. I hesitate to think how much whiskey and cigaret smoke adorned the circuitry of that board. We could only get one mono channel out in to this old Otari 8-track 1″ analog tape system, and even that was so noisy we had to do massive noise reduction when putting the cd together.

To this day, I love “Flight of the Atom Bee.” Hoping not to sound too immodest, I believe it is a classic piece of analog synthesis. There was much serendipity in the creation of the piece. Nurse Jill had broken my heart. I no longer could afford new gear or fancy dinners: my reduced circumstances blessedly forced me into the studio for many many hours of the meditation of old-school voltage-controlled synthesis and the Tuning of the Patch …

I am forever grateful to Mr808 for coming down and giving me the confidence, as well as the technical help, to put this piece on tape.

Synchronizing Metronomes

I think the video speaks for itself, but in case you haven’t been around these types of metronomes lately, they are light enough that energy around them can affect their undulations. There’s a deeper explanation by a physicist here.

FSU Marching Band plays Game of Thrones

What’s not to love about Game of Thrones? Well, other than having to wait another 189 days to watch it. College football is up there and Florida State’s marching band combined the two by pulling out the Game of Thrones theme (see video) as part of a celebration of German defensive end Bjoern Werner’s Werner is Coming Game of Thrones meme.

The World’s Largest Organ

Come see the organ! It’s even bigger than the largest whale!

Locally known as morske orgulje, the “sea organ,” designed by the architect Nikola Bašić in 2005, was built in order to redesign the Zadar’s coastline which was devastated in WWII. The 230 foot-long instrument is comprised 35 musically tuned tubes under the marble sidewalk of the Zadar quay. The winds of the Adriatic sea powers this giant instrument, and depending the size and speed of the waves, different harmonic clusters are produced.

And if you didn’t need any other excuse to travel to Zadar Croatia…

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