Archive for January, 2007

Home made instrument piece from today.

January 28, 2007

I ended up with an extra free hour and a tune in my head, so I sat down and banged this out. I think it turned out with a very nice feeling.


This was done on an instrument that I built that I still have not given a name to. I was inspired to make it looking at cigar box guitars and other ethnic instruments of the world, especially the rudra veena with it’s “hollow” frets.

The Rudra Veena
Rudra Veena

I had just begun an attempt at building a cigar box guitar (my first attempt at acoustic instrument building) and had decided to try out some techniques on another instrument first before applying them to the cigar box guitar which I was already too fond of to risk ruining.



The result is a short instrument made from a note card box, with deep scalloped frets and two strings. One for drone and the other melody. The fretting is dulcimer style, with cut nails for frets. It has it’s idiosyncracies, but I love it. I mostly sit it on my lap with the resonator between my knees and pluck the strings while sliding one finder from fret to fret, but recently I recieved an egyptian fiddle as a gift and have been using it’s bow a lot on various things including this and really loving the sound.

This melody that came to me today was one i actually came up with a long time ago, but today it seemed perfect for this instrument. So I recorded the melody first then added some humming and then a bowed drone. I think it summed up what I felt for that melody nicely. Enjoy!

Rain made out of Sun

Slightly Apprehensive Mining Tunnel

January 28, 2007

Mining Tunnel

I recorded this in my bathroom. 2 mics, one from an old reel to reel and an sm57. both placed far from the instruments. Drone supplied kindly by an Hin Hon EK-900 keyboard. Guitar four notes and a droning string. Overdubbed more keyboard drone and some echoy noises. Big fun! Time is unfortunately short and getting shorter. Enjoy!

Slightly Apprehensive Mining Tunnel

Wonders of the cassette tape loop, part 3

January 20, 2007

A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to spend a saturday together (she generally works saturdays). Of course it had been a while since we had been to one of our favorite thrift shops “The 2nd Mile Center” and eaten at one of our favorite middle easten eateries “SAADS” so we decided west philly was the destination.

2nd Mile is often a dead end, but sometimes looking around is really the fun part. This particular time went like most others, in that I didn’t really find anything as I made my usual rounds. Until… I was about to walk out, when I noticed a familiar shape. The shape of a cassette four track!

I owned a tascam for a while, but never really used it due to it’s overwhelming complexity. This one however, was one of the small low-end Fostex models. And, for $20, it was worth it even if all I ended up with was parts.

Fostex Four track

It had been a while, but I knew I had read about using these machines with loops. So I searched around a bit and finally found what I was looking for. The gist of it, is that you have a loop cassette and four tracks, that means, four loops running at once. And, you can punch in, so you can build loops on the fly. With the fostex, it’s even better, because one flick of a switch routes whatever input you are going in to, to whatever track you want to record to. So it could even work as a live performance tool.

I just got around to playing with this thing today and I can see why someone brought it to the thrift store. The pots short out, the jacks short out and it has some other issues as well. For me though, none of that matters as I’m not going to be using it to record my new pop punk combo.

So I sat down with a freshly spliced loop cassette in hand and started fooling around.

Cassette Tape Loop

I immediately saw potential in this set up. The tracking sucks, which adds great wow and flutter effects. It overdrives easily too. The first bit of sound i put in came screeching back sounding like something out of a horror scene in a sci-fi movie. This thing mutates everything you put into it in wonderful ways.

What I find even more interesting about this set up is that I never know where I am in the loop, so when I record, I can only really control what notes I play. Where they end up being placed is pretty much up to the machine. This of course excites me, given my interest in generative music and chance opperations.

One of the instruments I fed into this system was a circuit-bent animal keyboard thing. If you slow it down really far, the kids songs it usually plays become unrecognizable and instead it seems to be playing a random sequence of beautiful tones. This already chance based music became even more interesting when randomly edited together by the four track.

After a while the music sort of took on a life of it’s own. I think it came out beautifully, especially for the first try. I can assure you there will be much more of this to come. Especially once I rig up a punch in pedal. Enjoy!

Star Platform Foothold

Another guitar piece.

January 12, 2007

I was contemplating this track the other day and it occurred to me that maybe I was selling it short by having such a brief, offhand description. This particular piece is fairly important conceptually to me in my developing ideas about music.

I have always had a love of ambient music. Probably 70% of the music I own could be described as ambient. Of course I don’t mean this in the strict genrefied version of the term, but sort of my own version.

One of the elements of ambient that I enjoy most but find the most illusive, is it’s loose wandering structure, exemplified by Brian Eno’s more generative work.

I have done generative tape work for some time, but for me it always came down to loops and more of a steve reich on acid kind of vibe. Now however, I am seeing a new kind of way (new to me) to use generative ideas.

I guess it is something that has been common in jazz for a while, but it never really occurred to me, that improvisation around a theme is sort of generative. It is a loose system, set up and carried out. Of course I am bending terms here, but to me it feels the same.

I have also long been interested in playing extremely slow. I like the way it disconnects you from the music in a way in which you are no longer trying to predict patterns or locate them, you are just on the edge waiting to hear what is next. At this point i think your mind becomes open and the music becomes much more exciting.

For this piece it occurred to me that instead of doing pure improvisation (which i have done a lot and am a little bored with) i could come up with a system of related themes. This way if I wanted to improvise a little, I would always have something more solid to come back to. To me, these ideas mixed with a very slow delivery and a loose view of time, make a fairly exciting way to play music. When I recorded this, I played for ten minutes straight and it felt like two. To me it is just composed enough and just loose enough to bring me to that state of openness. As with everything with me, it all comes down to a feeling of psychedelic bliss, and I think this accomplishes it in an interesting way.

I think this is also a demonstration of how minimalism can be psychedelic, where generally maximalism, with it’s everything blaring at once approach is given more credit. I would however like to take this track and add piles more sound to it, just to see.

Anyhow, here it is, I hope you enjoy.

Until I’m Asleep

A little midweek guitar jam.

January 10, 2007

I recorded this monday and slapped it together today. I don’t usually post anything where I actually do much “playing”, so this is a bit of a change for me. I hope you enjoy it!

This is basically just guitar improvisation and a field recording…

– The Waves Come Back to Me

Reflections of a new blogging convert and the blog as a creative outlet

January 6, 2007

(Please excuse this rambling mess, I am by no means a “writer”)

Thus far, writing this blog has been a great experience. I had no idea what to expect when I started. Ok, so maybe that isn’t true… I think I expected more comments (probably a lot of negative ones 🙂 ) and I still hope for more and get excited whenever I get one. Other than that, I didn’t really know what was supposed to happen.

I had a rough idea of what I was going to do of course. I have been laboring in soundmaking in my basement or bedroom for years. I was tired of not really having anything to show for it. I knew no label would put this stuff out and ask someone to pay for it (even though a lot do), and I wasn’t even sure that that is what I wanted to happen with it.

The problem of presentation
It seems to me, that one of the hurdles to presenting truely experimental music (as in, music that is actually an experiment) is the presentation itself. As a person who has gotten giddy over many noises and attempted to share them with (usually) much straighter folk, I have come up on this many times.

A good friend of mine whom I used to live with told me a story once, about a guy he used to live in a dorm with (if i remember correctly). This guy, he said, used to play the most horrible music, so loud all the time that it drove him nuts. Intrigued about this music, I probed him for a better description than “horrible”. What he described could have been any of several musics, but sounded most likely to be some form of dark ambient/darkwave. The interesting thing to me, was how his description had the opposite of the intended effect on me. Instead of saying, yeah, that sounds terrible, what an ass, I started probing him for more info. But that’s not the point of the story really. The point is that that same friend a year or two later became enthralled with circuit bending.

I got into circuit bending by discovering Reed Ghazala’s site. I was looking for a Casio SK-1 at the time to replace the one I had when I was a child, and quickly began ammassing toys and destroying them. My roommate instantly got it. This blew my mind. I had him pegged as a person who liked conventional music and nothing more, and for all intents and purposes, he was. However, for some reason when presented with noise as an exploratory, adventurous step into the unknown, he loved it. He looked at every toy as a lottery ticket, and brought home almost as many as I did, looking to hit that jackpot of pure sound. That was as far as it went for him though. He wasn’t interested in making music that anyone would listen to out of these sounds, he was interested in making a novelty sound exploration device and leaving it at that.

What is so interesting to me about this friend was his willingness to accept something that he previously hated, because of how it was presented to him.

The blog as a distribution model
The above story is something I have thought about a lot. Sometimes I think maybe he was right, maybe sound loses something (like anyones attention) when it becomes “music”. Maybe presenting something as “music” like “art” is a pretensious assertion. Maybe the only end to what I do should be my own pleasure. Maybe… but I can’t be satisfied with that. If for not more complex reason, than I get psyched and want to share! Like a little kid who just got a new toy.

This is why I started a blog. It alows me to present anything is any way that I want. It allows me to experiment with different forms of presentation. For example, I usually downplay my “music”. I don’t give it a name, or much ado at all. Partly because I can’t handle the metaphysical burden that comes with a name, partly because I’m shy about it. This hasn’t really worked. Sometimes I think more people would listen to the music, if I gave myself a name like “Liquid Banana Helmet” or “Oranguitan Rape Moustache” and blathered about how killer my tracks were with each post (I would never do that in a million years however). What has seemed to work is the album like format and cover art for “Jazz 2 Ways”. I could go on waxing intellectual about why I think that had that effect, but that’s not the point, the point, is that I can present however I want.

This (I think) allows me to lower both the defenses of you, the readers and myself. You don’t feel (hopefully) like you have to LIKE what you hear and considder it “music”, and I don’t feel like I have to put it in a “musical” format. Then maybe later as I have indoctrinated you (hahahaha) with my fun sound samplings, you will start to listen more to what I DO consider to be my music, HOPEFULLY with an open mind. Or maybe, you’ll hate it and think I’m a pretensious quack. The point is, that it is out there in a form that is less burdened with ideology than a CD or record, and hopefully this will help change the way you approach the sound on this site.

I wasn’t expecting a sense of accomplishment
What I didn’t anticipate about writing a blog, was how good it was going to feel to see all the information/content I have produced. This blog as a documentary of my sound land is really exciting. I do feel like I have something to show for my work now, other than tons of instruments in the basement, and sound files on the computer. I have gotten the opportunity to put my thoughts to my sounds and file them away to be found and re-reflected on later and that is not something I take for granted.

All this is to say that this blog, though insignificant in the blogoshere, is a success to me, because it allows me to not only share, but to look back and see what I have done in a different light. I guess that is all quite obvious to most people, I guess I just underestimated the impact it would have on me.

And now, I am going to do the thing that blogs allow, that I love so much… I’m going to post something that will probably hurt your ears. 🙂 (watch your volume!) The fact that I can do this, never ceases to amaze me, and some day in the future when free information has been banned, I will look back at this, chuckle and then wipe away a tear. Enjoy!

– Noisy Button

(You know those toys that you squeeze and they play a song? This is what happens when you add one carefully placed resistor to that circuit.)