Examining media, computers, cars, and music of the past and present.
Stories and opining surrounding current Portland indie culture, legacy Houston rap, and solo piano improvisation by way of a former experimental electronic musician from the angry edens of Midwestern punk.
Music Jam is the brainchild of my longtime friend Captain Ersatz, and it requires one to complete every step of music production within 24 hours or less. Listen to his first Drycast episode to find out more. This masterpiece of mine is entitled E N D D A D.
Yes, my archives are obsessively thorough, but here is proof that I was at one time willing to let go of any work — I “released” this tape exactly 5 years ago on May 22nd, 2013 — the sumer after graduating high school — and vowed that “ALLMASTERSWILLBEDESTROYEDAFTERTHELASTPRINTINGANDMEMORYOFTHEWORK’S EXISTENCEERASEDFROMMYMIND,” which was more or less honest for at least one Spring. I don’t remember the rationale for ripping it back from one of the cassettes four months later, but I found the files, so have at it.
This side was recorded on the ~mid-1950s-era Baldwin upright at my mother’s house. I thinnk I must’ve done so in mono with my singular condenser microphone, but whatever I used to dub and rip the tape would’ve lost any more sound data, anyway. To preface any commentary on its musicality, I’d like to note in this first improv post that — despite my near-21 year-long relationship with the piano - I am not a musician. I play only when I want to and I very rarely choose to exhibit any sort of discipline. Recently, I’ve been experiencing difficulty in connecting to my instrument to a foreign degree, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to revisit my discography from the beginning.
I took all sorts of ADHD medications in high school but I failed to mitigate a balance in their side-effects, so I ended up unwillingly going days without sleep, which certainly informed my improvisation — it seems to perform REM-like maintenance on my sleep-deprived brain, but that supposition arrives to you from 0 neurological authority. I can’t recall, exactly, but I’d guess this tape was recorded near the end of my 2-year-long break from all medication.
Though not exactly rare, superficially, that upright of mine has a particularly sleepy, fuguey tone, and you’ll notice in this very limited recording, expecially, that it often sounds nothing like a piano. It was an important period of transition for me — in life, as you’d expect — but technically as well in just discovering some very rudimentary twanging and the desire to roll with my right-hand. In this particular session, I do so more obnoxiously than I’ve ever recorded since. I can hear my primary childhood musical influences much more than in anything I’ve done recently — namely, The Spirit of St. Louis, the 1957 Jimmy Stewart film about Charles Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing. It’s actually significantly more confidently varied and expressive than I expected.
Side 2 was recorded on my Yamaha DGX-660, allowing me to more easily capture a broader, if not entirely authentic dynamic range. It begins with a less-than-loose recitation of the Ocarina of Time’s title theme and then dips to my earlier variations — eventually touching on most of the core arrangements which I still play around, now. In contrast with Side A’s delirium, Side B is the morning after sleeping for the first time in days. (For all I know, that’s actually how it was recorded.) Instead of my usual single, uninterrupted sitting, it’s split into shorter, distinct, and more reasonable touchstones.
I’d been rythmically caught up in a slow, 4/4 chug for years prior, but I think this is the best and some of the last of it. I suppose one’s retrospection on self-expression from their teens’ evening is always going to be somber, but I can hear my unconscious intention to conclude those old hymn and Blue’s Clues-bred tunes with a last, Best of David Blue’s Youth! hurrah, and the distance from the sound due to its wringing through the tape is all that much more eerily symbolic: those were much better days for my soul, no doubt. I’ve lost half or more of these melodies to time, and I’m note quite sure how, honestly. I guess there are some things ya just can’t preserve in a .rar archive or two.
have many audiophilical sentiments and preferences, I cannot — by
conscience — fully claim the title because I’ve never been able
to justify the allotment of funds necessary for the obligatory
equipment. (And my digital compressor usage in the production of
has been manifestly vulgar.) That said, audio engineering is one of
the few topics which I can actually speak on with almost-academic
authority, and my pretentiousness-capacitated preoccupation with
quality-of-life compels me to bring up a ludicrously-rational
standard that most of us have continued to undershoot for far too
ago, the abundantly-rumored omission of the 3.5mm audio port in the
iPhone 7 was finally settled. We played our own part in feeding the
“controversy,” yeah, but I believe Apple was actually quite tardy
in labeling smartphone-bound analog audio as archaic, though I’m
not going to waste words in that discussion — it is definitely
oversaturated, at this point — because I think mono audio is an
even more prevalent topic.
out of all the missing features we’ve lamented over in the past
decade, stereo speakers should’ve been the most aggravating. The
gigantic difference, of course, is that the industry (and — by
muddled extension — the consumers) has been all but silent in that
regard. I write you, now, because we should all be colossally
disappointed with ourselves.
channels. Left and right. Read: Mono
vs. Stereo But why should you care? What if Google — somehow —
failed to provide you with a significant difference?
of sound is — in terms of locale — rigidly static in your
perception. Doubling the data creates a spectrum, adding
which is infinite, ya know. Playing back audio in stereo, through two
or more diaphragms (the fundamental hardware unit of sound
reproduction,) now enables the exhibition of audio
If this is
entirely new to you, I want you to do something. Find yourself a pair
of headphones or a set of two or more computer speakers. (If these
aren’t available, consider your car’s sound system. If it’s at
all current and healthy, it’s gonna do the trick.) Bother to
That is, left and right. Orient accordingly. Download this
37-second clip I recorded at BikeFest
with my Zoom H2n. (Be advised: the preview is formatted in 5.1
surround, so it’s a very large file for its playback length.)
Listen, obviously, and then listen again on your singular smartphone
That’s what I’m
Why am I being so
abashedly patronizing? Why am I transgressing against our particular
assumptions about you — the informed, savvy millennial audience?
Because the vast majority of playback I hear in day-to-day life is
still from a singular diaphragm; a singular source.
A topical example: I am
shown a YouTube video on an iPhone. (A pre-iPhone 7 device, that is.)
Walking downtown, I
pass a small band of adolescent skateboarders listening to Cannibal
Ox on a Samsung Galaxy Note.
Worst of all: I
find myself watching a Netflix film on my iPhone, in bed, not having
bothered to wear the $200 pair of QC15s sitting within arm’s
length.Worst of all: I find
myself watching a Netflix film on my iPhone, in bed, not having
bothered to wear the $200 pair of QC15s sitting within arm’s
Informed or not,
consumers are neglecting audio, and dimensionality, alone is worth a
change. Recent years have allowed the unlimited bandwidth assumption
to become habit, so even the vast majority of today’s spoken word
programs (like podcasts) — which, in general, stay in the “center”
of their mix, making little to no use of the left-right spectrum —
are produced in stereo, now. In many cases (including a few of ours,)
this doublesizing is often for the sake of introductory themes,
alone. If you care to imagine a more data-frugal society, the “waste”
is ridiculous. It is not unrealistic to expect such a reality in the
near future, but the same holds true for the reverse.
In the present’s
abundance, though, the result is simply a decrease — as a whole —
in playback’s “full experience,” if the hardware is not
changed. Imagine how great it’d be if a digital audio formatting
standard could be developed that’d enable a singular file to be
mono or stereo, if needed/utilized, to trim off redundancy, sorta
like variable bit rate. Get on that, would ya?
So, why haven’t we
become more diligent about our sound experiences? 1 billion iPhones
in circulation, all with mono playback by default, are suspect
culprits, I think. Of course, there are other devices, but none as
influential — even the iPod, funny enough — on fundamental
digital functions like music playback. And honestly, when is it
appropriate or suave to take the extra steps?
I want to show you this song. Let me
untangle my headphones… Yes, okay. Put them in. I’m going to sit
here in silence for four minutes, looking into your eyes as you
listen to the entirety of this track.
going to be socially acceptable. But what about wireless
alternatives? Apple’s new Air Pods look absurd, but their
by-computing optimization of the Bluetooth audio standard is
revolutionary, in a small way, in propelling
the “hearables” paradigm into the mainstream, if only for a
moment. If — in a strangely-audiocentric future — we are always
wearing multipurpose sound reproduction devices in our ears, perhaps
the waste of the Mono Monstrosity will be finally resolved. Until
then, I suppose all we can do is give it an extra thought, for our
own quality-of-life’s sake.