A Cassette Rip of My Second Piano Tape

The Sleepy EP [SET]

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 “ALL MASTERS WILL BE DESTROYED AFTER THE LAST PRINTING AND MEMORY OF THE WORK’S EXISTENCE ERASED FROM MY MIND,” 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.

Side A

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.

The Sleepy EP [Cassette Art]

Side B

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.

That said, if you wish to down­load this rip of The Sleepy EP for what­ev­er rea­son, feel free to do so.

Stop Settling for Mono Playback

Though I 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 Drycast and Future­land 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 long.

Two weeks 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.

Hon­est­ly, 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.

Two 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?

One chan­nel of sound is — in terms of locale — rigid­ly sta­t­ic in your per­cep­tion. Dou­bling the data cre­ates a spec­trum, adding dimen­sion­al­i­ty, 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 pic­tures.

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 dis­cov­er “L” and “R.” 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 “loud­speak­er.”

That’s what I’m talk­ing about.

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 length.

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.

It’s nev­er 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.