Archive for the 'thoughts' Category

09
Apr
08

mojo

Some instruments (or other tools) have “mojo”… there’s something magical about them that makes them play or feel or work better, compared to equivalent instruments.   Sometimes it’s general mojo that works for everyone; sometimes it’s mojo with just one individual.

Many people would argue that there’s nothing magic, that there’s no such thing as mojo, that there’s a scientific explanation for everything unique about an instrument.  Maybe there is.  But who cares?  “Mojo” makes a nice explanation for a real phenomenon – or at least as real as our flawed perceptions.  Those who argue vehemently against “mojo” aren’t arguing against the qualities of a given instrument… they’re arguing against a worldview that they feel is animistic, primitive, and otherwise wrong. 

And I suppose that’s important to them, too.  But once again, it gets back to fear… fear of being ruled by the irrational.

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31
Dec
07

recordings, and Flatland

Lately, I’ve been recording an album for a friend.  This has me thinking about the recording process, and how it’s similar to photography… namely, that both are very limited representations of the event they are trying to capture.  Obsessing over “accuracy” when making recordings of any sort is somewhat irrational, because recording itself is so relativistic.  What, exactly, constitutes “accurate”?  Put two different microphones in front of a guitar, get two different sounds… and neither sounds the same as listening to the guitar in the room.  Likewise, what the guitarist hears is different than what a listener hears!

In photography, the distortions and misrepresentation are more obvious, so I think they’re a little more tolerated.  But audio recording?  Why does anyone think this sounds “real”?

The residents of Flatland had no idea that they lived on a two-dimensional plane in three-dimensional space.  But we do, sort of.

31
Dec
07

cognitive dissonance

My weekend was full of surprises… some very bad, some very good.  Without going into detail, I can say that being caught up in very bad and very good so close together can be an intense and confusing experience.

And it’s not conducive to getting real work done.

21
Nov
07

boggled

I’m not used to feeling boggled, but I’ve had to cope with it recently.  A few weeks ago, I got my first pedal steel guitar – a nice old Sho-Bud 6139 model.   Mine is relatively a simple, a single-neck 10 string.  It has ten strings, three pedals that change the pitch of various strings (sometimes more than one), and four knee levers that also change pitch.  Additionally, in the country-standard E9 tuning, the strings aren’t necessarily in low-to-high pitch order.  It’s very, very confusing.  I’m sure I’ll learn to play it eventually, but for now… boggle.

09
Nov
07

manual

I like manual controls on my tools.  Manual cameras, manual transmissions in cars, footpedals rather than rackmount electric guitar effects, a Unix shell rather than a Windows GUI.  I like interfaces that do what I tell them to do, and don’t do what I don’t tell them to do.  I don’t like machines doing the thinking for me.  I’d rather make my own mistakes. 

28
Oct
07

completion

The other day, the Feng Shui Ninjas had a limited rehearsal… only Justin (percussion and accordion) could make it.  So Justin and I had some time to discuss where we’re going musically, and art in general.  One problem we discussed a lot was completion… turning an idea into a finished product.  Part of it applied to the Feng Shui Ninjas… we rehearse most weeks, yet after a year, we have yet to play a real public gig (parties and cons don’t count), and really, I don’t think we’re capable of an hour’s worth of quality, uninterrupted material we play well.  We do play well, and have a lot of fun, but our rehearsals are unfocused, a mile wide and an inch deep.  We need a real repertoire, not just random ideas.

Justin highlighted the problem when he realized he says he’s “going over to Dave’s to jam”, rather than saying he’s “going over to Dave’s to rehearse”.  It’s an important distinction.  We jam a lot, and that’s fun, but it’s not really solid rehearsal, and the results show.  We don’t complete our playing.

And it’s not just this band, either… I have a huge stack of recordings that I’ve started but haven’t finished.  Justin has a novel he’s been neglecting.  It’s hard to get from the point  of playing with an idea, to the point where it’s really polished and ready to share with the rest of the world.  Good enough for my pleasure isn’t the same as good enough for an audience’s pleasure.

Need to complete more things.

04
Oct
07

scarcity in the marketplace

Much has been made of the decline of the record industry over the past few years, particularly the major labels.  And a lot of this discussion revolves around the impact of online music downloads, both legal and illegal.  But I think there’s another limiting factor at work.

I consider myself a pretty avid music listener, and buyer.  I spend $50-100/month on recorded music – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over $1000/year.  But honestly, I could afford to spend more.  My limiting factor isn’t budget.  Rather, it’s how much time I have available to listen to music! 

There are a couple of factors at play here.  First, I don’t like to buy music and not listen to it.  Although I’m a big music fan, I’m not at all a record collector in the classic sense.  I like the content far more than the physical object.  So I don’t buy records for the sake of buying records… I want to LISTEN to them after I buy them.  Second, I own a large and constantly growing collection of music, the result of 30 years of avid music purchasing.  Over those years, I’ve found many of what I call “lifetime albums” – pieces of music I will be listening to for the rest of my life, at least off and on.  So new music listening time must be shared with lifetime music listening time. 

Because of these two things, there is a real, practical limit on how much money I will spend on new music, no matter what its price is or how much I like it.  So in economics terms, my time is the scarce resource, not my budget or the supply of music available.  There’s far, far more music available that I want to hear than I will ever have time to hear.