Mark Twain–Mark McGwire–A case of the fantods

May 14, 2010

This post has nothing to do with food or music, but I think it’s worth mentioning because I love Mark Twain and I love baseball, and I love funny things like this:

Mo. General Assembly votes to rename Mark McGwire Highway

Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio (2010-05-14)

Finely/AP // <![CDATA[//
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (St. Louis Public Radio) – The Missouri House has passed legislation that would remove Mark McGwire’s name from I-70 in St. Louis.

“The stretch of interstate was named for the retired Cardinals slugger in 1999, one year after he hit a then-major league record 70 home runs in a season.

But his reputation took a hit in 2005 when he refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing into steroid use in baseball. He admitted to steroid use earlier this year.

State Representative Rachel Storch (D, St. Louis) was one of many lawmakers who voted in favor of dropping the name “Mark McGwire Highway.”

“Personally I think he should be given a second chance, he’s apologized and we need to move forward, but the reality is he admitted that he cheated, and people just didn’t feel comfortable with having a highway named after him anymore,” Storch said.

House Member Cynthia Davis (R, O’Fallon) also voted for the name change.

“I am one of those who believes you shouldn’t name anything after people till after they’re deceased…people need to have heroes, but this is just yet still one reason why it is better to wait till they’re really dead instead of trying to fabricate this while they’re alive,” Davis said.

The bill would restore I-70’s original name in St. Louis, the Mark Twain Highway.”

I think it’s priceless.  I know Mark Twain is enjoying a big laugh at this one.

Jazz and Wine at Sunset Hills

April 21, 2010

SSHV Main EntranceSSHV Outdoor Porch

Sunday, April 18, 2010.  A beautifully chilly spring day.  I am no jazz drummer, but I am working on it.  And playing at it.  And loving it.  I played for Seussical: the Musical with a couple of buddies who decided it would be fun to play some standards together…so we booked a show at Sunset Hills.  We show up on jazz time, set up (me on a chair because someone had lifted my throne a couple of nights prior), and burned through some standards (“All Blues,” “Take Five,” “Blue Bossa,” “Oye Como Va,” [sure that’s a standard!], “Straight, No Chaser…”).  Man, it was fun.  The winemaker is friends with my buddies, so he sat in on guitar…it was a treat.  And he makes an enormously fine Viognier, with a bottle of which he sent us home. (That is the kind of criticism up with which I will not put…).  Wine and jazz…a good Sunday afternoon.  Hopefully we’ll do it again soon…

The Field

April 15, 2010

I have been in a rut, lately.  With the help of some wise advisers, I have shaken the rut, to a degree.  I am noticing more by looking and walking.  Being aware.  I still have a way to go, but I am on the path.

My family and I have a group of friends that gets together in a big field on Sunday afternoons to garden and eat together.  One family rents the field to grow vegetables for our local food hub and a modest CSA, plus they sell at our small-but-mighty farmer’s market.  We show up, plant, weed (well, I show up and eat, mostly), build a fire, eat food (that’s what I do best), and catch up on the week’s events, share information (like kudzu jelly recipes and the latest art) and (like this: from Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse:”

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)

People bring casseroles, salads they made from their gardens, chips, home-made salsas, hummus, pastas, cheeses, fruit…it’s a smorgasbord.  We are artists, musicians, teachers, foresters, farmers, designers, contractors, home-schoolers, mothers, fathers, kids…and we are all creating something out of life.  It may not be a big thing, but it is a great thing.  Sunday afternoons have become my sanctuary.

Last week, I brought a guitar and ended up playing some songs by the fire…the first time I have played music outside of my children’s bedroom in a long time.  I did not know how it was going to go, and it went…well.  This group has met through various channels–I have met some of them just by going to the Field.  Food and music.  Music and food.  Outside.  Walking.  Singing.  Eating.  Family and friends gathering together outside inspires me to create.  We are creating something…separately and together.  Sharing.  Community.  It’s good stuff.  When people say they generally don’t like Steve Miller, but they could sit and listen to me (of all people) sing “The Joker” for the rest of the evening, we’re onto something.  The Field is worth cultivating, on many levels.

Coffee and Donuts

March 25, 2010

Charlottesville:  Spudnuts.  Lovingston: Trager Brothers Coffee–Ethiopia, Sumatra, or Bali.  Take a bite.  Chew once or twice.  Take a sip.  Whatever chemical reaction happens in your mouth at this time is noteworthy.  Undeniable.  Sweet and savory blending in a dance of titillating taste-bud heaven.  Okay.  It’s like music in your mouth.  I’m done.  More later.

More thoughts on Indie

March 16, 2010

One of those teenagers I mentioned in the independent post interviewed Sohrab from Obits, a Sub Pop band.  Their conversation appears on the Sub Pop web-site.  BJM is none other than Bayard Morse, one of my journalism students.  Needless to say, I am proud of him.

Obits on “Indie” – L Swain

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Sohrab from Obits has been chatting, on the wall of the Obits’ Facebook page, with this 16 year-old kid about Sub Pop being 49% owned by Warner, what “indie” means, etc. And, though that summary sounds incredibly tired, it’s a pretty good conversation. Here it goes:

Obits, what do you think about the fact that Sub Pop is 49% owned by Warner?

Wow. Is this part of a Seger-Saget-Sub Pop conspiracy?
It’s a complicated question. Short answer is we signed on the dotted line. Longer answer involves breaking down the myths of independent labels and how bands actually get treated in many of those relationships.
It’s a slippery slope in both directions but, in our specific case, we are very happy to work with Sub Pop. They are honest people who truly care about music and are wonderfully realistic about their expectations in an industry that is rarely so….
I suppose I might feel differently if it were Monsanto or Pfizer, but the Warner affiliation is what it is and doesn’t seem to effect us.
How do you feel about it? Does it color your opinion of the label or our band? Do you think it makes a difference? I’m asking sincerely, by the way.

I mean, it slightly taints the idea of Sub Pop being a true “Indie” label like they used to be, but in the long run, as long as they are still coming out with such amazing music, like you guys / No Age / Fleet Foxes, I’m not about to condemn them. So I guess I would say that it doesn’t really matter too much. Also, it would be my dream to be on Sub Pop. What do you guys think of the term “Indie” in general/how it’s used these days?

B, this is Sohrab, just so you know I’m only speaking for myself in terms of whatever it is I’m about to write.
Having grown up in the Dischord / Touch and Go / SST era, the word “indie” wasn’t part of my vocabulary. There were records that I bought from Smash! or Yesterday & Today or one of the many other mom-and-pop shops in the DC area at that time, there were other things I mail-ordered and eagerly awaited from Systematic in San Francisco, there were cassettes I got by writing to bands I read about in MRR, and then there was whatever else was outside of that world, which I had no interest in and, therefore, might as well not have existed.
“Indie” wasn’t something I came across until the ‘90s, when some bands used the term to try to distinguish themselves from other bands that weren’t that, I guess. It seems a little silly to me now. It’s such a broad and vague way to define anything. It probably would’ve been more effective to just say, “We don’t sound like Blind Melon.
The language for describing sensory experience is relative and bound by context. To a fan of Merzbow, Obits probably sounds like Three Dog Night. To a fan of Three Dog Night, Obits probably sounds like the guy in Merzbow tampered with his “Mama Told Me Not to Come” single.
That said, I guess people hang onto the word “indie” because it’s become shorthand for saying that something is not part of mainstream culture or that it’s quirky or some other absurd notion folks have about the need to compartmentalize music into little digestible demographic terms. So, to me, the word is now just part of the lexicon of lifestyle marketing.
If you want to get into the economics of what “indie” means or what people think it means, I think it merits a whole new thread. It’s definitely worth exploring, but would require a more experienced and sophisticated voice than mine.
I will say that the interest in only supporting things that are “indie” probably comes from a good place, but reminds me of when people are so concerned with eating organic that they overlook what it means when they buy fresh food that’s out of season.

That’s pretty fascinating. My friends and I always discuss what it means/how the word has changed. Being 16, I come from a completely different era where “indie” means everything from Neutral Milk Hotel to things not even remotely related to music:  like drinking PBR outside of an Urban Outfitters while taking artsy photographs. The thing that saddens me is when kids say they listen to “Indie Rock,” but wouldn’t be able to tell you the first thing about Mike Watt, or Greg Ginn, or any sort of independent label.
Have you read “Our Band Could Be Your Life?”

Hey B,
The fact that you are 16 and interested in our band is heartening for more reasons than I have time to go into.
But don’t get too bummed about those kids. Everybody has a chance to hear the Minutemen for the first time once. And, with the right personality and the right timing, it just might change their life.
That is incredibly exciting to me. And far more powerful in terms of making a permanent dent in popular culture than any snarky ad exec trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of whatever fits between two quotation marks.
Or, for that matter, the legions of embittered naysayers skulking around anonymously in the comment sections of music blogs.
They’ve got nothing on you and your pals snapping buzzed Polaroids in the parking lot, barking out the chorus to “Nervous Breakdown.” Seriously.
Okay, gotta run, but let us know when we get to a town near you because you are officially on our permanent guest list.
Until soon …

So, that’s cool.  More later.

Some interesting insights by other folks…

March 15, 2010


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Why We Fight

Why We Fight #1

Why We Fight #1

Indie Will Eat Itself

by Nitsuh Abebe, posted March 12, 2010

Welcome to “Why We Fight”, Pitchfork’s latest column. The ongoing goal of this column is to look seriously into our conversations about music: how they work, how they locate what’s at stake when we make allegiances to different artists or genres, and the different issues– like social class, race, novelty, and transgression– we bring to bear when we talk about music. These conversations might be “about” music, but they say even more about how we see ourselves and the world. More importantly, they might even change the music itself– both how it’s made and what it winds up meaning to us.

Of all the ways technology’s changed how people relate to music– how we make it, listen to it, hear about it, pay for it (or don’t)– the one that’s always amazed me is the way we talk about it. For most people, that conversation hasn’t changed: we still get word-of-mouth recommendations, share circles of taste with our friends, and don’t waste time obsessively tracking what’s going on beyond our interests. For many music geeks, though, all that’s been joined by an online world where “everyone” hears about “everything” at the same time– every development tracked like breaking news and hashed out in reviews and comments boxes, on blogs and message boards.

And in the small and geek-heavy world of indie fans– where people pride themselves on being shrewd, unique, opinionated, and sensitive to bullshit– this is a pretty meaningful development. Now, instead of just figuring out how we feel about music in relation to our friends, enemies, scenes, or schools, we’re also figuring it out in relation to a whole far-flung network of people who share our taste. (Suddenly, amazingly, we live in a world where a high-school kid in Montana can talk about how sick she is of minor trends in Williamsburg.) It means a whole lot of what’s happening revolves around our conversations and our different postures toward music– and toward our fellow fans.

As an experiment, think on this question. Over the past few years, who have you seen fiercer, more divisive debates about: Joanna Newsom or Lady Gaga? I’d guess that for a lot of you reading this, the answer is Newsom. Which is interesting, especially if you think about ways these artists are mirror images of each other.

As far as Newsom goes, it’s pretty easy to identify her unique qualities: An odd, expressive voice with a creak like an old door; a vision of her work so elaborately detailed that it can seem stilted and overwhelming; and a love of words and attention to poetic effects so deep that it actually doesn’t sound silly when she lists Vladimir Nabokov as a songwriting influence. So we’ve seen healthy debate about what, if anything, those gifts have to offer us. People argued about whether there was something precious or fussy about her manner, or even something childlike about her imagination. (Press material that painted her as some kind of unicorn-riding medieval fantasy didn’t help.) People argued about whether her obsessively crafted suites and allegories were really what pop music was for— whether maybe all those elaborate, writerly constructions were just highbrow feats of imagination in a medium that should prize real-world actions and gestures. You know: too pretentious, too many words, too many big words, too pretty, too satisfied, too comfortable, too much artifice.

And now, oddly enough, she’s released a triple LP that defuses some of those arguments. Vocal-cord problems keep her from exploiting that old divisive croak. Most straightforward lyrics reassure us that she’s speaking to our unmagical world, even if those lines remain packed with tricky poetic effects. Her recent photos look like fashion shoots. Simple things like piano and pop drumming allow us, for the first time, to say aha: we can finally identify her as fitting in with something concrete– Joni Mitchell, Laurel Canyon folkies, 1970s California, something. So the question of what the hell to make of her talents travels its way further up into the mainstream, where every critic dutifully offers a list of the kinds of words you’re going to encounter on her records (“palanquin!” “gormless!”), and Vanity Fair runs a tongue-near-cheek article explaining– no kidding– why it’s not emasculating to listen to her. “It’s just a straighter path,” she tells London’s Times, “to the same truth.”

Pop star Gaga, meanwhile, seems to work in the opposite direction, despite being every bit as steeped in artifice and pretense as Newsom. Her latest product is eight songs and 34 minutes long, compared to Newsom’s two-hour set; its most upscale English word is, by my reckoning, “saline,” versus much-noted Newsom vocabulary like “etiolated” (which also gets called out in the annotated edition of Nabokov’s Lolita). This is the big difference, of course, and the thing that some people find lacking in Newsom: Gaga’s big bundle of affectations may not be carefully constructed around a specific point– it’s not writerly in that Nabokovian way– but it’s rich and visceral enough that just about anyone can draw something thrilling or unsettling from it. Newsom gets pegged as some woodsy creature whose art is highly constructed; Gaga gets pegged as some artificial construct whose art feels intuitive. Newsom’s music feels private, a strange artifact waiting for you to come engage with it. Gaga’s is entirely public, to the point where most of it is located in image and gesture and persona. Sometimes it’s as if she’s still figuring out how to reliably pack more of that meaning into the songs themselves.

That’s surely why we don’t write Gaga off as “pretentious,” a word loaded with all kinds of social-class connotations: Her music doesn’t scan as highbrow or aimed at any elite. Besides, we want pop stars to be oversized and perverse– often we want them to think they’re more special than us. My question, though, is this: Don’t we want the same level of imagination and confidence from indie acts? And if so, why do a lot of us seem slightly wary about the possibility? Why celebrate pretense and bold gestures in pop music, but get weirdly skeptical of them in the indie world? It’s as if we’ve reached the point where one long-running indie value– the idea that the performers are a lot like the audience– has started eating up a much more interesting one: that indie can be a realm that embraces oddity and strangeness. This is the funny predicament of a lot of talk about modern indie. It’s as if the audience doesn’t think of itself as very interesting, and is skeptical of any band that comes out of its midst thinking it’s any better. (Especially if people, somewhere outside of the indie world, seem to agree.) Successful, self-conscious strangeness in the mainstream is a triumph; the same thing in this fringe genre is, for some reason, sometimes considered pretentious, self-satisfied, laughable, overstepping one’s station.

Not that this keeps ambitious or oddball indie acts from being popular and successful. But still, there’s a high level of self-consciousness around it all, and a lot of it traces back to our conversations. Look at this amazing quote from Newsom, in a recent feature: “I was bummed at everyone saying my songs were innocent and nursery rhyme-like. When people would put me and Devendra Banhart in the same sentence, they were coding his eccentricities as world-weary and ‘witchy’ and coding my eccentricities as childlike and naive. I felt like it minimized my intelligence. But I think in my defensiveness I disavowed some realities I should not have disavowed.”

This is revealing, isn’t it? Newsom’s clearly smart enough to know that a good artist can’t afford to deform her vision simply because not everyone in the world treats it kindly; besides, it’s not as if a trained harpist with an odd voice and devoted following is going to turn into someone else. But forget Newsom for a minute and just look at the self-consciousness involved. If we’re surrounded by conversation, what happens if the things the conversation sets upon turn out to be flip, superficial, or full of odd standards? What does it do, not to the artist, but to us, or music as a whole, or the music that hasn’t been made yet?

Because on the web, there’s no such thing as silent dismissal, the invisible shrug of this-is-not-for-me: everything’s verbalized. Casual dismissal– “this bugs me,” “I can’t stand that voice”– starts to look more like active criticism. People snipe or worry about whatever seems to be at issue, even if what’s at issue has more to do with our arguments than what’s happening in the music. The basic dynamics of numbers and taste, in fact, dictate that there will usually be more people who dislike something than enjoy it– valid opinions that’ll all be registered, some snidely. At times, this can turn a discussion into simply locating what’s different or notable about a given act and then chipping away at it, finding the most efficient way of mocking it, ferreting out the exact interpretation of what’s happening that best allows us to critique it.

This gets particularly weird when it comes to indie, a genre in which people are used to thinking of their taste as interesting and different. Because once the web brings everyone in a niche like this into constant contact, well: Where does the discussion go? Instead of figuring out your taste in relation to the world, you start figuring it out in relation to your immediate peers– which sometimes means distinguishing yourself from them over smaller and smaller differences. You can wind up with a conversation in which everyone’s edgy, wary, and near-religiously on guard for certain errors: being “pretentious,” thinking you’re clever, trying to be highbrow, seeming smug, or, at some point, doing anything that you seem to think makes you cool, interesting, or worth listening to.

This doesn’t mean people should just be “nice.” People who dislike things should say so, and any artist who puts out a record should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will love it. This is just life, and there’s no good alternative to it: Scenes in which every artist is uncritically considered a special, fragile snowflake tend to get really cruddy really quickly. But when you get to the point where you’re wary of any band that seems to think it’s actually doing something cool– even when that act’s only gotten as far as selling a couple of hundred singles– you’re halfway to kneecapping any opportunity for bands to actually be cool.

So whenever I hear complaints about new indie acts being predictable, bland, overly tasteful, or unambitious, I can’t help thinking this might be part of the reason: That this scene may have started producing music the way some adolescents get dressed, corrosively self-conscious about any sign of unfashionable difference that opens them up to be mocked. At worst, you can wind up with a whole genre where the acts and the audience are both armoring themselves against standing out or embracing risks. You wind up reaching that weird provincial point where you’re always cutting down the plant that grows higher than the others– where the way you call for the music to be more interesting (or try to express what makes you more interesting) actually has the effect of making it tamer, less interesting.

If all that sounds like needless handwringing, well, maybe it is: There’s always enough great stuff to listen to that the healthiness of this dynamic feels like a footnote. (“Indie will eat itself.”) It’s strange to me, though, that when I sat down to try and think of an act that fits somewhere between those mirror images of Newsom and Gaga, the first to come to mind was one that still floats beneath the radar. Give a listen to Parenthetical Girls’ 2008 “Song for Ellie Greenwich”, a song whose arrangements and melodies might skew in a Newsom-like direction, but whose pretentions– including the vocals of Zac Pennington, who actually vaguely looks and moves like Lady Gaga– share the pop star’s visceral, unsettling shudder and edge. Or try their cover of the Smiths’ “Handsome Devil”, which– over a quarter century later– they manage to keep sinister and sordid. And then consider: whether you’ve enjoyed it or not, what do our opinions about stuff like this wind up doing?

And here: by Ben Coe Check out his music posts, as well…hell, most of his posts are pretty insightful.  They’re making me think…

In the deepest sense money isn’t real.  It’s true.  Intrinsically it has no real value.  It’s just a fancy piece of paper.  If you were to take our money to an alien world what could you use it for?  Money is simply a mutually agreed upon token we use to exchange for things that provide REAL VALUE to us like food, community, comfort and shelter.  It is the thing we buy with money or the thing people buy from us that has actual value.

Why then do we stress  over money?  You stress about money because you have mistakenly identified money, the actual money, as the thing of value.  You feel stress because you are “fighting” to get something that doesn’t exist- the closer you get the more elusive it becomes.  There is another way.

Look at the thing of value as what’s underneath the money.  If you want to generate more income, then think of how you can generate more value, not more money.  Also recognize that both value and wealth come in more forms than just money.  You can be financially wealthy but be bankrupt in true friendships, peer respect or health.

This observation is universal; applicable to anyone, anywhere in any business or organization.   It applies to the artist business, the management company and the United States Government.

In equation form it looks like this:

Wealth = Value Provided by Y *  Number of Entities that Directly Value Y

(Where Y is the product, employee or subject generating wealth).

Think about this on a higher plane.  We are all connected in a giant ecosystem and the flow of money is merely a manifestation of the exchange of our energy.  Next time you are stressed out about money be self-reflective.  Rather than stressing about how you can get more money for money’s sake, focus instead on how you can provide more value to more people.  All sorts of wealth will flow from this mindset.

Independent Food Local Music Independent Music Local Food

March 12, 2010

The cover of the February Paste magazine salutes the 1966 Time cover, the one that asked “Is God Dead?”  Only Paste is asking “Is Indie Dead?”  Not such a heady question, but one that speaks to music fans.  Several teenagers have asked me what I think of when I hear the word “indie.”  It got me thinking.  Not much, really.  Part of me thinks that it’s an intellectual, cerebral matter: no one is going to die over this question (hopefully, although I imagine there are some folks that could get riled up over this debate), and part of me thinks it is a more visceral concern–people make their livings writing and talking about this stuff.  But mostly I’m left shrugging my shoulders, thinking, “well…”

Here’s what I think:  People who pursue art for art’s sake–painting, drawing, music, cooking, writing–those are the true independents.  The folks painting beautiful monochromes in their basement, or the guys playing music in the basement with their friends–these are the people to respect.  If acknowledgment comes to them in their time, great.  If not, they will still be pursuing their craft.   I have been playing drums for a long time, and I hope I can pursue this path of integrity for the rest of my days.

And I think the same can be said for the local foods movement.  I think it’s great that people are realizing the importance of knowing where their food comes from.  Check out the movie Food, Inc. I can’t say it any better than that movie shows it.  I heard Dr. Steven Jones say this one time, concerning diversity training, and it can be applied to music, food, whatever–“Do we need to call it  diversity?  Call it whatever you want to call it—Call it ‘love everybody’–just do the work.”

Is Indie dead?  Who knows?  Here’s what I know: It means a lot to pursue what you love to do, whether anyone ever sees it, reads it, hears it, or eats it.  Here is a final thought from my good friend and mentor, Gordon Gottlieb, again–I defer to smarter people than me:

What “words of wisdom” can you offer young people entering the field today?
With so many styles of percussion/drumming available to the curious, one can choose to perform and/or teach a myriad of instrumental or theoretical techniques. The savvy student is one who has an overview of the cross-currents of our art, can hone in on what is essential for him- or herself, and come to the art with humility and honesty. Being a rhythmist defines what we are, suggesting a life of continual striving for a state of grace with pulse and time. Any of another mindset need not apply.

What is essential is invisible to the eye…St. Exupery

More later.

Dr. Ho’s Pizza–Music on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

March 2, 2010

I need to write about Dr. Ho’s.  Food and music, music and food.  I love the fact that they present music only on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  I think that is cool.   It’s like a weekend in the middle of the week.  Dr. Ho’s is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that just feels good to walk into–people call you by name, and you’re more than likely going to run into someone you know–and like, even.  The owners are cool, the waitresses are cool and laid back…MB will even sit with us at our table and talk books.  The walls are beset with postcards, album covers (Humble Pie), all sorts of kitsch.  The bathroom is full of paper plate art–Grateful Dead themes, “wanted Dominoes Pizza” posters, “Dr. Ho’s Knows…”  It’s beautiful in its variegated mash.  Bands pile into a corner of the restaurant after the wait staff move out a couple of tables, making the already usually packed joint a SRO establishment.  Yes it can be a pain in the ass, but the bands they get are worth standing for…on a nice evening we’ll sometimes take our pizza out to the grass next to the building, eating on a blanket and peeping in every now and then to hear the music.

And the food.  Man.  Dr. Ho’s is the first place I’ve witnessed using celery leaves in a dish–in their incomparable beet salad…beets sliced paper thin, celery leaves, spicy pecans, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and Caramont Farms goat cheese.  Good stuff.  Great stuff.  Their soups are delicious–potato & leek, butternut squash, minestrone.  The pizza.  We always get a mix of the tomato and pesto sauces, organic Italian sausage, artichoke hearts…it’s an old stand-by, but all of their pizzas are amazing.  Plus they have a great beer selection and serve the local Blue Mountain Classic Lager, which is about my favorite beer of all time, although that is a distinction that can be debated, depending on what’s available at the time, if you know what I mean.  Check out the web-site and look at the menu:

One night after eating at the Ho, as we drove home down 29, Mary Catherine said, “You’re going to think this is cheesy, but you know what that place reminds me of?”  Without pause, I said, “Cheers.”  It’s not cheesy.  Everybody knows your name.  It’s got great food, beer, music, and it just feels great.  Like it says on the wall…”Dr. Ho’s Knows.”

Food containers as instruments: thoughts on generative music

February 24, 2010

Okay.  The opossum story:  opossum in the chicken house.  Got it out with a shovel…the dog would have nothing to do with it.  Don’t have a gun, so put opossum in trash can.  Thought I would give it a 50/50 fighting chance by taking it to the river and tossing it over the bridge.  Poor opossum.  I hope he’s okay.  Won’t be coming back to the chicken house any time soon, I reckon.

I notice in posts prior I mention the idea of “more later” and then fail to write the more later.  Well, I’ll work on that.  More later.

Lots of music going on this week: Sarah White and the Pearls are recording (and, yes, I will  play less).  Seussical: the Musical.  Keith Morris and the Crooked Numbers…Two shows with Doug Schneider and Kate Lambert at Westminister Canterbury in Richmond, where none other than THE James Erb (Google that guy) told me he enjoyed the show from beginning to end.  That may have been the nicest compliment I’ve been payed about anything.  I used to eat at their house on Wednesday nights before choir rehearsal and I will always remember that he would not eat bread with spaghetti–too much bread product.  His brilliance is unique and his humor is broad.  He arranged a version of “Shenandoah” that is sublime.  He and his wife Ruth are two of a kind.  And his son is one of my longtime best friends. Awesome.

So, on Saturday morning, I meet up with John and we talk about his PhD dissertation, which will be about generative music.  We also get into some esoteric recording.  See post below.  Hanging out with John Priestly, one can expect anything, so it’s good to go in with no expectations.  Coffee.  Check.  Music.  Check.  Intelligent Conversation.  One sided, but check.  Recording weird sounds.  Check.  Being almost forty but feeling 17.  Check.  Mind expanding.  Check.  My admiration for John’s intelligence.  Check.

John introduced me to Brian Eno’s and Peter Chilvers’s program Bloom.  That stuff is crazy cool and brought up much discussion on the idea of  music ownership, composition, and collaboration.  Look it up.  Creating systems of music to reproduce notes randomly (or not so randomly) intrigues me.  I have been a fan of Eno for a long time (our son was born as we listened to Discreet Music on repeat [an idea I think Eno would commend]) and I enjoy seeing how he is climbing the face of music entire, scaling to new heights of creativity.  So we experimented with sounds.  He posted it on his site.  Below.

Stuart meets the ceramophone…(photo by John Priestly)

So, there we have it–bowls as instruments.  Maybe next time: food as instruments.  Send me your thoughts.  More later.

Where the Magic Happens

January 21, 2010