Adam Neely, monster of observation.

I’ve spoken of Adam Neely before, and I keep up with his channel pretty regularly, but frankly this effort just seems like required posting.

Good lord, so many wonderful observations in there.  Clearly I’m going to have to get my hands on the Bernstein “Young People’s Concert” series, about which I’ve heard a little bit before, just for my own kids’ sake.

And this is a great illustration of how solidly Neely seems to have found his niche, too.  He seems to have started primarily as a “bass guy”, but has grown his work gradually into the advance-vanguard observationist role that nobody else does quite the same–nor as well.  Others of course have their moments of great observation, but Neely has grown essentially to live in that space, and at this point I understand implicitly that this is why I go to him in the first place. “New Horizons In Music”, indeed!

And what’s further interesting is that I realized , with this video, that this sort of content is what modern, Internet-age television can be.  I mean duh, that sort of seems obvious in hindsight, but still, a fair epiphany for someone who has seen a world go from “thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from (choose from…choose from…)”–to “fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”–to the truly geometric explosion of the open Internet, in a remarkably short time.  I think this makes it both all the more notable, and all the more inevitable:  in a way, as the signal-to-noise ratio goes down further and further over time, the dreckening seems actually to leave more room for this sort of excellence;  the trick of course is often simply finding it.  (And that obtuse notion really warms this nonarchist peacenik’s heart.  🙂  )

One other point of seeing happened as well, watching this:  I think I would now feel comfortable making the case that Adam Neely is now a fully formed heir apparent to Leonard Bernstein.  Somehow, just watching each one, in the same video, the idea just jumped off the screen at me, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am.  Not only are their presentation styles remarkably similar (adjusted slightly of course for their respective moments in historical time), but they both radiate the wonderfully childlike (and humble) instructor-joy that the best instructors in any discipline do.  The irony there of course is that trying to describe and deconstruct that comparison–beyond simply observing, “just watch–you can see it if you look”–would require the same sort of skill that Neely himself has in that regard.

And I’ll not even attempt that.  🙂

 

 

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Props to the humble Raspberry Pi.

Well hell, that seemed almost too easy.

Here at Wilmachek World Headquarters (which graciously sublets this Craftygrass thing) we’ve long desired (if not aggressively sought out) a reasonably simple, low-cost means of sharing our music library so that we don’t have to manage multiple instances, etc.  We didn’t want it in the cloud, both because where we live the cloud is not always reliable and because we pay our ISP based on data volume, and because it can be a mess to manage silos of files separately the traditional way…

Enter the humble little Raspberry Pi.  Sabre was given one some years back by a family friend, and as I started to learn a bit about what Adam had in mind behind the gift, the idea mill started to grind into action, and when I asked Sabre if she’d mind us using the Pi in part to share music, she was happy to do it, even if she didn’t quite understand what I had in mind.  (She’s cool that way.)

And so, gradually–I’m new to the landscapes of Linux in general, of the Pi in specific, and of this business of sharing media–I learned a bit about how to set things up, and eventually figured I’d try out the simplest idea, that of setting up a Samba server on the Pi and just treating things as a simple file share.  And holy cow, it looks like this may just work out great, with nothing fancier required.

So our Pi is now set up with the music library installed in a root folder on a 128GB flash drive, occupying almost no space at all in one of the Pi’s USB ports;  that folder is shared by the Samba server to devices that can connect on our home network.  I’ll probably continue to learn about tweaks to folder permissions, etc., but the setup was pretty straightforward, and making incremental changes and reboots on the little champ is luxuriously quick and understandable.  And so we’ve now got us a share folder on our local network, abstracted out into a pretty convenient storage arrangement.

The really pleasant surprise came with trying this out on the playback side, with the VLC media player.  I did not realize how simple it would be to consume the whole library from both the Mac and our iOS devices, and since the VLC desktop app is substantially the same on Windows, I expect our Windows machines will be similarly easy to use.  I was hoping we could find a media library player that we could use instead of iTunes, but I didn’t figure we could use VLC across the board, and so simply.  And I hadn’t considered that we could incorporate video, as well, but the VLC app makes that so obvious we’ll have to try it out.  Sometimes, it’s really excellent to be wrong!

So now, testing, both kicking the tires and using it in daily use over a bit of time.  And with this hurdle now surmounted (after a big effort to consolidate and purge the several silos of library variants we have had floating around), it also promises an end-in-sight to finally (after a lot of years) getting our library into a state which is both understandable and conveniently usable.  Yeah, it’s not a perfect solution still (not solving the synchronization problem fully), but the promise is so much better than anything we’ve had before, that seems like a minor problem to have!

Kudos, then, to both the VLC Media Player app, in all its variants;  to tiny-format USB flash drives of startling size, to the long-established Samba server for the fileserver functions, and to the humble Raspberry Pi for making it all work so smoothly in such an inexpensive and convenient format.

 

 

Fripp and Eno, “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.

Okay, so today, in the process of trying to mix and master last night’s first-dart-in-the-board soundscape recording (it’s updated now with a second candidate), I dragged out (No Pussyfooting) by Fripp & Eno.  (One of the things that Graham Cochrane at Recording Revolution suggests, for the practice of mastering, is the use of a deliberately chosen reference track to work against.  Not really being in well-trodden territory here, I thought that might be an appropriate place to start.)

And oh man, does that record hold up well.  I’ve owned it for years and always liked it, but at the same time I’ve never heard it like this–now listening to it both in the producer’s role and also the soundscapist’s role.  What an amazing thing to have done at that time, with only those resources!

I was struck by a few things, listening mostly to “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  The natural decay of the analog tape is fascinating to hear with intentional ears;  not only does the volume level decay, but the EQ shifts as well, losing more high end with each iteration than elsewhere in the spectrum;  each loop sounds successively “darker” and essentially subsumes into mud with enough time.  By contrast, the digital decay of the Ditto X4 I’m using seems to keep a pretty consistent EQ profile throughout the decay process, and I suspect that at some level (certainly beyond where I’m at now), a player will respond differently to the unique sounds.

And of course as a player one can’t help but think of Robert’s description of the ambient soundscape as a place of “hazard”.  Indeed!  I can certainly hear some obvious places in my own soundscape in which I fail to negotiate the hazard successfully, and thus resort to the Crafty Guitarist’s credo, as articulated by Hellboy #1 Tom Redmond:  “If you play a wrong note, play it again.”  Now…this is pretty easy to do when said note comes right back around automatically 6-8 seconds later, several times, which is at least partly what Robert was talking about!  But this is part of the excitement of doing full improv, isn’t it?  I might really screw things up!  And so I am actually pretty jazzed about developing things further myself, warts and all.  I consider myself fortunate that I can listen to the genius of Fripp & Eno in their pioneering work to create a whole new genre, and rather than get intimidated, get juiced instead.

And I am.  I’m finding myself thinking about all kinds of ideas of what to do in the future when I hear the flub go out into the loop and need to respond to it.  Listening to both (No Pussyfooting) and Let the Power Fall today also reminded me that I should further develop the practice of fixing the loop for a time (stopping overdubs) to be able to play an intentional line on top of it.  And with the Ditto X4, there is also that second loop to consider as well.  I don’t know exactly how that might best be used, but I intend to experiment and see if ideas arise.

In the meantime, I needed to gush a bit about “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  Man, what an enormous statement!

Test: first ambient recording.

So just this week for the first time I committed an ambient improvisation “to tape”.  I may discuss further details of that later, but for now I’m trying to figure out the best way to ramp up storage for such things, and naturally, there are stumbling blocks.

So, for now, I’m going to try a direct link to the .mp3 file in a public Dropbox folder.

That is here.

Note that depending on what I set up etc. etc., this post may wind up being overtaken by other events, but for now, we’re a-testing.  Stand by…

Also, for anyone who does find himself here, please understand that this file is pretty raw:  a very simple edit (clip trim, start and end fades), one additional reverb plugin added, and the most rudimentary volume adjustment to get it up above the (roughly -18dB) recording level.  By no means has it been mastered, or even really mixed–and the signal processing settings felt very arbitrary in the first place.  (Understand it is quite literally the first recording of an ambient improv I’ve ever done:  I am new both to the end-to-end of production, and also to the art of soundscaping as a player as well.  It sure promises to be fun, but right now at least I am the quintessential n00b!  🙂  )

UPDATE:  Here is a second release candidate, after having applied some more mixing and mastering attentions.

Dhafer Youssef again: get a load of this guy!

For all its irritations and annoyances in this crazy, nascently-weaponized world of social media, YouTube remains an absolutely astonishing resource.  From Pandora I recently first heard Tunisian oud-ist (if that’s not a word, I think I should make it one) Dhafer Youssef, and was captivated by his sense of mood on his Ascetic Journey.  Today, simply on a lark, I thought I’d chase a link or two of his, on YouTube, and see where it led.

(cue sound of jaw dropping)

Holy smackers, Batman, get a load of this guy!  Let it never be said that cross-genre innovation and muttery is dead or even mildly unhealthy.  Wow!

First, check out Dhafer Youssef the vocalist, fully as impressive there as he is with the oud heroics, in “Delightfully Odd“:

Aside from that marvelous voice, the ensemble strikes me a whole lot like the small groups of Israeli bass wizard Avishai Cohen and fellow Tunisian Anouar Brahem–which is to say, for me at least, gloriously alive, engaging, and unapologetically athwart easy categorization.  A great group, captivating music, exquisite sound…and Youssef himself is infectiously engaging.

Next, I ran across “Winds and Shadows”, which…oh hell, just watch it:

Magnificent.  What a marvelous blend of traditions!

And as I hear more, I’m becoming even more impressed by his touch and dynamics, to achieve simply massive amounts of space within these pieces and groups.  Check out this trio, with the same Norwegian guitarist from the Winds and Shadows clip, along with trumpet and flugelhorn, in this medley:

Man…now I’m a huge fan of Miles’ interpretation of Aranjuez on the Gil Evans collaboration Sketches of Spain–“huge” as in, I hold up Miles’ absolutely heart-stopping “the softer you play it, the stronger it gets” solo in that piece as one of the finest musical moments I have ever heard, anywhere–and with that context for where the bar is set, I really like this arrangement and delivery.

So, I needed the bookmarks, if just for me!   🙂