Chernobyl-Rooftops of Pripyat (2014)

March 2, 2014

Chernobyl-Rooftops of Pripyat (2014)

This video was created by a “radiation activist” who has spent much time filming in Pripyat, the abandoned city near Chernobyl that housed the reactor’s large workforce. It is a climb to the top of a residential highrise, through debris-choked hallways and staircases, followed by rooftop views of the surrounding area: a never-used Ferris wheel, the gigantic Duga-3 radio jamming array (known as the “Russian Woodpecker” for the sound bleeding through worldwide radio transmissions), and the reactor itself. The desolation translated into sound for me that transcended the original track, including music from Stravinsky, fantastic shortwave radio creations, a carousel playing The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” and an old Voice of America radio transmission from the 1960s beamed at Eastern Europe.

Videos Hosted with Vimeo

February 19, 2014

I recently became a member of Vimeo, which hosts videos at considerably higher quality (picture and sound both) than YouTube. Here is the link for anyone interested:

https://vimeo.com/user24035722/videos

Violist’s Audition Nightmare (2013)

January 24, 2014

A violist, who has a big orchestra audition the next morning, has a horrible nightmare about the music he will be playing. The raw material of this piece is wild! The principal violist of a major European orchestra did a YouTube master class about Strauss’s “Don Juan,” one of the most commonly-asked-for audition pieces for viola. What he also did was a parody version, done with a perfectly straight face, in which he totally butchered the music! Hearing the two sets of musical excerpts set my mind to churning…

Violist’s Audition Nightmare

The Nose

January 6, 2014

This 1963 animated version of Gogol’s classic surrealist story was done in “pinboard,” an obsolete animation style that looks like moving woodcuts! I didn’t think the soundtrack did justice to the visuals, so I decided to do my own. In homage to the Russian subject, I used themes from Tschaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, some folk music, and lots of electronics and sound effects.

Mr. Crankypants Freaks Out On Crowded Las Vegas Bus (2013)

November 8, 2013

This poor guy was recorded by the Canadian sound designer known as Lonemonk. He reports that it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit onboard the bus. I couldn’t resist “playing” with it, first trimming it down to a more manageable size, then mangling it here and there. Poor Mr. Crankypants… He may have had a coronary by  now…

Mr. Crankypants Freaks Out On Crowded Bus, Las Vegas

Liberace and John Cage Play the Afterworld Lounge (2013)

October 10, 2013

It started with their voices: Lounge-pianist-extraordinaire Liberace and clown-prince-of-the-avant-garde John Cage. I found a thrift-shop vinyl album of Liberace playing the Warsaw Concerto, a once-popular pseudo-classical piece of film music, and was delighted to find it was off-center! Then I wondered if, in the afterlife, they might meet for a smoke, maybe a drink, maybe to shoot the shit about life and philosophy…

Liberace and John Cage Play the Afterworld Lounge

Castro Street One (2013)

September 8, 2013

This is a beautiful film shot by Bruce Baillie in 1966. Unfortunately the sound track left something to be desired, so I decided to do my own. It is dedicated to the late Stephen McMahan, sound designer extraordinaire; I used many of his sounds. Also thanks to Simon Stockhausen, Chris Watson and the gents at Sonic Couture, Stephen Howell, Sonokinetics, Soundiron and Joe Trupiano for their fabulous libraries! By the way, it has nothing to do with San Francisco’s Castro Street. The location is actually a different Castro Street, across the bay in Richmond, in a huge Southern Pacific railroad yard. The voices are, first, English comedian Reginald Gardner from 1936, and second, the American comic Shorty Petterstein from 1957.

Agonushka in the Desert (2013)

September 7, 2013

Something new for me. The music by Stravinsky, performed in-studio and “noodled” live at intermissions in orchestra pits, combining with the winds through power lines crossing a windswept desert, playing…well…sometimes Stravinsky again… Many thanks to Simon Stockhausen, a master of sampling and electronic synthesizers, who has taken the contributions of his father, seminal avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, to the cutting edge, and just keeps raising the bar! His soundsets for the softsynths Alchemy and Iris are fantastic, as is Geosonic, a library of natural sounds transmuted into hitherto-unimagined forms.

Agonushka in the Desert (2013)

The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away (2013)

August 4, 2013

This is a companion piece to “Forest,” much more urban. What has an old cobblestoned street seen over its long life? My take on it is a kind of fantasy documentary, taking us to nasty nightclubs in the distance, street preachers, Black Revolution in the 60s, the 20s, the Civil War, hippie times, Aeolian harps singing, plus all manner of animals and weirdness! Thanks for the title (in the late 60s) to an album by Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys, one of whose members, Jay Ungar, went on to write music for Ken Burns documentaries and lots more. So I’m treading in some illustrious footsteps… Not that Jay would necessarily approve of giant egg slicers, burbling flying saucers, Native American chants, etc. etc.

The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away

Forest (2013)

July 14, 2013

Here’s a new piece, finally. I was asked to contribute to a Portuguese radio festival called “Ecos,” on the subject of recontextualizing the listening experience. Well, those kinds of academic buzzwords don’t always sit too well with me, but I did have an idea going back to one of my favorite sounds, recorded several years ago by the estimable Yannick Dauby, who’s lived in Taiwan for quite some time and has done some good recordings there. This one is of a rainy French forest, with a stag giving his mournful mating cry. Wonderful detail and a very wide listening field! I started to think, “How could I transform this sound?” which led to various fantastic add-ons, and in turn led to “Why don’t people just leave the poor stag alone to do his thing?” Well, in this case, “people” was yours truly. But be advised that no animals were harmed in the creation of this soundscape. Thanks again to Yannick for giving me permission to riff on his recording!

The Forest Floor

My Latest Nightmare

February 3, 2013

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean I’m brain-dead. Actually, my wife Su and I were finally able to take a long trip together, the first since we’ve been together (12 beautiful years!) Germany, Austria, Slovakia. It was a very refreshing and renewing experience, and on our return I jumped into some new projects. One was learning a new program called Iris, from developer Izotope, which involves complex sound filtering using drawn shapes. Also one can use one’s own sound sources. I made use of two sound files, one of Cairo during a call to worship, the other of a muezzin in Teheran. The result is nightmarish, like some kind of fever dream perhaps. Enjoy… or not…

Muezzins Up and Down

American Places

October 28, 2012

Right on the heels of my latest soundtrack, my album of field recordings was just released. Luís Antero, a Portuguese sound artist, runs a net label called Green Field Records, and after hearing some of my old recordings, he approached me to ask if he could put out an entire album chosen from my audio stretching back seven years. This is the result! Many thanks to him, and also to Su who was with me almost every step of the way (and Photoshopped the pictures beautifully!). You can download the whole album from the link down under the Flash player. That takes you to archive.org which hosts Green Field. Then click at the left where it says “vbr zip” to download the whole album, though of course you can go track by track if you want to. The booklet with explanatory notes and photos is at the bottom of the page under “other files”; it says “text pdf.” Sorry it’s so involved to get it; I hope you find it worth your while!

American Places

Star Light Star Bright

October 28, 2012

https://vimeo.com/86326617

Here I go again, with another video, this time paying homage, in my own snarky way, to the fantastic German animator Lotte Reiniger, who began working in the 1920s, and emigrated to Britain in the 1940s. Her “Star of Bethlehem” is from 1956. I shortened it a bit, and composed my own soundtrack, rather different from the original to say the least. Reiniger mostly did fairy tales of one sort or another; “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” is available on DVD, and various bits and pieces of her work can be seen on YouTube. I love her shadow-puppet style of animation, where the figures are moved one frame at a time like claymation. She was definitely far ahead of her time! I have to apologize for a couple of glitches in the sound that I couldn’t get rid of, plus, because of a problem in the video conversion months ago, the last few seconds are cut off! Crap!!  All you’ll miss is the tail end of the angel voices as they fade into the eternal heavens, singing Kurt Weill’s “Tango Ballade” as arranged for ukelele, bass harmonica and slide guitar besides the voices… But crap, anyway…

Heard You Missed Me, Now I’m Back!

September 23, 2012

Well, I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to really say THAAAT… But I just did… Anyway, I’ve been quiet for months now, with lots of life’s cares and woes occupying me, but I have been working on some stuff as time permits. I’ve started to do sound for video, in the form of YouTube films where I make cuts if needed, strip out the soundtracks if there are any, and compose new ones. Here’s a link to my first effort, a 1923 silent short by the Surrealist artist Man Ray for which I created a track. It took six months to finish, with a huge learning curve for an oldster like me. And, by the way, watch this space for several new things in the coming months!

If You Can’t Lick ‘Em, Join ‘Em (2011)

December 27, 2011

Pity the poor organist! All he wants to do is practice his Peer Gynt Suite in his church, and he gets invaded by a bizarre marching band of toy soldiers complete with maniac vocalist. He joins in, only to be drowned out, and then the soldiers march on, leaving only the faint sound of a car stereo. Besides the thundering pipe organ, there’s a thumping tambourine, a Jew’s harp, a full women’s choir and a couple of honking vuvuzelas, plus a distant recording of Tejano music coming from an overloaded car trunk subwoofer. Oh, and “March of the Wooden Soldiers” from the 1940s.

If You Can’t Lick ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Sketch 1–The Journey Is Over (2011)

November 6, 2011

Here’s a short thing I’ve been working on for awhile, using samples from a wide variety of sources plus a beautiful recording of a forest in the rain. Hope you like it…

Sketch 1–The Journey Is Over

Spinach Mother of Christ

October 16, 2011

I have toyed with the idea of expanding beyond pure audio in my posts, and this recipe pushed me over the edge. That is the correct title, and it’s from a book called “Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices,” privately printed in a small Minnesota town in 1960. Here goes:

“The Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ was very fond of spinach. This is as well a known fact in Nazareth today as it was 19 centuries ago. Her favorite music was that of the crude bagpipes of that time, and this also is a well known fact.

Her recipe for preparing spinach spread with Christianity throughout Europe. On the eve of Christ’s birth in the cave that was called a stable, Her only meal was spinach.

The early European immigrants from Germany, France, and Italy nearly all brought this recipe with them. This is a recipe for people who like a mild garlic flavor, it definitely is not for people who do not like some garlic.

This recipe cannot be made from canned spinach. Canned spinach in no way resembles fresh or frozen spinach and in my opinion is fit for neither man or beast.

Take six quarts of fresh spinach and carefully remove the heavy stems. If you use frozen spinach take two boxes. Boil the fresh spinach five minutes–no more. If you use frozen spinach place it in boiling water…”

Wellll, it drones on and on and on.  Seems like a pretty ordinary recipe to me. But then again, I don’t pretend to be a culinary genius. Or a theologian, either…

Spry (2011)

September 6, 2011

It’s been a while, once again… Here’s a fantasy homage to pure vegetable shortening of bygone days. The text is from the company booklet “What Shall I Cook Today?”; illustrations follow. Actually, this piece is about the past and the future, not very much about the present. With that mysterious statement, I’ll get the hell out of the way…

Spry

Focus Group (2011)

June 1, 2011

What do movie producers, food manufacturers, and politicians all have in common? Riiiight, focus groups! They get people together, pay ’em a little money, give ’em some (cheap) food, and try and make ’em believe that their opinions are really making a difference, that they are exerting control over our crazy world. Well, ummm, they’re not. But let’s eavesdrop on one, evaluating the sound track on a very peculiar film. Listener discretion advised…

Focus Group

Hell and Damnation (2011)

February 20, 2011

Here’s my first piece in quite a while. I’ve been working on it for almost a year. For me it almost qualifies as a “magnum opus,” since it’s almost 11 minutes long! It’s a meditation on…well, hell and damnation. The inspiration was a rip from a Thai Buddhist cassette I found on a blog. That repetitive choral line goes on for half an hour. Anyway, a hellish soundscape with flashes of prairie chickens, preachers, Japanese phone calls and power stations, Balinese mornings, French forests, Czech mineshaft elevators, bla bla bla… enjoy!

Hell and Damnation

Tea Party Antics (2010)

September 19, 2010

As we get deep into the political season here in the U.S. of A., my hackles start to rise again. Here is a fantasy infomercial that could have been put out by the Tea Party Express. Rude and mean, just like them…

Tea Party Antics

Jesus, I (Rocky Catarrh) Have Needs (2010)

August 11, 2010

Rocky Catarrh, “private detective and intensely devout Christian,” as he calls himself, is back, and more confused than ever. His life is falling apart. Work has no meaning, his rabbit Ace has been ill for weeks, and there’s always “the woman thing”… As usual, he prays to Jesus, who seems to have problems of his own lately…

Jesus, I (Rocky Catarrh) Have Needs

Vuvuzela Gabrieli (2010)

August 6, 2010

In the wake of the World Cup, I got curious about vuvuzelas, the plastic horns being blown exuberantly throughout the matches. Some audio company had developed a filter to reduce the onslaught of the racket on TV, to make commentary actually audible. Then my wife got the idea: what if vuvuzelas could be made to play in brass choirs, like Gabrieli’s music centuries ago? With the brilliant vuvuzela sample set from Sample Logic, and a midi file from Classicalarchives of a Gabrieli canzona, combined with my always-twisted point of view, the piece was inevitable…

Vuvuzela Gabrieli

Gamelan Showroom (2010)

May 30, 2010

This piece started out sooo innocently… A showroom in Indonesia demonstrating the classic gamelan gongs, mostly for tourists; when you hear “Mary Had A Little Lamb” being picked out on gongs, it’s a pretty fair bet that tourist kids are on site. So far so good. But then, the piece is hijacked… by birthers. Listen for yourselves…

Gamelan Showroom

Bad Trip (2010)

May 4, 2010

Timothy Leary made me compose this one. No, he didn’t come to me in a dream, but I stumbled upon a rip of his mid-60s “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” album, complete with excruciatingly bad sitar music in the background, occasional cymbal crashes, etc. I cut many of his remarks up into small pieces, and began combining them to see what might result. From there, it was just a hop, skip and jump through the verdant fields of “Reefer Madness”-type stuff, of which I have acres’ worth, to the narrative of a turncoat hippie who wasn’t a bit hip in the first place. Ah yes, I remember them well…

Bad Trip

Sedona (2009-10)

April 8, 2010

I have an almost visceral dislike of extreme New Ageism, as manifested here. I’d had my eye on Sedona for a long time, and started the piece well before the revelations about the sweat house deaths. But I put it aside ’cause of technical problems, and finally came back to it with a vengeance. Yeah, that’s what it is…

Sedona

The Lost Chord (Apologies to Sir Arthur Sullivan) (2010)

March 2, 2010

You may remember Vern Slathers from a few years back, lounging around his fusty old kitchen in “A Life On Tape.” Here he’s hanging out in a different room—the parlor—with his buddy Burnoose MacPherson, playing  his organ, drinking, and complaining.

The Lost Chord (Apologies to Sir Arthur Sullivan)

All Us Indians Gotta Stick Together (2010)

February 10, 2010

Who has Carvin Bitzoff scored to interview on his most recent talk show? None other than Pleasy Lakshmi Chandra, Indian media star on the rise, touring the US to raise money for a Bollywood film mashing Indian Indians and American Indians–or Native Americans, as she is surprised to discover they are called–together into a dancin’, poundin’ stew set on an Arizona reservation. But eminent Native American spokesperson Ingrid Catches Breath will have none of it. Sparks and fur are flying by the end of the show. Let’s tune in and find out…

All Us Indians Got To Stick Together

Nature Is Calling (2010)

January 28, 2010

A couple weeks back, I came across rips of some anonymously-played-and-produced albums that I suppose could be called “New Age,” supposedly emblematic of the Native American Experience. The album titles were “The Last Of The Mohicans,” “The White Mustang” and “Dancing Wolves,” and they use just about every possible cliché imaginable. Well, the tracks called out loudly to me: “Mash us up!” so I did. I especially like the disco cymbals coming in at 1:15, for that truly authentic touch… I added a couple of strategic sound effects and a poem, and that’s it. Incidentally, the poem was written by Clancy Carlile, a cohort of mine 35+ years ago, a musician and writer whose claim to fame was writing the screenplay for a Clint Eastwood movie called “Honky Tonk Man.” Clancy was from Oklahoma and claimed to be a quarter Cherokee; maybe that’s why he thought he could get away with writing and singing stuff like that.

Nature Is Calling

I Gotta Wintry Feeling, With Cat On Shoulder (2010)

January 13, 2010

My first composition of the New Year, based on a song I’ve grown to like a lot, one of the monster hits of 2009, by the Black Eyed Peas. It’s a winter day, and our listener has a cat on one shoulder, listening to a fanciful landscape…

I Gotta Wintry Feeling, With Cat

Mister Smoothie’s Interview (2009)

December 30, 2009

Here’s the latest from my “archive.” Ace talk-show host Carvin Bitzoff, who we last saw in the field at the St. Stupid’s Day parade, is interviewing Walter Weego, aka Mr. Smoothie, the veteran recording session percussionist with music and reminiscences to share.

Mr. Smoothie’s Interview

Dudes And Dudettes, Transfigure The Night!! (2007)

December 4, 2009

More than some of my pieces, this needs a little background. In 2007, my wife and I, plus four  colleagues from our organization Golden Gate Music, had an opportunity to perform Arnold Schoenberg’s great string sextet “Transfigured Night.” We did a relatively huge amount of rehearsing, plus I for one practiced my part for dozens of hours. This piece was inspired by a highly emotional German poem that begins “Two people walk through a bare cold grove.” Well, shortly after the (successful) performance, I felt the need to blow the strenuous effort out of my head by making fun of it, and this was the result: “Schoenbergfest 07,” held in the Southern California countryside near a campground and an enormous cattle feedlot, complete with poetry, sound effects and other instruments. I had fun adding contrabassoon, trap drums and electric guitar.

Dudes And Dudettes, Transfigure The Night!!

Carvin Bitzoff, Interviewer On The Street (2007)

October 31, 2009

Carvin Bitzoff is a recent example of a very old genre, though of course he has a boatload of quirks. For the sound background, I used the St. Stupids Day recording from San Francisco that I posted here a couple months back.

Carvin Bitzoff, Interviewer On The Street

Rocky Catarrh: Private Investigator, Devout Christian (2006-7)

October 30, 2009

Rocky Catarrh (it could be spelled “Qatar” like the country, but that’s pronounced more like “cutter,” according to my stepdaughter, who’s moving there) is one of my most cherished characters, and I don’t think I’m done with him yet. He is a self-righteously pious prig, congenitally incapable of minding his own business, but a tender-hearted soul for all that (witness his relationship with his rabbit, Ace). But he hasn’t figured out the relationship with his snarky God, whom he always calls Jesus. Hilarity ensues…

Rocky’s Da Vinci Caper

What Would Jesus Do?

Rocky And Ace On Yet Another Case

Rocky And Ace, Stranded In Whizleydale-On-Stent

Lumpy Harvest In India (2005-6)

October 18, 2009

Pellagra Transom, whom you may have already met, is a shameless gold-digger from Britain, but now you can meet Indira, a woman on the rise in India. She hatched in my mind after a discovered a TTS voice called “Indian-accented English,” and here’s the result. Indira is not as blatant as Pellagra (though she gets herself into kind of an X-rated situation in Indira Going Places), but her intentions are definitely the same…

Song Of Indira

Indira Going Places

How I Spent My Vacation (2006)

October 18, 2009

Well, call me a cynic and a pessimist, which I do all the time… Here’s a fantasy example of tourism masquerading as Western cultural imperialism. Before you think this is some kind of doctrinaire equivalent of a political tract, be advised that it’s just as nuts as any of my other work. Also, I think things are getting better on the tourism front, as more wealthy people engage in ecotourism, as well as travel that really contributes to the well-being of residents at the local level rather than hotel owners and tour packagers. Maybe someday I’ll do a piece on native habitat restoration or something like that… Maybe not as much opportunity there for me to go as nuts as usual… But I might well find a way…

How I Spent My Vacation

Guitar Center (2004)

October 18, 2009

Here’s a very small piece, a kind of what-if? joke about a harpsichord player showing up at a Guitar Center, the notorious chain of instrument stores that specializes in serving rock (and maybe some jazz) musicians. I made the background recording myself at Guitar Center Concord, and the harpsichord was featured in another piece, Music Festival/Vancouver Docks, which I posted earlier. It’s the instrument made entirely of Legos (and strings…)

Guitar Center

Pellagra Transom: Her Saga (2003-6)

September 30, 2009

Meet Pellagra Transom, woman of the world and femme fatale. You wouldn’t want to know her; I guarantee it. A nasty piece of work; you stand warned.

I did five pieces starring Ms. Transom. In “To The Ends Of The Earth,” I was further exploring the joys of (free) library music, and flexing my storytelling muscles, while she searched for a suitable mark, um, man, in Las Vegas. Needless to say, she found one. In “Pellagra’s Blues,” she bounced around the world in the company of one man after another, ending up in Nigeria after answering a get-rich-quick email that actually worked. “Olay Pellagra” found her “rooted and settled” for all of three days in the hinterlands of Peru, after hitting Tashkent, Jerusalem and a kibbutz in the space of less than a week. In “Pellagra In The Desert,” she has met up with the Nuance Vocalizer Players, who are presenting her show about having settled down for real, as the proprietess/madam of the Black Stallion Ranch near Las Vegas. “Pellagra From Beyond The Grave” is narrated by Bruce Jizzlington, her former accountant and now owner of the Ranch, who hears her voice in his head frequently. Pellagra is frightful, but somehow I was interested enough in her to bring her back for five episodes. I might have done more, but her voice became unavailable to me and I had to move on. Crap.

To the Ends of the Earth

Pellagra’s Blues

Olay Pellagra

Pellagra In The Desert

Pellagra From Beyond The Grave

On The Road To Bangalore (2004)

September 13, 2009

The first of my Indian fantasies. This one was inspired by a sound recording made at a rural train crossing in India. A song is on the radio (demonically made into an earworm loop) in the snack shop nearby; a motorbike pulls up; the train passes; the recording device is discovered (and probably turned off); all while our two bizarre characters natter away. More pieces set in India to follow…

On The Road To Bangalore

Energy Blast 3

September 11, 2009

More hot weather = more energy needed. Here’s The Showmen Inc. from 1969. I had an old 45 of it, of which practically nothing has survived except the label, I played it so often. Eventually I was able to find another copy. In auditioning drummers for my first band that year (which specialized in r&b and soul), I told my partner that I wanted a drummer like the one on this cut. We had a singer who did this style flawlessly, but our drummers never could cop the proper feel. Oh well…

Showmen Inc.-Tramp From Funky Broadway

Thailand Fantasies (2004)

September 11, 2009

These are the first of my Asian fantasies. I was getting my brain around a lot of new techniques, and developing more characters for the voices I had at my disposal. In these two pieces we meet Barney Valentino, a second-rate talent agent of a certain (very old) age, who’s been in Thailand for many decades, trying to pull one scam after another. In each case, his hapless victims, human or animal, take their revenge.

Elephant Orchestra

The King and Barney and I

New Time Religion (2004)

September 9, 2009

One person’s take on Christmas in a church, albeit surrealistic. But, when you get right down to it, you have to accept a certain amount of surrealism to be devoutly religious. Just not this kind…

New Time Religion

A Life On Tape (2004)

September 7, 2009

An old man, puttering around his old house and stuck in the past, never far from his trusty old tape recorder. Catty comments galore about his dysfunctional family. He comes to a bad end. Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on THIS guy…

A Life On Tape

Bad Dreams (2003-6)

September 4, 2009

Spoiler alert: these are pretty weird, even for me. The Bad Dream series is augmented by a tasty little extra, NO2, about a trip to the dentist and the unfortunate (to put it mildly) results. 

Bad Dream 1 (Closing Time/Black Hole Sun)

Bad Dream 2 (I Know ALL The Answers)

Bad Dream 3 (Doctor! Doctor!)

NO2

The Harvey Manglewiener Story (2005-6)

August 30, 2009

You met Harvey Manglewiener, the mad contrabassoonist, onstage in “Music For The Masses,” and in this three-part series you find out just how mad he really was. In the first part, we look in on the late Harvey’s memorial service and learn of his devotion to his contrabassoon. The second part is set in a Las Vegas lobby bar during the Contrabassoonists’ Convention, where musicians drink and reminisce about some of Harvey’s greatest triumphs. The third part finds Harvey’s erstwhile sidekick and partner in crime, struggling real estate agent Dick Hazmat, speaking of the lessons he learned about life and the contra, complete with more examples (this time played through his trusty boombox).

The Passion Of Harvey Manglewiener

Contrabassoonists’ Convention

Missing Harvey

Energy Blast 2

August 29, 2009

I think it must be the (super-) hot weather at the moment that drives me to these high-energy tracks. Here is 1972’s “Soul Train,” by Little Royal, a lesser-known singer who never went as far as he should have in this business. I’ve heard many versions of the tune, and this smokes the hardest. Like “Take Me,” the band is just excellent. I’m always a sucker for great rhythm guitar playing, and this track sure doesn’t disappoint! PS Consider turning the volume down a bit; the track runs pretty hot!

Little Royal-Soul Train

99 Ranch, El Cerrito CA (2003)

August 29, 2009

This is a huge Asian supermarket that serves the East Bay, an excerpt of a walk around the store. Early on, we hear Rachmaninoff on the Muzak while the man at the fish counter chops away and the tanks of live seafood bubble merrily (or not). Later, we enter a take-out section, and eavesdrop on a couple trying to order food with brown rice (not always the easiest thing in a hard-core Asian environment, where many employees have only rudimentary English). But I’ll bet the servers here understood this hapless fellow well enough, and his efforts at near-pidgin English were unnecessary. At least he finished at the end with a hearty “shay-shay” (thank you).

99 Ranch Market, El Cerrito CA

Energy Blast 1

August 25, 2009

Sometimes a shot of really high-energy music is the best thing to cure what ails ya. Here’s Betty Everett singing “Take Me,” from Chicago in 1969, with a backup band that’s almost scary! The rhythm guitarists are incredible. This record is very long out of print, so I feel OK about posting it.

Betty Everett-Take Me

Music For The Masses (2004)

August 24, 2009

The Nuance Vocalizer Players are putting on a huge production dramatizing the life and music of light music maestro Albert Ketelbey, composer of “In A Persian Market,” “In A Monastery Garden,” etc. etc. Two fans of leading man Chauncey “Chuckles” Barrymore entertain us from the audience, while backstage everything is going wrong: sets malfunction, sound effects are inadvertently triggered, tech cues inadvertently get fed into a grossly loud PA system. Not only that, but an obnoxious child actor and a contrabassoon player wander on and offstage, and groups playing horrendous arrangements of Ketelbey’s music erupt all over the auditorium. Chuckles goes quite bananas at the end, and… Ahh, I don’t want to be a spoiler. Listen for yourselves.

Music For The Masses

New Orleans 2006

August 20, 2009

At 11 minutes, this is by far the longest of my soundwalks. Here’s why.

My wife Su and I visited New Orleans in March 2006. What we found was both disgusting and exhilarating: disgusting because seeing the residue from Katrina was far more horrible in person than looking at photos or footage could ever be, but exhilarating because the city was clearly (to us anyway) coming back from its near-death experience. Parts of the soundwalk may irritate you: roaring traffic, the shutter of our camera as I take a couple of pictures just inches from the microphones. But overall there is distinctly a feeling of peace: the early-morning chant in St. Louis Cathedral, the trumpet playing “What A Wonderful World,” the women washing down the sidewalk and talking about political corruption, the guys throwing merchandise off a truck while laughing and jiving. Admittedly, this was in the French Quarter, not heavily hit by Katrina. But we could hope that the dogged optimism there, of picking up the pieces and going on with life, could radiate outward and infuse the rest of the city. Romanticized piffle, maybe, but stranger things have happened… Anyway, we look forward to going back.

New Orleans 2006


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