November 30, 2004

smaller is better

Maybe all record labels aren't so stupid.

Amid Dire Predictions, Classical Records Flower

"Being forced to cut back production drastically has made label executives come up with projects that matter, recordings that truly contribute to the discography."

Paring down and going lean is a good thing for everyone. When do you suppose the major 'popular' labels will focus on music that matters?

Posted by halsey at 08:45 AM

November 29, 2004

listening list

Tom Waits - Real Gone
Steve Reich - Electric Counterpoint
David Byrne - live bootleg (March 2004)
Eminem - Encore
Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People
Olivier Messaien - Meditiations Sur Le Mystere de la Sainte Trinite

It's been a long time since I have listened to Electric Counterpoint. I heard it once played live while in college and it blew me away. 10 recorded electric guitars along with 2 basses (Pat Metheny playing on my recording) accompanied by one live soloist. The rhythmic complexity Reich creates with short simple motives working off of one another is unbelievable. This is minimalism at its absolute best.
I like to listen to it when it is raining.

Posted by halsey at 08:57 AM

November 26, 2004

does Bach belong in a bar?

Cellist Matt Haimovitz says YES, and so do I. Here is a guy who was playing solo concerts in Carnegie Hall by the time he was 13, had established an enviable concert soloist career by his mid-twenties, and was hailed across the world as the next Yo Yo Ma. And then something happened and he made a decision bolder than most of us have ever made. He decided to give up the world which had nurtured him since he was a child and embark upon a journey to change the way classical music is viewed and listened to around the world.
I cannot express how much I admire him for taking such a large risk in the name of furthering an ideal of his. Mr. Haimovitz, much as I have expressed in past entries on this site knows that classical music is dying with it's elderly audiences and that something must be done to change this. And he has the talent, drive and fame to actually make an impact.
Enter the Bach Listening-Room Tour. Mr. Haimovitz ditched the concert halls with their sedate atmospheres and started booking dates in rock clubs and underground venues where at most a hundred or so people could hear him play. He would take the stage by himself, amplify his 300 year-old cello and see if he could get anyone to dance. And here's the really crazy thing. He still played the same music! He still played Bach, Mozart, Beethoven etc etc. On his most recent 50 state tour, he plays much more in the way of new classical music in an added push towards revitalization of the genre.

So in answer to the question above, I must continue to say yes, yes, yes, absolutely, please and thank you, Mr. Haimovitz.

Posted by halsey at 12:29 PM | Comments (34)

November 22, 2004

make your own choice

I spent much of the weekend working on Bring Your Own Voice stuff. I had a sudden realization last week - as I was attempting to find a good venue/event at which to pilot the voice booth - that if I were to find that event, I wouldn't be ready for it. I have built the booth and it works and it's cool and I am happy with it. I have thought about what I would need to pull it off in public, but I discovered a serious gap between what I need and what I had.

So I made a list and began tackling it this weekend. I put a few final touches on the booth itself, thought about the required legal language/protections, but the majority of what I worked on was the website. I procured bringyourownvoice.com a while back but had not posted anything. Last week I posted what will eventually become the jump page, but it has no links yet, so I began thinking about the content, structure and aesthetic of the site. This is all important stuff for creating the right feel about this project. And I like thinking about these things. Sometimes I wish I could do more of the thinking and have help with the actual creation as my technical skills are much more limited than my imagination.
Hopefully the upcoming Thanksgiving break will give me ample time to make more progress on this site. Then you can all give me your feedback so I can make it even better.

After work today I am off to Q-Division to meet with the guy who will hopefully be mixing my Words and Voices album. Progress, progress...

Posted by halsey at 02:21 PM

November 19, 2004

bring back the 18th century

I want a patron. I want someone to pay me to write music. I want to get the same salary I get now, but be able to spend all my time working on new music unrestricted by time constraints, financial worries or artistic directives. Is this too much to ask for? Is it too much to expect that corporate America should take up this challenge and support individual artists in the way that various wealthy members of the aristocracy supported the likes of Beethoven and Haydn back in the good old days? Would we have all the beautiful, ground-breaking music we have today if not for the financial supporters of these musicians?

What do you think would happen if I proposed this scenario to my boss? "So here's the deal. I am giving you the opportunity to pay me as much as you always have, but you'll get absolutely nothing of any relevance to the business in return. Sound good?" I think he'll go for it. Too hard to resist.

I think that corporate America has a responsibility to the creative community just as it has a responsibility to a host of other philanthropic communities. Many large companies do support the arts in some fantastic and generous ways, but I haven't seen this sort of individual approach. I volunteer to be the guinea pig. It's tough, but someone has to do it.

Alternatively, I could always find a sugar-momma. You know, sell my body in the name of music.

Posted by halsey at 05:28 PM | Comments (23)

November 18, 2004

embracing reality...

is much more effective than denying it. I always knew I liked Jeff.

Music is Not a Loaf of Bread

We cannot let the RIAA win this battle.

Posted by halsey at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

November 17, 2004

cagey

I checked out the BMOP Club Concert last night at Club Cafe in Boston. The last time I tried to go to one of these shows, I made the huge mistake of driving, and the resultant frustration of being unable to find a parking spot led to this song. Yes, I nearly rammed my car into several innocent pedestrians, and no, I never did make it to the show. Needless to say, I took the T this time, showed up tastefully early, and was markedly more relaxed.
And I was very glad to have made it. The music was great, the performers were very talented, but the most exciting part about the event was the layout, if you will, of the event itself. This was a concert of 'classical' compositions, performed by 'classical' musicians on classical instruments (and some non-instruments), but we were not at Jordan Hall stuck in an assigned concert hall seat. We were in the back room of a hip restaurant, alcohol and food was being served and we didn't need to worry about whispering or even shifting our weight for fear of disturbing the bluehair on our right.
The music formerly known as classical can, in fact, be hip and fun and exciting and even cool. It doesn't have to be serious and stuffy. And it can attract an audience younger than my deceased grandparents.
We can't let this music die. Thank you BMOP for doing an admirable job of making it more lively!

Speaking of music, what about the pieces they performed? All had redeeming characteristics and were interesting, but I liked two in particular.

John Cage - Living Room Music
Javier Alvarez - Temazcal

The John Cage piece was totally incredible. It was written for 'found objects' and included five sections (I think) of extraordinary variety and creative brilliance. In one section, the four performers used only their voices, making sounds, and speaking in rhythmic patterns, and even indulging in a bit of choreographed humor. I liked it for it's use of the voice, but it was really cool because there were traces of rap and hip-hop and it totally rocked out. And here's the kicker: He wrote it in 1940! As in 64 years ago. As in WWII time frame. As in WAY WAY WAY WAY ahead of his time. And the piece still came across as being totally innovative even today. That guy was brilliant.
The other piece, Temazcal, was written for solo maracas (yes, you read that correctly) and recorded tape. Robert Schulz, percussionist extraordinaire, played the maracas like they were a real instrument, I mean, umm, like a true virtuoso. I couldn't believe all the different sounds and rhythms that he was able to coax from two synthetic dried gourds. He was running around the room banging on tables and the floor all the while miraculously staying perfectly in sync with the unforgiving recording.
This can't be classical music, can it?! I was super impressed. I had fun. I will go again.

BMOP has two more Club Concerts this season, and I encourage you all to attend. You won't be disappointed, and at the very least, you will be supporting a worthy and necessary cause.

Posted by halsey at 12:54 PM | Comments (29)

November 16, 2004

the google originality test

I take some strange sense of pride in being a collector of little bits of originality. Whenever I come up with an idea or phrase or something cool that I am excited about, I immediately wonder if it is an original idea. I am a bit obsessed, it seems. So I do what everybody nowadays does: I google it.

I think I put an inordinate amount of stake in the results. I don't know why I figure that any idea anyone has done anything with will be posted online in some format, but I seem to feel this way. Searching for something and coming up blank is a good feeling and gives me the right to lay claim, in some odd way, to whatever words I was searching on. Take 'mindful of colors', for example. I googled that phrase and got very few results. I quickly determined that though the phrase had been used a few times before, it was somehow original enough to me that I could feel good about myself. This seems weird somehow. I mean, I certainly want to be original in my thoughts and hate it when I come up with something I think is new only to find out that it has been done by a hundred other people, but what have I really determined with my googling?

If I come up with something influenced in no way by previous incarnations of the same or similar idea, does that make it original? I would say emphatically NO. I guess it is still original to me, but I cannot lay any claim in the broader context; my timing was off. It's like the two scientists laboring in two different labs half way around the world from each other who end up making the same ground-breaking discovery unbeknownst to each other. I have learned from this interesting article on Simultaneous Discovery, that Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone simultaneously, and that the reason we have Baby Bells now and not Baby Grays is thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So is google really a good test of originality? I'm not sure, but in this modern day, it certainly is a hell of a lot easier than it used to be to explore the tomes of what the rest of humanity is doing. Or at least the rest of humanity that is on the internet...

Posted by halsey at 11:05 AM

November 14, 2004

swallowed

my house is my cage
I have swallowed the key
steel box for my rage
did it purposefully

locked from the inside
keep me away from things that breathe
my own clean Eden
filled with greys and slow motion

================

I sit in the corner
turn off all the lights
and close my eyes
make it even darker

my hands are cold
but they don't have to be
silently naked
still and tensely

I make myself
small as I can be
it's safer that way
maybe they won't see

I try to stop my brain
from hurting me
torture and dynasty
flat hands, green incredulity

================

I stare at the phone
my knees to my chest
I stare at the wall
and nothing happens at all

I want to scream
there's nothing louder than me
to drown my hesitation
the thoughts critically

===============

this air I breathe
sealed by Hermes
has been in and out of my body
hundreds of times

dropping off its oxygen
little by little
like messengers from the Kuyper belt
delivering tiny reddening pearls

I want to be the smoke
that climbs my chimney
blue gray and dancing
up up and out

I send it; a signal
dissipating in the crystalline air
before my neighbors can see
something's glowing inside

==================

this song is written
for those of you who listen
you see the patterns
in the disintegration of logs


---------------------------------------------------

listen to 'swallowed'

Posted by halsey at 09:24 AM | Comments (4)

November 12, 2004

re-

I just got some new plug-ins yesterday in the mail and did a little re-working of a part of 'the truth is out' that I was not entirely happy with (thank you, Super Tap).
And I remastered the song to the extent that I am able, which is really nothing more than running it through the L1 Ultramaximizer.
Blah, blah. It SOUNDS better now, and that's all that really matters. So re-check it out if you want:

Download: The Truth is Out

Posted by halsey at 12:43 PM

re-

I just got some new plug-ins yesterday in the mail and did a little re-working of a part of 'the truth is out' that I was not entirely happy with (thank you, Super Tap).
And I remastered the song to the extent that I am able, which is really nothing more than running it through the L1 Ultramaximizer.
Blah, blah. It SOUNDS better now, and that's all that really matters. So re-check it out if you want:

Download: The Truth is Out

Posted by halsey at 12:43 PM

November 09, 2004

ego boost

Download: The Truth is Out

I couldn't resist writing a song wrapped around a particular snippet of audio I obtained when collecting fodder for 'predictable?'. It was just way too good to pass up, and I am always looking for ways to boost my self-confidence. I hope that you'll like it as well.


Is this song stimulating?
Oh, yes it is.

Is this song even funnier than the last one?
This is hard to say. I suppose it mainly depends on how you approach listening to the song and interpreting it. It also probably depends on whether or not you know me. All I can fairly state is that it makes me laugh even after hearing it something like 300 times.

Is this the last song you plan to record for your first 'words and voices' album?
probably

How did you record and mix the drums for this song?
This song is the first one I have recorded with my new G5/Digi002 setup. I was way too excited to get going on it to actually take the time to set things up correctly from the start. I figured I would just work out the kinks as I went. I was right for the most part, and thankfully, didn't run into too many snags.
So, back to the drums. I had an idea for the drum track, but wasn't ready to record the usual five simultaneous tracks, so I just set it up for one overhead to record the whole kit. And then I ran it through Sans-Amp for some distortion and it sounds pretty darn cool so I just stuck with that method.
I split the drums in the chorus into two tracks, pinned them hard right and hard left, offset them slightly, took off the distortion, and boosted the highs. This is all intended to open up the mix.

Does the fact that you are writing funny songs recently mean that you are happy?
Wow, who are you, anyway, asking these personal questions on this public blog?! I'm not going to answer that one in this forum, but feel free to follow up with me directly if you really want to know...

Are you desperate for a date?
no comment.

Are you making fun of anyone or anything?
that would be a fairly safe bet.

Did you pay her to say that?
No.

Yeah, right.
I'm serious!

Posted by halsey at 10:41 AM | Comments (2)

November 08, 2004

mindful of colors

I wrote an email to someone earlier today with that as the subject line. We had been discussing the wonderful blues and reds of the most recent electoral map, so I thought being mindful of colors was an appropriate sentiment.

And then I began thinking about the phrase and how it sounds and how it is like 'mindful of others' but isn't and about what it actually might mean to be mindful of colors. And I fell in love; at least to the extent which a human being can fall in love with words.

I think we should all be mindful of colors every day.

Posted by halsey at 02:13 PM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2004

the leaf man goeth...

no, not goethe.

leaf_man_goeth.jpg

Posted by halsey at 08:13 PM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2004

these guys have it all

well, at least they have Matthew Bellamy. Matthew Fucking Bellamy, to be precise. I don't swear often because I like to reserve it for times when special emphasis is needed. This is one of those times. Holy fucking shit! I went to MUSE last night at Avalon and I swear I never wanted it to end. This was the best show I have seen in years, and it has been even longer since I wanted to jump around and generally make a fool of myself in the presence of hundreds of other raving fans. Had I been given more space, I would have done just that, and would have enjoyed every minute.
As the FNX (or was it BCN?) DJ announced, these guys truly are one of the best live bands playing currently. There are only three of them, yet they exude an energy and the sound of five or six musicians. Matthew Bellamy jumped back and forth between his various guitars and the piano, evoking his own special versions of both Eddie Van Halen and Van Cliburn playing Tchaikovsky with no effort at all. And his voice; this is another matter entirely. Not only is it totally distinctive, but he has nearly the range of Prince and the control of an opera singer.
I realize that I have just made many comparisons to other musicians, but this is simply to try to explain to those of you unfamiliar with MUSE what kind of a talent I am talking about here. I don't want you to think that they are merely derivatives of these likenesses. They go way beyond the sum of their influences, like all good bands do. And Matthew is only twenty fucking six!

I love seeing live shows, and the experiences often profoundly effect my relationship to the music. Typically I do not need to see bands more than once, but mark my words: the next time MUSE is in town, I will be there!

And you should be too.

Posted by halsey at 10:25 PM | Comments (5)

November 05, 2004

personality: remixed

I am experimenting with my newest song by doing a bunch of re-using. I am using some words and voices from 'predictable?' but with a slightly different thrust, so to speak. It is a weird and narcissistic experiment, sampling yourself, but it is different for me and therefore fun. I can't use those words without being funny, so you can all expect another good laugh.

I am happy to report that my new recording set-up is finally in working order for this song and it is kicking ass. It's about 100 times faster, much more stable and generally gets in my way much less. Of course, I now have a dramatically reduced arsenal of plug-ins to use (none of my OS9 plugs work in OSX), but I have some good basics and have more on the way. There is something nice about starting over and building the system from scratch, especially since I now have much more experience then when I built my old one.

Once I get myself in the right mind-set, tearing down and building back up again is a nice cleansing process. It affords for greater experimentation.

Posted by halsey at 04:31 PM

November 04, 2004

AG worship

Today, I wish I was this guy.

leaf_hammock_man1.JPG

leaf_hammock_man2.JPG

Posted by halsey at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

November 03, 2004

listening list

Tricky - Blowback
Fatboy Slim - Palookaville
Poulenc - Complete piano sonatas
Avalanches - Since I Left You
Morcheeba - Big Calm

1) why are ALL classical composer websites terrible?
2) Ed Kowalczyk is great on the Tricky album

Posted by halsey at 12:04 PM

November 02, 2004

today is important

I was up at 5:45AM and standing in line with all the octogenarians at the John Glenn Middle School in Bedford this morning eagerly awaiting my opportunity to vote. The line was long and everyone was friendly and for the first time ever, I felt like I was truly a part of my small suburban community. I felt like I was participating in something much larger than myself or the group of us in the gymnasium. All over this country today people are speaking their minds and throwing themselves in presumably record numbers into a raging debate which should all be decided by tomorrow but will have far-reaching ramifications over the next four years and beyond.

I am nervous about this election and about the future regardless of who wins. I had a dream last night that I was prevented from voting by a confluence of lack of directions, traffic and immutable commitments. I think that in other elections this would not have been a nightmare, but last night it certainly was.

Please everyone go out and exercise your right as a citizen of this wonderful country. VOTE!!!!!!!

Posted by halsey at 08:53 AM | Comments (30)