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Chronicles #5: In The Waking Hour

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 The people that know me, know that I have a particular fondness for improvisation. I find improvising to be the ultimate form of musical expression. It’s often like walking a musical tightrope, where anything can happen, including falling off. But it’s that sense of danger that also makes it appealing to me.  I also have a particular fascination for the female voice, especially singing wordless vocals. Some of my favorite recordings are female voice and percussion, like the 3 albums put out by Tamia and Pierre Favre in the 1980’s ( de la quit… le jou r, on the ECM label, is a particular favorite and has been a source of immeasurable inspiration these past 33 years since it was released), and the series of  duo recordings Fredy Studer released over the years. I had wanted to do something along these same lines for many years, but it all came down to finding the right people for the project. This recording was born out of the Milwaukee Improv series, Unrehearsed MKE . I had played wi

Chronicles #4: Astronomos

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ASTRONOMOS Chicago is truly one of the great music cities in the world. There is so much diversity and so many small venues offering creative music each night of the week. I always feel fortunate to be able to play at a venue there. This album was recorded live at Brown Rice (named after the Don Cherry song),   on March 18, 2008. The space had formerly been The Candlestick Maker , drummer Michael Zerang’s longtime studio and concert venue. I must have played at The Candlestick 2 or 3 times over the years. I’d also attended a lot of concerts of creative music there and would have gone to many more if I’d have lived closer than 80 miles away.  The place looked the same (what could you really do to change it?). It was a small room with red painted paneling on the walls. There was a small office up front and a storage room & bathroom in the back. For a small space, the acoustics were perfect if you didn’t over power things. So my percussion always sounded nice in there.  I hadn’t pl

Chronicles #3: Scattered Light

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What if light were sound? What if you could hear the light rays streaming through your windows? SCATTERED LIGHT is just that. Like 2010’s SOUNDINGS, which imagined percussive sounds underwater, SCATTERED LIGHT imagines sound as light waves moving through the air. Like most of my projects, SCATTERED LIGHT started as a thought, an image held in my mind of sound moving like beams of light, moving through different mediums—scattering, reflecting, and refracting in all directions. I'm a very visual person and have always been fascinated by light. I love the way it breaks through a cloud, or shines through a window. I love shadow play upon a wall or floor. Light is such a dominant part of our lives, and in fact, a very necessary one.  And again, like the previous album, SOUNDINGS, everything was recorded live to 2-tracks. I picked the sounds I wanted to use and the appropriate strikers, then played based on an impression or feeling. Everything was improvised during a few different recor

Chronicles #2: SOUNDINGS

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Soundings is a composition for solo metal percussion. It was written for the Ingenuity Fest in Cleveland, Ohio. I premiered it on September 23 & 24, 2010 at the Fest, held on the historic Detroit Superior Bridge in downtown Cleveland. You can download or stream the tracks here . A Quest for Echoes SOUNDINGS started out as an idea, an impression about sounds underwater and how they reflect and echo. I was thinking sonar, submarines, whales, and other deep sea sounds. Metal percussion is the ideal medium, because the tones have a strong attack, yet also have a long sustain. Because of this, they interact with each other, producing additional tones and beats. Sounds close to the same pitch react by producing a rhythmic beating pattern. In playing metal percussion, the tones ring out and fade away into the air. For me, it's as important to play the spaces, as it is the notes, leaving the sounds hanging like mist in the air. I like the idea of the sounds moving from one to anot

Chronicles #1: Transparent Universe

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2021 is the 20th year of my venturing out from playing in bands into playing and recording solo percussion music. In this blog I plan to take a look back over the many recordings I’ve made in the past 20 years. This will not be in chronological order—I’ll just pick albums out by what I feel like investigating.  First up is a release from exactly 10 years ago on April 13, 2011:  Transparent Universe . (You can download or stream the tracks here ) Ensemble vs Solo All of my previous albums had been solo recordings in the truest sense: the music was all recorded live to 2-track with no overdubs. Essentially, I wanted to capture the sound and feeling of me playing a live concert (and also have the ability to recreate the same music on stage). So all songs were written and well rehearsed before entering the studio, where time is money. I always made sure to have a well formed game plan and generally stuck with it. This allowed me to get my previous studio albums each recorded in one ses

Further Adventures in 432Hz and Other Tunings

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 I just read another Facebook thread on  the ‘432Hz’ tuning idea. This is actually something I’ve spent a lot of time and research investigating, because I find this whole idea of a ‘fixed tuning’ fascinating. I think too many people make a big deal out of tunings in the West, like it's some sort of academic thing filled with hidden meanings, or there's some sort of conspiracy behind it all.  Unless you play in an orchestra or band with other musicians, or you play to written sheet music, tunings don’t really matter much. Another aspect of this is that the Western world (Europe/USA/Canada) is but a small part of the world. If you travel to other areas (Asia, India, Africa, Central & South America, Australia, Siberia, etc.), traditionally, they have no idea of an ‘A=440/etc.’ tuning. They have different tunings, different scales, different modes. (unfortunately, today we find much indigenous music ‘polluted’ by our Western musical ideas) I'm very much into Asian gong

What Have You Been Doing These Past 8 Months?

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 Here we are, it's mid-November, 2020. This Covid-19 pandemic quarantine lockdown thing has been going on for 8 months now. What have you been up to? Or more specifically, “What have you been doing to improve yourself so you will be able to emerge from all this a better musician/artist?” If you've just been sitting around eating Doritos and binging on Netflix, you've wasted a rare gift, a rare opportunity. In the past, how many of us have wistfully said, “If I had the time I'd learn to _____.” Well, you've had 8 months to learn something. What have you done? If you haven't done anything to increase your knowledge and abilities, then you have totally wasted this gift of time. Some of the best advice I've been given over the years is, “Your skill set will set you apart.” I've always believed this. Yes, there is some 'luck' involved in getting ahead, especially in the arts, but 'luck' doesn't mean much if you don't have the skills t