Posts

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

The Enigma of Von Kessels

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Sometime around 2000, a mysterious and enigmatic figure, Von Kessels , commissioned the Gao Jiahe Gong Factory in Wuhan, China , to make him a 56” Wind Gong, which he would name  Big Boi . The Gong became legendary in certain circles.  He then took this Gong, and others in his collection, into a high tech digital studio and recorded what is likely the most amazing Gong album you will ever hear,  Requiem  (2003). They put mics just inches off the  surface of the  Gongs , recording the very subtle, very deep tones. Von Kessels played the Gongs with bows and special friction mallets that were meticulously designed and hand carved to elicit the deepest notes from this massive Gong. The sounds they captured are like nothing you have ever heard before. They even included a warning on the CD that  “the extremely low frequencies could damage your speakers, so adjust your volume accordingly!” My prized copy of Requiem I had the good fortune to speak with Von Kessels over the phone numer

An Important Update

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You might be asking yourself (or maybe not), “We're in this quarantine and Michael isn't gigging, so why haven't there been any blog posts? He's got plenty of time to write something.”  That's a legitimate question. All 3 of my blogs have been sitting quietly for a bit, while so many other people have jumped into producing blogs, podcasts, and general video mayhem. The internet's bandwidth is choked with everyone going online, because they can't do anything live. So what have I been doing? Well, I did make 1 YouTube video, more as an experiment than anything. I've slowly been rebuilding my home studio after having gear sitting in boxes for months because I was always gone off somewhere gigging. I'm planning on doing more videos and some teaching online soon. Right, here's my latest video. I was improvising  with new instruments and some electronics. Another aspect of this is that by letting everyone else jump into producing things

Finding Your Own Voice

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There are literally thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of Gong players out there today. What makes you stand out from all of them? Really. What makes what you so different from the masses playing around the world everyday? These are very important questions to ask yourself. I see so many people who just do indiscriminate banging on their Gongs and think they are doing something amazing. Well, they are not. And they are not any different than thousands of other people doing the same thing at the same level of mediocre competence and creativity. A short Quiz List you 3 favorite musicians/singers/bands. Then ask yourself why you like them and what makes them  musically   stand out to you above all the similar artists. Go ahead and do this. I'll wait. A Short Answer Whether they are megastars filling arenas, or hometown musicians filling bars & clubs, they most likely have what Bowie called sound & vision . Along their career path, they developed a musica