Tuesday, February 24, 2009

horizontal is vertical

horizontal is vertical 
and vertical is not too cool 
when you do it all day 

too much candy
too much zorn

a pleasant diversion
becomes and unpleasant problem
time is running out 
as time becomes relative

another day wasted
another day gone
it seems to me 
that zorn is the new smack 

all day today 

Monday, February 23, 2009

email to clavia ( nord keyboards)

Very sorry to see the modular synth discontinued. I have a G2X and a G2 . Looking for an engine to tour with but they seem to have disappeared from the US . It's frustrating trying to make a "career" out these instruments when they are constantly discontinued. I have an oberhaim xpander which sits in my studio . I am too frightened to take it to gigs. I should have learnt guitar . Could you design an instrument that looks like I am playing a guitar , but sustains , stays in tune like a synth and you can play cluster type voicings on ? Preferably an instrument that doesn't cost half its value to repair if you " break a string " . best regards Sean

Friday, February 20, 2009

jerry beads and busta rhymes

This week I sang and played at a benefit for the bushfires . In New York at "The Australian Bar" together with Lisa Parrott, Ben Van Der Vaal and Fiona McBain we performed pieces by : Bernie McGann , Mike Nock , INXS , The Divynils , Midnight Oil and Daddy Cool . We also performed Lisa's lovely bebop arrangement of "the road to gundagai " .We would have played more jazz , but tell that to the 400 beer-soaked Aussies singing Jimmy Barnes " Working Class Man " to the jukebox when we arrived .

I am a big fan of American music . 1900-2000 was the "American Century" as far as culture is concerned . In my lifetime ( born 1969) I have seen a great deal of amazing Aussie music too , most of which has yet to receive much international recognition . I received an email today from the Melbourne Jazz Festival and saw that they have booked : Jim Black , Ornette Coleman , Cecil Taylor , Ethan Iverson , Bill Frisell , Nels Kline , Tim Berne and Joshua Redman and a few Australians for their festival . All outstanding American musician's to be sure , but personally I wonder if the Australian tax-payers money could be better spent .  Especially considering many of those artists have already toured Australia in the last 5 years or so . I doubt that we will see many Australian's performing at U.S festivals soon ...  Why not invite musicians from Japan , Germany , Africa etc and try and form some sort of reciprocal partnership instead  ? This is a changing trend I see down under , especially if you consider that the Sydney Sympony Orchestra now regularly performs with American guest artists which is also funded by the taxpayer to some degree . It's difficult for these orchestras to survive and they have to get " bums on seats" I guess . The combination of our popular culture , radio , TV , press giving a great deal of time to American music means that Wynton Marsalis and hundreds of other American jazz and other musicians are household names in Australia yet James Muller is not . I think the taxpayer's dollars should be spent on a better infrastructure for Australian musicians . There should be small venues built in each city which could be hired for a small fee , which come with government subsidised accomodation for touring artists . There should be a good network of international festivals featuring Australian composers and performers with similar accomodation ( in New York , London , Paris , Berlin etc ...) . Australian musicians should get their travel costs subsidised . I am trying to set up such a festival in New York and hope to get it off the ground in September . I don't think handing money to individual artists in the form of grants is a great idea . The infrastructure should be provided first I think . If the government is to fund orchestra's , they should expected perform a good percentage of Australian music and feature Australian performers . In my opinion , the concept of an "orchestra" with an instrumentation devised by 19th century European's is best suited to performing music written before any music was written in Australia . There should be more emphasis on funding ensembles that feature music written by Australians, for Australian performers and for Australian audiences . I am not for "tearing down" the institutions that exist , and sincerely hope that future generations continue to play European classical music , and great music and concepts created by American's such as Duke Ellington , Charlie Parker , Ornette Coleman etc . That being said I think it is high time that we stood up and took a greater value in our own rich cultural history . It should be taught at the conservatorium . When I was there we where forced to learn about 50 Amercian tunes written mostly in the ( first !) great depression .

I remember living in Sydney watching "Jerry Springer" etc on the television and wondering who made the decision to broadcast it down under . I also couldn't forget seeing Busta Rhymes on a Sunday Morning TV music show in Sydney around 2003 . I imagined a future generation of Aussie kids force-fed the very worst of America without getting to see the best that Australia has to offer . I have reprinted the lyrics of Busta's timeless rap " Nigga's gonna break your motherfucking neck " below :

"Break Ya Neck"

[Busta Rhymes]
Yea.. Check it out, see
The only thing you need to do right here is,
Is nod your fuckin head
Yeah, yeah
Break ya fuckin neck bitches
Yeah, yeah
Here we go now..

Where we goin now?
Where we goin now?
Give it away, give it away, give it away now
Give it away, give it away, give it away now
Just give it away nigga
Yeah, here we go now

[Verse 1]
Tell me wat'chu really wanna do (Come here ma)
Talk to a nigga, talk with me
You look like you could really give it to a nigga,
from the way you talk and the way ya try to walk for me
The way you really try to put it on a dawg
Threw ya hips like ya never did before for me
The way you break yo' back, and I break yo' neck,
and the way you try to put it on the floor for me
(Come on!) Come on (Come on!) Oh yeah
Tell me where my niggas is at (Ok!!)
Lemme address y'all niggas one time,
while I lock that down, and I hit'cha wit that (YOU GONE!)
That bomb shit, y'all niggas gone all day
Be the nigga in the drop,
Y'all niggas know every time I come through,
this motherfucker, where we always takin the ride
(So let me do this bitch)
Y'all niggas know when we come, we be makin it flop,
the way we makin it hot'll make a nigga wanna stop... [pause]
Get money, then cash that check for me
All my niggas just bust yo' tech for me
Everybody from every hood bang yo' head,
'til you break your motherfuckin head for me!

Just let me give you real street shit,
to rap in yo' shit with
Recline yo' seat rewind this heat
Keep bouncin up and down these streets
So nod yo' head and
Break yo' neck nigga!
Break yo' neck nigga!
Break yo' neck nigga!
Bang yo' head until you start to
Break yo' neck nigga!
Break yo' neck nigga!
Break yo' neck nigga!
Break yo' neck!

[Verse 2]
Come along now (Let's put it down nigga!)
When I bounce back and you know I done caught my breath,
y'all niggas all know how we do,
when the way we bang niggas in the head, and we do it to death
(We fold 'em back whodi!) The fire boy, you know we bakin a ounce
I know you love the way we be givin you the music, makin you bounce
Now fuck it up just a little for my niggas,
everytime we come through niggas know that we did it for y'all (Uh-huh)
And the way we do it for the people,
niggas know we always give it to y'all
I said bounce (Come on!)
In the day time or the night, when ya creepin along,
Well just bang this shit up in the truck,
while you break yo' neck, now motherfucker try to figure my flow
See the way we come right through (When we come right through!)
We be always blowin the spot, again and again,
and make a nigga really wanna STOP... [pause]
Better tell yo' crew, yo' peeps,
all my niggas better put they troops on
And gather up your soldiers nigga,
you know you better keep yo' boots on
All my niggas in the place (Aiyyo!)
Wave your hands high now, and the way we put it down,
make a nigga wonder what he really gonna try now
What'cha really wanna do?
Just place your bet, and put'cha money where ya mouth is (Ah-hoo)
All my niggas in the street just break yo' neck and keep on boun-cin!


[Verse 3]
Here we go, and you know everytime Busta-Bus be holdin the fort,
my nigga watch how we shuttin it down,
The way we put it on, comin through like a steamroller,
me and Dre nigga ain't no fuckin around
My nigga (WHAT!) Yeah whattup,
Me and my team got a link cuz you know we stay choppin it up
And when get up in the club,
or how my niggas at the bar how we lockin it up
And we get a little (High!) And we get a little (Drunk!)
And we get a little (Crunk! Come on!)
Lemme give y'all niggas some shit,
that'll make you wanna bang this out yo' trunk (Come on!)
Get money, then cash that check for me
All my niggas just bust yo' tech for me
Everybody from every hood, bang yo' head,
'til you break yo' motherfuckin neck for me!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

armen's tone deaf

I know it's unamerican to complain but I am an Australian person . Playing "keyboards" as an "artform" is a frustrating business . I have trouble sitting due to dodgy discs in my lower back , which I am convinced are a result of lugging a fender rhodes around in my early twenties . I have a 54 key rhodes now , with a lot of the wood removed which occasionally my wife helps me take to gigs .It's lighter but  I fear her frame will be the next to go . I have a hammond C3 here , which sounds great , but is not portable at all . It also aggravates my back due to the extremely poor ergonomic design of the volume pedal , bench and manuals . I love my oberheim " xpander " , but it can realistically only produce one or 2 decent sounds which resemble a saxophone or accordion . You cant play " piano " type stuff on it . It is ancient , built in 1984 ( although the organ is from the 50's ) . Turning it on is like turning on an old Tandy computer . You hope for the best . It's not feasible to bring something like that to gigs . It also has a "tune" function which needs to be repeated after every song as the oscillators constantly drift out of tune . These days the computer has synths on it , but they are very difficult to use live. My mac computer has no "volume knob" or EQ knob .  The computer is also prone to crashes etc which makes it terrifying on a gig . I have a nord modular G2X which I also love . It's a great machine BUT it's already been discontinued after having been on the market for less than 5 years . The good thing about a guitar or drum kit is that they don't get "discontinued" . 

My Nord has been acting strangely lately . It occasionally drifts out of tune . I looked it up online and saw that it might be a faulty " pitch-stick " .  I decided to take it to a repair shop in Manhattan . It takes about 45 mins one way to get there by car . I found the place . It's a dingy inudstrial type of shop with a buzzer on the door. You can't just walk in . Eventually I was buzzed in to the place . It's like a museum of Synthesizer's . There must be 300 different " discontinued" products on the walls . Most of them are for sale . The owner let's me in . He's the only guy there . He's repairing a keyboard and talking to a few customers . At regular intervals different African-American and Carribean gentleman  ( UPS / Fedex delivery drivers , cabbies etc ... ) come in looking at the stuff with a view to purchase . Considering the cost of repair is usually around half the cost of one of these 2nd hand , I suspect a lot of people just sell their broken gear to the owner . The fact that I actually want something repaired seems to piss the guy off . I explain to the guy that it has pitch problem's and plug it in . He says he can't hear anything wrong with it even though I am convinced that it is moving from 1/4 tone flat and back to pitch . The guy leave's me standing around for about 1/2 an hour . My car outside has the hazard lights on . I am in Manhattan and I am sure I will get a $150 parking ticket so I take my keyboard and walk out . 

I tried to write a song with words , but this one got a bit too complicated so it has become an instrumental . It's been a while since I have written one . It has an "easy" melody and a "hard" one in case the musicians complain when I ask them to play it . It's called Armen's tone deaf . 

Monday, February 16, 2009

china future

The year is 2157 

Wang Armstrong is born in New York , USA . He is  descendant of the American Jazz fusion musician Randy Diego . Wang shows an early interest in computer science but ends up entranced by the chinese yang qin instrument  . Wang is named after Wang Wu , the famous Chinese musician who was one of the first creators of a new improvised form of music which fused traditional Chinese music with Western influences and improvisation . Wang's father , developed a passion for this Chinese music names  "Jing Zi Zi" ( supposedly a slang derived  from the chinese word for "semen" ) . 

In 2130 in Shanghai there was a new movement in "Jing Zi Zi " , which involved amplified and computerised versions of traditional chinese instruments . This style was very popular but proved controversial , and in 2140 a new generation of chinese musicians had returned to their unamplified traditional instruments , and where helped gain fame and fortune by press / club owners who where older and disliked the new Electric version . In Shanghai the conservative young musicians had created a new scene at the now famous " xiao" club . Just across the street at the " wu shi wu "  dive bar , the aging old guard of electronic musicians still performed in depressing surroundings. Amongst them was a younger musician Jang San who was a master electric " erhu" player . He had combined the older electric Jing Zi Zi styles with a new sensibility , greater rhythmic accuracy and concepts based on atonality . 

Atonality had long been banned in America by the "Musicians Council" . The council was formed when the American government abolished copyright laws in 2078 . Until then musicians had been able to make a living from streaming their performances and charging micropayments to viewers . The new laws had made these payments effectively illegal . Atonality was considered by musicians as something akin to Heroin use . Extremely enjoyable for the musician participant , but eventually leading to personal destruction and inability to charge for ones streaming service and often starvation . Many American musicians , some "atonal addicts"  had fled the dire situation in America and could be found busking in the Chinese Subway's in it's numerous big cities . These buskers often played guitar through battery operated "polytone" amplifiers , complete with battery powered " line 6" delay pedals . Often they would perform American songs written during the "First great depression"  of 1930 , much shorter than the depression that started in 2008 . The buskers often played these songs in unusual time-signatures , which like atonality was regarded as a form of "self abuse "  and addiction . 

Anyway , by 2187 our man Wang Armstrong had become a great "Yang Gin" player . Entranced by the Electronic "Jing Zi Zi" and with his background he traveled to China to pursue knowledge and with a dream of building a better Electrified "Yang Gin " .  The Chinese had built an electronic version of the instrument , but it had never been perfected and the company that built it had gone bankrupt during the conservative period of the 2170's . Wang hoped to use his computer skills to build a combined mechanical/computerised version of the instrument .  He struggled with the Chinese system of naming rhythmic values based on the old "crotchet" and "quaver" , a relic of the British occupation of Hong Kong in the 20th century . 

He made his way to the "wu shi wu" bar , and met the great amplified "erhu" player Jang San . Jang San was welcoming to Armstrong at the bar and gave him his email address . The Chinese still used the ancient " internet" system . America had long disgarded this system in favour of a new system which allowed communication via chip implanted in the armpit .  The communist party had finally collapsed in 2140 . It had banned the use of the "armpit" system and internet pornography . With a new democratic government in place , and the loose environment of the 2170's , pornography was suddenly available everywhere on the internet , causing it to nearly collapse . 

Wang Armstrong sent numerous emails to Jang San asking for lessons and the opportunity to play together but never received a reply . With the Chinese aging internet system almost collapsing under the weight of illegal downloading of the new chinese porno many emails never made it through . Wang wondered if his email had reached Jang , or if Wang had recieved it and his reply had made it back . Perhaps Jang just didnt really care .. he was more interested in perfecting his exacting rhythmic requirements  for his  erhu playing . 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

midi into face

In New South Wales , Australia a small glass of beer is called a "midi" . Hence the musicians expression "midi into face" , especially favored by synthesists such as myself . Being a self-confessed lightweight , and without the stamina of my formative years, I am quite fond of a midi shandy actually . I was working on a piece of music which had a particularly electronic element . I was thinking of how cool it would be if you could plug a USB cable into your face and then "save as" your memories for full technicolor retrieval at a later date. It all fused together to form a song . Kiddies dont try a midi interface or plugging a firewire cable into your ear-socket as you may well blow a fuse .

Here's the lyrics

" midi into face
drink it nice and cold
catch my memory and "save as "

I'm storing you
you're just numbers now
bit by little bit by bit "

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Summercloud Bay

the long highway south

the winter mist is low in the Royal National Park

you pass Gerringing

an ancient rock platform wearing a midden

still your minds with guys that go out at Summercloud

a can of VB in the campfire light

aboriginal the originals

they're attached to this land

now you are too

as far you as go

your heart's in Jervis Bay

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Australian music

Australian music I recommend ( partial list ! ) 

Jazz : 

Bernie Mcgann

Mike Nock

Paul Grabowsky

Chris Abrahams

Dale Barlow

Phil Slater

Steve Mckenna

Carl Orr

Carl Dewhurst

Mark Fitzgibbon

Matt Mcmahon

Australian Pop 

Midnight oil / Jim Moginie

Clouds / Jodi Philis


Robynne Dunn

Kara Grainger 

Papa Lips

Jackie Orsascky

Matt Finish 

The Church 

Olivia Newtown-John ( songs by John Farrar) 

Monday, February 2, 2009

if you see something say something

I was on my daily walk today and I saw a bus with the words " Si ves algo di algo"
on the side . It translates to " if you see something say something " .
Since 9/11 there have been various advertising campaigns in New York and elsewhere alerting the citizens to get involved in keeping the city safe . Here in the big apple we are expected to keep an eye out for "suspicious packages" on the subway etc . In Sydney, Australia they ran the ad " be alert not alarmed " .

The New York subway is a glorious melting pot of cultures and races . When I see the " if you see something " signs on the subway I always imagine what is going through the minds other riders in their own native tounges . Seeing the sign translated into Spanish today , reminded me that this would be a good idea for a song . Most of the lyrics revolve around a pretty lady that happens to be on the train spotted by the strap-hangers . I also learnt the other day that my computer can read text to me . I put the lyrics into my mac OSX and got it to read it into the track . It had a bit of trouble with the spanish and chinese ... Wasn't to great at the english either . I guess we will have to wait for version 3.0

Here's the lyrics :

If you say something see something

Si ves algo di algo

que bien te ves



Liene una sonrisa muy bonita ( spanish )

ni kan, da pangzi ( chinese)

that guy looks suspicious he's got a beard

no man that's santa klaus ( english) "