Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Making Sound Choices in the Cloud

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

As part of my "creative outlest," I like posting some of my musical creations here, and I certainly hope you like it too. But I do have to confess that I don't want to have to make a video every time I want to post an mp3 file into a blogger post, like I had to do with my first music post ("First Thoughts").

So I needed some other way to get an mp3 file linked or inserted into a blogger post.

In a comment to an earlier music post I made, David List suggested using SoundCloud as a site to host my music mp3 files so they could be inserted into my blog posts.

So I checked out some potential music hosting sites, and compared their offerings, and you know what? David was right. SoundCloud offers the ability to upload two hours of tracks free, provides a slick interface, gives a central site to point people to, and also offers a cool widget to be able to insert the mp3 right into this blog.  I don't have to send you away to another link in order for you to have a listen.

Evidently there's also a huge community of other sound uploaders, and -- as with almost every form of social media -- you could spend all your time interacting with other people there.  But for me, all I want at this stage is just a bucket to store my files in so I can use this blog to share them and discuss them.  And SoundCloud seems to fit the bill extremely well -- thanks, David!

I've uploaded an mp3 of "First Thoughts" as well as another track -- something I recorded shortly after that first piece I did on the PC. For this one, I found some free MIDI drum loops and used a couple of them as the basis for this piece.  I chose two that were pretty far apart -- a metal beat and a jazz shuffle -- and I decided to try and merge them together. I like the idea of juxtaposing radically different things and trying to unite them in a creative way.

I called the piece "Choices".  Have a listen:

Everything besides the MIDI drum loops is my multi-tracked guitar.  I was going to use a MIDI track to insert some bass but instead I ended up making a track with an octaver effect on my guitar.  At this stage in my recording experience, it's easier.  I don't have either a bass or a MIDI keyboard to work with, but I'd very much like to get both eventually. I'm rapidly discovering that tapping away at the Q-W-E-R-T-Y keys to try and record a MIDI track is not the best way to go.

"Choices" seemed like a good name for this piece -- the tune seemed to evolve out of the idea of contrast, and juxtaposition, and hard versus soft, and even making choices about how to get a dang bass track on the piece.

Feel free to let me know what you think.

Oh, and also -- in my last music post, Alex commented that his musical tastes weren't very jazzy, so I'm hoping that at least the framing parts of this tune are more like the musical choices he might make.  ;^)

Thanks for listening!  And if you want to stay up on future tracks I add to SoundCloud, just visit my page HERE.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Handful of Haiku

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

You might notice this blog is titled "The Creative Output of StratPlayer."  For most of the time, my posts about my 'creative output' is related to my genre writing (speculative fiction and noire-ish mysteries, mainly) or my musical dabbling.

However -- I warned people in my very post here that I rebooted my blogging presence from my old writing blog with the clear intent to open things up a little.  The music is a big part of that.  But there are other forms of artistic creativity that I like to experiment with.

So how about some poetry?  Perhaps a post focused on Haiku?

Why not? The Haiku is a long-lived Japanese form that tries to present as much emotional content as possible in a short, tightly-defined structure.  The traditional English format uses 17 syllables in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each.

I love the challenge of being as expressive as possible in a well-defined, 'limited' format.  I think the innate tension and conflict of freedom versus constraint is a wonderful backdrop for creative output, and I find it particularly stimulating.

So today, I offer you a smattering of Haiku I've written, over a variety of subjects, but united by a common StratPlayer-ish theme.

I hope you enjoy them!


White dove flies skyward,
lands on a windy tower,
and sings a high, "coo..."


On the Enterprise,
Picard greets a frequent foe 
with a glib, "Hi, Q."


Hugh Mour loves the wilds.
He's left on a nature walk;
"Have a good hike, Hugh!"


Before the concert,
stoned teens stumble into line.
They form a high queue.


Minnesota Fats
scowls -- he didn't sink the shot.
'Twas his too-high cue.


The center stumbles;
The quarterback needs the ball!
He yells out, "Hike, you!"


So now I hope you have an appreciation of the beauty that can come from the form, and the next time you hear someone say "Haiku", you won't just offer them a Kleenex and a "Gesundheit!"

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Rang?

This is sort of a musical topic, but I should probably warn you that it's also one with A MESSAGE.  No, nothing too heavy or preachy, but do I ask that you'll indulge me for a little bit, and if you enjoy music, I hope that might even consider some advice.

If you're of a certain age, or you like reruns of old back-and-white TV comedies, you might associate the title of this post with the image I posted.  That's Lurch (played by Ted Cassidy), the butler from the Addams Family, and he uttered his famous "you rang?" line after Gomez or Morticia summoned Lurch by pulling the cord and ringing the gong.

That's some classic schlock TV, complete with a omnipresent canned laugh track, and while I intentionally used that line to evoke a smile, I do have another reason for mentioning a reference to ringing.

Because I have tinnitus --  a constant ringing in my left ear.  To me it sounds like an ever-present high B-flat, with a pulse that matches my own heartbeat.

I've had a complete check-out by an audiologist and an otolaryngologist -- that's the fancy term for the common "Ear, Nose, and Throat" (ENT) physician that specializes in ear issues.  And so I know that it's "nothing serious", and just a sign of a significant loss of the ability to hear higher frequencies in that ear.  The doctor called tinnitus "the auditory equivalent of phantom limb syndrome," where my brain wants to fill in those missing frequencies with something and so it generates the sensation of hearing a ringing in those frequencies.

It's a relatively common condition, especially for people who have had frequent or long-term exposure to loud noises. My exposure?  Well, I bet you can guess...

I play electric guitar.  There were lots of times I used to play it LOUD, especially during my teen years. With my left ear facing the amp so the guitar pickups would be facing away to minimize feedback.  In my old teen garage bands, what we lacked in talent we usually tried to make up for in volume. 

Plus as a teenager I went to many concerts and usually tried to get as close to the stage as possible -- this was the days of open-floor "festival" seating.  I saw this in concert four or five times before the age of twenty, from very near the amps:

And Ted played very, VERY, VERYVERY LOUD!

I used to joke at school that my ears rang all day long the day after the concert.  Now I think that maybe it wasn't so funny after all.

In my twenties, I came to my senses and started wearing ear protection when I played, and trying to get everyone to turn down during practice, and sitting much further back at concerts.

But the damage had already been done -- I just didn't realize it until my late 40's. And now in my 50's the ringing is there all the time.

It's just something I have to live with -- there's really no cure.  And most times I do OK.  I've gotten to where I don't notice it most of the time, but then other times it's maddening.  

Plus, even without the ringing, I know that I'm missing high frequencies.  There's a gap in what I hear, particularly in my left ear. I try not to over-compensate and crank the treble, especially on anything I record.  

But my ears are forever damaged, and no matter how long it keeps ringing, Lurch is never going to come in and ask if, "I rang?"  Because it's not a joke.  It's serious and it sucks.

<MESSAGE>  Please don't let it happen to you. Protect your hearing. </MESSAGE>

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another One Gone...

"Gateway" by Frderick Pohl

I love a wide variety of fiction, but I have to admit that I have a special fondness for science fiction.  In high school and during my early twenties, it was pretty much the only type of fiction I chose to read.  Thankfully, through the demands of teachers and professors during my early flirtation with college, I was forcefully exposed to other great fiction, from Shakespeare to "The Stranger," "The Old Man and the Sea," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Grapes of Wrath," "Pride and Prejudice," and many others -- and I am truly a much better person and writer for it. I've thanked the memory of those teachers and professors in retrospect many times over.

But back then, when left to my own devices I neglected the classics and all that 'dull' stuff, and instead spent the bulk of my time in a single section of the library and local bookstores -- Science Fiction.   And truthfully, some of the books I read during those years have stayed with me longest, and are still some of my favorites.

I'm sure there's a good dose of personal nostalgia involved, but even a short list of some of the books that I can recall reading in late 1970's and early 1980's would feature some of the best authors I've ever read.  Yes I realize that in many eyes, their writing would pale in comparison to the literary talents of Camus, Hemingway, Harper Lee, Steinbeck, and Jane Austen.  But I would still submit that if you define the "best" writers as those who most tightly hold your interest, who most successfully immerse you in a world, who most inspire you, and who you most want to emulate as a writer yourself, then -- for me -- Hemingway and those other hacks don't even come close.

Instead I would list authors like:

  • Larry Niven. who's 1979 "Ringworld Engineers" was a gripping sequel to 1972's "Ringworld", and who collaborated with Jerry Pournelle  to write "The Mote in God's Eye" in 1975, "Inferno" in 1976, and "Lucifer's Hammer" in 1978.
  • Robert Silverberg, who's "Lord Valentine's Castle" in 1980 had me eagerly awaiting every installation of the Marjipoor Chronicles, and who's "Dying Inside" and "The Book of Skulls" from 1973 were both devoured in a single marathon reading session.
  • Robert Heinlein, who's 1980 novel "Friday" was enjoyed immensely, although not as much as his classic "Stranger in a Strange Land," which was written back in 1961, but read by me in 1976 or so and remains one of my favorite novels of all time.
  • Isaac Asimov, who's 1982 "Foundation's Edge" was probably the best of the Foundation series.
  • Arthur C. Clarke,  who's "The Fountains of Paradise" in 1979 was a fabulous read, and who's sequel "2010: Odyssey Two" in 1983 followed the movie more than the original book.
  • Frank Herbert, who's 1976 "Children of Dune" introduced me to the Dune series including the original "Dune" from 1966 -- another all-time favorite.
  • And Frederick Pohl, who's 1977 novel "Gateway" was another all-time classic. It was first published as a serial in Galaxy magazine, and then won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1978 as a novel.  It also launched Pohl's series of work about the Heechee universe. I read it shortly after its release and loved the weird mix of a dark over-populated future, psychobabble with a robot analyst, and a cryptic unknown alien race.

Want to know something about that list of authors?  Besides the fact that they're some of the all-time-great science-fiction writers with a plethora of awards and best-selling novels among them? 

Most of them are dead. 

Larry Niven is 75 and Robert Silverberg is 78 and both are still kicking, but Herbert died in 1986 (age 65), Heinlein in 1988 (age 80), Asimov in 1992 (age 72), and Clarke in 2008 (age 90).

And today, I just discovered that Frederick Pohl has also died.  Actually, it happened over a month and a half ago -- September 2nd at the age of 93. I was looking something up related to what I was originally going to write today's blog entry about and ran across This News Article. Evidently I'd missed the news back in September.

So that means that another one of my favorite authors has passed away.  The main things this points out to me is that I am getting older myself (turning 53 next month), and that -- yet again -- there seems to be a 100% correlation between the people who are born and the people who will someday die. 

I'm not going to get all weepy and philosophical here, but if you don't mind, I will take this as a little psychic prod in the ass, and get a bit busier on writing and making music.  Each of us only has a certain number of breaths, and I think I'd like to use more of mine in the act of artistic creation.  I may never achieve any arbitrary 'goals' I might set for myself in regards to my writing or music, but I'd prefer not to have it be because I never tried hard enough to actually create any...

Rest in peace, Frederick Pohl, and thank you for the great writing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Music: "Cloudy Night"

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

As I mentioned in my last post, my schedule has been a bit hectic lately.  So I haven't done a lot of new recording -- at least nothing has been completed, although I have a few things I've been playing around with.

But because I want to continue to make recurring posts of my music, how about I continue with my previous music post where I talked about wikiloops and offer you the first thing I ever uploaded there?  I called it  "Cloudy Night" because, in an amazing coincidence, I recorded it at night, and it was cloudy.  Brilliantly creative naming, don't you think?

I invite you to listen to it here:  "Cloudy Night"

I found the underlying bass and drum track when I searched for things to use as the foundation tracks for my guitar playing -- which is what led me to wikiloops in the first place.  The bass and drums in this has that spacy, funky, jazzy loose jam feel that appeals to me, and the odd time signature makes it especially fun.  It says "9/8" as the meter, but it feels much more like 6/8 to me.  The drums are by "Baer" and the bass is by wikiloops creator "Dick", and I think it highlights some very tasty playing. Dick called his track "Groove through the Storm" -- that's probably what inspired my title.  It wasn't stormy, but at least it was cloudy...

As the very first track I recorded and uploaded for wikiloops, there are some things I notice in "Cloudy night" that I would now do differently, even though it's only been about a month and a half since I did this piece.  For one thing, the overall sound level is a bit low since I was still learning how to make a mix in Reaper.  Also, I wanted to record this as close to a live "jam" as possible, and so what you hear is my first live take after running through it a few times to learn the structure.  Now I'm a little pickier -- I still like to get as close to "live" as possible, but I have no problem making several passes at something and then picking the best version, or even blending two or more takes together, as long as it's clear there's a switch between takes.

In this piece, I think my playing is fairly decent overall, and I like some parts especially, but there are also a couple of places where the notes are a bit sour and the phrasing is a little weak. I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I'll edit and massage a track to cover individual notes -- that just feels like cheating, but I would probably redo this take if I were to record it now.

But hey, it's done, and so this is the version that will live on wikiloops for as long as their servers exist.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Writer Again Am I

First off, sorry for the length of time since my last post -- I'm hoping to do a couple of posts a week and it's been eight days since my last one.  That's a little longer than I would prefer.

But the good news is that it wasn't because I've lost interest in the blog, or don't think I have anything worthwhile to write, or have nothing to update you on -- it was simply a lag in posting caused by a very busy schedule.  I spent most of last week scrambling to get things done because my wife and I were going away for several days, and then -- you guessed it -- my wife and I were away for several days.

We were here:

(Photo by Chris J. Fries, 2013)

It was a very, very fun trip -- we stayed on the American side of Niagara Falls and had a really great time. And if this were a travel-blog or a personal-diary kind of blog, I'd tell you about how awesome it was to do the Maid of the Mist, and how cool the Cave of the Winds was, and how good the food was an Wine on 3rd, and where we went on the Niagara Wine Trail, and so forth, but this is not that kind of blog.  This blog is about my creative outlet, so I'm just going to say it was an absolutely wonderful trip, spent with an incredible woman who I love with all my heart, and that I enjoyed every minute of it.

And then -- to keep with the spirit of what this blog actually is -- I'm instead going to tell you about something that I scrambled to get done before our trip; something I haven't done in a very long while:

I finished a story and submitted it for publication.

OK -- it wasn't a brand-new story written completely from scratch, but it still feels like a big accomplishment to me.   This is a science-fiction story that I'd written and had submitted to Ray Gun Revival, and had gotten some very positive feedback on, along with a request for revision and resubmission.  But then RGR stopped publishing, and this story has sat since.

I decided to revisit it and liked it.  I think it's a fun throw-back pulp sci-fi story, and so I wanted to revive it from the dead-story pile.  I tweaked it a little bit more, and have now sent all 4,150 words of it out again into the world to find a home.

So if a writer is someone who writes and submits, then a writer again am I...


(From "Apologies" by Chris J. Fries):

Corvan turned back to the Ambassador. He struggled to overcome the urge to yell at the naive woman. "You never mentioned the arrival of a fleet."

She rose and walked towards him. "I'm sorry, but I did say I had a deadline. I saw no need to expand on the reasons why. But look -- if a treaty is in place when our fleet arrives, then they are merely here to solidify our new border." She stood in front of him, put her hands out, and gave a slight smile. "So a treaty must be in place."

Corvan stared at her. "It's very probable your government expects you to fail, Ambassador. They've never been known to put much effort into negotiation with the Velux. Any excuse for war might be welcome."


Monday, October 7, 2013

The StratoRaptor

"The StratoRaptor" -- StratPlayer's avatar

Here's a question that I'm sure is burning in the minds of the multitude of my loyal readers:

So what's up with your avatar?

Well, before I begin, let me clarify by stating that I've never actually had a multitude of readers, let alone a loyal one.  I've been too erratic of a blogger for far too long, and now I've even completely rebooted my whole blogging presence with a brand new blog, which reset my follower count back to zero, and the much-appreciated handful of followers who've signed up on this blog is significantly less than a multitude, plus I only had 146 followers back on the previous blog, which is still several orders of magnitude less than a "multitude," I would say, and probably most of them rarely visited because I seldom posted, and then I more or less totally fell off the edge of the blogging world, letting my old blog become a stagnant, empty, and lifeless husk of forgotten posts and neglected dreams, abandoned and left to wither and die in the cold, cold depths of the unforgiving Internet aether.

...but I digress...

Where was I? Ah, yes -- the avatar.  OK, since you asked, let me explain (sorry, but it's going to be a long explanation):

My avatar is a velociraptor with a Stratocaster guitar.  I call it the "StratoRaptor." Yes, I play guitar, and I'm probably old enough that some of you might consider me a dinosaur.  But that's not why I made it. I created it last March, when I signed up as "StratPlayer" on the xkcd forum. 

For those of you who don't know, xkcd is a webcomic created by Randall Munroe, popular with techs, geeks, and nerds.  And yes, as an Electrical Engineer with a background in programming, I qualify as a member of the target audience. The xkcd comic focuses on humor related to technology, computers, the internet, and other things popular with the target audience.  It's a pretty well-known comic.  Google it to see.  Go ahead -- I'll wait...

Back now?  Great!  See?  As geeky webcomics go, it's one of the best ones, I think.

Well, I've been a silent fan of xkcd for years, but never really touched the forums until I was finally prompted to sign up.  And when I did, I wanted to create a forum avatar that highlighted my "StratPlayer" name, but also went along with the xkcd world.  And a velociraptor certainly qualifies -- it's a frequent meme in that comic.  So I GIMP'ed this avatar together.  (GIMP is a free image manipulation software package.  It's basically the cheap person's Photoshop).

So what prompted me to sign up?  At first, I just wanted to say "great job!" to Randall for a particular comic I really enjoyed.  Then, between March 28th and August 1st, I ended up making 829 posts on the forum, all in one thread -- the thread dedicated to the discussion of that comic, 1190: "Time".  Look at it now and you'll just see an image of a raft resting on a beach with some trees -- but there is so much more to this comic.

Randall's done some incredible things with xkcd, a webcomic that's typically just basic stick figures.  In the past he's created many huge, incredibly detailed charts and in 1110: "Click and Drag" he made an enormous world that was viewable only in a tiny window -- you had to click and drag the lower image for hours to be able to see it all.  People spent days documenting all the amazing detail that was in that comic. Here's a zoom-able image that shows the whole thing.  You can zoom in and out a little quicker than clicking and dragging as in the original comic.  Impressive isn't it?

But as impressive as the work he's done before, "Time" was massive and epic in scope, even for Randall.  It was essentially a slow-motion movie that covered 3,099 separately drawn comics, with the image updating every hour (initially every half-hour).  But there was no indication that it was a movie -- the alt-text over the comic simply said "Wait For It."  Then slowly, it became apparent that the images were changing.  Each new frame had just a slight variation.  The updates were automatic scripted and occurred from an encrypted source -- no-one was able to hack it to see the future frames (and the xkcd audience is no slackers when it comes to decrypting).  The story went from an image of two figures on the beach, to them building a giant multi-level sand castle, to awareness of a rising sea, a protracted journey of discovery about why the sea was rising, and then an adventurous race to try and save a group of people from an impending flood.  As the story unfolded, subtle clues were given, such as a highly detailed night sky that revealed that the placement of the stars was off -- because the story was set far, far in the future, and highlighted the fact that over a geological scale, the Mediterranean Sea periodically becomes land-locked and dries up, then eventually refills again through the Straits of Gibraltar in what's known as the Zanclean Flood.

Here are some resources to view "Time" -- "Time at Your Own Pace" , Aubron's Viewer and the wiki. Yes, it has its own wiki...

The comic was incredible, and the forum dedicated to the discussion of that comic?  Absolutely mind-boggling -- I've never seen anything like it.  Essentially an entire culture erupted there, with posters from around the world, with a pseudo religion or three, in-jokes, thoughtful and yet irreverent and hilarious discussion, a glossary, a dedicated wiki, and amazingly -- not a single flame war.

And I was part of it. Big time -- it completely sucked me in.  During most of the comic's unfolding, I was a top-ten poster, and top-five during much of it.

So what does that have to do with a blog which focuses on my creative outlets?  Quite a bit, I think.

For one thing, I think the comic itself was incredibly creative, and I'm not alone in my opinion.  Google "xkcd Time" and see all the discussion about it.  So I certainly want to commend Randall Munroe for that creativity.

But in a lot of ways, Randall's creativity in making the comic was nothing compared to the creativity shown in the discussion thread itself -- the One True Thread (OTT) dedicated to the One True Comic (OTC).  Stories were told, animation and images were created and manipulated, amazing charts and data analysis was done on every pixel of every frame, lyrics were written, and songs were sung.  And avatars were hatted -- don't ask why; it seemed to make sense at the time.  Here's mine, hatted by forum member "buffygirl:"

StratPlayer xkcd avatar -- Hatted by buffygirl

Just so much more amazing creativity occurred in that thread. Here's my avatar as it reappeared in a xkcd Time forum parody retelling of the Discovery Channel song "Boom De Yada (The World is Just Awesome)" drawn by forum member "Blitz Girl".  The "It" is the It we were all waiting for, from the "Wait for it" in the comic's alt-text.

StratPlayer avatar from "Boom De Yada" by Blitzgirl

So what did I do to add my own creativity to the OTT?  I joked, punned, wrote a poem or two (haiku was particularly huge for a while), helped create the Knights Temporal, and made multiple parodies of song lyrics dedicated to the comic and thread.  The list of filks (as they're known in some circles) or OTT-ifications (as they were known on the thread) can be found here on the wiki page.  Mine are under the name "StratPlayer," as you might expect.

I also started using the recurring phrase "It's all related!" and soon came up with a way to prove it.  In many posts, I'd create a valid series of actual relationships to show that almost anything can be related to anything else.  Here's the last one I did on the thread that showed how a comic Randall did about a PC program called the Korbal Space Program can be related to the comic "Time" (click on the Spoiler to see the connections):

Fun, huh?

"Time" lasted from March 24th through the final ending panel on July 29th. The discussion thread was over 1,300 pages at that time.  I lasted a little while longer, but then eventually moved on. 

But you know what?  The thread is still going -- it's over 1,500 pages now.  They've created and programmed a PC game dedicated to the comic and continued to make numerous other drawings, art, stories, filks, and songs.  I salute their dedication and creativity, but for me, it felt a little like the audience sitting around in the lit auditorium well after the movie had ended.  Maybe I'm wrong to be so involved in something and then just fade away afterwards. Don't get me wrong -- it was fun and creative and I really, really enjoyed it while it was "live."  I will certainly remember it fondly, and I really appreciated all the other posters that made that thread such a unique, creative, and special place.

But for me, it just felt kind of weird to me to be sticking around after the fact. Still -- who knows? Maybe I'll pop in again sometime and say hello...

So that's the story behind my new StratoRaptor avatar.  Aren't you glad you asked? 

Wait -- You didn't ask? Huh...  I coulda swore someone did...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Music: "Can't Say Nein to Nine"

9/8 Meter (image from One-2-Five)

In My Last Music Sample, I uploaded the first thing I ever recorded on my PC.  That was from over a month ago, and I've done quite a bit since then.  I've moved on from the freebie version of Sequel LE I have to a more sophisticated recording package (also known as a Digital Audio Workstation -- "DAW") called Reaper.  I'll post more about Reaper in upcoming posts, but I will say that it has so much more capability than the limited Sequel LE package, and that while there's a steep learning curve, I really like it.

I also do a lot of recording of just me, but in my search for a way to get some drums and bass tracks to play against, I've discovered a whole world of online jamming, and many of my recent tracks have been me adding my guitar parts to tracks created by others.

The place I've been hanging out to do this is wikiloops:

wikiloops Online Jamming

This is a German website with musicians from around the world -- from professional-level musicians to newbies just learning their instruments. It's a very supportive place, filled with positive feedback, and it's perfect for what I want:  To jam with talented musicians who challenge me to improve, in a wide variety of genres, at my own pace, on MY schedule.  There are no live jams -- it's all the downloading, editing, and uploading of tracks, so I can take as long as I want to add my tracks.  And I can be as anonymous as I want to be -- I simply create a profile and reveal as much or as little as I'd like to.

If you're a musician, I heartily recommend this site!

I joined a while ago under the username  "StratPlayer" -- here's my StratPlayer Wikiloops Profile.

You can check out my profile to get all the tracks I've uploaded, but one of the recent ones I most like is called "Can't Say Nein to Nine".  I invite you to click on the link and check it out.

This recording has two layers of wild drumming in a very funky 9/8 meter, which is kind of a challenge to keep time with, especially if you're used to straight 4/4 time.  The drums were done by users known as "focus5" and "MrAdamOnDrums",  two very talented drummers.  The bass was recorded by the user known as "Dick" who is also the developer of the wikiloops site.

I loved the spacy, jazzy, funky feel of this jam and wanted to add some guitar.  I did two alternate lead tracks -- one clean, and one distorted and screaming. Then decided I liked them both, so I transitioned from the clean one to the distorted one at about the 2:00 minute mark.

Then, just to add a quirky framing element, I lifted a short sound bite from a pretty well-known recording and faded it in at the beginning and again at the end.  See if you know where it came from...  ;)

All in all, I really like this track -- I think my playing actually ended up relatively mistake-free, the overall mix is good, and I enjoy the jazzy, spacy, funky vibe.  That odd 9/8 meter and the awesome drumming against the rock-steady bass of Dick makes for a fabulous foundation to jam against and I just couldn't say no (hence the title, with a fun punnish twist considering it's a German website). 

I think it turned out pretty good -- what do you think?

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The State of My Writing...

(Image from Wikipedia Commons)

My Old Blog was all about my writing, but I regret to say that it became neglected and long-ignored, largely because I wasn't doing enough writing to have much of a reason to update it.

So does that mean I am done with writing? Am I only going to focus on the music I create, like I did in the Last Post I made? Has the Muse of writing finally left me, never to return?

No. Not at all.  Although, as a side note -- there really doesn't appear to be a Muse dedicated to the kind of mysteries and speculative fiction I like to do.  The nine Muses are Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (song and Elegiac poetry, whatever that is), Melpomene (tragic theater), Polyhymnia (hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedic theater), and Urania (astronomy). None of them seem to cover mysteries, science fiction, and other forms of speculative fiction..  So maybe it's not that the Muse has left me; it's that I never had one to begin with.  Hmmm...

But be that as it may, my point is, as Confuscious said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”  Or, as I say, "I ain't done yet."

I am still going to write and I want to do much more of it.  What has happened in the last year or so was just a very long lull of non-production in the midst of a glacial pace of completion.  And now I'm going to move past it...

However, I do have to announce that my main WIP has officially and completely become a WOOP (Work Out Of Process). The novel I've struggled with for several years has formally been retired.  I do think there could be a good story in there someplace, but I could never seem to get my arms around it.  The overall flow never seemed to solidify, even after several complete revisions.  The plot never came together in a satisfying way, the characters never felt true-to-life, and the writing always felt forced.  So it's been shelved. 

That's both disappointing and liberating.  Disappointing because I really wanted to "finish" it, and now I'm pretty sure I never will. But liberating because I can now step away from it and move on to other things.  And it wasn't a total waste -- the years of attempts were a tremendous learning experience.  When I compare the writing of some of my very first drafts with that from my last ones, I can really see significant growth as a writer. So that's a definite positive to take away from the experience.

So then where am I now as a writer?

Well, still developing, still growing, and yes -- still writing.  Just slowly.  Because I also have other creative outlets (as this blog will show), and because I'm only a part-time writer even at my best.  Truthfully, at this stage of my life, ALL this stuff I'll talk about on my blog is hobby activity.  I've got a full-time job, a fabulous wife, two great stepkids, and an awesome sorta-step-kinda-semi-adopted-daughter and an amazing granddaughter who live with us. Plus all the other life things that want a little slice of my free time.

But yes, I still write, and I'm going to continue.  I currently have two ideas churning for a new novel-length WIP, several short stories in various stages of incomplete-ness, and other thoughts about potential stories.

Some of these will eventually come to completion, and --  who knows -- even though my success-to-submission ratio is still "Oh-for-All of them," I just might get something published that I can point you to.

If that ever happens, I promise to not keep it a secret. :)

In the meantime, I'll keep slowly stumbling ahead...