Petals on the Path

About this Journal

This journal is a scroll, with the earliest entry at the top and the newest entry at the very bottom. It documents the process of creating our new record, Petals On the Path, from the first idea to the release of the finished album. The journal includes rehearsal recordings and photographs in addition to the writing. Nearly all of the entries first appeared in the Ottmar-Friends Backstage Journal.



First rehearsal of a new, and still untitled piece for the next album. We played it in Florida this past week. For the new album I am writing music that can be played by the trio, without using overdubs or additional musicians.

PS: this piece was recorded for the new album under the title Blue by Blue – track #2


If more songs magically appear before me, as has been happening, we might record a new album next month or in March, with a possible Summer release – probably CDs, mp3s via the ListeningLounge, iTunes, amazon and such, as well as HD 24/88.2 FLAC via…

Stage in Orlando:

Michael Chavez setting up in Naples:


Ideas are ephemeral and like wispy smoke signals from the depth of one’s mind. Two hours ago I wrote another song. Very catchy it was and I thought it had great potential. Alas, I have now forgotten it.

Luckily I try to record all ideas, as they happen, if possible. Tomorrow I can listen to the recording and continue…


The title of the new album was inspired by the famous veto letter Governor Schwarzenegger sent to the CA State Assembly last year:

More info can be found here and here.

It has been suggested that the letter was specifically written so that the starting letters of the two main paragraphs, when read vertically, convey the true meaning of the note.

Well, I thought that was a cool idea for a poem and, with the help of friends, started working on a three-line haiku, where the first letters from the three lines would combine to form the word “POP”.

The poems were all a little long, too long for an album title, and I figured I might have to call the album “P-O-P”, which would give away the hidden meaning of the poem. Then a friend simply took a knife to one of the poems, and cut it down to just four words:

On the

The reason I wanted to hide the word POP in the title is that to my ears the new album is some kind of genre-busting pop-instrumental music, with elements from Rock, Flamenco, Jazz, World Music and so on.

Here are a few of the poems that were too long:

Pale moonlight reflected
on the water.
Poetry of the evening.

Of my Little Garden
Part of Heaven

Pausing to listen-
Overture in the moonlight
Perfect symphony

Petals from a red rose
On the ground, at dusk
Path to your house

Petals float
On the water in the
Pale moonlight

The album cover could be stepping stones of a path, with a few red rose petals strewn on the gray stone. Maybe something like this photo I took in Japan last November, but with a few flower petals:


The first rehearsal for the recording of the new album starts at 10:00 today. When the recording starts for real, sometime in the coming weeks, I’ll bring some of my studio gear to Jon’s studio, in order to be able to have all of the microphones and pre-amps and converters for 16 tracks of HD recording.

I am back from the rehearsal and listening to mp3s from the recordings. We worked out arrangements for 11 new pieces. More rehearsing next week and then four days of recording the week after that. The plan is to finish recording by the end of February and work on finishing touches and mixing in March.


Comment from February 1st, 2010 at 06:06:
Sorry to bother you with a stupid question, but since you offer not only the 320 kbps downloads but also the lossless version and since you plan to release your next album also in a 24/96 version, how can I make those play on a MacBook or ipod. I’ve tried but failed. Thanks for any help on this!

Not a stupid question at all. High end digital audio is a relatively new subject and there is a lot of bad information out there on the interwebs. Here are the basics:

A 2 bit recording has a resolution of 4.
A 4 bit recording has a resolution of 16.
A 8 bit recording has a resolution of 256.
A 16 bit (e.g. CD and mp3s) recording has a resolution of 65,536.
A 24 bit recording has a resolution of 16,777,216.
A 32 bit recording has a resolution of 4,294,967,296.

As you see the dynamic range of a 24 bit recording is dramatically larger than a 16 bit recording, 256 times larger to be exact. Think of these numbers as something similar to the amount of colors or shades or pixels in an image or video. The higher the resolution the more detail and the bigger the palette. Lots of shades of color instead of a line-drawing.

Expressed in dB it looks like this: 24-bit digital audio has a theoretical maximum dynamic range of 144 dB, compared to 96 dB for 16-bit. An increase of 3dB is roughly a doubling of power, meaning that 144 dB doubles the dynamic range of 96 dB 16 times. And that means a gentle plucking of guitar-strings can be reproduced in true contrast to a hard attack…

By the way the new album will be released in 24/88.2 and not 24/96. Why? Well, we still need a 16/44.1 version of the audio for CD and for the mp3s that are sold by the LL, iTunes, amazon and so on. That means my studio computer has to downsample the audio from 96,000 to 44,100. If we divide 96,000 by 44,100, the result is 2.17687074829932…… and so on, an infinite number. If we divide 88,200 by 44,100, the result is 2. Well, the software does a good job of downsampling 96,000, but because of the nature of the infinite number there has to be a change here and there – whether that is audible or not I do not know. But the difference between 88,200 and 96,000 is so minute, that I’d rather divide 88,200 by 2 than 96,000 by 2.17687074829932… Anyway we will record the new album at 24/88.2.

What you need to listen to HD (High Definition) audio files:
1. Software
2. a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) that plays back 24bit and 48-96 or even 192k files
3. an amplifier and loudspeakers or a headphone amp and headphones.

Without an external DAC, iTunes will play back an HD AIFF file, but will automatically dither and downsample to 16/44.1. There is no computer on the market that has a built-in DAC that is better than 16/44.1!! That means you will need an external DAC to play back a 24/88.2 files at its full resolution!

To my knowledge none of the iPods or iPhones play back any files that are 24 bit and 48k or higher, whether they be AIFF, WAV or AppleLossless. There are quite a number of external DACs for iPods available, like this one by Wadia for example. (((I haven’t heard these and just saw it while searching))) A larger, dedicated, external DAC will of course sound better than the miniaturized chip inside a small iPod, but the iPod still can’t play HD files, which means you are still stuck at 16/44.1.

Have I confused you yet?

We’ll get back to DA-converters later, let’s start with the playback software.

1. the Software:

For playback I use Peak Pro, Songbird or iTunes:

Peak Pro is made by Bias and is a very nice app, for playback, editing, processing and mastering, with lots of features. Unless you want to edit music files, create fades or crossfades, change the EQ etc., this will be overkill for you. Peak is also useless at cataloging music, something iTunes does very well. I don’t mind his limitation, because I don’t have a huge catalog of HD files yet and also because I don’t mind looking for the file and loading one piece of music at a time. I like the care that goes into listening like that. I make it a point to really listen to HD files, I don’t play them as background music while I do the dishes or at a party.

Another app I use handles cataloging quite ably, is open source and is free!

Songbird – Open Source Music Player
Songbird is an open-source customizable music player that’s under active development.

We’re working on creating a non-proprietary, cross platform, extensible tool that will help enable new ways to playback, manage, and discover music. There are lots of ways to contribute your time to the project. We’d love your help!

Songbird is a free open source application that is available for Mac, Linux and Windows. It plays back a bunch of different file formats including FLAC files in 16 and 24 bit, from 44.1 to 96kHz. Very nice.

I use iTunes for my main music library, which contains the music from my 1,500+ CDs, ripped as AppleLossless (((Apple Lossless Audio Codec or ALAC))) files. iTunes does a great job with large catalogs. Sadly iTunes does not play FLAC files, which means one has to use one of these free apps to convert the FLAC file to an .AIFF or .WAV file, which one can then import into iTunes and convert to ALAC. I use an older iMac which sends the digital signal via my home-network to an Apple Airport Express. The Airport Express in turn is hooked up to an external DAC, which creates the analog signal that goes into the stereo amplifier and speakers.

The Amarra Plugin for iTunes, made by highly respected SonicStudio looks good, but it’s $995 (((for a plugin!))), although there is also a mini-version for $295. Weiss in fact recommends Amarra on their website.

I haven’t gone that route yet. The Amarra-iTunes combination together with a nice external DAC would work very well if the computer is located near the stereo system and can be wired in, but, and I haven’t researched this well enough, I don’t think the iMac sends full HD over a network. So, the computer would once again downsample to 16/44.1 automatically…

2. the DAC:

My Digital-to-Analog Converter, is the Weiss DAC2, which I mentioned (here and here) already. The Weiss DAC2 D/A Converter is made in Switzerland. Look at it, it recalls Helvetica, speaks of handmade precision… and looks expensive in that small edition audiophile way.

Yes, but you won’t need a CD-player!! The Weiss DAC2 is a Digital-to-Analog converter that connects to your computer via FireWire and turns zeros-and-ones into delicious analog sound, parsing anything from 16/44.1 to 24/192. Your audiophile super system will only consist of a computer with FireWire output, the Weiss DAC2, and whatever amplification you choose, that is, a nice headphone amp and cans (((studio slang for headphones))) or pre-amp, power-amp (((or one that combines the two))) and a pair of loudspeakers.

What I find most attractive about this setup is that one can have a very high-end sound system using only three or four relatively portable components: a laptop, the Weiss DAC2 and a headphone amp + headphones. Nice!

There are many different DACs out there. The price range is enormous! Most of them are hooked up via FireWire, but there are also USB-connected ones. Google “DAC audio converter” or something like that. Or visit a dealer – it’s always good to listen first. You might bring your laptop with a few HD files you know and like so you can compare. (((Songbird or iTunes will not switch a DAC to the desired resolution automatically, but iTunes with the Amarra plugin, or Peak will. So, if you use Songbird to play back a 24/96 file, you must switch the DAC to that resolution manually… otherwise, if the DAC is set to 16/44.1, the computer will once again downsample the file and you will listen to 16/44.1)))

If you want something small that allows you to listen to HD audio on headphones and doesn’t break the bank, you might want to check out this:

CEntrance -> DACport
– Audiophile-grade D/A converter plays 24-bit/96 kHz HD music natively, with bit-for-bit accuracy.
– Headphone amp, designed for hours of listening without fatigue offers clarity, soundstage and detail.
– No drivers needed. Plug ‘n play operation with most laptops, nettops and music servers.
– No power adapter needed. DACport uses USB power and works anywhere you take your laptop.
– Stereo, 1/4-inch headphone jack, perfect for the most advanced headphones on the market.

The DACport might be perfect solution for people who want to listen to audiophile HD music files, but want something mobil. Pair the above DAC with a good set of headphones and you are ready to go – anywhere you carry your laptop. Cost: $500 for the above DAC plus the price of a set of headphones.

3. Amps, loudspeakers and headphones:

This is a very personal decision. I don’t want to recommend any loudspeakers because they all sound so different. Since a external DAC outputs an analog signal, that signal can be amplified by any old amplifier/loudspeaker combination you want to hook up.

I use the STAX SRS-4040II Signature System II, which includes Ear-speakers and a wonderful vacuum-tube-low-noise-Class-A-DC-amplifier. I listened to STAX for the first time in Köln in the early Eighties, while visiting my parents. I bought my first STAX system around 1997, I think, and have used it on every mix since.

I also own a pair of Ultrasone PRO 900, which I found on Amazon. These headphones sound great with some music and not so great with most music. I find that they deliver too much of the top and the bass and do not have a pleasing mid-range. One should try them before buying, if possible.

Then there are these Sony Headphones ($70), a true workhorse. And, for something more discreet, for walking around for example or or for the stage – this is what we wear during our concerts – there are the Shure SCL5CL earphones ($350).

The pair of headphones I currently use the most are the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones – here is a review. Beautiful mids and no exaggerated lows and highs. I’d say except for the un-mobile Stax, the B&W P5 are my favorite headphones.

Find an audio store and test-drive a bunch of headphones. Price and quality both vary enormously.

One last thing about headphones. Our ears are all different and since the shape of the ears is so instrumental in creating what we hear, headphones are not for everyone, and not every set of headphones works with every set of ears. If you had, say, large ears that stand out quite a bit, you might find that some headphones force your ears back and that might not sound good to you or could be uncomfortable. Your ears are meant for loudspeakers, maybe, or a different headphone design.

I have always enjoyed headphones. Headphones are as introverted as a boombox on one’s shoulder in the Eighties was extroverted…


Thoughts about the new album:

The music will be defined as much by what was left out, or what we did not use or do, as by what we will do. The music will be recorded with 21st century recording equipment, but with a 20th century recording ethos.

a trio of musicians
a Flamenco guitar, an electric bass guitar amd a drumkit
post-genre music

contrary to common 21st century recording practices, these are methods we will not use:

no clicktrack
no quantization
no pitch-correction
no time shifting
no tempo-shifting,
no overdubs (((I am not going to avoid overdubs at all costs – if a song calls for it, I might do an overdub – as an exception)))
no (over-)compression

You might already know my thoughts about modern dynamic compression. I know, it’s very confusing, but there are two kinds of music compression. There is Audio Compression, which is a form of data compression to reduce the file size, e.g. mp3, AAC, FLAC, ALAC. And then there is Dynamic Range Compression, which is what I am talking about. I have mentioned this often before, for example here, here, here, and here. I might do a little dynamic compression, as much as I used on The Scent of Light, but am considering doing no compression for the HD version of the album. I’ll do whatever sounds best.

Jon told me that the Yamaha Subkick microphone arrived at his studio and we will check it out tomorrow during rehearsal. As you might have noticed, I generally prefer having a large, heavy kick sound (((I have often used a modified 808-type kick))) on the first beat of each measure, leaving the rest of the bar open for percussion and bass. That is something I have done since Solo Para Ti, where Davo brought in a huge marching drum we used as a kick. My plan for this album is to record Michael’s kick drum with several microphones – Jon wants to use three altogether – giving us a lot of low-end from the Yamaha Subkick and a tighter sound from the other mics. Rather than having a huge kick sound every time Michael plays the drum, my plan is to use the subkick on the one of the beat (((or wherever I want the accent))) and to mute it for the rest of each bar, leaving the tighter kick sound in those places. This will mean quite a few hours of muting, but I like that we are not overdubbing a low-low kick – it’s the natural performance as captured by the microphones. One reason I like the low-low kick is that there isn’t anything else that will deliver that sort of physical sensation, as neither the guitar nor the bass really cover that spectrum. If you listen closely, I have done several albums (((Little Wing and Innamorare come to mind))) where Jon overdubbed some synth bass, which has more low-end than a fretless bass guitar, because I wanted that physical element.

In a way this is going to be the most hybrid of my albums. I am writing and playing without considering anything external. There isn’t even an occasional look to any tradition here. It’s Post-Category music. The music is defined only by the chemistry of the trio. There is a great feeling of independence, of liberation.

PS: I didn’t end up using the subkick mic in the manner I envisioned above. We liked the sound of the subkick microphone by itself and I didn’t use the second mic we had set up – just in case. I also didn’t mute anything and went with the kick as performed. We did end up doing a few overdubs: a couple of rhythm guitar parts at the end of Backwards Firefly, the guitar soli in the verses of Future Green, Jon’s bass solo on Dancing Alone, the tambourine on Jump and the djembe on Future Green and Backwards Firefly – and that’s all.


Working with the trio is a new way to work for me. Normally I work in my laboratory by myself, arranging the guitars, playing to a click track (((usually a drumloop that has the feel I am looking for))) and by the time another musician, either Jon or a percussionist, hears the track it already has a form, a vibe, a clear definition.

Last week I was very enthusiastic, yesterday I felt it was all uninspired – at least until Jon sent me the audio files from the rehearsal, which put me in a much better mood. Luckily I have a lot of experience with the ups and downs of creative energy. I remember being alternately incredibly excited and incredibly down about the music during the recording of Nouveau Flamenco (((and most other albums I have done)))…

I forgot my camera again, so here is a shot of the Subkick with the phone. Sounds amazing. (((Michael is playing Jon’s drumkit in our rehearsals. When we start recording in a couple or three weeks, he will bring in his own)))

Well, today’s rehearsal went really well. We played through most of the music for he album and added little things here and there. In my opinion it’s always the little things, that we remember about a record – an unexpected chord change, tempo change, feel change and so on.


A blade of light near the studio’s entrance:

Today I walked to the studio and fired up the console to do a couple of test mixes. I remembered a bunch of albums from the Sixties, where the stereo field of a trio (((I think the Beatles might have done a few mixes that were similar, once they went stereo, but I could be wrong))) has the guitar or vocal in the middle and the drums and bass off to the sides. That sort of mix uses the width of the stereo field to create a better separation between the instruments.

There used to be severe limits to this kind of mixing, because of the nature of recording in the early days – literally cutting a groove into an acetate disc – and also because of the way vinyl worked: the groove was deepest in the center and therefore the bulk of the bass had to be delivered there. Bass over to the side did not work.

So Jon sent me a track from yesterday’s rehearsals and here is what I did: the bass lives at -50, half-left, the stereo drums are half-right, between +20 to +80, and the guitar is in the center. (-100 is hard left, 0 is center and +100 is hard right)


Last year (((or was it in 2008?))) my friend Joe Mozdzen took a few photos of me in San Juan Capistrano (((come to think of it, it might have been September 12, 2008 – like this photo of Stephen))) for a publication which no longer exists. Because of that Joe was able to send me some of the photos he took that day. So interesting how different the B&W and color versions look!!


This was our first trio rehearsal in early March of 2009. The original intent was to see whether I wanted to play with a drumkit again, but as you can hear it sounded very nice right away. Jon recorded this with just three mics, one on the guitars and two on the drum kit.

So here we are, almost a year later, rehearsing to record an album together. One works differently in color than in black & white, differently with a brush than with a pencil or a can of spraypaint. In that sense the trio has inspired me to write differently. This little group can turn on a dime, and so I have come up with more tempo and time changes than usual. Today we started working on a new piece that switches from fast-sounding triplet-arpeggios in the verse to slow and romantic quarter-notes in the chorus. The inspiration for this piece was how our sense of time shifts and changes. The hustle of the errands we have to run, the daily work-pace, versus those precious moments where time feels suspended… deep in meditation, or gazing at the moon, or looking into a lover’s eyes. The tempo remains the same, but the division is different.

Well, writing about music is like dancing about architecture… and you’ll hear it soon enough. Anyway, enjoy the music from the very first meeting of the trio.


Now that we have arranged the music, I can get down to practicing my parts. I also have to start naming the tunes…


Today we worked on drum-miking at Jon’s studio. Michael set up his white Ludwig kit and Jon set up the microphones he wants to use. We want to go for an organic Sixties-kind-of-sound with as few microphones as possible. Michael Chavez:

Jon Gagan measures the distance between the overhead microphones and the drumkit – after a test a week before the recording sessions started.


In this rehearsal recording the verses were longer and I tried out different things.

The title of the track is a nod to Al Green, whose drummer Al Jackson would sometimes emphasize the beat by hitting tom and snare at the same time, as did Michael Chavez in the chorus of Future Green.


Here is last week’s rehearsal of a, still untitled, tune. We performed this in Saratoga last fall, in Japan in November and in Florida in February. And still no title! On those setlists it was identified as Nu Bm Rumba, but it seems more like a funk-pop thing… I realized last week that I have no idea where this music we are rehearsing and recording came from!

I just came back from our first recording session. It went well and we laid down several versions of four different songs. We’ll continue tomorrow and Friday and finish up Monday and Tuesday. Normally I would be listening to the music right now, but since my DigiDesign 192 (analog-to-digital converter for Pro Tools) is at Jon’s studio for these sessions, that will have to wait until next Tuesday. Hopefully we will have good takes of each piece by then.

Today we started out with the guitar mike about 13″ away from the soundhole, but moved it further back because I was clipping at the 35db setting – maybe another 4″ back. The Martech MSS-10 changes mic gain in increments of 5db, so it’s better to move the mic a little than to lose 5db. I am usually aware of how hard I strike the strings and can stay within a given dynamic range. It is easier when I record rhythm and melody parts separately than when I record everything at once, as we are doing now, but it’s turning out really nice sounding.

PS: That song was recorded as Dancing Alone and is track #3 on the album.


Played around with fonts on my laptop last night. Maybe I will look for a traditional calligrapher in Santa Fe. It would be nice to have this written/designed by hand. In my mind that would fit with the music, which eschews many of the modern recording techniques.


Yesterday: breakfast at CC, followed by HD Recording session #2. We started the session with a ballad, tentatively entitled The Long Goodbye or The Long Farewell. While we were playing the song I had this image of a person not being able to tear themselves away from another person, and then I remembered how the Japanese often wave goodbye until the leaving party is completely out of sight… and should they drive or walk around a hill and become visible again on the other side of that hill, their hosts will still be waving at them. Jon reminded me that the staff from the Blue Note in Tokyo waved until the small bus we were traveling in had completely disappeared around a corner.

PS: The ballad I described is called Garden at Dusk, is seven and a half minutes long, and is the 11th and last track on the album.


Jon and Robby will come by at 10:00 to record percussion on two or three songs. I have rough mixes of every song – there are eleven – and am listening on every pair of headphones and loudspeakers I have.

Record Labels: Change or Die – record labels – Gizmodo
In any case, 360 deals and general diversification are what big labels such as EMI are looking to move into, according to Billboard’s Glenn Peoples. “They’re definitely diversifying and they’re actually getting into agencies, artist management, concert promotion. There’s really no area that the four majors are not pursuing right now.”

Old news. I said that ten years ago. I think I wrote then: when there is no need for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, record companies will become media-management companies. They will manage every aspect of an artist’s career.


This is what I sent to Jon:
Some kind of opening-chord, a mood-setter intro for “On the Road to Shiraz”. An intro to the intro. Something that might sound like dawn in an Arabic countryside w/o being too literal (((i.e. no arabic scale or quarter-tones))). Perhaps a grainy texture, representing sand, but also sweet, like dates and figs.

Isn’t that evocative! And how did Michael figure out where to play the tom-hits at the beginning of the first chorus, when we worked without a click-track and we could not see each other? That kind of wonderful stuff starts happening when a band works well together.

Played with an image and the title on my laptop Wednesday evening… I captured the image across the street from Infinity Hall in Norfolk, when we played there last Spring.


I heard this one decades ago, but maybe you haven’t:

Detritus 33
Warning! Muso joke: What’s the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist?
A rock guitarist plays three chords to thousands of people, while the jazz guitarist plays thousands of chords to three people

(Via the music of sound)

How do guitar players change a lightbulb? One climbs on the ladder and changes the bulb and 99 other guitarists proclaim: “I could have done that!!”


…and the djembe calls the villagers together, who march under a moonlit sky to a faraway place on the plain where they…
A) beat the crap out of an elephant poacher!
B) witness in silent amazement a firefly that flies backwards!
C) sit under a lone tree that has iPads instead of leaves!

It’s the last chorus and ending of “Backwards Firefly”, track number 7.


We had more snow in the afternoon and experienced two blackouts during the snow storm. Yes, the UPS in my studio work well. Everything stayed up and running. (((what a studio needs: 1. isolation transformer – so you don’t hear when your neighbor turns on his table saw, 2. uninterruptible powers supplies – so that a blackout or brownout doesn’t take your computer down, 3. a solid sync clock – because a computer is not a solid enough timing-device! Jon uses the Big Ben and I have an Aardvark. Three of the most important basics, so often overlooked!)))

In the afternoon I worked on cover ideas and did a bunch of house-keeping – e.g. determined ISRC codes for the new songs, catalog number for the album and so on and on…

In the evening, more snow…


While the rest of town didn’t get much snow I woke up to about half a foot of new snow this Morning. The first day of Spring: cold, blue skies, sparkling, dazzling snow. Ran to the studio through the snow, in Crocs, to add a couple of new parts Jon had uploaded.


The second verse of the last piece on the new album. The piece is called Garden at Dusk. Added extra-reverb to the very last note of the verse… those are the little things I am working on now. Little surprises you may hear, or not even notice, but that make repeated listening more fun.


More mixing. Gave Jon a CD of the current mixes. After listening he called and liked them, which was nice because I had started down a path where I wasn’t sure it was working.


The annual Spring winds have started. They lent my day in studio Oto-Mare a dramatic backdrop. The sky kept changing from sunshine to clouds, from Santa Fe’s dazzling light to darkness and back, and there was a certain smell in the air. I guess I would call it a storm smell, although the weather sites are switching back and forth on whether there will be a lot of wind tonight or even another snowstorm. Life on a mountain. Our weather is unpredictable.

The studio looks darker than usual, because I close the four skylights when I am mixing and mastering an album. The shafts of the skylights can trap low frequencies and diminish the accuracy of what I hear. With a long pole I can close doors located at the bottom of the light-shafts.

I worked on CD mixes (16/44.1 with my usual compression – the same I have used since “La Semana”) and HD mixes (24/88.2 and no compression). My day ended up longer than expected, but I enjoyed it. Today I spent nine hours in the studio.

The release date of the album will probably be sometime in the second half of June, but, if all goes well, we may have CDs for sale on tour in May. They won’t be in stores until the 22nd or 29th of June though.


late spring . early spring thoughts
It’s wrong to think happiness will come right away. It’s something you (we) create, not something you wait for.
– Ozu Yasujiro’s, Late Spring

(Via neo bohemia)

Here is a noise that drove me crazy a while ago.

It’s that noise between the notes. But we checked and… it’s just another buzz on my guitar. She has a whole bunch of different buzzes and noises now. She’s about eight years old, and I suppose she needs new frets. Or, you might say she has gained a whole bunch of character. There is one particlar noise that sounds like a telephone ringing in the distance. Very interesting.


It’s fairly easy to achieve a quality of 90%, especially if one has a certain amount of experience with the medium, but then progress slows down. The faucet closes and the river becomes a trickle. Above 95% one has to claw oneself slowly forward, crab-like, three steps forward, two steps back, repeat. It’s always a frustrating effort, but worthwhile in the end.
It was intersting, reading about William Gibson’s struggles with writing today.

William Gibson
Q: Which novels did you enjoy writing most?

A: Writing novels is a painful and anxiety-ridden process, for me. There are *moments* of enjoyment. I very much enjoy the state of having written.

Q: Least?

A: They’re all equally if differently painful, and each one seems, at some point, to me, to be not only a very bad novel, but the worst novel ever written. That crisis, I’ve learned, indicates that I’ll be finished soon, and that the worst is over. But knowing that doesn’t seem to decrease that devastating and absolute conviction of utter failure.

Q: Seemed to me you enjoyed Spook Country. That so?

A: As usual, I was terrified throughout. The pace seemed utterly glacial, to me. The essential thing is to have at least one trusted daily first reader. Four or five, even better. But the keyword is “trusted”. When it comes to evaluating my own work, truly, my head has a contract out on my ass.


This Morning, at our long standing weekly breakfast, I gave Jon a CD that contained the latest incarnation of the new album. A couple of hours later I received his suggestions, which started with The Clarity is phenomenal. Those words renewed my strength and I dove right back into the studio.

Did you wonder what that tweet from the other day was about? That one. Here is the answer, the third chorus, followed be the outro of Garden at Dusk. This is the last track on the album and I decided that it should fade slowly and disappear in reverb. Then Jon sent me a whale.


Went grocery shopping this Morning and guess what the first thing was that I had a hankering for now that the album is done? Miso soup. Not the instant kind, but fresh, with white miso and green onion and lots of tofu… I came home and made it at once. Miso soup at 11:00. Man, did that hit the spot!

Thursday the tide turned and after listening to the entire album I wrote this shortly before midnight:
Looking back I can’t see the road that led me up this hill. I don’t know what made me select this path and why, but I am grateful for the view from here. Listening tonight I could enjoy the music, seemingly for the first time, now that the elements are put into their proper space and balanced. Four days of initial recording and nearly a month of working the details and mixing.

I always look back and wonder how he music happened, how an album came together. Where did that come from?


I am working on last details, the volume differences, if any, between tracks, the pauses between tracks and so on. People used to like to have several seconds between tracks, that means when one track ends you can see the CD player counting down the seconds before the next track starts, but I prefer to create a more continuous story and often have no pause between tracks at all. I expect to send the master off tomorrow.

A self-portrait from last month. Seems like ages ago.


This Morning I looked at the CD player to see how long the album is… 62:55 minutes. Score!! 6+2+5+5 = 17, 1+7 = 9

Behold my $99 JVC stereo. If it plays on this thing, it’ll play on just about any CD player in the world, I discovered. Important to know.


A day of non-stop clerical work. Burned the audio masters, one for the CD manufacturer and one for our digital distributor, burned the data CDs with the HD FLAC files – one set for the CD manufacturer (((limited run of a couple of hundred pieces))) and one for our digital distributor (((mainly for HDTracks))). Listened to most of the CDs to make sure everything was working properly. Then I sent everything off in the afternoon for Wednesday afternoon delivery. Exciting moment, as it is every time I send a master off.

I love the album. Recording it was a very different experience, and not just because the last album was three years in the making and this one took about three months in total, from the first idea through the final master. The approach was very different, new, fun, exciting. I already have fleeting thoughts about the next Luna Negra album, although I doubt that will happen before 2012. I imagine the basic recording process will be the same, the three of us playing together in a studio but then I want to add more instruments to the basic trio. Not on every tune, mind you, but a few tunes with, say a trumpet or a viola for example…


…denn aller Schmuck versteckt das Geschmückte.
– Nietzsche

Because all adornment conceals the adorned.

And here is William Gibson again, comparing influence to weather:

But that’s material. “Influence” is something else. Influence is more like weather, when you’ve been writing for a while. It blows in from somewhere. You can’t say exactly where weather *is*, but you can say that it’s present.
(Via Gibson Blog)

This, I feel makes a good music critic: the ability to put his/her nose in the air, take a few good sniffs, and guess where the weather came from, where it had been before it blew around and through the artist in question. This requires more than an ear for music, or a way with words, it requires a certain amount of experience, an understanding of history. And by history I mean the many movements, or to stay with the metaphor, the many winds that have blown in the valley before. Saying I like it, although perfectly sufficient for regular folks, is not enough, coming from a critic. S/he has to tell us what direction the weather blew in from, what the shift in barometric pressure means and so on.


I added a page for the new album. The official release date is June 15th.

William Gibson
The writing worth keeping happens within a matrix of mysterious but crucially related activities. I might order myself to write for X number of hours per day (though in fact I never do) but the writing worth keeping can’t be ordered to happen at all, let alone for X number of hours per day. It has to be teased out. Fed.

The music worth keeping can’t be ordered to happen at all, let alone for X number of hours per day. It has to be teased out…

Track number 4, “On the Road to Shiraz”, starts with the sound of dawn on a dusty street. It’s a gritty sound, gritty like the sand on both sides of the road. At the end of the road beckons Shiraz, the Persian garden city, home of the Sufi poet Hafez. The gritty sound returns at the end of the piece, when we realize that we are no closer to Shiraz, because we whiled away the time dancing and talking.


the muse finds you
There is a Pablo Neruda poem that begins:

And it was at that time… Poetry came
to find me.

(Via neo bohemia)

It truly feels that way. How did music find me this Winter? I was hiding from music, in a way. I had no plans to record (((I really did need to NOT think about composing and recording after The Scent of Light, which was wonderful and exhausting…)))…and yet…


The release date for the new album is 2010-06-15. It will be available in three formats:

• CD – from conventional and online retailers, via Burnside Distribution
• mp3 – from the usual download stores (iTunes, amazon etc.) as well as from our own ListeningLounge.
• HD FLAC – this album really sounds great in high definition (24/88.2). You can buy and download audiophile files from and we will also sell a special double CD package that contains the files in FLAC form. This HD FLAC package will be a very limited run and will only be available from our website and at our concerts.

You can find more info about the release on the album page.