Morning Melody

My favorite way to work with music is, perhaps, akin to Sumi-e – painting with sumi ink on rice paper. The strokes have to flow quickly and the brush can’t linger anywhere or it might break through the rice paper. At least that’s the way I understand the process.

In this case, on Thursday evening I had played around with four chords that I could play in such a way that all of them had the open E as the top note. D maj 7, Bm, G, A9. Of those four chords only the last one would normally be played with an open E at the top. I have always liked a top note that connects several chord changes. Sounds great in string sections. While the violas and cellos define the chord change, some of the violins keep the connecting note going.

Yesterday morning I wanted to give this idea a go. Sometime last month, I had put together a rain rhythm, with a tempo of 65BPM, that also included the call of corvids on Jon’s street in Santa Fe (he let me use his recording) and that tempo worked for my idea. I played the chord changes as an arpeggio. Then I played the E as a harmonic, to fall exactly where the open string was played at the end of every chord. Next I improvised some melodies. Et voilá, two hours later I walked to a favorite cafe for lunch, listening to the piece on repeat.

What do you hear? I hear a late Summer’s afternoon. Perhaps one sits, happy and satisfied after a late lunch, under the awning of a cafe when a rain shower starts. While the drops are falling, sunlight is breaking through the clouds, filtering through the leaves of tall trees, which makes everything shimmer. Corvids are having a conversation. There is absolutely no need to get up and do anything. Just play the music again…

I think when creating something, anything, it’s important to mute the judgement section of one’s brain. You know, the part of us that says it’s not complicated enough, it’s not impressive enough, it just won’t do! Those are the thoughts that make the brush break through the rice paper and ruin the movement.

Or, as Nike says, Just Do It. You can always bin it later. :-)

Matcha Hack

I brought some Matcha with me and assumed I would find a chasen (whisk) somewhere in Lisbon. No bamboo whisk nowhere.

Today, I wanted a bowl of matcha. I looked around and saw that I have a unused coffee press. I boiled water, mixed it with cold water until the temperature felt right, poured it over the tea powder and worked the plunger. Voilá. Not bad. Much better than no matcha. :-)

PS: I did forget to make that half turn of the bowl that Yumiko showed me. Then again, I had no bowl.

Lost in Ear Space

Yesterday I recorded rhythm guitars for a piece that I had been thinking about for a long time. It took me a while to figure out how to play the rhythm for the first bar of the chorus melody, which has an extra beat in it. The piece is in 4/4, except for the beginning of that melody, which is 5/4. Turned out well, I thought. Today I started recording a guitar melody for the piece. Didn’t love the tone of the guitar and began moving the mic into different positions to find a natural solution to the problem. Always better when one can create the desired sound with the mic itself instead of using lots of EQ settings. Took a while but found a great sound. (I have the Negra here in Lisbon and I had not yet found the right sound for a melody with the that guitar.)

There was a notification on my phone and I pulled the IEMs out of my ears, to take a break and read the message. Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention, or maybe I didn’t grab them at the best angle, or maybe the tips weren’t held tight enough on the earphones, but one silicone ear tip stayed in my ear. Bummer. What to do? I could go to the emergency room and wait for a medical person to pull it out. Safe option but time consuming. I could try to pull it out myself. My fingers were too big to get a grip on the little thing. I didn’t want to try for too long because I worried the tip could slide deeper into the ear canal. I could ask someone to look at my ear but here I don’t know anyone well enough to do that.

So I went to a pharmacy in the neighborhood and bought a pair of tweezers. Didn’t bring my own this time because I didn’t fly with a suitcase.

Sat on the sofa and stabilized my hands by putting the elbows on my thighs. Started gingerly moving the tweezers into my ear. There that’s it. No, ouch, that was a hair. A few tries later I got the damn thing out. I guess I’ll try the foam tips next time.

HuHeartDrive Mobile

Did some work on a new piece this morning. This is the HuHeartDrive Mobile in situ in Lisbon. The Genelec are powered monitors I bought in the mid Nineties. Carried them here in a suitcase a year ago. I use them to play music in the apartment, normally plugging them straight into the computer. In this case they are plugged into the headphone output of the MixPre6. The second screen, on the left, is my iPad and it’s attached to a foldable magnetic stand by a company called Lululook. I carried the stand in my carryon bag. Left of the laptop are the MixPre6 and the Euclid IEMs, to the right is a vertical Bluetooth mouse by Logitech.