Message

My phone provider transcribed a message left for me using these words…

Aunt Marley Burt

I love it. For a second I was tempted to change my name to that…

Listening

In 2017 an engineer turned me on to the Bose QC25 headphones. He had been wearing them on the tour bus and on planes and told me how much they improved traveling. When I saw the headphones on sale a little while later, I grabbed a pair for $175, as did Jon. What a difference they made! When we travel the headphones are always immediately accessible in our backpacks and we often put them on in the airport before boarding. They stay on our heads until we reach baggage claim. It’s like traveling in a bubble, a bubble of decreased noise, a bubble of civility and comfort. I might listen to Dukunmak by Erkan Ogur or my album slow on the plane and then switch to something more upbeat when I am walking through the destination airport. The headphones also help when hotel rooms are too noisy – loud air-conditioning or the unfortunate proximity to an elevator in a sold out hotel…

I loved those headphones, but lamented three things:
1) the microphone wasn’t very good and phone conversation wasn’t easy and comfortable as I often had to hold the mic closer to my mouth with my hand…
2) there was only one setting for the noise cancellation… on and off… walking around in traffic wasn’t the safest thing to do
3) the cord was very long and I had to use the Apple dongle to attach it to the phone. Several times the long cable got hung up around an armrest while walking down a plane aisle. Later I found a shorter replacement cable that had the correct plug for the iPhone…

At the end of Spring, after discovering that I was allergic to the Powerbeats Pro as well, I came across an article about a brand new pair of Bose headphones, the NC700. The specs ticked all of the boxes:
• Bluetooth 5.0 – check
• multiple noise cancellation settings – check
• a total of eight microphones, some of them “beam-forming” like the mics of the Apple AirPods… I have no idea how that works, but it most certainly does work – check
• touch sensitive fields on the ear cups that allow simple gestures for skipping forward or backward, increasing or decreasing the volume, accepting or ending a call… etc.

I decided to pre-order the Bose NC700 and they were delivered in the first days of July. Since then I have worn them for at least one and a half hours every single day. I conducted many phone conversations with them and can report that the mics work indeed very well. I listened to mixes from the Fete album in progress countless times. I felt safe walking in traffic, because I could lower the noise cancellation so I could hear approaching vehicles – there are three presets (I use zero, five and ten) that one can switch sequentially with the press of a button in the back of the left ear cup. Fully charged the battery lasts twenty hours.

Here comes the kicker… as you might remember, if you have read my Diary for a while, I have a pet peeve about mobile phones: landline phones (since the Fifties?) add a little bit of the signal from the mouthpiece into the ear cup. This enables people to hear their own voice and makes them less likely to scream into the phone – except for my dad, of course, who always yelled into the phone as if it was a mechanical device, like two cans strung together… Mobile phones on the other hand, inexplicably, do not do this! I envisioned an app with a simple slider that would allow people to adjust the amount of feedback originating from the microphone into the ear piece. That’s all the app would do. Even easier would be for manufacturers to build this into their operating system… Bose apparently also observed this need and developed their own solution. The Bose phone app that partners the headphones has a setting they call *Self Voice*. It adjusts how much of one’s own voice one can hear while on a call. Brilliant. Finally. :-)

Bluetooth 5.0 is good and, after four weeks with these headphones, I have yet to hear the first dropout! That’s remarkable.

There is a chip on the market that delivers even higher audio quality, but that would certainly have raised the already significant price of $399. That’s the only nitpicking I can do. I love everything else about these cans. They are fantastic and I carry them with me 24/7.

PS: I paid full retail for the Bose NC700 and this is not an advertising, merely the enthusiasm brought on by a device that actually works well… :-)

Half a Century Ago

Saturday at 20:56 (8:56PM NM time) is the fiftieth anniversary of the moment that man set foot on the moon for the first time. I was ten years old and played soccer with other kids in a small village in Austria when I heard my dad whistle and holler. He made me come into the house and watch the event, and I am glad he did… It was grainy black and white, but it was exciting and great.

Where were you? Or perhaps you are too young?

Like Ottmar Liebert

This morning I took a loaf of bread to my friend who owns a local bike shop. He was sitting with another friend of his and we started talking about bread. His friend told me he is thinking of building a wood-fired oven for baking bread. I said I would love to learn how to bake in that kind of oven.

Then my friend’s friend asked me what my name is and I said Ottmar. He didn’t understand so I repeated my name.

Then he said oh, Ottmar, like Ottmar Liebert… except you can’t play guitar. Exactly, I replied.

I left and laughed all the way home… :-)

Since posting this I have heard two other stories, but I don’t know whether they are true or just musician lore. The first one concerns Johnny Cash who was in a bar when another man told him he resembled Johnny Cash. The reply was I am Johnny Cash. No you’re not. But I am. You can’t be. Back and forth… and then Johnny Cash was slugged by the other men for impersonating the great Johnny Cash. It’s sounds so outlandish that it just might be true!

The second story is about Christopher Cross. A TSA officer told him that he looked like Christopher Cross. Yeah, I heard that before. The TSA officer ended with, it’s so sad that he passed away. Oops.

Fete

The new album has gone through a whole bunch of different titles, from the first working title Rumba Pa Ti, which was a reminder to myself that I wanted to create an upbeat album, to Hu, which I’ll write about separately, to Indigo, and now Fete. This last one seems to stick for several reasons. When Jon heard the first track of the album he sent me a message that said “this song is a party”.

In Köln, in the mid-seventies, we always used the word Fete for party, pronounced with two syllables instead of one… Fete or Fête, comes from the French language. A lot of French words are used in Köln. Portemonnaie means wallet, or Pottmonné in Kölsch, the local dialect. The dialect word Trottewar comes from the French Trottoir, or sidewalk.

Although Indigo was my favorite album title for a while, because the song of that name started a new development for me, it became clear that Fete was the right name for the album.

Because the music is upbeat – joyful is the word several people who listened to new songs used – I wanted a strong color for the cover. I really haven’t used color in ages and for a long time my albums tended to use neutral or earthy tones. I opened Lightroom and searched the 16,000 images I have collected there for the word red. I played around with a few of the images – this is a photo I took when we performed at a theater in Ecuador a few years back – and this one stood out for me. I imported the image to an iPad and played with it. I like the hand lettering which gives the cover the feel of a personal postcard.
Fete
Fete is in the final stages and I hope to have the album finished by the end of July. The ListeningLounge is very old and rickety and I have been convinced to replace it by joining Bandcamp. That means that the LL will go away within the next few months, to be replaced by a Bandcamp page on this website. The album will first be released on Bandcamp in multiple downloadable formats – this should happen sometime in August. Next we will have CDs for sale at our concerts, although I don’t have a target window for that yet. I imagine I will also start selling the CD via mail order. The rest of the usual digital distribution, including streaming services, will have to wait a while.

Fete will be the first album, catalog number 001, for my new label HuHeartDrive.

Weird…

It seems that I am allergic to Apple plastic. To be more specific, my ears get infected from Apple earbuds. And that’s too bad because I find that Apple EarPods, AirPods, and the new PowerbeatsPro have really decent microphones, certainly much better than any other headset I have tried.

I first discovered my affliction in 2017 and in the fall of that year I had to go to different doctors several times before I was able to figure it out. It got so bad, at one point, that it was super painful to wear my IEMs during soundcheck and concert.

That I spend quite a while on the phone each day may have something to do with it, but it’s certainly strange that my ears are only affected by Apple products. It has to be the plastic, I figure. It also has nothing to do with Bluetooth, because the wired EarPods make a mess of my ears as well, and a Bluetooth headset by a different brand does not bother me.

I hoped the rubber tips of the new Powerbeats Pro would mean that my ears would like them. I wore them for a couple of hours the first day I had them… and they affected my ears badly. It must be that the plastic touches my outer ear… it’s the plastic, damn it. Has to be. I gave away the Powerbeats Pro and the new owner LOVES them. Of course, because they sound pretty good, Bluetooth works flawlessly, and the mic is great!

I wear my IEMs on tour around 2-3 hours per day but they must be made from a different kind of plastic because I have never had a problem. I also often wear Shure 535s for hours without a problem.

I have, so far, only found one other person that is affected by Apple earbuds, and couldn’t find anything relevant on the internet. (sigh)