Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PSYCHOBANJO WATER SWIRLYPOT GUITAR

Aintshepurdy.


Ingredients: Old Kay guitar parts, two by four, stainless steel pot, threaded rod for bridge, which is pushed down to bottom of the pot by tension on strings. A little water in the pot.

Many thanks to Bart Hopkin for excellent engineering tips, and of course, to Jacques Dudon for his amazing Aquavina -- inspiration for this project. Something bowed, played on one's lap would still be great (more like the Aquavina), or perhaps more like a cello -- but in this case I'm still struggling a bit with physics. (What? Water has to fall level to the planet? No fair!!)

So starting out, I'm playing it more like a guitar, half lap, half held in the regular way, just not enough to tip the little bit of water out (ideally... I've managed to tip a lot of water out!) with enough water to swirl around, the pot between my knees and not muted. Awkward so far, but very stable holding its tuning. Here's a first sample.
Here's another.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

GLASS MUSIC FESTIVAL 2011

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Above: Dean Shostak displays an antique Grand Armonicon.

Hooray for lifelong, spellbinding hobbies! Hooray for that tiny world of passionate colleagues who eventually meet to share stories, their instruments and playing. All who pretty much start off alone, on whatever continent (at the time, a negligible matter -- we must explore, so be it!) I hope everyone enjoys these pictures and some short sound samples I have made of terrific musicians and instruments. GMI (Glass Music International) organizes a festival every few years. This one was in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, hosted by Dean Shostak. Actually, Dean -- while you are totally deserving of credit for inspired musicianship, hard work and vision, you're mainly out of business without the woman pictured next to you. Cheers, Valerie! (meet our hosts:)


Let's start with some Armonica pics and sounds. Below is a beautiful Finkenbeiner Armonica set in a case built by Steven Lash to exacting historical specifications, and featuring incredible woodworking. The drawers hold water to dip one's hands:


















Below, Vera Meyer demonstrates, and here's a short sound sample of Vera playing. Beautiful. Must learn this passage, although it seems so suited to the 'liquid' nature of armonica, I wonder if it would translate.

















Another of our friends, Lynn Drye of Arizona plays Armonica. Here's a bit of Lynn's Armonica performance. Gorgeous!

More from Lynn: here she plays a glass xylophone (pictured below) 

            Talking about the different types of mallets...
               Above: Lynn playing Armonica



Another Stunning Armonica moment featured Dean accompanying Kelly Kennedy's wonderful singing.

















And now you wonder what's with the yellow Elizabethan Collars onstage. It's a Cristal Baschet. This instrument was invented by the Baschet Brothers, two French sound sculpture artists. It's certainly a glass instrument, but it also involves vibrating metal. There are quite a lot of possibilities with the Cristal Baschet, a lot of refinement... but to begin, imagine dragging a refrigerator across concrete in a large empty warehouse, and in a sense you have the raw sound. But then try to twist this into something melodious and haunting, full of range. Here's how it works: glass rods are vibrated by wet fingers in a similar way to armonica or glass harp, but then the vibrations from the glass rods excite different lengths of metal rods which in turn transfer the vibration out through plastic and fiberglass cones. More info here.

I haven't checked, but I believe the rods are laid out in chromatic order similar to a keyboard.
Ready to hear???? Dean plays a bit of Bach.

The price has come down too! Only 20k!!

C'est moi, getting ready to play Friday morning at the W'burg visitor center:

In case you wonder, I'd love nothing more than to show off sounds from one of my best concerts, ever! That Friday evening, shortly before I was scheduled to perform as part of a program at Bruton Parish, we had major chaos. Half of our performers could not be there, and armonicist Carolinn Skyler and I ended up winging it together. We're good at this though. We checked notes later at how sometimes these situations can bring out a lot of calm and ability to improvise. Still, I found myself doing a lot of assembling and hauling and taking charge of everything even as the audience was walking in. I did not get the Zoom recorder on the job. It was a great evening. I will have to see if I can beg something of it later from someone. For that matter, I also don't have any sounds of Carolinn either from this trip. But here she is with me, earlier in the day back at the visitor center:


New seeing eye -- Hampton! Hammy's a good boy. He's young, a little squirrely yet, but C is in good paws. Among the many things Carolinn played at the fest, I wish I had gotten her rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee. Carolinn also claims the distinction of having the largest armonica presently on the planet. This is a special instrument Gerhard Finkenbeiner initiated for her shortly before he disappeared. That one is not pictured, rather she is behind one of Dean's... "Stella" the big 'un, is really too dear to fly!


Dean, Kelly, and a third person had put together a wonderful bottle band -- listen! Check out 'Pop goes the Weasel' with a toilet plunger (the popping you are hearing just before is a 'thumb popping' technique with bottles. For three people it was a superb arrangement of clanking, blowing, and popping. I think in the clip is also a bit of the Can Can and 'Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer...'































And now for some glass harpists -- beginning with Real Berthiaume, out of Quebec:


Real is playing a full set of glasses from the Eisch factory in Germany -- I have a number of these for my low range. A full set is splendid! Very full and rich. Real is a super guy and a solid player and composer. Here is a short clip of him, playing one of his compositions with a recorded arrangement. Real does a lot of street performing, and continues to have a great time at it in Quebec. Close up below:

















From St. Petersburg, Russia -- Alexander Lemeshev!

















It was a treat to meet Alexander. And it meant a lot to everyone that he had come so far to join us. He plays a set somewhat more 'dog and cat,' similar to mine. I really enjoyed his clarity of playing, very crisp and clean and confident. As Dean's second in charge at times, I was dealing with a tight situation on Friday afternoon, afraid he wasn't getting enough time to play. But then there was a delay for the next thing, so Alexander ended up going on a lot longer and he even went for the full Mozart Adagio and Rondo with a background recording. This is a very involved and long passage of music! Impressive. The rig is too-- not sure if he can fly his glasses in the cabin, but I think this may be the case (well, literally the case is off to the side but it's a bit like a Fender guitar case with glasses secured, cool!)

And now Ladies and Gents, The Douglas Lee. As seen, a few years back, on America's Got Talent. Doug is fun to hang out with and again -- his playing is so clear and confident. I'm really taken by the directness of it and his choices in repertoire. Here is a short clip from his rendition of Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat. Wow.





























Above is a nice sparkly shot of Doug's set.... below is one more I'd like to share, built by Liselotte Behrendt from Switzerland, or perhaps it's the set of her uncle, Hans Graffe (I hope I'm spelling correctly). Liselotte's Uncle Hans was mentored by Bruno Hoffman, German glass harpist of the mid 20th century. In addition to her warm presence, Liselotte contributed some fascinating stories and photos from many other glass festivals. Photo's a little muddy, it was of a screen projection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Correction!! The numbers are way off in the preceding post, regarding megawatts and electricity usage of households. I see this now from looking at some wind power stats in Weatherford, OK. I think what I may have been told on the phone outside the Sunray facility in CA, is (rather) that the entire complex, made up of a lot more than just the two segments I visited, could supply the 120,000 households/day.

For some reason I've been drawn to wind turbines on this trip. Got off I-40 somewhere after Vega, TX after again seeing a large wind farm and... hey, why not go look at the turbines? Maybe I'll run into Bick Benedict, now in the wind electricity business and he'll give me a tour. Well after a half hour on washboard gravel and dirt, the towers seemed barely any closer, they are probably over 275 ft tall... It was a fun tangent still... locusts, or crickets, who knows, bouncing off the car...


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Had to get a few more shots of high plains TX, close to the OK line. It's such an interesting area.
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Weatherford, OK... here is one wind turbine blade, on display across from City Hall:

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More Romantic Road Ruin:

Monday, August 17, 2009

44 megawatts of power are generated daily from this solar generating facility, taking up, I'm guessing, 50 acres -- salt water is heated in pipes that run across the mirrors pictured below, which go to boilers which drive turbines. I wasn't allowed in, but did have a conversation with an engineer on the phone outside the gate. He says that comes out to about 120,000 homes' daily power needs. This is also technology from the early 80's.... how about that! There are new approaches featuring mirrors that focus light and heat at towers and more pipes which then conduct the heat to 600 degrees.... much more efficient.
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More Mojave Pictures

Great-tailed Grackle. Saw a number of these with their mouths open... Do they pant to keep cool? Or is it Cawing? Here are a few pictures taken between Barstow and Needles, CA:
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Click on these photos and they should enlarge in high resolution, and you will have the best chance to appreciate the scale of things, which is hard to capture with a camera. The train, which now looks tiny, would vanish long before approaching the mountains in the background.... check out the bowl effect -- the way the earth tilts so gradually, approaching the mountains, also in the picture below.
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Area 66 house in Yucca, Arizona:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great Idea:


I'm all for this -- you will be great!! Hv fn.

Play the video below... you'll liiiiiiiiike this psychedelia from a giant kaleidoscope, one of many on display in the building where I am currently performing (Ventura County Fair):


video

Fair edges the Pacific, someone is having a blast...

New fair friends Nancy and Cowboy Gil with Turkeys
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Ventura midway.... in area, this is a huge fair compared to Sonoma (not counting the race track in Santa Rosa), yet there are others in California even bigger. Spoiled rotten with this one, the ocean is right at the edge of it, invigorating air, there's lots going on.... very nice people to work around, and great audiences.......
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Mehr kinder schweine
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El Valle
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Tagus Ranch Motel vs California Central Valley
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Tehachapi wind farm, Ca, between Bakersfield and Barstow and west of the very hot Mojave Desert, pictured below:
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I had to use the pogo stick to get this shot, the line you see running close to the bottom is I-40. Although the high desert (northern AZ/NM) is amazing, the Mojave has a quality... I kept reminding myself that lots of things can live here, but passing through in 114 degrees heat is an amazing experience, and seeing out into the preserve is very different from the vistas in NM, it's sort of 'dirty,' 'sandy,' a good place to train a Mars Rover... the scale is just as impressive, looking into a valley and a small mountain range in the middle of it... strange stuff!
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East of Needles, CA... probably just east of the Colorado River, still in AZ:



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East of Flagstaff (below)... if you look closely you can see a large mountain ahead.... about 80 miles away.

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Dinos at Hopiland truckstop:

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Below is the beautiful Rio Grande Valley from the crest of the Sandias, behind Albookooky. About 11,000 ft... in the last photo, you can see the "La Luz" hiking trail cutting back and forth across the moraines. It's a full day to get to the top. No hiking this trip!! But driving up and walking on the crest was a blast.





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New Mexico gets rail service! Real commuter rail service, not just for tourists. The folks who regularly use it are paying its operation costs and it is considered a great success so far. The Rail Runner presently operates from Belen, 20 mi south of Albuquerque, to Santa Fe. There are plans to expand to Las Cruces in the south, and maybe later, a little farther north. Nice Road Runner paint job...

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Passing through tribal lands on the way to Santa Fe:

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Probably just south of Santa Fe, below... in the distance you can see the Sandias:
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Rail Runner video:
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Tucumcari Welcome Dog

TX panhandle.... you can see in addition to changes in vegitation and the sky opening up, the ground is getting cut into washes, arroyos, and small buttes... I believe this is still east of Amarillo.
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Just over the TX state line in Shamrock, TX -- according to the convenience store clerk there is an "Aursh" heritage in Shamrock, it took a little while to understand she was saying "Irish." She didn't like my saying I thought it was a requirement to know what huevos rancheros was in this part of the country. Oops.
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Weatherford, OK, lots of windmills
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Somewhere in OK, on the way to the sun and big sky......