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Santa Fe

02012-04-08 @ 11:04

Photos from early this morning, on my photoblog.

Santa Fe

02011-06-30 @ 10:06

Greetings from the back of the tourbus, on the way to Santa Barbara.

I am told that Santa Fe CDs have been spotted at some Target stores, but may not have reached all Target stores yet.

Last Night at the San Miguel Chapel

02011-06-03 @ 08:06

Here are a couple of iPhone captures from last night’s solo concert at the San Miguel chapel in Santa Fe, a benefit for the restoration of the “oldest church in the USA”. A beam of light plays across the altar:

I took this image while an announcement/introduction was made, moments before I walked to the little stage that had been set up on the stairs.

Big Blue Room Mix

02011-05-25 @ 08:05

alva noto + ryuichi sakamoto “s” tour
Alva Noto’s blog about touring with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Looks to be a great experience. There are many YouTube examples. Here is the first one I looked at.

It reminded me of a project Andrew Gaskin did in 2007, when he remixed three tracks from One Guitar. You can find them in the ListeningLounge.

And as these things go, then I also received an email from Andrew yesterday…

Here is Andrew’s remix, called Out ot the Blue – Big Blue Room Mix

Audio MP3

And here is the original track Out of the Blue:

Audio MP3

Albuquerque

02010-10-21 @ 06:10

My apologies to those who were looking forward to seeing our performance at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque last month. When my manager found out that the promoter and beneficiary of the benefit concert, CFF, had not even informed the media of the concert two weeks before it was supposed to happen, had not bought any advertising, basically had done none of the things that they had promised and agreed to… she cancelled the show. The only people who had purchased tickets up to that point were people who had found out about the concert through our mailing list or from this Diary.

We are not a cancel-happy group. In over twenty years of touring we have cancelled only three shows.

Last Week

02010-10-21 @ 06:10


Solo in November

02010-09-20 @ 15:09

Solo Concerts in November
Nov 11 – New York NY – Blue Note
Nov 12 – New York NY – Blue Note
Nov 13 – New York NY – Blue Note
Nov 14 – New York NY – Blue Note
Nov 24 – San Diego CA – Anthology
Nov 26 – San Francisco CA – Razz Room
Nov 27 – San Francisco CA – Razz Room
Nov 28 – San Francisco CA – Razz Room

Michael Chavez on Drums

02010-08-11 @ 17:08




From Matt Callahan’s Flickr stream.

Spontaneous order on the road

02010-08-11 @ 10:08

Marginal Revolution: Spontaneous order on the road
Here’s a video of a small town in Britain that turned its traffic lights off.  Order ensued.

Photos

02010-08-10 @ 11:08




More excellent photos by Matt, from his Flickr stream.

Costa Mesa in July

02010-05-11 @ 13:05

Tickets will go on-sale Friday May 14 at 10AM through this web site:
OCJazzSeries.com

Neurodiversity

02010-02-26 @ 07:02

A Key Concept for Neurodiversity: Niche Construction
When I suggest that neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, might have been labeled gifted in other times and in other cultures, the quick retort is: “Well, we don’t live in other times or cultures. People have to adapt to the culture they’re in right now.” So what does the person who is a round peg have to do to fit into a square hole? Answer: Shave off enough of its wood to fit, uncomfortably, usually, into the square hole. That’s one solution. The other solution is to round off some of the square hole so that the round peg can stay a round peg and still fit in. That’s niche construction. In other words, I’m saying that people with neurodiverse brains can create special niches for themselves where they can be their unique selves. An example would be a person with ADHD in a job that requires novelty, thrills, and creativity. Instead of suffering in a 9 to 5 desk job (an example of poor niche construction), they create a career for themselves that allows them to be who they are. Another example: a person on the autistic spectrum who has keen mathematical skill working as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley, instead of wasting away in a group home somewhere. Niche construction is what animals have done for eons: the bird building a nest, the beaver building a dam. They’re modifying the environment to suit their unique needs. We need to make niche construction a key tool in improving the lives of individuals with autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and other neurological conditions. Yes, there will always be the need to adapt to the way the world is, and there are medications, behavior modification programs, and other adaptational programs that can help accomplish this. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we can also help neurodiverse individuals be who they are and still fit in.
(Via Neurodiversity – The Book)

Temple Grandin spoke brilliantly on that theme at TED. Check this out:

Self Moving Vehicle

02010-02-23 @ 15:02

From Neo Bohemia:

neo bohemia – bicycle

Two bicycle sticker designs that I have been working on. Clear stickers with the kanji in either black or white with my red stamp. Thought that they should be presented today.

And here is what the sticker looks like on a biycle:

Letter to a Young Musician #5

02010-01-01 @ 13:01

Dear Friend,

There is practicing and there is performing and they are two very different sides of a coin. Practice is a solitary act while performance involves an audience, large or small. Having an audience changes everything.

Practice is something you will get used to doing every day, like eating, drinking, sleeping. Few artists perform every single day.

The truth is, you can’t practice performing. You practice to practice and you can practice to get ready to perform, but performing is so very different…

You can practice landing, rolling and catching your fall, but you can’t practice parachuting – unless you jump out of a plane. You can train your body to run a long distance, but you can’t train running a marathon race in a large pack of runners – unless you run many marathons.

So that’s how you practice performing – by performing. It’s as simple as that. The more you perform, the better you become at performing. The more you perform the more at ease with performing will you become. True, some people are natural performers, but I find that they are rare exceptions. Most people grow into themselves on stage over time.

After we returned from our first tour in 1990, we did a benefit concert in Santa Fe. Everyone in the band had lots of friends in the audience and we were excited and nervous. As a result we raced through 90 minutes of material in about an hour. Now, many years later the band seems to settle into a certain tempo for a song and that tempo doesn’t change much from performance to performance.

And remember: practicing is practicing and performing is performing. Do both!

Letter to a Young Musician #4

02010-01-01 @ 12:01

Dear Friend,

Today I am thinking about time. Time is important to a musician, that’s obvious. Music consists of time and pitch. Without time there can be no song. A melody can only exist in time. A melody can only be heard because our minds can store time, for without memory a melody would remain a series of unconnected sonic events. The beauty of music lies in the many different associations and memories a mind can attach to the flow of a melody.

Our perception of those sounds-connected-through-time, or melody, varies from person to person and can be improved by practice. Modern classical music or Bebop Jazz often contain very long melodies that evaporate in most listeners brains. It takes training to follow these long lines, and may be an excellent antidote to a short attention span. I read somewhere that the average listener can hold about 7-9 notes in their attention. Bebop melodies are usually much longer than that.

Time is the essence of music in its guise as the sisters rhythm and melody. And time is also the duration of your practice. Most musicians serve a good portion of their lifelong practice as teenagers. We may never regain that sense of time we have as teenagers – everything is still ahead of us… and four or even eight hours of playing our instrument feels completely natural.

Allow me to give you this advice:
Don’t worry about being popular in school or in college. The unpopular kids have time to practice their musical instruments or paint, take photographs or devise science projects. The popular kids on the other hand are busy going to parties, their social calendars packed with events. Sure, you might watch them with longing, but being popular in school isn’t all that. (((although honestly, how would I know, I wasn’t popular in school and spent most of my free time playing guitar and reading…)))

What happens to the popular kids when they grow up? Maybe they become real estate agents or sell cars or find another profession where they can use the social skills they learned as teenagers?

And since I am on the subject of time…

We always look for the quick fix, don’t we, the silver bullet, the advantage?

That is true in terms of becoming a better player and also true for getting signed by a record company, finding a manager or agent etc. We never think it happens fast enough. What if I tell you that I was signed by a record label exactly when I lost interest in getting signed? Or at least stopped pursuing a recording deal and instead made the music I wanted to make.

I think this also parallels our search for happiness or enlightenment. We may find either exactly when we give up searching. Unfortunately we can’t start out by giving-up-searching… the quest must come first.

Time is the best teacher, but you’ll have to allow yourself and your music to ferment. Think of yourself as a cauldron of soup – let the spices mix, let the flavors develop, let the ingredients get softer… and play the music that makes you happy.

I shall end my letter with this observation:
In the beginning we play out-of-time, because we are scrambling to find the correct notes. When the fingering becomes more familiar, time remains sloppy while we learn to move from note to note. Later the correct rhythm emerges, at first clumsily and then more fluid… and when we listen to a master play music we can hear him/her stretch and squeeze time, playing before or after the beat… but returning to the downbeat at will. Another spiral of learning. At some point we arrive at a new stretching-of-time, only now it has become our choice and an expression of emotion, rather than the inability to move to the next note smoothly.

Time. It is the great puzzler. Enjoy your time…

Letter to a Young Musician #3

02010-01-01 @ 11:01

Dear Friend,

How should you find your sound?

Well, every hand is different, every nail strikes the strings at a slightly different angle. So, if you play long enough, your sound will eventually emerge somehow. There are rules, but they can all be broken. For example, I file my nails to a shape that is “wrong” according to some experts.

I think there are two elements to “your” sound. The first is the sound-production itself, how your fingers strike the string, where they strike the string. Many guitarists don’t make use of the many different sounds one can coax from the nylon strings and the box. That length of guitar from the fretboard-side of the soundhole all the way to the bridge is rich with different sounds. This can also help with the tuning of the guitar. Sometimes plucking the string in a different position will sound more in tune. (I recently watched a Julian Bream video and was impressed at how he would bend this note in a chord here and that note there… he was always aware of the pitfalls of a fretted instrument and the well-tempered scale)

The second element is what you play. Some guitarists are instantly recognizable, like Carlos Santana for example. Others have a more chameleon-like approach and it takes a while to hear their personality. One is not better than the other. Just different.

Finding your sound is a little bit like finding what you should do for a living, or finding your place in life. It seems to come to us of itself, almost sneaks up in the dead of the night. One day we wake up and from then on we wear our heart in our melodies. Maybe finding your sound has a lot to do with finding yourself and finding yourself comes out of being natural. In the West natural refers to whatever humans have not manipulated, controlled, or despoiled. That’s a dualistic view. It separates humans from nature. In the East, what is natural is what exists according to its true nature. There is no separation, no dualism. That also means that there is no despoiled nature devoid of humans to return to.

What is your nature? What does your nature sound like?

I discovered that at the core of my melody is a slightly melancholy feeling. Even when I am expressing happiness you will find a few notes that speak of longing. But, that is as much a part of me as my crooked right index finger – it turns to the right and because of that turn the nail is perfectly parallel to the string. A flaw may become a pearl in time.

Don’t forget to practice. And keep thinking about what your nature sounds like!

Letter to a Young Musician #2

02010-01-01 @ 10:01

Dear Friend,

To listen with a mind that flows freely is to listen with your whole body. In Western thought we often separate Body and Brain. But is that correct?

I think Mind happens where Body and Brain meet.

In a groundbreaking New York Times story, Sandra Blakeslee disclosed that new scientific evidence is giving credence to the notion that the human body actually possesses two centers to process knowledge and dictate physical actions. Blakeslee reports:

[Scientists say] that the body has two brains–the familiar one encased in the skull and a lesser known but vitally important one found in the human gut….The gut’s brain, known as the enteric nervous system, is located in sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. Considered a single entity, it is a network of neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins that zap messages between neurons, support cells like those found in the brain proper and a complex circuitry that enables it to act independently, learn, remember, and as the saying goes, produce gut feelings.

Musicians can learn to perform with their whole body, that is to follow the flow of the music with their mind, using the brain, ears, body and their “gut”. Eventually we can learn to LIVE with our whole body – if we are willing to do the training. The main obstacle is our own ego/brain that can get in the way by jealously guarding the self it has created. There is nothing to fear but fear itself, and there is nothing separating us from life itself but our own small selves…

Now check out the definitions of Hara and Qi.

Go with your gut! And integrate Body and Brain through your music.

And remember to practice.

(Reference: “Complex and Hidden Brain in the Gut Makes Cramps, Butterflies, and Valium,” Sandra Blakeslee. New York Times, Tuesday, January 23, 1996. p. B5)

Letter to a Young Musician #1

02010-01-01 @ 09:01

Dear Friend,

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

That is what the protagonist says in Herman Hesse’s wonderful novel ‘Siddhartha’, when a prospective employer asks him what he can do. Those three talents would be of great advantage for any young musician as well. Maybe we should replace ‘I can think’ with ‘I can play’…

“I can wait.”

A professional musician WILL spend a good amount of his life waiting – for the start of the concert, for the boarding of the flight, for the bus to reach the next venue, for the recording to get finished, for the CDs to arrive in stores, and most importantly for a check to arrive, months or sometimes years later… Being able to wait is a difficult skill to master. Most people will get bored, but one skilled in waiting will not.

“I can fast.”

Being able to fast is a handy ability as well. Being able to cook for oneself is good – cheaper than going out. Being willing to eat rice and beans and sink one’s money into studio-time can be important…

“I can play.”

This ability is not as obvious you might think. Children can play, but can you, or have you already lost that skill? Most people lose it, you know, sometime in their teenage years. Children play with abandonment and don’t mind if the result isn’t perfect. Most adults on the other hand tend to be self-conscious and try to avoid mistakes. Consequently adults tend to stick with what they know. For a musician that means they keep returning to patterns they have rehearsed, scales they know like the back of their hand. That’s not really playing though… Somewhere between the scales and chords we know and the exuberant noise of abandonment lies the real music, and to get to it is the real dance of creating.

Those three skills may not seem like much to you now, but believe me they are rarer than you think, and much more useful than you can imagine.

Remember to practice.

 


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