Living by Algorhythm

Facebook’s own research revealed that 64 percent of the time a person joins an extremist Facebook Group, they do so because the platform recommended it.

Wired Magazine

Wide-Screen Mixing

I wonder how the amount of time I spend in the studio setting up and executing a mix compares with the amount of time I spend listening to the results. I do spend many hours listening to the music on headphones. While The Hours Between Night + Day was my first album of larger mixes, and Opium was the next step in my mixing development, I have to point to The Scent of Light as the first example of my “wide-screen” style of mixing. The guitars moved even further to the side, like arms enveloping the mix and guiding it. The rhythm guitars define the edge of the echelon of flight, while the bass controls the center navigation. The bass holds the entire echelon together. (((I never place the bass totally in the center. I always put the bass at -18 to -20 and the kick drum at +18 to +20. This makes it easier to hear what either is doing.)))

If the rhythm guitars on NF were at +50 and -50 (hard right, that is a sound coming only from the right speaker, is +100), by the time we recorded The Hours Between Night + Day the rhythm guitars had moved out to about +70 and -70. On The Scent of Light they were at +80 and -80 and since then they have often moved as far as +90 and -90. Decades ago I used to mix on speakers and only occasionally consult headphones but now that has been reversed. I mostly mix with headphones and only listen to speakers to make sure I am not going too far.

Full Version

As I am writing this I am listening to the latest mixes of vision 2020 (full version), the recording of additional instruments having been completed. JQ Whitcomb, as on Fete, wrote horn arrangements and recorded trumpet in the Summer. Robby Rothschild performed on cajon and djembe early in December and his brother Char played accordion on the last day of the old year.

Jon’s rules of Covid engagement are to record one person at a time and to allow no one into the control room. I could have attended the sessions via video link, but what’s the fun in that. Jon knows what he is doing, Robby tours with us and he has played on half a dozen of my albums and both JQ and Char delivered great performances for Fete. So I enjoyed sitting back and waiting for the recordings to appear in my Dropbox.

This week I added the last tracks to the recordings and worked on placing the instruments onto the sound stage. I have a very simple method of arriving at a mix I love: I listen and make notes about anything that bothers me. Then I make changes to the mix, whether it is an edit or a tiny change in a reverb setting, or raising the volume of an instrument by less than a db. It’s not that I try to remove any sharp edges, because some of those edges are like spices in a curry, it’s rather that some edges are good and others are not. I try to remove the ones that don’t work for me.

Today I listened to the album without finding a catch, a catch being a musical event that takes me out of the flow. I will listen a few more times and if I don’t notice anything that should not be there, then the album is done and will indeed be released this January.

Holding This Moment

The following is a post I wrote a few months ago. After reading the comments to my last post I decided to post it now. I don’t believe most Americans have acknowledged racism the way Germans acknowledged the atrocities of the Third Reich. (((I heard somebody call it the Turd Reich and I think that’s pretty good))) As long as the real history is not taught in every school in the USA nothing will change and we are long way from that.

As a teenager in Germany in the mid-seventies I had to hear about our history’s darkest moments. In school I had to watch photos and films that showed the concentration camps and the emaciated and tortured bodies of Jews and Romani and political prisoners. I had to read how some people of my grandparents’ generation turned on their Jewish neighbors and denounced them. I remember sitting in class and weeping. I remember weeping at home before I fell asleep, because those images refused to stop flickering in my head.

Compared to the suffering of so many people under the Nazis my pain was like the momentary prick of a needle and, perhaps, it was like an immunization against that kind of discrimination and violence.

They were difficult lessons but I am grateful that I had to learn them. It is important to know what humans, even countrymen, can do in dark hours. It’s important to know what propaganda can accomplish in the hand of evil men and women.

I think many white Americans are scared to take a hard look at the systemic racism that exists in this country because they are afraid of the feelings they will encounter. They might feel a sense of shame for not having seen the extent of racism before, or for not having listened to the cries of injustice from the communities of people of color.

Yes, allowing yourself to empathically feel the pain that other people have had to endure will hurt, and it will hurt for a long time. The memory of that pain will become a tattoo on your heart, like the images of Auschwitz I carry on mine. It will start with letting events like George Floyd’s murder resonate with your heart instead of your head. Imagine that George Floyd was your father, instead of a man you did not know. Now the pain feels differently; it becomes a heart pain rather than a head pain.

This is a tempering of the heart, like the tempering of a hot iron in a tub of cold water. The tempering makes the iron stronger and likewise this tempering will make a heart stronger.

Recommended reading: A People’s History of the United States

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Newton talks to Bryce in a hotel in Chicago and admits to being an alien. There are less than 300 Antheans left and they have food and fuel to survive fifty years. Should they be brought to Earth, Newton wonders, when they might have less time to live here, because Antheans calculated that the earth will be destroyed by nuclear war within thirty years. The book was published in 1963 and America was in the middle of the cold war.

Newton and Bryce talk about bombs and art, with Bryce pointing out that the paintings were created by humans, too. Newton replies, but only a few humans make such beautiful things.

It can take years for an artist to create one painting and yet an arsonist can destroy it in moments.

It takes a long time to create a democracy and yet it takes very little time to destroy it.

Here is a collection of art that might put a smile on your face.


I watched yesterday’s events unfold with the same disbelief that I watched events on that 11 September years ago.

Many have said that if the mob had been dark skinned, they would have been shot. While this is true, it is also true that a light skinned left-leaning mob would have been met with violence. We only have to look at the police force and/or national guard acting against protesters this year or during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Particularly shameful is the attempt by some pundits to claim that yesterday’s mob was Antifa in disguise – see Reichstagsbrand for a historical reference.

Thanks to a quick thinking staffer the boxes with the certified votes were secured. What if they had been burned or looted?

Do I see historical parallels because history always follows similar patterns (and because German history taught me to be paranoid) or do I see it because some of the people involved actually studied the playbook?

Walter Tevis

Last week I learned that Walter Tevis wrote The Queen’s Gambit, after watching the first few episodes of the Netflix series. Then I discovered that he also wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth, which was published in 1963. I had seen the 1976 movie by Nicolas Roeg, staring David Bowie, in the early Eighties, but hadn’t read the book.

I found the audio book version of The Man Who Fell to Earth on Hoopla and have been listening to it – I am a little more than two thirds into it. I can see why casting David Bowie made sense on a lot of different levels. The alien, in book and movie, could be seen as an artist and his alcoholism seen as the artist’s way of shielding themselves from a world that can often be too much for them.

As is the case with most movie adaptations of novels, I find the book much more interesting. Short stories often adapt to the screen much better than novels do. I haven’t seen the movie in decades but might want to revisit it. There certainly are images from the movie that have stuck with me. For example Bowie, as TJ Newton, clumsily walking down a hill in Madrid, New Mexico, at the beginning of the film.

The idea of round balls that contain layers of data that would be scanned to reproduce music was an amazing vision in 1963. On the other hand the author could not imagine anything other than analog film for photography. Listening to the book I wondered how often scientists might turn to Sci-Fi as a predictor of future technologies.

Happy New Year

Until the year 1752 the UK, plus their American colonies, used the Julian calendar which meant they observed New Year’s Day on the 25th of March. In 1752 they switched to the Gregorian calendar which celebrates the new year on the first of January. Before this switch the British calendar differed from that of continental Europe by eleven days. September 2 in London was September 13 in Paris, Lisbon, and Berlin.

For any agrarian culture it makes sense to start the year at the beginning of spring. It feels like a sensible new beginning… as long as one lives in an area where Spring actually happens in March. Perhaps that’s not a good idea for a world-wide holiday. The year shouldn’t change when Europe experiences Spring.

January is the month named after the two-faced god Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time, passages, and endings. One face of Janus looks into the past, the other looks into the future. Okay, that makes some sense.

Happy New Year. May the new year be a lot less interesting than 2020.

Wishing you health and happiness.

one guitar titles

At first I wanted to keep the music pure and devoid of words. I devised a code, based on the time and date of the recording. Here is what I wrote about the code in early 2005:

All song titles will contain the date stamp of the original recording file, which I will turn into one continuous number. I will use military/european 24 hr time and a day/month/year configuration. If the original recording was made at 3:47PM on May 13th of 2005 the title of the track would be simply: 1547130505


Since there won’t be any sign-posts in the form of words in the title, the emotional content will need to be discovered by the listener on his/her own without any suggestions from me. It might be interesting to publish my thoughts on each track online a few weeks/months after release of the album.

This was based on my realization that music, especially instrumental music, is a co-creation that involves the performer AND the listener. Later I re-thought that concept and decided that a title is only a small signpost that can guide the listener to the section of the map that a piece of music might live on. Easily enough ignored in any case.

I figured out some of the titles myself and also asked a number of people, including several readers of this blog, to title a piece of their chooseing. The initials of those people follow the titles. The first title, Not One, Not Two, was given by JHR, Joan Halifax Roshi. The beautifully poetic title Nachtreisende Regentropfen (Night Traveling Raindrops) was given by BB – Boris Bartels.

In this spirit of co-creating I asked if a reader of my blog had taken a photo of me during my 2006 solo guitar guitar tour that I could use for the album cover. Ritch Fuhrer kindly sent me the photo on the album cover. For the inside photo I lit a lot of candles in my studio and took some long exposures with the camera on a tripod.
One Guitar

one guitar release on Bandcamp

one guitar is now available on Bandcamp in all file formats up to 24/96kHz.

From the March 2007 issue of Guitar World/Guitar One magazine:

…he’s taken his flamenco/world-music hybrid to a new, more introspective level here, with beautifully haunting six-string explorations that are, impressively, mostly improvised. And the Lieb doesn’t just show off his chops, which include walking intricate bass lines over tremolo picking, or ripping out blazing Spanish Phrygian scales. He’s got passion to go with the speed—and that’s what counts, dammit.
MOMENT OF TRUTH: “Night Traveling Raindrops: Nachtreisende Regentropfen” (1:30–2:52) Liebert’s phrasing gives space and evocativeness to the airy single-note melodies before he unleashes a cyclone of countermelodies and arpeggios.


In his famous novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” the Colombian writer Gabriel Marquez has a scene where a Conquistador is recovered from the bed of a river, a husk within a heavy suit of armor. This piece of folk archaeology is part of the imagery that drives the story as a cultural echo. There are similar echoes in Ottmar Liebert’s new CD of solo acoustic guitar, that is, the ghosts of Spanish flamenco within the dreamscapes of the New World. One Guitar: 13 tracks of contemplation, meditation, exhalation, levitation… and exquisite solitude.

From Disc Reviews: December 2, 2006 : The Morning Call Online:

The individual tunes, all of which he composed, could be considered scrumptious tapas in an alternative cafe. But actually, they’re small prayer rugs — brilliant-hued weavings of pensiveness and feeling.

And this quote from Ken Wilber:

Music that is haunting in its beauty and depth. Highly recommended!

Here is what I wrote in March of 2006, when one guitar had the working title Tears in the Rain.

I added a few more pieces to the Tears in the Rain album-in-progress in the ListeningLounge and there are now 13 altogether. I honestly cannot tell you whether the music is good or not, whether the guitar playing is excellent or lousy, whether the pieces are altogether sublime or silly, gold or crap.
These pieces are too close to me (still) and I can’t see them, can’t judge them, nor do I want to. All I can tell you is that I enjoyed playing them, discovering them, and I very much enjoy listening to them. They tell me something. They take me places. Eventually I will title the new batch. Eventually there should be a CD.

The album was released a few months later and was nominated for a 2006 Grammy.

More reading about the project here, here, here, here, and here.