Thursday, 24 April 2014

Jolly Holidays

Off to Cornwall for a week.

Travelling overnight. Leaving very shortly. Should be there in about 7 hours. Looking forward to seeing the sun come up over the M5.

Bye bye.

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Dave's Ipod

My old mucker, David lent me his Ipod last August. My own, inputted through the line-in input on my car's hifi system kept on stopping. dave didn't have the use of a car at the time, and gave me his ipod on a long term loan.

This is typical of his generosity. We've grown apart over time, but I love and admire him in ways that nobody else comes close to. He was my best man at my wedding, and if I somehow ended up getting married again in the future, I'd have no hesitation in picking him for the role again.

In the meantime, after a reset, my own Ipod started working properly again.

Dave has always been a punk with spunk. A natural contrarian. He's always bucked the trend without any pretension. He's not always an easy person to deal with, and I suspect he doesn't always find others easy to deal with either. He lived with his Dad John, a mathematician and engineer, who was even more spiky. Somehow, despite being very different in personality and ethos, John and I got on well. He saw beyond the naivety and anti-social chaos in me. I saw beyond the hard shell he'd build around himself.

John died a few years back. I went to his funeral.

Dave is very much a chip of the old block. Not a clone by any means when it comes to specifics, but behind those specifics lies the same loyal selfless intransigence. He's been really good to me, over a long period of years, when I'd done little to either merit or reciprocate.

A couple of weeks back, I was involved in an accident. Someone went into the back of my car at a roundabout. My car was too badly damaged to be able to teach in, and the insurance provided a replacement car. This particular car had a USB input for audio devices such as Ipods. For a few days, I connected my own Ipod to it, then for unknown reasons, it just stopped working. So I plugged in Dave's Ipod.

I'd expected it to be full of abrasive, cultish music, like The Fall and Captain Beefheart, and there is certainly a fair amount of that sort of thing on there, but cropping up on the shuffle, with surprising frequency was a whole load of surprisingly melodic and mellow stuff.

The most romantic classic music album in the world... ever.

Female vocal based stuff, like 10,000 maniacs

A whole load of shoe-gazey music - Ride, Boo Radleys, etc.

So, listening to the world through someone elses Ipod, I'm hearing Dave in a new light.

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Monday, 7 April 2014

PaulMakesMusic rides again?

Time was, I used to do a lot of farting around with music. I've played guitar since my early teens, and with the advent of personal computers with a reasonable ability to output sound (we're talking Amiga onwards here) I've used the tech to create and record my own music.

It was something I did by myself, for myself. The stuff I did was introverted, self absorbed. Self. Self. Self. I harboured no ambitions to be a rock god or to make money from it. Indeed, I'm generally extremely self-conscious, and would be mortified if something I did somehow reached a wide audience. I'd say that copious consumption of cannabis probably played its part too, as did having a lot of time on my hands, while I spent all day every day on my own.

Being "A Musician" was part of how I defined myself back then, but when my circumstances changed, the motivation and opportunity to make music disappeared. PaulMakesMusic became abbreviated to PMM. I never entirely knocked it on the head. I'm forever picking a guitar up for a few minutes and doing a bit, but the dedication to the construction of tunes or songs or sonic textures just took a back seat for the last decade.

A couple of months ago, I bought a telescope. I had a look at the moon a few times, and we will take it on holiday with us to Cornwall at the end of this month, but after that I will probably sell it. It's taking up a lot of space. When I bought it, Bren made noises about "Mid Life Crisis", but really that was wide of the mark. More that for the first time in my life, I had the income to be able to indulge such whims.

There is one thing though, that I've had on my bucket list of possessions ever since I first encountered it. A MIDI guitar controller.

Now, a MIDI guitar controller takes the signal from an electric guitar, but instead of an analogue thing to be amplified, it gets converted into a MIDI input. This can then be used to trigger MIDI events. Effectively, you can play a guitar, and the computer will interpret what you're doing and turn it into something else, like a drumbeat, or a warm vocally synth sound, or a completely different guitar. It also allows you to sequence these events, so you can mess around with them still further.

I'm trying to go back to doing music, and I suppose that this is indeed a futile stab at regaining something lost. You can never really go back.

For example, no matter how much weed I smoke, it will never make me giggle again, like it did when I was in my late teens and early twenties. No matter what I do, nothing will sound as good as listening to the first Stone Roses album, on a crappy walkman, after smoking a sneaky pipe when I was about 19 or 20 years old.

Anyway, I've shelled out quite a lot of money, primarily on a thing called the Fishman Triple Play, which is a MIDI guitar controller. I also bought another SSD drive, and a MOLEX splitter, because my super duper gaming system had a scant single power outlet for hard drives. I wanted the extra hard drive because I have a couple of old but decent soundcards, neither of which is compatible with Windows 8. Unfortunately, my XP disk just wouldn't install on the SSD, and the software that comes bundled with the controller is not compatible with XP anyway. In the end, I spend another few quid on getting a windows 8 compatible sound card from ebay.I may yet have to spend even more on an electric guitar if it turns out that the acoustic guitar with built in piezo pickup/microphone is not suitable for the controller.

Until the soundcard arrives, I can't really get midi output, but when it does, if the guitar works with it, and if I can get my head around it all, I hope to start making tunes again.

Tunes, not songs. Like most people, I find the sound of my own recorded voice a horror to behold. It's not a bad voice as voices go, and I'm happy to sing to my pupils all day long, but just about the only time I've really put a song I've written and sang on, it's been multi-tracked to give it a much fuller sound, and to hide it's inherent pathetic reediness.

Also, I don't really do emotion. Autistic spectrum thing perhaps, or maybe it was drummed into me as a child. Boys don't cry. Stiff upper lip. All that sort of stuff.

I once emoted while playing a song in front of other people. It was at a riverside bar in Waterford, ROI. I'd walked in at 11am with the guitar I'd carted around with me from the ferry, and there was another guy there, also with a guitar. We played Kilgarry Mountain to good acclaim. Other things too that slip my mind. Then at some point we played "Help Me Make it Through the Night. And at some point, during that song, I emoted. I sang a spontaneous "Oooohhhh". It just slipped out somehow. I cringe to this day to think about it.

You see bands on the telly. They're singing songs of love and sorrow, and they emote freely. Even though the'yre not actually suicidal with grief as they harmonise on a spotlit stage, you'd think that they were from the yearning and doe-eyed sincerity they put into their performances, but that's all it is. A performance. They're faking it.

Most of the time.

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