End of Summer Sum-Up

As the summer’s coming to a close, I thought I’d post a few more photos, for archiving’s sake, and remark on how fortunate I’ve felt about some things I’ve been able to be a part of.  From beautiful locations to new equipment to tour with friends to three weeks back home, it was a summer with lots of highlights.  Some of these I’ve featured in past posts, but others I still wanted to represent with a photo or two.

First up, largely for Shubangi and partly out of morbid curiosity, I’ve joined the “dark side,” as my buddy Bill Dwyer would probably put it:

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I have since purchased two Roland BT-1 percussion bars to run into this thing, as opposed to the triggers.  I’m excited to work with the triggers more, but for now they’re impractical and don’t fit with what I need samples for.  We’ll see when or if that changes.

Here are some pictures from the last Shubangi gigs of the summer.

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Borken – That’s Life festival

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Setting up in Borken. That’s an old Sonor Sonic Plus kit, made in Germany of all birch. Sounds a lot better than what’s billed as a beginner’s kit ought to.  Crazy hardware as well… look at the floor tom legs, for example.

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Heimatzoo Festival, Grindau bei Schwarmstedt

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Heimatzoo Festival, Grindau bei Schwarmstedt

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Rink-Festival, Osnabrueck

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Rink-Festival, Osnabrueck

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Session.One at the Kleiner Donner, Hamburg

I was home in Boston for a few weeks as well, enjoying lots of family time which I’d sorely missed, and got to see some old friends, and even play a little music.  I didn’t take many pictures, which I should have, but musically speaking:

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Curtis Killian, Clinton Degan, and Hocus Pocus. This pic/jam was in Curtis’s new apartment’s basement, which just happened to come with a RECORDING STUDIO BUILT IN.

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Added a few new members to the family

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Trying to figure out how to fly overseas with a full drumset. Not recommended

Back in Europe I got to hit the road with my friends from Mr. Kowalsky.  I maintain that nothing gets an audience moving like ska and reggae.  We hit a few cities in Germany, as well as Amsterdam and Paris.  We also shot a little video in Paris, which is guaranteed to make us look ridiculous, so that should be fun.

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On the tour I got to play two awesome kits: a 1964 (I believe) Gretsch which, as can be expected, just had the sweetest tone…

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And, finally!  A Ludwig Breakbeats!  It sounded so much better than I expected.  Tons of punch to the kick and the toms have a great tone.  I’m still working on my epitome-of-portability suitcase drumset (henceforth known as the Kofferkit), but I’ve gotta put this thing back on my radar for other small gigs that need something a little more “traditional.”  Was super psyched about this one.

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Belgian Fries (Or: the Rumors are True)

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Noticed some funny usage patterns on my new snare head after the ska/reggae tour

This was a cool one: a wedding at one of the wildest locations I’ve played in.  They rented a second church for their party.  Note the relative size of the drumset on the stage – and the pictures don’t even entirely catch the magnitude of the place!

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At this wedding I got to work with Phil Kamp, a champ, by the way, for making the above-pictured room sound not just reasonable but better, who brought along this little guy – a KLANG:technologies monitoring station.  This ran to our in-ear monitors and created a 3D mix for us which we could control wirelessly from individual iPads, not only controlling volumes and EQ in our buds, but also actually moving around the other instruments in our mixes with the graphical interface, putting them further to the right, left, above, below, in front, behind… all of this to actually mimic the stage set-up, or mock-up a rehearsal set-up, or whatever we felt like.  It was amazing.

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I also got to do some studio work; one session was with the DopeBoyz, who are beat makers and one of whom I study with.  Here we are getting set up.  Hopefully I’ll be able to link to some final products sometime in the near future, but as they post the beats for purchase, occasionally with exclusive rights, a link may be short-lived.  Here’s a short video of the session they put together.

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Of course, there was some time to relax.  I’m always looking for a reason to get on the bike, so I was happy to take a short tour up to Osnabrueck and back with my friend Lucky.  (If the authorities are reading this – we had permission to camp! 😉 )


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Way overloaded, but in my defense, I was testing my new front rack and panniers

Way overloaded for such a short tour, but in my defense, I was testing my new front rack and panniers, plus I brought the tent!

The new semester just started today, so that’s the next step.  I’ve been working on a song of my own, as well, so I hope to have something to show before long – it would/will be my first personal work posted, so I’m excited about that.  And there are a few acoustic Shubangi gigs coming up soon, Nov 6th and 7th in Koeln and here in Muenster, respectively.

So: onwards!

Adventures in Percussion

Got to play a really neat concert at the new-ish LWL Museum here in Muenster with the Musikhochschule Muenster percussion department a few days ago.  It was a “Student’s Night” there with apparently around 5,200 people attending, and the percussionists provided a lot of the music.  In the inner courtyard, we played a decent variety including a Steve Reich piece; a couple pieces for marimba (I played as voice one on a marimba trio song); a really badass piece for bongos, tamborines and hihats; a rumba; an original song by one of the students, and more.

Out on the outside corner of the building is a huge light art installation by Otto Piene, and twice over the course of the night, five of us were booked to perform an improvised piece to the lights.  During our first time slot the lights were having some issues and came on late, but otherwise, it was pretty successful.  We prepared a ~15 minute piece for hand percussion, tomtoms, gongs, cymbals, and drumset that moved between prepared groove sections and improvised passages where the improvisers would work off what the lights were doing at the time (the light show rotated randomly – and what’s more, it consisted suddenly of completely different shapes and movements than it had when we took video with which to rehearse and prepare!).

Although I feel like I’m working through a minor plateau in my drumset playing right now, I’m really feeling fortunate to be a part of these other more percussion based events like this one and the percussion department concerts; I never thought I’d be up on stage in a concert hall behind a marimba, or out on a street corner with four other drummers improvising to a light show surrounded by a few hundred people, but I’m really enjoying doing something a bit different.

Here are a couple pictures, and here’s a short video Lena managed to catch of the first improvised piece (this was at the end of one of the improvisational passages before the lights were working, then goes into one of the prepared sections).

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lwl museum gig action shot

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Efforts Towards Flexibility

I’m putting together a suitcase drumset.  Psyched about it.  This should allow me to take acoustic gigs and (very) small venue gigs without sacrificing the presence of a drumset for the sake of a cajon or some similar stand-in.  I’m not ragging on the cajon; I know those good with them can produce a lot of interesting sound.  But Shubangi has a few acoustic shows coming up, and I’d prefer to keep as close to the original drum sound as possible while scaling it back appropriately.  I’ve also recently had a couple sub gigs for Gin and Juice and G & the Boyz; both times we’ve done stripped back acoustic covers and both times I’ve wished I had a proper kit to better replicate the original grooves.

I’ve already had a couple conversations with other musicians about potentially getting out into the street and busking, and this kit would be perfect for that, as well as other guerilla type performance possibilities.

Total cost so far: 45 euros

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Das Studium

I’ve bid Boston adieu for the time being and started studying at the University of Münster Musikhochschule in northwest Germany.  Everything’s in German, so that’s been a bit of a trip, but it’s pretty wonderful.  Without getting too deep into it, because that’s not the original point of this post, I’m one of just five drumset students here, which is just worlds away from part of what I didn’t like about Berklee.  I already know everyone in my class and many from the others (in my part of the school, which is pop music performance / music education).  It’s also incredibly cheap.  The scholarship money Berklee gave me was very small in comparison to what my tuition every semester cost, and yet, thanks to German university tuition laws, my per-semester scholarship there was over 8x more than what I have to pay outright per semester to study here.  Less convoluted:  I’m paying less than $300 per semester towards my bachelor’s degree.  Unglaublich.

Anyway, I was just browsing last night and came across this video posted on Reddit in which Bertrand Russell discusses the importance of philosophy.  There was a comment thread discussing the video, and buried therein was the following post regarding searching for knowledge vs. information, or following a quest to understand the “how” and “why” rather than just the what.  You can distill it down to simply being about learning, but I liked the account of the rewards he found, and that it’s an anecdote from a discipline I know little about.

It resonates with me right now as I’m struggling to keep up with my music theory classes, a fight that’s compounded by a little voice in the back of my mind that says, “You don’t really need this stuff, anyway.”  It’s tough sometimes to shake that feeling that you’re just learning something because someone else says you should, but I find this account of finding the drive, and seeing retroactively the worth of pursuing knowledge when it’s later applied, inspirational.  Too often in my study of music, whether under a teacher or on my own, have I sought to simply reach the next level of performance, or, in other words, results, rather than given myself over to really being a student and digging deep into the “how” and “why” as a more comprehensive means to the same end.

And as I trudge through a difficult subject in a difficult, foreign language, I’ll take the inspiration, wherever it may come from.

Anyway, here’s the post.  I’ll just post it unedited as it was originally written.  The last bits are in response to someone having recommended him some places to begin studying philosophy.

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“Once you commit to studying philosophy, accompanied by a genuine thirst for knowledge — I must warn you — you are opening up Pandora’s box in the best imaginable way.”

About 3ish years ago I was playing minecraft with some friends, and we decided to try to make a trap to get monster loot. I remember making a trap that ran of a little redstone logic circuit I made. I was surprised when It worked so well, and that my friends didn’t understand it. I thought I wasn’t smart enough to do something like that. This set off a chain reaction. I started to wonder what else I could do.

So I decided to learn programming, scrap by scrap. I was smart, I didn’t have to understand how it worked, I didn’t need knowledge. This is just confusing because somebody else’s fault. People who have knowledge aren’t smart, they only have that knowledge because they couldn’t just figure it out themselves, right?

Then I meet another programmer who started about the same time I did. He could code circles around me. He did so much that I would have never imagined possible. One day I asked him how he got so good. He shrugged and said “I just want to know how it all works.” I thought that that was a silly reason to do anything, I didn’t really take it to heart.

Then one day, I decided to emulate that mindset, to chase ‘knowing how it all works’ for a while, to see what useful things I could learn. So I read. Not a lot mind you, just enough to understand how the language worked. Then when I tried to program again, it was suddenly different. It was like sailor first finds the wind, when a musican first hears the music they’re reading. I was in resonance with both knowledge and cleverness. This was the potential teachers had always said that I wasn’t taking. Code was no longer a chore, It was no longer a thing to be cleaned on occasion and forgotten, It was expression of self, It was the flow of raw and ruthless ideas without a care in the world.

I always thought climbing the mountain of knowledge was a fools errand, until I was high enough upon it to see the view. I had always starving, but I had never realized what had hungered. The little I had read fead my curiosity, but only enough to raise its appetite.

Later on I wrote a little multiplayer game. It was slow and terrible, unplayable even, but my programmer friends were amazed, even the one who could code circles around me.

Then I dove down the rabbit hole. I began to read everything I could about computers. I wrote useless tools that I knew I’d never use. The knowledge I was gaining made everything so clear.

During this time I also played strategy games. Dota and the such. The bits and pieces of math that I had picked up with code began to show the value of themselves with strategy. I had started to see the numbers, the way it fit together. That was the moment I began to understand what math truly was. It wasn’t some group of equations to be memorized, it was patterns. It was the art of thought. Music has sound, Sculpting has shape, math has thought and pattern. The other subjects too, history, literature, art, they were all connected in ways that I had just begun to see.

I began to study math. I struggled, just as I did when I started with code. I studied physics along the way as well.

It started to change everything. I had begun to see. To see. It cannot be fully described until you have experienced it. I no longer drifted along like a numb rag-doll, deaf to all but impulse. The patterns of everything started to appear. Everything began to show its own sort of intense beauty. This was how it felt to be rapt in awe.

Curiosity, which was once just a faint whisper on the tongues of others, has quickly started to become a huge force in my life. It grows and grows the more it knows. Three years ago I had begun to crack open Pandora’s box of curiosity, and now that its open, I can’t imagine closing it, I can only feel excitement in what next I’ll find.

I started to learn math still not to long ago. The idea of it is definitely something that I want to pursue now that I understand what It actually is.However, It still is quite confusing to me. It reminds me much of how I felt when I first tried to learn to code. The part from the video that struck me the most was when he talked about people trying to shape knowledge, rather then allow knowledge to shape them, I realized that that was exactly what I was doing with mathematics. I was cherry-picking the parts with obvious value, and only thinking of them. I had never cared for the foundation because I tried to quickly to reach the bits which I had already found interesting. The entire guiding force behind my curiosity was the off statement of another mind. I didn’t recognize that till I watched the video. I need to learn how to give others the reign of thought and see where they take me. Doing it before has given me so much, and only doing it again now has let me recognize it.

ANYWAYS, thanks for the suggestions.

A Couple New Songs

I’ve posted a couple more songs in the Media page.  They are unfinished Baby Made Rebel tracks, recorded in 2013 and not quite completed before we went on hiatus.  “The Standing” is much further along than “Untitled Single,” as may be apparent from the titles.

“The Standing” started with a drum loop I recorded as part of my Loops Project.  Lance heard it and wrote a tune around it.  We performed it at a few gigs in Boston in 2013, and I wish the recording had been completed and released, but I guess everything ground to a halt when I left for Germany.

“Untitled Single” was recorded right before I left, so naturally that one got a lot less love.  But I love the direction it was headed in and vibe it had going for it, even in so incomplete a form.

Finally, Clinton Degan has been working on mixing the songs we recorded together in late Summer 2013 and emailing us demos, and the songs are sounding incredible.  One of them is a tune an old band of his had turned down, saying it was “impossible” to turn into a full-band song.  For a group of musicians as talented as they were, it should say something about the complexity of the composition that it was denied on that ground.  I’m incredibly proud listening to it, knowing we as a group of musicians achieved something not only impressive, but I think also beautiful, and also proud of Degan for not taking “no” as an answer and guiding the song, along with its companion seven others on this record, to a really impressive product.  I can’t wait to be able to post some.