Tag Archives: SoundBox

Denise

One of the great joys of being back in San Francisco to work is the people I get to work with. I apologize ahead of time to my colleagues in Sacramento. The reasons I did not enjoy my time there do not reflect on you, they are mine only.

Case in point is Denise. I’ve worked with Denise many times over the last eight years. She has a specialty within the world of sound people that dovetails with mine so we sometimes get on the same jobs. Today she told a story of her being told to slow down because she was working too hard. We all laughed, because it is so Denise. She is always thinking ahead and always taking the responsibility of action. I’ve been lucky to have her as my #2 in SoundBox for the last two years.

She had shown me her art quite a while ago. It’s not dramatic, it’s full of subtlety. She told me what ‘ATC’ meant long a go and I don’t remember now, but I think it means pretty small, like post card size.

Just a few months ago we were talking and she mentioned her web page. Web page?? You mean like a blog? Well, sort of. She writes a little, but mostly it is just images of her art. I invite you to take a look at it here.

annual physical

I had my long-awaited annual physical today. Long awaited because I had a bunch of questions that I’ve been holding on to for several months now. None of them were critical enough to call the doc but they were nagging. No, I’m not going to say what they were except that one was about the headaches.

Dr Amara did not seem worried about my recent spate of headaches. She re-upped my Maxalt prescription without a peep. She ran down the results from my blood work. No surprises. My cholesterol is a little high but my Vitamin D and my Iron are back in the ok range (I’ve been taking supplements). My PSA is low. I’ve lost a little weight since last year but I could lose ten more pounds. And get more exercise . . .

She referred me to a specialist a couple of years ago about my blood counts which have been low. That specialist is out of town this week and I haven’t seen that part of the test results.

Sometimes I think the headaches are more situational. If I’m busy at work it’s less of a problem. If I’m sitting around at home or not too busy at work, I feel that’s when the afternoon headaches creep in. Was I subconsciously worrying about this physical all last week? Or about Sarah being in New York? Or . . ?? I just can’t think of anything obvious. I know I think about writing in this blog a lot and yet I don’t do it very often. There’s some guilt there on slow afternoons. The last few weeks it seems that most of the posts I’ve done are often forced and not as good as I’d like. I put ’em out there because I want to put something out.

I have to accept the fact that this is a blog about feelings and I write about the feelings I have at that moment. Maybe after I do this for ten years or so I can edit it all down to a nice book. Sort of like the guitar solos we hear on records. They sound fresh and improvised but almost always are a result of much trial and error and practice.

SoundBox starts tomorrow for our last go ’round until December at the earliest. I had a meeting with the curator a week ago and hopefully there will be no technical surprises this week.

catching up

OK, it’s time to catch up on the last few weeks. Every time I think I’ve got some time free, something seems to happen. This week it was the headaches. Last week it was a couple of unexpected days at work.

Whatever. Let’s look back,

SoundBox was really awesome. The young German conductor of the SFS Youth Orchestra, Christian Reif, was the curator. Rather than trying to describe it, I recommend you all just read this review. It is of course a glowing review, but what I especially like about it is how it describes the atmosphere at a SoundBox concert pretty well. A couple of people that I spoke to afterwards who had seen many SoundBoxes were quite moved by this set.

From the technical standpoint, the only difficulty we had was amplifying the instruments in the Black Angels string quartet. I didn’t find out until after the fact that the full title includes the words ‘for Electric String Quartet.’ I had only been given a note that the (acoustic) instruments were to Be mic’d, which we did for the first rehearsal. Everyone seemed to like it expect the players in the quartet who now told us the sound should be distorted and loud ‘like Jimi Hendrix.’

So we talked it over and they agreed that they would bring in their distortion pedals the next day and we would wire them through the overhead speakers.

What they actually brought in was a motley collection of amps, none of which had dedicated distortion circuits. All we could do was overdrive the inputs and hope it worked. After much fiddling – so to speak! – we got something that they professed to be happy with. It wasn’t nearly the overwhelming loudness of Hendrix. Oh well.

A week later was my date with Loose Gravel at the Valencia Club in Penryn. At the last minute, I had traded with Tom singing Dizzy Miss Lizzy for Blue Suede Shoes. That one I had sung back in the April days so I thought it would be straightforward. It turned out to be a problem, though, partly because the vocal starts without any introduction. I ended up in the wrong key. It was only the second song of the afternoon and people were looking at me and the band as if wondering what they were in for.

It got better, though. A few songs later I got to chew on Big Boss Man, which I had actually sung a few times in the intervening years. That went very well.

The second set was the Chuck Berry tribute and I sang Wee Wee Hours and Memphis acceptably. In honor of Chuck I had brought my red ES-335 which I don’t play much. I had bought it from Vince a couple of years ago because he offered me a great deal on it. Afterwards we talked about it. He offered to take it back but ‘didn’t have any money.’ Ha ha, very finny Vince! I don’t dislike it that much.

It’s a beautiful guitar. Here’s a picture of it in front of Allen Frank’s Super Reverb at his Drytown Club right after I bought it.

The next day – Monday night actually – the Skyline band played a ‘Mid-Term Exam’ at the Last Stop Sports Bar in Daly City. They are nice people there, but fitting a big band into the performance space they have is just not happening. We guitars were stuffed in the back next to the drums with all the wind players in front of us and playing in the other direction. It wasn’t too bad until I got to African Skies when I was supposed to be playing a unison line with the tenor sax. I couldn’t hear him at all! The trading twos at the end was a little better because it was just us and Zack was counting and pointing to each of us on our turn.

Here’s a picture of the ES-330 I use for jazz band:

It looks similar but it is really quite different. I won’t bore you with the details unless you ask.

The last SoundBox is upon us. Next week will be the last program for at least 7 months. Whether we get to start it up again in December is up to the Symphony board. It was funded for three years and those three years are done. No one wants to see it go but we all realize it is quite expensive to put it on. Some of the ‘features’ like the lighting and video will be migrated to the main Davies hall but the custom sound system I run won’t be one of them. Stay tuned . . .

band update

SoundBox Saturday. We opened last night and close tonight. I’ve got the day free until 7 to rest. The week was not without challenges but all in all was easier than most. The only night I worked late was last night for the show. Everyone involved is very proud of doing something special but there is no funding for beyond the next set in April. The Symphony has made huge investment in infrastructure but admission prices do not begin to cover the costs. The Constellation System will continue to be used for orchestra rehearsals and the odd special event but the lighting and projection stuff will go into boxes except for a few times a year in the big room.

Meanwhile, I’ve been faithfully going to jazz band rehearsals every Monday. A couple of the charts we’re doing have exposed guitar parts and solos which require a lot more practice than I’ve been getting away with previously. We have sort of a mid-term coming up. Zack has a deal with a local Daly City bar for us to play a set there on Monday the 27th. Last week he assigned which guitarist – there is myself and one other – will play which charts. One assigned to me is African Skies by Michael Brecker where the guitar plays the head with the tenor sax. I’m doing my best to channel Pat Metheney who played on the original track. At the end I trade twos in (more or less) F minor with the tenor. That’s fun.

We’re also doing a version of Bags’ Groove with both guitars playing the vibraphone part, then we each get a couple of solo choruses. It’s fun but there are some tricky rhythmic bits in it. Zack has been very patient with his guitar players who don’t read that well.

After the first rehearsal in January, I emailed Zack to say I was having trouble picking up the guitar away from rehearsal. He was gently encouraging and I’ve gotten better. I just spent a solid half hour working on African Skies. That’s more real practicing than I’ve done in a very long time.

My other band, Loose Gravel, is playing in Loomis a week from tomorrow. They’re not really my band, but I’ve been allowed to sit in with them whenever I want. This time I decided a couple of weeks ago that I really wanted to go so I arranged my work schedule to keep the Sunday free. When Tom was down here he said he was trying to sing less with them so I thought I would try to resurrect my singing. He’s given me Big Boss Man, which I used to do back in the days of April and Dry Creek, and Dizzy Miss Lizzy, which was always his to sing. We’re familiar with The Beatles version which features John Lennon on vocals. I dunno, I’m no John Lennon singing. We’ll see . . .

 

some good things

Politics and bad drivers seem to be often in my mind for possible blog posts but there is much that is good in my life.

What are some good things that have been in my life recently? I need to get my laundry done today and someone has been using the laundry room for the last 2+ hours. Well, writing another blog post is a good thing!

Seeing Sarah at the Symphony, playing in that great orchestra, is a good thing. She’s playing every, or nearly every, set through this month through the East Coast tour a month from now. After that, no one is saying.

I went to the dentist today for a teeth cleaning. I hadn’t been in 3 or 4 years so I guess that’s a good thing. She wants to do a deep cleaning, of course. I expected that, but she and the hygienist were very nice so I decided I would go ahead. The hygienist recommended a Water Pik instead of an electric toothbrush so I bought one afterward. Now I just have to use it!

The jazz band is playing two charts that have guitar solos and a couple others that have exposed parts so the results of my practicing – or not practicing – is evident every week. That’s good. I’m practicing more. I’ve gotten compliments on my playing from band members. That’s good.

Work has been good. Work is work so what I’m really saying is that I haven’t had too much of it. SoundBox is next week and indications are that last months’ chaos will not be repeated.That’s good. I am continually thankful that my colleagues are all people that I enjoy being around.

I did a really thorough house cleaning before Tom came over last week. That’s good. I’ve been keeping up with the dishes lately so there aren’t piles in the sink all the time.

After living through several droughts in California, I learned to appreciate the rain. We’ve had both rain and sunshine in the last couple of weeks. That’s all good. The deep green hills look great in the sunshine.

I bought plane tickets for the work weekend in South Carolina last week. Not only will I get to see Jeremy’s family but also Micah and Julie will be there from Baton Rouge. I had already bought a ticket to meet Jeremy in Georgia to help move his family out west. There’s one more ticket I bought that I can’t talk about because it’s a surprise. I gave JJ all the dates so there won’t be any work conflicts. The other summer trip is the one to Germany with Mary Beth. We haven’t bought tickets yet but it will happen in August. These are all good things.

I went to a funeral Saturday. That wasn’t so good but I saw two people there from my high school days that I didn’t expect to see. That was awesome. John and Gary, I hope you read this!

Ally posted a video on Facebook of Noah from 2011 that I watched about 4 times. Then there was a current one of Noah and Myles together. Both precious for different reasons. I am really looking forward to seeing Noah at the work weekend. I already have a birthday present for him!

Rose continues to be my rock and my best friend. I often think about the unexpected paths our lives took to bring us together, then apart, then together again. Maybe someday I will find the strength to write the story of Rose and Chris. It’s not what you think and we don’t know the ending yet.

Every day I spend with Mom and Dad is precious. Last week I had two. On one, Dad asked me to cut down a dead pyracantha and I almost had a heart attack sawing it up with his little hand saw. After we got home from the funeral, I had at the stump with my sawzall. That took about 20 minutes instead of the 30 seconds I thought it would be. Dead wood is harder than live, don’t you know? He’s always happiest outdoors with growing things.

struggling

I just finished seven straight days with SoundBox and I’m struggling to write something. Hopefully I can do better tomorrow. I didn’t expect to have to work today but circumstances Saturday night dictated it. It turned out to be a satisfying although tiring day. A colleague from my Opera days was on the call and he expressed sympathy to me for the loss of Zach. We were both busy and he could have just said hi but he stepped up and I really appreciated it. Thanks, Frank!

Women’s March

I don’t know what it was officially called. I heard it a bunch of times but it just didn’t stick with me. It was the afternoon one. Evidently the morning one was anti-abortion. They both started and stopped in the same places. Anyway, Rose and Jane and Julian and Julian’s girlfriend Lisa went. All the demonstrations going on this weekend around the inaugural and I’ve been in SoundBox. I’ll try to do a post about that but for now I’ll just post (lightly edited) my impressions from last night.

left home at 5:15 for a 7 pm call. Daly City BART. The train was from Millbrae and packed – I was lucky to get a spot by the door. Being at the door at Civic Center, I didn’t wait around to see how many got off, but there were lines of people waiting to get on a la 5pm on a weekday. Many people coming down the stairs and many, many people in the ‘foyer’ lined up to buy tickets. Really, folks? Did you think you’d never come back?

Up the stairs to the street, lots of people coming down, many with umbrellas as it was raining lightly. Up on the sidewalk, tho’, it was jammed. Just like the BART car shoulder to shoulder but slowly moving towards downtown. I got to the edge and went up Hyde to the other side of the library. Hardly anyone was there. A crew was taking down the sound system for a stage there. I didn’t go over.

By the time I got to the front of the library, Grove was practically deserted. I guess I had seen the tail end of the parade. It had a really good vibe tho’. I did some musing on people and their hopes and dreams and their tendency to fuck them up. [By the time I was writing this last paragraph inside at S/B, people were talking to me about work and this doesn’t seem very coherent. It’s a theme I hope to expand on someday.]

7 pm time to start work

SoundBox

December SoundBox is over, except for the load out tomorrow morning. I plan on spending some time cleaning up my cue library and making some notes on good practices. I got caught with my pants down last night when I took a cue out of order and a few minutes later another one obliterated it. When Tim rolled the video cue, I got sound, but only out of two or three speakers in one corner of the room instead of all over. Oopsie!

Much of what I learned last year is still in my mental attic, so to speak. Seven months of essentially no time spent on CueStation has left me with cobwebs. I suppose I was over confident and didn’t check what I had carefully.

MTT noticed, and during the intermission the query came through channels to me: ‘What went wrong and is it fixed?’ ‘My bad, Maestro.’

It was an MTT program and, as such, it was tremendously interesting. What threw me, especially since I didn’t prepare properly, was the talking and video roll between every piece. Someone said to me early in the week that MTT was really doing a Lou Harrison seminar. All the music was Harrison’s. There was also an audio only roll (ten seconds of Schoenberg’s music) that I got at 5:30 Friday afternoon with sketchy instructions and no rehearsal. I played it live and at least it came out of the correct speakers . . .

The best part of the week was watching the percussionists playing literally everything including the kitchen sink. Well, there wasn’t a kitchen sink, but there were the ’50s era brake drums. Two of the pieces had no conductor and they had to find and agree on a (n unheard) pulse and maintain it while other instruments were playing something radically different.

I talked to them after the concert. They all were gathered at a table unwinding. They said it was very satisfying but mentally draining. I suppose that goes hand in hand. It was an interesting to contrast what they do with the drummers in the Skyline Band. I played a concert with them yesterday afternoon. Nathaniel and James are very good drummers but I happen to know that at least three of the Symphony percussionists are very good on kit and could probably have sat in and done the concert cold.

My favorite piece of the evening was the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan. Nadya played the violin and Jake, Raymond, Tom, Loren, Artie, and Stan filled out the gamelan. Stan had a thing that had an octave or so worth of metal bars about one foot by two mounted on huge tubes from two to six feet long. The sound just rolled out of them across the room with the violin swimming in it.

Sarah came last night which was nice but I was so twitchy about all my cues that she din’t stay up on the jump with me. She just went down on the floor and hung with her friends. I was able to chat and meet with them after the show which was nice.