In Search of the Elusive Volume Control

Did you ever find yourself asking the question “How did I get here?”

The first pro-quality drum kit that I had was a Gretsch five piece with birch shells, Ludwig hardware, and Avedis Zildjian cymbals. It was purchased second hand in the mid 1970s. After being overly influenced by Bill Bruford, a set of six Remo Roto-toms was added a few years later. As much as I enjoyed the set there were two problems associated with it. First, in spite of some nice Shure and AKG mics, it was difficult to get a decent sound out of them in my home recording studio. Of course, being that the “studio” was a basement with scant acoustical treatment and a seven foot ceiling, the kit could hardly be blamed. The second and perhaps more confounding problem was the loudness level. In fair consideration to the rest of the family and neighbors, there were limits on when I could play. I simply could not afford any manner of “sound proof” room and unlike the ubiquitous guitars, basses, and keyboards that my friends played, there was no volume control on a drum kit. As I was finishing my degree in electrical engineering at the time, I was hopeful that there might be a technological solution down the road, something more advanced than the “beep-boop” Syndrums of the day.

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AC/DC vs. Angelo Badalamenti

I’ve seen and heard some strange music-video and straight radio hybrids, but for now this one tops them all. It melds a live AC/DC performance of with footage from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks prequel Fire Walk With Me, and mashes the Australian rockers’ “The Jack” with Angelo Badalamenti’s “The Pink Room.” Somehow, it works. The film was a disappointment but whoever made this extracted some of the best scenes.

I was inspired to track this down after learning that a woman I became good friends with during my recent trip to Boulder graduated from high school with Sheryl Lee, the actress who played Laura Palmer on the Twin Peaks TV series and also starred in FWWM (she’s the blonde in the video).

Warning: There is some, uh, mature content.

Psychotropic Walls

Via Technovelgy – Where Science Meets Fiction, here’s an article on a wild display surface upon which small panels move with precision and “ripple,” creating strange, almost biologically protoplasmic motion:
HypoSurface Walls Are Full of Life.
Bill Christensen, the author of the Technovelgy article on HypoSurface notes that this technology is a close approximation of science fiction writer J.G. Ballard’s warped domiciles:

HypoSurface is a pretty good implementation of the plastex walls in J.G. Ballard’s psychotropic houses from his 1960’s Vermillion Sands stories:
It was a beautiful room all right, with opaque plastex walls and white fluo-glass ceiling, but something terrible had happened there. As it responded to me, the ceiling lifting slightly and the walls growing less opaque, reflecting my perspective-seeking eye, I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily. Deep hidden rifts began to distort the sphere, ballooning out one of the alcoves like a bubble of overextended gum.

Here’s a clip:

More examples may be found on the HypoSurface web site. This company is based in Cambridge MA. Perhaps its location explained why the surface of Spring Street was so pocked and wavy.

The Chimp Refuge Comes OUT.

A new addition can be found in the sidebar. Yes, the Chimp Refuge has joined the OUT Campaign bandwagon. Click on the Scarlet Letter of Atheism, and you will be taken to the site for the campaign which includes a link to Richard Dawkins’ introduction to the initiative.
Since it’s a Saturday, and I’m in a frivolous frame of mind, I’ll post some atheist-friendly graphics below the fold. They may be already known to many but there’s nothing as comforting as friendly familiar faces. Pull up a chair, have a cup of coffee (the Official Beverage of the Devil and Atheists) and have a look.

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OK, let’s talk about nothing.

Mark Knopfler is my favorite all-time guitarist. I never indulged in this habit myself, although I grew up around musical instruments and could at one point play drums and keyboards reasonably well and dance a thousand miles an hour.
My dad played in a band and was a semi-pro at the guitar. He could do Joe Satriani, he could riff the Edge. Knopfler was out of his league, and my dad stood respectably by and listened.
Knopfler is a great songwriter and a shitty vocalist, and it doesn’t matter. Brothers in Arms was my extended anthem in terms of getting through high school, and getting my chicks for free was reliant on the haunting power stabs in Money for Nothing (which, let’s not fuck around, made MTV what it became) and the crazy 64th notes in Sultans of Swing. If you can, and I both dare you and love you, upload your own Telegraph Road or Industrial Disease. It’s all so good.
These days I run through the northeastern mountains of the United States with an MP3 player and am sometimes pleasantly shocked by what I hear. I am no fan of techno, but I’ll tell you, was so lit up by LCD Soundsystem that I can’t help but offer “Someone Great” to anyone and everyone (it’s never gotten a bad review from anyone I have known).

Audio Obsession

Who are the audiophile extremists? To what lengths will they go in their search for audio nirvana? Is 230,000 Euros enough, and what do they spend it on?

Regular readers of the refuge know that I’ve got a “thing” for audio and music, and that I’ve had some harsh comments regarding the poor quality audio that so many people tolerate these days in the name of convenience. But what of the other extreme? Who are the audiophile extremists? To what lengths will they go in their search for audio nirvana? Is 230,000 Euros enough, and what do they spend it on? Check out this short film of the Audiophile Club of Athens:

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And on the subject of running and tunes…

…those who indulge in both exercising to music and the genre most commonly called “electronica” (which overlaps substantially with”dance,” “house,” and “funk”) might like the 45-minute, 58-second release by LCD Soundsystem titled “45:33,” which LCD creator James Murphy arranged specifically for Nike after the athletic-wear giant approached him about a project tailored toward melody-driven runners. The result is a disco-driven track released in October 2006 that retails for $9.99.
There’s a funny story at work here, one in which Nike’s involvement somehow makes sense. Last October, Murphy — whose initial album, also titled LCD Soundsystem, led to two Grammy nominations in 2005 — told Amy Phillips of

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The “Inherent Linearity” of Class A Amplifiers?

I’m what they used to call an audiophile. What with folks listening to music on cell phones, low bit-rate MP3’s and the like, it’s kind of out of fashion these days. That is, unless you’re into music production. In that case, you can buy all manner of interesting goodies, including microphone preamps that will set you back a kilobuck and loudspeaker cables that could pay a semester’s tuition. Unfortunately, just as it was true for hi-fi enthusiasts 30 years ago, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around in the semi-pro or “prosumer” music field regarding audio circuitry.

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When Augmenting Photons and Longitudinal Pressure Waves Meet with Impeachment Demands

My wife and I went to a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert the other evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It was a great show in spite of a little rain. You can read a local review of it here. What does this have to do with photons and pressure waves? I’ll get to that in a minute.

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