Dusty Grooves 44: Electronic Pioneers, pt. 1

Part one of a two-part series. Non-definitive dip into the history of electronic music. Featuring mad scientist of experimental music, Daphne Oram; Mad Men meets synthesizers in the work of Raymond Scott; modern master David Sylvian; German noise outfit Der Plan; elegant works of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Playlist

The Little Orchestra in Sonovox- Pop Goes the Weasel/Mary Had a Little Lamb, from

Little People’s Band in Forestland

Daphne Oram- Studio Experiment No.1, from Oramics

Daphne Oram- Lego Builds it,  from Oramics

Kemialliset Ystavat- Hyppivat saaret, from Kultaista Kaupunkia Etsimassa

Der Plan- San Jose Car Muzak from Geri Reig

Jean Jacques Perrey- Gossipo Perpetuo 7”

Charles Dodge- He Destroyed her Image, from OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music, 1948-1980

Kraftwerk- Kristallo, from Ralf und Florian
György Ligeti- Artikulation, from Ligeti

New Order- Truth, from Peel Sessions

Michael Salmons- Dawn Chorus, self-released

David Sylvian- the Only Daughter, from Blemish

Kraftwerk- The Model, from The Man-Machine

Hugh le Caine- Dripsody, from Various- Electronic Music

Raymond Scott- Cindy Electronium, from Manhattan Research, Inc.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark- Architecture and Morality, from Architecture and Morality

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark- Time Zones, from Dazzle Ships

 

Giving up iTunes for iPod management and moving to Linux- a how-to

I’ve been using a 120gb iPod Classic for years and had only managed it with iTunes. Finally, I’d just had enough with iTunes hogging more and more ram, and the interface becoming more labyrinthine and less useful, I finally decided to get an iTunes and Windows divorce at the same time.

I didn’t walk into it cold turkey- I’ve been a Linux user for years. I’ve managed to move most of my work and entertainment needs over to Linux.The only thing that kept my foot in the Windows world was my iPod and iTunes.

It may an anachronism in today’s streaming world, but my iPod is still essential to my quality of life and active engagement with new music. It’s easy to let an algorithm decide a new song fits your prescribed likes, let it come and go and possibly never make a dent in your long-term memory. In contrast, adding new artists to my library and building playlists takes some effort, but in the process I learn about bands and really get to know their music. The upside of really getting into the music in depth vastly outweighs the downside of lesser convenience, for me.

Moving away from iTunes was stressful. One of the main stressors was just choose where to go from there. GTKPod is frequently the gateway app, but I ultimately decided to go with Banshee. GTKpod is really only a manual manager, and I like to completely redo things periodically. Banshee does have complete iPod sync as a feature.

I encountered some preventable pitfalls along the way that even people sticking with iTunes can benefit from, so I thought I would share.

— If you are going to make the transition, I suggest you manually convert ID3 tags. Some iTunes users report Get info changes ID3 tags, or seems to, then they revert. The safest is manually initiate that conversion for any tracks you update yourself. I DID NOT DO THIS and spent about a week correcting data that made it into iTunes XML and was NOT saved to ID3 tags.

–Convert to MP3, if you haven’t, and override iTunes CD importing defaults, which are set to an ear-shredding 128kbps. It should at least be 192, although for maximum quality I chose 320kbps. This is something I didn’t do for a long time and wondered why my songs sounded dull, sometimes like total crap. I spent a lot of time going back to CDs and re-importing them at 320. Not fun!

Once my library was shored up, I mounted the ipod and made note of the mount point in a file manager. Then I started up Banshee.

Note, I have learned from the wisdom of others, when importing a large collection (I have 44,000 files) at first, do NOT choose the root of your music folder. Rather, go into that folder and CTRL-A all of the subfolders. Banshee got locked in some kind of infinite loop looking for files, went all gray and blank and this was the solution.

Also note, Banshee has a lot of plugins activated by default- some of which need to go out and get data from the web. I disabled all plugins except for the ones needed by the iPod. It ran a lot faster then.

After importing the library, I set about creating some playlists. For my purposes, I have a big catch-all playlist, and a subdued playlist called Sleep. The big catch-all playlist turned out to be more useful than just use basically as a big Shuffle.

When you sync the iPod for the first time, just choose to sync by playlist, and choose the big catch-all list. This is what Banshees uses as the base sync. I had read if you want to have more than one, you’d have to make the second playlist, save it as an m3u, then import that using GTKpod! As it turns out, it’s NOT NECESSARY. ANY playlist you create in Banshee will get imported along with the main one! I guess let that be a caveat as well as a hidden benefit.

So far sync has been blazing fast compared to iTunes on Windows. I am especially impressed with the auto-sync-a feature I had to disable in Windows because it was slow and tedious. It forces you to go to a special screen, even though it’s a process that could take place in the background, interrupting you only if necessary. I always found that irritating. In Banshee, auto-sync happens in a polite little status area below the main window with the number of tracks being transferred and progress info. Fantastic!

All in all, this has been a very positive experience. If you are the kind of person who is fastidious about metadata, and are sick of the interface overhead and bloat in iTunes, this might be a great solution for you.

Ploughman’s lunch for office workers

You may or may not know, I have been blogging about men’s health and diet issues for several years over at Mike’s Health Mag. So I think a lot about diet and health issues. I was eating a lunch outside today (I recommend you eat every lunch outside!- on cold or rainy days, find a portico or shelter…?) that inadvertently resembled one of my favorite lunch templates, the ploughman’s lunch. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s essentially the traditional lunch field workers in the English days of yore would take with them- stuff that can be eaten at room temperature hours after it’s been packed. Typically it consists of bread, cured meat, cheese, garden vegetables and fruit, and sometimes a spot of mustard or chutney to make it all taste better.

Lately I’ve been busy and pack the turkey and bread part of my sandwich, then hit up the salad bar at a wonderful local place to get the veg and fruit. Today I had a half sandwich of turkey on sourdough, mustard, and tomato, then from the salad bar I had a small container of kale, cucumber, a boiled egg and maybe two tablespoons of a delicious pasta salad- that last bit an indulgence I probably shouldn’t have all the time, but what the hell. As I was eating I thought the amount of bread seemed excessive (these sourdough loaves I get are pretty wide- one piece of bread is probably the equivalent of one and a quarter normal slices) and wouldn’t all these flavors be nicer with some aged cheese and chutney. So I resolved to figure out a well-balanced ploughman’s lunch for those of us who don’t labor in fields all day.

I debated about whether to stick to the usual requirement that the lunch not need refrigeration. After all, in this day and age, it’s readily available, and opens the meal up to more options.

It was cheese that made the decision for me. Turns out there are multiple benefits to eating a ripe, old cheese– longevity and preventing liver cancer sound good to me. And since cheese really is best consumed at room temperature, I suggest you use sense, maybe put a blue brick in your bag or keep it in a fridge until an hour or two before lunch to allow the cheese to come up to temperature.

I felt emboldened by my plan when I read this on the Diet health club site:

People with a sedentary lifestyle should consume more carbohydrates as the main base of their diets. Instead of simple, refined carbs, healthy, complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain, whole wheat products, whole cereals, whole pulses, beans, legumes, etc. are recommended.

Ensure to include good sources of protein such as eggs, low fat dairy products, poultry without skin, lean meat, and fish in the daily diet.

Essentially, a ploughman’s lunch, if done correctly, could be just the ticket for us hassled office drones. It’s easy to consume in the field, and good for us too.

Here’s what I came up with:

the bulk of the meal will consist of:

-greens. massaged baby kale is my favorite because it holds up even if it gets dressed. Mix that with field greens and I am happy.

-raw garden vegetables- could really be anything. If you want to salad-y, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery. Summer squash and zucchini are surprisingly good raw, as are beets.

-a fruit. Berries and sliced apple are classic. Grapes would be convenient. a whole fruit is fine. cubes of melon would be spectacular.

-Herbs- I think it is REALLY IMPORTANT TO EAT HERBS. toss parsley, cilantro, fresh mint, and/or dill into your greens. sprinkle your cheeses with dried thyme and oregano. get creative!

-a condiment- just to jazz things up. I prefer a traditional mango chutney, but there are milder chutneys and an array of mustards to choose from. I’d avoid mayo, except of the eggless variety.

these are the smallest bits:

-One piece of real, crusty bread. Doesn’t need to be much as bread fills you up quickly. Whole grain is best, if you can swing it, but the most important is to choose breads made in the old ways, with no soybean oil or dough conditioners. Just the good old bread most of western society used to eat.

(may substitute rice if you want to take this in a less English direction.)

-a piece of real aged cheese, preferably one confined by its name to authentic, time-honored methods. Pick a hunk of real Cheddar, Gouda, Edam, Jarlsberg, Emmethaler, Stilton, Gloustershire… there are many cheeses protected by laws guaranteed they are made the traditional way- with grass-finished, pastured cows, non-factory farming settings with all-natural ingredients from start to finish. Those are the cheeses that are best for you. I would personally choose something aged but on the lower cream content end, but if it’s a small amount there’s no harm in it.

-a protein- could be a boiled egg, could be a slice of turkey. Be careful with this- traditionally only cured meats would make it into a field lunch because they are designed to travel well. They are not terribly healthy, though. so I suggest bringing something that will need some initial refrigeration, then tossing it in your peasant bag right before hitting the meadow.

For data wonks, here is a representative ploughman’s lunch as entered in Myfitnesspal:

California Sourdough – Bread, Sourdough Square Qty: .8 of 2oz. 100 cals

Jarlsberg – Minis, 1 mini Qty: 1 of 1 mini. 70 cals
(note: I don’t know what a mini is, but I’ve been aiming for about 70-80 calories of cheese)

Marketside – Baby Kale Blend, Qty: 85 g (1.5 cups) 30 cals

Tomatoes – Sliced Qty: 3 slices (2oz) 10 cals

Turkey – Turkey, Qty: 2.25 slices 55 cals
(seems low, but I usually only take 2-3 slices)

Cucumber Qty: 0.5 cup 8 cals

Gulden’s – Brown Mustard Qty: 5g 5 cals

In this particular case, as described above, I included extra treats: Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Qty: 2 tbsp(s), 30 cals and Homemade – Eggs – Soft Boiled, Qty: 0.5 large (just one half an egg), 40 cals.

That brings it to a grand total of 353 cals, and it was very, very filling.

I’d love to hear about your favorite office worker’s lunch.

Dusty Grooves: William Sydeman: In Memoriam, J.F. Kennedy (live radio broadcast)

[this is a part of the continuing Audio Archaeology series, where I explore the found reel-to-reels of past recording enthusiasts.]

In November of 1963, young American avant-garde composer William Sydeman was enjoying his major debut. Erich Leinsdorf was conducting a performance of his “Study #2” by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During the performance, word made it to the concert hall about JFK’s assassination. Leinsdorf stopped the performance and made the announcement to a stunned audience. Leinsdorf found copies of the sheet music for Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, and led the orchestra in a performance of the slow movement- the funeral march- in memoriam. You can read more of the story here as well as hear part of that broadcast.

Three years later, to mark the third anniversary of JFK’s passing, Sydeman debuted a new piece called In Memoriam: J.F. Kennedy. It features a young-sounding EG Marshall reading from a speech of Kennedy’s. Once again, as in the interrupted broadcast, the performers are the Boston Symphony conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.

According to the liner notes, this performance was recorded live over the radio. Volume levels are a little erratic, I did my best to level them out. I do hope you enjoy this stirring piece.

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Dusty Grooves: Audio Archaeology- Bob Dylan Radio Special

[this is a part of the continuing Audio Archaeology series, where I explore the found reel-to-reels of past recording enthusiasts.]

Great White WonderThis is a partial recording off the radio of an audio career retrospective of Bob Dylan. There is quite a lot of commentary by Dylan biographer Anthony Scaduto. We can only speculate about where the story begins, but it’s clear the taper started late, just as the Basement Tapes story begins. In fact, it seems that perhaps the whole rationale for the special was the emergence of what is arguably rock music’s first bootleg release.

There were no program notes accompanying this Scotch 111 7-inch reel, but one thing we can tell for sure is this radio program came out after the release of Self Portrait in 1970 and before the official Columbia release of selected Basement Tapes in 1975. In the recording, Scaduto says more than once what a “pity” it was that the tapes had not been released officially.

After some introduction, four tracks from the Basement Tapes appear. The versions confirm these were bootlegged copies at the time of the radio production. “Nothing Was Delivered” is not the official Basement Tapes version- the only exposure the world at large would have to it for decades would be the plain white labeled “Great White Wonder” bootleg which appeared mysteriously at some record stores in 1969. Several radio stations picked up on this fairly quickly. The special featured here was probably not one of these first-line broadcasts; it does seem to be something produced in reaction to the release, though, apparently within a few years of the appearance of the bootleg. The version here is labeled “Take 2” on various later CD bootlegs such as The Complete Basement Tapes and A Tree With Roots.

After playing four tracks, plus a cover of “Too Much of Nothing” by Peter, Paul and Mary, the story continues with released material. The tape ends as we arrive at Self Portrait. Here’s a complete list of the tracks included:

Nothing was Delivered- Bob Dylan and the Band (unreleased version, alternate lyrics)

Too Much of Nothing- Peter Paul and Mary

Million Dollar Bash- Bob Dylan and the Band (eventually released officially on The Basement Tapes)

Apple Suckling Tree- Bob Dylan and the Band (unreleased version, alternate lyrics)

“Clothesline”- Bob Dylan and the Band (eventually released officially on The Basement Tapes)

John Wesley Harding- Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding)

I Pity the Poor Immigrant- Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding)

All Along the Watchtower- Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding)

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight- Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding)

Girl From the North Country (excerpt)- Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)

Girl From the North Country- Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash (Nashville Skyline)

Lay Lady Lay- Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline)

Country Pie- Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline)

Take a Message to Mary- Bob Dylan (Self Portrait)

Enjoy.

Audio Archaeology: A Yale Student’s final project, 1966

[this is a part of the continuing Audio Archaeology series, where I explore the found reel-to-reels of past recording enthusiasts.]

yale studentThis is the most interesting of my early finds with this collection. Some tapes appear to have been recorded with a portable recorder, then re-recorded onto the larger reels in this collection. Understandable, they wouldn’t want to lug their 50-pound Ampex two-track to Sprague Hall, Yale University School of Music for this performance. According to the sadly brief note, this is the performance of a student’s composition in 1966, “recorded at Sprague, copied at Moore’s.” The only evidence I see at the moment of a “Moore’s” in New Haven is a restaurant called Archie Moore’s. Moore could just be a friend or a hobbyist.

The composition is thoroughly of the 20th century avant-garde strain. It seems the collector’s interest fell firmly in that area- there is a fascinating tape devoted entirely to the avant-garde and musique concrete. Also it was recorded in stereo- I’m getting the idea if a tape is in stereo, this collector valued it.

Without further ado, here is the student’s composition, clocking in at over 20 minutes:

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Dusty Grooves: Audio Archaeology: A trip though a found tape collection

[this is a part of the continuing Audio Archaeology series, where I explore the found reel-to-reels of past recording enthusiasts.]

old Scotch tapesThis is the first installment of a series that will explore the contents of a reel-to-reel tape collection I acquired quite by accident. I’ve had reel to reel machines for years, and occasionally I re-stock tape by taking old reels off of people’s hands. This particular transaction was nothing unusual. I knew the tapes were old and used. They were part of the seller’s parents’ estate. Some notes were associated with the tapes, and as I thought they might contain info about their condition, I asked him to include them in the box.

The postman dropped off a big, heavy box about two weeks later. Inside were 63 tapes. The “notes” turned out to be a meticulous accounting of everything on all the reels, including index numbers for EVERY track. Program notes. Artists and composers. The collection is predominantly Classical, and in mono. A chunk is recorded from album, but a goodly portion was recorded from public radio stations in the New York City area in the 1960s. There are some hostcard catalog of tapes announcements, but like you find in many carefully assembled personal collections, the announcer has been removed except when they share biographical information about the composer or performers. I am still sifting through this treasure, listening for station IDs. I figure across 63 tapes recorded one program per track, two tracks per side, somewhere in there the taper neglected to cut out station information, and I will find it.

As I find interesting things, I will upload them to the cloud and share them here. I’ll be starting with something quite interesting and atypical in the collection, so do tune in next time.