Monthly Archives: April 2017

Calling the Bluff

I spent the greater part of yesterday testing a friend’s website that I neither own nor manage. This website is a rebuild of a previous version hosted somewhere else, and it’s supposed to open this Sunday. After some shallow testing using four tools, I was having grave misgivings. I spoke with the owner. Then I pulled the owner’s content to ensure its preservation just in case things should ‘go south’.

I don’t like messing with another’s website. I don’t like or want the hassle. However, there’s this sense of ‘what needs to be done’ and ‘what’s right to be done’ that won’t allow me to just turn my back. It’s the same core in me that makes me stop and help when another entity, regardless of species, is in jeopardy.

When it comes to webmastering, I think I’ve spent as much time rescuing domains for their owners as I have building them. That’s probably not at all accurate, but it often feels that way, because, often, it requires hours, days, and a lot of research and expertise to effect the necessary solution, and it’s always tedious and laden with bureaucratic nightmares. ICANN is not fun to deal with in these cases. and you’d better have your receipts and documentation in order, a good fax machine, a notary on standby, and some solid gold identity proof, because you’re going to need it along with me or someone like me to help free your property from danger. Else hire a very good, expensive lawyer.

In this case, it was a matter of getting the content as secured as possible — some thirty pages, only — then writing up some pertinent questions that should instantly demonstrate to the would-be webmasters involved that their bluff has been called. “Lay your cards on the table, boys. It’s over.”  Luckily, the owner retains complete control of their domain — the only saving grace to this. But not the content. The content wasn’t backed up before turning it over to the ‘boyz’. Hence, scraping it to preserve it …just in case. It’s now in a nice .zip file, handed over to the owner, though I retained a copy …just in case, as well.

I hate when things like this happen to unsuspecting people, and, actually, I’m very sure the webmastering dudes running this show are genuine in their desire to do the job right …for their fee. But it’s too obvious they are in way over their heads and don’t realize — not at all — that their underpants are showing, and those underpants have a very noticeable brown stripe.

 

Playing Tull’s Living in the Past

Living In The Past Strip

 

For me, playing Tull’s Living in the Past requires a lot of air. In fact, most Tull pieces require it. To be even modestly effective it trying to mimic the Tull flute characteristic sound, I have to push the brink of where the tone breaks to the harmonic and do so while purposely angling the air column so that it cuts across the outer edge of the blowhole just a certain way. I also have to adjust the delivery and shape of each note as well as my tonguing and how I depress the keys. Here are the details:

Overblowing the sound for this piece I accomplish by, both, pressurizing the air column and increasing the amount of air I’m pushing. This increases and intensifies the speed of the airstream as it cuts across the blowhole. Simultaneously, I also angle that airstream just so, getting the far edge of the blowhole to, quite literally, sharply slice that airstream. It’s what makes that ‘edgy’ sound — a subliminal whistling of wind that’s partly due to the speed with which the air is crossing the blowhole and rushing into and through the body of the flute, and partly due to the angle. This gives the resulting sound its intensity and razed effect. I’m using twice as much air as usual and the embouchure control has to be meticulous to control it. Of course, sometimes the sound does break, and that’s okay. That happens when I stop being so careful and drive the sound too hard. But I find I like the sound, even when it does break.

I also had to adjust my tonguing technique, going back to ‘the wrong way’ of doing it, using the harsher ‘t’ consonant taught by band teachers, instead of ‘du’ and ‘da’ flutists actually use for hard tonguing.

With that ground work employed, then the actual notes have to be formed with the breath using diaphragm control combined with the mouth shape and tongue so that the shape of each punctuated note, whether soft or hard, is shaped like a mushroom, not like the usual ‘O’ pinched at both ends, the soft, big pillow, or a wedge, these latter three being examples too classical in style to get the right effect for Tull rock.

I find myself shortening the duration of the notes, which I shouldn’t, but, with using the ‘mushroom’, I find I want to start ‘bouncing’ the notes — again, another classical technique — instead of what I’m supposed to be doing, namely, ‘punching’ them and then letting them (p)lay out.

Lastly, I have to use a lot of mouth effects in certain passages, but, in Living in the Past, the use is subtle, not overt, so I’ll talk about that when we release one of the pieces where the use of mouth effects is very distinct and noticeable.

It’s very typical of ‘rock’ flute to combine techniques not usually utilized together and do it in a way that produces a distinct and unique energy and grit to the sound. I’m not yet very proficient at it, but I’ve got a start, anyway.

Living In The Past, Video Size

Finished, I Think

I believe I’m done with site revisions, now. The new music, art, author, and videography pages are up, things linked in and not breaking. Now to finish up work on zentao.com and zentao7.com. (I’m working on it.)

Meanwhile, in other news, we’ve been without water here for over 24 hours for a second time since last Friday because Avista keeps breaking the water main as they try (and repeatedly fail) to get their new, improved, giant metal poles put up. They’ve destroyed my fences, they’ve destroyed the front of the property (it’s caving into their trench), and we’re suffering having to haul water, something I haven’t had to do in years and am ill-prepared for. There’s my pond, of course, and so at least toilets can be flushed…manually. Such joy to endure in the name of somebody else’s idea of progress.

 

Where Was I?

This may be premature, but I certainly hope not. I made a grave mistake. I bought somebody a birthday present. That led to a blossoming of complications, all of them due to the fact that the individuals involved, namely him and I, think differently, and, even though we both speak English, it’s like one of us speaks alien and the other speaks archaic Greek. (Yes, it’s that bad.)

So, for the last five weeks, I’ve been creating website infrastructures, only to tear them apart, then create different versions, only to tear those down and begin again. Anything I created wasn’t ‘right’. Hours turned into days, then weeks …upon weeks. Finally …maybe … I’ve managed to get at least one of the four domains involved set up enough that things will finally settle down for me. No guarantees on that, but I can hope.

…Now, where was I….

Yes, We Might, But I’ve Got Red Light Fright

recording music and red light fright

I just finished a new page devoted to music here on the site, and, sharing it around, the question of whether we, that is, Forrest and I, are going to release an album came up. The answer is ‘yes’. Certainly, in time, we’ll be putting out one and several albums. And Forrest mentioned maybe doing a Christmas album this year. This would come after we get the rest of fifty-some songs and their videos on our release schedule out for free listening. For an album, though, I have to get over having my diaphragm seize up as soon as the red light comes on, because, right now, when that little red glow indicates to me that we’re live recording, suddenly my whole body becomes rigid, my fingers start to quake, and I can’t draw breath.

Flute playing requires the ability to breathe deeply, and breathing deeply requires a relaxed, engageable, working diaphragm, never mind that vibrato is impossible when the thing (the diaphragm) that runs the bellows (lungs) is in lock-down. Vibrato comes from control of that sheaf of muscles, and, when it’s seized up, well, it just doesn’t work. At all. So, getting over Red Light Fright is one of my major hurdles.

Red Light Fright is a lot like stage fright, in some ways, and I used to have really bad stage fright — so bad, in fact, that I’d pass out cold, toppling face down. The first time it happened, during a music jury, I damaged flute and my face, both. Henceforth, at music juries, they always had somebody standing next to me to catch my flute and me as I toppled stiffly, felled-tree-like, face-first toward the floor. (For those unfamiliar, ‘juries’ are when you perform, standing before your teachers and other conservatory staff whose job it is to judge you, your performance, and your progress since the last jury. For me, they happened every six weeks throughout the year.)

Over time, because of repeatedly being forced to perform on stage in front of audiences at recitals, juries, and in concert, I got over my stage fright. I remember the night it happened, when, suddenly, finally, I looked out over the sea of upturned faces all waiting for me to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3 arranged for solo flute and orchestra, that I was unafraid, not tense, not frightened, but, rather, supercharged …exhilarated, even happy and excited to be there. And, when I began to play, it was like I was drawing power from that audience. This was such an unusual experience that that night is vividly branded in my memory. It was my first time ever as a soloist that I actually enjoyed playing the flute when somebody else was listening. (Orchestra performance was always a joy. I never suffered stage-fright when deeply embedded in the middle of an orchestra. Only when having to play as a soloist.)

How bad was my stage fright? Well, usually when stepping on stage to perform, I’d be quaking. I’d be blind to anything and everything, my soul, my spirit, and my brain crushed down deep inside this dark, internal cave, just overwrought. All feeling in my hands and body left. My legs would be lead. I would be inside a dark tunnel, barely able to see.  It’s why I always knew my pieces so well that I could play them even in that state …because I was always in that state whenever I had to perform, or even practice, around anyone, even just Mom, Dad, or a teacher, never mind some one or many strangers where the focus was on me. So, I always knew my repertoire so well that, no matter what happened …provided I was able to stay upright, on my feet (You play standing when performing as flute soloist.), I could play the piece flawlessly …on auto-pilot.

That night, though, for the first time in my life, I came out of my shell. I actually PLAYED, interacting with the audience, enjoying their reactions, their expressions, their attention, their empathy with me and mine with them.  Suddenly, the audience became my friend.  They were gifting to me their attention in exchange for me gifting to them the glorious sound of wonderfully composed music.  Our participation in the event of that music being released to the universe at that moment in space and time was a mutual expression of and participation in utter joy — a celebration of sound.

It was a huge breakthrough, and one I’ve never, ever forgotten. And, from that night on, I’ve never again felt embarrassed or shy of performing live in front of an audience, not even if and when mistakes happen.  Mistakes on stage don’t bother me anymore.

But the red light? Wow.

Red Light Fright — now that’s a whole different experience. It’s a fear of making a mistake and ruining the take. It’s the devastation of letting down the other player(s) who did get all his/her/their parts right. No matter how well I’m playing prior to that, no matter how relaxed I am, as soon as that little red light comes on, the terror rises, the freeze-down and shaking starts, and the stress level goes through the roof.  It weighs as soon as, and only upon, that little red light coming on. And getting Red Light Fright practically ensures that I am going to flub something. Guaranteed.

So, I’m working on getting over Red Light Fright by constantly doing it, by recording myself repeatedly, staring at that light as I record, that light that makes my body tense, my breath get short, my fingers quiver. This, like stage fright, will vanish. Somehow, someway. With time and effort and persistence. Call me resolute!

XLR cable

Vieno, my Norse Name.

Marva Dasef, a friend of mine, and my editor, shared a link that selected your Norse name. I was given “Vieno.” which means ‘gentle.’ “Your soft heart and quiet nature bring peace to those around you.” That was a surprise. I chose things like lightning, dragons, flying horses, but also deep forest, no noise, kindness, mischief-makers, and…well. Here, try it for yourself: What is Your Old Norse Name?.