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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Recording Session at the Keep

Ah yes! I will tell you all about it. But not quite yet. I'm just saving this place in my webpage.

Monday, December 19, 2016

50 things every audio engineer should have by age 50, in no particular order

I saw that "50 Things Every Woman Should Have by Age 50" and it said a bunch of crap about shoes and clothes and having a bank accounts in your own name. It waxed poetic about old boyfriends, jewelry, and loving your wrinkles. What the actual hell. I don't need to acquire self confidence about aging, I need to make more music and get more gear to record it with! I will be 50 soon and I have just about everything on this list, so if nothing else I'll be motivated to finally upgrade to Pro Tools 12. 
  1. At least one microphone that costs more than $600
  2. Soldering iron
  3. SPL meter
  4. A working turntable and preamp
  5. A working cassette deck
  6. Reference monitors
  7. Sealed headphones
  8. Unsealed headphones
  9. An analog mixer
  10. Firewire or USB interface
  11. At least 2 channels of decent mic pres
  12. 100’ snake
  13. An XLR to ¼” snake
  14. Fishpole
  15. Shotgun mic
  16. Stereo mini to ¼” adaptor
  17. RCA to ¼” adaptors
  18. Barrel type XLR turnarounds
  19. Seven computers (2 PCs and 5 Macs)
  20. Eight computer monitors
  21. Pro Tools 10
  22. Pro Tools 11
  23. Pro Tools 12
  24. Adobe Audition (to troubleshoot opening OMF files)
  25. Logic
  26. Reason
  27. Max/MSP
  28. 2 channel graphic equalizer
  29. At least one decent reverb plug in
  30. MIDI controller
  31. Video camera (ie a digital audio recorder that takes pictures, too)
  32. Patch Bay
  33. 20 hard drives
  34. A decent subwoofer in your car or at least a system that goes to 30 Hz minimum
  35. Card reader
  36. A gaming console (Xbox, PS3), you don’t have to play it but you need it to compare streaming audio quality
  37. A headphone amplifier
  38. MIDI cables
  39. MIDI to USB cables
  40. Clients
  41. Acoustic piano
  42. Guitar
  43. Bass Guitar
  44. Choose one : Melodica, harmonica, recorder, dulcimer, thumb harp, or anything someone visiting you will be prompted to say “what’s this?” when they pick it up
  45. Active DI
  46. Passive DI
  47. A webpage showcasing your work
  48. Up-to-date CV
  49. One formal outfit for the awards ceremony
  50. Sneakers to go with the formal outfit

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The food allergy saga continues

So here is the sequel (read the previous chapter here):

On Wednesday, I ate small "doses" of a muffin and my back started to itch. But I didn't break out. During the day they increased the serving size and each time my back started to itch but I didn't get break out. So my doctor observed that I am allergic to either wheat, baked egg, or both. She gave me the option to continue with our plan to exert the next day. I absolutely wanted to keep going with our experiment, I am tired of breaking out at random times.

The Treadmill. The Muffin.
So today, Thursday, I ate a muffin and ran on a treadmill.... and I got hives. Yay! (?)  It is actually good news because it's no longer a mystery.  So now I know if I eat wheat and baked egg (and possible any of my other dozen allergens) and exert myself I will break out. Of course, I could break out without exerting, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

And wait a minute.

HEY PEOPLE. I ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes without stopping at an average of 2.8 miles per hour. Can we just take a minute and reflect on that?

[insert ray of sunshine]

So what to do next? Well, the hives episode is an anaphylactic reaction. I didn't have the swelling of face or lips, nor did I have breathing problems, but the reaction is actually anaphylaxis. Scary shit, right?? So she is going to put me on a regimen of four different daily antihistamines. And then we are going to try a drug called Xolair which seems to be effective for chronic hives. A really fucking expensive monthly shot for which I have to dedicate 90 minutes each time. Worth it? YOU BET. I never again want to rush to an emergency room with my kids in the back seat of the car wondering "what's wrong with mommy". Never again. Been there, done that, got the scar on my heart for life.

The other good news is that this condition could be temporary and resolve within 2-7 years. So maybe it's just a hormonal thing...??

And that, my friends, is all I have to report. Thanks for peeking in on my journey with food allergies. It's embarrassing and it's gross, but hopefully now you'll understand why - if I am ever fortunate enough to dine out with you - I only end up eating a piece of lettuce and some carrots.

Here they are, in no particular order:
Fish, beef, potatoes, carrots, apples, rice. Oh - and lettuce.

* * FIN * *

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Leslie's food allergy saga


So I have allergies, lots of them. And today I am taking a food allergy challenge. And I get to have an IV. And I am not enthused.

Where to begin? To quote from the caterpillar in "Alice in Wonderland": "Begin at the beginning, continue through the middle, and stop when you get at the end".

Here goes.

Mom and I used to go to Elder Beerman's (a department store in Dayton, OH) to get mixed nuts. I loved sitting on the couch cracking nuts with my mom. Cashews, pecans, peanuts, coconut mixed in, almonds ... I ate them all.

One day I started grunting and my ears were itching. Mom mentioned I might be allergic.  Sure enough, I started noticing every time I ate peanuts, cashews, raisins, etc. my throat and ears would itch. The list began to grow: raisins, celery, figs (Fig Newtons), oatmeal (Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies!), peanut butter, grape jelly, grape juice. Over time it wasn't worth it to go through all the itching so I just avoided that stuff.

Later, when I was 11 years old, at Easter, I ate hard boiled eggs. Six of them. And I had the mother of all rashes that lasted for months. I tried special soaps and cremes and nothing got rid of them. Add to list: boiled eggs.

Now that I had assembled a list of foods to avoid I was good for the next 30 years. Occasionally I would have something touch something else - for example, I had a piece of birthday cake at Benihana one year and my lip became swollen. I figured maybe some peanut oil had gotten in there. Shrug.

THEN. Then for the love of God. THEN.

After I had my second child in 2012, I remember it was Easter again. Surely I could have one hard boiled egg.  NOPE. For the first time in my life I had hives. I drove to the store to get Benadryl. Because that is what my dad used to do.

Oh yeah --- my dad had hive breakouts. It was fun. I would be sitting watching MTV (probably around the time Tommy Shaw's solo career took off) and dad would call me. "Leslie, I want you to see something". *Groan* So I would trod back to where he was in bed after he had taken Benadryl. "I think it was green peppers", he said one time. Another time it was "There were anchovies in the worcestershire sauce". Gross, dad.

Well, as fate (and genetics) would have it, I am manifesting allergies in the same way. Hives. Fucking hives. And what is worse, my poor dad eventually had an anaphylactic episode after eating green peppers that were "hiding" in some gumbo. It was really, really scary. He is okay now. Carries an epi pen everywhere (DON'T YOU, DAD.)


So back to 2012. Had a boiled egg, broke out, fuck boiled eggs forever.

But then I started having other reactions. And here they are for your reading pleasure. By the way, what are you doing today you have time to read this whole thing? Well God bless you.

Meals that have caused hives since 2012. The trick is there is no way to know for sure what set it off.

  • Single hard boiled Egg. White shell. Home.
  • Le Peep: Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast
  • Corner Bakery: Chicken Pomodori panini (suspect mayo)
  • Panera: Frontega chicken panini (suspect mayo again)
  • P.F. Changs: Pan fried shrimp dumplings (sesame oil?)
  • Cassano's: Cheese Pizza (wheat? Tomato paste? cheese?)
  • Infinitus Pie: Cheese Pizza
  • Amy's Organic Cheese Pizza
  • Random pizza shop in London
  • Whole foods uncured beef hot dog (organic), hostess white bun (wheat? celery salt?)
  • Auntie Chun's teriyaki chicken noodle bowl
  • Chik-Fil-A chicken nuggets, waffle fries
  • Qdoba cheese and chicken quesadilla

So from this list we have added sesame, celery, mayo, eggs (at restaurants) to the list of foods to avoid.

Which brings us to today. There are some common ingredients in the list above: wheat, eggs, and chicken.

So today I am taking a oral food challenge. A skin prick test revealed that I am, indeed, allergic to wheat. But to what extent? Is that what is causing the hives? And why - in most cases - have I been able to eat these foods in the past but not now? And why - in some cases - can I eat a food one week and have a reaction with the same exact food the next week? Why can I eat scrambled eggs every morning and not have a reaction? Why can I eat chicken at home (usually organic of course) but not out at a restaurant?  I can have toast or a grilled cheese sandwich at home. It's a stupid puzzle.

One cause could be exertion. In many cases I have a reaction after I have done a lot of walking.

I could also "just have hives" (idiopathic hives). Fortunately there is a drug called Xolair that might help.

But first things first... I'm at National Jewish Hospital and I am going to start by ingesting tiny doses of wheat.

(read the next chapter here)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

MEIS Study Abroad 20-22 May

Zachary and Kira
Our family arrived in England on May 14. We headed to Woodbridge right away so that we could all get situated at my in-laws' lovely home. The kids could get used to being with their Nana and Granddad while I prepared for the Maymester course.

This also gave me a chance to adjust to jet lag. I need energy to keep up with the students!

We took the kids to the neighborhood park, where some really nice locals commented on my children's lovely "American accents".

I headed off to London to meet our tour guide, Drew Young, and get acquainted with the hotel. The students were all on different flights, so I anxiously awaited everyone's arrival. Once we got settled in, we went out for food and a brisk walk. The following day we were bound for Liverpool!

Study Abroad students
We departed from Euston station and took the approximately 2 hour journey from London, arriving mid-day, and checked in to our hotel which is right across from the main train terminal in Liverpool.  We stored our luggage and set off to pick up our conference registration.

Along the way, we found a newly revitalized shopping district. This area shows how much Liverpool has grown from the rather depressed, industrial town it was the last time I visited in 1998. It now appears to be thriving, although I wonder about the effects of gentrification.  At any rate, it was good for the students to see where they could shop and find ATMs, all walking distance from the hotel.

The Liverpool Sound City conference is a four-day festival consisting of concerts and workshops for music industry students and professionals. The sessions were held in dark rooms with blue lights - not exactly great for recovering from jet lag. As a technology professional, I would have liked to see more technical demonstrations, but as an artist I did find the talks about surviving in today's music industry to be enlightening. Perhaps I will offer to present a "DIY recording" talk at next year's conference!

My colleague Stan Soocher is joining me to teach a section on music business; unfortunately we missed his moderation of the panel which discussed the "Blurred Lines" case and its impact copyright. He did tell me afterwards that there is an appeal in the works.

I visited sessions on artist income and social media strategies with an impressive list of panelists, including Nick Calafato from LastFM, Rakhi Sina from Eventbrite, and Ari Stein from Gigmit. The conference also featured "roundtables": group discussions held in a "speed-dating" style where attendees would swap tables with a featured host every 15 minutes.

Leslie with Nick of
From these sessions, I wasn't surprised to discover that some artists make more money busking than on the bar circuit. People will pay for a (unique) experience, but not recorded music. Opportunities exist, however, in the broadcast/netcast area, where artists flock to get airplay/netplay. One example of this is a young woman named Eileen. She is a poet but also has a radio show and musicians constantly approach her for airtime.  Another French student works for a company who grant money to artists from her country gain traction in the UK. Artists have to prove they have a track record and strategy - no mention of their talent and ability.

Nick from last.FM foresees streaming services becoming demographically splintered in the coming years. He posed the question: Will streaming services appeal to certain demographics? Will Tidal, because of its founder (Jay-Z), be oriented towards hip-hop? Globally speaking, Spotify has become "trendy" in France, while CDs are still more popular in some countries.

In the Marketplace area of the conference, Wez Priceless gave (very basic) lessons on how to DJ. Props to this guy for wiping CDs on his shirt and tossing them, very nonchalant and label-side-down, around during the demo. Those were the days.

I visited the table at Liverpool John Moores University and was crestfallen to learn that they had cut the music program - ironically - at the Lennon School of the Arts. How could this happen!

There was also a main stage that featured performances; in particular I liked She Drew the Gun and Steed.

Late on Friday, the festival at Bramley-Moore dock was pleasantly packed and equipped with rides, food vendors, and at least 8 stages. Some massive, some tiny. I saw Everything Everything (highly recommended from student Josh Kern) and a band called Taffy.
Everything :||

The act "dogshow" was bizarre and novel - yet somehow ordinary in terms of sound. Their act was on a self-contained, mobile stage. The lighting guy was on an attached golf cart and very into his job. Complete with fog machine, Korg analog synth mod, at least two Macbooks, drum controllers, cymbals - this was very damn loud and the crowd was very into it.

Altogether, a pretty packed 48 hours here in Liverpool, and still two days to go in the festival. You can be sure I will blog about it.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Comparison of two Atmos theaters in Denver area: Marvel's Avengers (Age of Ultron)

The first theater I went to was the AMC Flatirons 14 theater in Broomfield (near Denver), who presented the film in ETX. They pride themselves on having recliners to sit in, and they are quite nice, but they are also in front of a wall.

The recliners are in front of a wall.  Remember that - I will come back to it later.
Flatirons 14

The film was shown in 3D, which is a hassle for me because I wear glasses. I can get around that by wedging the earpiece between my dreads so they don't keep slipping down.

There was no Atmos trailer, and subsequent conversations with colleagues led me to believe that the film was a 7.1 upmix.  I was seated halfway between the screen and the rear of the theater (#14). I didn't hear any thing much from the side or rear loudspeakers, and I suspect that is mostly because each row of seats has a low wall behind it, and each recliner is below that wall.  So, if you don't want to learn a little about sound diffraction and barrier walls, I don't blame you, but know this: walls tend to block sound. It don't take an Einstein.  As my colleague Fred Johnson said, cinemas care about getting butts in (very comfy) seats and recliners do that better than sound.  Sigh!

But there is another theater near Denver: the Regal Continental, which presented the movie in RPX (also in 3D). You can read a thread comparing RPX and ETX, but all I cared about was that it had Atmos.
These guys care about the whole experience. Check out the dramatic entrance!

I met up with Fred's surround sound class. The place was amazingly huge. So, 2/3 of the way back could have been one of 20 seats. I used the sound from the pre-show "First Look" to detect the amount of energy coming from the rear speakers. Because my previous viewing didn't reveal anything, I was more interested in the rear and side channels.  Before the movie began, I counted 8 speakers on the left, 8 right, 8 rear, and 16 in the ceiling (40 total!) Later, we were informed that there are 78 screen channels, (including 5 arrays, 5 mids, and 8 subs.)

A big theater with lots of speakers
Here are some of my notes from the movie (minor spoilers):

  • Reclining is nice but the sound is better when I'm sitting forward a bit.
  • The Atmos trailer ("geodesic"?) was cool, felt good about my positioning when I heard it
  • When Bruce Banner is listening to opera, heard soprano from top speakers
  • Front channels are smeared for me - no localization, probably sitting too far back
  • Immersion is really good
  • When Hawkeye's kids run in, sound is offscreen right, possible a little towards back - hard to localize and that might have been the intention
  • Thor's flight into the sky uses top channels
  • Glass shattering is always heard in the rear channels - not overdone, just predictable
  • When Ultron rises above the city at the end of the movie, mostly top channels are used with some sides and front - textbook "voice of God" technique, lol
  • Destruction of meteor in all channels
  • Overall, nice and loud without distortion.

After the movie, we got a tour from Fred's contact at the theater. He tld us the brand of speakers were SOS and Klipsch (about $50,000 worth of speakers). They use a Doremi (pronounced do-re-mi) server with PCM uncompressed audio. I had to leave before the end of the tour so I will report back with the info I get from Fred.

Conclusion: If you are in Denver and want to see a movie in Atmos, go to the Regal on Hampden and Monaco. It's very kick ass, from the time you walk in with the neon lighting. This place cares about audio - and the seats aren't bad either, they're like "rockers". Just as comfy. I need to go again and see if sitting closer gives me more sense of what those 78 front speakers are doing!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Arrangements of Todd Songs by Leslie G.

I recorded these songs over the course of several years. The earliest seems to be around 1991. I still have my Roland U-20 that I used and this week (July, 2014) I am using the same equipment to recreate the originals. My sequencer back then was a Yamaha QX-5 and I had an Alesis HR-16 drum machine.

I took a lot of care with the mixes through that equipment, which were all done on the devices themselves, including reverb, etc. There was no home version of Pro Tools back then! I did some guitar parts to a Fostex (I think) 8 track reel to reel recorder, which I sold a long time ago.

Last week I had to buy a replacement floppy disk drive ($10.00) just to get all the arrangements loaded back in from my Alesis DataDisk. And yes, I even powered up my Power Mac 9600.  (OS 9.2)

The songs from 1991:
  • Secret Society
  • Mated (incomplete)
  • Take it Home
  • Maybe I Could Change
  • Lost Horizon
  • If I Didn't Try

I never knew what I'd do with these arrangements, but they were a lot of fun to make and sing along with. One thing for sure: trying to recreate a song gives you a ton of appreciation for the craftsmanship, love, talent, genius behind these works. It's a full-time job. It's - pardon the expression - not something that you can just pull out of your ass.

This year, I tried to modernize the sounds using Pro Tools and Reason. I even have Ableton at the ready for "Smoke". However, my setup was not ready for this work: trying to get PT 10 / PT 11 to talk to Abelton and Reason is a total pain in the backside. Also, I was playing with a few new MIDI controllers, opening Max/MSP, etc. If only I had more time!

I did a tribute concert for Todd in 2013 with the amazing faculty in the department where I serve as chair. The individual tracks were recorded to disk. I am going to try to use Pro Tools to eliminate all vocals (maybe keeping backups). The tracks are:
  • International Feel
  • Never Never Land
  • Tic Tic Tic (It wears Off)
  • You Need your Head
  • Rock and Roll Pussy
  • Zen Archer
  • I don't Want to Tie you Down
  • Is it My name
  • Just One Victory
  • Another Life
  • Hello It's Me
  • Can We Still Be Friends
  • If I have to be alone
  • Lost Horizon
  • Only Human
  • Smoke
  • Love is the Answer
I'm trying my best to create tracks that you can sing along with. And it should probably be said that I'm not here to make money, just to share. Which brings me to...

Being really careful about protecting Todd/Utopia's music. I learned a lot in a short amount of time about karaoke, mechanical licenses, fair use, "public performance".  I bought a license for "Secret Society" for $16.00 ($15.00 processing fee, $1.00 for the song.)  But rather than do this for 22 tunes, I think it will be safer and smarter to just share these with the folks going to the retreat and not post them to SoundCloud. 

So there you have it. One day a song shows up in your NewsFeed, but there's a 23-year history to these tunes. Thought you might like to know!