adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ON HOLD

Life, that is. I was unable to get away (to the Fla Folk Fest nor anywhere else) over the weekend. It looks like things are going to remain this way for a while -- being a caregiver for my mom has become a 24/7 job and finding someone to relieve me for a day or two would be rather difficult. I did consider taking her with me on Sunday but it was a longish trip, rainy, the park at White Springs is large and takes a bit of getting around and there are even concerns about the flu right now. I'm not even sure I would feel right leaving her alone for the minute or three it would take to visit the rest room.

So, I missed seeing the Mean niece and everyone else. I hear it went well enough despite the rains. Being stuck at home, I used the time to put up the ceiling grid in the music room. Tiles next, when I have the time and money to get some.

Btw, Mary's older sister, April, just qualified for the Boston Marathon. Different skill set but talented in her own way.

Monday, May 18, 2009

FOR YEARS, the song 'Swagger Lee' (aka Stack O'Lee, Stag O'Lee, Stagger Lee, etc, etc!) has been a part of my repertoire. Y'all know the story, SL kills Billy Lyons over a gambling disagreement...at least in most versions. Anyway, there was yet another discussion of the song and its origins over at Mudcat last week and I decided to try my hand at writing up a set of lyrics that more or less told the actual story. With, of course, a paid-up poetic license. So here's the result; almost certainly subject to revision.

STACKER LEE

On Morgan Street, Saint Louis,
The roughest part of town,
Billy Lyons met Stacker Lee
And Stacker shot him down.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Though he knew he wasn't welcome,
Billy walked into Curtiss's saloon,
He was looking for trouble,
And trouble showed up soon.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy was drinking at the bar,
As bold as he could be,
When he saw that pimp Lee Sheldon,
Everyone knew as Stacker Lee.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy Lyons was a Republican,
Stacker Lee was a Democrat;
The two of them started to squabble
And Stacker knocked off Billy's hat.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

You busted up my derby,
I want six bits from you;
I'm gonna get satisfaction
If it's the last thing I ever do.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Yes he wanted satisfaction,
That's what Billy Lyons said;
Then he went and grabbed Stacker's Stetson,
Snatched it right from his head.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Now give me back my Stetson,
And we'll say it's all in fun;
But if you don't I'll kill you,
Stacker growled and pulled his gun.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

One hand held that Stetson,
And one hand held his knife;
If you want your goddamn hat
You'll have to take my life.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee shot Billy,
Shot him with his forty-four;
Picked up his Stetson hat
And walked right out the door.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee killed Billy Lyons
On account of a five dollar hat;
The twelve men of the jury
Said you can't get away with that.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

They locked up Stacker Lee Sheldon,
And he should have learned his lesson --
You can't go ending your quarrels
With a Smith and Wesson.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Soon as he was a free man
Stacker got in trouble again,
And ended his life behind bars,
A prisoner in the state pen.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

another Peanut Road post moved over here (with a few new comments):

ANOTHER MICROPHONE
(originally post November 15, 2007...so it's not so new now)

Yes, indeed, I've ordered yet another shiny new microphone for the studio. Hey, I did wait for a good deal! More importantly, it filled a hole in my 'mike cabinet.' I've been thinking about getting this one -- or something along the same lines -- for quite some time.

Okay, the microphone -- it is an SE Electronics SE2a small diaphragm condenser (one of those 'pencil' shaped mikes) with three interchangeable capsules: omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid. The thing is, I've already had one of these microphones for a couple years and always knew I should have a pair. They fill a niche between the cheapo Cad GXL1200s (which aren't bad for essentially generic Chinese mikes) and my quite nice Audio-Technica AT4049a pair (my go-to pair for choirs). The ATs are omnis -- I could get cardioid or hyper capsules for them (and might someday) but they would be costly.

I'm hoping this pair of SEs will be the middle-range workhorses for me. They sound fine, not high-end, but more than adequate, and with the range of capsules available they should prove versatile. I'm hoping to use the pair for my next big concert recording (Tuskegee, Dec 2, Christmas Concert in the University Chapel). (And I did use them in hypercardioid form, as I was forced to set up way up in the balcony...the results were acceptable but not much more.) The ATs just pick up too much of the audience noise with their omni pattern, as I discovered last year! (always a very loud crowd there)

I know this mike is useful for miking acoustic guitars and such. It should be a decent drum 'overhead' as well. Anyway, this addition pretty much fills out my small condenser needs for the foreseeable future. The next purchase should be something completely different.

Monday, May 11, 2009

PVM, RIP

Something had to give. Between being a 24/7 caregiver for my mother and several more pressing projects, there was no longer the time (nor funds) for continuing to publish Peripheral Vision Magazine. It is therefore on — at the least — long term hiatus.

But probably gone forever. I’ve given up the domain name; if I should find the time and desire to attempt a magazine again someday, it may well differ in title and purpose. I thank all who read or submitted work; I’ll keep the first two issues available on my site for download.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

BERRIES

Today's work can be
tomorrow's work
but blackberries ripen
only once.

I know roads,
dappled dirt roads
through the pines;
bring a pail

and we will find
the sweetest berries,
the blackest berries,
in thorny shadow.

One for the bucket,
one for the mouth;
the taste is worth
a scratch or two.

Come with me;
it is May
and blackberries ripen
only once.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

gotta watch out for them chiggers, though...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

another repost from Peanut Road, with a few added comments:

16/44.1
(originally posted Oct 29, 2007)

For those who don't know, 16/44.1 is the 'standard' for recorded sound, as it comes on CDs. The 16 being the bit depth, the 44.1 being the sample rate -- and although I'm somewhat knowledgeable, I'm not exactly qualified to explain all the ramifications and nuances of this subject. However, in rather simplistic terms, it could be said that the bit depth impacts the dynamic range (i.e. from quiet to loud) and the sample rate effects the frequency range (i.e. how high can you go?). Oh, the subject is far more complicated than that, of course, but for recording, that is probably (well, perhaps...) all one really needs to know. If one even needs to know that -- good recordings have a lot more to do with ones ears than ones equipment.

Now, 44.1 is more than high enough to reproduce anything human ears can hear (i.e. up to around 22 kHz), yet many engineers feel the need to go to higher sampling rates. Many of the reasons given are quite unscientific and won't hold up at all; the main one is that it simply 'sounds better.' And maybe it does or maybe it's in their imaginations. The fact is, one digital converter that puts out, say, 96, may simply be better designed than another that outputs 44.1; it's just not a valid comparison. Even the same converter may be better at one setting than another.

The one valid argument (at least for me) is that cutting off at 44.1 (or even 48, which is the video standard) doesn't leave enough room for a clean roll-off at the top. There may be distortion in the higher frequencies. I'm sure I stated that poorly and quite unscientifically! But I do understand there are filters involved that can impact the audible sound. I also understand that with most decent present-day converters, this is not much of a problem. There is no reason not to use a higher rate, of course, other than the fact that it takes up extra storage space. Quite a bit more storage space!

And then there is the 16 bit thing...okay, 16 is quite acceptable, but the majority now probably uses 24 (18 and 20 fell by the roadside sometime back, though they would seem good compromises). As far as I can see, the only real advantage of using the higher setting is that it can result in a lower noise floor, i.e. quieter backgrounds. Good in theory but in practice, mostly unnoticeable. However, there is a nice side effect of using 24, and that is that one can record at lower levels and have less chance of overloading something, creating distortion -- digital distortion is truly nasty and irreparable, unlike the smooth distortion we came to know and love on analog tape.

So, what does Steve use? Well, my two Fostex recorders only record at 16/44.1, so I use that quite a bit. They do it well and I have no problems at all with the results. And, after all, that's what's going to go on to a CD in the end...or it may even end up as a low quality mp3. The Alesis Masterlink, though, will go higher. I have used it at 16/44.1 but I also have no objections to field recording at 24/48, just for a little safety margin.

I'd be unlikely to go higher in the studio, using the computer. It's faster and easier to avoid 88.2, 96, or even (God forbid) 192. Plus, my system now is somewhat set up around ADAT connections which are 24/48 at their highest. And I'm happy with it!

(Btw, if your converter does both 48 and 44.1, there is a good chance that it is working at 48 and dithering it down to the 44.1 standard for output -- I consider this a modestly strong argument for keeping it at 48 until final mixdown.)

Friday, May 08, 2009

I am moving some of the posts at my Peanut Road blog here, in anticipation of shutting it down. The recording and so on is as much a part of my life as the stuff I usually put here, so why not have it all together? The original idea was just to use PR for PR anyway, i.e to make announcements, and I can do that here and/or at the website. So here's the first of 'em (with a few updated comments added).

CHEAP JUNK part 1
originally posted Aug 31, 2007 at Peanut Road

Hobbyist musicians and recordists (and a fair number of pros, as well) love to vilify Behringer equipment, even as they buy it. If any brand is more deserving of the 'cheap junk' label, I don't know what it might be! (well, maybe Nady, huh?)

Actually, most of the stuff from Behringer sounds pretty decent; this is largely due to the fact that most of the stuff from Behringer is cheap knockoff versions of other, better brands. The main rap against the company is the shoddy components and workmanship -- it just isn't very dependable. (this may have improved some since they moved into their own new factory in China two years ago and are not outsourcing as much)

Now I must admit that I've had no problem with any Behry equipment I've bought. And I have bought a couple items; the prices are just irresistible at times. I have one of their Autocom compressors here that I've owned for almost ten years (over ten now) and it still works fine. Sounds reasonably nice too. It was my main 'studio' compression unit until I went digital and started using plug-ins, i.e. software. To be honest, I don't think any of them have quite the character of a 'real' analog compressor, even a cheap Behringer, but then I'm mostly doing music that doesn't need character added -- acoustic and classical.

Anyway, this Autocom has held up just fine and is still part of my 'live' rack even if I don't record through it these days (nor perform live, much...alas). I also have owned one of the company's little portable mixers for four years or so and it's still in service as well, mostly for routing speakers and headphones and such though I occasionally might take it out for live use, providing a few extra inputs to my PA system (an ancient Crate). I'll also admit that I have recorded through its preamps now and then. They sound okay, clean, reasonably accurate if a tad 'thin.' Could use more gain but what do you expect from Cheap Junk, anyway?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

CATS at Peanut Road

Pi and Bones guard my chair.


Pi R. Round aka Kitty Pi...or should the name be Rorschach?

LIFE IN FLORIDA


Monday, May 04, 2009

I've decided to cut back my number of blogs (my time and presence on line has been reduced some lately anyway), so I'm transferring a few posts from my Metanoist blog here and deleting it. Just some quotes that had caught my fancy. I may cut the Peanut Road blog as well...will see.

It is impossible to experience Deja Vu for the first time ~Les Barker

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ~ Scott Adams

By far the greatest thing is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others. It is a sign of genius, for a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of similarity among dissimilars. ~Aristotle

There's no such thing as a realistic actor since it's all make believe. ~Bruce Campbell

"You take art as a means not as an end. This is a strict theology, but it's unusual to find an agnostic believing it." ~from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh