Saturday, June 29, 2013


Last night, I sat down at the table and ate my supper. It’s the first time I’d done that since my mom passed. No wandering about with my food, no sitting in front of the computer or the TV with it.

Old ways and routines come to an end. New ones become established, but it may take some time!

I was a bit surprised to get on the scale a couple days ago and find that I’ve lost around 15 pounds since the beginning of the year — I’m the lightest I’ve been in over twenty years. It’s a good thing I left those old pants hanging in the back of the closet (and basic chinos never go out of style, do they?). More exercise, less of the wrong kind of food. It’s not hard to do, at least for me. I just needed to establish that new routine, find that new way of doing things.

Now, if I could just get myself into a decent routine of writing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waste Not, a poem

Waste Not

Waste not, want not, they say
or somebody said. Not anyone
in my family — cliches
were not their thing. It’s good
enough advise, I’m sure,
and so I find myself
at the sink peeling labels
from jelly jars. I will use
them for something, someday,
congratulating myself
for wasting nothing but time.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Aspire to Record

I purchased an inexpensive laptop a few months back — my first one ever — in anticipation of needing something with which to travel and, perhaps, record. Or just to hole up with in my bedroom, come cold weather (I don’t bother to heat over half the house during winter). It’s a nice enough little computer, an Acer Aspire V5-571. I’ve been using it to work up midi or Band-in-a-Box arrangements for my music but...

My USB interfaces would not play nicely with it — any attempts at recording audio resulted in all sorts of noisiness. Just unusable for recording, unless I wanted to use the cheesy built-in microphone. I tried every possible solution I knew or could find on the internet, with no success.

What I did find on the internet was that this was a pretty common problem and probably due to components packed too close together in there. It was picking up noise from something internally. Using a hub was one possible solution but it didn’t work.

Well, it didn’t work until I finally invested in a powered hub. Note that the interfaces had their own external power so it wasn’t a question of supplying juice to them. None the less, the powered hub seems to provide a filter (for want of a better word) and I no longer have a noise problem. Not that I would necessarily use the Aspire for a lot of recording. I do prefer my stand-alone recorders for the sort of mobile work I used to do and would continue to use them for such.

What interfaces do I use, you ask? I’ve mostly been playing about with a small Behringer mixer (the Zenyx Q802) with a stereo USB output. This is about the least expensive recording interface I would recommend. Being in a mixer format does make it more versatile. And there’s nothing wrong with being cheap if it gets the job done.

The same goes for other equipment, of course. One doesn’t need a Neumann U87 to record vocals! I’ve mentioned and recommended the MXL V67G before; it’s in the 67/87 ‘family’ (if not exactly in their ‘league’!), in terms of its sound, but goes for around a hundred dollars typically. It is the least expensive condenser I would feel comfortable endorsing as a vocal mike. Definitely a step above the cheap Chinese microphones that flooded the market a while back and were notable mostly for their harsh, hyped upper-frequency response.

I would add that, at that price point (and up to three hundred dollars or so), a dynamic mike is often a better choice. For the same money as the MXL one can buy the ubiquitous Shure SM58 — and that’s always a good investment.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Fox

I posted this video -- I think -- a few years back when it was on Mean Mary's YouTube channel. It's been quite a while since it was up there, so I ripped this segment from the DVD copy I had (it's from her TV show, 'Cafe Americana,' which has since been renamed, I believe) and put it up at my own channel.

Anyway, it's me singing 'The Fox' on a windy day down at Panama City Beach (at the St Andrews State Park --- good place to surf). Why did I bother? Because it is one of the songs (rerecorded, of course) that I plan to include on the EP of children's songs. And because I thought I should know how to do something like this. And because I felt like it!

Job, a lyric


verse 1:
A Motel Six somewhere in Michigan,
snow is pressing deep outside;
traveled here through winter dark,
one more weary Greyhound ride.
Heard that there might be a job,
Heard there might be a reason to go;
Yes, I heard the factory might reopen
but the last word that I heard was no.

pre-chorus 1:
And there’s not much work to be found
ever since the economy slowed;
is this only another stop
on my never ending road?

They say they’ll hire again, tomorrow,
the plants will open again, tomorrow,
if the banks just let us borrow,
but all we seem to do is borrow
against our future,
against our future,
against tomorrow.

verse 2:
A motel room I can’t afford,
just enough left to pay my fare;
came to work but I’m headed back home —
might as well be headed nowhere.

And the only ones back there making money
are on the streets selling dope;
you know they aren’t all that much different
from the politicians selling hope.

pre-chorus 2:
No, there’s not much work around
ever since the economy slowed,
and this is just another stop
on my never ending road.

repeat chorus

Stephen Brooke ©2013

That's job as in 'employment,' but maybe it should be Job as in the Old Testament?  :) A song lyric, rough-ish still -- there's always stuff that can be changed, you know -- and with the music more-or-less written. As is typical for me, I wrote some of the words, then the music came, and then I finished the words. Now for a bit of polishing...or maybe just stick it in a folder and forget about it for a while.

I rarely write topical songs, but this one forced itself on me. The impetus came from a few lines my niece (the talented Mean Mary James) spoke in an interview about being on tour (the Motel Six bit) and I just had to use the idea. Somehow it went from a concept about a touring musician to a guy looking for work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

He Scores!

That is, he scores music. I've been playing around with learning to use my neglected scoring programs and getting some of my work formatted. I've had a copy of Finale Print Music on my old PC for some time but I don't feel like working with what is, essentially, a crippled form of Finale.

Not when there are open source alternatives out there. They may not be as full-featured as the top versions of Sibelius or Finale but they are quite adequate. The main two choices are Denemo and MuseScore. I am using the latter for now.

Denemo is almost certainly 'better' in terms of what it can do to create a good-looking piece of sheet music. It's not very user-friendly, however, being essentially a graphic front end for the musical type-setting program, LilyPond. LP will do great work on its own, if one is willing to learn its HTML-like language. Maybe I will have the time to fuss with Denemo later on.

In the mean time, I've figured out most of what I need to make MuseScore work for me. I've put up a PDF at my site of an old piano piece, if anyone cares. That's at: I'll do more eventually. Maybe.

Well, speaking of neglected work and websites, I really need to update mine. Another thing to get into, especially the writing/publishing oriented part.

And speaking of that, I'll mention here that I have semi-abandoned GoodReads since its take-over by Amazon. Oh, I'm maintaining my author page and may occasionally review new work (I may also set up a separate review site/blog), but I'm not going to participate much otherwise. I've an account now at LibraryThing, which remains somewhat independent. Yes, Bowker has a hand in it but that doesn't bother me. How much I take part there, I don't know yet, but I will at least get my books up on my own author page.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Afloat, a poem


     Others swim laps in the pool of self-pity
until they can no longer find any reason
to stay above water, remain afloat, live.

     Yet I continue this, my narrative;
denying pain, ever I seek to be witty.
I watch, I survive: for a day, for a season.

     Each word I write may be read as fresh treason,
or spurned as no more than a meaningless ditty;
tomorrow was not mine to take nor to give.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

A bit of poem 'in form' -- trimeter in this case. Nothing very deep here (even if it may pretend to be); it's more an exercise in meter and odd rhyme schemes.

My, trying to get those indents to work played havoc with my formatting. I think it's acceptable now... 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Deconstructed Piano, a poem

Deconstructed Piano

The deconstructed piano plays every song
written. Its strings have been removed.
They coil in their boxes, waiting to strike.

I can sit and count the blacks and the whites
and know they are not enough. Sometimes
and some things will always come.

Or else they were always here. What melody
might I concoct if I knew the reason
a piano is? Would you listen?

Cherry wood leans against the wall, waiting
for itself. It knew every song written,
once. It will sing them to the fire.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

So, proof that I'm still here. I'm practically starting over on this house and property, after having so many things on hold for so long. Keeping busy! And probably not doing much, if any, traveling until it starts to cool down a bit in the fall.