Project Squawk Begins

My work as a recordist on Saturday evening and Sunday morning (part of the Founders’ Day festivities) has inspired me to attempt to learn a little more about the voodoo magic that can be accomplished in a home stuido with one of these little fellas.   KORG D16 Digital Recording StudioOne of my co-workers is married to a fellow who also likes to mess around a wee bit from time to time with bleeps, blorps and squawks. A few years ago, when I was still a footloose and fancy-free bachelor with nothing better to spend my hard-earned dough on, he sold me one of these second hand.  I had quite a bit of fun fooling about with it;  I demo’ed one or two songs I had written that were to be recorded by the band (back in the days when it seemed like my bandmates were still interested in that sort of thing), and I did another couple of little parody songs (à la Weird Al) in honour of certain special occasions at work(a mentor’s fiftieth birthday, a colleague leaving for a new and better job, etc.).  I have now purchased the KORG D16 (pictured at right) from the same fellow;  I gather from the emails we’ve traded back and forth on the subject that he just hasn’t been using the equipment in the last year or two.

You may recall that I am the Reigning Monarch of Project Commencement;  finding myself with a new piece of equipment and an insufficient number of distractions (this blog, computers, digital photography, doing stunts on yard machinery*), I have resolved to learn how to become more technically proficient at engineering, mixing and producing audio recordings.

The first tentative (and admittedly very decidedly non-technical) step towards that goal was taken last evening;  I waded in to the storage area of our house (a small storage locker sized room behind the garage that permits us to store our accumulated curiosities and whatsits in a non-subterranean manner, unlike those of you with basements) and began searching for my DigiTech Studio Quad 4, a multi-effects processor that offers some cool fully programmable tools and effects like compression, reverb, a rotary speaker simulator and others.  Three hours – and a very large pile of discarded packing material – later, I managed to excavate the storage unit to the point where this particular relic could be recovered (as thrilling as this process sounds, I do not believe I will be anxious to add “storage unit archaeology” to the list of things at which I am a dilettante).

What a surprise I got when I opened up the little box into which I had secreted this most useful little gizmo.  Sitting there on top of it was a piece of equipment that I had forgotten I purchased – a Behringer MDX 1400 Compressor (pictured below with the DigiTech Studio Quad 4).   I had to sit and think for a second about how and when I acquired this thing.  digitech and behringer After a few minutes’ careful reflection, I recalled that the very weekend of my first real “date” with Spouse, I had been hanging out at Long & McQuade in Burlington;  I had, the very Saturday of our first date, purchased a companion to the Apex 460 Large Diaphragm Condensor Microphone I already owned.  All the better to record a stereo mix in  a spaced pair configuration.  While heading to the counter to plop the cash down for the second Apex 460, I passed a stack of the MDX 1400’s:  Messrs. Long & McQuade were having a sale.  The MDX 1400 was (and still is, unless its undergone a radical transformation while in storage) a stereo compressor – i.e. it is capable of processing two separate signals at once, typically one from a left channel microphone and one from the right.  As I was imminently about to become the owner of a matched pair of recording microphones, and the device needed to further enhance and beautify the signals they would be sending down the signal chain was sitting right there in front of me at a reduced price, I recall the spatial, economic and technical symmetry of it all being a little too much to resist.     I may have blacked out for a moment;  perhaps it was non-insane automatism, I don’t know.  All I can tell you is that, despite the fact that 460 #2 had very clearly taken my little studio well over its prepared budget for equipment capital expenditures in that fiscal quarter, I ended up standing at the cash checkout with a box containing the device tucked comfortingly beneath one arm, while the other arm extended a hand bearing a credit card groaning under excess strain.

A few minutes later, I was standing outside in the Saturday afternoon sun waiting for a taxi.  I was warm and somewhat euphoric from the spasm of gear acquisition.  The telephone rang and it was Spouse, inviting me to a barbecue at her place, an event which marked the beginning of our courtship.   The 460’s and the MDX 1400 did get unpackaged, set up and taken for a trial run or two – once or twice over the next couple of weeks.  They mostly stood idle, though, while Spouse and I negotiated the beginning of our path together.  When I moved in with her, they were packed into boxes and stored in the basement, as our little house in the City was far too compact to accomodate any home recording projects, as these have a habit of generating a considerable mass of wires, cables and cords, the various ends of which are distributed with entropic inevitability towards walls (and their power receptacles), cabinets and desks (on which effects, recorders and control gizmos stand flashing with input and output ports waiting for precious signal path) and a metallic forest of instruments, microphones and their stands.

Some months and years have passed now, and Spouse and I are happily settled together.  I always knew that I would come back to recording music;  that’s one of the reasons we were determined to end up in a rural area (all the more difficult to annoy neighbours in the course of the creative process).  It is time to set up this gear (in Mission Control at least initially) and see – or perhaps more properly, hear – what can be done with it.

I am going to attempt to incorporate two of my interests in this way:  as I explore the technical issues and experiment with the gear, I am going to attempt to document my results here.  I find that I learn things better when I am forced to sit down and concretize my thoughts about such things;  by summarizing and describing my efforts, I hope to reinforce the technical knowledge I gain.


* attentive readers will note that I did NOT mention either my “lawn mower video” or the account of July’s fishing shenanigans, both of which are still in the mysterious project queue of my mind and both of which would quite obviously qualify as Part of the Kingdom of Inchoate Projects;  each of these undertakings bears some thematic relation to the more generalized list of  “Time Sucking Things I Piffle About At”, so I thought I’d try to keep the list – and the sentence – somewhat shorter.  You know, quibbling about such things might itself qualify as a time-wasting obsession – maybe you attentive readers share a bloodline with the Monarch.

I Wish the Maneater Were Slightly More Successful

I have been away from the blogging for a while. It matters not what lame excuse I might offer. According to WordPress’ little numbering system, this is post number 200, so maybe I just had a little mental block about the double century. Whatever.

The important point is that I have received a clear and unambiguous signal from my psyche and/or whatever Supernatural Overlord of the Universe you happen to believe in that it is important for me to blog. Specifically, I dreamed that Daryl Hall competed on, and won American Idol. I won’t bore you with all the weird and wacky dream logic details; suffice to say that, in my dream, there was this somewhat (ahem) more “mature-looking” dude with long blond hair and a gawdawful black trenchcoat* entered in American Idol. It was Daryl Hall. I knew it was Daryl Hall. It was obvious it was Daryl Hall. But nobody else seemed to notice that it was Daryl freakin’ Hall.

Now I need to be clear about something at this juncture. The old saw goes something like this: “there’s no accounting for taste.” I respect your right to have your own opinion about the degree to which certain forms of art successfully aspire towards the Platonic ideals of beauty. I accept that there is an element of individuality necessarily inherent in any artistic transaction; the viewer or listener brings his or her own baggage, understanding and preconceptions into the mix, necessarily imbuing the piece under consideration with a unique and highly specific meaning, leading to a potentially wide diversity of opinion concerning what is – and is not – “beautiful.” Thus, while you may, for example, quite firmly believe that Nickelback’s latest composition represents nothing less than the sound of angels exulting on earth, while I may quite reasonably believe that it is more representative, aurally, of a pack of mangy feral cats warring over garbage. Importantly, it is possible – according to the above-described paradigm – for us both to be “right.”

As a theorem, this highly inclusive, tolerant and respectful model is rather like the Newtownian system of physics: it satisfactorily describes and predicts the behaviour of the universe, but only within certain limitations. It breaks down entirely though, so far as I am concerned, with the likes of Daryl freakin’ Hall. Daryl Hall is where everything goes quantum. Limitations of space prevent me from elaborating herein upon the theory of art that is analogous to Einstein’s conception of the universe. Suffice to say that there is another such more comprehensive and complicated model, and suffice to say that this theory is able to much more objectively describe the reality of a given piece of art. Please understand, therefore, that the following statement is not just my opinion, it is an inescapable scientific conclusion: “Daryl Hall is to Philly Soul what Kenny G is to jazz.” You would be correct to conclude that I do not like the music of Daryl Hall; this is so not because my tastes differ – reasonably – from yours, but rather because it is an incontrovertible fact that Mr. Hall’s “music” is horrible shite. If you disagree with me on this point, there is simply no other way to put it: you are wrong.

Keeping these background contextual facts in mind, I am sure you can understand my dream-self’s consternation about the (apparently undetected) presence of Daryl Hall on American Idol. America wasn’t sending him home! Each week, he warbled some pap-crap blue-eyed soul abomination and – far from being pelted with the appropriate amount of vegetable material and broken glass – the American public was eating it up. Hall’s fans could be seen celebrating every such performance with Beatlesque sign-wavery and adulation. Week after week, they encouraged him to continue murdering the very notion of music by voting for him in droves. It was obvious to me that the public was deceived; they obviously didn’t recognize the blond contestant “Daryl” for what he was: a malevolent musical assassin with a proven record of musical crimes, bent on destroying joy and making Santa Claus cry with his execrable caterwauling. In my dream, I tried to warn the public: like any good Canadian, I wrote letters to the editor. I rented a billboard by the highway with a two-storey warning message. I made videos to be posted on YouTube, I went on network television and I even took out an ad in the newspaper trying to spread the word about the villainous Hall and his malevolent musical designs.

But I didn’t blog about it.

In my dream, Daryl Hall won American Idol, and – as a result – he started doing something so frightening and fantastical, I was both certain and highly relieved that I was in the middle of a dream. He started recording and selling his “music”. Thank God that’s not likely to happen for real anytime soon.

I awoke with a start, breathing heavily and sweating profusely from my nightmare. It was obvious to me that something, somewhere was trying to warn me to pay more attention to this blog, lest horribly unthinkable consequences be visited upon the entire earth. So here I am, tippy-tapping away again, telling you about it.

For the love of Pete, if Daryl Hall goes on American Idol – don’t vote for him.


*I have this recollection of a Daryl Hall music video in which the criminal Hall appears in a long, black trench coat, gyrating awkwardly and emoting away with clenched fists as he lip-synched to his latest piece of inveterate garbage. This particular composition, I believe, was one in which the equally egregious Oates was not complicit. I have spent more time this evening than I care to admit (to either you OR myself) pawing through the video evidence of Mr. Hall’s detritus on YouTube, but I haven’t been able to confirm my very vivid horrific recollection. It is a process that is complicated by the fact that I can’t remember the name of the song in question. Is anybody able to help me solve the mystery?

Warchild, live at Leeds

warchild logoI learned about this project, a bloggers’ book to benefit Warchild from Mike. Quite apart from the fact that I think “Warchild” sounds like an excellent name for a heavy metal band from Ohio (reason enough to participate if you ask me), the actual real purpose of the charity sounds like an excellent idea. Accordingly, I have submitted this to be considered for inclusion in the book. I am advised that the rules for submissions are as follows:

  • You must be a blogger with a live blog
  • It must be about something you’ve been through, amusing or serious or any style you like.
  • You can submit in your blogname and remain anonymous, or not, up to you.
  • It can’t be something previously published outside the blogworld, but anything from your blog, or something entirely new, is fine.
  • Try to keep below 1500 words.
  • You must pimp the book on your site and buy it if you make a submission to be in it!
  • Please LINK BACK TO THIS POST to spread the word!
  • NEW DEADLINE IS 9th MARCH 2008 for submissions.
  • Send your submissions to

Done and done.