Aug 19 2013

A Good Day (A brief allegorical story about the pleasures of smoking)

Published by under Prose

A Good Day

by Sander Roscoe Wolff

The alarm blared painfully as the sun cut through the window shutters and sliced into my eyelids. The sun always managed to do that. I rolled over and blindly reached for my pack of Marlboros that I always leave on my night table, next to the overflowing ash tray. A warm feeling flowed through me as my hand closed around it. With my eyes still closed, I popped the flip-top, expecting the sweet scent of tobacco to waft up toward my waiting nose.

Nothing.

I slid my fingers inside the pack and felt around.

Nothing.

My heart was racing now, beating madly inside my chest. I was out of cigarettes! I felt beads of sweat pop out of my forehead as the implications of this discovery slammed into my fevered brain. No cigarettes before opening my eyes. Fresh air in my lungs first thing in the morning instead of warm smoke gently stoking my body into consciousness. Shower, breakfast, driving to work without a cigarette. My mind raced. I had a half hour to shower, dress, eat and drive to work. I could brush my teeth and use extra deodorant, skip the shower and food, stop at the 7-11 on the way to work and still have time to knock in a couple of nails before I walked through the door. I raced through my obligatory tasks and jumped into my pick-up truck, turned the key and nothing. No click. No roar of pistons.

Nothing.

I jumped out and ran to the back of my house, opened the garage and jumped onto my Sears Free Spirit 10 speed bike. This was ok. I took the shortcut onto Atherton and, as I was approaching the driveway into the Arco station on Bellflower, a Fiat cut me off and I went slamming into it. I had the strange sensation of time slowing down as I flew through the air. I could see the exact spot where my head would smack against the asphalt.

I lay there, bleeding and delirious, with endorphins numbing the pain when an old man leaned over me, asking if I was injured. My lips worked, trying to form the words, but no sound came out. He put his ear against my lips and I managed to gasp “Cigarette!” He smiled knowingly, pulled out a pack of Marlboro flip-tops and took one out. He lit it and held it to my lips as I inhaled deeply. I knew then that it was going to be a good day.

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Aug 19 2013

The Poet (A parable)

Published by under Prose

The Poet

by Sander Roscoe Wolff

Once upon a time there was a young woman who didn’t know what to do with herself. She tried many things to pass the time, but nothing seemed to hold her interest for very long.

She learned to dance and was quite good, but all that twirling and jumping about seemed rather silly. She found a singing teacher who helped to develop her voice, and she was wonderful. Children, old people and even animals would pause from their daily labors to listen to her sing. Singing, though, didn’t interest her because all the songs were old and talked about things she didn’t understand.

Continuing her quest to pass the time, she found a master painter who taught her all the subtleties of his craft, from pencil, pen and ink and water colors to the rich hues of the oils. She learned how to stretch canvas, build frames, even mix her own colors, but after a while she tired of painting fruit and trees, so she abandoned painting.

Then, one autumn, a poet came to her village. She couldn’t say if he was young or old because, although he had a youthful countenance, his face seemed weathered with experience. His eyes were a clear blue and they seemed to catch and reflect the light in strange ways. His light brown hair was streaked blond from the sun, and his well made clothes were just slightly worn. His voice was rich and deep, but with a soft tenderness that made all who heard it draw near. She was especially fascinated by his hands, which, while rough in appearance, were as soft as calf skin.

To further her quest, she asked the poet to teach her his craft. Laughing, he explained that poetry was an art, and like all good art, required a mastery of the basic tools before one could lay claim to the title of Poet. He agreed to teacher the things there were to learn, and she proved herself a most able student. She learned about rhyme in time, the bark and bite caught in consonants, the flowing breeze of easy words, the carefully structured selections of words that become what we know of as meter.

Mastery of these skills proved difficult for the young woman, not because of a weakness in her intellect or vocabulary, but because she had no idea what-so-ever of what she should write about. She wrote “Behold the hare with floppy ears, They’ve served him well these many years.” She knew that it was lousy! One day, during her lesson, she stood up and screamed at the poet, telling him that it was all a waste of time.

He rose, grasped her by the shoulders and gave her a kiss on the mouth. At first she resisted, but only slightly, and then something opened up inside her. It was as if she had been asleep her whole boring life and suddenly woke up! Her arms came up, her slender fingers running through his hair, pulling him closer to her. The kiss went on and on, and as her fingers caressed his face, she could feel him pulling her into him, not against him but into him, into his soul, into his heart. Finally, their lips parted. She could feel her heart pounding, could see the love in his eyes. He pulled back slightly, telling her that she had completed her lesson for the day.

As she made her way home, her heart and mind were filled with wondrous, glorious feelings. The air tasted sweet, the greens and browns of earth and leaf seemed more vibrant and the stirrings of the wind in the trees sounded like a chorus. Her step became lighter and, without warning, she broke into an effortless dance of joy. Suddenly, as her body moved to a secret music, she began to sing. Her voice and dance carried her home.

Over the next few days, her joy turned into anticipation. She thought again and again about the kiss, about the warmth of his moist lips against hers, about the light and look of his eyes, the sensation of being drawn into him. She began to paint that moment, first with small tentative strokes, then with bold ones with bold colors, not striving for realism but for passionate emotion. Days later, when it was finished, it was time for her to return to him for her next lesson.

As she walked the path to his home, she imagined what he would teach her next. She clutched her painting to her breast, picturing his expression when he unwrapped the gift. As she approached the house, she could almost smell his scent of leather and soap. Slowing her pace, her heart beating madly, she finally lay her hand on the door and pushed it open.

Inside, the room was bare. No quills, no bottles of ink, no books bound in leather, no smoking pipe by the chair. Empty. She dropped her painting and ran to the stable. His fine horse was gone too. Her hopes and dreams, her flights of fancy, all shattered.

It was then that she became a poet.

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Dec 10 2012

Nord Micro Modular Patch Demo

I’ve been fascinated by modular synthesis ever since I discovered what it was. Back in the mid 80s I had the good fortune to have nearly unlimited access to a massive Moog 35, two Moog 15 racks, a Moog sequencer, and a keyboard. These massive racks contained discreet purpose built modules that shared a common power source but, other than that, were completely independent of each other. One connected them with a series of 1/4″ audio plugs, sort of like one of those old fashioned telephone switchboards. While you were limited to the modules and patch cords on hand, there was a nearly limitless set of connection possibilities, some of which were never intended by the designers.

Without delving too deeply into synthesis, I’ll explain the four main tools: VCO, VCA, VCF, and Envelope Generator.

A voltage controlled oscillator creates the sound one hears. It usually can create a number of different wave forms, each with a specific and distinctive timbre. The pitch of the tone is controlled by knobs for gross and fine tuning, but can also be controlled by a voltage (+/- 5v, for example). The keyboard connects to the input of the oscillator and sends a specific voltage for each note that is depressed. It is also possible to send the signal of another VCO, or even an Envelope Generator, to the VCO to alter the pitch.

A voltage controlled amplifier is a simple tool to control the amplitude of a sound. As the voltage drops, the loudness decreases, and visa versa. Often, the VCA is modulated with a VCO to create an effect similar to a tremolo on a guitar amplifier. It can also be controlled by the EG.

The voltage controlled filter helps to shape the tone or timbre. It can do this by removing or boosting specific frequencies, or sets of frequencies, from the sound. Because the filter is voltage controlled, the amount of filtering and set of frequencies can be modulated independently, creating, for example, a ‘wah wah’ sound.

The envelope generator was not intended to directly affect the sound created by an oscillator but, rather, to produce a control voltage that can be used to alter the way other modules behave. The typical EG has four controls: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. These relate to how many acoustic instruments produce sounds. For example, if you pluck a violin string, the sound starts immediately. The attack is short, and sharp. If you bow it, though, the sound grows gradually. With a plucked note, there is no sustain, so the sound decays quickly and the string soon is back to rest. With a bowed string, though, the sound can sustain indefinitely and, when you stop bowing, the sound fades out. The EG helps to create these kinds of dynamics artificially, when triggered by pressing a note on the keyboard, or through other means.

One last thing about EG: If you listen carefully to a plucked note, you will notice a few other things. 1st, the pitch goes slightly sharp for just a moment, because the player is pulling on the string. Also, the set of frequencies, the harmonic content or timbre of the sound, changes very quickly, from bright to dull. One can use the EG to control both the VCO and the VCF to simulate these variations, and create amazingly realistic sounds. That, though, has never been my interest.

Clavia is a Swedish company that was at the forefront of Virtual Analog Synthesis. VAS uses computer processing to create models of electronic circuits. Their Modular synths are similar to the massive Moog synth, above, but benefit from having a larger set of modules, and the hardware being about the same size as a paperback book. The modules are laid out and connected on one’s computer, then transferred to the unit for performance. Not only can it be used to create sounds, but also to process or effect sounds, something I intend to explore further in the future.

In preparation for an upcoming performance I spent about a month creating patches from scratch and, in some cases, heavily modifying existing patches. I used a Korg Kaossilator Pro as the primary controller for the Nord Micro Modular. This device sends midi note and controller info to the Nord, much like a keyboard, but instead it uses a touch screen with assignable key and scale settings. Although the number of control signals, via midi, is vast, I chose no more than three for each patch, because that’s how many the Pro can manage easily.

Here are some screen shots of the patches, audio demos for each, and a brief description of the other controls. [Note: The controls are as follows: y=up and down movement on the touch controller; 93=a slider next to the touch screen; 94=a knob above the slider. Each is assignable to a single, or many, parameters in each patch.]

Hear 4-8-16. Control: y=Filter, 93=Bits, 94=OD

Hear Diso Deep Mod. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Phaser Depth, 94=Clip

Hear Diso Harm.

Hear Fat Triangle. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Chorus, 94=A/R

Hear Fat Triangle 2. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Chorus, 94=ModSpeed

Hear Filt Seq. Control: Y=Filter, 93=FReso, 94=Speed

Hear Orbitron. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Bits

Hear Pedal Steel Strum, and a slightly different version. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Speed/A/R, 94=Detune

Hear Space Race. Control: Y=Filter, 93=OD, 94=ModSpeed

Hear Spitty Grit. Control: 93=A/D

Hear Sweepy Time, and a slightly different version. Control: Y=Filter, 93=OD/CH, 94=ModSpeed/FM

Hear VocoLead Control: y=Filter, 93=Octave, 94=Vibrato

You can also hear a rather thoughtlessly constructed demo that features about two thirds of these patches.

Please feel free to ask me any pertinent questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Oct 06 2012

Live at the Health & Fitness Expo – October 5 & 6, 2012

The Arts Council for Long Beach was given a space at the Long Beach Marathon’s Health & Fitness Expo, and they contracted my Toaster Music cohort, Sumako, to curate it. He gathered a talented group of local artists to body-paint lovely bikini-clad models while I performed my unique brand of lap steel & synth based live looping. There was also a muralist working directly behind me. All in all, it was a really enjoyable experience, with everyone working at a high level, and sharing a sense of collective comraderie.

On Friday, I performed for just shy of 5 hours, and on Saturday I performed for 6. It was, ironically, a musical marathon of sorts.

I used two main sound sources: 1) My custom built Indy Rail Lap Steel Guitar, and 2) My beloved Novation Nova Digital Modeling Analog Synth.

The guitar runs through a series of effects: MXR El Grande Bass Fuzz -> Marshall Vibratrem -> Home Brew Electronics Psilocybe Phaser -> Danelectro Surf & Turf Compressor -> Ernie Ball Volume Pedal Jr -> Digital delay. On Saturday, just for variety’s sake, I swapped the El Grande for my cherished ZVex Wooly Mammoth. It was tasty.

The Nova is a great synthesizer, made by a company called Novation in the late 90′s. It is a computer based synth that simulates analog circuitry. It doesn’t have a keyboard, so it was being controlled via MIDI by a Korg Kaossilator Pro. This is a musical instrument in its own right but, in this case, I was using it as a ‘keyboard.’ The Kaossilator Pro can be programmed with both scale and key settings and, when I move my finger across the touch screen horizontally, it sends only those notes to the Nova.

Both instruments go into a GigaDelay, set for 8 seconds, via a Mackie mixer, where I do lots of stereo panning. You can see a photo of the rig, more or less, below.

Anyway, before I blather any further, here are excerpts from both days:

Craniundulant – Part 1

Craniundulant – Part 2

Part one consists of excerpts from Friday’s performance. I selected several complete movements and strung them together. It reflects more accurately what I do.

Part two was created differently. I divided the 6 hour performance into 10 minute segments and, from each segment, took a two minute chunk. These chunks have a 30 second overlap, where they fade into each other. Thus, you get a brief snapshot of the evolving performance without ever hearing a complete movement.

Here’s a crappy photo of my rig:

HFExpoRig

And here’s a photo, taken by Gertrude Erin Grayson IV, who is the talented artist that is painting the mural behind me:

Artist Village - Day 1

Here’s a shot of the Saturday crew:

Here’s a shot of the Friday crew:

Here are other photos, posted on facebook, and a bunch more posted by Sumako.

I must say that everyone really stepped up, and brought their ‘A’ game to the event. Everyone was really kind and supportive, and it was a real joy to be a part of the event. Mad props and kudos to Sumako for pulling this together with very little time. It was great.

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Nov 24 2011

Room Recording: Scott Heustis, Orlando Greenhill, and Me @ Zephyr 11/12/11

Published by under Live

The amazingly talented electric guitarist Scott Heustis embraced a rather odd challenge I tossed his way: To play an entirely acoustic set. He confessed that he’d not even owned an acoustic guitar in 10 years but, shortly after my query, ran out and purchased one. Orlando was hesitant that his upright might not carry well without support, but he left his amplification in the car. I, for some reason, felt inspired to tackle the upright piano that had, according to reports, been recently tuned.

Despite the late hour, and the chill in the air, the room was fairly packed with friends new and old. We stepped off the edge of the cliff, with no rehearsal, discussion, or planning and just played.

I made a room recording which, unfortunately, didn’t capture Scott’s guitar as well as I’d hoped. Still, if you listen you can hear everything.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

After a rather boisterous romp in Part 5, I was overcome by melancholy due to some dear friends experiencing a personal tragedy. This was expressed in Part 6.

Anyway, it was quite a ride, and we were all sweaty at the end.

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Sep 12 2011

Images from June 30th

Published by under Photography

I’ve been an avid photographer since I made my first pin hole camera at the age of 6. I’ve always been attracted to the structure of industrial areas, and especially love how time weathers machines and equipment.

There’s an old oil refinery not far from where I live and, whenever I drive past it, I’d been called to capture it photographically. I’d been wanting to stop and take pictures of it for years. In fact, I’d been telling a fellow photographer in Tennessee about it back in October of last year, and he’d been bugging me ever since to send him some shots.

Well, on Thursday June 30th I met a friend at 8 AM for a bagel and, on my way home, noticed that I had my big lens and camera in my car. On a whim, I decided to stop at the refinery and take some pictures.

Here are some of the images I took that morning:

As I was finishing up, a Long Beach Police officer pulled up, exited his car, and spoke with me. The encounter is well documented in two articles on LBPost.com. The first is titled “Another Resident Detained by Police for Taking Pictures,” and the second, “Police Chief Confirms Detaining Photographers Within Departmental Policy.”

On Monday, September 12th, 2011, I was interviewed by Jay Thomas on his Sirius/XM satellite radio show, channel 104.

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Oct 03 2010

SoundWalk2010 Performance

Published by under Live

I have been curating music performances for art openings at Sipology Village Gallery in Downtown Long Beach for several months. The performances take place in the cafe next to the gallery. Sumako, the art curator, invited me to do this because I have some experience bringing interesting artists to Long Beach, and have worked with him both at the now sadly defunct Koos Art Center, and at the first Experimental Music show I produced at The Puka Bar, which led to the creation of Ain Soph Aur.

October’s art show was scheduled to be a visual retrospective of the past 6 years of SoundWalk, and the event was scheduled for the 2nd Saturday, the 9th of October. Normally, art openings at Sipology Village are on the 2nd Saturday of every month but, because of some logistical challenges, the event was moved to the 1st Saturday, the 2nd. Thus, I moved the planned music for the Gallery opening to the 2nd.

I planned a series of performances, one flowing into the next, with several combinations of artists interacting. I recorded all but one performance, missing that one because my PA wasn’t used for it. So, here’s the line-up, with links to MP3s of each.

The Second State

5:00 – 6:00: Jeremy Morelock + Sander Roscoe Wolff
6:00 – 7:00: Sumako
7:00 – 8:00: Mike Weber + Jeremy Morelock + Sander Roscoe Wolff
8:00 – 9:00: Orlando Greenhill
9:00 – 10:00: Sander Roscoe Wolff

Instrumentation

Sander Roscoe Wolff – Voice, Guitar, Bells, Environmental Recordings, Recorder, Penny Whistle, Bone Samples, Effects
Jeremy Morelock – Midi Guitar, Ethnic Samples, Voice, Lute, Effects
Sumako – Custom Fretless Fernandez Electric Guitar, Kaossolators
Mike Weber – Lap Steel, Delay
Orlando Greenhill – Upright acoustic Bass, Electric Bass, Voice, Antics

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Feb 12 2010

Recent visit to WA

I was traveling recently to the Pacific Northwest, and took a handful of photographs in and around an area I was visiting.

Here they are:

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Sep 14 2009

A Few New Pics (Macro with ring flash)

Published by under Photography

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Aug 29 2009

Podcast Conversation with Larry Bott

Published by under Podcast

For more than a decade, Larry Bott has been a driving force behind the East Village Arts District. Through investments in artist live/work spaces, and the creation of the first cooperative gallery in the district, he helped shape the concept and the reality.

Larry recently announced his resignation as Director of Gallery 117. His departure creates a void that, hopefully, will be filled before the gallery closes it’s doors permenantly.

I met with him at his home in the East Village, and we had a wide-ranging conversation about the history of the Arts District, the gallery, the unique challenges associated with supporting the arts in Long Beach, his own work with wood, and his ideas about what the future holds.

Download Podcast

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