Tag Archives: music

The Zen of Record Playing

I know I’m going to sound like an old fart. So yes, official old fart alert! Read no further if you have zero tolerance for Boomer Nostalgia.

Still here? Awesome! Remember those things called “records”? The ones that they now call “vinyl”. I have been going through a little phase pulling out  the old records, aka “LP”s. By “old” I mean those from the 70s and 80s, before the rise of the CD. (Remember things called “CDs”?)

My record player (what was later called a “turntable”) is in our living room, just a few yards away from the kitchen, which I have been spending more time in lately, learning how to cook some new dishes while my overworked sweetheart slaves away at homework. She will have her masters degree next January–oh happy day break out the champagne high five until the palms bleed perform aerial acrobatics from ceiling mounted light fixtures lounge around in stunned rapture–but I digress.

There is a certain zen to playing a record.

Carefully pull the record out of its jacket by the edges so as not to sully the surface with finger oil (which would create a potential tar pit for dust). Many of my records are preserved in special aftermarket plastic sleeves to further protect them from the inevitable abrasion caused by pulling them out of a paper sleeve.

Then grab the Dishwasher. Pull the bottle of D4 out of its holder and line up a row of drops along the Dishwasher edge (marked by the arrow), then brush the bottom of the bottle along the row of drops to redistribute the fluid evenly across the brush.

Switch the turntable stylus to the raised position and move toward the platter to start the player spinning, then gently place the wet edge of the dishwasher upon the record’s radius, not hard enough to slow the 33 1/3 revolutions-per-minute rotation and ground any dirt into the grooves, but just enough to pick up any surface dirt. Then slowly rotate the brush away from its wet edge to pull the dirt away.

Now position the stylus above the outer edge and lower it.

Hear the low pop of the stylus as it lands, then some slight rumbling as it settles into the groove.

If you have reasonably decent speakers–mine are from Polk Audio–experience how lush the bass sounds, how smooth the midtones are, how creamy the high end is (if it was a well mastered album).

There is nothing hurried about putting on a record. It is a commitment for about 15 to 20 minutes of songs that play in the order that they were intended to be played. Nothing instant. No skipping around. If you absolutely must skip around, you have to take the time to line the stylus up with the gap between songs. If you have a steady hand, like the old DJs did, you can do this feat by hand without mechanically raising, moving, then lowering the stylus. If you don’t have a steady hand, you risk accidentally dropping and dragging the stylus and scratching the record.

With modern technology, you don’t have to commit to a record. You can skip around, rearrange songs, purchase only a few songs (if you pay for them at all). The consumption of songs has become almost trivial. iTunes forever changed the calculus of music consumption and commerce. Spotify has obliterated it.

I find it ironic that the sonic quality of most music consumed today is much less than even the humble old 33 1/3 RPM vinyl LP record. Back when CDs first hit the scene, we were all touting how superior its sound was to LPs. In many cases this was true. But now people don’t even listen much to CD-quality fidelity. The compression of digital music into MP3 (or AAC) format slightly degrades the signal, making it breathe less. The quality erodes further with streaming via services like Rhapsody, Spotify, and Pandora. This is ironic because the demand for video content progresses towards higher levels of resolution.

It’s possible that the quality of music audio fidelity was only the concern of audiophiles and musicians. Yet, a recent study showed that 94% of music listeners feel that sound quality “is crucial”. Go figure!

Ah.. but enough grousing! I’m going to put a record on and cook some dinner. Anybody heard of Gino Vannelli?

 

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Another Project Wrapped Up

Mission accomplished! I have finished off another music project and it feels good. Scott Burnett and I collaborated on a “light instrumental jazz” CD called “A Glass of Summer” and we had our CD Release Party last Saturday. Thank you to all who came out all the way to Duvall to party with us. We had a great time!

I just put the CD up for sale on my website kellycarpentermusic.com. The introductory price per CD for this first batch is $8 (plus shipping). We will have some music downloads available soon and it will be available on iTunes in a couple of weeks. Here’s a video sampler of the songs on the CD. Enjoy!

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Do You Get My Newsletter?

I have my fingers in so many pies, (is that the correct metaphor?), I wonder if some of my blog readers know about the monthly newsletter I send out. So here is the one I sent out just this morning. I hope you enjoy. And if you’re interested in receiving it on a monthly basis, just sign up on the little box on the right sidebar.

Read on…

July 2012

Dear friends and family, welcome to the
July edition of my newsletter!

  1. Happy Summer!
  2. Gigs Just Around The Corner
  3. A Glass of Summer is Almost Ready
  4. This Month’s Request

Happy Summer!

Well, summer is finally here. I offer my heartfelt sympathies for those of you in the eastern two-thirds of the country experiencing oppressive heat. Here in the Pacific Northwest, always bucking the trend, the rain is finally expected to go away on July 4, which people around here joke as the official start of summer. It’s definitely going to be true this year. We are looking forward catching up on some outdoor projects, such as lot’s of weeding. (Arghh!)

Did you know that I started a vegetable garden this spring? And I am starting to see some peas. I have never done this before and I feel like a proud papa! Yard work is therapeutic for me, and the veggie garden even more so. My 88-year old dad has been having some health issues, so I have been taking a ferry over to Poulsbo every other night to help my parents out. That and working on finishing up the new CD. You can see why a little gardening therapy is in order!

How about you? Please write back about some of your summer projects.

Gigs Right Around the Corner

This Saturday, July 7, Davenport Cellars 3rd Anniversary Party from 1 to 5 PM. Davenport Cellars is a boutique winery located in the Woodinville “Warehouse Wines District”. The owners, Jeff and Sheila Jirka make great wine and they’re great people, so it will be a pleasure to provide some live music for their celebration. Here’s a recent blog post about them from my blog: http://wp.me/pLGgQ-wM And here is a link to a map: http://goo.gl/maps/8I5z.

Next up, Scott Burnett and I have been asked back to Match Coffee & Wine in Duvall the following Friday July 13 from 7:30 to 10:00. We had great fun last time and had plenty of friends hang out for wine, beer, food, and catching up, so come on out to Du-vall! Here’s a link with directions.

And once again, I will be joining vocalist Hayley Blackwell-Olsby with the Dan Sales Showcase at Grazies Ristorante in Bothell. They have great Italian food and excellent taste in live music, I must say. The date is Saturday, July 21st, the time is 7 PMHere’s a link to the restaurant.

A Glass of Summer Is Almost Ready

Like the nice weather here in the Northwest, the project Scott Burnett and I have been working on is taking longer than we’d like. But hey, life happens. We’re almost there. Four songs have been mixed and three more to go. And check out the CD cover Scott has been painting. It’s still a work in progress, but I think it looks fantastic already. Don’t you? I’ll let you know first thing when we have the new CDs in our hands.

And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the song “Festivale” from the upcoming CD, here is a link below. (Yeah, I feel a little lame for not having a new song posted, but it’s been a hectic month.) Just click on the picture below and you’ll be taken to the Soundcloud site where you can listen to the song.


Click here for Festivale!

The Monthly Ask:
Write Me Back!

So here’s this month’s one thing:
Write me back! That’s it. Let me know what you’re up to, what you have planned for the summer, what your favorite Olympic sport, or whatever. I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!!

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Working on the Scott Burnett/Kelly Carpenter Project

Scott and I are currently working on a CD which we’re planning to release sometime in June. One of the songs we have named “Catalonia”, a region in Spain, since it has a somewhat flamenco feel. This started out as an idea of Scott’s, and we have fleshed it out considerably over the last few weeks. But when we were first laying down the skeleton rhythm track on my MacBook at Scott’s apartment, I thought to capture some of his playing a scratch guitar track on my cell phone. I only got about 20 seconds of video.

We started out by creating a rudimentary drum/percussion part in Ableton Live, along with backbeat marimba and bass, and then while listening to it on his headphones, he recorded his guitar into a Sony digital recorder. I then took his recording and imported it into Live. A few weeks later when we listened to it at my house, we were amazed at how good everything sounded. It does lend credence to the idea of creating sounds on a laptop, for if you can get it to sound good there, it should sound good just about anywhere.

Since then, we re-recorded the guitar using a better mic and preamp and have added more parts, but the humble beginnings of this track were fun to document. Here are some pictures Scott took of us working on the project last week at my little studio.

A chart of the melody for the “B” section.

Throwing on a little piano.

Knee deep in Ableton Live.

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The Power of Music on People With Dementia

I heard a wonderful piece on NPR yesterday titled “For Elders With Dementia, Musical Awakenings”. It highlights the story of an elderly man named Henry who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers who is typically unresponsive, yet comes to life when music from his youth is played to him. (You can read more at NPR’s site here and be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post.

The more I learn about the brain (a hobby of mine) the more fascinated I get about the power of music on brain function and cognition. The process of listening and remembering music engages many different regions of the brain in a complex way and imprints or hardwires these relationships. Although it is possible for people to appreciate new types of music throughout their lifetimes, most musical tastes are fashioned during the teenage years.

For those with dementia, it is no wonder that hearing music that was enjoyed in a formative age would reactivate these hardwired relationships in the brain which then in turn would reengage cognitive functions in these areas.

My parents are 88 and 86 and we are noticing early stages of dementia–you know, those “senior moments” when a parent loses track of which child they are talking about during a conversation. The NPR piece makes me wonder what effect a playlist of my parent’s favorite music would have on them during these earlier stages of random forgetfulness.

I have a few ideas of what kinds of music they loved when they were young–Glenn Miller comes to mind. But, I realize that the time to find out what would be in their favorite playlist is now.

How about you? Do you know what your parent’s favorite songs were when they were young? Perhaps now is the time to find out. I would love to hear your stories.

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“I’ve Downloaded Your Song. Now What Do I Do?”

I was over at a friend’s house, and she tells me, “Hey, I really like that song. I have downloaded it, but now what do I do?” It just doesn’t occur to someone like me who has been in the tech business for years that there are probably a lot of people that don’t know what to do with a track after they have downloaded it to their computer.

When you buy tracks on iTunes, the process of downloading the track and getting it into iTunes is one seamless/painless step. For other tracks that you get off the internet, you have to do one more thing to get them into iTunes. Well, here’s a quick “how to”. I am using one of my recent freebies as an example.

Let’s say you went to my Bandcamp page and downloaded my free track “Etude No. 1”
(here’s a link http://kellycarpentermusic.bandcamp.com/track/etude-no-1):

This is a free track and it’s one way to get people to enroll in my monthly newsletter. Let’s say you’ve entered the email and zipcode and clicked OK. The following email will show up in your inbox.

Clicking the link will take you back to the BandCamp site with a Download link here:

Once you click download, what happens next depends on whether you’re Mac or Windows and what web browser you’re using. I generally use Chrome (both on Mac and Windows), so the file downloaded gets displayed at the bottom of the Chrome window in either case.

This is helpful to see so you know the name of the file that was downloaded. Next step is to start up or switch to iTunes, and from the File menu, select “Add to Library” or use the keyboard shortcut Command+O (on Mac) or Ctrl+O (on Windows). You will get a file picker dialog, like the following on Mac:

Navigate to your Downloads folder. On Mac, it is located under your name.

If you’re on Windows 7, it is located under Favorites:

In either case, click Open and it’s added to iTunes. You can find it easily by just clicking on at Recently Added in the left-hand navigator:

You may wonder why it takes so many steps to download a track from a website. It doesn’t always. But responsible services like Bandcamp use a “double opt in” method to protect your computer from malware threats. You have to confirm via an email that you really do want the track. A little extra work for a lot of piece of mind.

Now, like I said, purchasing a song from iTunes does all of this in one step. But people who offer free tracks don’t put them on iTunes.

Well, there you go. Pretty simple once you know how!

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A Little Market Research

Hey all, thanks SO much for helping out. I am conducting some market research for my music. Given that my music is generally soothing and therapeutic, there are a range of different styles that I perform that fit the overall relaxation category. I am curious about what styles people like best. This sort of market research will be helpful to me as I plan projects for 2013. (I already have 2012 figured out.)

So, taking a few moments to take this one-question survey would be greatly appreciated. And feel free to leave comments as well.

My two instrumental titles are referred to in the above survey. In case you haven’t heard them, here are YouTube videos that play samplers from these two CDs:

Passage (2011) Draw Me Close (2001)

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Here Is Music to Chill To

We all need music that is therapeutic in nature that helps us de-stress, unplug, chill out–whatever you wish to call it. And as you know, chillaxin’ music is what I have been producing lately, but I thought I’d share my short list of other people’s music that always takes me to a serene place. Warning: Many of these records are now quite old.

Mark Isham – Film Music  If you have never seen the film “Never Cry Wolf”, then you will never have heard Mark Isham’s sweeping synthesizer soundscapes. I remember going with my wife and a friend to see the film in the old Crossroads theatre in Bellevue (a long time ago) and being totally captivated by the textures. Mr. Isham, who is primarily a trumpet player, has composed dozens of film scores since, but this will always be my favorite. Another great CD of his is “Castalia” if you can find it.

Checkfield – Water Wind and Stone  A co-worker turned me onto Checkfield back in the late 80’s. In fact, he gave me two of their CDs. This one is their second offering–the first was never released on CD. The opening cut, “Crystal Water”, starts out with the sound of water and soothing, pastoral acoustic guitars, accompanied by gentle synths and percussion. But this eclectic album ranges from folk textures to sweeping symphonies with a full orchestra as well as electronic grooves. Their later music got more “poppy” but still very enjoyable.

Iona – Journey Into the Morn  Iona is a unique blend of different genres. They are a celtic band. No, they’re progressive jazz/rock. Wait, they’re CCM. They are all of the above and in a way that works. This album was their fourth. I distinctly recall having a moment at our house in California where I was floating on my back in the pool in the dark, the speakers pointed out through the sliding door, and just being transplanted to another place. It opens with synth textures and Joanne Hogg’s haunting voice as she sings something in gaelic. The music gets boisterous and intricate at times, but always in way that is not jarring. Perhaps it is the ever-present generous amount of reverb.

Loreena McKennitt – The Book of Secrets  I could choose any of the recordings by this Canadian songstress, but this was the first I heard, and even features a song that got some airplay back in the day, “The Mummer’s Dance”. I love music that blends a variety of styles and her’s fills the bill. Celtic, new age, and various world textures all blend together in a way that doesn’t seem contrived. The CD includes a generous amount of liner notes that reads like a diary that chronicles the evolution of each song. This is the epitome of eclecticism.

This was just a short sampling of my “go to” music when I need to take a chill pill. But I only want this to be the start of a conversation. So I ask you this: What music do you like to chill out to?

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How NOT To Get a “Music Deal”

Got this email today. I had to share. What more do I need to say? Except that, aside from the likelihood this is just a phishing scam email, can you imagine that there are people out there that are trying to market their music this way? Too funny!

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What Are Your Favorite “Feel Good” Songs?

You know how there are certain songs that when you hear them, they just elevate your mood? I call them my “feel good” songs. Here are six of them that come to mind, although there are many more if I think about it. But these are by far the top ones. They are my “go to” songs when I need a certain lift.

Life in Technicolor II – Coldplay

I could just listen to “Viva La Vida” over and over; the album and the title song. But I don’t ever want to get sick of it, so I limit myself. I think this record is a Coldplay’s best, a total masterpiece. “Technicolor” opens the record and sets it up so nicely. Love, love, love the hammered dulcimer!!



Rainy Day Parade – Jill Sobule

I first heard this song serendipitously sometime back in 2003 on one of those early internet radio stations, the name of which I forget, but it was sort of a precursor to Pandora. Jill’s music includes a lot of droll humor, especially with lyrics like “We’ll have a celebration. Getting back on my medication.” set to music clearly inspired by the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme. I actually met Jill Sobule a couple of years ago–well sort of–long enough to thank her for this song and give her one of my CD’s. Unfortunately, this is only one of two videos on YouTube I could find, a static image of a traffic light; the other video is a powerpoint poking fun at Michelle Bachman which I felt was a bit inappropriate.



Duke’s Intro – Genesis

This is simply a wonderful piece of music. Powerful, positive, soaring. This video features a live performance from their “Live Over Europe 2007” tour, the last time they played together as a band. I consider “Duke” to be one of their best albums–in fact, keyboardist Tony Banks considers it his favorite. What I find interesting from this video is that Daryl Stuermer is playing the guitar instead of Mike Rutherford. What up with that? Maybe Mike has gotten rusty on the guitar.



Getting Better – The Beatles

I was a wee lad of eight when the groundbreaking “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in 1967, truly an album with no equal. My brother had taped a portion of the album from a friend’s LP–only the first three and last three songs–so I didn’t hear the rest of the record, including “Getting Better” until a couple years later. Given how primitive record technology was by today’s standards, the Beatles’ tracks still sound wonderful.



Brass in Pocket – The Pretenders

I must say that I like songs with a certain bounce and swing to them. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders put out a lot of bouncy numbers that give me a lift, including “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, “Back On the Chain Gang”, and “Middle of the Road”. Fortunately, the original music video of “Brass in Pocket” is on YouTube, so here you are:



You Make My Dreams Come True – Daryl Hall & John Oates

And what collection would be complete without this toe-tapper from 1980? Here is a clip from the 2009 movie “500 Days of Summer” featuring an edit of this song. This scene reminds me a little of the parade in “Ferris Buhler’s Day Off” as well as the Central Park scene in “Enchanted”.


How about you?

So, that’s my top six. What are your favorite “feel good” songs?

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