Slowly Composing Away

I’ve been working on a piece lately and although I’m quite fond of the material, I’ve been at somewhat of an impasse. The form of the piece really has yet to reveal itself, so I’ve been patiently listening, contemplating, wondering where the material wants to go, trying to cultivate a calm and open mind, to see how the music will take its shape…

Tomita- The Planets

After talking about Wendy Carlos with Nick, he mentioned Isao Tomita‘s music, which I had never spent very much time with. I think I wasn’t so interested in it as most of his music, just from looking at the package, seemed to be just electronic performances of pieces I already knew.

However, Nick picked up Tomita’s version of Holst’s “The Planets” and let me check it out. I was astounded! The sounds which Tomita gets is really quite phenomenal. Lush, organic, alive…

I’ve been really floored as of late by the sounds of Tomita and Carlos. The sound worlds they achieve are very much of interest to me. Aesthetically, I think I am after different ends, but the I think that somehow this music of theirs will play a part in my own.

Casino with Family

So this past week my Mother was visiting my Grandmother in LA, and on Saturday they drove up to Fremont to see my Aunt. After a phone call around 6:00pm, I took the BART down to Fremont, and after a small dinner, the four of us went to Cache Creek, a reservation Casino about an hour and a half outside of San Francisco.

Arriving around ten, we played mostly slot machines until nearly 4:00AM, at which time I was exhausted, practically passing out while standing. At that time, my mother tricked me with “Okay, here’s the key to the car, go to the car and we’ll be right there”, which I did and fell asleep in the car, only to wake up at 8:00AM, thinking “What the…?” and then falling asleep until 10:00AM when my Aunt came by to get me and say “Let’s go get breakfast.”

So… we had breakfast at the buffet there, then after that, my Grandmother says “Let’s play just one more hour.” I was blown away! I had slept 6 hours in the car and was still pretty tired, but here they were, all three of them still going. In the end, after losing my Aunt for a while, we ended up leaving at 2:30PM, back to Fremont.

I have to say, all in all, I enjoyed spending that time with my family and enjoyed watching them all have fun with the different slot machines (my Grandmother’s favorite was “The Price is Right” machine; I remember growing up–I must have been 4 or 5 at the time–and watching that show with her), and in general just being with them.

Other Observations

The building was quite a beautiful building, if you could imagine it without all the madness of the slot machines and card tables there. Marble floors with beautifully colored carpets, the wood lining the different shops all that very classy dark stain, with gold trim on store names. The windows of the casino all revealed the beauty of that reservation, the hills in gold, the deep blue sky…

The wash of sound in the casino was curious, the way the slot machines would emit beeps that were the first, third, fifth, and octave of a scale, over and over. Some machines would also play half-phrases of music on one spin, then the other half the other spin. I have to believe there’s a psychology to it all that only draws in the customer to keep spinning, perhaps all in desire for a resolution to the group chord…

p.s. It guess it wouldn’t be a trip to a casino without seeing the lady with the O2 tank hooked to her nose, sitting in the smoking section! =o

Tron, Wendy Carlos

I recently watched Tron with my friend Nick, the first time I had seen the movie in a very long time. I was really blown away by the movie: the visual style style was absolutely gorgeous, the story being much more curious than I remember, and the music and sound effects were fantastic. “The Making of Tron” documentary, included on the DVD, was also very interesting to watch as it really shows how groundbreaking the movie was in its production.

I don’t think I even knew who Wendy Carlos was when I first watched the movie. The music and sounds from the movie really made quite an impression on me… I’m listening to the soundtrack now and find the timbres that Wendy Carlos used to be so rich and organic, the blending of the digital, analag, and natural instruments done so tastefully. I’m definitely interested to go back and listen to more of Wendy Carlos‘s music with this fresh perspective.

Looking around Wendy Carlos’s site, I came across this picture, an absolutely wonderful shot of a modular synthesizer in her early studio. It really amazes me at how complex patching seems to be in all of these old pictures I’ve seen of synthesizers, and it makes me wonder if my own instrument patches are really complex enough to give them a really organic sound…