Saturday, March 25, 2017

the sonicon and the zone

I spent something like 47 hours a while back working on a piece of music that's 2.11 seconds long.

It's a corporate sonicon, or sound trademark, like the NBC major chord tones, or the "Law & Order" chung-chung, or the Intel "bum-beem-bum-BEEM." It's a very small but incredibly important little sound that they'll use in all their radio and TV and web ads and other things — eventually you'll begin to just hear the sound and know what it means. (No, you may not hear it yet.)

Like those other sounds, it has about 15 layers of samples, instruments, musical things, percussive things, atmospheric recording, and other stuff all blended together into a unique thing. So, with each hour I spend on it, it really does get better and better — it's been a total blast.

The initial idea — a basic sound effect and a simple cadence — took me literally 2 minutes. Then the whole rest of the time it's been tweaking and polishing, sanding away with finer and finer grains. Allllllllllmost done now. I'll come out of a long tweak, covering the final quarter-second, and realize it's 5am, and I've been going at it non-stop for hours. This kind of zone, where skill and interest and absorption-cum-obsession meet, is one of my favorite ways to live. And yet it's kind of the opposite of the usual sentimental myth of creativity. (My friend says, "so I guess one 2.11 second note on a tuba wouldn't have done the trick.")

Monday, March 20, 2017


Nearing fifty, I'm thinking about decades. Today (with a perfect wife and two kids), I wrapped a beautiful, restrained recording for one of my favorite singers, and begin in earnest on another recording for another great singer I've been out of touch with for a while.

Ten years ago (married, childless), I was reeling from an ugly botch that stained my final moments at the church I grew up in.

Ten years before that (unmarried, virgin), I wrapped a recording of "The Dream of Skip," an absurdly complex church youth musical, attacked by some and championed by others (including a spirited and superb music minister) and nailed by the church youth choir.

Ten years before that, I was in college, living with a hilarious and deep roommate who became a lifelong friend, and beginning to date my first girlfriend.

Ten years before that, I was plowing through 4th grade with a not-good-enough teacher, and living for Sundays, Wednesday nights, afternoons with a best friend, and piano.

Ten years before that, I was in my mother's womb, forming some cells that would become cancer, and other cells that would become an unusual brain and a nimble body.


Ten years before that, my dad was in college and my mom was in high school and they hadn't met.

Ten years before that, my dad's family was freshly broken, and my mom was months away from being part of a vast polio epidemic.

Ten years before that, my dad was one, and my mom wasn't born.

Friday, March 17, 2017

a saint patrick's day thought

How technology shapes and limits us, in so many invisible ways. Think, for instance, about the fact that you very rarely see green on news and talk shows — ties and shirts and dresses and desk elements and even background decor always avoid that part of the spectrum — simply because they all use green screens.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


After an unhurried search that lasted a decade, I have finally found the ideal chambray shirt. As is usual for me, it's actually not quite chambray, but has a very slight little herringbone pattern to it.

Manly, distinctive, casually sophisticated. How nice, to now and then find what one is looking for.