Never Long Lost Enough

So one of my best friends and colleagues Jeff Davis wrote this poem ‘Never Long Lost Enough” and we used a guitar progression of mine to add a musical facet to it. I think it ended up pretty well but I’d love to hear from your readers if there are any out there!

 

Beatrice, Excerpt of Part I

The following is the very beginning of my ill-fated and ill-attempted novel for NaNoWriMo, the project I have all but abandoned for this year. Classes and my other obligations have proven too taxing on my energy levels for me to add yet another daily task, though I do intend to pursue this story greatly and in more detail, as this Part is merely a slice of a huger whole that will one day be realized; the essence and Holy Grail of my intent toward writing.

 

There is something timeless to truly mortal panic. No matter how many times you are forced to experience such pain and anxiousness, there is nothing quite so devastating as absolute, unadulterated terror. I imagined this, thinking of all the past war generals faced with certain defeat on the battlefield. Wondering if kamikaze pilots during the second world war ever found themselves strangely at peace despite their impending, fiery doom. I thought about this as I tried to keep still under the watchful gaze of the strange people I’d come to know uncomfortably as “The Surgeons.” In front of me was a large flat screen television, connected to boxes and computer towers on the edges of my vision by thick, black, snake like cables. My neck, hands, and feet were similarly bound to the cold metal chair, and so I had little choice but to face straight forward, eyes wide open, staring at the image on the screen before me. A bright center light was illuminating my body as the Surgeons stood in a tight circle around me. There was some scuffling of feet on the worn linoleum as others made their way closer.

 

“This, Jacob, is your brain.”

 

The three dimensional grayish blob on the screen in front of me represented the culmination of everything that I was – my thoughts, feelings, desires, everything that made my mind unique and my own. As it turned slowly on screen, I began to see changes appear. Layers of cells were being stripped away from the model.

 

“We’re closing in on the interesting bits, Jacob.”

 

The voice came from all of the Surgeons together, in unison. The one fiddling with the controls zoomed in closer, split the range, and all of a sudden several dark spots appeared. I fought back a gasp and swallowed hard. “Is that…” I began, choking on my words.

 

“Certainly not. Look at their uniformity.” And indeed, I could see clearly that the dark spots were perfectly circular, not irregularly shaped in any way. I’ve never seen something so unnatural in my life, I thought miserably.

 

“You know what these are, don’t you, Jacob?” Their voices rushed out at me again, like so many whispers in an afternoon library. “Don’t you… Jacob…” This is a dream. The thought punctuated my being and reverberated all around the curiously silent room. Immediately the screen in front of me switched off, the Surgeons wheeling it away into some dark recess I knew I could not reach. Though none of their mouths were open, I began to hear noise issuing forth from perhaps the very air itself: voices, whispering, the various timbres and pitches swirling together. A sense of rushing water, and the sound of a great wind, a very low and ominous rumbling noise that I could feel deep within my ears. A vortex opened in front of me, a kaleidoscopic portal of vivid hues, and at an inhuman speed I felt myself rushing forward, the portal growing larger and larger until it appeared as the surface of a planet to a small body drifting through the upper layers of its warped atmosphere. The rushing only grew louder, deafening as I finally plunged through the surface.

 

And I became aware. Though mere moments ago I had experienced awareness, surely, for I could recall what had happened in the same darkened medical room as the previous times I had dreamed of it – this awareness was different. I struggled for a moment trying to describe how my consciousness had shifted, but my focus changed and I was instead calmly observing the white plain I had been set down upon. Oh. I realized, finally. The rumbling… I’m in a lucid dream. I recalled that the only time the rumbling ever came into the picture was when I shifted into a state of lucidity within my dreams – it was a sort of boundary or transitory phenomena. Realizing that I had control once more over the dream world, I began to will things into existence. A house on the hillside, the cold grass covered in a fresh frost and piled in powdery, unpacked snow. I licked a ball of it clenched tight in my fist, and smirked, surprised that the refreshing coolness was something my mind could actively conjure up. The power of the human mind never ceased to amaze me, even then.

The Dive

The Dive is a piece of music I wrote a while ago on my M-Audio Venom synthesizer. I used a new DAW that I had a just purchased, Ableton Live, which maybe was the best investment of my life. I’m still working my way around the program and it’s functionality is brilliant. But anyway- this article is certainly not about my audio rig.

My goal was to experiment with the texture of the tone I was using, and let the harmony work itself out. It was a new approach for me and certainly brought me to some interesting insights. Recently I’ve done more meditation, and I’ve explored meditative concepts in my music. For this song, because it’s entirely improvised, I focused on staying present but also tried to take the music places- and the result was  quite surprising, actually. The song demonstrates how many of my meditational sessions go. There’s always a period where my thoughts pervade my mind, but as soon as I let go of them, I ‘dive’ underneath the clouds of the mind and drift in the sea of empty bliss. I believe that’s the story of this song- it’s a simple, but profound concept.

Object Writing and Amanda Palmer

I watched an amazing video today that a suite mate of mine, Jeff, showed me. Amanda Palmer speaks of Arts and Controversy, and ‘connecting the dots’ in a beautifully elegant way. I decided to touch on several of her ideas in this stream-of-consciousness object writing session. I made several typos, but, true to object writing, I won’t correct them. The point is to write entirely unadulterated content without making changes to anything you’ve written so far. No going back.

Here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OHsxLy1_lU

And my response to the prompt: “Inside”.

Inside

We’re inside. The dull glow of the lamplight’s reflection on the wall casts a warm yellow light on the room. My bed’s sheets are lightly crinkled, and look like the waves of a see. There are books, lot’s of them scattered over every corner of the room, resting on each other on shelves. Books on books sit on a light purple, velvet tarot mat, carelessfly flung over a large chest, as if to protect it’s contents. I’m inside the Garrett. I’m inside the rusty attic of an abandoned warehouse. I’m inside where the wind, the sun, nothing can get to me. Yet- I can feel their eternal presence captured in a miniature fan designed for college dorms, and the reading light that shines on my back. Here I do my work. Here I create. This is my laboratory. Here is where I toil over instruments and devices, books and journals. Here is where I build my calluses. Here is where I clean myself. It’s my temple. But just beyond the thin veil of my mind a solid wooden door, the waking world stirs. Twists and turns into every imaginable shape and pattern. Every imaginable contraption working, pulling and tugging only to dive again back into a central flux. The soul of the world. The soul is a hard thing to understand, and much more so the soul of the world, but here- inside- is where I further my research. And I search and search and re-search until I’ve found a dot to connect. The Garrett is kind to me. Patient of all my shortcomings, and it’s the keeper of the treasures I’ve found so far. The greatest treasure of them all, so far, in the human spirit. The fire of a soul interacting with my temple and me. This is where real magic happens. Conjuring of spirits, creation of hexes and artifacts- enchanted objects and unwritten objectives. Spilled across the room are wires and instruments- because music is the language of love, and the soul of the world. Through different chords, music, studies- different tunings, preparations and proportions, I create and test formulas. And share my experience with the people around me. Inside, I’m alone, and it gets dark in here sometimes, but the hermitage is necessary for creating the Master Work- the masterpiece of creation- something I can give to the world. It’s from the inside that I want to share everything I have with the outside. It’s from here that I push outward and find ways of liberating people from the wheel of death and rebirth. I vowed to connect the dots- but first I must find them. It’s because of these findings that I want to continue the journey- because every increase in conciousness, every fall into the flux of love and life, I learn something, and I dig deeper. Further into stillness and formlessness of nirvana. I want to live my life going further into the love, finding the deepest parts of people’s hearts and minds, and awaken them to the possibilities around them. Awaken them to the undeniably baffling importance of a human birth. Of a human existence. 

 

Most of this bit drew inspiration from things I’ve been reading about lately such as the 4 vows of a Bodhisattva and other, unrelated external sources. Sometimes I use object writing as a way of removing certain ideas from my mind by fleshing them out so thoroughly that I loose interest, or am able to view a particular concept that I’m exploring in it’s extreme. I see myself objectively, as if from the outside- which is a strange feeling indeed, because you become a stranger to yourself in the process. It’s as if you are looking into the work of someone else. I think the correction of ideas you hold to be untrue and the nourishing of a healthy perception of your self is important to your standing as an individual in society. The trick is, however, not to become so immersed in some fixed idea of yourself that you lose the ability to swim in the currents of life that take you to different personalities, and eventual futures.

Exiled

The sky from which we came, a black lagoon,
Then trapped were we within silver cocoon,
A scene so brightly, lights like fires went by
En-robed were they within a see-through sky.

She enunciated the stresses of the lilting poem from the surface of her crystal reader, and placed it down onto the glass table in front of her. With a gesture to the aft-facing window, she asked her ancient literature students brightly. “Now, let’s discuss what Eamesworth was trying to say with this particular passage. It’s a fairly straightforward excerpt, the first quatrain in a three stanza, two couplet style known to the Ancients as a “sonnet.” Each line contains 10 syllables, a pattern of stressed and unstressed for each. Elliot. This was your project, was it not? Tell us the historical significance of this poem.” Elliot glanced at his shoes for a moment, and then lifted his head to look into the eyes of his fellow classmates. Most of them were at the age to be considered Adults, Elliot surpassed them by one more. In far older times, his age would have been cause for great celebration and subsequent inebriation, but thoughts of historical pastimes were far from his focus as he set about explaining the context of Eamesworth’s Ode to the See Through Sky.

“Eamesworth was one of the charter board-members of the group who were banished from Utopia.” He began confidently, having memorized the account by heart. His teacher promptly stopped him.

“Not Utopia. First Colony.” Her irritating voice drove a wave of heat and blood through his face, partly embarrassment before his peers, but mixed with a haughty self-righteousness. Remembering the words of his Adviser, he willed the emotion to fade, using observation to quell the outburst. “Yes ma’am. First Colony.” He even flashed her as embarrassed as a smile as he could muster, defusing the situation.

“They were given a period of time in which to build our Primarch.”

Again, she interrupted. “Primarch meaning Prime Arcology.” He nodded, ignoring his childish defiance. “An ‘arcology’ being an architectural project intended to create a self-sustaining, ecologically friendly environment for about a billion humans to survive.” He continued.

“We see from his poem, written around the time the Prime Arcology was launched, that he greatly romanticized the idea of living aboard the Prime Ark despite the conditions he was forced to endure as a result. Banishment, namely, from his birthplace. Our ancestor’s birthplace.”

“And what of the subject of this piece? A ‘see through sky’?” She purred, much to the amusement of the other students.

“The vacuum of space. It is transparent, though it appears black.”

She nodded, satisfied, and adjourned the class for the day. “Remember, your projects are due by the latest on Friday at Over-Dark, 30 degrees. Remember to calibrate your pocket-techs!” Her shrill barely sounded over the mumbling hubbub of the class as the students in their crisp, colorful uniforms trooped out past the bulkheads of the classroom.

Stepping out into the brightly lit Upper School Atrium, Jonas stopped to take a good look at the binary star system the Primarch was orbiting this celestial season. He recognized the nearby nebulae as the Foxhead System, which meant they were doing the yearly gravitational induction tests at the nearby black hole cluster. Shaking himself out of a reverie of thought, darker and deeper than even the black holes themselves, Jonas took a seat just outside of his classroom at one of the plush, faux-leather chairs around a standard TableOS. It’s shimmering glass screen was, thankfully, blank for the moment. No news or updates from the Bridge or Central.

He dropped his things and took in a deep breath of air. A sweet, delicate smell, like the flowers in the seemingly endless Upper Cosmic Gardens but different. It smelled clean and fresh, but also of learning, of books, of his education. Equations swirled neatly in the air, vaporous odor invisible to all but the nose. His nose twitched a little as his thoughts were drawn back to her.

I wonder if I’ll get to see her again, he thought, musing as he cracked his textbooks. Wouldn’t it be nice for her to join our class?

Jonas nearly fainted when a blaring alarm sounded just above his left ear. In an instant, his entire body felt very cold. A shivering sort of terror that leaves one’s ass icier than a glacier in winter. Jonas could feel the similarly cool and watchful eye of the cerebral scanner whirring just inches behind his head, its drug-laden injector poised carefully above his brain’s left hemisphere. The derivative of x^2 is 2x. Pi to the tenth digit is 3.1415926535. The theorem of cognitive dissonance posits that freely suffering for a cause will generate an adversive arousal state resulting in– Such rubbish continued to pour out of his mind, a conditioned reactive effect to the omnipresent devices that were, unfortunately, trained otherwise.

“Jonas 26535897, Heir to the County of Aft-Wharf 93. Your presence is requested at Ark-Sec. Please report immediately. To resist a summons is to commit a felony and subsequent detainment measures will be enforced. Thank you.”

The device pipped expectantly as Jonas shakily rose to his feet. Three strike rule, he repeated in his head. Three strike rule and its my third strike.

 

Re-Defining Center Mezzanine… Again.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve even looked at this blog, which is a crying shame. I’ve been thinking about getting back into it, and my colleague Garrett Johnson will be joining me this time around. I suppose it would be inappropriate to call this a blog anymore, seeing as it probably won’t have any sort of theme to it- so we’ll call it a public, shared, online journal. I don’t think I’ll be writing tutorials or instructional posts anymore, as this has become simply a project of writing and sharing.

I’m still highly passionate about music, so I imagine that I’ll be writing about it often. Garrett, however, is a beautiful story-crafter and multimedia artist. I don’t want to put any labels and limitations on what all will be posted.

Also- being faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to delete all my previous posts (which were all written in high school, mind you- don’t be judging) and start fresh, I decided to keep them and continue on, because some of them were real gems. I feel it shows how far I’ve come in both my life and my writing.

Enter Garrett Johnson.

My best friend since the 4th grade, Garrett has always been there for me, and is a great, great writer. I’m really looking forward to doing this project with him. I can’t say I have any idea what to expect- but I bet it’ll be damn good. Love ya, bro- let’s do this thing.

Re-Defining Mezzanine

I want to write about more than just music because there are so many things that are interesting and inspiring to me, and hopefully to you. So effective immediately, Center Mezzanine is a a blog that gets people excited about art and people’s passions as well as providing lessons, interviews and ideas. I’ll be covering filmmaking, photography, painting, music and more, but I’m going to keep it narrowed to stories about people who are passionate, because that’s what I want to instill in you.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen some pretty powerful movies and pictures and read articles that have made me want to pursue all sorts of creative outlets.

In short- this blog is now specific to passion for creative outlets, not just music.

Hearing Chord Tones

Some stuff I wrote
Biting into the song and tasting all the interesting harmonies and crunchy dissonances is a fantastically rewarding experience, but before you can do that, you have to be able to bite into a chord. I’ll show you how in this post.
Some benefits of hearing chord tones include:
  • The ability to pick out individual notes in the song
  • Being able to figure out what kind of chord it is
  • Understanding why the melody acts the way it does
  • Being good at music. Yes, I said it.
  • And countless other indirect benefits of training your ear and brain to pick music apart
You want to enjoy music more? Read this post.

Hearing Chords in 4 Easy Steps

If you learn to identify the notes in a chord, your ear will become more selective about what it hears and you’ll be able to tune into different parts of the song with more accuracy and understanding. There’s a lot to learn before you can taste all those metaphoric spices, though.
  1. Hearing chords starts with having the right tools. Granted- not everybody conveniently happens to have a piano in their place of residence. There are many solutions, though. For Mac users- I highly suggest you just use Garageband. You can open up a new project and create a virtual instrument, choose whatever sound you want, go to Window–>Musical Typing and your keyboard has turned into a keyboard! Ha, get it? Okay, sorry… I do, however, suggest the piano sound for the virtual instrument because it’s standard and easy to hear… But if you’re into Aurora Bells then go for it.For Windows users- Download MidiPiano and it’ll let you do the same thing Garageband does for mac users. Except no Aurora Bells. Bummer.
  2. You need to hear intervals before you can hear chords. Pick 2 notes and play the lower note first. Then hold it while playing the higher note. Sing or hum them back. Rinse and repeat. Once you can do that comfortably, play both notes together. You’ll be able to get the top one easy, but do the bottom first. That’s going to make you think hard before singing anything- pinpointing the lower, harder to hear note before you move on the easier one.
  3. Listen to Chords. Take some time to play a couple 3-note chords. I use the term ‘chord’ loosely- a chord is actually  For our purposes, a chord is just 3 or more notes played together. Take some time to listen critically to the chords you choose- don’t worry so much about finding all the notes, just listen to how it sounds and what it does to your ear.
  4. Hearing chord tones is not really very difficult. If you consistently practice- you’ll be a chord hearing master within a week or two. Pick 3 notes and play the bottom 2 together. Then add the highest one. Sing them back from bottom to top. Once you’re comfortable with that, then you can try playing 3 notes together and singing from bottom up. If you’re up for a challenge- you can go all the way to playing 4 notes together and singing back all of them in different orders.
Don’t be afraid to adapt these exercises. If you’re having trouble identifying the middle note- then you can make it harder on yourself by trying to sing middle one first, or easier by hitting it a couple times while the rest of the chord is playing. In the end- it’s just about exposing your ear to dividing up the notes of the chords. The practical application of this is listening to a song and picking out some key notes as they go along
In addition to all this- you should really check out a post on hearchords.com that talks about hearing chord tones with some online resources. I tried both out, and they’re really great places to train your ear. If you want a more technical approach to hearing chord tones you can read about it at eartrainanywhere.com, but it requires you know a bit of music terminology.

That’s it!

A couple of months ago, I was riding in the car with my buddy, Arun, and he put on Re: Stacks by Bon Iver. We were really tired from our hooliganism in downtown Atlanta, so I couldn’t help being in one of those quiet, pensive moods you slip into after good times. This was the best music to accompany it. It’s a great song to try to pick out chord tones once you’re good at it- Bon Iver plays around with the chords a lot (pull offs and hammer ons) but it’s still clear, so you won’t have trouble hearing the chords. Give it a listen now and come back once you have some experience with chords- you’ll see the difference.

If you have any questions, then please comment! If you liked this post then you should subscribe and share it somehow- the whole point of this blog is to help people but it’ll never be read without help from you!

The EQ Series: How an Equalizer Affects Your Room

This is the third post in the EQ Series:

  1. Why Use an Equalizer
  2. What Does an Equalizer Do

In this post I’ll talk about some practical applications of EQ and how it can solve problems in your room. There will be a lot of acoustics and studio talk here- but this for anybody interested in learning how EQ can help make a better listening experience- especially when you start to implement room correction.

The Room

This foam is used to engineer rooms with good acoustics

You’ll have to be listening to music somewhere, and unless it’s with your headphones you have to take into account what type of room you’re in. There are several different qualities rooms have, and those qualities define the acoustics of the room. Material will either absorb sound waves or reflect them. Imagine sitting in a room where all around you were thick carpets- they would cushion all the sound out and it would feel like you’re in a vacuum. That’s called having a dry sound. With a wet room, the materials in the room are reflective so clapping would cause a lot of reverberation. What an equalizer can do is balance the sound of the room. You’ll still get reverb in a wet room and it’ll still sound isolated in a dry room- but the problem is in some ranges of frequencies overpowering others due to sympathetic vibration. There’s an entire series worth of material on that- so I’ll save it for another time. Just know that sometimes your room will cause abnormal spikes in certain frequency ranges, and balancing them out by lowering the volume of that frequency in your equalizer will give your music a better balance.

The Correction

I have a friend who runs a recording studio and he recently talked to me about his newest acquisition: room correction software. Basically what it does is test the room for spikes in certain frequencies (due to sympathetic vibration) and wherever there is too much of one frequency- it lowers it’s volume using the equalizer to level it out and make the room

Some things you can do to your room to make it better suited for listening:

  • If your room is very wet- then you should try putting things in that will absorb sound (i.e rugs on the wall, a couch) or you can buy some foam from a music store. Putting some in the corners and on your walls will definitely help to ‘dry’ it up a bit.
  • If you’re serious about it- a very nice addition to a listening room would be putting bass traps in the corners because that’s where a lot of the lower frequencies tend to multiply and get louder. A bass trap is big piece of foam made special to fit in a corner and combat bass problems.
  • If your room is very dry- you can try removing cushioned furniture and if you have anything soft hanging from the walls you can remove it. I don’t think that the room being too dry is much of an issue with most people
  • Buy a diffuser after consulting somebody who’s a professional. You put a diffuser on a wall so the sound doesn’t reflect back you in all in one wave, but rather scatters the audio. This is a pretty serious installation, so unless you have a good ear it won’t be worth the investment
  • If you’re really serious about it, you can buy one of the many many products out there that advertise room correction- but before that I would suggest playing with the EQ and making a listening room in the first place.

In any case, get to know your equalizer very well so you can detect small changes. If that’s the case- then adjusting the EQ so the room is to your liking will be easy. Unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily entail accuracy so if you’re planning on mixing and producing then I suggest you do invest in some equipment.

The EQ Series: Why Use an Equalizer?

In the previous article The EQ Series: What Does an Equalizer Do of The EQ Series I discussed how to work an equalizer in itunes and what exactly it’s used for. In this article I’ll be talking about why you would want to use an equalizer.

Different genres naturally have different blends of sounds that work better for them. If you’re listening to house, dubstep, techno and others along that category- you’ll be looking to hear a good, loud, fat bass. With the correct EQ setting- you hear the bass even better without compromising the other parts of the music. And a good EQ curve, as it’s called, for dubstep won’t be the same for jazz, classical or even pop.

Here’s a screenshot of the standard presets of EQ on my computer:

There’s obviously a lot of presets to choose from and I highly suggest you experiment around with them. Try listening to rap with the jazz setting, and then switch the EQ to hip hop, or maybe deep depending on what sort of rap you’re listening to. Observe the difference. As you get more and more acquainted with the EQ curves of different types of music the more aware you’ll be of the different ranges of sound going on and how EQ affects them.

Have any questions? Leave a comment!