Archive for ‘Philosophy’

July 29, 2012

Beyond the Infinite – A review of the Moog Guitar

by George

Infinite. ¬†The definition of this word is one we all know, but how can we possibly understand it. ¬†Nothing we’ve ever known or experienced in our lives has been never-ending. Until now…

Behold…the Moog Guitar. ¬†Moog? ¬†Guitar?

Known for their massively influential (and sometimes monolithic) synthesizers, Moog have been at the forefront of sonic exploration for decades. ¬†In addition to creating the most imitated and¬†desirable¬†monophonic synthesizer of all time, the Minimoog, one of Bob Moog’s greatest achievements was the creation of the Ladder Filter. ¬†You’ll see why this is important in a minute but for more info on what this nifty circuit does read this. ¬†Needless to say, when Moog announced plans for a guitar, many people were interested.

That was in 2008. ¬†Now, four years later, not much more is known about this elusive instrument and they’re rare (if not impossible) to find in most music shops. ¬†Most musicians I talk with aren’t even aware of it’s¬†existence, let alone know exactly how it’s capable of being used. ¬†With that, we begin our tour of this other-worldly instrument.

By appearance alone, there’s not much to indicate that this instrument possesses any magical powers beyond those of a standard electric guitar. ¬†A ‘super Strat’ style body dressed up nicely with a flamed maple top on a swamp ash body, the only thing that strikes you as odd are the cluster of knobs and switches that dominate the lower curve of the body. ¬†Two pickups, set neck construction, a Fender-style dive-only tremolo bridge, locking tuning machines and a clean, inlay-free (save the cryptic, circular logo at the 12th fret) rosewood fretboard…all features found on a number of guitars today. ¬†Then the paths diverge; where you would expect to find a standard 1/4″ output jack is an XLR output, a connection commonly found on microphones, not guitars. ¬†Curiouser and curiouser. ¬†Following this cable leads to a junction with an expression pedal and on the opposite side of the pedal is the 1/4″ output you were expecting. ¬†From here you feed out to the amplifier and things are starting to feel sane again. ¬†Plugged in, you turn the amp off of Standby.

At first listen, it sounds like a standard electric guitar.  The proprietary pickups are akin to a fat single coil, or perhaps a P-90.  Not the most powerful or clear pickups, but they hold a decent amount of harmonic content.  Running through the pickup selector yields some interesting tonal variations; neck, in phase, out of phase and bridge only.  The 5th position in the selector engages the piezo pickups housed in the bridge saddles; percussive, chimey and bright, the sound brings to mind an amplified acoustic guitar.  A control on the guitar allows for a continuous blend of the piezo and magnetic pickups letting you mix the clarity of the piezos with the warmth of the magnetic pickups.

But below the pickup selector is a second three-way switch. ¬†You didn’t really notice it yet because it’s function is coupled with the gold knob below the master volume knob and it’s turned down. ¬†Turn it all the way up and suddenly the guitar is crackling with electricity; it comes alive! ¬†The strings begin vibrating…on their own. ¬†The entire guitar is steadily vibrating but you haven’t even touched pick or fingers to string. ¬†What separates this guitar from a standard electric suddenly becomes clear even though you aren’t quite sure what is happening. ¬†Those proprietary pickups have the ability of controlling a magnetic field that envelops and dictates the amount and type or vibration of the strings. ¬†That gold knob controls the intensity of the magnetic field and the three-way controls the mode of control.

That first mode is Full Sustain, meaning that all six strings are being simultaneously driven by the magnetic fields and vibrate as if being played by some unseen force.  You hit a chord, it swells to an almost overbearing volume and the feeling is completely intoxicating.  As you hold the chord, it sustains and morphs, naturally, shifting overtones and harmonics.  This can be controlled with the expression pedal; heel to toe, the control moves from the bridge to neck pickup creating a pointed, aggressive harmonic crown that blends into a deep, airy and open halo centered around the notes being played.  Polyphonic sustain that is completely natural (i.e. the strings are physically being moved without end) and yet feels anything but.  Adjusting the amount of sustain allows for chords that have a volume pedal swell effect.   Using the tremolo bar to quickly dive before each chord change supplies enough vibration for amplification and the breath-like pulse from chord to chord leaves you baffled.  Techniques you had never even considered before allow you passage to harmonic destinations previously unknown.

The second position of the three-way is Controlled Sustain. ¬†Not only are these pickups powerful enough to physically move the strings, but they’re intelligent enough to simultaneously mute strings that aren’t being played. ¬†Infinite legato is literally at your fingertips and single-note runs take on a pedal steel feel, swelling into each note before growing to epic proportions only to dissolve gracefully once the next note is played and the cycle begins again. ¬†With a nice delay effect unit you can manifest sounds and progressions that bring to mind the majestic ballad of a migrating whale or a spacious, repeated message to the heavens…a cosmic psalm.

You slide the three-way to the final position and something is drastically different. ¬†All the power you held beneath your fingers is gone. ¬†Not only has your new found power of sustain vanished, but it’s been reversed. ¬†This is Mute Mode and it’s Biblical; where before the guitar giveth sustain it now taketh away. ¬†The same forces that kept the strings vibrating in the previous two modes now are used to stop any string played from vibrating for more than a few seconds. ¬†The sound…synthesizer? No. ¬†Mandolin? ¬†Not really. ¬†Banjo? Kinda. ¬†Sitar? ¬†Sure. ¬†More than the sound, the feeling is incredible. ¬†If you pay attention, you can feel the string vibration die, again, as if guided by a supernatural force. ¬†Finger-picked arpeggios and quick chord comping play to this mode’s strengths.

But that’s just half the story. ¬†Dial back the gold knob controlling the magnetic mayhem and there’s still that 3-pole switch. ¬†It’s been in the bottom position, where it functions like a regular tone knob on a guitar, the whole time but you flick it up to the middle. ¬†Even before you play you hear something like a hiss. ¬†Rocking the expression pedal and you hear this hiss build until it’s gone.

What you were hearing is the built-in Ladder Filter sweeping across it’s frequency range. ¬†Yes, the same low pass filter made famous in the synthesizers of the 70s is an integral part of this guitar. ¬†In this mode, the Articulated Filter mode, the envelope cutoff frequency of the filter is set by the position of the expression pedal and triggered by the on-board envelope. ¬†The filter envelope is directly proportional to the signal output of the guitar meaning that the harder you pick, the further the filter “opens”. ¬†The result is a low-pass, wah-like tonal accent that brings to mind the Mutron-inflected lead tones of Jerry Garcia or Frank Zappa.

The last postion of the 3-pole switch is a manual Ladder Filter mode where the expression pedal controls the sweep of the cutoff. ¬†It operates even more like a wah, but sounds like something far more futuristic and covers a much wider range of frequencies. ¬†Where a wah is a moving bandpass filter (meaning that it accents a set range of frequencies ‘up and down’ the spectrum) the low pass filter, at it’s heel setting, allows only low frequencies through. ¬†As you rock the pedal forward, more frequencies are allowed through until, at its fullest, the full spectrum of frequencies coming out of the guitar can be heard. ¬†It’s a sound that has much more sonic content to it and, as a result, feels much more alive and far less honky.

After all this, you don’t really know how to explain what just happened. ¬†Your mind accelerates as you create mental notes about what you now may be capable of…the promise of the unknown. ¬†You’re not sure what to do with this guitar but you’re thrilled by the possibilities.

September 11, 2011

Electricity shall be passed through your body

by George

We are electric beings.  We rarely think of ourselves and our natural state as being such, but the human body is a complex organization and execution of chemical reactions and electrical impulses all timed for optimal operation of our muscles, organs and tissues.  This is the natural way of all living things.  Yet when it comes to the creation of sound, one might think the opposite; that the most natural tones arise from acoustic instruments, ones made of wood and steel that resound un-amplified.

While it’s true that it’s hard to duplicate the simplicity and honesty, if you will, of an acoustic instrument like a piano or cello, there’s something equally beautiful about an electric, amplified instrument. ¬†It’s a marvelous fusion of Earthly and synthetic materials; soul and science. ¬†A leap into the unknown where emotion, both positive and negative, is amplified to extremes. ¬†Volume, sustain, feedback. ¬†Creation of sound beyond simple natural resonance and reverberation is possible with the institution of these tools. ¬†Starting with a simple tone from a plucked string and bending that pitch upward across the stratum of textures found within the power section of a tube amplifier transforms a simple, stagnant soundwave into a complex downpour of sonic rain. ¬† An exhalation and the subsequent inward breath, releasing tension and giving life to sound.

Taking those frequencies and natural overtones and embellishing them with electric sorcery in the form of effect processors, tone circuits and pedals elevates the sound to a new dimension, giving it lift and allowing it to escape the narrow confines of sonic reality in the world we know.  Molding and redefining the natural sound of an instrument through analog manipultation of electricity.  When you take something like a pure tone or waveform and push it past its intended harmonic content or filter it down to a fraction of its former self you start to focus in on the subtleties that really resonate with the listener.  That one particular pitch modulation or texture that imbues a musical piece or passage with a complexity that stimulates both the soul and the mind.

Another particularly powerful aspect of electric instruments is the sheer force and attention that they command by way of volume.  Amplification taken to the extreme imparts its own inherent qualities to sound.  So much so that it can cause intense (both pain and pleasure) and sometimes violent reactions from its subjects.  We literally begin to resonate with certain frequencies and at the same time are more immediately aware of those that conflict or are out of sync with our physiology.  The amplifier, speakers and even the venue itself becomes as much an instrument as the one in the hands of the musician.

We stand at the edge of a bold, electric landscape, waiting to behold the sonic architecture of the future.  A brave new world with nearly infinite possibilities for creativity and limitless sonic potential.

February 21, 2011

“All deep things are song…”

by George

The quote that is used as the title for this article made me think about the ‘birthplace’ or creation of music. ¬†I’ve read/heard many different opinions on this topic with answers ranging in nature from scientific to psychological to pure subjective opinion but they all have similar strains of thought behind them.

In my mind, the composition of music is a three-way battle; it is the product of three forces pulling a creative spark apart and in three separate directions, each with its own purpose and goal.  Every unique piece that is involved in the equation counts, and the composite of these results in what we hear through the speakers.

But boil it down to its purest form and you start with that creative spark. ¬†This is where peoples’ opinions, I think, are fractured and begin to migrate in different directions; down separate paths that may cross over and under each other dozens of times or perhaps never once. ¬†You could make the¬†argument¬†that the birthplace of this spark is within one of these formative forces, but I think that is too simple an explanation…

The Mental

Our mind is perhaps the most powerful, influential and capable force responsible for the creation of music, or any creative endeavor for that matter. ¬†So powerful, in fact, that we cannot, at times, distinguish between our own, controlled conscious thought and the wild, enigmatic subconscious that drives many of our most basic actions. ¬†We study and learn to play instruments in a certain manner; there is a structure and methodology that impacts every aspect of ones creative composition. ¬†There are certain ‘rules’ that guide creation; scales, patterns and rhythms and physical mechanics in music, whose inter-compatibility¬†is defined by centuries of musical tradition.

There is beauty in the seemingly natural resolution that certain intervals and scales have and we strive to create and enhance those patterns.  Like a chess match, there are movements and counter-motions that define the ebb and flow of a piece of music.  Each of these actions planned and orchestrated for maximum sonic impact.  We calculate and plan out our works, sometimes delving so deep into the minutia of a sound and timbre of a particular passage of music that we lose sight of its role in the overall piece.

The Physical

While this force is seemingly the most simple (in comparison) it can be the most influential on the final product.  We may intellectualize an idea, craft it and shape it, but unless we possess the physical capabilities and prowess of executing the  broad strokes and subtle touches we envision, our desire to express our thoughts and emotions is futile.

It’s generally believed that the more technically proficient a player is, the more capable and precise he/she can be when crafting their work. ¬†Sure, you can build a house using only wood, but there will be certain areas that may require other skills and materials and possessing these skills will enable you to build a more efficient and cohesive structure. ¬†Ideally, the larger your vocabulary, the more vivid your descriptions and the more focused your message.

In contrast, it can be one’s physical limitations as players that define his style and unique voice. ¬†There are countless artists that may not be the most talented musicians, yet they each have their own identifiable sound and style of phrasing that is, most often, a direct result of what they¬†can’t do.

The Emotional

Finally, the force that we have the least control over but one that is most apparent and obvious, our emotions. ¬†Just as energy is never created or destroyed (it’s physics, man, look it up) you could make the argument that the emotion that an artist pours into his/her work came from someone/place else in the form of inspiration. ¬†These ideas and feelings are ingrained in the piece of work itself, in every melody, rhythm and tone. ¬†Even though we filter this in through our ears, and there is a physiological response that allows us to recognize and organize the sounds as music, there is, simultaneously, another response elicited; an emotional response. ¬†That response is typically expressed with both physical and mental actions: released as you dance around and sing out lyrics at a concert, recalling an event or memory tied to a particular sound or piece of music, or even in the form of enthusiasm you exude when talking about music with your friends…you’re passing along the emotional energy.

This is obviously not a scientific quantity that can be measured, or even properly defined.  Nevertheless, it may be the biggest reason that people enjoy music; it taps into some unknown and undefined part of their psyche and allows them to release some of the emotional energy that they have inside; to pass it along down the ever-flowing stream of our collective social and cultural creativity where it will meet and blend with other similar and different thoughts and creations.

April 24, 2010

Format Over Function

by George

If you went over to your friend’s house and asked him/her to put on some music, what would happen next? ¬†Would they dock their MP3 player into a home sound system or click open some files on their computer? ¬† Would they drop a needle onto a large, spinning black piece of plastic, or open a little clear case and load their stereo with a few silver discs?

Today, there are three major formats (probably in order of descending popularity)¬†used for consumption of audio: MP3s, CDs and LPs. ¬†While most people don’t give much thought or have much preference about which they use, others are very particular & calculated about their choice. ¬†Which is the superior format is a topic of great debate amongst music listeners. ¬†This arguement typically boils down to a few key issues: cost,¬†availability, ease of use and sound quality.

It’s pretty apparent why downloading digital media is the most popular way of getting your hands on some tunes. It’s hard to beat digital music in terms of cost, portability and availability. ¬†An internet search for an album/artist will quickly yield links to websites/torrents to download music (illegally) at no cost. ¬†Many times, you can get an artists whole¬†discography¬†within minutes and not spend a penny. ¬†And if you’re one of the honest ones who is willing to pay a whole .99/1.29 cents for a song on iTunes, it’s even easier. ¬†You click a few buttons, wait a few seconds and you can be rocking the newest Miley Cyrus song in no time (just threw up in my mouth). ¬†My experience has been that illegal downloads are a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to quality. ¬†Most are ok but there’s a good bit out there that sounds like it’s been recorded with a Playskool boombox and put on the web. ¬†Pay programs (iTunes, Napster, etc.) not only have standardized audio file quality, but you know that when you click to buy “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin you won’t get “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar…great googly moogly, what a travesty that would be!!!

CDs and LPs are a pain in the ass, in comparison. ¬†Not only do you have to get up and go to a record store, but you run the risk that they may be out of or not even carry the album you’re looking for. ¬†This may be a common¬†occurrence¬†if you listen to any music too far off of the beaten path, especially since record stores are becoming harder to find and stores like Best Buy are cutting way back on their selection. ¬†You also don’t have the choice of buying just one song…you have to (gasp!!) commit to buying a whole piece of music. ¬†Physical media is also typically more expensive (especially LPs) than digital media and since a book of CDs or a box of LPs is way bigger than an iPod, they’re nowhere near as easy to take with you.

This, for me, is the saving grace of the digital format…portability. ¬†It lets me take my entire music collection with me wherever I go. ¬†At any moment, I can switch from Queen to Queens of the Stone Age; ¬†Black Sabbath to the Black Crowes; the Dead Weather to Death. ¬†You can almost instantly change your music to match your mood, time or location.

Ahh, but there is a flipside to this that makes it worth the extra effort for these soon to be dinosaur¬†formats; ¬†you don’t get any tangible product for your money with an MP3. ¬†Nothing. ¬†Unless you sit at home and yourself draw some cool picture or write the song titles on the front of a burned CD of MP3s, there’s nothing to hold. ¬†This bums me out¬†immensely.

What is cooler than awesome album artwork?? ¬†It seemingly makes the music BETTER! ¬†It’s part of the allure, message and image. ¬†With CDs and LPs you get artwork, liner notes and other imagery that the artist wanted associated with their album…and on an LP it’s HUGE. ¬†Plus, the bands that do issue their albums on vinyl seem to be putting extra effort into the package: unique and collectible colored vinyls, expanded artwork/picture discs…many even come with a code of a download of the album. ¬†Best of both worlds.

While it’s not true of every piece of music ever recorded, some are composed as cohesive thoughts…like one long sentence. ¬†This has become more evident to me when listening an album I’ve heard to before on CD or MP3 as an LP. ¬†It makes me think that the format has maybe not influenced, but been a complement to this ‘concept album’ idea: Side A starts off with a bang that eventually settles on Side B (and perhaps rises and falls again on the subsequent Sides C & D). ¬†It’s definitely more epic and engaging…you’re listening, getting into it and then the music stops, like intermission during a theatrical performance or concert. ¬† The listener can take a break, grab a drink, use the bathroom, then flip over to Side B for the remainder of the performance. ¬†While this seems jarring, I believe that more artists are aware of this aspect of the listening experience and it’s impacting their track sequencing.

The ever-rising popularity of digital music implies that most people don’t care as much about album art, liner notes, etc. as they do convenience. ¬†I totally understand, but it’s consumer laziness at its best (or worst) and ultimately depressing & difficult: not only is the concept of a complete package lost on most people but the more popular MP3s become, the less incentive for record companies/labels/bands to want to put their material out on CD or LP and they become even harder to find.

Sound quality, though, may be the greatest debated aspect of the format discussion among audiophiles and one where I feel digital media (and CDs to some degree) takes the biggest hit and it’s because of compression. ¬†Part of digitizing a piece of music is compressing it down to a particular file size. ¬†This compression means that you can use less information to convey the same sounds and the result is that many nuances are oftentimes lost. ¬†An analogy is writing with 250 words instead of 1000; yeah, you can understand the main idea that the author is trying to get across, but the detail ¬†and¬†nuance¬†is lost. ¬†These details are what differentiate one writer, musician, person from any other and are what music fans take great pleasure in.

Even CDs are compressed to a certain degree…but at the same time, they greatly reduce the signal noise that you hear on an LP and this increase in overall dynamics yields a greater perceived clarity by the listener. ¬†But for devotees of the LP format, this noise is a small price to pay for the character that is found in a vinyl record. ¬†While the hiss and pops associated with LPs are generally thought of as detractors from the music, some feel that they allow the listener to ‘feel’ the music, something that is rare with the other formats. ¬†Even during sections of silence (intentionally by the artist or otherwise) you know that you are listening to an LP; you hear and feel it. ¬†The speakers are still moving air toward your body. ¬†This character and ambience is present during the entire record, even as the music plays.

I think (and hope) that in the end, all that matters to most music listeners is the actual content…the music. ¬†Plus, someday we’ll all get albums downloaded to the hard drives implanted in our brains. ¬†I guess I’ll have to buy ‘Abbey Road’ AGAIN.

-George

March 26, 2010

Check This

by bmiller445

I recently started working at a large electronic store on the weekend, we’ll call it Buy Best. If you have never worked in retail before I assure you that in four hours I stood there I saw America in all its splendor and unfortunately at its worst. I’m not talking about bratty kids, screaming parents, or people spending irresponsibly. If anything these are people I can relate to. I’m talking about the three assholes who thought it was ok to write me a check. If you haven’t written a check in a store in the last five years you are dismissed, I think one of the others wrote something about music or a video game or something, go read that. If you have though, sit down we need to talk.

Who the hell do you think you are? Maybe you didn’t notice me staring at you like you were a murderer because you were too busy scribbling illegibly on a crinkled, spearmint smelling, coffee stained piece of worthless parchment. You will never know how close you came to death as your wrote that check out, if you had taken any more time to write a memo to yourself I would have taken the pen out of your hand and stabbed you to death with it. And then do your remember that feeling on the back of your head? That was the customer behind you glaring at you so hard he was about to set your hair on fire. He was angry because of the painstaking investigation I had to preform in order to confirm that some bank somewhere would accept this worthless piece of paper you just handed me.

Do you know who writes checks? Jerks and people who know damn well they don’t have the money. Here’s what you need to do. Go to the bank and pull out your check book. Write the check the to “The 21st century” on the amount line write “one debit card” and in the memo section put “because I don’t want to be a jerk anymore”. Hand this to the teller, after they are done interrogating you, like the criminal your are, about all the information on your check they are going to give you a little plastic card. This is your ticket to join the rest of us in Club 21st Century. Come on in, but be sure to pay the cover charge at the door, and no they don’t take checks…actually they don’t take debit either so bring some cash.

Billy

March 16, 2010

Fuzzy Wuzzy – The Fuzz Pt.1

by George

Why do we (lovers of rock and roll like myself) have such an attraction to the gnarly, distorted sounds of overdriven instruments (guitars, bass, synthesizers, whatever) heard on thousands of classic albums? What’s the appeal? Is it a conscious choice to embrace these unpure signals or the subconscious at play?

I think it goes along with the whole ethos of rock and roll: making loud sounds LOUDER because you can and want to. Expression in its simplest form: volume. The pleasure and, dare I say, relaxation that comes from a slow and steady stream of airwaves that bathe your senses as you sit in front of a blaring stereo. Or the celebration of firing off your favorite track from your iPod, listening as it travels like an ever-climbing rocket launched toward the sky. What’s wrong with pretty, soft and sweet?? Nothing…that’s what cheesy ballads are for.

I can’t explain it, but as a guitarist and music listener I am completely obsessed with distorted, overdriven, fuzz tones…this obsession leads me on what seems like a never-ending journey in search of the thickest and wooliest tones I can find (on record and in the form of various musical instruments/effects/random items used like instruments ala THIS). I find the greatest appeal and charm in the fuzzes; overdrives are great for a crisp boost and adding smoothness to a sound, distortions for articulation and sheer power; but fuzzes sit in between the two like a bearded, fat man in the middle seat on the 3:15 bus.

Without getting into all the minutia involved with these effects (silicon vs. germanium transistors, transistor bias, input voltage chokes, etc.) there are so many variations on this fuzz sound that you can have a different one for breakfast every day of the week…mmmm. From a soft clip to a hairy, lo-fi growl; a mid-scooped rasp or a throaty, mid-high bark; a smooth grind or a sputtery, dying battery bit-crushed sound.

Listen closely to the loose, slightly uncontrollable quake of the most famous fuzzboxes of all time, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff; that beautiful sound created when a note or chord is so saturated with electrical input that it has reached critical mass; one that has begun to crumble and is on the verge of collapsing in upon itself. It’s almost as though these devices are shaking the subtle harmonics out of each note, dissolving the composure of these tame and normal sounds and releasing their inner soul. Electric bloom!

Let’s take a trip through the history/highlights of the fuzz sound:

Early/Mid ’60s: Musicians stumble upon this magic box that makes their instruments sound like they’re capable of leveling a small building. Naturally, the human ear (and more importantly brain) likes this and wants more. ¬†No longer do musicians have to tear the cones in their speaker cabinets to get this glorious sound. British bands like The Kinks, The Animals and The Rolling Stones come to America with their fuzz boxes; little girls scream; young men revel in the sound of syrupy, distorted guitars…

Late 60s/70s: The Beatles take fuzz tones psychedelic, Hendrix single-handedly destroys and rebuilds what we knew as guitar playing (using only wood, steel strings and a FuzzFace pedal) and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour slyly sneaks some fuzz into his soulful lead guitar voice. ¬†ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons was stringing together up to 6 Expandora fuzzes to create his ‘Lapdog of Distortion’, heard on records like Tres Hombres, which he used to bring some Texas heat to the blues. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin…Rangemasters, Tone Benders, on and on we go…

Late 70s/80s: Besides a couple Sabbath-clone bands, I’ll be skipping this decade. You can thank hair metal for that one (bastards!).

Late 80s/90s: Ahhh, rebirth of the fuzz: J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr., Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo & Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins break out those ancient fuzz machines and in doing so, help define the alt-rock thing going on at the time. Enter the almighty fuzz lords Kyuss…masters of the massive-volume amp riffage that would later give birth to bands like Queens of the Stone Age and stripped down garage-rock bands to follow in the…

2000s -now: Fuzz revival is in full-swing with lo-fi garage rock and between the albums Elephant & Magic Potion you can hear almost every classic fuzz tone known to mankind. Then there are bands like SunnO))) that are capable of re-awakening dormant volcanoes with their sub-sonic, fuzzed-out rumble.

In a future installment, I’ll do the trifecta for gearheads: ¬†a trident review of some fuzz pedals that have me giddy as a school girl: ¬†the Swollen Pickle MkII, Fuzz Factory and the Bluebeard Fuzz. ¬†And if this wasn’t totally boring for you, check out the awesome documentary Fuzz: The Sound That Revolutionized the World.

-George

February 9, 2010

Weekend Job

by bmiller445

I am poor. Not eat cat food poor, but more eat a lot of hot dogs and macaroni poor. I remember my parents used to tell stories about how poor they were when they first got married and I though “glad I won’t be poor like that.” Well little Billy, turns out you were a dumb arrogant little shit. So here I am just married, trudging away at my career at the bottom of the ladder and considering applying for a weekend job at Best Buy. When I’m older I’ll say “Kids when your Mother and I got married I had to work a second job at Best Buy on the weekends.” I’ll then kiss their creepy red heads and hopefully not head off to my weekend Best Buy job.

I think this could be entertaining though. I’m getting this job to pay off my credit card and car so that one day I can have adult things, like a house and those creepy red headed children. Opposed ¬†to adult things like a credit card bill and a car payment. So, this second job isn’t a necessity simply a means to more quickly reach an end. It will be a job with no pressure and I have envisioned several scenarios as to how that can play out. (I have now copied the word “scenario” so spell check doesn’t yell at me every time I write it.)

Scenario 1: Zombie Attack

I always make sure I factor this scenario in first to every new situation I am presented with, it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when. I think Best Buy would be a pretty solid place to hold up. Sure there is the glass store front, but that usually stops zombies well enough, but allows the more selfless and courageous of the group to drive the bus through that will get you to the docks. Also there is plenty of entertainment so long as we have power and I imagine that would hold out for a few days, maybe a week and after it goes out I’ll turn to Marty the Martyr and send him out to get the bus. I think shotguns are standard issue for the Geek Squad guys too.

Scenario 2: The Deliverer of Knowledge

I’ll tell the employees what boobs feel like (jello eggs, remember those?)and become their king. They lift me up on high for granting them this knowledge more precious than that of fire. They will callme Billymetheus, write epic poems about me, and build temples in my reverence out of DVDs and Xboxes. Unfortunately this scenario ends with me being bound to a ping pong table forced to do power hours to bad 80s music and destroy my liver, only for it to soften at the beginning of the next hour and when ritual starts again.

Scenario 3: Hard Work and a Friendly attitude

I haven’t really thought this one through a lot as I figure the first two are much more likely.

Well maybe I’ll get the job and my post will stop being only vaguely related to technology and will actually be related to technology, I’ll truly earn the top billing that John randomly gave me when he created this site. I’ll write about things like microwaves, TVs, and cell thingies. I’ll have list and reviews comparing all these, and not microwaves to microwaves like John and the others do, but really to each other. You’ll finally get to compare microwave and cell thingies side by side and make an informed decision as to which you should purchase. (Spoiler: it depends what you want to do microwaves for cooking, cells for sexting.)

Billy

February 3, 2010

For real time

by bmiller445

Last Night I was in For-Real-Time watching LOST. I sat in front of my television with no buffer built up on the TIVO and as things would happen before the commercial break I would look at my wife and say “For Real?”. We haven’t watched real time TV for any lengthy period of time in almost 3 years and it was great. We talk about the show during commercials, ran to the bathroom to get back before the show started, and watched live as the world of LOST confused us for 3 straight hours. This is how Television should be. (sometimes) It was great to be so into a story I didn’t want to step away from it and the added bonus of hearing my TIVO gong at me as I impatiently tried to fast forward only made the moment that much more exciting. It was a flashback to a simpler time ruined by terrorist and reality TV, but I repeat myself. I have decided that lost will be watched in real time come hell or high water. It is 1998 again and I will rush home from whatever I am doing watch a TV show. I can only think of a few scenarios that may prevent me from getting home on time:

Death
Loss of my legs
I’m in the middle of brain surgery (getting or performing)
Death in the family (only my own)
Zombie, Nazi, or alien invasion
Becoming trapped on a mystical island (that one would be a push)

This is a pledge to watch TV in its most pure form, with commercials telling me what to buy, pee breaks with no time for poo, and conversation with other people in the room. People will sing songs about this one day.

Billy

January 26, 2010

Sonic Ritual

by George

We all believe. ¬†And we each have our own way of practicing our faith. ¬†Precious minutes each day, devoted to worship…precious minutes, each day, when we can remove our conscious selves from the physical world and become enveloped by our deities.

Or maybe it’s just me…

For those like myself who hold a particular reverence for the awesome power of music and sound, putting in earbuds, popping in a CD or putting a needle to vinyl and pressing play can be an almost religious experience…a glimpse into the divine! ¬†It can enhance or detract; construct or destroy; amplify or mute. ¬†To we who believe, it can give solace just as easily as it can bring on discomfort.

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking that I need to get a life…possibly true.

But you cannot deny that you too have, at some point in your cognizant existence, been influenced by and acted under the guidance of these moving waves…that even for the most brief interval of time, been transported from your physical surroundings into a world created by your mind.

Not only are these sonic rituals a window into our minds, but they are also a means of time travel.  The physical compression of air in certain patterns and frequencies that we interpret as sound is transformed into electrical impulses that activate certain areas of your brain, where they have the ability to continue on and trigger memories.  Despite our (supposedly and arguably) massive intellectual capabilities as human beings, our limited ability to control our thoughts is rarely more evident than when song and lyric carry your mind away to another specific instance of time.

Reality is limited by¬†perception. ¬†As sound is one of the¬†distinctions¬†that defines reality, I like to think that the structure and organization of its elemental units (music) is one of the ‘bridges’ that links our reality with a world that we don’t have the means to perceive; all the frequencies, from the lowest bass to the highest treble and those in between, are essential to further describe and understand our surroundings.

And at the same time, we create it…at the very least, we are vessels by which it is conveyed.

So, my fellow believers, as you go off and bathe your mind in sound, peace be with you.
wall of fuzz

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