Large Subject, Small Poem

The May 6th prompt in The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice, by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano, involves making a list of five huge things (concrete or abstract), then writing a poem of four lines or less about it.

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Sometimes, I do other things

When I was a kid, one of my ambitions in life was to become a musician. Some of the other things I wanted to be were a writer, a photographer, a politician, an actor, a college professor, a psychologist, and a radio DJ—but I often came back to the musician thing, since music was really my biggest passion.

Unfortunately, even in the age of punk, I didn’t think that would be possible unless I learned how to actually play an instrument. At various times, I started learning the guitar, the piano, and the saxophone—but, for various and sundry reasons, never stuck with any of them long enough.

In college, I took music theory—and did extremely well. Still, I never did much to translate that into anything useful. I had a couple of Casio keyboards, but nothing really substantial.

One of those Casio keyboards was the SK-1, their first sampling keyboard—the one CNN spotlighted in a report that I first saw on their short-lived program This Week in Japan. During the six months between graduating from college and landing my first full-time job, I used that little keyboard to experiment with making my own music. The results were predictably crude, and even the best of the pieces I recorded would be unreleasable now, thanks to the relative speed with which the record industry clamped down on the practice of sampling..

It wasn’t until I was about a year into my first job in Tokyo that I bought my first real musical instrument, a Yamaha EOS B200 synthesizer. Part of the reason I chose that particular model was that it had built-in speakers, and I didn’t want to have to invest in a bunch of extra equipment. Anyway, in December 1988, I began making my own, completely original music for the first time. In those days, of course, there was no Internet to speak of, and there were only a handful of TV stations in the Tokyo area, so my free time was largely spent working on music.

By the time I left Tokyo in 1992, I was pretty happy with how far I’d come, so I invested in a new keyboard, and continued my activities. By 1994, I felt confident enough to put out a CD (no small investment at that time); over the next four or five years, I released several cassettes (which were far less expensive to produce, and could be made on demand), and even performed live on four occasions.

Real life, uncertainty about my musical direction, and an early morning burglary ended my brief musical career, but I still have just about all the material I’ve ever recorded. (The exceptions are a handful of pieces lost when a malfunctioning DAT recorder ate one of my tapes. It’s only thanks to the folks at Aiwa, who salvaged it as best they could, that I had the tape long enough to make a copy, thereby salvaging the rest of the material it contained.)

Most of what I released between 1993 and 1998 has been out of print for at least fifteen years now, except for a few pieces that were available for download from the now-defunct social media site Multiply (which morphed into an Asian online shopping portal before shutting down for good in 2013), the Weightlessness 10th Anniversary Edition CD that I produced in 2004 (yes, I still have some copies left), and a couple of pieces that I made videos for and uploaded to YouTube:

Fluorescent lighting
http://youtu.be/MwmLNjWiWKY

The nature of silence
http://youtu.be/cfhESaUU_Oo

In 2011, I started to upload some material to Bandcamp, but real life once again got in the way, and my ambitious reissue program stalled after two releases:

Penumbra
http://tintymusic.bandcamp.com/track/penumbra

Live Anthology 1996–1997
http://tintymusic.bandcamp.com/album/live-anthology-1996-1997

Nearly three years later, I have finally uploaded a new compilation to Bandcamp—one that I’d been thinking about for quite some time.

Short Forms 1989–2004 collects 71 tracks, each less than two minutes long. As I was putting it together, I realized that it would present a pretty good history of my musical and sound art activities, from the more musically accessible early pieces to the later, more experimental pieces (including straight-up noise). Combined with a digital (PDF) booklet containing track listings, recording information, and liner notes, it pretty neatly encompasses several of my favorite pursuits: music, writing, photography, and graphic design.

The collection went live today. It can be found at http://tintymusic.bandcamp.com/album/short-forms-1989-2004. The PDF booklet is available only with purchase of the full album, but the tracks are available for streaming whether or not you decide to buy.

In any event, it feels good to put this stuff out there at last. Perhaps now I can get to making some of that out-of-print material available again.

(2 March 2014)

Sometimes I feel like a mid-1990s Windows Update

Remember Windows Update in the mid-1990s? You know, when updating Windows was horribly unpredictable?

You know. When there was at least a 50-50 chance that installing that update would cause all sorts of havoc with your computer—even (especially?) rendering some of your programs completely unusable—and it would take undoing that update or installing another patch to put things back to normal. Continue reading

Sometimes, Things Make Sense

Sometimes, insights come from unexpected places.

Yesterday, I had the chance to read an article by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point), first published in 1998, about Judith Rich Harris and her theories about child development. (The article can be found here on Gladwell’s web site.)

The gist of the article, and Harris’ theory, is that what we learn outside the home—i.e., what we learn from our peers—has more impact on how we turn out than what we learn from our parents.

As I read the article, a lot of things suddenly started to make some sense— Continue reading

“We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us…”

About three months ago, I wrote a story—a short story—about a childhood episode (“the Nikki incident”, I sometimes call it) that ended up having enormous influence on my life. Emerging from a period in which I got divorced, moved into a place of my own for the first time in a decade, and began re-thinking just about everything, it seemed to be the right time to confront—and dispose of—this difficult memory and what I had allowed it to do to me.

However, as the movie Magnolia puts it, “we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” Continue reading

National Poetry Writing Month: Day #28 (April 28, 2013)

Today’s prompt is to write a poem based on a color. I chose yellow… Continue reading

Sometimes, Good Things Happen

Between this and the other blog (The Lifelong Mixtape) I occasionally write, it’s probably obvious to even the casual observer that this has been a tough year. Unemployment, divorce, preparing to sell a house, and looking for a new place to live while also looking for a steady job—all at the same time? I don’t recommend it.

But, sometimes good things happen, too. Continue reading