The Big Shimmer was the opening for my first album, Flight of the Atom Bee, which you can read about here.
The Blue Serge
In the early days of my re-submerging into music making, around 1994, as I recall, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had barely played guitar for almost twenty years. I had spent a couple of years in the late mid-eighties learning the ins and outs of creating semi-musical sound with a Serge Modular Synthesizer, which was a complex, finicky, almost impossible-to-play noise-making device. But I was still drinking and nothing came of my nightly analog meanderings. I would occasionally come up with amazing patches in my stupor, but one half-twist of one tiny non-descript knob somewhere on the largely un-labeled boards would destabilize the whole patch and I would never be able to get it back to where it had been, much less remember how I got there in the first place.
When, later, after a few years of sobriety, the light went on over my head and I remembered that I had at one time practiced guitar for up to eight hours a day, I got the Serge and some other gear out of storage and went on a synthesizer and music studio gear buying binge which lasted a couple of years.
So before too long, I had a studio that looked like this:
That didn’t mean I knew what to do with it. It was baby steps at first. I think I have mentioned before that I had no clue about how midi worked, how to write a drum part, or a bass line, or how to score strings, and so on, so The Big Shimmer was comprised of small simple units of my own making.
The Big Shimmer started with the bass sound and then the bass line itself, which I put together on the Serge, using the Serge Touch Keyboard as a control-voltage sequencer, sync’ed to a little Roland TR-606 drum machine to generate beat clock, as well as the simple drum pattern you hear throughout the song. Later, I had to use a very early Roland midi interface to send beat-clock to the TR-606 drum machine to get the hi-hat patterns you hear in the song, which were processed through a Mutron Bi-Phase phase-shifter, a classic piece of analogue sound processing gear.
The chord in the song was played on a Roland JX-8P, a beautiful digital synth with analogue filters on which I would spend days tweaking one sound – it was a wonderful form of meditation. There were three primary patches used for The Big Shimmer: the main pad, one to allow a I-V chord progression, and the big wide shimmering tone you hear layered here and there, and in the last three or four minutes of the piece.. The chord itself was just a series of fifths up the keyboard C-G-D-A-E-B with the keys taped down and all the chords were recorded in one pass in real time. I did whatever layering and editing was necessary later.
I ran the JX-8P through a real spring reverb, so much of the motion you hear in the sound is the result of kinetic energy building standing waves within the spring itself. A beautiful sound.
By this time I was recording into my computer using the great StudioVision application.
I recorded the bass line, the chord and its variations via different patches on the keyboard, the drum parts, including the phase-shifted hi-hats, and the incidental serge noises separately.
I then began to take them apart and put them back together again in StudioVision, cutting and pasting snippets of sound and learning how to build and arrange a song.
It was an incredibly exciting time for me – I had no idea what I was doing. Everything was serendipitous, but I was fearless and would happily follow ideas wherever the sound would take me. There was a tremendous amount of uncovering, discovering, and then disposing.
I have no idea how long I worked on the piece once it was on my computer, but I do remember when I got the mix almost done, as you hear it now and I made a cassette of it and played it for my artist friend, the beautiful and talented and sexy Lynn Klein. We were driving to a restaurant and I parked as the song was about half-way through.
We sat until the piece was finished.
She looked at me and said,”Knox, that is just sex!”
I knew that I had succeeded.
Claude Michel Celse, Seaside Town, 1948
the reason that I am alive
By Boris Vian
the reason that I am alive
the reason that I am alive
for the tanned leg
of a blonde woman
propped against the wall
beneath the round sun
for the billowing sails
of a sleek schooner
at the mouth of the harbor
the iced coffee sipped through a straw
for the caress of sand
gazing at the watery deeps
turning so blue
descending into the deeps
with the fish
the tranquil fish
they calm the bottom of the ocean
fly above the seaweed hair
like slow birds
like blue birds
the reason that I am alive
because it is beautiful
Love is patient, Love is kind,
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud, It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
Love never fails.
Corinthians 13 : 4 – 8
I don’t know much about Delia Derbyshire, but she did incredible things with a tape-recorder in the era before samplers. She made music for the British TV show, Dr. Who. A fascinating artist, quite cute, as well. The proprietor of http://drwhogirlsknickers.co.uk would kill for a pair of her panties.
Find an olive tree, pick olives. Use ladder if needed. Make a small slit in the skin of each olive with a sharp knife, soak them in water for thirty days, changing the water every day. Brine olives uncovered in salt water, 10 parts water to one part salt, for five days. You do not need to change water. Put olives out to dry. When dry put in jars with good olive oil, whole peeled garlic cloves and Greek oregano (if you can find it). Seal jars. Let marinate for a week. Open jar and enjoy with cheese, bread, salamis, wine or any tasty drink. And music!
The canning process.
The Bottle—©2011 Knox Bronson
I’m redoing this site over the next week or so.
Perhaps it will inspire me to post more here! Probably not. Pixels has still taken over my life. But I am heading back into the studio to record my next cd.
Much to my surprise, the title “One Man’s Opinion Of Moonlight” has soundly pulled ahead of “Naked” as the favored title for my next cd.
“What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”
I do not have anything to say about Beethoven, the man who freed music, that has not already been said.
I was introduced to Beethoven in my early twenties by two newspapermen, Ed Frisbie and Fran Ortiz, both of whom worked at the SF Examiner where I was a copyboy. We would sit around the M&M Tavern at 5th & Howard and talk about the late quartets, the Grosse Fugue … and I would try to soak it up and I’d go buy pieces they recommended … and I’d listen to them when I tired of Bowie, Roxy Music, and Captain Beefheart.
I am forever grateful to the two of them.
Fran was a great news photographer whose works – four pieces as a matter of fact – were chosen by the New York Museum of Modern Art for their retrospective of twentienth century photojournalistic excellence. He was a gentleman, a kind man, a great cook, and quite the ladies man: he gave me a lamb recipe for the first time I had a woman over for a serious dinner date. It worked.
But this is not really a story about Fran, or Beethoven, but about Ed Frisbee, one of the most serious drinkers and most entertaining story-tellers I knew in my early life. It was another era. I had a lot to learn about booze.
Read the rest of this article at my old site, Sun Pop Blue. Recipe included! (in the comments)
I occasionally like to dredge up an old piece from Sun Pop Blue, my old site, to post on here. There is a treasure-trove of material there. I thought I would share this piece on the statistical evidence that any man who wears a baseball cap around town, not playing baseball nor fishing, but as everyday wear, is most likely a minute-man.
BTW, if you listened to the Audioboo about this subject, there isn’t much in this story that wasn’t in there.
This poor girl is in for a big surprise … or, looking at her body language, maybe she got the surprise last night.
Many years ago, I was the member of a club that met on Tuesday evenings. Mutual friends introduced me to an attractive, tall blonde woman, whom I shall call T. I was immediately smitten.
It turned out that T was the coffee and snack person for the weekly gathering, but didn’t have a car. Naturally, I offered to pick her up and drive her and the goodies to and from the meeting.
Over the next few weeks, we got better acquainted and my hopes for a more intimate relationship were bouyed by our conversations about music, the seventies, her claims that she was a total pervert … you know, the usual.
I didn’t make a move because the time never seemed quite right. I was coming off a painful divorce and still sort of in shock, I guess.
Anyway, one day after the meeting I was helping T pack up the supplies and she said,”I don’t need a ride home, Knox, I’m getting a ride with D——.” And indicated some tall doofus in a baseball hat
standing near the door.
My heart sunk.
I bid T adieu and drove home to my big empty apartment. I called my friend J in Philadelphia. I had met J online. She was a musician, in a relationship, but we had become friends and she had helped me learn the basics of web design, html, and all of that. This was almost eighteen years ago, now that I think about it.
In her day, J had been pretty wild. She was the kind of girl who would sleep with the UPS delivery man as he delivered a parcel to her home if she thought he was cute. I must say I really respect a woman who is honest about her sexuality, whatever form it takes.
I mention that just to indicate that J knew a little bit about men in all their varied splendor, the good, the bad, the skilled, the inept, and so on. By the time I met her, she had met her mate and they are together happily to this day.
She answered the phone and asked how I was.
I said, “Terrible! I was driving this girl to and from the meeting every week and I really liked her and tonight she told me she was getting a ride “home from some asshole in a baseball hat.”
And she said,”Knox, listen to me. Premature ejaculation. I have the facts and figures to back it up. Trust me … if he is wearing a baseball hat, we are talking premature ejaculation every single time!”
And she said,”Oh yeah. Without fail.”
And then we talked about other stuff for a while. And I guess I felt a little better.
Several years later, T had become a hairstylist and she was cutting my hair. She was married to someone, but not D—–.
I told her the story of my phonecall that night of my heartbreak at her unwitting behest. And when I got to the part where J said “Trust me Knox, if he’s wearing a baseball hat, premature ejaculation every time,” T had a shocked expression on her face.
She said,”He had that problem!”
So girls … now you know.
On a related topic, a rich Danville friend of mine, a married woman was trying to set a friend up with another mutual friend. She asked me what I thought. I said,”He’s cheap.”
And she said,”Forget it. Cheap guys are always lousy in bed.”
And I said,”Well, just remember, I’ve been a spendthrift all my life!”
Never worn a baseball hat.
Just sayin’ …