Luna and table in black and white

Tonight, I just have a photo of Luna to share. I am pretty sure the original was taken by my dad last July (i.e., 2005). I was just playing around and did some work with the contrast and lighting, and converted to black and white. I am quite pleased with the results. Quite the artsy urban kitty, don't you think?

It's been a nice evening. Quiet and clear, and warm – it usually doesn't stay this warm at night around here. A great night to go for a walk…and then come home, sit on the couch and manipulate digital photos.

Ethiopiques – Funk and "60s" music from Ethiopia

Heard a really cool filler track this morning on NPR, it after a follow-up comment to a story about
Jazz from the Horn of Africa, but the song on the radio was more funk ala James Brown 1970 (i.e., with the JBs, not the original band). The track was from Ethiopiques Volume 8: Swing Addis.

Happily, the entire series is on emusic, and I immediately downloaded the entire volume 8 album. In addition to funk, there are tracks reminiscent of 60s R&B and British/American movie soundtracks of the era.

There is something quite amazing about some of these old recordings. Like western releases of the time, the gritty low-fi recordings blend with the unmistakably “modern” quality of the music that overproduced contemporary artists can't seem to duplicate (think of how contemporary dance and hip-hop can't match the sound of old disco and R&B). It's music you can play late at night in a retro pad with low colored lights while chilling out with your girlfriend and enjoying the psychoactive substance of your choice.

More specifically, this series suggests a lively and sophisticated scene in Addis Ababa of the early 1970s before decades of dictatorship, starvation, poverty, war and now Islamic fundamentalism at its doorstop. You can read an interesting interview with the producer of the Ethiopiques series.

I am curious to review and explore more of what was going on the world at that time culturaly, as compared to where we find ourselves now. Collectively speaking, we're just not as cool as we used to be. But that's a project for another day…time to light up, groove out and tweak a few knobs (so to speak)…

Cats in Lebanon

Tiger is a cute orange-striped cat looking for a nice home.

What makes his story different from a typical cat-adoption ad on on a blog is that Tiger is in Lebanon. Politically, I am generally supportive of Israel and have relatives in Haifa, but nothing makes one feel for the people on the “other side” in a war quite like stories of animals and children and the people who care for them. (I guess I find it true for stories about artists and musicians, too, but I'll save that for another post). Consider the otherwise happy story of Barbara and Fluffy and the “amazing girl” who adopted them. She could be the model of my own ideal child. One can only hope that neither she nor her cats have suffered during the attacks on Beirut.

I also read about a program at the American University of Beirut (AUB) where students care for the many cats that roam the campus, providing food, shelter, health care and positive human interaction, and discouraging their fellow students from abusing the cats.

The author of the article, Hania Jurdak, expresses an articulate ideal about caring for the animals even as “some human rights are ignored.”

I doubt relatively liberal AUB is much of a Hezbollah stronghold, so would hope it escapes any attacks on the city. I haven't seen a lot of news concerning AUB during the current fighting, aside from evacuations and the university hospital being a primary center for treating the sick and wounded. Those operating animal shelters in Beirut and conducting rescues do find themselves closer to the neighborhoods that have seem much of the bombing, including the southern suburbs.

I enourage cat and animal lovers to check out these and other articles at for a sympathetic look at people (and their animal friends) in war outside of the usual political and ideological shouting on both sides. Over the next few days, I will try to post cat-related resources from other sides of the multiple Middle-East conflicts.

More Cats and Synthesizers

It looks like some others out there had the same idea. Check out this post at Create Digital Music featuring photos of animals with synthesizers. While the author is an admitted dog person, there are several cute cat pics, including this one from the Matrixsynth blog:

The synthesizer in this photo is the legendary and all-too-appropriate Octave CAT.

Also at Matrixsynth is Arak and Legion. Arak is handsome black cat, like Luna but with yellow eyes, more like a Bombay. Matrix also has an adorable shot of his black cat JD with a Sequential Circuits Multitrak. Check it out, it looks like he's actually reviewing patch specs.

Sadly, it sounds like Arak has passed away and JD isn't doing very well. My heart goes out to Matrix, Legion and their kitties. Our animal companions truly share our lives, even our odd hobbies.

If you would to submit your own images of cats and synthesizers for this blog, please use our handy submission page.

In memoriam, Ruth Schonthal (1924-2006), composer and teacher

I received the sad news this past week that composer and teacher Ruth Schonthal had passed away.
Her long career as a composer spanned several decades and included an extraordinary journey from pre-Nazi Germany through Sweden to Mexico and eventually to the United States. She was also a longtime teacher at New York University and at the Music Conservatory of Westchester. I was a composition student of hers at the Westchester Conservatory from 1983 to 1991, and it was under her guidance and tutelage that I wrote several of my early award-winning compositions, including Conversational Impromptu and Earth Songs.

In addition to her contributions as a composer, musician and mentor, her passing is a reminder to make an effort to stay in touch with the people who influence your life. We had not been in touch over the last few years. It was something I planned to do one some of my twice-a-year trips back to New York, but for one reason or another I never did. Perhaps there was so much else going with family and friends, perhaps I was waiting for a good story to tell, which of course I now have with a CD of my compositions released. If there is a lesson here, it is to not wait.