Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Reconnaissance Fly at DUENDE, Oakland (March 26)

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Today we look back at Reconnaissance Fly’s recent performance at DUENDE on Oakland. DUENDE is a venue and tapas restaurant/bar that has been quite supportive of the new music community (I have been remiss in writing reviews for some of the other shows I have seen there), and also has delicious food and wine.

patatas bravas and Tempranillo

The patatas bravas are simple but delicious. The Tempranillo was quite nice as well.

The performance itself was fun. We had a good audience, mostly filled with familiar faces but that is always welcome. And we premiered a couple of new pieces, Spirograph by Polly Moller and Undeciphered by Tim Walters, which featured text in the undeciphered Linear A script (go look it up). Here are some views from the show.

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Amanda Chaudhary
[Photos by MSW.]

Yes, I deliberately matched the color of the Nord.

Rounding out the band as always were Rich Lesnik on reeds and Larry the O on drums.

We are now busy working in more detail on those pieces and at least one more new one for our next show at the Makeout Room in San Francisco in early May.

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Fun with Highways: California Highway 41

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A few years ago, I acquired several highway shields to use in photography, including one for California Highway 41. It was particularly good for photos like that one shown above. But I only knew small bits of the road itself. So when a certain birthday came to pass recently, I decided it was time to travel Highway 41 in its entirety.

Highway 41 begins in Morro Bay at an interchange with Highway 1. Morro Bay is a cute seaside town, and is distinctive for its large volcanic rock along the ocean.

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The highway heads northeast through a relatively gentle section of the coast range and crosses US 101 in the town of Atascadero. It then climbs into the hills as a narrow two lane highway. Along the way it passes the many bucolic scenes of farms and ranches. As it climbs the hills, the trees disappear but the landscape remains quite green.

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A little further north, Highway 41 joins Highway 46, a major east-west connector, and runs concurrently for a while. The change in traffic and speed was unmistakable.

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As one heads east, the land becomes a drier and more sparse. 41 splits from 46 and heads north on its own. After coming over a ridge, the highway descends into a rather arid valley, quite different from the coast and the verdant hills further south.

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We cross Highway 33 at a rather unassuming junction. There was an interesting looking roadhouse there, and I wish I had the courage to stop and try it. But I did press on across another, even more arid ridge to a junction with I-5 near Kettleman City. Kettleman City, which is not really a city or even an incorporated town, is probably the single sketchiest location along the entire route. I had been here before and taken a few photos. One of my favorite sites is still “alive and well.”

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Continuing north, we move to the interior of the Central Valley at the edge of the former Lake Tulare, once the second largest freshwater lake entirely within the United States. It has since completely dried up, leaving a very flat landscape of farms. Many fields appeared to be fallow, perhaps due to the drought. It is a beautifully bleak landscape.

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Just west of the town of Hanford, Highway 41 crosses CA 198, another major east-west highway. 198 is a freeway here, something I was not aware of. 41 itself becomes a four-lane expressway north of the interchange, and increasingly busy as we head north towards Fresno. As we pass the city boundary, it becomes a full freeway. It traverses the area south of downtown as an elevated viaduct, where it crosses Highway 99 and provides access to both downtown and nearby industrial neighborhoods.

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I stopped here to do some photographs, one of which already appeared in an earlier Wordless Wednesday. Here are some more.

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Heading north out of Fresno, 41 becomes the Yosemite Freeway, as it heads north towards the park.

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The freeway narrows and then becomes a surface road as it approaches the foothills of the Sierra. The road climbs steeply into the hills and then descends equally steeply into the town of Oakhurst. The road narrows and climbs again into more mountainous wooded terrain.

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We find the signed END of Highway 41 as we approach the southern border of Yosemite National Park.

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But this is not the end the real end. The legal definition of Highway 41 continues into the park, although it is not signed as such. It goes through a tunnel the exit of which provides spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley.

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Ultimately Highway 41 ends at a junction with (also unsigned) Highway 140 as it enters the valley.

This was an interesting road to complete beyond its numerical value in that it crossed through so many terrains and parts of the state. And a worthwhile and unique trip.

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Weekend Cat Blogging with Luna: Rain, Disorder, Hunting

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Luna is enjoying a respite from the rain and play-hunting the birds outside on the patio. The stretch of rain is actually a good thing for us, considering that 2013 was the driest year on record for California. It also gives me a chance to concentrate on reorganizing CatSynth HQ, a project that has dragged on for a long time and left things here in a bit of disorder. You can still see a bit of it around Luna in the photo above.

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Reconnaissance Fly CD Release and Plurality of Worlds

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Well, our CD release show for Reconnaissance Fly has come and gone, and it was quite a successful evening. We were joined in celebrating the release of our album Flower Futures by Emily Hay, half of a new project with Polly Moller called Plurality of Worlds.

Our preparation for the day started quite early, with stage setup, sound checks, and professional lighting design by our friend Travin McKain. But we got it all done, cleaned ourselves up and made ourselves presentable for the evening.

Reconnaissance Fly
[Photo by Michael Dawson.]

As you can see, we are a rather eclectic bunch, which is very much in line with the music we play.

First up was Plurality of Worlds, which brought together Polly Moller and Emily Hay for the first time as a duo of avant-garde flutes and vocals. Each brought both a standard concert flute and one of the bigger models, bass flute for Moller and alto flute for Hay. Their vocals played off one another in amusing ways, with absurdist babblings (Hay) responding to recitations from written texts (Moller). It was clear they were having a lot of fun performing, and we all enjoyed watching them.

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[Photo by Michael Dawson.]

They were joined by Reconnaissance Fly bassist Tim Walters on Supercollider, providing all variety of effects processing that filled the spaces both temporally and timbrally in the sparse texture of the duo.

Then it was time for us to take take the stage, with band members Amanda Chaudhary (keyboard), Rich Lesnick (reeds) and Larry-the-O (drums) joining in. As with our album and many of our live performances, things began with the ritualistic first note of Small Chinese Gong.

Small Chinese Gong

We then went into a full set that mixed selections from the album such as One Should Never and the combined Electric Rock Like a Cat / sanse is crede nza, with newer pieces such as Spiders and Snakes and How Now is Soon (actually, and older piece, but relatively new to Reconnaissance Fly). The set was quite lively and energetic, and also filled with humorous moments, and the audience responded well to those.

Reconnaissance Fly at Berkeley Arts
[Photo by Michael Dawson.]

The above picture does not include Larry, so here he is.

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[Photo by Michael Dawson.]

Overall, it was a good night, with great stage lighting, a packed house at Berkeley Arts, and even a few CDs sold. If you are interested in checking the album out, you can do so via Edgetone Records. And if you want to see us live, we have a few more shows coming up, including at The Luggage Store Gallery (1007 Market Street in San Francisco) tonight (Thursday, Feubrary 13)!

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NAMM 2014: Moog Theremini

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The most notable new offering this year from Moog Music, Inc. was the Theremini, a very accessible incarnation of the classic theremin.

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The design of the instrument evokes classic science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s (in which the theremin was a mainstay), and it features modern enhancements including a variety of tones and effects, support to stabilize pitch, and CV and MIDI for external control. And it’s MSRP is $299.

I decided to try my hand at this fun and photogenic instrument.

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You can see a bit of my attempt to perform one-handed in this video.

I can see this being a great tool for live performance, both standalone and as a controller for analog synths. I look forward to learning more about it.

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Weekend Cat Blogging with Luna: Glass Table and Clothing Pile

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As per usual, Luna is enjoying morning sunshine by sitting underneath one of our many glass tables at CatSynth HQ. Unfortunately, her favorite one is completely covered with piles of clothing right now, but that doesn’t stop her from claiming her usual spot.

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The glass dining table has become a staging area for a major clothing purge. Here things are separated into items to be sold, donated or given to friends. After a zealous start, I have been busy with work and rehearsals for upcoming shows (including a performance tonight), so the piles remain for now. But Luna and I will both be happy when they disappear.

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Reconnaissance Fly Album Release!

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Well, it’s taken quite a while, but it’s finally here. Reconnaissance Fly’s debut album will be coming out a week from today on January 17, and is available for pre-order now!

To celebrate, we will be having our album-release show on Saturday, February 1 at Berkeley Arts.

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If you’re in the Bay Area, come join us for this event. But wherever you are, please give our album a listen…and then buy it.

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Fun with Highways: Spaghetti Bowl (Las Vegas)

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We’ve had the Mixing Bowl (DC), the Orange Crush, the Can of Worms, so why not the Spaghetti Bowl?

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US_95I-515_(NV)The interchange connects I-15, one the major north-south highways in the western U.S., with US 93US 95 and I-515, which head eastward into downtown Las Vegas.  It was reconstructed in the late 1990s into the version we see in the above photo.

I have actually not spent much time in Las Vegas, and none of that time was on a highway in in a car.  Indeed, I had a miserable experience about 12 years along the strip (South Las Vegas Boulevard).  While I won’t get into the details of that trip, it did prevent me from exploring more of the actual city and what it has to offer.  I would be willing to give it another chance, especially if I could also explore out into the desert.

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2013, The Transformative Year

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2013 Year End photo

 

[click image to enlarge]

 

Once again, it’s time for our traditional end-of-the-year image at CatSynth.   The past couple of years have all been good, rich, full, and sometimes complicated.  But 2013 has been particularly significant, certainly one that I will long remember.  As the title says, it has been a transformational time on multiple dimensions for me, indeed it has touched almost every aspect of my being.  There will be more to say on that in the coming days. Music and art have been going very well, too, and one of the main challenges of this coming year will be to build on the successes of this past year but in a more directed way.  If that sounds vague, it’s because I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

For Luna, things pretty much are the way the always are.  Such is the life of a contented house cat.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks to everyone who reads and supports this project, whether here at the blog, on Facebook, or through the many personal friendships that grown from here.  You are all what makes this work worthwhile!

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Weekend Cat Blogging with Luna: Homecoming

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Luna and tablas

The recent New York trip officially came to an end when I brought Luna home on Thursday. Changing locations is always a bit disorienting for her, but she quickly readjusted to her familiar home surroundings. She has also been very attached, looking for every opportunity to cuddle in my lap or at least sit next to me.

Luna lap

Yes, I do need to finish unpacking. It’s actually been quite busy since I returned, including a late-night gig with Surplus 1980 on Thursday and a show tonight with Reconnaissance Fly in Sacramento. But after that things calm down quite a bit. So we will have a proper but belated celebration for Luna’s birthday next week. Meanwhile, she is getting all the comfort and cuddles I can provide.


tillie_2204Finally, a sad note. We were heartbroken last week to hear about the passing of our friend Tillie. Tillie was from the kitty clan in Nova Scotia that also shared Mickey with us, and their mom has been one of our big supporters here at CatSynth. We often noted back and forth how much Tillie and Luna looked alike. We send the whole family our deepest sympathies for their loss.

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