Bringing Luna Home

Today I brought Luna home, on what would have been her official 12th birthday. She has a place of honor on one of our most prominent shelves, with her remains as part of a shrine.

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Her ashes are in the wooden box in the center. It has a picture frame, which I still have to fill. There were over 500 photos of Luna posted on CatSynth, and many more in my archives. It will take some time. To the right is her paw print, part of the normal custom from cremation of a beloved pet. And the small vial contains a bit of her beautiful fur that I saved from when she was alive.

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She has good company, with her shrine between some of our prized feline objects: a large maneki neko from Tokyo and a cat silk painting from Suzhou in China.

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To say this is emotional is an understatement. But I hope I continue to do my best by her remains and her memory.


Included with Luna’s remains was a lovely printed copy of the story of the Rainbow Bridge. As the Mourners’ Kaddish is to Jews, the story of the Rainbow Bridge is to animal lovers of all heritages. There are variations, but we reproduce this poetic version below.

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.

Where the friends of a man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds a rest.

On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.

Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.

All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.

So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.

The sadness they felt while they were apart.
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.

They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.


We were helped through Luna’s end-of-life process by the wonderful people Golden Gate Home Hospice and Euthanasia. I found myself heading to their office yesterday to pick up Luna’s remains. They are located in the western part of San Francisco that includes the Sunset and Richmond districts. We often refer to them collectively as “The Avenues.” It’s a part of the city I rarely find myself in these days (although Luna’s general-practice vets were out there as well) but it long captivated me, even before I moved to the city.

It was a dreary, rainy day as I made my way towards the ocean on 19th Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, Sunset Boulevard and then Irving Street. Within sight of the water I stopped at bodega for some needed sustenance. The walls displayed pride in their Sunset neighborhood. The rain turned from a light drizzle to a heavy downpour as I left the bodega and headed to the Great Highway. I turned into Golden Gate Park by that bizarre windmill that symbolizes the western edge of the city. In the rain, the park was quiet and a deep green. I headed out of the park north on 25th Avenue towards Geary Boulevard in the Richmond and my final destination. The Russian heritage in the immediate neighborhood was unmistakable, from the large Orthodox church to the storefronts.

In the office, I was treated warmly and kindly, as any bereaved person should be. But right after picking up Luna’s box, a cat came out from the back of the office and created me enthusiastically, even chatting a bit. I was informed that she doesn’t give this treatment to everyone – knowing cats as well as I do, I don’t doubt that at all. In what was a dark and emotional time, it was a moment of delight to be once again in the presence of a cat.

RIP Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)

We have lost yet another musical hero this year. Pauline Oliveros, composer, innovator and pioneer of the concept of “Deep Listening”, passed away on November 25.

Pauline Oliveros
[Photo by Pinar Temiz via flickr. Available via Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Her influence over the decades in experimental electronic composition and rethinking our relationship with sound cannot be underestimated. She was one of the founders of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s. The following video features her composition Bye bye butterfly, a title that seems very apt with her passing. It was composed during her time with the center and features two HP oscillators among other elements.

Although an electronic composition, one can hear and sense the sounds that would become important in Deep Listening, looking for and finding joy in small details and the sounds in between other sounds. The beating patterns and other elements in this electronic piece were certainly present in performances of Heart Chant that I participated in with the Cardew Choir. She coined the term “Deep Listening” in the late 1980s, and went on to found the Deep Listening Institute. I should let her describe the meaning and origins of the term in this video.

Oliveros and I intersected on multiple occasions, both in person and through her music. However, it is clear that she even more profoundly touched many of my friends and colleagues who are mourning her passing with a multitude of personal memories. We at CatSynth extend our condolences do them, as well as to Pauline Oliveros’ family.

RIP Sharon Jones (1956-2016)

When I discovered the album 100 Days 100 Nights in 2009, it was a breath of fresh air. It was a time when my life was very oriented towards Asia and my own Asian heritage, but musically I was returning to the funk and soul music that I have long adored and wished to play myself. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings fit perfectly into that milieu. The songs, especially the title track and “Tell Me” quickly became part of my regular rotation. The strength of music is of course mostly due to Ms Jones and the band, but the production also intrigued me, as they went back to some of the technologies that made those earlier records. Both the physical artifact and the music references James Brown, one of our musical heroes, and the band intersects other more recent favorites such as Amy Winehouse and The Budos Band.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
[By Jacob Blickenstaff [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Sharon Jones’ battle with cancer, which ultimately took her life this past week, also hits home for us at the moment. She had a long fight that included remission and optimism only to watch it come roaring back. It’s a painfully familiar story for us at CatSynth.

A Sad Farewell to Luna (2004-2016)

Our Beloved Cat Luna

It is through tears and with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our beloved Luna. She passed away quietly and peacefully this afternoon.

Since suspending treatment, I have endeavored to keep her happy and comfortable and surrounded by love. The cancer continued to spread and over the past week it was clear just how much pain and difficulty she was in. It was my last gift to her to let her go and be free of the pain. Knowing that, it hasn’t made it any easier to say goodbye.

Luna and I were an inseparable team for over 11 years, years filled with love and fun and adventures. Over time, we became very in tune to each other’s emotions and needs, and have given one another strength and comfort through many challenges and crises. Indeed, she would always be able to instantly when I was sad or in pain, and come over to sit on my chest and provide comforting and healing purrs. This time she isn’t here to do that. Fortunately, I have friends and family, and this wonderful community around CatSynth to draw on. Thank you all for wonderful support you have given during the past year and a half, and beyond.

I am still processing what happened today, and only beginning the grieving process. I will have much more to say over the course of this coming week and in the weeks after that. For now, I leave you some music that speaks to this moment (including the track from Blackstar that we shared on Friday), as well as a modified Mourner’s Kaddish that I will be using, with both Hebrew transliteration and English translation.

RIP Luna (November 30, 2004 [est] – October 31, 2016)


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Mourner’s Kaddish (Modified)

Yitga-dal v’yit-ka-dash sh’may raba,
v’yam leech mal-chu-tay,
b’alma deevra chi-roo-tay,
b’chai-yay-chon uv-yo-maychon, uv-cha-yay d’chol bayt yishvay tehval,
ba-a-ga-lah u-viz-man kareev, v’imru oh-meyn.

Y’hay sh’may ra-ba m’va-rach l’olam ool-ol-may ol-may-yah.

Yit-bar-rach v’yish-ta-bach, v’yit-pah-ar v’yit-ro-mam,
v’yit-na-say v’yit-ha-dar, v’yit-a-leh, v’yit’halal
sh’may d’kud sho b’richu;
l’ay-la min kol bir-chatah v’shee-rata,
tush-b’cha-ta v’ne-cheh-mah-tah, da-a-mee-ron b’alma,
v’imru, oh-meyn.

V’hay sh’lo-mo ra-ba min sh’may-yah,
v’chay-im olaynu v’yal kol yishvay tehval
v’imru, oh-mayn.

O-seh shalom bimromahv.
Hu ya-ah-seh shalom.

Aleynu v’yal kol yishvay tehval,
v’imru, oh-mayn.

Mourner’s Kaddish (Amended) — An English Translation

May it be magnified
and may it be sanctified
Your great name

in the world you created according to your will.
May the world establish and fulfill

in your life and in your days
and in the life of all creation

soon
and near in time
and say, Amen.

May your great name be praised
forever, and ever and ever.

May it be praised
and may it be blessed
and may it be glorified
and may it be upraised
and may it be elevated,

and may it be honored
and may it be exalted
and may it be extolled,

the name of the Holy One, Blessed Be,

beyond all words of praise, words of song,
words of blessing, and words of comfort
that are uttered in this world,
and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all G-d’s creation; and say, Amen.

May G-d who creates peace in the celestial heights, create peace for us and for all creation; and say, Amen.

Originally posted here]

R.I.P. Don Buchla (1937-2016)

2016 has not been a good year for our musical heroes. And we have just lost one more, Don Buchla.

Don Buchla at SFEMF 2010
[Photo by Michael Zelner]

Don Buchla was producing his first synthesizers about the same time that Robert Moog released his earliest models. But he took a very different approach, eschewing keyboards and other traditional interfaces to make a truly radical instrument. This led to some describing “East Coast” and “West Coast” schools of synthesizers – something that we at CatSynth largely reject. But there are nonetheless characteristics that set apart Bucvla’s instruments, such as the use of metal plates as controls; the ubiquitous use of low pass gates (LPGs) as sound units; the crispier/crunchier sound compared to Moog-inspired synths; and the visual beauty and oddness of the instruments. Indeed, they have appeared on CatSynth many times – follow this link to see a few.

In addition to his synthesizers, Buchla also created numerous controllers, such as the Thunder, Lightning, and Marimba Lumina. Indeed, I was introduced to Buchla’s instruments and the man himself through David Wessel at CNMAT, who used the Thunder extensively in his performances. My personal memories of the two of them together mostly revolve around the wine-and-beer-fueled gatherings after formal events at CNMAT, ICMC conferences or elsewhere. They would talk endlessly but anyone else could chime in, and occasionally Don and I would have a sidebar, less often of a technical nature than lamenting strictures in one institution or another, or non-musical scientific concepts. Overall, however, he was often a laconic presence, off in a corner or just off frame, but then fully engaged when the moment arrived.

Buchla and Roger Linn
[Buchla sighting at Roger Linn’s NAMM booth in 2015]

It was rare to see him perform. I did get a chance to do so at the