Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015

Ornette Coleman

By Geert Vandepoele (Ornette Coleman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We lost another of our musical heroes today. Orientate Coleman was deeply influential in the development and blossoming of jazz in the era-after bebop, where the music went in different, surprising and (for some) controversial directions. From the seemingly mathematic transformations of bop idioms in songs like Zig Zag to the driving funk of Jump Street from Of Human Feelings (a personal favorite of mine), his music and professional example were inspiring.

In addition to his composition and playing, he was an accomplished band leader, bringing together disparate performers to play complex music that remained rhythmically tight. There was the Ornette Coleman Quartet that cemented his reputation as an experimenter, and later his band Prime Time, which took on electronic elements and fusion idioms while retaining oblique rhythms and counterpoints.

I also find myself identifying the descriptions of him as soft-spoken and taking a deeply intellectual (perhaps bafflingly so) approach to describing music. Many jazz greats are sons and daughters of the South, and Ornate Coleman was no exception – but it is interesting to see him and others transcend that heritage to something of a different time and place, or perhaps no particular place at all. We should follow his example and keep jazz an alive, evolving, and often challenging music.

RIP Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)


Not surprisingly, we at CatSynth have been huge Star Trek fans, approaching the level of household religion. So we were very saddened to read about the passing of Leonard Nimoy today. His character Spock was a great hero, very distinctive, iconic and someone with whom I could empathize. But I also interested in Nimoy’s work as an accomplished art photographer, especially his 2002 book Shekhina; and his dramatic readings on Selected Shorts and elsewhere – he certainly had quite the voice. After the reading the announcement in the New York Times, I was also fascinated to learn more about his Orthodox Jewish upbringing and rediscovery of his heritage. I hope to read more about this.

RIP Mimi the Synth Cat

Mimi and Juno 60

We received some sad news today. Our dear friend and frequent guest on CatSynth Mimì passed away this weekend. She was 19. Mimì had the best synthesizer collection of any cat we knew; and more importantly, she loved a long full life and was very much loved.


Our thoughts and condolences go out to Eric Pochesci of polynominal.com for his loss. He has put together this wonderful tribute page for Mimì. You can also see her many appearances on CatSynth here.

RIP Mimì. You will be missed.

CatSynth pic: Korg Mono/Poly and Charlotte the Cat

Some sad news via matrixsynth. One of our frequently featured synth cats, Charlotte, recently passed away.


Charlotte appeared in many photos featured on this site, often showing disdain for the synths. You can see a few examples here and here. She lived a good long life of 18 years, but it is still sad to lose a beloved pet, and our thoughts go out to her family.

The post on matrixsynth also featured some cool filtered images of the Korg Mono/Poly.


Fun with Highways: the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

Today, we visit the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to mark the passing today of former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The bridge, which carries New York State Route 25 from Queens to its terminus in Manhattan at 2nd Avenue, is known locally at the “59th Street Bridge.” It’s actually over 100 years old, having opened in 1909.

[By Lasse Fuss (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Queens side connects to a tangled nexus of ramps that are mixed up with elevated subway structures. And as these structures are all aging, they become interesting photographic subjects. The bridge was named in honor of the former mayor in 2010.

Here is cute video that has been circulating today, in which Mayor Koch welcomes passersby (including the current mayor) to “my bridge”. (You need only watch the segment until about 2:00)

It’s very typical of his style, being a larger-than-life character but also a bit self-deprecating. It is quintessentially “New York”. From the New York Times obituary:

…out among the people or facing a news media circus in the Blue Room at City Hall, he was a feisty, slippery egoist who could not be pinned down by questioners and who could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother.

I did have the opportunity to meet him twice on visits back from Yale to New York City, as part of the Yale Political Union. Although my colleagues seemed to treat him rather coldly, I was quite happy for the experience.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Modernist Sunshine

Luna always loves the patches of sunshine that pour into CatSynth HQ in the morning. On this particular morning we see her posing regally in an Art-Deco-patterned sunshine spot. The shadow is cast by the table just behind her, a piece that dates back to my graduate-student days in Berkeley but still fits the overall style of our current pad in the city.

On a sad note, we learned that our friend and fellow cat-blogger has passed away. We send her family our thoughts.

Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted by Bengal Business.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up tomorrow at Mind of Mog

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt: Texture

We at CatSynth have been absent for a few days. Most of my time that wasn’t spent at the day job was devoted to preparations for last night’s Night Light Multimedia Garden Party at SOMArts here in San Francisco. All the work paid off and the show went quite well, and I will be talking about that in a later article. But the combined silent-video-and-live-improvised-music piece featured several clips of Luna, including this one that is perfect for a combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt with theme texture.

This is a fun clip that combines cats, abstract digital imagery, and even highways with our I-80 sign in the background. You can see the short segment that appeared in the video below:

Luna black cat I-80 texture from CatSynth on Vimeo.

A sad note this week, our friend Meowza passed away suddenly last week. It was unexpected when we read of his passing in the comments for our Carnival of the Cats last week, he was so full of life. We remember him through the many images of him rolling around in the dry Arizona dirt:

We send our thoughts to Mog and all of Meowza’s family on their loss.

Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted by…no one this week. In fact, it looks like this week was completely left off the schedule, which resumes with edition 360 next weekend. But Elivra has stepped in to combine WCB 359 1/2 with Carnival of the Cats.

The Weekly Photo Hunt is up with the theme of Texture.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up tomorrow at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

RIP Richard Lainhart

I received some sad and sudden news this past Saturday that Richard Lainhart had passed away on December 30. It was only the day before that I had posted about our show in November at TheaterLab, in which I had played in the his project, the “Orchestra of the Future” that improvised a score to his film “The History of the Future.” I don’t know whether this was his last performance, but I am honored to have had the chance to share it with him. My condolences go out to his family.

Richard Lainhart had a long history in electronic music as well as more traditional jazz and rock idioms. He was deeply involved in the resurgence of analog synthesizers in contemporary electronic music, and I had seen him bridge old and new technologies with a Buchla synthesizer, Haken Continuum keyboard and laptop. His music had a richly textured minimal feel to it, but with a lot of timbral detail that comes from practice with electronic musical instruments. (Listen to (soundcloud tracks for examples.) He also was involved in animation and filmmaking, combining his electronic music and animated films at major festivals.

Below, are two videos. First, his duo with Lucio Menegon at the TheaterLab performance, and in 2010 at the Omega Sound Fix.

PAS presents Experi-MENTAL Night with a duo by Richard Lainhart and Lucio Menegon at Theaterlab from PAS Music on Vimeo.

Richard Lainhart live at Alfa Art Gallery (Part 1) for the Omega Sound Fix Festival from PAS Music on Vimeo.

We had first met in person at the Omega Sound Fix. He was friendly and open, and has been supportive of my music and of this site. He will be missed. His Facebook page continues to receive messages from friends and admirers. And matrixsynth has a full article in remembrance of him and electronic musician Mel Morley (midimel) who also passed away recently. Of Lainhart, he says “Rest in peace, Richard, you were one cool cat.” I think that statement would apply here, too.