Etude: November 2017 – Challenge: Two Minute Romantic Comedy Trailer – Hans Zimmer Masterclass

November 2017 – “Romantic Comedy Challenge”

We were provided instructions and a voice track (narration and character-dialog) by an imaginary director who is looking for a score for romcom trailer.  The “director” set a one-week deadline!  I sweated this one a bit, given that this is also Fall Projects season here at Prairie Haven.

Pretty darn cool challenge.  This was by far the most complex mix I’ve done in quite a while, 26 tracks across 13 scenes (in 2 minutes!).

Some fun!  Here’s the link to the 2 minute trailer.

Here are the characters:

Arabella is the female lead. Struggling to find her way in a man’s world.
Cartwright is the male lead. Cynical, jaded, tired.

They get their own intertwining themes — Arabella first, then Cartwright

Lucinda and Ramon are a secondary plot element for contrast with the primary characters, and are foils for the primary characters’ emotional unavailability.

They also get their own themes, but a little lighter than the two romantic leads

Maxwell is a poor sap in Accounts Receivable.  (he doesn’t get any music at all, poor guy)


First is an office scene, Arabella monologue directed at silent Maxwell.

I’ve provided an office-space soundbed plus printers and keyboards in addition to Arabella’s theme.

Second is Cartwright giving his cynical take on human relationships in a Chicago bar.

Soundbed is a bar — we hear Cartwright’s theme

Third is Ramon and Arabella in a garden – Ramon’s getting suggestive, and Arabella doesn’t get it.

Here the soundbed is a field recording from here at Prairie Haven, we hear Ramon’s theme and listen to it crash as Arabella completely misses his cue.

Fourth is Cartwright’s therapy office – Lucinda’s getting suggestive, and Cartwright doesn’t get it.

Soundbed is an office, plus the ticking of his client-hours ticking clock.  Lucida’s theme goes well for a second, but Cartwright really shuts her down.

Fifth is Arabella and Cartwright in his therapy office, a first counseling session.

Same office soundbed with the ticking clock.  This time we hear parts from Arabella and Cartwright’s themes alternating as each of them talk.

Sixth is Lucinda and Ramon finding each other and getting each other’s suggestions all too well.

Perhaps that same bar where Cartwright expounded earlier.  This time their two themes (and conversation) fit together perfectly.

Seventh is Arabella and Cartwright, continued.

Back in the office — this time both their themes are played together in full.




Using Ableton Live to drive Logic Pro X

This is another scratchpad post to remind myself how I set up two of my favorite digital audio workstations (Ableton Live and Apple Logic Pro X) to run at the same time.  I like facets of each of these systems and want to have the best of both worlds — the live-performance flexibility of Live and the instruments and signal processing of Logic.  In some perfect future, Logic will run as a Rewire slave and a fella won’t have to do all this goofy stuff.  Until then, this is a set of notes on how I do it.  Your mileage may vary.  I’ll will try to respond to your questions as best I can (click HERE to contact me) — but I’ll be sluggish, don’t count on a reply in anything less than 24 hours.


The goal is to use MIDI coming from Live to control instruments in Logic, and get that audio back into Live.  This is where you’re headed and this diagram may be all you need.

Update – March, 2017

This revised version of the post…

Changes the audio transport mechanism from Soundflower to Loopback (by Rogue Amoeba Software).

Soundflower is no longer being actively supported and I haven’t been able to get it working properly since OSX 10.9.  Loopback is great stuff and I heartily recommend it — but it isn’t free.

Revises the Logic and Live templates to reflect this change in audio processing.

Advises against using this approach if your Live workflow includes controllers such as Ableton Push or NI’s Komplete Kontrol.

Remember, all this post does is describe how to convert Logic into a software instrument that’s available to Live (as if Logic were a Rewire slave to Live).  There is a strong presumption that Live is the “Master” and Logic is the “Slave.”

Logic breaks controllers like Push and Komplete Kontrol because it grabs them away from Live as it starts up.  Komplete Kontrol works fine under Logic, but it’s completely disabled in Live (except for MIDI).  Push shuts down entirely as soon as Logic is running.  Rats.

If you rely on controllers that don’t use MIDI to communicate with the DAW (like Push) my suggestion is to use this dual-DAW configuration in a separate (controller-free) session, capture the Logic sound in Live audio tracks, dump out of Logic and complete your work in Live-only sessions with your controllers back in the workflow.


16-channel project templates for Live and Logic

Here are links to two project files which you are welcome to try out as a template.  They’re set up to do 14 channels of audio and MIDI.  Why not 16, you ask?  Because this template includes a B3 organ instrument in Logic, which consumes 3 MIDI channels all by itself.  The configuration steps to set up the environment are still required, but you should then be able to load these up as a starting point.

Zip archive of the (revised) Logic and Live templates

Excellent video introduction to the Loopback software

I highly recommend you watch this video which, at about minute 3, walks you through setting up a two-channel audio connection between Logic and Live that is exactly the same as what this tutorial shows.

Quick Checklist

After a few times through, this checklist may serve as a useful shorthand reminder of the steps that are required.  It’s basically a table of contents of the rest of the post.

Disconnect all external MIDI devices

Install Loopback

Set up the IAC bus

Click the “Device is online” button

Optional: rename the port

Open Live first.

Configure Preferences in Live

Configure Audio Preferences in Live to recognize Loopback as its audio input

Configure MIDI Preferences in Live to recognize the IAC Driver

Open a new or existing project in Live

Drag External Instruments into empty MIDI tracks

Configure the External Instrument MIDI output(s) to send it to Logic via the IAC driver

Configure the External Instrument’s Audio input to receive audio back from Logic

Open Logic

Configure global preferences in Logic

Un-tick “Control surface follows track selection” in Logic Pro > Control Surface > Preferences

Set the global Audio Output device to Loopback

Open a new or existing Logic project

Set project-level configuration preferences (only required for multitrack work)

Select “Auto demix by channel” if multitrack recording

Configure the project to only listen to MIDI from the IAC MIDI input (this is an essential step — skipping this will result in all sorts of weird errors as MIDI flows directly from sources rather than through Live)

Open the Environment window

Select the “Click and ports” layer

Delete the connection between the “sum” and “input notes” objects

Create a connection between the inbound IAC MIDI port and the “input notes” object

Create or select Software Instrument track(s)

Assign MIDI channels to correspond with the MIDI-To settings in Live

Record-arm the track(s)

Switch back to Live

Test the configuration

Reestablish external MIDI controllers in Live


Assign B3 Organ instruments FIRST, and only to MIDI channels 1,2 and 3

Drummer tracks don’t respond to external MIDI


Controller (e.g. Ableton Push or Komplete Kontrol) stops working in Live. 

IAC Driver can’t be selected as a “MIDI to” destination in Live (it’s greyed out)

All channels sound in Logic if any channel is record-armed in Live

Two channels sound in Logic, the external-keyboard channel and the record-armed one

Instruments sound in Logic even if no Live tracks are record-armed

Instruments stop responding to MIDI as new channel strips are added in Logic

Step by Step:

Disconnect all external MIDI devices

First get your template working without the complications of stray MIDI coming from your devices (use the computer-keyboard to generate notes in Live), then add external sources of MIDI back in one at a time and debug any conflicts.

Install Loopback

Download Loopback HERE.

Configure Loopback

Loopback provides several ways to get this job done.  I’ve chosen to set it up as a simple “loopback” device (no audio source) with 32 channels (16 stereo pairs, added manually) and a label to help me identify it when setting preferences in the DAWs.  Here’s how it looks in Loopback:

And here’s how it looks in Audio MIDI Setup:

Set up the IAC bus (used to pass MIDI signals from Live to Logic).

It’s in the MIDI window of Audio MIDI Setup.   If this the first time the IAC bus has been used the IAC icon will likely be greyed out.


Tick the “Device is online” box to bring it online

Optional: rename the port (by clicking on the name and waiting for it to turn into an edit box).

It will have 16 midi in/out ports even though the “Connectors” boxes are greyed out.  Here’s the way the IAC Driver Properties dialog will look when it has been put online and the port has been renamed (note, this is the name that are being used in the template files, either rename the port or revise the audio routing in Live and Logic to match).



Open Live first.

Opening Logic first may cause Logic to launch as a Rewire host and Live will then automatically open as a Rewire Slave – the whole goal of this exercise is to have Live act as the master not Logic.

Configure Preferences in Live

Configure Audio Preferences in Live to recognize Soundflower as its audio input.  This tutorial uses the 32-channel Loopback device configured above.  Use a 2-channel Loopback device for single-instrument configuration, “multi voice” versions need the 32-channel option if mixing is going to be done in Live.  2-channel Loopback will work if multi-channel audio is going to be mixed in Logic before it is brought into Live.  Use smaller buffer sizes if latency becomes an issue for live performance.  Note that sample sizes and sample rates are set in Loopback, Live and Logic.

Note for multi-channel configurations:  To make some or all of the channels of the Loopback device visible to External Instruments, toggle them in Preferences > Audio > Input Config

Configure MIDI Preferences in Live to recognize the IAC Driveronly enable the IAC drive for MIDI Output to Logic.  Getting MIDI Input data from Logic causes the risk of MIDI loops — so leave that option turned off.


Open a new or existing project in Live.

Feel free to download the Live template I’ve posted in the “Resources” section near the beginning of this post.

Drag External Instruments into empty MIDI tracks

Configure the External Instrument MIDI output(s) to send it to Logic via one of the MIDI channels of the IAC driver (Channel 1 in the picture below).  In multichannel configurations this is the Live end of the MIDI mapping to Logic – these channel assignments are mapping the MIDI from Live into the corresponding channel in Logic.

Configure the External Instrument’s Audio input to receive audio back from Logic.  Since Soundflower has selected as the global audio-input source for Live in Preferences, the channel selections will all refer to Soundflower.  The single-number options refer to single channels, the options with two vertical bars refer to stereo pairs.  The stereo pairs are the likely choice in most situations.


Open Logic.

Ignore the warning that another Rewire host is running – this is the correct  behavior, we don’t want Logic to be the host.

Configure global preferences in Logic

Un-tick “Control surface follows track selection” in Logic Pro > Control Surface > Preferences.


Set the global Audio Output device to the Loopback device .  The 32 channel version is used in this setup.

Open a new or existing Logic project.

Feel free to download the Logic template I’ve posted in the “Resources” section near the beginning of this post.

Set project-level configuration preferences

The steps in this section are to overcome the somewhat wonky multi-channel MIDI routing in Logic and are not required for driving a single channel in Logic from Live

Select “Auto demix by channel if multitrack recording” in File > Project Settings > Recording


Configure the project to only listen to MIDI from the IAC MIDI input.  Projects default to listening to all instruments.  This causes endless trouble with MIDI loops.  These steps force Logic to only listen to the MIDI being sent from Live.  Here are the steps:

Open the Environment window – Window > Environment
Select the “Click and ports” layer
Delete the connection between the “sum” and “input notes” objects
Make a connection only between the inbound IAC MIDI port (which is where the MIDI events from Live will be coming from) and the “input notes” object.

Click on this photo to get a full-sized version — it’s hard to see, but the second little triangle, coming from IAC Live -> Logic, is the only one that’s connected to the “Input Notes” object


Set up the tracks in Logic

Create or select Software Instrument track(s). 

Assign MIDI channels to correspond with the MIDI To settings in Live

Record-arm the track (or tracks)

Click on this photo to get a full-sized version — note that all channels are armed for recording, and each has a different MIDI channel assigned as seen with the light number in brackets immediately to the right of each track name.


Use the Mixer window to assign audio channels to tracks in Logic.  This is only required for multi-channel configurations. Click this picture to expand it to full size and take a hard look at the “Output” row, that’s where the assignments are made.


Switch back to Live

Test the configuration.  Logic should now respond to MIDI events from Live.  Enable the Computer MIDI Keyboard function in Live, record-arm a track or two in Live and type a few A’s, S’s and D’s on the computer keyboard.  Notes should sound in Logic on the tracks corresponding to the ones that have been record-armed in Live.

Reestablish external MIDI controllers in Live.   Bring each external controller back into the Live configuration one at a time and iron out any wrinkles that may appear.  In general problems will be caused either if MIDI events leak into Logic directly rather than being forced to pass through Live first or because Logic “took over” a controller (e.g. Push or Komplete Kontrol).  Debugging all possible problems with external controllers is beyond the scope of this post.  But likely fixes will be in Logic’s MIDI Environment.


Assign B3 Organ instruments FIRST, and only to MIDI channels 1,2 and 3 – B3 type instruments (e. Vintage B3 Organ or the Legacy series of B3 organs) require more than one MIDI channel – and those channel-assignments default to MIDI channels 1,2 and 3.  Adding one of these instruments “on top” of already-assigned instruments causes unusual breakage, thus it’s a good idea to avoid these channels for anything except B3 instruments.

Drummer tracks don’t respond to external MIDI – either export the track to an audio file for use in Live, or follow these steps to create a Software Instrument track that mimics the Drummer track but that will respond to MIDI

Select/create a Software Instrument track

Copy the channel strip settings from the Drummer track (right-click on the name of the channel strip, select “Copy Channel Strip Setting”

Paste the channel strip settings into the Software Instrument Track

Adjust MIDI and audio settings in the new channel strip

Bonus – copy/paste regions from the Drummer track into the new Software Instrument track to get MIDI renditions of the region – which can then be exported into Live and used to trigger the drummer

Here’s a drawback to staying MIDI rather than exporting to audio – the “automatic hi-hat” components of the Drummer don’t come across, because they’re not imbedded in MIDI.  Best turn that feature off in the Drummer settings off if MIDI is the format you’re using.


Controller (e.g. Ableton Push or Komplete Kontrol) stops working in Live.  This is true.  Logic is grabs those controllers away from Live when it starts.  I have no fix, only a workaround.  Use this dual-DAW configuration sparingly, then shut down Logic and complete your production in Live by itself.

IAC Driver can’t be selected as a “MIDI to” destination in Live (it’s greyed out)

  • use the Audio Midi Setup app to confirm that the IAC Driver “device is online” box is ticked
  • confirm that the IAC output MIDI ports are enabled in Live -> Preferences -> MIDI

Two channels sound in Logic, the external-keyboard channel and the record-armed one – check the project’s Environment window to make sure that Logic is only receiving MIDI from the IAC driver.

Instruments sound in Logic even if no Live tracks are record-armed – check the project’s Environment window to make sure that Logic is only receiving MIDI from the IAC driver

Instruments stop responding to MIDI as new channel strips are added in Logic – check to make sure that the “disappearing” instruments aren’t assigned to MIDI channels 1, 2 or 3 if there’s a B3 organ instrument in the mix (which uses all three of those channels).  One reminder is to delete or mute the MIDI 2 and 3 channel strips in Live if a B3 organ part of the mix in Logic.

Grinnell Reunion 2012 — a life of happy accidents

I gave a talk at my Grinnell College reunion last weekend and decided to build this post to share a bunch of links to things that I talked about.  This ain’t a’gonna make any sense to the rest of you.  But the stuff is interesting.  🙂

This is a story of rivers of geeks.  I described the rivers that I swam in during my career, but these are by no means all of the species of geeks that ultimately built the Internet.  I was lucky to be a part of a gang of 10’s maybe 100’s of thousands of geeks that came together in the giant happy accident that resulted in this cool thing that we all use today.  But don’t be confused — it was a complete accident, at least for me and probably for all of us.  Here’s a diagram…


The opening “bookend” of the talk was to introduce the idea of “retrospective sense-making” which I first learned about from Karl Weick when I was getting my MBA at the Cornell business school

I talked a little bit about what it was like as an Asperger guy showing up at Grinnell in the fall of 1968 — when everything was changing.  We Asperger folks have a pretty rough time dealing with changes.  Several people spoke with me about this part of the talk later in the weekend.  The really-short version of my reply was “just give us more runway.”  Many of the geeks that built the Internet are Asperger folks.

Another giant gaggle of geeks is the “community radio” gang that I was part of.  That part of the talk opened with a discussion of Lorenzo Milam, one of the folks who inspired many of us community-radio organizers to go out and do ridiculous impossible things.

  • These days Lorenzo hangs out at Mho and Mho Works (and Ralph Magazine)
  • He put the word “sex” in the title of his handbook about starting a community radio station, Sex and Broadcasting, just to get your attention and this was the book that got a lot of us going

Which led into a discussion of my involvement with the community radio movement — Tom Thomas, Terry Clifford and Bill Thomas are all still very much involved in public and community radio these days.

Then there was a musical interlude (you cannot believe how much the music went off the rails — almost all the technology failed — oh well).

The next series of accidents revolved around the “learn my chops in brand-name consulting organizations” part of the saga.  Another of the rivers of geeks — many people of the Internet construction workers came from big firms like Arthur Andersen and Coopers and Lybrand, the two places I worked.  Probably the biggest things I learned there were Structured Programming and project management.  And this…

The next accidents ran this Forrest Gump type guy through a couple of now long-dead mainframe companies , another BIG source of internet-building geeks.  First ETA Systems, the hapless wannabe competitor to Cray.  Then Control Data, where I learned how to do mass layoffs in an imploding manufacturing company.  Ugh.

I was an early personal computer enthusiast as were almost all Internet geeks.  I live in the Midwest, so I missed out on the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley.  Dang.  But relatively cheap modems showed up about that time which led to the rise of the Bulletin Board System (BBS) movement which provided the gathering places for a lot of us Internet geeks. Boardwatch Magazine, published by Jack Rickard, was the glue that held us together — Jack inspired me much the same way that Lorenzo Milam did.  The arrival of FidoNet allowed email to flow beyond the local boundaries of a BBS and brought a lot of us geeks together for the first time.

Another giant pile of Internet geeks came from the ham radio movement.  My call is KZ0C and I’m completely lame — I hardly do anything ham radio related these days.  But a whole giant tradition of “makers” comes out of that gang.  We hams were darn early adapters of the packet networking protocols that underpin the Internet.  We turned that stuff into packet radio.

So there’s the list of pre-Internet geek communities that I was a part of in one way or another.  No wonder some of my friends call me a Forrest Gump of Internet technology.  So what happened next?  This is what happened next…


That’s a picture of the first four-node ARPANET network in the late 60’s.  The network grew slowly over the next couple decades and by the mid-80’s had been opened up to include institutions of higher education.  I worked at the University of Minnesota which, when I was there, was home to the Gopher protocol and the POP3 email protocol — another great gaggle of geeks.  I was a Dreaded Administrator, there to fix a financial system problem, but I loved those geeks ’cause they were the ones that turned me on to the Internet.

The next kind of geeks that still play a huge role in the Internet are the folks that work at Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  Ralph Jenson and I started an ISP in my basement and called it  That project grew into an amazing gang that eventually got rolled up as the ISP market consolidated in the late 90’s and thereafter.  Lots of the geeks I’ve described in this post were involved in starting those early pioneering ISPs — what a time…

The last geek that I mentioned in my talk is Hubert Alyea, the role-model for the Disney films about the Absent Minded Professor.  Professor Alyea was another great Asperger geek who was quite emphatic in telling me about lucky accidents, great discoveries and the prepared mind.  Click HERE to see movies of some of his lectures on Youtube — they’re astounding.

What are Mike and Marcie obsessing about now?

The rest of this post is a series of links to projects that I mentioned during the talk.

The final thing I need to throw into this post is three little graphs I made up to describe the half life of knowledge — in which I choose to view the glass as half full.  As the half-life shortens, it takes less and less time to become an expert!








Music workstation

I decided to take a picture of the current state of the music workstation.  I wish I’d done this a few times in the past so I could reflect on how it evolves but there you go.  Anyway, here’s the first in a series.

List of Stuff

Computer — home-brew PC (hidden behind a wall so’s not to noise-pollute the mic when I’m podcasting)

Software — SONAR 8.5 Producer, Jamstix


Yamaha PSR-1500 (my favorite for banging around in a jam session)

Yamaha S-08 (the “serious hard-core” keyboard)

Edirol PCR-300 (the little one — super handy for composition)

Tenori-On — a gizmo I’m still trying to figure out

Audio — Crown Powertech 3.1 (500 watts/channel at 8 ohms) into EV Sx300 speakers, couple Behringer mixers, MXL-2001 mics

Update — about a year later — June 3rd, 2011


My goodness what a difference a year makes.  Here’s the current state of affairs.  I finally switched back to the Mac for music-making after a long time away.  I gave up on the PC — the platform was just too unstable.  Yes, I changed everything (hardware, software, peripherals, cables) trying to diagnose the repeated-crashing/freezing problems.  Don’t want to go there.  The Mac “just works” and it’s on a laptop so I can haul it around with me.  I’m now enjoying a much higher ratio of “making music” to “fixing the setup” time.

The new additions:

MacBook Pro

Logic Pro

M-Audio Axiom Pro

The old Roland JV880 (hanging on the music stand down there under the S08)

I’m liking this new rig a lot.

UPDATE: 27-February, 2012

Another Big Rearrangement.  Here’s the picture (click on it to get a full-sized version)

The big change is the arrival of an OnStage Stands WS8700 that holds all this stuff up.  I’m still ironing out the kinks, but I really like having all the stuff in one place.  The computer “commutes” from my desk (where all of the “office type stuff” like printers, back up drives, and so forth are plugged into a USB hub) over to this pile o’wires where all the music peripherals are hooked together in a USB hub.  It takes about a minute to move the laptop and I’m all set.

The trouble with this layout is that it doesn’t go on the road — it takes about 4 hours to set it up.  So I’m going to have to come up with a thinner version for gigs, but it’s great for working at home.

UPDATE: January 18th 2015


It’s been some time since I updated this picture and lots of things have changed.  The biggest is a switch from Logic Pro to Live as the workstation software of choice.   The change from “tracks” to “loops” is still working its way through my playing, but the learning is loads of fun even if I never arrive at a place that makes sense.

The instruments have changed accordingly.  Lots more focus on triggering and managing loops has resulted in a lot less keyboards and many more buttons and knobs to do the triggering with.  So there’s the standard pairing of a LaunchPad and a LaunchControl, the most-amazing TouchAble app on an old iPad and Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol rounding out the second bank.  The Yamaha S-08 finally got pounded to death and has been replaced with a S90XS as the main keyboard (with all sorts of cool features that I love as a guy that mostly plays live).

I thought the colors in the buttons would drive me nuts, but they turn out to be really handy as my eyesight starts to fade.

UPDATE: June 18th, 2016


Egad.  The buttons have multiplied.  Perhaps to the point of this really-funny “too many buttons” video on Youtube.  But also note the addition of the Mac Pro tucked behind one of the monitors.  I’ve taken a seriers of Kadenze classes which have upped my game, but also taken my music to places that overwhelm the laptop.

UPDATE: Sept 8th, 2017

The “Everything Must Roll” initiative happened over the summer and this is the result.  This is much more a music lab and less a single-purpose workstation.  The bigger keyboards anchor the sides but everything else can move around to suit the project of the moment.

Here’s a “back of the house” photo that shows the curvy screens on mounts that let me move them around depending on where I need them, the way that I separate signal wires (on the upper level in the back) from the power wires (running closer to the floor) and a few of the many clamps that hold today’s configuration together.

Here’s one that shows the left side back of the house. Computers, UPS, storage and books on the shelf on the lower left. Back side of the audio gear on the upper right. Are you noticing the clamps? They’re handy for cable storage.

Here’s the front of the audio and tablet side of things.  Really different activities over here than what happens on the “composing” side.

UPDATE: December 31st, 2017

Just a touch.  Working on a movie project so an extra screen joins the pile, just for a couple months.  Mounted on a milk carton (with the standard collection of clamps).

UPDATE: Sept 18th, 2018

Replaced the Mac Pro with an iMac Pro and added an APC40 MkII to the mix.  The Bose Pa mixer sits on the lower left.  The Seasons 2018 mix is on the screen.  The two side wings are evolving too.  The left side is becoming more focused on live jamming with the full keyboard, the right side is moving toward mixing/mastering, with composing in between (this pic).


New Mikey tune — first flight of lots of New Stuff

Gracious.  A fella gets going fixing one little thing on a music-making workstation and the next thing you know a year has gone by and about 42 jillion other things have broken and needed fixing.  Meanwhile, no music has happened.

So today I just pushed through all the crud and said “dang it, today I’m going to produce a tune for the blog, no matter what.”

Click HERE to listen to the result.

Consensus decision making — WORT-FM, 1975

This is a piece by Jeff Lange in Volume One, Number Three of “Spread the WORT” — the newsletter of WORT-FM (Madison, WI) just as it was going on the air in 1975.  I’ve always loved this description of the consensus decision-making process we used to run the station.  All due apologies to Pogo…

The big deal?  The sentence that really catches it for me is “we ad WORT don wanna tred up on the wee miroridy vuponts, so we jus wade undill eberyone am finely agreed.”  Still works for me today, some 35 years later.  Thanks Jeff!

Here’s my translation, since many of you aren’t native-English speakers and might find this pretty tough to read in Jeff’s native Pogo-style language.  Apologies to Jeff for any mistranslations.

Yes, it’s a curious fact, that nobody is ever able to quite explain, how decisions get made at this particular radio station.  But they do.  This is a grievous hard and ticklesum thing for newcomers to digest.  Take, for example, the familiar caller who, in a fever pitch of excitement, has phoned up the station with his or her (or “it’s” for that matter) idea for a program.   Rnnng.  He (let’s just say it’s a “he”) says “My dog can bark heavy metal rock n’roll — can he have 5 hours on Tuesday nights?”   Well, the person at the station (say it is a person) says “Isn’t that the same thing as what’s on WBRK every night?”  The caller replies “Yes, but my dog barks badder!”  Then that, says the person, is a question for the Program Committee.

The best thing then is if the caller hangs up, thinking all is well for the Program Committee will do its duty.  But if the caller says “Oh, what’s the Program Committee?” then the person has to explain: The Program Committee are all the people that come to the Program Committee Meeting.  You can come.  So can your mother.  It’s Friday at 8pm.  No, they never vote on anything.  Voting is against the rules.  So is parliamentary procedure. They just talk about things until everyone is agreed, and that is consensus — the highest form of unanimity.

Then the caller says “oh.”

Then the person at the radio station should continue: “Yes, it’s a curious fact, but it seems to work.  So far, at least.  We at WORT don’t want to tread on the wee minority viewpoints, so we just wait until everyone is finally agreed.  Nope, it’s never failed yet…  which just goes to prove: you can make some of the decisions all of the time, and all of the decisions some of the time…”

Then the caller says, “can you put me through to the general manager?”

“No, there isn’t a general manager.  Would you like to talk to Sarah-Gene?”

“She the owner?”

“Nope.  She’s just another volunteer.”

Porto Baradio

Ah, the joys of moving. Old things rediscovered after years of sitting lonely and forlorn in the Center Hall Closet. One item that’s made it back out into the glory of the light of day is the wedding-gift Porto Baradio that we got from our bestest Madison friends. It was a centerpiece in the place-before-last, got demoted to the closet when we bought Mom and Dad’s mid-century modern house and returns to its proper place now that I’ve got room to see all the radios again.

Is this a cool thing or what? A bar… A radio… All portable… Take that, you iPod weenies.

Mom’s old musicbox

One of the joys of moving is that you find old stuff that folks have been wondering about. Our move didn’t find some photos that Dad is looking for, but it did turn up the disks for Gracie’s old music box.

We pulled the music box out today and fired it up. It still works, although the the workings sound like they need cleaning and oiling — no wonder, it’s been in our closet for at least 25 years and probably hasn’t been used in 75.

Music box

Here’s the music box, all closed up.

Music box name plate

Here’s the nameplate — J. Werner of Hamburg, a “Musikwaaren Fabrik” made in Hamburg. My guess would be late 1800’s, but it’s hard to tell. Not much comes up when I do a search on those terms.

Music box - open

Here’s the box all opened up. Dang, I wish Mom hadn’t used masking tape to hold that glass lid in place. I’m going to have to find some magic goo to get that stuff off without lifting the finish.

Music box - combs

Here’s a picture of the combs — looks like 2 combs t’me. Some more cool goo, plus some gentle work with the Dremel tool, required to clean those up.

Music box - makers mark 1

Here’s the first of two name-stickers on the inside of the music box. It’s interesting that both this one and the other one (see below) have had a corner cut out of them. Since it’s the same corner, and it’s clearly on purpose, one wonders what was going on here.

Music box - makers mark 2

See? They really went after this one with their razor knife. Strange

Music box - comb and damper detail

Here’s a detail shot of the combs. There are little dampers off to the right side of each comb that quiet the note before it’s plucked again. Some of those dampers look pretty narly.

Music box - disk

Here’s a disk (we have about 20 in the stack). Some are just rusty like this one, some are covered with some kind of weird moldy varnish-like stuff.

Music box - side

And here’s a detail shot of one of the side handles.

I think I may peck away at restoring this a little bit. I view this as a connection back to Mom and Gracie which would be nice to bring back at least to operating condition. I’ll post progress notes to the blog as things unfold. There are folks who are interested in these music boxes, they call themselves the Music Box Society International. I think I’ll hook up with my local chapter and see what kind of resources they have. There’s also Nancy Fratti, who is really into restoring music boxes like these and runs classes in how to do it. It would be fun to go out and take her class.

I recorded one of the disks. Click HERE to listen to the recording. It’s got lots of whirring noises in it — that’s the gizmo that needs oiling and cleaning. But the sound is really neat nonetheless. A great old thing — hopefully a little TLC will bring it back.

Ralph’s good idea of the month

Sheesh, this one is a slap yourself in the forehead idea.

If you, like me, have a cable connection to the internet and you, like me, haven’t thought about your cable modem since the day you bought it and you, like me, bought the durn thing more than a couple years ago — go buy a new one that’s compliant with DOCSIS 2.0. It’ll be way faster.

Ralph pointed this out at lunch on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon I had me a brand new Motorola SurfBoard (which, with all the rebates from CompUSA, turned out to be free).

I’m talking way faster… Ralph’s getting over a megaBYTE per second sometimes. I haven’t formally tested mine. But it’s…


Tuning notes — MP3 files for your iPod or player

I came across some whiz-bang writeup about a guitar tuner program you could download to your iPod. Richard and I agreed that a simpler approach would be to record MP3 files of notes that you could put on your player — just play the file when you need to tune your instrument.

So here is a collection of files you are welcome to download and share. No ding dang rippin frippin copyright — all I ask is that you put a link to this page from your blog, tell your friends to do the same, etc. That way, maybe these files will work their way high enough in the Google ranking that people will actually find them.

Feel free to offer suggestions by commenting to this post — I’m not sure I’ve got the right notes when it comes to the orchestral tuning files (having never played in an orchestra). If they’re wrong, let me know and I’ll change them.

Here are the files;

Tuning — A — Bass Violin Sound
Tuning — A — Oboe Sound
Tuning — A — Violin Sound

Tuning — D — Guitar Sound
Tuning — D — Jazz Organ Sound
Tuning — D — Piano Sound

Tuning — E — Guitar Sound
Tuning — E — Jazz Organ Sound
Tuning — E — Piano Sound

Podcasting 101 – Episode 1 – Going to record a remote? What do you take?

Poor old Safe Haven… This poor blog has been sorely neglected while I've been off fooling around with podcasting (at

But I'm starting a series of “how to” podcasts and they need some backup info and I've decided to post those notes here.

The first show is about all the things that you might want to put in your bag when you go out to record something as a “remote” (not in your comfy studio, but actually out there with da peepul). I decided to start with this one because I'm heading up to the Winnipeg Folk Festival tomorrow and needed to make this list anyway. Continue reading “Podcasting 101 – Episode 1 – Going to record a remote? What do you take?”

Radio people are digging their own graves

I loved this New York Times piece called “Fade-out, how the new rock is passe on radio.”

Here's the punchline quote at the end;


Some analysts fear that, when radio stations switch from alternative rock to programming aimed at older listeners, they may be making a sacrifice. “Radio has ceded the younger demographic to other media,” said Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media, a radio consulting company in Southfield, Mich., specializing in rock. “I just don't know how we're going to get back people who didn't get into the radio habit in their teens,” he said, adding, “It really becomes problematic down the road.”

Another tidbit from the article. Turns out the big programmers (Cox, Clear Channel) dropped women from their ratings target in 2003! And here's another gem.


“The format in the last couple of years has gone through an identity crisis,” said Kevin Weatherly, program director of KROQ, a closely watched alternative powerhouse in Los Angeles. “You have stations that are too cool, that move too quickly and are only playing the coolest music, which doesn't at the end of the day attract enough of the audience. Or you have the other extreme, dumb rock, red-state rock that the cool kids just flat out aren't into.”

Dumb rock. Red-state rock. I love that…

Here's a tip to the broadcasters. Figure out what podcasts the “cool kids” are listening to. Do something like that on your radio station. You'll be fine.


Hm, later the same day, Clear Channel (biggest oinker multi-radio-station owner in the land) posted declines in radio revenue. Here's a relevant quote;


Radio broadcasting revenue fell 7 percent to $773.6 million, while live entertainment dropped 17 percent to $424.5 million

And here's a link to the story.

"Messing with my man" — a musical project, with apologies to Steve Reich

Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing posted this great voicemail message from a very angry young woman who accidentally left the message on a wrong number. Here’s the link to her post. I’m goofing around with some new audio gear this afternoon and decided to do a little fooling around with it. I hope she hears it some day, and uses it to direct her anger — she’s been done wrong!

This is a take off on a great Steve Reich piece called “It’s gonna rain” – here’s a link to get you started on that one.

And here’s a link to my little MP3 — it’s about 3 minutes long, 2.5 mBytes.


Recording Skype calls (for podcasting, but also interviews for work)

Ah. A completely satisfactory geek experience. Now that I've rassled most of the basic podcasting stuff into shape, I wanted to move on to doing interviews and conference calls and recording them — Ralph pointed out that Skype was the way to go.

Doug Kaye (the maestro of IT Conversations) put together this definitive post on how to record Skype calls. There are other ways, but this is definitely the industrial-strength approach.

I'm going to start doing “conversation” podcasts, but before that I'm going to use this to record an interview for a consulting project I'm working on — tomorrow. I have a little rant n'record that's going up on Sex and Podcasting about how you could use podcasting as an organizing tool for work (the show will go up in a day or two).