Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Google Scholar is fucking up badly. This was the penultimate straw for me. (The final straw was realising they only pretend to post my reviews and comments, but in truth many of them are visible only to me! This would be fine if they were honest and up-front about it. Google are anything but that.) I am now in the process of shunning Google on all fronts, even including discontinuing use of YouTube, and (downloading, then) deleting all data from all their services. This after over 15 years of good-faith use (up to ad blocking). To anyone reading: I strongly urge you to do the same, and to choose more responsible service providers. I know it's tough to give up YouTube, but you should...

Consult (for instance) prism-break.org for alternatives across the board.

Sunday, January 10, 2021
Another project (at another domain) is dominating my time just now, so
updates on the Transcriptions etc. will be slow for a spell. There is email.
Saturday, January 9, 2021 ;)

Three successive albums from the 1980s by Québécois metal band Voivod, which are now a vital part of modern musical history. Incidentally, Voivod are still active, and won a 2019 Juno for best metal album. I value each of these three albums over (the largely retrospective-pastiche) The Wake that finally won, though it too is one of their best. Kudos especially to Denis Bélanger, the original singer, with a superb instinctive microtonal style, who still has his voice in spite of albums like those pictured here!

Voivod box sets R KT DH.
Denis D'Amour

The deluxe box-set reissues of these early Voivod classics go for about £15 each (not sold here).

Unfortunately the principal composer, Denis (‘Piggy’) D’Amour, succumbed to cancer in 2005. Dan (‘Chewy’) Mongrain now fills Piggy’s shoes as composer and guitarist (though the original bassist, ‘Blacky’, who used to co-write with Piggy, was still in the band and writing up until The Wake—nice timing to be ejected). The new bassist ‘Rocky’ also brings something fresh and kindred. Anyhow, I think the next album will be more musically innovative.

Piggy's art was to avoid cliché (as opposed to sublimating or ridiculing it), without leaving you feeling like anything was avoided—if anything, you feel that you've heard something even more essential / canonical / natural than the familiar musical clichés. If that's a true impression of his music, then it's bound to be a rare gift. But probably a good way forward for Voivod is edgier experimentation, maybe in a slightly jazz direction (but still heavy)? ... I'm not sure. Incorporating D’Amour’s characteristic harmonies and progressions of course, but conquering new ground stylistically? I hope and trust there will be another album.

Why not reconcile with Jean-Yves, work up a production integrating a troupe of dancers, and take that on a cruise! It would be great fun, and your fans would love it.

Friday, January 8, 2021

I’ve uncovered and scanned one of my first compositions, Poem, WoO 1995b, a solo piano impression of a poem my grandmother wrote. (WoO is the standard abbreviation for “without opus number”.) It was written in autumn of 1995, and performed at a public concert of new music the next summer. I have no piano these days, but a guitar transcription feels possible.

A poem of Baba Mary's.

Apologies for the smudges, though I think most were there when she gave it to me. The music describes a butterfly’s adventures on a day of spirited weather, changeable breezes, rain and sun vying together in sunshower, and after, the peace, the patient fanning of the wings, the dripping leaves and bright, warm sunshine upon the dank earth, and a graceful tumbling flight into the glow. I did write down the meaning of the poem at the time (regrettably I have but little Ukrainian language, though my concern for Ukraine is rising):   “A wee tiny butterfly is happily flying from one blossom to another, looking for nourishment. Rain comes and her wings get heavy. She crawls under a leaf and waits for the sun. When the sun shines she’ll fly again.” (I believe the original is intended in a gender-neutral way. In Ukrainian, which has grammatical gender, butterfly is always masculine, just as in French. I chose feminine pronouns since ‘her’ sounds prettier than ‘his’ or ‘its’. And we can imagine Baba’s spirit fluttering into the heavens.)

My grandmother was quite frail when she wrote the poem, as you can tell from her handwriting. She was a devout Christian, and the poem is probably meant allegorically. I am anti-Christian, in the sense that I positively dislike Abrahamic religion (and have been subjected to enough of it to make the judgement), but I never expressed that view to her or disrespected her beliefs—not to condemn anyone who has been less discreet!

Having placed this Christian symbolism on my blog, I need to counterbalance it with these disclaimers. For me, what Christianity represents is an arbitrary, foreign, imposed monoculture that wiped out the cultures and traditions of all my (rather mixed) blood ancestors. Christianity was also used as an instrument of imperialism, from earliest Roman times and up to the present day with missionary work. There has been much abuse, torture and murder inflicted, by Christian functionaries and their allies, on those who adhered to the beliefs/identity of their family, community and tradition. The irony is, all these historical theologies (Greek, Hindu, Egyptian, Sumerian, as well as those coming later like the Abrahamic sects) probably had common origins in a shared prehistoric Indo-European religion.

It pains me to see so many people still feeding energy into these divisive, irrational cults like Christianity, chanting second-hand, mind-numbing oaths and invocations, when we should be looking after our biosphere and the future prospects of life on Earth. Of course, there is no shortage good Christians (as Baba Mary was); and some fine ideas can be found in Abrahamic scriptures, as I’m sure they would have been found elsewhere if the Abramhamics hadn’t systematically destroyed or perverted these other, parallel human developments. The one flaw they all seem to share is blindness to the absurdities, intolerance and history of atrocities of their espoused religions.

As the toll of Christian era environmental devastation inexorably unfolds, we all know in our hearts that no God is going to clean it up for us. At best, we’ll hide with the rich under the ocean, or on some terraformed asteroid. The meek shall indeed inherit [the carcass of the] Earth, except they aren’t Abrahamics, they’re the heathens! That ‘meek’ rather sticks in the gullet, but clearly we are if we let it come to this...

By ‘heathen’ I mean any person, like myself, who has no truck with, even dislikes (and hopefully will stand against more damage from) Abrahamic religion. You know, we, the people whom the Muslims = Christians = Jews would kill if they could get away with it, like they used to do, like they boast of having done in their sacred books. Not that we have much to hope for from nation states (like say Russia or China) either, from all I can tell, but as latecomers to the looting at least they can sleep better at night knowing they’re not the ones who raped and murdered Earth in the name of their God for the last two thousand years. It’s no joke, this is no polemic. All we can do now is (stop, and) watch the world fall to pieces around our ears. It is happening in our lifetimes. Look! look, as the self-righteousness of the evil ones crumbles into utter guilt and desperation.

And I prefer death in the bosom of nature to ‘salvation’ in some artificial dome, built and controlled by those who wantonly desecrated their heritage before abandoning the wasteland to us. I generally assume I emanate this vibe, feeling it as I do continuously, but seeing as I’ve been consistently compassionate, tolerant, inquisitive, mild-mannered and good-natured, our population of brainwashed Abrahamics might assume I couldn’t possibly be a heathen. And if you’ve met me and think the views expressed here may have had a bearing on our exchange, you’re probably mistaken. So now you know!  :)

And an extra treat for members, a scan of the first draft.
Thursday, December 31, 2020

It’s important to maintain luthier-built instruments at a good humidity (about 50% ± 5% RH), which can be quite different from ambient. In Canada the problem is worst in winter, when indoor RH can drop below 30% with the dry frozen air and the dessicating effect of heating systems. I made this sponge-in-open-bag bespoke humidifier (wet sponge, squeeze out excess water, dry hands and bag [for sake of luthier’s label], then stuff it between 3rd and 4th strings, dumping it into the lower bout). When it dries out, dampen it again. If it isn’t getting crusty-dry after about five days, the guitar probably doesn’t want more water, and the bag should be removed.

humidifier view 1 magnesium chloride hexahydrate
hygrometer in bag
hygrometer out of bag

magnesium chloride hexahydrate
magnesium chloride hexahydrate

I don’t believe this humidifier changes the sound when sitting in the bottom of the lower bout (except as the desired result of hydration). Even if it touches the soundboard, it will be at the very edge—a node in every acoustical mode of the top. I do try to keep the bag in the top lower bout (i.e. the area under your arm when playing) at least half the time while the guitar is in the case, rather than having it always in the bottom lower bout as when playing. Probably it would be no problem if it always stayed in the same place.

To remove it, I hold the guitar soundhole-down, peeking up into it and shaking the bag+sponge until it sits in the soundhole against the underside of the strings, where (while holding the neck firmly with the other hand!) I can grab it from between the third and fourth strings. You could also shake the guitar soundhole-up on your lap, getting the bag under the soundhole, then loosen one or both strings to reach through and grab ahold.

I prefer the “cellulose” sponges; and for this use I peeled off the scrubber layer. The sponges come infused with biocide, which you can wash out, or leave in for good measure. I’m using the sponge technique because I find the winter dryness too great to depend on a small humidifier capsule, let alone the flat hydration packs. But, to know the actual humidity levels, what you want is a hygrometer (humidity meter).

The hygrometer I got is an inexpensive mechanical unit intended for cigar humidors. It’s a good idea to calibrate, even if the device is digital, or expensive. You may need to make mental adjustments, depending on the calibration features of your hygrometer. This one allows adjusting one reference point, via a screw in the back. Well-damp table salt in a sealed container will achieve 75% RH. I like to calibrate at least at two points, so I got some magnesium chloride hexahydrate (a common bath salt), which achieves about 33% RH when damped and enclosed. One photo tries to illustrate proper salt dampness: damp enough to be a single clumped mass, slushy perhaps, but not so wet as to spread out in a liquid soup. In the MgCl2·6H2O case, the crystal masses should be broken up to expose more area, and will probably not need much water added to achieve the target consistency. The lower reading was quite far off (42% instead of 33%), but this unit was not marketed for low-humidity conditions. So when I read 60%, the actual RH is about where I want it; and a 50% reading means actual RH is around 40%, which is lower than desired. Nor was it marketed for portability (humidors usually getting a gentler ride than an instrument case), so we shall see how it holds its calibration. I noticed it also reads 42% sitting on my desk, even when tapped occasionally, so I really have my doubts and will be looking for another, probably digital hygrometer as a second opinion...
Monday, December 14, 2020

Regarding my brief membership earlier this month under my real name on the Classical Guitar ĐėĮċąmþ forum (diacritics added to thwart crawlers and dissociate from the keyword), I must say something here since I have no voice there:  My membership was deleted without notice after just five days, and some fifty posts of quality content and responses.

My posts have also been heavily edited by ĐėĮċąmþ administration, so cannot be taken as my own words (though frankly I said nothing incendiary on their forum at all). An example is my first post (excluding the mandatory introduction, likely also edited by now), a three sentence post responding to a call for names of xmas music books. My first sentence suggested they start a thread calling for contribs from the member composers (this sentence still remained, last I checked). The second and third sentences then ran something like: “But I wish we could hear more about other special days, enough is enough. There, now you’ve got a bit on both sides! ;)” Both these sentences were deleted, skewing the position I chose to take, effectively slandering me. Ironically, I later noticed that the entire thread should never have been allowed, according to their own rules of no religious topics, hypocrites. Probably, many of my posts have been silently edited, I only checked this one, and rarely visit the forum for any reason now. (Note that posts will not say "edited" if the only edits were by mods.)

The ĐėĮċąmþ forum implements draconian moderation and disrespects the contributors who make it what it is, by arbitrary, irreversible membership deletions as punishment for drops in login and/or posting frequency (or for no stated reason at all, as in my case). Which might even have something to do with driving advertising revenue, but whatever the motive, the fact is there to see. You are not even graced with a perfunctory email warning, which might easily have been sent en masse with BCC prior to each of their purges. It’s almost surreal...

All former members’ posts containing image attachments (many created especially for the forum) now have permanently-missing images How this benefits their membership or their ad revenues is beyond my ken, but I’m sure it’s very effective at inspiring bad feeling. What better example than the instructional images I prepared specially for my first new topic. My second and only other new topic was deleted, definitely for no good reason, and to the detriment of the CG community, after some almost scholarly discussion between myself and two other members regarding notation, not that I will miss either of these anonymous persons’ conversation. It’s a pity the thread is gone, so you can’t see what miserable spirits they both showed, making the parodic tone of some of my Ballads justifications questions seem understated.

Something for luthiers to consider:  No non-member (or ex-member) can send anyone a PM (or read any of their own PMs of course). But even for members: Have you noticed that it says (in your profile) "Allow members to send me email" but there is no mechanism in the forum for a member to do so?... Nor can non/ex-members view your profile, in case you list an email there. Best to post an email address directly in your sales topics if you want to reach these future customers. (Or are email addresses perhaps banned in sales posts, to force PM use?)

It’s unwise to use any forum’s PM system for anything except contacting admins. And in the case of a forum like this one, that wantonly deletes members and content, it is folly to contribute at all. Posting members who have been arbitrarily deleted are actually the marjority here. (Yes you read that right!) The deletions are irreversible: even if you re-register under another name, you’ll be severed forever from your previous posts and PM’s. And then it will happen again... Meanwhile your content will continue to earn the site owner ad revenues year after year:  great!

Never will I mention ĐėĮċąmþ’s forum again, nor do I consider content posted there by others to be appartenant à cela. In fact, based on my three years’ passing experience, I’ve concluded that “the classsical guitar community” are not the people I am writing music for, even if we happen to play the same instrument. An especially loud annoying hooting applause for the one who manipulates and lies to a minor in a (failed) attempt to score a cheap point, a serious abuse of trust and authority under auspices of running a music festival.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020  (audio added Jan. 24, 2021; last edited Feb. 8)

Feb. 5, 2021 update:   Having finally heard from Sebastian yesterday about the wolf data (the link was requested on Jan. 24th and 25th), it seems he is inclined to defend the guitar and criticise my playing and recording, lol! Though not refusing to look at it if I ship it FedEx insured at my expense, and enter his work queue.

This is not apposite. And if I keep it and don’t request a refund, a more experienced luthier will be next to look at it. I’ve asked Sebastian not to quote from my review for promotional purposes, only to link (or to not link) the whole review, here.

The data is fully adequate. The touch and vibrato does vary note to note here (it’s why I play each note several times at each position), but it’s simply not the point, anyone with knowledge in this area will clearly hear/see “severe wolf defect”.

Well Sebastian, congratulations for the lessons about how to evaluate wolf resonances, at my expense. It’s difficult to believe you didn’t notice this defect, but at least now you’ll be armed with a method to catch them in advance of sale.

Tonight I brought home my first single-luthier guitar, made by Sebastian Acevedo, who as a youth haunted the workshop of renowned maker Carlos López Menares in Las Condes (Santiago, Chile), later building his first guitars under the guidance of famed Spanish luthier and teacher Carlos Juan Busquiel (Alicante, Valencia). Now based in Canada, Seb Acevedo continues to hone his craft, drawing upon this sound basis.

Sebastian built other guitars before this one, but it’s still an ‘early creation’. As such, it’s a bit temperamental (excessive wolf around B3–C4; high action past XII), but was lovingly and painstakingly made, using only hand tools and master grade materials. This fine instrument could have been a great complement to my Takamine G-126 sprucetop, which together contravene the usual maxim that spruce sounds brighter and cedar warmer—the spruce Tak is even and piano-like, but Seb’s cedar is (with the caveat below) louder, brighter and warmer.

Wolf Hunt

This guitar’s biggest problem is a severe “wolf” spanning at least B3 and C4. I’ve captured some audio illustrating how the wolf affects a note regardless of which string it’s played on.

The guitar is tuned to A440. The strings are (luthier’s) D’Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte normal tension, I believe? (Same thing that I have on the Tak as it happens. Anyway, it’s not important; the strings are not the problem.) The recorder is a ZOOM H1, recording directly to stereo 320 kbps MP3, facing the soundhole at about one foot distance, the level set to just clip if I pluck the string as loud as possible. I may supplement this with additional recordings later, since my vibrato is a bit much at times. The vibrato just felt intuitively like the more solid way to test, rather than playing each note with no vibrato or some very uniform vibrato, even when repeating the same note. The notes where you can hear vibrato are not even the point, it’s the wolf notes—so short that no vibrato of any kind is even possible—which are the point. In any case, these original recordings suffice to prove the severe wolf defect. And if my tone seems to be overstressed, it is because I have just finally heard back from the luthier, and they are denying this illustrates any defect!

All strings except the one being plucked are muted: the tone you hear is that of a single string and the guitar, only. Apologies for my unpractised technique, but it suffices for the purpose. The notes played are G3 up to D4 (more or less). This is a very ugly way to hear a guitar (with all string resonances muted, and plucked to illustrate a defect). The guitar is actually very nice, and I mean to post a recording here eventually of a piece of music played upon it, probably Llobet’s arrangement of the incomparable Cançó del lladre...

3rd string
4th string
5th string

The problem is plain to hear and (especially) to see if you can open the waveform in a DAW. I’ve taken some screenshots. The very thin spikes are the, frankly, crap notes due to the wolf.

seb wolf 3rd string
seb wolf 4th string
seb wolf 5th string

Basically there is very little sustain for B3 or C4 and harmonics, which also impacts notes containing these (notes or their harmonics) in their harmonics. A guitar in this state can’t be considered finished.

A newcomer would be better off looking at the waveforms, rather than listening, since the ghost of the sharp wolf attack persists in your mind, even though the note has already decayed to nil. This is why instruments whose notes decay swiftly without regeneration, like piano and guitar, can seem to play legato—it’s an illusion. But we prefer to hear a lot more sustain than this from any guitar, since otherwise why not play a banjo?—it would be more even, and louder.

[Incidentally, this info has been in the review since Dec. 2020.] While the wolf’s usual den is B3, I can chase it down a full tone to A3 by clamping a 1 kg weight to the end of the headstock, which seems like useful info. (I can’t help wondering what might be possible if I could adjust the weight of the headstock with my mind while playing!... ;) To find out if this wolf can be substantially tamed (rather than just shifted), without too much change to the tonal palette, is the top priority for this guitar.

When I asked if this guitar had a wolf the answer was ‘no’. (I think it was my only specific question about a possible flaw! And hey, if I didn’t hear the wolf at the time, there was an air conditioner running in the small workshop, and a child crying above—no doubt wanting to come downstairs...) Although getting the wolf addressed by a more experienced luthier could void Seb’s warranty, if I kept the guitar that would be the best way to clean it up and discover it’s full potential. As it stands, I'd still reach for my Takamine when I wanted to play...

I will likely try my hand at building my next guitar. A factory instrument could not have inspired me to that, since factories use power tools I can’t access. But knowing that this instrument was made with simple materials and tools, by a single person that I’ve met, certainly has kindled my interest in lutherie.
Sunday, December 6, 2020

Now there are over a dozen complete Transcriptions published and available.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Liszt Eglogue, long overdue, is now available for free download. As of this date, there are three free transcriptions, and six other complete transcriptions available for purchase.

Monday, July 27, 2020

I finally changed my guitar strings! This is news-worthy since I had been using the original, used strings on this used classical guitar, and had played thousands of hours on them. (I expect they only lasted this long because I use a lot of alternative tunings.) Today I noticed serious intonation problems on the fourth string, and my hand was forced...

Thursday, July 23, 2020

There is a new free work on the Transcriptions page, namely the first section of the Andante sostenuto from Schubert’s D.960 B-flat sonata. While not a complete movement, this famous 42-measure incipit stands well on its own.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Work on the Transcriptions has recommenced in full earnest. I am committed to making at least one free complete transcription available before then end of this month. Most of the work is on the tablature typesetting software (which I’m writing). The Tablature Guide PDF is also now available, though it’s still work in progress...

July 30, 2018

Looks like this page was not maintained.

Anyhow, I made it to Haworth for the bicentenary! Here’s the “Brontë Waterfall”
and a couple other shots nearby, photographed on Emily’s birthday.

“Brontë Waterfall”
Approaching Sladen Beck
Haworth Moor, typical flora

Wednesday evening, Jan 24, 2018

Today I created the poem pages, which present the original texts of the poems, offer a memorisation aid version (first characters of words, and punctuation), and link to locations of the holograph manuscripts, most (though not all) of which unfortunately require payment to a museum to actually see.

The poem pages can be accessed from the score-browser, the works page, and anywhere else
you see the icon.

I created an envelope icon mailto and put it as mailto link in the footer.