Steve Ball Diary
Monday May 26
Tuesday May 27
Wednesday May 28
Thursday May 29
Friday May 30
Saturday May 31
Sunday June 01
Read the archive
Monday June 02
Tuesday June 03
Wednesday June 04
Thursday June 05
Friday June 06
Saturday June 07
Sunday June 08
Memorial Day, a holiday of work at home and in the yard, a form of spring cleaning. Evening: rehearsal and mixing with TM. Continually nearing completion, but not fast enough. We are so close I can taste it, yet miles to go before this project sleeps, miles to go yadda yadda.
At this point, completion is defined by where we draw the line on "good enough."
Also, revisited and completed Version 1 of the Secret Agent video today. Very happy with the result. Not ready for prime time yet, but looks great on my laptop and on my Windows Media Center Edition TV.
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Not sure this mode of x-port is really worth it, however, giving it a fair shake this week. Jury is out for now on value vs. cost of taking the bus.
More rehearsal and recording with TravisM tonight in my living room. First, some calisthenics and warm up followed by refinement of a new cover we've been working on followed by the total surprise appearance of a new song that arrived almost in its entirety in about 30 seconds.
Then, a final mix on "Milky Way (Instrumental)" finally feels right.
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The parts we were trying to 'capture' are really nice, rollicking, and work well when we play live... but, tonight they did not quite 'fit' into the current recording.
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This may be an obvious statement, but it is something we do not often explicitly acknowledge when working on music in groups: for any given 'composition' there are an infinite number of arrangements and orchestrations that are possible.
In one view, that the silence (that may or many not be present) before we begin to play literally contains every possible note, sound, timbre, word, melody, harmony, composition, arrangement, that is or ever could be actualized. Likewise, graphic artists and writers know well that a blank page 'contains' every possible drawing / painting / image / word / story that has even been or will ever be rendered.
With infinity at our fingertips, no wonder we players / writers / artists often feel 'stuck' or terrified when facing a blank canvas. However, even with infinity literally at our fingertips, I am regularly surprised at how quickly we (often mechanically) zone in on one 'arrangement', one choice, and assume the 'work' is done, and stop there. We set our fingers to autopilot and what ever comes out is accepted as "the best I could do." Done, next, move along.
The positive spin on this is that in facing this blank canvas, grace may enter our process and transmit something of value through us. Or not.
I notice this with my "Drawing of the Day" work lately. There is a temptation to 'stop' at every step of of the process and say, that is enough. And there are definitely places in the process of doing these drawings where one simple stroke, idea, tweak, or moment radically changes the entire picture. In general, the progression from blank page to rendered drawing is extremely non-linear.
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The CD "Ballistic" was made during a time when I was fascinated with what happens when you render the same song differently over and over again... with completely different instrumentation and orchestration. Does it get better, or is each new version just a fractal spin off of the original? Side by side, it is strange to experience the same song ("the Boxer") in such radically different aural settings.
I view my work as artist as a process of filtering the infinite number of possible arrangements into a manageable and aesthetically pleasing subset that tell a consistent story. The artist selects the characters and writes the story. My work as a producer is to select the one arrangement out of the infinite pool of possible arrangements that best captures and transmits the intended experience. The producer delivers the story.
In recording, the work of the musician is to render the lines and color the spaces that articulate and amplify the meaning, mood, and message of the story. Ok enough of this dead end. There must be a better way than this to describe these roles?
Shut up and draw/play yer cartoony pictures
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It is so easy to spew piles words about stuff that happens.
I mentioned that Microsoft has a well-documented "ladder" system that is used by HR and management in an attempt to 'objectify' career paths. Each "step" in the career ladder clearly articulates the specific skills and "competencies" that characterize that level in an ascending hierarchy of maturity, responsibility, and experience. Although it is a mild stretch, this is another clear parallel that highlights the differences and similarities between my two primary 'employers': Guitar Craft and Microsoft. Interesting to enumerate the similarities and differences.
One observation on public discussion of "levels" -- obsession with "level"-based self-analysis can be a huge distraction if it begins in delusion (delusion = mistaken awareness of where one is) or if done for its own sake. The result of level-oriented self-analysis (whether ego bloating, or amplification of self-hatred) requires a certain detachment and maturity to avoid the polarizing false emotions that arise automatically when being judged: ("See, I really am great" vs. "See, I really do suck." )
So what level are you?
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Seattle Circle "community" meeting this morning. Twenty-one people came together for ninety minutes to explore what to do next. For me, the meeting was, in its best moments, a wake up call. At worst, this meeting was beginning-of-the-end of innocence as we begin our seventh year in this particular phase of a now-seldom-used-but-still-aptly-titled Seattle Experiment.
At one point during the meeting (when we were discussing the pros and cons of giving up the current house) an old but familiar idea flew out of Tobin's mouth that felt like a breath of fresh air.
He said something like "giving up the house may be like the need to stop playing repertoire for a year or so to make room for something new." Perhaps not everyone caught the reference, (or heard this as a literal suggestion) but in the late eighties and early nineties there were entire three month, even year long, GC courses where work on existing GC repertoire was 'forbidden' (ok, 'discouraged' may be a more accurate description) as a means of 'cleaning the slate' and forcing a reset on rote propagation of the "GC formula" that is contained within relentlessly asymmetric streams of aggressively-but-correctly-picked 16th-notes that we sometimes painfully spew out like rusty water from a fire hose while staring blankly at the floor.
GC level-wise, Seattle Circle is facing a great divide: too far from the beginning to go back, to far from the end to go forward. We've made and read the good news about 'great things happening in Seattle' (level one,) we've tasted the pain, suffering, tension, conflict, and hard work required to sustain the good news (level two,) we've made and delivered on short-term commitments via projects/courses/concerts (level-three,) we've made long-term commitments together and risked a common investment in a two year ease (level four,) so what is next?
Level-five begins a transition from inward focus to outward focus. Other characteristics of level five? Here's a good one: 'Taking' transforms into 'giving.'
And a few more:
At level four, I am a student. At level five, I am an apprentice.
At level four, I am in the circle. At level five, I am leading a circle.
At level four, the 'leader' organizes the agenda and tells me what to do. At level five, I set and follow my own agenda.
At level four, I feed off of others energy, and spend my energy. At level five, I generate, save, and share my own energy.
At level four, I am still a visitor. At level five, I live here.
At level four, I am in Guitar Craft. At level five, Guitar Craft is in me.
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LisaH is down with a cold, so I brought home healthy food to make for her to nurse her back to health before she flies away in the morning for a family reunion.
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Apparently, the meeting last Saturday and ongoing exchanges via email, conversations, gossip, and backroom planning are weighing on various members of the SC extended team. If it is any consolation, I have never participated in or observed a group, band, company, or business, of any size or mission that did not struggle in this manner.
Thinking more about Maslow's pyramid of needs. By Maslow's accounting, without food, shelter, love, and esteem, the creative play that characterizes the 'actualized' person is just out of reach, (unless perhaps an act of grace transcends the hierarchy of needs.) Also, very clear in Maslow's view: altruism is not possible (nor perhaps advisable) unless basic needs are met first.
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Time flew, but a necessary engagement to get to second base with this project. Shane's new demo looks great - can't wait to show it to the heavy hitters at MS Research and Office next week.
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But music can sometimes transcend the sound on which it rides.
From what I can gather, the Atomic Chamber Ensemble has done an intense amount of homework to get great stereo mic-ed guitar sounds. Have not heard it yet, but looking forward.
Later, back at my place to be joined by Melea, Chris, and Travis for a rousing poker game. TravisM was the big winner -- more indirect support for the send Travis to Atlanta fund.
Fun to watch photos and listen to music in the background on my Media Center Edition machine. Interesting to see this 'computer' doing two simultaneous tasks in the background (music and photo slide show) with no explicit awareness from the guests that a Windows PC was driving all of the stuff they were seeing and hearing. I love this product.
No, clarification: I love what this product enables.
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This weekend is D-day for these 45 songs. Finishing touches, last minute adjustments, final tweaks before hitting the 'production' button that begins a long chain of non-musical events.
In geek terms, feels like a drive to ZBB, the final step in a long software development process where you push to 'zero' bugs. This does not mean there are no bugs; it just means you have drawn a line in the sand about exactly which bugs matter. A significant difference.
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My sister's Birthday today. She and my nephew coming to visit very soon! Happy Birthday, Julie!
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I hope the silent sacrifice of Thai and movie means TM met someone at his room-mates BBQ. Fingers crossed. :)
A very productive evening.
Full day of music work beginning bright and early. I have set a deadline of sorts for this evening. TravisM and JoelP are coming over for a final listening session. 42 songs, beginning at 6pm. Two late additions to the potential song pool to replace some of the weaker links in this box set.
Happy with the results. One of these 'new' songs is a piece that I 'wrote' right away when I first plugged in and got my existing recording system up and running. Actually, it wrote itself - just landed in my fingers when I hit 'record' for the first time.
It is called "Cranborne," which is a small village in Dorset that was home to a number of 'Level III" Guitar Craft courses in the late eighties. It was the birthplace of sorts for this entire recording project, almost 14 years ago. So, apt perhaps that this bouncing joyous song also becomes the theme for my drawing of the day:
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Three hours of listening with good comments, observations, and feedback about these three CDs from Joel and Travis. Everything changes when listening 'through' someone elses ears. I heard these songs differently than I ever have heard them.
The good news: a few more days of polish, then this phase of the project will be complete. There is light at the end of this tunnel and the tunnel ends this week.
After our session, we watched "Comedian" the Seinfeld DVD documentary that Travis brought over. An excellent film, and incredibly relevant to our work on this box set and our work with Seattle Circle.
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