Archive for December, 2009

Survived Xmas

December 28, 2009


This year the Xmas season has not been good for blogging. In England we have had snow and it has been lying around for far too long. We are not geared up for it. We don’t have winter tyres on our cars, the gritting of streets is only marginally successful, and unless one is a snowball-throwing youngster it is generally a pain up the butt.

I tried to drive my car to the supermarket but it got stuck less than 10 metres from my house. After much shovelling and cursing I managed to return it to its parking place. This was problematic since we had some guests coming for afternoon coffee and cake. What was I to do? No cake, and I could not get out to buy one. Fortunately we did have some self-raising flour, butter and sugar. I poked around in the spice rack and came across some cinnamon that still smelled vaguely of… cinnamon! What is more, I discovered a banana that had slipped down behind the food processor. I sliced it into the cake dough and bunged the goo into a tin. An hour in a moderate oven yielded a mighty fine cake, if I do say so myself. A little icing sugar drifted on through a tea strainer created the back drop for a yuletide snow scene. More poking around in kitchen draws yielded a couple of fir trees, a house, and two robins. I could have sworn I had a Postman Pat, but he must have been out delivering a parcel to Mrs. Goggins, for he was nowhere to be found. The robins were clearly mutants, since each was more or less the same the size as the house. Be that as it may, I present a pic of this delicious cake. I finished off the last slice only an hour ago.

One just about survives Christmas, only to realise that New Year is lurking around the corner. One needs stamina at this time of year.

This bike is exercising my mind!

December 8, 2009

My daughter’s excercise bike makes an appalling screetchy, scratchy sound when you pedal it. I have removed the black plastic casing to reveal the pedalling mechanism (see pic). The way this bike works is that a set of very powerful magnets are brought into contact with the pulley wheel, drum, or whatever might be its technical name. As you increase the number on the strength adjustment dial, so another magnet bites down.

Bike casing removed

I have spent some time trying to adjust the alignment of the magnet bar to the drum but there are not many options to play with in this regard. I am thinking about rubbing the magnets with candle wax. This works for sticky wood. I imagine that the friction of the drum would melt the wax, as the human operator brakes into a sweat on the machine. Although this might reduce the screetching, it would also reduce the friction and that does seem a tad counter-productive.

Bike magnets

Any ideas/suggestions?

On the occasion of my 400th SL gig

December 7, 2009

I am here reproducing the text of a notecard letter that I am sending to the fans in my Second Life group Fyrmusica. In it I have summarised the developments over the past couple of years in my musical activities on Second Life where I play shows as Fyrm Fouroux. So, here it is…

I am writing to you because you are a member of my inworld group Fyrmusica or because you belong to my Subscribeomatic group. I want to let you know that on Friday 11th December 2009 I shall be playing my 400th gig in SL at my little Terra Fyrmusica venue. I am not expecting a big crowd since normally only about 5 or 6 people come to these shows (sometimes fewer). Indeed, I came more or less bottom of a league table of SL performers based upon observed audience figures (I ranked about 276th out of 279). As Evamoon Ember has said to me, I am never going to pack an audience into my shows: I am too original and too quirky. In this card I celebrate my interest in music and performance; I blow no trumpets for popularity.

My first show was at Rocky Shores on 3rd January, 2008. Doing the math, 400 shows in roughly two years comes to 200 p.a. or about 4 a week, and that sounds exactly right. I seldom play more than one show on any given day, and I like to have breaks in the week between the days on which I do play shows. The reason for this might sound a bit naff ,or even old-fashioned, but I feel emotionally drained after a show. I think I have only once played two hour-long shows back-to-back and I cannot understand how other musicians manage to do that, unless they are popping in a lot of pre-recorded tracks or using backing tracks. I do listen to quite a lot of shows in SL and, IMHO, I think there is an awful lot of that going on at so-called live performances. Two of my favourite artists have to use computer generated backing tracks because they compose using DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) and I am referring here to Nad Gough and Torben Asp. But I have to say the slightest hint of a backing track has me clicking a TP out of the show; generally I dislike intensely those kinds of show (it is a matter of personal taste, others very obviously love that sort of thing).

In the early days, I was playing regularl shows not only at Rocky Shores but also at Taff’s Bar and Shore Babes. I played occasional gigs at a fairly wide range of venues, such as Stage Bar, Crystal Sands, Heron Park, Bara Bar, Media Culture, Merry Pranksters, Hummingbird Cafe and Woodstock, too. By February 2008, I had weekly shows at The Vibe and Sailors Cove, in addition to the one at Rocky Shores. Later in 2008 I took a regular slot at C&K Mall and switched from Rocky Shores to Cascadia Harmonics. Around that time, Von Johin very generously offered me the use of the French Quarter stage whenever I wanted to use it during his (U.S.) night-time hours and I played there several times in the middle of the SL night.

In the summer of 2008, Hexx invited me to start the monthly readings of my e-novel The Reluctant Psychologist, at her Rastafairy Beach venue. I read the novel in about 6 or 7 instalments, and I played songs within the readings to illustrate what was happening to the central character, Harold Hake. I read the novel in the role of Fyrm Fouroux and improvised his comments on what Harold had been getting up to. I think this was probably one of the most creative things I have ever done, not just in SL but life generally.

In the summer of 2008 I sent notecards to the managers of all the venues I had played at in the first six months, asking for further gigs and I did this at what for that time was a very reasonable fee. The response to that was, to put it bluntly, dire. I decided that it was going to be a waste of my time to keep chasing after gigs since I was clearly not what folks wanted. I could have gone with a manager or agent, but somehow I have always wanted to be a strictly independent musician. I therefore decided to acquire a little island next to the old Vibe and to build a very small venue so that I could play there  whenever I wanted to. This I did and I have been playing at Terra Fyrmusica about once a week (sometimes twice) since the summer of 2008. I have very much enjoyed this performance space; it is where I can do absolutely whatever I like and it is where I have carried out my more interesting musical improvisations, I feel.

It was in November 2008 that I started to play piano in my shows. At first, I included a short section in the middle of the show, perhaps just three numbers. I had to put something canned on stream when I moved from guitar onto piano in first life and I made some short experimental tracks to play while I did that. I found this to be somewhat awkward and as I increased the number of songs on piano, I abandonned this practice and split the show into roughly two halves. From June 2009, I was playing 30 minutes on guitar, followed by 30 minutes on keyboard (and this is roughly what I do now). My current home studio set up is way more sophisticated now than it was in the early days. In May 2008 I started to play a keyboard synthesiser on a couple of tracks within my digital piano set, but I have done less of that lately.

Generally speaking, I sing my original compositions in the first half of my shows, accompanying myself on guitar. I do like to sing a range of covers and tend to do that mainly in the piano part of my show. Recently, I have started to do some experimental improvisations using my piano with a Loop Station and improvising poetry to song with my voice. For example, at Cascadia Harmonics recently I generated a looped phrase from my digital piano live onstream, and then once it had become a full and complex sound I sang a totally improvised version of Tenyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. I had only glanced over the poem just before logging into SL for the gig. It really was something that I created on the spot for my audience (of about 6 people). I will never be able to do it exactly that way again, since I have erased the loop from my Loop Station and I could not remember how I sang it, anyway. I am very much tempted to explore this sort of thing more fully in the future. I have done one of these loop experiments using voice, as opposed to the piano, to set up the loop and on that occasion I improvised a sung version of Byron’s poem She walks in beauty.

Looking forward to 2010, it is my ambition to start composing on my digital piano (hitherto, the guitar has always been the instrument of choice in this regard). I also need to push myself more fully into the experimental pieces that I do. The SL survey has made it crystal clear that I am not going to get large audiences, ever. However,  I feel very lucky to have a small number of regular fans and attendees who come to most of my shows. I have come to know them well, and regard them as my SL friends.  I would rather have it this way, than play a possibly safer (and for me a duller) repertoire to larger audiences.

Were I to be asked to summarise how I feel about my music in two or three words, I think they would be: optimistic, excited, impatient.

Thank you so much for supporting my musical endeavour.
Fyrm Fouroux