With the holidays all around us, I think of family, food and music more than ever. I just returned from a trip to San Francisco where my brother Rick (he’s the principal percussionist with the SF Opera) and I performed at the Acoustical Society of America’s annual conference. This trip included family, lots of food and fun music making. I was invited to present a paper on the rhythmic techniques and psychoacoustic effects of the music of Steve Reich. While this may sound a bit technical, it was simply my intention to play live music for a group of scientists who more often show charts and talk about lab experiments. This very large organization has members from many different disciplines including bio and medical acoustics, oceanography, industrial design as well as a musical acoustics component. I had built a few instruments to play Steve’s Piano Phase (1967) in the type of pure tuning system used on all of our windchimes. It seemed to hit a chord, so to speak, with these scientists who appreciate musical application as well as theoretical discussion. The weather in San Francisco was ironically colder than in New York which is very unusual so it did feel like winter holiday time to me. We attended a lecture where an optical process was described to digitize old recording media such as Edison cylinder rolls from the late 1800s to LP records of recent times. Instead of using a needle to ride in the grooves, an optical device analyzed the surface and was able to reproduce the sounds without touching the roll or record. I believe this technique will be improved to the point of reproducing the sound better than the originals which will help to archive important recordings no matter how poor their condition since scratches and cracks can be ignored. And it can be done without destroying the original media. Next week I will perform again with the Esopus Chamber Orchestra back here in the Hudson Valley of New York.
While the program is ‘An Evening of English Music’ of Britten, Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, and, yes, Carols! I do love winter and look forward to the beauty of freshly fallen snow. I realize I am in the minority here but if it’s going to be cold, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Have a happy holiday season with your families, great food and an abundance of good music.