9-1-09 Studio Journal: So It Goes

dulcimer at studio

Associated Videos: Electric Hammered Dulcimer Category

Pickups-v4: The First Coils

Pickups-v5: The First Pickups

Pickups-v6: Testing the First Pickups

A couple days ago my video editor, Premiere, crashed, so I wasn’t able to complete the last two pickup building videos, or make more video studio journals. So it goes. But as I said once, I have to be flexible, this is a journal, and has been a text journal for years, the video is not nescessary, just made sense in a life that is so visual.

Since I don’t have time to work on it, I dont know when I’ll get back to making video. It may be software, Premiere, Windows, or Pinnacle, or perhaps my 10 year old hardware is dying, either the Pinnacle video card or perhaps the motherboard itself. Because I have no money to upgrade, I have to work with old gear, though it does work, I have always known I am playing the long odds trying to get this done before something breaks down. If I can just get these projects done I could think of upgrading my systems, and as I have migrated most everything else to Linux. Of course, I am operating linux on an old computer with no sound, but I recently got some new old computers I can migrate linux to, when I have time. But this has drawbacks as I spent a week getting linux running again, specifically the LAN, after an update stopped the system from booting, which required reconfiguring the LAN server ot make it boot and the LAN work.. meanwhile the hard drives on the studio computer were full again.

I fixed it, but it is another distraction, and the recording is still not started. Or no, I have started. I repaired the broken bridges on the dulcimer, and tried to repair a broken lead wire on a pickup.. no luck on that yet. I put new srings on my old guitar and am running through the new songs, getting them back in practice, and me back in practice, so I can record. I tuned the dulci and played it last week a couple times, and I’m going out to play tonight at a friend’s open mike.

I did manage to get three videos done before the system failed, trying to complete the series on making wound pickups for the dulcimer, part of the larger series documenting wha I have done to create the electric ducimer. The first, “the first pickup coils”, describes making the first generation coils in the spring on 2008, now that I had the machine. The next moves on to making the first pickups in the Fall of 2008, concluding the process to make a true solid body electric hammered dulcimer. Though I had used a hand-wound set of pickups borrowed from my brother years ago, this was the first true “production model” pickups of my own design. The final video is a sort of addenda. I had a series of clips of testing actual pickups and configurations, details which aren’t absolutely nescessary to the story, and made the “1st pickups” video over long. So I decided to cut them from there and make a seperate video for those interested in seeing and hearing the pickups in more detail, which became the thrid video, “testing the first pickups”. You’ll find them in the growing collection in the electric hammered dulcimer category.

The ones I failed to complete are a detailed video focused on the step coil I built to determine the best range fo the number of winds on a coil. I couldn’t figure this out through research, so I built a test coil specifically to figure that out. Basically a coil that allows me to “step” from 1000 to 10,000 winds and just see what it sounds like. The details are in the pickups section of the main website. But as part of the effort to docuument the whole process, I wanted to make a specific video on that pickup, both to cover it in detail (it is cool) and keep the other videos shorter and focused on their larger story. The other video I didn’t finish (yet) cover 2009 and the first working set I made and used for the Winter-Spring tour in Florida, the “real-world test” I wanted to make. Well, this is still only a delay, I’ll get it done eventually.

So It Goes

repairing a pickup

repairing a pickup

The larger picture is one of set-backs and delays that have plagued me. These last two weeks I have still struggled to find time to go over the webjournal and repair misspellings, make sure links work, and repair minor mistakes, the result of trying to do so much in a rush, working till 3 and 4 am often. I hope it all works now. So many things happen in a couple weeks, as I try just to move forward, so frustrated that September has come and there is no progress on recording or dulcimer building. I finally came up with a new used car for my ma, so we don;t have to share mine or have me give her rides, a distraction. We get pouring rains last weekend and I notice a leak in the roof, dripping through the ceiling, so I have to go up last week and spread tar on the roof and get it stopped. The next rain tested that and I was lucky I’d stopped the leak, though I found a couple more in other places, so I was up with the tar yesterday fixing those. The house is still one of the jobs I have to do here, one reason I am here. Not just the major rebuilding I did before, but to be here for the minor repairs in this old house.

There were issues. I tried writing the girl in St. Aug to get permission o use her voice and image in the final tour journal, “Watershed Divide”, both out of personal and professional ethics. The fact is, she is a big part of the story, and certainly the most significant personally. I certainly have nothing bad to say, and I could leave her anonymous like in the only Florida Tour Journal I did, “Lou’s Ponderosa”, and the text journals from then. But I’d rather these journals be a simple unfiltered window on wha happens. And I certainly can’t tell the story of Florida 2009 without her. Then, and still, she is part of my life, for better or worse. Though technically, she can be faceless and nameless, because none of this is about her, personally, but is about me, and how I react to the experince, and as a folksinger how it shapes the music, the songs I write and sing because of it. In the end, since she wasn’t there for me, she isn’t personally involved in the story at all. Though the latest song I wrote, about her, is now completed and I’ve started playing it, actually performing it in public for the first time last weekend on the dulcimer and on guitar at a songwriter’s meeting. I wanted to post videos of that, just to follow the evolution of this new song from the beginning. So it goes.

I have been working so hard I haven’t been out of the studio for over a month. I used to go out oin the course of performing, but that doesn’t happen, and really, I don’t know anyone in this area any more. Still, Jane the Promoter asked me to come out and do a short set with the dulci to at a new venue she’s openning up, karaoke follwed that, though it is an open mike, then Karaoke this week. I have to stop this and tune up, clean up, and get ready to go there tonight to open the open mike. I need to start playing anyway to get up to speed for recording, I haven’t played since I left Florida. So I also made the effort to get out to this songwriter’s meetup, and to a meeting/jam at a new studio openning up in DC, a pan-disciplinary space run by a photographer. The jam didn’t happen, I was the only musician, but I played for folks, and had a great conversation with ideas bouncing back aqnd forth between a me, a folksinger (who does school programs), and a photographer, a dancer/teacher, and a teacher. A great evening.

So It Goes

I am struggling with the situation, though it is what I expected. I am a starving artist, an self-supported indie musician, and have always had to manage on a shoestring. This whole effort is done in the knowledge that I am running on old gear that may fail any time, or needs repairs, whether it is the studio or my car and van. I limp along from one repair to the next, managing to get it done. That is the reality of life for people like me. Folksingers are not well supported in our society, though I chose to take what I could get, and play the street to make it work, rather than get a “real job”. In fact, the heat has broken and I figure to go play the street this weekend. Though I want to focus on the music projects, there are limits. Essentially, I have to give up on an early return to Florida and stay here till Xmass, which is my usual schedule.

I hope to get through this before my old gear fails. That is what pushed me to stop and try and do these things, get the work I’ve done to the dulci documented, the music I’ve made recorded, produce video from the footage I have and need to tell the story of the electric dulcimer. I have great gear, but nothing lasts, and I have taken this gear from Florida to the arctic circle. My recording gear, audio or video, could fail anytime, and is showing its age already. As am I, the other thing that is pushing me. Life isn’t kind at the bottom. But like the music gear, or the cars, I push these things off to focus on the music projects, hoping I can get them done before something major fails. I injured my shoulder last winter and it pains me a lot. I, of course, can’t do much about it but try to stretch and rotate, home-brewed physical therapy. I should see a dentist. I live a healthy life, natural foods etc, but there are limits. And the hard truth is that at any time the wholesale pollution of the environment could catch up to me, I am poisoned by it no matter what I do, and I’ll be heading out of this life. So I need to leave a recod of what I have done, and hopefully inspire and pass the electric dulci and on to other people, give it a life of its own before I pass, as I will in any case, sooner or later, as we all must.

And the fact is, I can manage, always have. I am frustrated at all the delays and distractions, and it is hard to measure the progress I have made, like getting this journal set up, and 40 videos available online. It isn’t even about what I have done as setting up this pipeline for future content. I can fix the system. I can replace it. That was always part of the plan.Though I believe I can get through doing this step, the new CDs, dulcimer building, this internet presence, without needing new gear. I hope I am right. I can’t do anything about my age, but there is as much chance as not of me being able to perform for a decade or two still, maybe more. Maybe we’ll actually get health care reform in my lifetime.

I have my work cut out for me here, and there’s nothing to do but keep pushing as long as I can. I’ll switch to audio, as a studio journal, I was thinking that a text-audio format might be better, since now it will be visually uninteresting but I should be able to give you audio clips as the project progresses. I’ll turn on the comment app for audio posts so people can comment on different mixes, help me decide what goes on the CD.

And right now, I have to go. Eat something, take a shower, tune the dulcimer for an hour or two so I am ready to play tonight. I’m not dead yet!

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