Week 101: In the deep midwinter
It’s cold. It didn’t even get above zero yesterday. And it snowed, which is unusual in London. It looked spectacular last night, though.
I spent Thursday refurbishing a job lot of cheap cassette players that I picked up for a song on eBay. After dismantling, cleaning (some of the shells were filthy), and replacing the belts, I ended up with a total of four fully working devices and three that work mechanically but which have electronic problems either recording or playing back.
I’ve been targeting a specific model of cassette player, the Sony TCM-939, because they were manufactured for years and are readily available second-hand for very little. I ordered lots of spare belts from AliExpress (where they cost about 15p each) because that’s the one thing that always fails with time, and they’re cheap in bulk. In fact, they’re cheaper in bulk: the two drive belts for a single device cost about £5 locally, which is more than the recorders cost me on average.
The next step is to wire one up with a motor controller and a microcontroller to manipulate the speed via MIDI. After that, I need to decide about other features: CV in; envelope control; manual speed control; etc.
I went to the LUME night at Hundred Years Gallery in Hoxton (a new venue to me, but a lovely friendly one, unfortunately only accessible via stairs) on Friday.
There were three very different sets: a two-person drone performance from Cath Roberts and Bill Thompson (using the unique Moog Guitar), saxophone with electronic processing and drums from Dee Byrne and Matt Fisher, and From the Mouths of Lions, a string quartet playing the première of a new piece by Olie Brice that used techniques that looked like they’d really increase the bow rehairing bill.
Because it was cold and icy, I took the bus to and from Sanshinkai on Saturday instead of cycling. On the upside, it goes from just round the corner from our house to just round the corner from SOAS. On the downside, it takes about 70 minutes. But it’s pleasant enough, and I could sit there with a book.
The other downside was that, in some covid maximalist hangover, there are little blocks glued onto the windows so that you can’t close them. Not even when it’s −3 C outside. When will this end?
I managed to squeeze in a bit of time to record a piece for the Disquiet Junto.
The assignment was to “make music inspired by a nursery rhyme”. The first one that came to mind was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (which is, in case you hadn’t realised, almost the same melody as Baa Baa Black Sheep. I probably should have quoted that in there, too). I came up with some jazzy changes, and it seemed to work, so here it is: guitar chords and bass with some semi-competent guitar noodling over the top. The recording is a bit noisy, but I like it.
The nice thing about not having enough time to polish it is that it helps me avoid my debilitating tendency to perfectionism. Jazz Bass single coil pickups picking up a lot of electrical hum? Oh well, too late to fix that. Guitar making a bit of a chittery sound? Stick a notch filter on it and have done with it. Solo is at least 90% OK? Not gonna record all that again.
Our Christmas tree arrived on Tuesday, and it’s installed, decorated, and looking festive.