Blog: entries tagged with "cats"

And in with 2007

It’s January, and this year, that means a new office for Spinglobe. We’ve spent a lot of the past month building a new space at the Merchants of Green Coffee building (you can see it from the Don Valley Parkway; it’s midway between Dundas and Queen), with the help of our new neighbours: putting in studs and drywall, mudding and painting, and generally turning a raw space at the back of an old warehouse building into a new home for our crew of oddballs.

174 Spadina IMAGE

Above: the old Spadina office (left) and the new office on Matilda. Toni, the more gregarious of the building’s two cats, comes to pay Sean a visit.

We’re still moving in, but we love it already. For one thing, we can actually walk around the place without tripping over one another. We have a meeting room, and space for all kinds of plants, and some wonderful neighbours in the building, including two cats and two cockatoos.

Lots more to tell. I have a few book reviews to do, for one thing, and possibly some television as well.

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Rerun: Five things

That “five things you might not have known about me” meme is going around the blogs lately, so what the heck - here are my answers, previously published elsewhere (except for #4).

1. When I was a kid, I drew quite a bit. My dad had a box of old, unused forms for tracking lab samples of plant material, which were my standard drawing paper for years. There were two sorts: white, legal-sized ones and heavy, green-tinted ones with a perforated section at the bottom (there was a serial number that you could stick in the bag with the smelly bits of collected leaves).

To me, the functional side of the paper was the blank side. And it seemed really weird to me that anyone would draw on anything else. I drew pictures of the house, the cats, and some incomprehensible comics - the detachable section at the bottom was roughly Sunday-comic sized - about talking mugs and bunnies that spent all their time falling into water and yelling at each other.

Purple2. A couple of years ago, I was Purple for Buddies in Bad Times’ Pride promo photos.

3. I talk to cats in made-up languages in addition to English. I sometimes use something like the peculiar dialect of “cat talk” spoken by everyone in my SO’s family, particularly when talking to Gomiya (her name is actually a form of address used when speaking to a cat; a more formal version is “Gohdemiya”). I think my personal cat dialect is also influenced by an old George Booth cartoon in the New Yorker called “Ip Gissa Gul” (“Ip Gets A Girl”) which was written in a made-up caveman language (I also find myself addressing dogs as “Huppy dod!” sometimes). Tarquin I talk to in something reminiscent of Inuktitut. I have no idea why.

4. My nickname in middle school was “Fish”, for reasons known only to the maybe three or four vaguely in-crowd kids who started calling me that. The only thing I can think of is that my last name has a similar rhythm to the word “mackerel”.

5. I owe a lot of my understanding of musical chords and chord progressions to a program I had for the Commodore 64 when I was in high school called Instant Music. The flip side of the disk had a whole bunch of example songs in different styles from rock history, all rendered in binky three-voice synthesis, and the book that came with it had a helpful rundown of chord types. The interface was horrible without a mouse, but I soldiered on anyway, even after my joystick died (I jammed its wires into an old calculator and used that as a controller instead).

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Song for a bored cat

Tarquin helps with the accountingMuffy and I once recorded a wacky little number called “Song For A Sad Cat”. It was to be a dirge inspired by the sound of Ms Sukie Binbay Purr (I hope I’m remembering her name) meowing plaintively at the door… but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Well, here’s the Song-a-day sequel:

Song for a bored cat (0’50”)

It started out with a recording off my phone - it has a “Voice Memo” function that I’ve used in desperation when inspired and without any other recording device, and the memory was full, so tonight I snagged it all onto my hard drive. The slightly out-of-time lead guitar is the first snippet to get used in a piece.

Now. There is no door on the upstairs studio, just a baby gate to keep out M’s cat Cobweb so he won’t pee on things. It doesn’t keep out the more athletic cats in the house, and our two cats usually try to take over my lap whenever I’m working up here, at least during the colder months.

After recording the basic tracks, I was setting up the microphone to possible record a very quiet vocal part when Tarquin sauntered in and started chattering at me. So I recorded him instead. He then proceeded to get real friendly with my lap before I got fed up and ejected him. That took about three tries, and he was replaced in short order by Gomiya. My primary function in life is to serve as furniture for pushy black cats.

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Secret songs

I can’t post the latest Song-a-day pieces, because (1) the sound quality on one of them is terrible, not to mention the playing, (2) the second one’s not done, and (3) they’re part of secret Hallowe’en show plans. Not that it’s that big a secret, I suppose. Regardless, I’m quite proud of them both.

We don’t have time to pull it off for this year, but the secret plan is this: for Hallowe’en - or perhaps some other show, just for the heck of it - we come on dressed as a completely different band, and play our own material in a different style. Of course, knowing the two of us, New Wave seems the most logical and fun choice. I’ve spent the past half hour trying to sing like Neil Tennant.

I mentioned the premise to a friend, who had a related idea: musical improv. Not just improvised music, not just an improvised musical, but improvised drama featuring the players in a band. The audience could throw out suggestions for what style they should perform and the soap opera dynamics that are going on between all the musicians. It’d take a good deal of skill and chutzpah, and no small amount of preparations. But it could be really cool.

On another related tangent, I’ve been tossing around ideas for a while about doing a story-with-songs - not quite a musical, but a narrated story with songs performed by a band, or more than one band (they could change during the story breaks). My chief inspiration was Harry Nilsson’s The Point, which is fun, but it’s by someone else, and it’s not really his best work.

As I type all this, Tarquin is on my lap, pawing at it in a way that’s frankly rude. He’s been really pushy lately about wanting to own my lap and/or chair, and if not, to climb up on my desk. I may have to employ him in my music making (inspired also by this YouTube video, which was passed along to me by Ms Urnash; warning, contains adorable kitten).

I guess you’d call that ailurotoric composition?

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Logical song-a-day

When we moved into this place a couple months back, the idea was that by now we’d have the music studio all set up and be in the midst of recording our next CD. But just before we made the move, I discovered that my Windows machine had been doused with cat wee, right through the back grille, and its hard drive controller was getting flaky in a scary sort of way. So I commandeered my SO’s old PowerBook G4, and got me a copy of Logic Express (a belated birthday present). It’s taking a while to get everything back in gear - not for nothing does Ronan Chris Murphy write that “Home Studios are Killing Music”.

It’s a complicated piece of machinery, is Logic, so as a way of getting my bearings while also getting a few creative ya-yas out, I’ve decided to start up the Song-a-Day project again. One track every day, or at least a few a week. Length doesn’t matter, but they usually average about a minute and a half. Sound quality isn’t as important as the ideas in the piece, and most important is learning from the experience.

So here’s the first: 2006_1009_Scales.mp3 (1.2 megs)

Still very much getting the hang of the way Logic handles regions and quantization and such. At some point I’ll read a manual.

Logic's tunings menuI was excited (read “squealed like a girl”) to discover that alternative tunings are available just by picking them out of a menu - I’ve wanted to do pieces using just intonation (or some other non-even tempered scale) for a long time. There are literally dozens of them included, and you can define your own as well. Right on! So this one’s in a 7-limit JI, since I’ve always loved those rich, flat-flat sevenths. Other than that, there’s nothing so remarkable about this one, except maybe that I used a pair of scissors for percussion somewhere in there. Synths are the subtractive and FM ones bundled with Logic.

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First notes

File under Things You Really Need To Know: My office mate’s computer makes a little ‘bing’ noise every now and then. It happens that it’s the same pitch as the opening guitar note of “There She Goes” by the La’s, which runs through my head every time his computer does that.

A few years back, I noticed that the elevators at the Ryerson library make a ‘bing’ of their own that’s the first guitar note from “No Surprises” by Radiohead. And then there was the snack vending machine at UW that made a beep near-identical to the first note of “Librae Solidi Denari” by the Shamen.

Other songs that have been running through my head lately: “The List” by Metric - Sean just bought Emily Haines’s latest, which I haven’t yet heard, but every mention of her makes me think of Metric songs; and that same office mate’s a cappella rendition of the Andy Griffith Show theme (used in a recent project).

And now, since it’s apparently Catsmas, I give you Gomiya in loaf form, and Tarquin demolishing a big bag of catnip he stole out of an upper kitchen cupboard.

Gomiya, loaf format Tarquin, sooooo stoned

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Saxes and arranging

There’s nothing like being awakened at 5:30 in the morning by a cat throwing up on you.

I’ve realized that I don’t really care for sax solos on rock songs… but I love rhythm parts, especially with bass/baritone sax. I’m thinking of “Good Morning” by the Beatles, and the neat arrangement on “This Song” by Ron Sexsmith with a pair of (tenor?) saxes, the lower of them doubled by an electric guitar.

Hmm. Might have to try doubling violin and piano, or violin and guitar.

Other voicings I’d like to try sometime:

  • Two male voices singing an octave apart. The Fembots have some octave-doubled voices on their latest. Also, Julian’s got me listening to some early Tears For Fears, and “The Hurting” in particular does this. It’s very ‘80s, come to think of it - Depeche Mode used it all over the place; also Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” (and “Space Oddity”), and Talking Heads on “Mind”, the Police on “Bring On The Night” and “Spirits In The Material World”... a quick survey of an ‘80s compilation turns up A Flock Of Seagulls, INXS and Squeeze.
  • Heck, just two voices in unison. I instinctively go for harmonies, but unison can be powerful too.
  • And speaking of octaves, piano octaves. I just did a disco-ish track for a short film, and played the melody on a piano that way. Punchy! Ooh, and how about 12-string guitar?

I’ve finally gone and wiped my studio machine and reinstalled Windows. It’s so much perkier now - years of forgotten software layers and busted registry bits swept away… ahh, that’s better.

Unfortunately, I can’t find my Cubase install CD - gah! But I did bring home my Mbox and installed Pro Tools 7, which will be very nice to have. Next step: good monitors.

Fun rehearsal last night, in preparation for our next gig (our last one with Clark for a while - details on the Flickershow site.

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cheesecake

I dreamt my housemates and I were at a restaurant. I was trying to take a picture of our cat, who was inexplicably about two inches long and happily rolling around on her back on top of M.‘s slice of cheesecake.

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Memo

To: Roommates
Re: Drug abuse prevention policy

Stoned cat 1 Stoned cat 2

From now on we keep the catnip in a sealed jar.

[We should have known better. The punk knew where we kept the stash. Dammit, that baggie had a whole cup of weed in it.]

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Woomph. DAK DAK DAK DAK DAK. DAK DAK DAK. tinkle. DAK DAK

They’ve resumed tearing up the concrete along the streetcar tracks. (The middle two lanes of King Street are now a big long trench from Spadina to Portland.)

I don’t mind the noise so much - I’m willing to accept 40 or 50 dB of noise in the name of maintaining a State Of Good Repair. It’s the shaking that makes me nervous.

Got to see our neighbour’s place at the end of the hall last night - gorgeous - and meet one of her three cats. She gave us a silly rope-covered cat gym thing with dangling pom-poms. Her cats wouldn’t even look at it, so she offered it. Tarquin is mildly interested, at least.

And while we were standing around in the hall, we met the girl who lives in 501, the unit we originally wanted but didn’t get. Lucky us - it’s smaller, so cheaper, but their ceiling has leaked for the entire year they’ve been living there. The management people are beyond useless. And it didn’t come with appliances.

She has a lovely, enormous cat named Mindy. That makes at least nine cats and one dog on a floor with seven apartments. :D

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