Archive for Entertainment

Free software #Mellotron for download

by David Solomonoff

Plogue Sforzatron Is A Free Mellotron Library In SFZ Format

via Bedroom Producers Blog:

The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard – basically an analog precursor of modern software music samplers.

Plogue Sforzatron is a software implementation of the Mellotron for the free sample player Plogue Sforzando. It’s based on the same set of samples released by Taijiguy used in several other free Mellotrons, but it adds a little flexibility not present in the originals.

In addition to allowing the blending of any three sounds from the Mellotron samples, Sforzatron also adds ADSR envelope, tone, detune and pan controls for each sound slot, plus global overdrive, detune and reverb effects. The presets fall into three general categories: authentic Mellotron sounds, thicker and swirlier detuned variations, and sounds which use the envelopes to simulate percussive sounds or reverse tape effects.

Creating a digital recreation of a comparatively primitive analog audio sampler would seem counterintuitive – but recreating the warm distortion and character that defined classic art rock of the late sixties and early seventies as a starting point for new music is the goal here.

Related:

  • Blog post by Michael Thomas “Mike” Pinder, English rock musician, founding member and original keyboard player of the The Moody Blues whose haunting riffs were played on the Mellotron
  • Mellotrons still being manufactured today

 

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Sponge-worthy metal tape begets decentralized culture

by David Solomonoff

TDK cassette ad "The Sound Sponge"

Boingboing recently had a post about the last remaining factory making analog audio cassette tapes. Business is booming with a resurgent taste for things analog, physical and tangible – and they also sound good.

My wife and I took part in an international underground art and music movement in the 1980’s that used snail mail to create a decentralized culture that predated but anticipated the public Internet. Cassettes were the game-changing technology that allowed for fast, cheap music reproduction in small production runs.

Blank cassettes are actually collectors’ items now. Unfortunately the type of cassette that allowed us to do complex sound collages with cheap hardware doesn’t seem to be made anymore. The Type IV metal tape – actual metal bits instead of metal oxide in the tape emulsion – had sound quality that rivaled analog reel-to-reel machines and digital compact disks.

I found a few metal cassettes at a church rummage sale recently and plan to save them for special musical projects – the way Elaine chose “sponge-worthy” boyfriends on Seinfeld.

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All Saints Keep Marching In! 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

All Saints Eve aka Halloween is long gone. Even the Great Turkey has flown. Yet the saints keep marching in! How spectral is that? Meanwhile, back at the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art project, folks are revving up for Xmas*. Partying with in-laws and no laws, stalking Black Season sales, and decking the motel halls with duct tape. Me no tell Santa if you don’t…

 

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1) Making merry with balloon golf. BYOB and watch out for the holes. Go ask Cousin Alice— she fell down one!

 

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2) Bennington, Vermont.  Where a surprising amount of product can be found.

 

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3)  Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York.  An attentive staff and a TV in every room. Set amidst rolling acres of stain-resistant carpet.

 

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4) Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York. An attentive staff, plus cozy cabins with kitchen/bath combos.

 

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5) Meanwhile, back in Vermont, the wacky ways of Hollywood– and organized crime– are being pondered.

 

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6) Duct tape, used auto parts, and a heavenly calendar girl. Happy new old year, January, 1963. Cooperstown Junction, New York.

 

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7) Gilboa Dam, Schoharie Reservoir, upstate New York. Created to supply New York City with water, the reservoir sits atop a flooded village and acres of rolling drowned farmland.

 

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8) Hotel Mark Hopkins, San Francisco, California. A tip top view from glamorous Top of the Mark. Careful of the eye holes tho. Cousin Alice… well, you know.

 

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9) Shinglekill Falls, Purling, New York. Postcard sez: “The water evoked reverence in early years”. Now?  Folks “must scream to be heard over the roar”.

*Xmas: Though often confused with Christmas due to proximity, Xmas is a completely different holiday. Widely celebrated, its origins are somewhat mysterious. Conspiracy theorists claim Satan thought it up while “X-ing” old angel friends out of his address book. Others put the blame on Bizarro. Or possibly Mame

 

Coming for Christmas: Return of the Magnificent Incoming/ Miraculous Mail Art from Around the World.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art– The Movie!

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Oh yeah, the living is easy. Catfish jumping, cotton high. Pols sweating bullets all over the place. Dodging ’em can be tuff. Load up the car and hit the road jack. Send pals postcards from the Paradise Motel saying “Wish you were here!” Ditch the cell tho. It doesn’t do privacy…

 

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1) “Purring Tranquility” in the Scenic South of Bessemer, Alabama.

 

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2) “Welcome to Walt Disney World.” What would Summer be without a drop-in on Disney, the “Vacation Kingdom of the World”?

 

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3) Tomorrow Land at Disney World: “Welcome to the Future”. Or is it the past?

 

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4) Just ’cause it’s hot and gritty, don’t skip New York City! “Luscious” Lana Turner and “Mob gorilla” Johnny Stompanato do Rockefeller Center Plaza.

 

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5) In upstate New York, famous folks can be spotted at Niagara Falls. But you gotta look fast before they disappear…

 

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6) Paleface Mountain Inn, Jay, New York; yet another great place for people watching. How many pale faces can you spot? Winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to Albany!

 

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7) The State Capital, Historic Albany, New York circa 2007.  No matter how hot things got, Governor Eliot Spitzer always kept his socks on. And though his “Steam Roller” temper was legendary, historians say Eliot/Elliott never erupted over his misspelled name on the Capital’s most iconic postcard.

 

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8) All aboard the Union Pacific Railroad! Claim a seat in the Astra Dome Observation Car and bring on the non-stop booze. Take in the “mystic and romantic light from the star-studded canopy” while the cat up front blows an ode…

 

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9) The Big Texan on I-40 East says “Exit Now”. Steak for 99 cents– an offer that can’t be refused.

 

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10) Meanwhile, back in the heart of Dixie, North Carolina’s state bird spots an angel amongst the magnolias.

 

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11) One last reminder re that cell…

 

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Saviors, celebs, and monsters ride the Snail. Therein lies the tale. Yippee-ki-yay! Mofo or no, they go with the flow…

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1) Christ and Pol Pot in Desert w. touch of El Topo. Highway 84 between Phoenix and Tucson.

 

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2) Frieda Kahlo by TicTac. Geisha rising from Lake Mead, largest reservoir in the US– straddling Nevada and Arizona.

 

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3) Mao Zedong say wha?? Revolution isn’t a Pu Pu Platter. China City Restaurant– quaint, exotic, and air conditioned. Florida, possibly Saint Petersburg.

 

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4) Going to a Go Go with Mail Art and iconic dervish. Silver Springs, Florida. “Nature’s Underwater Fairyland”.

 

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5) Skeletons and Ocotillo. Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico.

 

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6) Christ and Saturn in Ballroom w. touch of Louis XV. Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida. Flagler was Dad to Miami and Standard Oil. Monopoly anyone?

 

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7) Mao Zedong and Skull Pez. United Nations, New York City

 

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8) Back to the Desert, Varieties of Cactus. Some less prickly than others.

 

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9) Greetings from the Mohawk Bingo Palace, St. Regis Reservation, Hogansburg, New York.

 

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10) Riding the Ridge in Hunter, New York. Catskill Mountains. Corn high, Eye in the Sky…

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

So said Charles Bukowski and I agree. (Tip: flame retardant underwear helps.) Mark Hammond put the fire-walk words on the back of his view of Fuji:

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1) Mark Hammond, Kanazawa, Japan

Peterolpetal sent a distressed looking angel enrobed in an envelope of mystical significance.  Just what is that tower broadcasting?

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2) Petrolpetal, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

Speaking of broadcasting, are you ready for some CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfolded Tourism? Check out tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh circa 2001.

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3) Who Unit? Pittsburgh, Pa., USA. Message on back: “We meet again, decades later, at the due speed of snail mail!” Yes I say yes to reconnecting in slow mo–

and I will honor The Snail with these stamps from TICTAC POST.

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4) Ptrzia/Tictac, Starnberg, Germany

Tictac keeps right on ticking:

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5) Ptrzia (Tictac), Starnberg, Germany

The Tictac came with an AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA book of wonders. Too large to be presented here. Just the cover, ma’am, just the cover. Inside, beautifully presented works by more than 50 artists and “the idea of a free space where the only leading power is that of culture”.

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6) AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA, Tiziana Baracchi, Giancarlo Da Lio, Venezia Mestre, Italy

“Even if you are adult, your childhood is still inside of you” says Bernhard Zilling on the back of his hand-painted card. Hmmmm– the fellow on the card looks strangely familiar. Could he also be one of the three men in a painting by “anonymous” that hangs on my living room wall? If so, who are these men and why are they manifesting in art all over the world?

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7) Inside Childhood, Bernhard Zilling, Berlin, Germany. With detail from Three guys from a Thrift Store, anonymous, upstate New York, USA.

No anonymous here– photo by Reed Altemus, presumably of Reid Wood in a State of Being. Or is it Lord Laurence Olivier?

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8) State of Being, Oberlin, Ohio, USA

Then there’s this big eye from Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, containing a reworked version of a postcard I sent. Our exchange ricocheted into a back-and-forth of photos within photos. One of my favorite Mail Art riffs.

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9) Big Pink Eye w. Red Hat Baby, Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, Grenoble, France.

Another Mail Art tradition– games. Dan Buck sent instructions for Trial and Error, A Dicing Game. Keep the kids busy on car trips! Are we there yet, Mommy? Shut up and study your crime mag…

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10) Trial and Error, Dan Buck, Armour, South Dakota, USA

Pati Bristow stitched this card, which contains instructions for what may be pruning or grafting trees. “Stumps” are involved; trees seem a good guess. The bad guess? Think crime mag.

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11) Stitch instruction card, back & front, Pati Bristow, Los Altos, California, USA

Finally, an illustrated dissertation by Scott Thomas on “people who just don’t care what others think of their appearance”. Like Scott sez: “you just just have to admire that in some ways….many ways”. Also includes an ode to a real-life “semi-pro dumpster diver”.  Envelope and outer card bedecked with smiley faces. Several sinister. Try not to think crime mag.

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12) They Just Don’t Care, Scott Thomas, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Th-th-th-that’s all folks! For now….

 

The series so far:

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

 

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Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

It’s season of the switch at 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? Magnolias are blooming and tigers and teens are looking for a kiss. Sure, politicians keep shoveling but guess who has risen? Hint: His name rhymes with…

 

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1) Mississippi Magnolia: “This beautiful flower of the evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora is seen throughout the South in the late Spring.”

 

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2) Mating Season in Historic Beaufort, South Carolina.

 

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3) Mating Season in Ormond Beach, Florida.

 

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4) State Capitol, Albany, New York. Regular tours take in “The Million Dollar Staircase”. Coming soon– a casino to die for! Just a hop skip from the Cap.

 

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5) Aladdin Casino, Las Vegas: “Truly a magical resort where your wish is our command.”

 

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6) Main Street, Old Tucson, Arizona. Among the many Westerns shot at Old Tucson Studios: Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys

 

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7) Palm Springs, California: “…famous for its luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels.” But natives say “keep watching the sky”.

 

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8) Alta, Utah: Skiing in deep powder. After the fall, a rise…

 

Thanks to pals in SoCal for the cards from Vegas, Palm Springs, and Utah.

The series so far:

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Think totalitarians are dull boys (and girls) who wear matchey matchey duds, never quaff cocktails or croon torch tunes in the wee small hours? If so, you’re wrong. No need for shame though. I thought the same. Until I found a copy of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings! in a box of old records at a junk store.

At first I figured it was some sort of spoof production. Lenin sings? Yeah, right. Maybe in his shower after rolling out a little Red Terror. But no. Lenin did cut a record (actually, a wax cylinder) in 1922, around the time he became premiere of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union). After Lenin’s death in ’24, the album disappeared into a memory hole dug by his successor, Joseph Stalin.

Luckily for lovers of pop culture esoterica, the master somehow survived…

After Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev eventually emerged as head of the single party USSR. In ’56, he delivered his famous Secret Speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, ripping Stalin and the personality cult that let Stalin be Stalin. Among other things, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for expanding the use of the term “enemy of the people” to include Party officials who disagreed with Stalin. Thereby putting them in the same non-human, expendable category as, say, kulaks— those Greedy Gus peasants who resisted having their farms collectivized.

Khrushchev also distributed copies of Lenin’s Testament at the Congress. Lenin wrote it in late 1922, after being been laid low by a stroke. Death was on the way. In the Testament, Lenin assessed various Party biggies with an eye to future leadership. No thumbs up for Stalin. Lenin dished “Comrade” Stalin’s “rudeness” and “capricious temper” and suggested he be booted from his position as Secretary-General of the Party’s Central Committee.

Until recently few knew Lenin’s Testament wasn’t the only thing Khrushchev distributed; he also passed out remastered vinyl copies of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

What motivated Khrushchev to include the record? Did he hope hearing Lenin sound so presciently Rat Pack would make rude boy Stalin seem totally yesterday?

Whatever. The album stands on its own as a pop music classic. Lenin delivers the goods from first cut to last, opening with a subversively scat-shattered version of Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band and closing with a high octane, finger-snapping delivery of Cole Porter’s little known Ha, Ha, They Must Sail for Siberia. Twixt Berlin & Porter, Vlad turns sad. Waxing middle-of-the-night moody with lush ballads– including one written by himself titled What is to Be Done (When your Lover Leaves).

Though copyright laws make it impossible to include cuts from Swingin’ Totalitarian, I’ve reproduced the album’s cover, a gatefold hinged at Lenin’s waist with identical images front and back. The doubled Lenin is shown lounging at the type of bar typically found in suburban basement rec rooms. (Swingin’ was recorded at Lenin’s dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.) Those octopus-like suckers sprouting from his head? Symbolic. As said, the record was cut ’round the time the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.

Album Cover

Interestingly, the graphic from Lenin’s album surfaced in altered form during the late 1960’s as an advertisement for Romanov Vodka. Not to be confused with the Romanov Vodka currently being marketed by the India-based UB Group, the Romanov Vodka that featured Lenin in its ads was produced in Romania under the aegis of Nicolae Ceaușescu. A swingin’ totalitarian in his own right…

Romanov Vodka Ad

 

Next in the Swingin’ Totalitarian series: Mao Wow! The Lost Nudie Pics of Mao Zedong

 

 

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Now Running 4 President: The Year of Living Idiotically

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Go to the polls and keep smiling!

I loathe presidential election years. Let me count the ways.

1. Everything is subject to partisan spin. If pollen triggers hay fever, flaks din that the other party did it. The media echoes the act. (The story of O is getting an extra loud yodel!) Worse yet, so do boots on the ground. Hitherto charming intelligent friends hit the social media streets loaded with dogma. Your email gets clogged with petitions urging you to tell the left/right fanatics in the White House/Congress/Temple of Dagon that you won’t tolerate their war on business/women/the cosmos.

2. Politics trump friendship. I know someone who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 (as I did) and was cut dead for a decade. His friends blamed him for Al Gore’s defeat. Go figure why they didn’t blame Gore.

3. Presidential elections turn thoroughly modern Millies & Mikes into medieval hysterics. The devil is supposed to have left the secularized building. Yet he surfaces every four years as the candidate of the other party. Quoting a friend in New Jersey: “Vote for whoever you like. But don’t tell me the other guy eats babies.”

4. There is no real humor in Mudville. Only partisan sallies. (Did ya hear the one about Sarah Pelosi?) A true sense of the absurd is an unwelcome guest at partisan parties. Could be worse tho. Totalitarians 86 it. Like, totally.

5. In election years the effort to shape reality by limiting language and subverting meaning ramps up. (See Newspeak for basic theory.) The publics’ flirtation with “outsider” candidates such as Donald Trump and Herman Cain reflects weariness with parsing and PC patter. Better a plainspoken zany than one who hides his strobe light under a bushel.

6. Brain dead hyperbole becomes the norm. This year’s zombie meme: “The War On”. Followed by whatever will rile The Base. But is limiting funding for morning-after birth control or raising taxes on the wealthy really the same as being bombed to smithereens or starving in the rubble of a ruined country?

7. The social issue boom-car pounds 24/7. This year’s divisive device doesn’t have much sub woof. Same sex marriage matters to its fervent supporters and opponents but frankly my dear, most people don’t give a damn. They don’t gasp with admiration or outrage when candidates strike a pose pro or con, they just wish they’d stop voguing for the media. The economy is a dry subject (dangerous to boot) but anything about sex– Hoohah!

8. None of the above tops the horror the horror of hearing candidates wax folksy on TV. When these ultimate entitled elitists drop letters from words, call people “folks”, and reference decisions made by “American families sitting round the kitchen table” my flesh creeps. I recently saw VP Joe Biden doing the populist doo. My hands were full of hot pots (I was in an actual kitchen) and I couldn’t reach the remote in time. Move over Chucky, Pinhead, and assorted killer clowns. The nightmare of Farmer Joe is seared in my brain.

According to pundits, coolness is a major factor in this year’s presidential race. If so, Ron Paul should have done better in the primaries. He doesn’t do dialect. On the leftover front, if Mitt promises to keep droning away in characterless cadences he just might get my vote. I hate candy corn that much.

 

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NY Times Report of Doo-wop’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

by David Solomonoff

With the closing of a specialty record shop in New Jersey, the New York Times announced the death of doo-wop, a form of R&B most popular in the 1950’s and early 60’s which featured  harmony vocals and romantic lyrics. Doo-wop was most often performed by African and/or Italian American working class youth and combined gospel and operatic elements.

As recently as the late eighties and early nineties, I remember doo-wop groups singing a cappella on street corners in the West Village for tourists.

Though the Times tends to dismiss almost anything working class and romantic as destined for the dustbin of history, they neglected to note some innovative musicians who performed or were heavily influenced by doo-wop including Brian Eno, here performing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” made famous by the Tokens in 1961:

 

 

… and Frank Zappa, who began his career singing doo-wop and continued to incorporate it into his music throughout his career:

 

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