The full extent of my ignorance…

I do an awful lot of thinking, and probably do a lot of awful thinking.  Problem is that since nobody can hear my thinking it’s only subject to correction by chance.

That’s where you come in, and the reason for the tag line “Helping to build a better Dave.”  I am going to try to put a lot of my thoughts here as the spirit moves me, and your job will be to correct stink’n think’n, help give me a check up from the neck up, and direct me towards TRVTH.

My interests are too wide ranging to list and so you may expect almost anything from quantum computing to pipe organs.

As the son of a conservative Southern Baptist minister, I am acutely aware of the many “flavors” of Christian belief there are to be found in the areas where I grew up and have lived since.   Some may see a conflict between my thoughts on temporal matters of science and society and my professed faith.  I do not, as I divide theology and science with a hard line.  Theology deals with “by whose hand?” while science deals with “How did He do it?” in my own world view.  There can be no judgments by one of these that are not in perfect harmony with the other, and to the extent they appear to be is human error in all cases.

I love science and have kept abreast of the latest discoveries all my life, but unlike many, I am not dazzled by it as I consider our current knowledge level to be quite primitive.  In fact, I often describe my view of our level of understanding of the nature of our universe as being, as a species, about as far along as a baby is between birth and their first smile.  That statement may actually be generous since we have yet to even leave the womb, planet Earth.   Until we do, we have no way of knowing what we will be when we grow up.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Are you religious?

ReligionAre you religious?

Yes.

What kind?

Christian

What kind?

The kind who believes in Jesus Christ, son of God, savior.

That’s not what I mean. I mean what church do you belong to?

The one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Oh, you are Catholic.

Of course, all Christians are.

Oh. So you believe those who aren’t Catholic aren’t Christian?

Of course they aren’t. How could they be if they are not part of the church?

Pretty harsh.

I didn’t make the rules.

No. I guess your pope did.

My pope? I don’t have a pope.

I thought you said you were Catholic.

No, I said I am catholic.

?????????

Sorry. Didn’t know you meant capital “C” as in “Roman Catholic.” Never have been happy with the Church of Rome getting away with that. Don’t much care for it in print as it is, by both dictionary and theological definition, a misuse, but the fix has been in so long few even understand that “catholic” is an adjective, not a proper noun. There is only one church, but it worships in a variety of ways and through a variety of business units made of those of like minds and preferences. All but a few percent are in harmony with the Nicene Creed and the vast majority use it or the similar Apostles Creed regularly.

You’re weird.   So, what denomination are you?

My preference is for the Anglican rite, which I practice on a regular basis. But I am quite happy where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.

You are being evasive.

Perhaps. But division is not a good thing, and my loyalty is to THE church, not some piece of it. If called to witness, I witness only the risen Lord and His church…which has no earthly headquarters.

But many denominations require their priests and ministers to practice only within their denomination and do not recognize the ministry of others.

Yes, and I find that rather odd. As Christians, we join Christ in His eternal priesthood and are enjoined to minister to all peoples. I have seen many ordination papers on walls and the majority say that person is ordained to the one holy catholic and apostolic church. No qualification at all.  Why should a priest or minister be constrained from doing that which all Christians are required to do by His command.

You mean they can minister to anyone?

Yes, and no. While not privy to the things that go on in seminaries, I am told they also swear loyalty to their denomination and promise to act only within its belief structure. I find that theologically unsupportable and personally don’t believe God would recognize such an oath as valid. Such an oath would bar me from ministry. Perhaps that is why it is there…

Fascinating. The idea of a church made of diverse groups, differing in worship but all accepting those from other rites as Christian brothers and sisters, is a powerful idea.

Indeed. Pretty much in line with my understanding of what He had in mind.

Such a church would be an incredible force for good, and a light to all nations.

Pretty much also in line with my understanding of what He had in mind.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Amen.

 

Posted in Theology and Faith | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Day the Music Died

SoundCube recording an immersive soundfield.  If you play this recording back correctly, you will hear what you would hear if you were sitting where the device is.
SoundCube recording an immersive soundfield. If you play this recording back correctly, you will hear what you would hear if you were sitting where the device is.

 

Prolog
The CD killed “high fidelity.”  Before turning away in disgust, read a little more.  The advent of 4 channel sound in the 70s was pretty awful.  The master recordings could be pretty good, but there was no way to reproduce them properly at home.  The results were extremely disappointing.  However, so were the first mechanical recordings.  The first electrically produced recordings were, in turn, described as “remote” and “unnatural” compared to their mechanical predecessors. The first LPs were considered “lofi” compared to 78s.  Audiophiles shunned the initial stereo release as “gimmicky” and not true to the music.  However, all these innovations were finally refined and accepted.

Except for surround. Quad was at its most confusing and worst in the early 1980s when the CD exploded onto the scene with and easy way to “perfect sound forever” requiring nothing but a single standard player. Quad had 6 different systems, all except for 4 track reel to reel with serious drawbacks, both sonic and technical.  The CD used the proven 2 channel recording techniques and a standard device.  This technology was incredibly advanced and on the bleeding edge of the possible.  A 4 channel version was feasible, but it would only have held 30 minutes of music.  That’s less than an LP of the time and nobody in the audio business was going to go there, plus they had already had enough.  They were in the business to make money, not advance high fidelity.  Within a few years, quad was a bitter memory in the minds of the music industry and the public as well.

Let me state this clearly and categorically: 

Nothing that follows should be construed as suggesting that satisfying musical experiences cannot be obtained by other methods.  Proof this is not the case resides in my own listening library.  David Hafler obtained a degree of Virtual Presence over 40 years ago in his DynaQuad sampler LP, though the effect was quite localized to a “sweet spot” and variable over the disk.  Others have succeeded to some degree or the other using various approaches.  However, other methodology relies on decades of experience, luck, good karma, and a variety of other things one may or may not have access to or possess.  For the beginner, or the experienced audio engineer wishing to simply “capture the moment,” the Six Cardinal Rules offer a methodology that guarantees a recording with Virtual Presence.  Also, note that if you use microphones other than the PZMs, you must have an in-depth understanding of their pickup patterns and interactions with each other in order to approximate or match the 360° pickup of the SoundCube.  The same caveats go for variances in speaker type and placement.

Virtual Presence

“Virtual Presence” is the term I use for the process of providing the human brain with precisely the information required to recreate the original soundfield.  Today, highly complex and sophisticated circuitry attempts to, and in many cases, succeeds in, creating an involving, immersive, and sometimes even relatively accurate soundfield.  However, many times it also fails, and fails miserably.  Experience suggests that the reason for this is that modern circuitry, even at its best, is no match for the human brain.  You just can’t fool Mother Nature.

Those older audiophiles who remember or heard about the “quad” debacle of the 70s, and those younger ones who’ve heard nothing but the generally ghastly more current attempts at “surround” sound and are absolutely convinced that stereo is the best we can hope for please note this logic:

IF STEREO WORKS, DOUBLE STEREO TO PROVIDE THE REAR INFORMATION MUST WORK ALSO.

Yes, shouting.  It’s necessary as the bias towards any advances in audio recording are so ingrained as to have ended real progress towards high fidelity decades ago.  Please read the following with open mind and ears.

Six Cardinal Rules of Sound Acquisition

It was a visit to the laboratory of the late “Legend in Sound” Paul W. Klipsch in the early 1970’s that ignited my quest for Virtual Presence.  For that reason, I don’t believe he will begrudge using his “Cardinal Rules” descriptor to attempt to describe for acquisition what he did for reproduction.

  1. Conventional “Stereo” is simply dual channel mono and is incapable of delivering Virtual Presence.
  2. To achieve “Virtual Presence,” 4 identical microphones must cover 360° with seamless overlap.
  3. Mixing = editorializing, no matter how well it is done and inhibits the achievement of Virtual Presence.
  4. The simplest possible signal path from microphone to storage must be used.
  5. There must be a minimum delta from master to distribution copy and the ideal is none.
  6. Reproductive conditions must be as close as possible to the inverse of acquisition.

1. Conventional “Stereo” is simply dual channel mono and is incapable of delivering Virtual Presence.

In recent years, home theatre systems with their 5 or more channels have rapidly become ubiquitous. This has produced renewed interest in surround audio. Many in the audio world eschew anything beyond stereo as unnecessary and gimmicky. On the other hand, we heard exactly the same thing from their fathers and grandfathers when stereo debuted. Both they and their fathers/grandfathers were correct.  Early stereo WAS gimmicky and full of “Hey! Listen to this ‘Ping-Pong’ effect.”

In fact, it is not possible to record certain events with any degree of reality in only 2 channels.  I have rarely ever used more than two microphones for stereo, and the most often asked question in the field was always “Why only two microphones?”  My stock answer was always the same: “I have only two ears!”  That answer was, and remains true, for simple 2-channel stereo.  However, it does not apply to “Virtual Presence” where 4 microphones are the required.  The reason that 2 microphones cannot provide a realistic soundfield when 2 ears can is simple: no brain.  In the 1970’s, attempts were made to fix this with what amounted to “artificial brains.”  The first, simplest, and possibly the best was David Hafler’s “DynaQuad” system, which used passive circuitry (unnecessary to get into the theory here) to extract out-of-phase information from normal stereo recording and route it to the rear.  At its best, the impact was marvelous, and I have Hafler circuitry in my stereo even today as it adds much to stereo sources.  However, there is a fundamental flaw in this approach when re-creating a “Virtual Presence” as true to the original soundfield as possible:  it is in no way comparable to the natural “Hafler circuitry” built into our brains.  The point is this: Give your brain the data points it needs and let it do the work.

2. To achieve “virtual presence,” 4 identical microphones must cover 360°

By placing 4 microphones in the “best seat in the house” you provide the brain with the data points it needs to triangulate the origination point of every sound in the acoustic space-time event.  In order to test this concept, I developed the MBS SoundCube.  The SoundCube is based on the Crown PZM (Pressure Zone Microphone) microphone.  The PZM is the only microphone design aside from the ribbon and the omnidirectional to have a “natural” pickup pattern.  While many different microphones have been developed with a wide variety of pickup patterns, all of them rely on phase cancellation to achieve the desired performance.  While effective for news people, moviemakers, and the NSA, they are not the best choice for Virtual Presence.  Of the 3 “natural” pickup patterns, I have experimented with ribbon microphones (figure of 8 pickup pattern) and the PZM (semi-circular pattern).  The SoundCube is the result of my experiments with the PZM, and the easiest to use in this explanation of Virtual Presence.

PZM 180 degree pickup pattern. Perfect for virtual presence recording.

PZM 180 degree pickup pattern. Perfect for virtual presence recording.

The diagram at the left shows the natural 180° pickup pattern of the PZM.  Omni’s and ribbon mikes pickup sound reflected from the walls, floors, and other objects in a room.  For stereo, and with the mikes properly positioned, this doesn’t impact the recording too much.  However, these out of phase signals confuse the extremely sensitive direction finding capabilities of the human brain. Further, it is extremely difficult to perfectly overlap conventional microphones such that the areas covered by each mike overlap perfectly.  If the overlap is imperfect, the human brain will interpret this as spurious directional information.  Considerable experience and knowledge is required to apply either omnis or ribbons to 4 channel use.

SoundCube setup for an experimental recording of ambient sound.

SoundCube setup for an experimental recording of ambient sound.

Enter the PZM and SoundCube.  Each square has a hole in the center for mounting a PZM microphone with a butterfly nut.  This arrangement provides all the data points required by the human brain to recreate Virtual Presence with 4-180° zones with a 90° transition zone yielding the requisite seamless coverage.

Nothing in the above should be taken to suggest that only PZM microphones are capable of achieving Virtual Presence.  I have achieved Virtual Presence with ribbon microphones, which are my personal favorite microphones for acoustic instruments and natural sounds.   All audio engineers have their bias and preferences in microphones, and despite my personal dislike of phase-based directional microphones, it is possible to achieve virtual presence with them if they are properly deployed in accordance their design specifications and the above principles.  However, the use of PZMs in the SoundCube configuration reduces the highly complex task of microphone configuration and placement to that of simply locating the “best seat in the house” and placing the SoundCube there as a proxy for the listener. 

3. Mixing=editorializing, no matter how well it is done and prevents the achievement of Virtual Presence.

Let me be clear:  Mixers are a good thing.  There would be no Dark Side of the Moon or thousands of other great audio experiences without them. But those are not recordings of acoustic space/time events and only become so when played back on the target system they were designed for.  However, in the quest for Virtual Presence, they have no place.  For one thing, they violate one of the cardinal rules, that dealing with the simplest signal path being the best, but most importantly, they represent editorializing.  What it means is that the audio engineer does not believe it possible to deliver a quality recording without tampering with the soundfield.  In my case if confronted with such a situation I just walk away.  If there is no “best seat in the house” then I really can’t expect to enjoy the performance.  So why would I want to preserve it.

4. The simplest possible signal path from microphone to storage must be used.

The mantra of many audiophiles is “The perfect preamplifier is a straight wire with gain.”  While this goal is, at present, unattainable, the criterion it represents is something all recording engineers should strive for.  Modern audio processing circuitry is frightfully good, but every issue it seeks to address in the acquisition of acoustic music in fine environments can be eliminated by following the rules as stated so far.  Therefore, only the essential paths should be followed: microphone to preamp, preamp to Analog to Digital (A-D) converter, thence to storage.  Even modest microphones, preamps, and A-D converters used within this framework can provide a more satisfying Virtual Presence than 6 figures worth of gear passing through endless processes, mixing, and conversion.

Now, all you have to do is deliver it.

5. There must be a minimum delta from master to distribution copy and the ideal is none.

At this point, we run into a bit of a problem.  To date, every MBS recording has been a master.  That is, recorded either at the 16/44.1 resolution of CD to begin with or at exactly twice that rate so that reduction to Redbook is divisible by two.  Since no mixing, processing, or any other alterations of the original file takes place, each CD was identical to the original master.  This is how it should be, and as such, exceeds even the legendary “direct to disk” LP’s of old in that the analog disk reproduction processes made delivery of a master to the end user impossible.

However, Virtual Presence requires 4 channels and a delivery medium.  The ideal method would be to deliver the files as raw data but few listeners have either the skills or the equipment to replay these.  I’ve experimented with a number of formats, but have remained with PCM largely for reasons of cost.  Since I make no money from this I don’t have much to spend on it.  My current recorder is the Roland-R44E 4 channel device.

As to delivery medium, as of this writing I am still playing back directly from the Roland.  However, I have also succeeded in creating a 4 channel interleaved FLAC file.  I understand that the OPPO BDP series players can handle these directly from a USB drive, as well as VLC Media Player and JRiver on the PC.  At this time I am re-configuring a room for my Virtual Presence experiments and hope to be able to provide a complete “how to” guide for easy playback, as well as examples, in the not too distant future.

6. Reproductive conditions must be as close as possible to the inverse of acquisition.

With four identical speakers spaced at equal distances, your head should hear "virtually" what SoundCube did.

With four identical speakers spaced at equal distances, your head should hear “virtually” what SoundCube did.

The ideal playback is as close to the inverse of the original 4 microphones.  That is, four identical speakers equidistant from the listening point.  If the principles have been followed so far, then a person sitting dead center in this array should have an uncanny sense of “Virtual Presence.”  They are now positioned as if they had been at the original event sitting in the center of the SoundCube.  The outer square represents the SoundCube, with the loudspeakers in the same position as the PZMs.

One thing that SHOULD be obvious but which I learned from experience was that a lounger or any object must not interfere with the rear channels or the illusion is significantly impacted.  As in a concert venue, you need seating that ensures that the sound from the rears arrives as directly as that from the front pair.  I have some theories about the best height for speakers in a Virtual Presence setup I will experiment with when the basics are complete.

Does it work?  I did some test recordings with the SoundCube on my front porch about a decade ago right after constructing the first SoundCube.  During the recording, I went outside to check on something or the other and as I went out, the wind caught the front door and slammed it pretty hard.  When I played the recording back on 4 identical Frazier Mark IV loudspeakers, the environment was very convincing and involving.  The speakers were positioned precisely mimicking the position of SoundCube outside.  Then the door slammed.  I immediately jerked around and looked towards the door to see who had come in, as my brain was completely fooled and I fully expected to see someone entering the room.  I did not realize what had really happened until I got up and verified that no one was present.  I repeated this with several other people, and all behaved exactly as I did.  I got a lot of laughs from this.  More importantly, it proved the point:  Realistic reproduction must be the inverse of the source recording and Virtual Presence IS possible.  A few years later I made a recording from the street position in front of my Seabrook home using the setup as shown in one of the photos above.  A helicopter flew over during the recording.  My daughter was in the listening room when I played it back, and when the helicopter flew over she LOOKED UP at the ceiling!

CONCLUSION

Antiphonal organ on church rear wall.  This sound should come from behind the listener just as in the real world.  If it doesn't,  it may sound great but cannot be called "high fidelity."

Antiphonal organ on church rear wall. This sound should come from behind the listener just as in the real world. If it doesn’t, it may sound great but cannot be called “high fidelity.”

Consider the pipe organ. The space housing the instrument is very much a part of it. A pipe organ sitting out in the open would not sound very good at all, nor does a fine instrument housed in a poor space. The amount and manner of the return reverberation of the sound is very much a part of the overall experience.  Four microphones producing 4 discrete channels of information from a single point, preferably the best seat in the house, are required to approximate the experience. This is even more important for antiphonal instruments or bombarde divisions. It is very strange to hear bombarde division emanating from the front! Of course, the same is true of live performances, environmental recordings, and many other sources.  Doesn’t the idea of hearing audience noise emanate from the performers strike you as, well, wrong?  Are they applauding for themselves or what?  The enjoyment of such recordings is a learned experience, much like the “realism” of the flat-as-a-pancake video and film we enjoy even though it won’t fool my cat.

Here is one more example before closing.  Many environmental recordings have been made over the years, and sold quite a few copies. However, the public appetite gradually faded. This is not because people do not want to experience the ambience of the beach, forest at night, or a Texas thunderstorm up close and personal, but because of the two dimensional nature of stereo. Today’s home theater systems are ideal for this, and the unique “SoundCube” provides the perfect perspective to experience these natural symphonies.

Virtual Presence offers no use for the center channel.  Nor is the “.1” or bass management necessary for the vast majority of the repertoire if you have speakers capable of covering the musical spectrum.

With 4 identical full range loudspeakers spaced equidistant from the listening point and material recorded in compliance with the Six Cardinal rules, you will find yourself in another time, and another place.  Hopefully, you will want to return there often.

Addenda

The quest for Virtual Presence has gone on now for over a decade.  During that time a lot has changed in available technology.  Besides having to earn a living and raise a family, I really wasn’t in a rush as, while I knew the principles were sound, there was really no way to deliver it to anyone in the “master” form that I consider essential to either stereo or Virtual Presence.  It was always the main challenge.  In the days of “quad,” we had such a medium:  4 track reel to reel.  However, even only a few audiophiles had them and the other means of distributing multi-channel audio were absolutely horrid and the recording engineering wasn’t much better.

In the past couple of decades, SACD and DVD-A came along.  Mastering SACD remains priced out of the hobbyist market, and while I tried a few DVD-A masters the results simply did not match the original recordings.  I kept being told this was a “discrete” format.  I do not know what the issue was, but it certainly didn’t sound discrete.

However, in the past decade the situation has become a lot more promising.  We finally now have PC file formats for multi-channel that are as easy for users as any download, and, while as mentioned above, I’ve not tried any of them yet, both hardware and software players that can play them back.  So I am encouraged and ready to move ahead.  Perhaps soon I will update this with instructions and downloads so you can make your own judgment about whether it is possible to experience a reasonable facsimile of an acoustic space/time event.

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

HoloDeck…Coming Soon to a Home Near You

Flexible in fact, and even more so in application.

My son was asking me about OLED technology the other day. This is the result of that conversation as I explained to him what it is and what the future will hold for it. Once he had the basics, his mind ran with it and we waxed rhapsodic with a vision of the house of the future where “convergent technology” is realized in ways the scifi authors of the golden age did not foresee. Perhaps the closest to it was the “HoloDeck” on Jean Luc Picard’s Enterprise. But even that failed to capture the full potential of this technology.

Organic Light Emitting Diodes

An OLED is made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. The films can be so flexible as to be rolled up, and now they are making progress towards what will eventually be completely transparent panels. OLED technology remains expensive, though prices are dropping rapidly. The 55” Samsung was introduced only a year ago at 6500.00 and is now available at 3500.00. In theory, OLED screens will drop well below the cost of LCD and similar technology as they are far simpler and may be scaled to any size. If you want to get into the depths of the technology the Internet is rotten with information. However, rather than leave you reeling with complex terms and concepts I am going to leave the technical projections simply to this:

  • very thin > 0.25mm, light, unbreakable
  • Bendable, ready for production (Galaxy Round, LG-Flex)
  • Rollable, completely flexible –> ready 2016
  • Printable, displays like a paper –> ready 2018-2020

Yes, friends…it’s just around the corner.

“Organic?”

You might ask just what is “organic” about a screen. OLED’s are made entirely of carbon and hydrogen. That’s about as green as one can get. No heavy metals or toxic gases required.

But What is it GOOD for??

Ah, now we can let our imaginations soar! And not with fantasy, but based on the above industry projections. So, let’s take a look at a living room, ca. 2025…perhaps YOURS.

First you notice that there are no signs of any light fixtures you’d recognize. There are no windows, yet there is a perfectly even light in the room. Paintings by old masters hang on the walls, and the floor is a carpet of the most exquisite weaving you can imagine. You sit in your lounger and lean back. The sky is above you and white, fluffy clouds speed along. In spite of the blue sky and white clouds you suddenly hear thunder. You gesture towards the outside wall and you can see outside…and the actual sky where a storm is brewing. As the lawn needs mowing, you gesture again and you are in a villa overlooking the deep blue waters of a Greek isle.

All the lights, blue sky and clouds, masterworks on the wall, and even the “carpet” below is from high resolution OLED technology. As it is “active,” when not charge it is totally black and dark as the inside of a Pittsburgh coal bin at midnight. When fully lit, it is blindingly bright.

So far, we are in the reasonably known expectation for development. But let’s take a leap and some not yet on the horizon possibilities that would make this even more Enterprise-like. Not much research has been done on the sticky issue of holographic projection for several decades. The Russians did quite a bit of work in the 70s and even produced some color motion holograms, but significant technical hurdles stubbornly remain. I think that as OLED moves forward as described above that a LOT more resources will be spent working out the bugs in holography.  So, you might be sitting in your lounger watching an approaching steam engine. As it comes to within a few feet of you it is in full 3D and you look to your right as it roars by your chair and begins to recede into the rear wall as the smoke drifts upward into the blue sky.

The holography part is speculative…though entirely plausible. The rest is based on industry projections and will happen, and soon. Let your own mind consider the possibilities. Virtual parties with friends from all over the world, gliding through space in your lounger with infinity on all sides of your lounger. Near invisibility of machines…or persons…wearing or coated with OLED materials with the surroundings projected by them. Ladies, never worry over the right shoes.

One pair of shoes, any color or pattern you want.  Will it take the fun out of shoe shopping?

One pair of shoes, any color or pattern you want. Will it take the fun out of shoe shopping?

With just a gesture your shoes take on the color or pattern of the outfit you are wearing.

Change the look of your car, or even make it disappear.  This is a real Toyota concept car.

Change the look of your car, or even make it disappear. This is a real Toyota concept car.

Don’t want the neighborhood Nazis sending you nastygram about your camper in the drive? Just project the surroundings on it and it will disappear.

The Ever Increasing Speed of Change

When I was 6 years old we’d visit my grandmother in DeQueen, Arkansas. She lived in a board-and-batten (single wall, no drywall) weather house. It was heated by a potbellied stove in the living room and a wood range in the kitchen-dining room. There was a single power line in that ran lights and a radio in the living room and kitchen. When you went to bed, you took a kerosene lamp with you. The bedrooms had neither lights nor heat. Bathing on a winter day was in a steel tub on the back porch. You shivered and you teeth chattered, then you’d scrunch up in one end as grandma or someone approached with a pot of boiling water from the stove. That would make it tolerable for a few minutes…but you did NOT linger. I make that description to allow the reader to open their minds to the images of the future I have just painted. I suspect my grandmother would have simply laughed if I attempted to tell her of the autonomous vehicles only a half century away, of cell phones able to almost instantly locate any piece of information from any point on the globe, of robotic surgeons and a space station. But those tales would not begin to describe the next half century. Even the most absurd fantasizing probably falls short of the changes our children will see. My son already realizes that he may only actually drive a car for a decade or less. His own children will listen in disbelief about traffic jams, drunk drivers, and 50,000 deaths a year on the highways, as by that time the highways will be as safe as an airplane today. Embrace, enjoy, and remember a scratch-made pie baked in a wood fired oven. It will only be a 100 years from that to a scratch made pie hot from another oven, and delivered by a drone. My grandmother might or might not appreciate that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ecce homo

Detail of "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the spark of reason to man.  At least, that is how I see it.

Detail of “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the gift of reason to man. At least, that is how I see it.

Our evolutionary response is to kill our neighbor and take his stuff.  It is our reason from which we learn to get along.  Our reason serves no identifiable evolutionary purpose.  It destroys the natural balance sought by the evolutionary process by so biasing the survivability of a single species that all are endangered…including us.  Reason not only has nothing to do with our ability to survive, it creates burdens unnecessary for survival, as is proven by the quadriplegics and others who may live long lives.  No animal will suffer one among them who cannot fend for itself.  Only Man.

This reason is so profoundly part of us that the Eskimo elderly, when they found they could not contribute to the family, would walk away and expose themselves on the ice for the better welfare of family and tribe.  Find an animal who will do that.

So, what is the “reason” that, alone in all the universe we can see,  sets us apart from all things?  I maintain it is that which is referred to in the ancient writings when it is said that we were created “…in His image.”  To think this refers to someone who looks like George Burns and smokes cigars is, well, a bit of a stretch.  The first story is that of how we recognized our ability to reason.  Eve saw the fruit, and that it was good.  Recognizing that they have been willfully disobedient…an ability not known in nature…they cover themselves, yet another thing no other creature would understand.  In the introduction to “2001, A Space Odyssey” we see a distant ancestor at the moment he transits from pure animal to “cogito ergo sum.”  I find it interesting that the last word in of Descarte’s Latin phrase translates as “I AM,” which is the name God provides Moses to explain who sent him to Pharaoh.

In Principia Philosophiae (1644), Rene Descartes says:

“While we thus reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves even have neither hands nor feet, nor, finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not while we doubt of the truth of these things; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very time when it thinks. Accordingly, the knowledge, I think, therefore I am, is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.”

He was not the first to make that argument.

Many have heard “cogito ego sum” and in most cases it’s attributed to Descartes.  However, if “A Guide to Modern Revision” had been required back then he’d either have properly footnoted it or been kicked out of class as a plagiarist.

Plato spoke about the “knowledge of knowledge” (Greek νόησις νοήσεως – nóesis noéseos) and Aristotle explains the idea in full length:

“But if life itself is good and pleasant … and if one who sees is conscious that he sees, one who hears that he hears, one who walks that he walks and similarly for all the other human activities there is a faculty that is conscious of their exercise, so that whenever we perceive, we are conscious that we perceive, and whenever we think, we are conscious that we think, and to be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist… (Nicomachean Ethics.)

In De Civitate Dei writes Si fallor, sum (“If I am mistaken, I am”) (book XI, 26), and deals with some of the modern arguments of it being a syllogism in advance.  He also states “dubito, ergo sum or “I doubt, therefore I am.”  Gotta love that one!

In the Enchiridion Augustine further states, “By not positively affirming that they are alive, the skeptics ward off the appearance of error in themselves, yet they do make errors simply by showing themselves alive; one cannot err who is not alive. That we live is therefore not only true, but it is altogether certain as well”  Here it is well to substitute “human” for “alive” as he is making that distinction between a horse and a human.

In the 8th century, the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara wrote: No one thinks, ‘I am not’, arguing that one’s existence cannot be doubted, as there must be someone there to doubt.

The story of humanity begins with the recognition that we are not of this earth and are set apart.  Thousands of years pass and much of our time is spent trying to puzzle this out.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

—Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

In the last line, Nietzsche alludes to that which I have felt at times is our destiny and God’s plan.  Clarks Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced science will appear as magic.”  I do not believe in the supernatural.  I believe in a 100% organic God with no additives.  Even our own crude science has developed means to rapidly cure conditions that would have resulted in a lingering and painful death for the majority of all who have ever lived.  Is it so hard to believe that He might cure with a gesture that virtually instantly caused cells to resume normal function and wounds to close before one’s eyes?  Even what we see as “routine” pit stops at the Indianapolis 500 today would be viewed with awe by those mechanics at an auto race in 1910.  How have we developed these utterly contra- indicatory to evolution abilities?

During my period of wandering agnosticism as I looked for some reason, any reason, to place faith in the values I was taught as a child.  The study of German 19th century philosophers brought me to Nietzsche, Hegel and others who mooted the “God is dead” movement.  These people were proponents of dialectic as the key process of the universe.  That last line in Nietzsche and similar allusions by others brought me to the concept of creation and humanity being the process of God “working Himself out.”  At the moment of creation when He said “…let there be light” he spread Himself throughout all of us as divine sparks processing a question whose answer may be “42” as per Douglas Adams or something even more incomprehensible.  It was something that required TIME to process, something God didn’t have as a non-temporal being.

Consider the process of human reproduction.  Millions of sperm, each with the potential for an Einstein, a Hitler, or a Lao Tzu.  But only one will successfully penetrate the egg.  However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, the success of one is the success of all.  In miniature, it is the moment of “…let there be light” repeated over millennia and eons to continue the process.  The yin/yang can readily be interpreted as a symbol of this great dialect, and even the cross carries an ancient interpretation as the quartering of the universe into active and passive elements…fundamental requirements for the difference between “something” and “nothing.”

Back to the Germans…  One must not confuse the “God is dead…” concept with atheism.  It’s more of an Arthurian “once and future king” concept at its logical end.  To massively oversimplify and bring this mental meandering to a close, it points to a human destiny to keep learning, to spread to the stars in search of “…strange new worlds…” and, eventually, reach a point at which a single human reaches out for the last piece of the puzzle, gazes upon it, and says “LET THERE BE LIGHT.”

I must stop, as I hear a mob approaching bearing torches and ropes…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Music Files: By Request

Cover of my only commercial release.  Watercolor by Ernst Kotzin, my wife's uncle.

Cover of my only commercial release. Watercolor by Ernst Kotzian, my wife’s uncle.

I’ve had requests from some of my music loving friends for some samples of my own location recording, especially pipe organ.  I record for love of music and as a hobby.

These are available two way, either directly playable on your computer, or by download so you may play them where and with whatever you wish.  All files except one are of CD resolution.

The first recording is that last piece and encore from the dedication concert of the Memorial Pipe Organ of the Church of the Annunciation, Lewisville, Texas in 2003.  I found that instrument at the Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, FL a couple of years before.  It was a “fixer upper” with an illustrious heritage.  Redeemer had a multi-million dollar gift to replace it from the John Ringling North family and were offering it for less than the value of the scrap tin in the pipes.  Fact is, though, it was still playing beautifully.  However, they needed it out of there to get their new one in, so the deal.  I’ll mention only the very basic facts about it here.  It started life as an E. M. Skinner and had those irreplaceable Skinner classic string stops that bring tears.  It was expanded later by Moller, and refurbished by McManis.  As I found it, it was 58 stops.   It was rebuilt by Patrick Murphy of Philadelphia, shipped to Texas and installed and tonal directed by Dan Garland of Fort Worth as a 28 stop instrument with room left to add a solo and choir division at a later date.  This was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  Bradley Welch, winner of the 5th Dallas International Organ Competition, played the dedication.

This was recorded using a DAW (digital audio workstation) of my own design and construction, microphone preamp was a vacuum tube HHB Radius, the microphones were Oktava ML-52 ribbons placed about mid nave on the floor at what I felt was “the best seat in the house.”  The reverberation time at Annunciation is about 3.5 seconds and slap-free.  It’s one of the finest acoustic environments I’ve ever been in, and the best I’ve ever recorded in.

All these files are at 16/44.1 (CD resolution) except the Spanker and GuilmontWidor files labeled 24/88.2.  If the embedded player fails to appear and you see “Download:” in unbolded type instead, or the files skip too much, it’s your connection speed and you’ll need to download the files before playing, most easily done via the “Play or Download:” link.  For those with limited experience using Internet Explorer, just right click on the link and choose “save target as.”  Of course, this in the best way for audiophiles without a direct connection of their systems to the web.

Comments appreciated!

Play or Download:

24/88.2 Version
Direct Download: 23 Saint James Infirmary

Most of my recordings are serious music.  However, that’s as much due to circumstance as to preference.  Some years ago I got an opportunity to record a fairly successful Austin group called “The Asylum Street Spankers.”  I like their music and they are totally acoustic, even eschewing amplification for their singers.   The following is “St. James Infirmary,” a great jazz standard perhaps best known in performances by Louis Armstrong.  The recording was made live at the Saxon Street Pub in Austin.  I used two separate computers and four ribbon microphones.  One was a very advanced Digital Audio Workstation I designed to handle 4 streams at once, and I used it to record an experimental surround recording at 24/192.  It was quite daring for the time as the resulting digital stream was in excess of 25mbps and the recordings take up over 25GB.   The other machine was the front channels only at 24/88.2.  I’ve also provided here at transcode to 16/44.1 or regular CD resolution.

Play or Download: GuilmontWidorCD

24/88.2 Version

Direct Download: GuilmontWidor

J.S. Rheinberger “Abendlied.”  This is the “softer” side of this instrument, with choir.  Rheinberger wrote this hauntingly beautiful piece at age 16.

Play or Download: Abendlied

I made this recording of the 1861 Hook Organ of Holy Cross Church in Marine City, MI while on a trip to Washington state.  I happen to have basic equipment as I was planning to record my niece’s senior recital.  The piece was composed by Daniel John Susan, former organist of my parish.  He’d left as he didn’t see a future without a pipe organ.  It was due to this terrible personal and parish loss I set to work to get the instrument now there as I never wanted to lose such a wonderful MM again.  This is an improvisation on the Anglican hymn “Earth and All Stars.”  Daniel was apologetic about not having anything “concert ready,” but I think you’ll find this pretty extraordinary.  The instrument is, off course, totally mechanical except for the electric blower.  Beautiful image and more info on it at http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/gallery/us_midwest/michigan/marine-city_holy-cross_hook.shtml.

Play or Download: EarthandAllStars

Worst acoustic problem I ever faced.  I’d have just said “no” except I’d promised my friend Paul Garner, DSO clarinetist, I’d record this piece.  It was part of a music festival in 2004 and he and other DSO musicians formed an “ad hoc” ensemble to perform the Schubert Octet for Strings in F Major.  It is scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass and is one of the longest pieces of chamber music ever written at nearly an hour.  The location was a multi-purpose hall at Fair Park that seated perhaps 500 in folding chairs on a concrete floor with hard walls and ceiling, as well as a lot of loud side metal doors.  The stage was a nightmare.  Gorgeous view of a garden, as it had all GLASS back walls made even worse by having a 45 degree section on either side that basically formed a reflective horn.  Yikes.  The saving part was that I had my highest reach boom stand, so I put the ribbon mikes as high as possible, forward to the ensemble, and with equal distance to each player.  It was a plus that they were in a semi-circle arrangement.  I remain amazed that it sounds as good as it does.  The performance was truly excellent, with particularly wonderful work by the principal violinist on this movement, the final.

VI. Andante molto – Allegro – Andante molto – Allegro molto

NOTE:  Just heard a digital artifact at about 3:15.  It may be a few days before I can see what the issue is as I am traveling and don’t have access to the files.  

Play or Download: Track06

This piece is another example of how I handle poor acoustics, not quite as bad as the above but still pretty poor conditions.  The recital was in a converted fire station, and it sounded like a small gym.  The audience was in folding metal chairs that were noisy.  I miked VERY closely and pointed the back lobes of the ribbons at the ceiling to minimize both the building as well as the ambient noise.  I’ll try to post the composer and piece, which escapes me at the moment.  However, it’s the final movement of a clarinet sonata with piano.  The clarinetist was Dallas Symphony principal clarinetist Paul Garner and the pianist is Michelle McDonald who is also heard in the last piece in this post.

Play or Download: GarnerMix

The last piece is from my only commercial release, which sold a few hundred copies in the DFW area.  When first approached by Michelle McDonald, pianist and producer, I was not happy with the venue.  It was the Mesquite Center for the Performing arts.  Acoustics are nice for large groups and when an audience is present, but, in my opinion, way too live for chamber music when empty.  However, it wasn’t my call and now I am glad it wasn’t.  I miked quite closely to reduce the empty hall returns, but left some space.  The resulting sound is pleasing to me.  This one is also a really excellent imaging test for your system.  I’ve never accomplished better imaging and you’ll hear the principal violinist on the left, then the cello, then the viola, and the piano with clarinet in front of it on the right if your imaging is good.  The violin is an Amati played by the principal second chair violinist (at the time, now retired) of the Dallas Symphony.  The piece is “Overture on Hebrew Themes,” Opus 34, by Sergei Prokofiev performed by the Hubbard Chamber Music Ensemble, Michele McDonald, music director.  It’s a really fun piece that provides a moment for each instrument, and several pairings, plus full band.

Play or Download: 019 Overture on Hebrew Themes

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Root of All Rights

Perhaps the greatest statement of fundamental human rights in US or world history, and it has no force of law.

Perhaps the greatest statement of fundamental human rights in US or world history, and it has no force of law.

5 states now have “death with dignity” laws allowing some degree of personal decision on when one dies.  It’s time we ALL had the most basic human right.  The above grand statement clearly states that fundamental human rights aren’t subject to social infringement.  To the extent that they are, they become simply grants from the King, the Fuehrer, the Council, Congress, or your friends and neighbors.  Maybe that’s OK with you, but I find it intolerable.

Few Americans are not introduced to the above words early in life.  However, I think many would be surprised, even shocked, to find they have absolutely no basis in law.  Why?  It’s my believe that the founders never would have dreamed that after enshrining these words in our declaration of war against tyranny that anyone would question them as the basis for everything that would follow.  Anyone of them would have asked for poison, shot themselves, or obliged a fellow family member or citizen who was in a terribly painful and terminal condition to end their life.  The Bill of Rights was not intended to enumerate the basics.  In my opinion, it was to ensure there were no “grey areas” that Congress might dabble in and infringe on in the future.  Problem is that all of us became fixed on them and forgot these were not “grants,” but elucidations based on that sweeping statement above this piece:  Every human has a basic right to sovereignty over their own person.  The right to end one’s own life is NOT something that should be debated or discussed.  If it is infringed in any way, you have NO rights except those granted by your peers and superiors.

It would appear at first glance that all one would need to do is go to the Supreme Court.  Problem is that the Supreme Court (well, at least in theory) is charged only with determining if a law is constitutional or not and remember that those words above ARE NOT TO BE FOUND IN THE CONSTITUTION.  Sorry for the caps, but I believe few give this enough thought.  A really fine legal mind might be able to argue successfully that those words represent the intent of Congress, and therefore law, but it would have to be one heckuva a passionate lawyer to convince the court after a couple of centuries of precedence to the contrary.  After all, while not “law,” that document starts with “In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776…”

But the main point of this post is this:  If we have no right to end our own life, we have no rights of any kind.  “Rights” that are simply grants of the state are not “rights” at all and are subject to change at any moment.

Think about it…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Attention Audiophiles and Music Mavens…

UPDATE:  I’m leaving this up, but the exercise itself is complete.  Those interested can read the discussion https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/148182-listening-exercise-not-anything-about-cables/

SUMMARY:  Chopin1 was recorded by me in 1998.  Who, what, when, where, and how is described in my blog entry “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future” which can be found at the top of this page.  Chopin2 was recorded by Robert Silverman and a group from “Stereophile” magazine using around 10 times or more expensive equipment.  If you don’t want to digest the above link, the gist of the opinion was that mine was preferred by most of those responding.  Not a “landslide” vote, but adequate to suggest what many audiophiles have felt for years:  The “pros” aren’t all that much to write home about, in way too many cases.  I am leaving the downloads available if you’d like to try this yourself.  I now return you to the original post…

Your opinions please.  Herewith attached there are 2 files, Chopin1 and Chopin2.  Your opinions of the engineering and general qualities of the recordings are solicited.  Once a sufficient number of comments and thoughts have been received the details about each recording will be posted here.

Klipsch Forum members feel free to respond there, others via comment here or on my Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Of course, best served on your best system…

Play from web or download:

Chopin1

Chopin2

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment