the vapors

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i love to eat.

it can be the greatest pleasure and privilege. right up there with fooling around and deep tissue massage. yes, it can really suck, too… the ruins of the day! but i will, in any case, try almost anything twice, and have.

most well made or intently considered food is interesting. and, if someone puts effort into it, i will try to find out why.

it’s wonderful to be surprised, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with intimate familiarity. there is abiding value in the love one creates for that which you have no choice but to do. eat, work, sleep: to do these things well makes life valuable and holds out simple possibilities for joy. very few people can afford to hate eating, and often suffer in the experience. but to eat well is also to hold suffering at bay, at least for a little while.

i imagine kafka’s hunger artist… he puts all his energy into starving, and then sensibly wastes away while living the dream. the thing is, he was really good at starving! especially since he never really found anything he loved to eat. but starving isn’t really human… even if he did it by choice. when the circus wranglers sweep out his cage, they can’t even find his body in the straw. then they move a panther into it (rilke’s panther?). it has no choice, beyond pacing in circles… dreaming of, what? what do panthers dream of?

food? running after other panthers! eating. sleeping. fucking. play. “get me outta this cage!”

there are a lot of parallels between food culture and musical culture. i am surprised one doesn’t see more obvious mixing between the two? no, background music doesn’t count. that’s just wallpaper behind the vittles. perhaps it’s not that easy to weave them together? perhaps humans need focus when it comes to certain kinds of meals, and certain kinds of listening…? – the experience requires a narrowing of the attention span to one primary purpose.

one important feature food and music share: great chefs and great food require great appetites. if you don’t like fish, it doesn’t matter very much how well it’s made…. does vietnamese pop music drive you out of the room? well, it ultimately wouldn’t matter much how well it had been performed or reproduced.

nuance and subtlety in both food and sound is something that takes time to learn and appreciate, both on the production side of things as well as the receiving end. and it probably doesn’t matter if either simply, or intensely produced: there is education involved, without which many of the details go… unappreciated. this is one of the key aspects of “slow food”, in contrast with fast food. it’s not that french fries from Micky Dees are without merit! just not much merit. or “fast merit”: simple, salty and beige. my kid would rather eat them than many other really delicious things… she just doesn’t know yet all the possibilities a potato can represent. not even a fried potato! she is impatient at her age and pomme frites are consistent and familiar. this isn’t a negative for her… and she does get hungry, unlike the hunger artist.

most program music fulfills a similar function as “fast food”. by “program”, i mean music in the service of something else…

for example, club electronica is super fucking boring, for the most part, outside of a club. and i don’t really care how it sounds, lofi or hi. inside a club it somehow it fits… but 20 years from now, it will most likely be long forgotten. not soon enough, probably.

compared with old school dub (lee perry…et al.), which seems simply eternal and mystical (and there would never have been any electronica without it…), club electronica and dubstep is monotonous. in fact old dub is such a strange and decorative vocabulary… sound effects have nearly equal weight as melody – that it still raises questions for me. i haven’t figured it all out! ska and reggae rhythms dominate but mathematical syncopation and an almost ambient space ship sense of time just take over regularly. in fact it has none of the mechanical regularity of computerized clock driven music, even though it is totally electronic.

people dance their butts off to it… me too! it’s dance program after all. that scratchy filtered tape delay gets me up to dance, almost involuntarily. the groove around a “one” is a big difference to the constant thudding beat of four on the floor that club music is built on. there is space in dub. i am aware of the manipulation of the sounds and effects, and the humor in the changes. it’s also jamaican, and not american and requires some letting go of my critical faculties which are always ready to pounce on tacky ass pop industry slickness. jamaica is slick, but not tacky just for the hell of it. it relates directly to doo-wop (the nyc stuff), old R&B from the 50’s. movie soundtracks and film themes are woven in… western films and gun slingers! there is history, and also a break from it. yes, my ass is moving. no it isn’t “deep”. but the music also takes me away to another place, without trying, that resonates with the place i am at. and i don’t figure it out completely. there are questions. my attention is drawn to it again and again. i still listen to old school dub. i find new shit in it everytime.

in comparison, the swedish house mafia, and most contemporary club music, is fast food. kitty crack. snausages. vinylette. velveteen. a plastic one trick pony. forgettable. if you are not in a club, with the attention span required for the circumstances (30 mS), what is the fucking point? it’s much too predictable and stupid and self conscious. there are no questions. it might be associated with fun, if i had fun at the club. but by itself, outside of the context of a K-hole, or some hot sexy beast on poppers and “bath salts”, it’s basically too stupid. not that stupid is bad in musical terms! on no!!! quite the contrary. anthrax is stupid and incredibly slick…  de la soul is hyper stupid, and genius! stupidity is part of pop. fast, and bulbous, like a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag (don van vliet…). nothing puts a kabosh on pop quite like seriousity.

i’m losing my point… food technology (cooking) and musical circuit design have a LOT in common. and the people who do it well and their motives are interesting to me, always. difference. nuance. bombast in contrast with delicacy (dynamic variation). color, pace, flava, and soul. familiarity and the shock of the new. all these things are a part of the better experience.

by the way, if you are interested in food journalism, i really like eddie huang. if you read this, i suggest you check him out. i like the way he thinks, and his all-encompassing inclusion of technique, history and personal experience into whatever he does. he never just makes food without connecting it to everything. his traveling food show on Vice, (“Huang’s World”), for example, is genius. he cleverly and deliberately combines food media with ironic use of the misinformation and bullshit of “the market place”, a subtle understanding of contemporary pop culture and it’s politics, “street culture” (which both varies and has common general features wherever you go), and a humorous yet sometimes intensely confrontational resistance to any point of view that dismisses the experience of those on the outside of mainstream society. and somewhat like jon stewart (whom i revere), he can sweetly un-diplomatically approach highly “conflicted” situations with distance, and then turn thug. and his family is never far behind.

i really appreciate how he never separates food, culture, and technology. they are bound together and he never lets his viewers forget it. you can’t get away with that shit on DIY audio! bring out yer double motherfucking blinds!

time for some DIY hacking

the basic midfield monitor:

i am building a complete post production system. mixing desk, mic pres, compressors, monitor amp and monitor speakers, both near and mid-field. for this post i think i will just talk about the work i did on the mid-field monitor.

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for this i took as inspiration two primary sources: the klangfilm “eurodyn” cinema speaker, and the work of jean michel lecleach. the problem with the eurodyn, for me, is the crossover and the dispersion. it is much more uneven and has the strange sucked away midrange of a second order crossover fixed right in the vocal range than i can accept… although one can clearly hear the potential lurking in there someplace! despite the midrange horn and driver are first class, it is a weird fact of speaker design that after intense effort on baffle design and drivers, the crossover often ruins almost everything.

more on that later. in any case, i chose to use sealed boxes with large PA type drivers with very light cones. basically as large midrange drivers. i had settled on the Volt “Radial” R3813 15″ driver for this. what i wanted was the GIP replicas of the WE-4181, but i don’t have the income! and there is a part of me that very much wants to achieve a good result with stuff anyone can get… i bet one could also use the eminence “Kappalite” 15″ with a similar result… they are less money but have a less smooth range between 800 Hz and 1600Hz. the Volts are high end!

i ended up calculating a 75 liter box for an 80 Hz cutoff… simple. no ringing and efficient. the two drivers are 16 ohm and are meant to be in parallel. it will be easy to crossover to a sub. the sealed box roll off is a mechanical 18dB/octave before i even think about the electronic possibilities.

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i wanted to be able to move the speakers around by myself and also think the fashion for dense heavy MDF (i really hate MDF) is ridiculous. i went for constrained layer construction: 5/16″ plywood and fiberglass. the ribs are cut from heavier plywood. the 5/16″ stuff is bent, glued and clamped. round 3/4″ beech dowel was used as lateral reinforcement. the fiberglass is the coarse amorphous weave… and there is about 1/4″ of resin gooped in there. my friend and collaborator Sy Wilmer helped me with this.

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you can see the basic idea above.

 

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okay now for the high range. i plan to cross these over at 1000Hz, and use a legendary driver: the Stage Accompany “compact driver”. it is a “ribbon – magnestat” type of compression driver. yes. a compression driver that isn’t a dome. it is capable of remarkable sound pressure with very low distortion… from 7 to 20 meters away! as a midfield driver it is so overclass. yet the “keele based” wave guide it comes with is really ragged close up. i intend to make a proper tractrix horn in the vein of the klangfilm speaker to smooth things out up close.

i designed the horn for a 350Hz cutoff. this way, even through the attenuation band, the impedance is matched… this has a large effect for the crossover.

 

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cyanoacrylate helps speed up the lamination process. i can basically continually clamp pieces without waiting.

 

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quick check…

 

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now to rough cut the curves…

 

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next step is to belt sand the excess and check the dimensions.

 

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next is to make the bottoms…

 

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by the way, my favorite power tool in all the world is this bandsaw, which i used to cut all the curves. it is such a gem… made in Leipsig a hundred years ago.

 

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okay, now it goes together… but there are some issues. the skinny edges crack off easily. gotta rearrange the edges.

 

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when in doubt, add meat.

 

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which you then can remove…

 

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now they look like horns…

 

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now it is just a matter of fitting the parts and beginning the testing phase, which i will save for another installment. here are the rest of the images.

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okay, so the mechanical construction is basically roughed out. things will probably change as the testing and crossover work commences. to be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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