Where in the world is Adri?

Hi all! It’s been a fairly long absence from sharing any new posts on this blog, it’s true. For one, I am never sure what to say that has any value. On Twitter, a 140 character medium, I have a bit more luck as many small observations can be made in one line. But writing something worthy of a few more characters seems like a daunting task sometimes!

In any case I felt like an update was well overdue. The reason I haven’t been very active online is that I am investing a gargantuan amount of time getting educated! Whoa…

Yes, I am in school and I’ve been taking eight courses at a time which is no small load. It’s been a huge privilege and I’d even say it’s been transformative… but it’s not left time for many other peripheral pursuits. For this reason I haven’t done many other things I wish I could have done for the sake of focusing onΒ my classes.

Why does a musician who is already making music go back to school? The answer to that question is probably worthy of a whole post on its own, so maybe I can tackle that later. In any case, suffice it to say that I’m gaining a lot by doing this or I wouldn’t do it! πŸ˜‰

Currently, I’m in final exams. I have seven in total to complete and just one down so far. Next week is “skills” week where we basically have to perform one on one agility tests involving playing musical motifs, pieces and various other skills tasks. It’s the most terrifying week of the term, when even the most stoic calm-as-a-cucumber players can get frayed to the core. For me, this time around it’s especially exciting because of some things going on family-wise which are also fairly stressful in and of themselves. Good practice for staying present, but I wish the universe hadn’t sent me this particular challenge at this particular time!

Until next time, stay well and carry on. ❀

Best Albums of 2011

My buddy Fidgital for years has put out his annual list of best albums of 2011. This is the best-of roundup I look forward to most of all each year. Granted, by then he’s already turned me on to most of the releases, but I always find a couple new surprises to cherish.

He usually also makes a great best song DJ mix to mark the new year. This year is possibly his best ever! Listen here:

Be sure to check out his last.fm Journal entry detailing all his picks! πŸ™‚

Blowing up my Musical World

Growing up was an all you can eat buffet of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. As such, the few non-classical recordings in the house fascinated me the most. We only had a handful, which made the bizarre kinetic 5/4 swing of Brubeck’s “Take 5” and the exotic Beatles quite otherwordly and enchanting. At that age I had no idea that I’d write music one day: I assumed that most music was a serious orchestral business. Nice, safe, phrases repeated over and over, nearly always landing on the tonic. Rarely any non-Italian lyrics, definitely no drumkit.

One year I asked my Santa for a walkman and he was generous that year. It blew up my musical world. Suddenly three minute confections of synths, orch hits, grinding guitars, dance moves and shakin’ beats were getting piped into my headphones. I would hide in my bed past my bedtime and surf the FM channels. I would wait the agonizing 5 minutes before the next song, my eyes bleary with sleeplessness, just in case the next song was one I would love. I soaked in the lyrics, the style, scandalized by the sex, excited by the bass, fascinated by the hooks.

I bought tapes and played the singles over and over again, rewinding the tapes until the ribbon was loose and warbled and the pitches started to slacken. But still, then, I had no idea I would one day tackle making my own creations.

Later, as a teen, I accompanied an amazingly talented electronica group into the studio. They had a real cult following online, before anybody know what ‘online’ was. As the night progressed into an all nighter, someone realized I was getting very bored and offering me a Juno-106 synth and a pair of headphones to play with. Something shifted in me that night… while playing with the knobs, listening to the buzzing squelching and changing timbre… I feel in love.

That was the first spark I had in what would later become a long and torrid love-affair with synthesizers. In a way, that would also lead to opening up the world of music creation that would eventually lead to sequencers, drum machines, samplers and ultimately songwriting / composition.

I think I probably got a late start in music, compared to what I would have liked. Even though I’d written love poems to my piano and sung myself to sleep as a child, I didn’t realize I was musical. It took a fascination with synths and other tools to get me to cross to the other side. My love for them allowed me to experiment and explore music more deeply. It allowed me to finally discover who I am.

Sometimes when I tell people I make electronic music, they often react with a face I recognize. It’s usually a mixture of curiosity, awe, confusion, and if you look carefully – a smidge of disdain sometimes. Like somehow those tools take away the hard work, the creativity. To be honest, I can’t really get on board with that point of view. Those machines really helped to unlock my creativity. The artistic choices you can make are virtually infinite, which in some ways makes things a bit harder. They also require an awful lot of skill, patience and hard work to operate properly. Lastly, and this is the most important to me, they free the mere mortal, the complete newbie, to try writing music. For this, I owe synths a debt of gratitude.

For this I will always be glad.

Imogen Heap Album Artwork Contest Awesomeness

Well, now that it’s posted elsewhere, I might as well tell you… I’m a winner! No, not in the not-a-loser highschool way, but in the you-won-a-contest sort of way. Now, as anybody who knows me knows, I do NOT win stuff. I am very lucky in many ways, but that isn’t usually one of them. So that is pretty exciting.

What happened was: Imogen Heap, in all her brilliant inventiveness, invited her followers on Twitter to submit photos via Flickr for use in her album artwork project. She selected a handful of winning entries and to my complete amazement, one of my photos was chosen out of a thousand entries or so! It delights me to think I get to contribute in a tiny way to Imogen’s new album, titled “Ellipse”. I really dig her stuff, and I can’t wait to see and hear the new release.

If you’re dying to hear it too, then listen to Imogen’s new single “First Train Home” at Stereogum.

The photos selected even earn a groovy cash prize. It’s amusing that, technically, the first outside record company cheque I will ever receive in my life will be for a photograph. I suppose this is also the first time I’ve ever sold a photograph. So Imogen, you are customer #1! Thanks Immi!

In a strange twist of fate, Imogen’s album is actually coming out in the same month as mine… am definitely in good company for August releases by chicks rockin’ the synth. πŸ™‚

Here is the photo that was selected:

Cherry Blossoms

Music is the Best Revenge

The last couple days Canadian indie Youtube sensation Dave Carroll is everywhere. I first heard about him on the Ceeb, and by then, I think his Youtube video sensation “United Breaks Guitars” had already garnered half a million hits. In a strange twist of life, getting his guitar violated by an airline was maybe the best thing that ever happened to him. My indie Canadian music heart was swelling like a hot air balloon.

The story goes that United Airlines busted up his guitar — any musician knows this is like someone breaking your arm — and they refused to do right by him. So vowed to take to the interwebs and put out three videos detailing his bad customer experience and wrote up his story. I imagine, at the time, they thought “What harm can this do?”

Well, they got some really funny, really touching, really bad press. They probably hadn’t bet on Dave having some nice songwriting chops. They probably forgot how much people like to tell a great story. They probably didn’t expect the Globe and Mail to pick it up… Or ABC. Or for the big O (Oprah) to be ringing him. Did they forget about the power of the viral collective?

This is how I’ve come to think of ‘new media’. It’s not about so-called social media mavens on Twitter, it’s not about ads on Facebook… it’s about the idea that if one voice is particularly interesting, on one particular subject, it actually has a window into the collective consciousness of the world. It’s about access. Everyone has access. Most people will never get heard much, but still, they can sure darn try.

So corporations, take note. If you want to treat your customers like crap, you are free to do it. But don’t forget, everybody can broadcast it now. It’s not that you should be perfect, but you have to be prepared to go up against David. And everybody knows, David always wins against Goliath.