(This part was last updated:
November 10, 1996)
Since starting the idea of an Open Letter to all of you, in an attempt to give some degree of feedback to those who have sent some fine e-mail queries and commentary, I have seen the original letter grow to be impracticably long. Time to do something about that.
Herein begins Part Two of the Open Letter, containing collected feedback with all of you site surfers (does this wet terminology originate in sunny Southern California, I wonder...?). Some of you have suggested it ought be split into "Rant & Raves", and other similar (alliterative?) ruminations, but this would lose for me the temporal continuity. I may still try a similar method of reorganizing this admittedly chaotic collection of thoughts. For now, let's use the calendar approach. All the comments prior to August 1996 will be found in Part One. And now we'll start the second part, and plan on going to a third and a fourth eventually, I guess... I'll put in the current list of Gold Leaf Awards (for those who located the SOB 2000 album's single Moog sound) as before, to the top of the newest open letter. Other added-on new material goes near/at the end, so read from the top down for the original written order.
On with the newest collection...!
This is particularly the case as the last two batches that I downloaded are filled with many very generous compliments, and some damn fine ideas I'd not thought of, or at least not in the same way. A lot of you have very fine senses of humor, too, so I find myself often grinning as I read through the week's latest collection. Nice human trait, that, to make someone smile or laugh. Thanks muchly!
For now bad timing has interfered, as this continues another intensive studio-phase for me, as tonight I just completed an important new piece for the Tales of Heaven and Hell project that I'm underway working on once more. (Okay, if the title remains, it's called "AfterLife", so when you may eventually hear it, this message was written right after it was mastered to DAT.) You'll note elsewhere I mentioned that it will contain A Clockwork Black Mass as its lead cut. That one awaits only a final transfer and mix, as the piece is finished otherwise.
I mention this only by way of explanation why the updates to the Open Letter and the page in general have become less frequent. It actually takes quite a while to maintain this site and the open letter, as those of you with html and Web experience already realize. And when I'm in composing and performing modes that becomes a foreign intrusion. So blame this on my lack of a staff, or at least multiple personalities, rats! As my time moves in "lumps", as I find a little, I'll get more things up here, as I have lots more planned (you ain't seen/heard nuthin' yet?)...
But while the tapes cannot be played right now, I will eventually do the whole trip of baking them and then making a quick transfer before they self-destroy. A very sad saga, indeed. If the dangers about playability of digital masters seems scary, much of the analog tape collections out there are in nearly as bad a shape, too. Hey, even MichaelAngelo chose poorly for the Sistine Chapel ceiling, shall we say: "durabilitywise"...?
This means right now I can't even listen to my Tron score, except a couple of old LPs I happened to save, which sound pretty dated. Thankfully, the tapes just prior to this, including the materials for The Shining, seem to be still fine. And after the mid-80's, things seem okay once again. I'm fortunate I didn't master onto Ampex tape after about 1973. The earlier rolls, which happen to include Sonic Seasonings quad master, are still in excellent condition... Phew!!
Starting this Summer Matthew Davidson became deeply involved with a marvelous new Mass he is composing. So his time to maintain the site became quite limited. He was good enough to show me how to handle the html myself, and I picked up a few books about it. The best of the lot (for me) is a telegraphic one, very nicely terse and packed with examples, by Elizabeth Castro. The title is: HTML for the World Wide Web, and the publisher is Peachpit Press. Thank you, Liz!
So with that and some extra time I had for a few weeks I began to
do most of the additions to the page myself, and John Romkey set me
up to Telnet the files over to
That's why there were so many updates each week there for a spell in
June and July. Learn by doing. So now I have a good way to work, and
whenever I get stuck (which is quite regularly!) I just ask them to
bail me out. And Matthew still does the tough tasks, like setting up
the Resources Page, or John, for his intelligent Stats Page. Much
better than a simple counter, though originally I argued the point.
I'm glad to report he won. Hope you have as friendly Web Masters for
The idea that B&W photography requires special creative considerations that color does not, as an analogy to the Moog synth compared to the new tools of Digital Performer with Kurzweil 2000s is not too farfetched, either. Certainly I revel in the ability to perform flowing, rubato, human melodic lines that were hideous to do years ago. Yet the struggle with that more limited technology I'll grant may have led to some worthwhile qualities in what got released. Hmm... normally I'm impatient with drawn-out philosophy, being more a pragmatist myself...
Perhaps now I can understand why the absurd notion arose that I was a misanthropic recluse, from the many times I'm grinding away at some project or another. Then it becomes time to "play" for a little while after that. Until the next project, all too soon, and so on around and around. Come on, a lot of you must be the same way with your occupations/preoccupations!
Reality check. The big bucks are in Rock, or in live performances, not classical and electronic art music, aren't they? Or perhaps the few composers who are regularly asked to do film scores for major motion pictures. For the rest of us, for you who are also having problems, you have more than my sympathy, you have my empathy. It's been a struggle all of the years of my career, work and patience and "sweat equity". I'm lucky to have some friends in major companies (like Kurzweil and MotU and OpCode) who generously have loaned or given me (in trade for services, feedback and testing) many pieces of excellent equipment and the software to run it all. Unfortunately that doesn't include Macintosh computers. This explains why I'm still using my trusty old Mac IIfx, making do until I can afford to upgrade. You must know the story.
The 80's and early 90's were really rough on those of us in the arts. If you've noticed the same thing, please try not to get frustrated about it. You're among friends. It's no reason to stop doing your art, making your own music, doing it the best you can under conditions largely beyond your control. An old story, and an old struggle. The trick is not to allow it to get you down, and to keep working and trying to make a difference, no matter how small at times it will seem to be. It's all any of us can do.
If your current tools work and are already powerful enough for fine creative stuff, much of that urge to have the latest new toy is mere vanity. Show me what you can do with what you've got. There are limitations? Wonderful. Stravinsky said it best: "I love exact specifications." Most of our limits are in our brains. Which is why I'm always skeptical when I ask someone to see or hear what they've done, and instead get a litany of "all the great new computer (or MIDI) stuff they just got, and just think what I can do with that. Fine. Do it. THEN show me...
Try to bear that in mind when you see the next Multicolor ad for that newest, grooviest, neatest bit of metal and plastic or C-code, that promises just about everything short of an actual lunar landing for you and your music and home studio. (On the other hand, drooling is most definitely permitted...)
The original recordings of S-OB I were done during the late Spring and Summer of 1968. W-TS was done the following year, Spring through early Summer 1969. SS was collected over Spring-Summer 1971, and completed in Winter-Spring of 1972. In between the score CO was done, August thru November 1971. S-OB II was recorded in the Fall of 1973. BR had a scattered birthing during most of 1974, into early 1975. And the full Brandenburg set was recorded in batches through 1977-78. A few other abandoned projects intervened in the gaps, plus a lot of testing and experiments which preceded every released album, but that's a different story, for another time...
I'd like to thank you for your patience, now that you have "the scoop" that the back-catalog will be re-released on CD, that you not use this site as a way to "nag me" about it, like kids asking in mid-Summer "when is Christmas, mommy?" I don't think you'll be actually seeing any in this year's Xmas stockings, sad to say. Here's what should begin happening soon:
The first steps are mostly legal. By early September my lawyer will be in contact with CBS/Sony to start the ball rolling on the transfer. This will take a little time, as legal wheels move slowly. Then we have to have several meetings with the companies which have expressed a genuine interest in handling this re-release for us. I'm not now convinced that this is the best way to go, but would like to keep an open mind, that a new contract will not have in it the many difficulties I found in those earlier CBS ones.
In the end we may have to handle the re-release ourselves. That will be costly in both time and advance rates to do the printing, mastering, and pressing steps you all know about. And distribution remains a headache yet to be doped out. Larry Fast, as I've mentioned, has pioneered already with the re-release of his initial Synergy album on CD. The new label, 3rd Contact, is one we both worked on, and it may be the company that we'll be using for my albums. No matter what distribution chain or company we end up with, I insist on handling all the careful restorations and remasterings myself. I'll be very, very faithful to the originals. There will be subtle cleanup necessary, some of those older masters won't be satisfactory in their current levels, EQ, and signal to noise. I don't want to mess up any part of them, but think, as I made them myself, I can do a gentle touchup that will be a very decent balance of all values.
Will they all be out at the same time? I don't think that's likely. One of you suggested a boxed set of the Bach and Baroque material with the marvelous title: Switched-On Box. I like that a lot, thank you!! But I don't know, particularly if we handle the whole thing ourselves, that we'd be able to afford this as a first step. And I still don't know how large the audience might be for these, aside from a few hundred dear fans like yourselves. So the initial steps will perforce be tentative, lest I get bankrupted by doing them.
For the moment, my attention is going mainly to the two new albums that have gotten delayed for several big reasons not under my control. I can't afford to underwrite ANY form of re-release unless I have a decent album release first, so that's my current priority. By the time the first one of these is ready, I hope the legal issues will have been resolved. Then I'll start to do the transfers, at least those which still exist only on those analog master tapes. Then I can work on the cleanup steps I mentioned. I want to move slowly, so as not to regret any step or decision as being "rushed and not well thought out".
So please, please, let me get on with my new music. The older masters are safe, and will most definitely be available on CD before too long. I'll have at least the first one done by the end of 1996, if things proceed as I expect. The others will follow right along. I don't know when I can tell you where or how to get them, but this information will certainly appear here first. They've been waiting for this wonderful step for over 20 years, many of them, and can certainly wait for the months to a year it will take to do the job right on them all. I have no staff here, I'm rather just like many of you, doing this out of my own small place. I can't bring to bear the power and dollars that the big rock stars and their labels have behind them. But for your sincere interest, patience, and best wishes, I'm most grateful to you all.
I spoke with Matthew Davidson about it, and we're going to try to add much more over the next year, as time permits. Until I get finished with the new CD project I described elsewhere, I won't have the chance for as many new additions as in the "push" this late Spring and early Summer. Just check the What's New page occasionally. The Open letter, like tonight, will probably get the most attention, as it takes the least time to update, and I keep getting such lovely messages from many of you.
Thanks for them very much. I wish I could quote back the intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful comments made by many of you who have written, even knowing you would not receive personal replies, as Matthew explained above. You are very kind, and bless you for your good wishes! (I'm touched.)
For new commissions, I'm always game to have a look, although I can't promise I'll have the time and energy to compose for the project you have in mind. Tell me a some details first, when you have a chance. What length? How large or small a commission? What deadline? What kind of players? What plans for performances and possible recordings? That's the kind of thing that has to be spelled out.
There is some info about this kind of keyboard on my earlier Open Letter page, and also in the articles you may find on the Resources page. This is a keyboard that includes more than 12 pitches in each octave, and for simplicity arranges them symmetrically, so all microtonal keys have the same fingering. The originator of the concept is R.M.S. Bosanquet. The Helmholtz book, "On Sensations of Tone" includes much about Bosanquet and his keyboard, and there's an inexpensive Dover reprint easily available. Take a look.
Currently, the same condition exists for sheet music from my recordings. I have many scraps of pages, notes and hand manuscripts here, but they're in no condition for publishing without further effort and time. I've only had one publisher express any interest in my music. That's when Hanson published a large chunk of the music Rachel and I did on Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. It was a wonderful job. I believe it's long out of print. Reality has a way of ignoring what we might like most. I'm not happy about the above-- it's just the way it is.
I'll try to check out all of your new sites. It's always fun to see what others have brought to bear on a familiar topic of mutual concern. If you wish to place a link to my pages (as for the eclipse picture page, or some of the music MIDI files), feel free to do so. I think this is all in the community spirit of the Web, a sharing of ideas and convergence on information. If any of my bits of business can help any of you, that's excellent news. Just let me know, so I can get a smile from it! Fair?
http://protocol, where it ought be done as
ftp://. Sometimes you can type in the correct prefix yourself in the URL box, and try to get the file that way. Other times you must complain to your provider. MSP (= mistake some place...)
Another new winner in the continuing "taunt" to find the Moog note: this time it's Kurt Riemann, of Nightworks in Alaska. Good work, Kurt!
As I mentioned before, let's allow this little bulletin board of winners to continue for a while. I'll try to mention any and all of you who find that one puzzle note. That quite a few have now hit it, and none of the attempts have been in error, suggests it was a valid challenge, not absurdly hard, but hard enough to provide a genuine listening challenge. Thanks to you all for taking the time to try our little aural/musical Sherlocking.
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Wendy Carlos Open Letter