(This part was begun July 2002. Newest additions near bottom. )
Here is Part Five of the Open Letter, containing collected feedback from y'all site surfers. As was indicated on earlier open letters, some of you have written to suggest it ought be split into "Rant & Raves", and other similar (alliterative?) ruminations, but this would lose for me the temporal continuity. Perhaps we'll reorganize all of them in this direction eventually.
For now, let's continue to use a calendar-based layout. All the comments prior to August 1996 will be found in Part One. And those added up through November 1997 will be in Part Two, and through January 1999 in Part Three. Those from 1999 through 2000 are in Part Four. This page, Part Five, begins and continues in mid-2002, as shown above. I've placed in the continuing Gold Leaf Awards on top of the most recent Open Letter Six (with the newest additions). Other added-on new material goes to the end, so read from the top down for the original written order.
Open Letter 4 was last updated so long ago it's hard to recapture the flow of those continuing letters. It's been near impossible to find the time to do updating of our website. The freshest sites we've seen on the Web seem to have big budgets and actual staffs who work on them as part of their jobs. We have neither, just other obligations and certain deadlines. Feeling that more variety was more interesting than just extending what's already up here, we have added several large completely new sections to the site since the last open letter update, such as:
Surround Sound -- tips and info
Color Vision Experiments
Post 9/11 Essay & Photos
Many of you have already read these
by now. If not, please take a look. With the continuing ESD mastering
yet in full swing, we've kept timely our sections on music, and all
available album releases are still current. This includes the new
release by Disney of the soundtrack
to TRON, which came out in
February of 2002, and the final two albums of synthesizer baroque
realizations: "Switched-On Bach II" and "Switched-On Brandenburgs,"
came out in May of 2002.
We've moved the Gold Leaf Awards to the latest Open Letter page, as usual. Read all about it HERE.
Now to the mail. To start things off, there have been three sharp eared of you who have asked about the final music cue to Vivian Kubrick's documentary of her father's film in: "The Making of The Shining". Originally produced for showing on the BBC in England at the time of the first release of the feature, this excellent documentary was first available for viewing in the US on a VHS prerecorded tape, then right after that on the recent DVD editions of the film, including the deluxe Kubrick Boxed Set. That's also when we began to receive queries about this selection.
Yes, you may rest assured that your ears are not fooling you. What you hear is a cue which originally was written by Rachel Elkind-Tourre and me during the shooting of the film, before we became involved scoring it properly in post. This was actually a demonstration cue, based on a few phone conversations we had with Stanley up to that time. It's a new arrangement of the Sibelius "Valse Triste" (literally, sad waltz), something at first he thought he might like to include in the score, but later did not. Our version is scored for small orchestra with lead played by me on the Circon. You can read more about that unusual instrument here.
We had no idea that the cue had been picked up by Vivian, and used on the ending of her documentary, which we'd never seen from NYC, until we watched the new DVD edition. So it was a big surprise for us, too! Alas, it has an awkward key change into the tag then fade that we would have fixed for a final release, something done in heat of deadlines, and it's too late to worry about it over two decades later. Still, it's a mood that might have worked very well in the film itself, too!
I'm sincerely touched by the lion's share of messages that have arrived since the last go-round of Open Letter. Truly, most of you are too generous. I've said it before, it's awkward working from within the vacuum of studio-created music, which is how most electroacoustic music still must be composed and crafted. You begin at times to hallucinate that there's no one out there who listens any more, who cares a fig about some particularly difficult spot that took weeks for mere seconds of result. Many of you already know exactly what this feels like. Thank you all for taking the time to write, for your encouragement, applause, feedback, and generally fine suggestions! Once again, I wish I could respond directly to all of you, but hope these open letters will act as some kind of reply, shared between many site visitors.
A fast answer to the next one. Have I ever produced deliberate "mind and conscieness-altering tones" in my music? Well, either the artistry will do that for you, or I'm lost. (Just the same, um, what are you doing after you're done browsing tonight...? Ahem.) No, and there are no hidden physically addictive substances, either, best of my knowledge... <grin>
Thanks to those who wrote in appreciation for our including Aurora Borealis and Land of the Midnight Sun in our deluxe edition of Sonic Seasonings. We thought it might be in sync with the older album, and am glad many of you have enjoyed these related pieces which very nearly ended up lost (the original digital masters were in shaky condition until successfully cloned into a safe new set of masters).
It was very thoughtful of several of you to ask how things were after my return to NYC after the 9/11 attacks. As I tried to make clear in the Aftermath pages, this was extraordinarily difficult for many of us, really most Americans and sane, feeling people everywhere, but especially those who live and work anywhere around the City, and I have no claim on emotional trauma. Most of us have begun getting on with our lives the best we can, but will never forget this wanton deed destruction, even considering the complex of causes. I pretty much set down my reactions in those pages, especially the last page, written shortly after returning home to a changed, forever scarred neighborhood.
I'd also like to thank the surprising, growing number of you who identified with this final section especially, and have written with your shared fears and hopes for our species, and the madnesses our frail humanity seems so unwilling to shed.
I have not (yet) worked in any way with the Kyma Capybara, sorry. A friend has kind things to say about it, but I have no first hand experience, other than to note it does seem like we need more steps in this good direction.
But yes, I have worked with Hal Chamberlin's K150FS voicing software package, from the late 80's. It required an older Apple II style computer to operate within. I used a IIc+, with added mouse, and still use it rarely. It's amazing what Hal was able to squeeze into a very small machine, small RAM amount, and such early hardware. Wish that path, like the Kyma above, could be extended and continued -- the field would gain a great deal through true additive and complex modulation synthesis. Alas, that's not where the brightest streetlights (profits and "pit pianist" skills) seem to be aimed. So we remain locked into more trendy concepts, including most of sampling, which is leading nearly nowhere for synthesis, imho, although, granted, providing some excellent sound sources for less timbrally challenging/creative music.
No idea of the series of Spotlight Prints which astronomy magazine, Sky & Telescope, puts out. In late 1999 they asked Jonathan Kern and me if they might release our optimum eclipse image from August 1999, and that was done at some effort all around. I have no idea if it is available currently or not. The same thing occurred with our 2001 eclipse image, which, while not on the cover this time, was featured in their extensive coverage of that excellent eclipse. Again, I don't have the details on this, sorry. Please just check their magazine, store catalog, or online website, which I think you can still find HERE.
Just read a question about our tests and trials before starting to use MusiCode watermarking on our CDs. Yes, we did every derned thing we could think of, including subtracting the original audio file from the final watermarked final file. The resultant was embarrassingly minute, and inaudible, so way -- way down in level from the matching spot of audio. This has to be considered a very uncontaminating way to add copyright information. Golly, the bit-density is absurdly low: it takes upwards of 10 seconds, often more than that, to encode the whole dozen digits. That's such a minor addition, one bit in each what, 60-70,000 bits? A teensy ratio. Done very shrewdly. To be honest, I expected to hear traces of it in action, but had to give up on it after even unreasonably careful tests proved it was simply NOT harming the music. A/B comparisons, careful, controlled conditions -- what can I tell you? It works, and to dishonestly remove such a mark, you DO have to at least some damage to the audio, or spend far more time and effort than it's worth. Neat.
We have been looking into releasing some of my surround music on ESD. The sad situation is that thus far the costs appear to be way more than the small market for same would justify for such a teensy label with modest resources. The newest album project I've been working on is a surround sound project, and naturally that would have to be available in 5 channels. Also there is a large backlog of masters I have been nursing along that would be dandy in surround release, either in quad or remixed to 5.1 or some such. I'm in that same uncomfortable corner as I was with you on the Disney TRON soundtrack. I don't have the answers yet, and simply don't have the resources to climb around or over the issues. The head of ESD has several possible connections that may lead to a productive choice. A few industry friends have also offered suggestions and help. Short answer for the moment: "we couldn't agree more, it's even an obvious idea, and we're working on it!"
Thanks to the many of you who have written sympathy / empathy notes after I lost Subi. He was a pretty essential part of my life, turns out. After nearly two decades, but of course that's true. Pretty special feller, you bet, highly idiosyncratic, an individual. I just noted the one year anniversary since we parted, and several close friends have brought it up, too. It turns out there are many critter lovers among those of you who browse our pages here. And many of you have reached out in the nicest ways. I'm touched by your thoughts and gentle comments, very much so. And I'm enjoying the "shambles of a life" in trying to live with a new youthfully boisterous brood, into EVERYthing. They're constantly insinuating themselves hither and yon, also with friends and visitors, and have become an inseparable trio, Pandy, Charlie, and Britty. Bless all the dear fuzzers in our lives, we're lucky to have them. (And you know what? They're lucky to have us, too!)
Hooray, a few more of you have been experimenting with other tunings than 12 tone E.T. But as for either 24 equal steps in an octave (literally "quartertones") and 13, these are among the worst possible choices if you are looking for intervals and chords that match acoustics and the human ear. Try 15 and 19 first, below 24 notes per octave. Then, trickier but better sounding there's my own Carlos Alpha and Beta), as used on Beauty in the Beast and described on the Resources page in several places. Next up in increasing complexity, 31 equal, then perhaps my Gamma, then 43 equal, and the venerable 53 equal. After that, let ME know what you find, for I'll have to catch up with you!
Sorry, but I'm far from a good person to ask about certain synthesizers, their merits and weaknesses, compared to another Brand X, model Y or Z. I've been unenthusiastic about most new machines, have been that way for years, know too much about synthesis to be that impressed. A fine interface and excellent, open-ended powers, clean sound and handy work features still make me smile. I love the new Kurzweil K2600, very useful instrument. But it's still not where I think this field ought be going, sorry, although I'll take the eggs it provides while waiting.
In truth, this is a rather personal matter. You're best off TRYING a given instrument, comparing it over some weeks or months with the other choices. It's what YOU need and prefer that counts. Each case, each musician and composer is different. And the solutions will likely be different in each case. I wish I had the inside "skinny" you may assume I already do have. Just be a bit cautious, a fair-minded skeptic, and don't purchase on impulse, and you ought do okay.
Speaking of synthesizers, please don't be fooled. The Moog synth that I performed all of the sounds and music in my early albums is still here in my studio. If anyone claims differently, you are in the presence of someone whose word you need doubt rather, that or a misinformed airhead. To answer one recent question, no, by no means is whatever instrument there in Detroit the original S-OB Moog. That one, to be honest, has grown and changed a bit (see the studio photos page) over the years. Still, not anywhere near as much as that famous axe, which is on its second blade and fifth handle, but otherwise it's "the same axe!" ;^)
Another quick synth question. Is all the music and sound on Digital Moonscapes from the Synergy synths? Yes, indeed, no samples, no analog, no other source of sound or instrumental timbre whatsoever. That was the whole challenge: create a flexible replica of most of the sounds of an acoustic orchestra using this one, highly versatile, synthesizing instrument. (Read the details in this interview from 2001.) No, it's of course not a 100% match, but once you "tune into" its flavor, the essential performance attributes of real acoustic instruments are in many ways better reproduced than in any sampled orchestra I've so far heard, even nearly 20 years later. It's too bad we've not moved on in the direction of additive and complex mod synthesis, as I suggested above...
Sheesh, the site still snags more than a few requests regularly, asking that I send freebie info, answer customer-support-like tech instructions, or assist writing term papers, dissertations, and other such. On one hand, I admire the spunk of someone who doesn't blanche to ask for what they want directly. I've been too retiring all of my life. On the other hand, these messages ARE so obliviously cheeky! Honestly, aren't there lots of web sources (including ours) which already make such tasks MUCH easier to research than they were just a decade ago? I spend more time, trying to present lots of interesting stuff here, than most composer's and musicians do on their sites, best I can tell. It's fun to share knowledge. But I sure can't just run off a make custom copies of various private master tapes, or collect photos and technical / historical background material for anyone who asks. Do I look like a librarian to you?
To a few of you who have written about my two music fonts (GraceNotes and Crescendo) which were distributed by Casady & Green, these seem to have been dropped from the company line, although I've not been notified about it. Fonts in general have passed their heyday in the world of DTP, and no longer are there companies who only produce fonts, or very few remain. I have not worked on fonts in quite awhile. But in early 2001 it became clear than many new PS printers required some major hacking at these two music character fonts. Couldn't even use them myself anymore. So I began trying to update both so that most new printers could handle them. It turned out that the newest computer OS's needed other changes, too, and for the moment the problems were more than I could handle. I still intend to get them working, and I'll post the needed information to you right here on the site.
I'm very sorry that in the CPU world a working hammer does not long remain a working hammer, but just seems to dissolve into the virtual ether. To think of a musical instrument, say, not remaining playable because it was, say, over ten years old, like a self-detonating grand piano, that would be an ouch, wouldn't it? Oohh -- wait a minute! We LIVE in such a world: how many synths and electro-instruments from before the 90's remain fully playable? (Mumble mumble mumble...)
Thanks, big "down on the knees" thanks, to those of you who were so concerned about the black hole of oblivion my score to TRON had fallen into, that you wrote letters to people at Disney, made at least someone there aware that this was the height of ridiculousness. As is described on the new page about the recent optimum TRON remastering (first time on CD), some sparks eventually made it far enough up the ladder that the oversight was corrected. I'm so happy it's now out there, expect you feel the same way, thankee mutual thankee!
In another brief Disney vein, no, I've never worked for Disneyland or Disney World, musically or otherwise. But I've reliably heard that a few musicians have imitated or suggested some of my sounds and music in their own new selections heard within such parks. Played on distant outdoor speakers, it could be hard to hear the differences. (Ditto TV commercials and underscores on small speakers mixed down low. It's happened many times over the years, and one ought, no doubt, consider imitation but one form of flattery.)
Hey, thanks for those who've noted and cheerily commented on our Escherian background "wallpaper". (There's a description of it, if you didn't realize this, accessible from the metapage for the site...)
It's been fun to hear from so many other coronophiles (that's total eclipse chasers, to the uninitiates among you) out there! Glad to discover you, including a sizable minority who also do eclipse experiments and advanced imaging of these astonishingly beautiful natural phenomena. We encourage publishers like Sky & Telescope to make available occasional prints of images I've composited, as is described on the eclipse page. Mixed results, not often available, as it's a small niche. Otherwise, I'm sorry but I can't supply prints as I have no one here to assist or to do that sort of thing for me. That's why we've tried to include so many high quality jpegs on the page, so you can at least get a decent look at some of these wonderful visions.
We continue to get letters from folks praising our deluxe Switched-On Boxed Set. This was a major project for all of us, an investment of a lot of hours to create and assemble. And we're also pleased as punch by the way it all turned out. Thank you for noticing, including the frequent praise for providing so much "bang for the buck"! I must share the thanks with Rob Simonds, the head of ESD (East Side Digital), and his able assistants, Drew Miller and Michelle Delfinio. Also to Bob Moog, for his delightful contributions. The biggest thanks goes to graphics wizard, Chika Azuma, who so ably assemble an intimidating, chaotic stack of stuff we provided into such a gorgeous, cohesive whole.
Reports of my demise that I've heard from two of you now, as Sam Clemens pithily put it, have been greatly exaggerated (say, what? So THAT's why my hands are always cold. On the other "hand": goodneth, gwo up)...!
No plans are underway for any performing tours with me involved, nor solo either. Thanks to those of you who have asked. After the experience in 1997 with the Bach At The Beacon Concert, I've learned that such events represent a major expenditure of time and effort to mount, and I'm no longer so quick to answer "yes" to such queries. Not unless it is a realistic event that's planned, one with professional assistance, support, and certainly realistic funding (it's expensive to do well). Personally, I do enjoy such things, am a notorious "ham" on stage, and wish they'd happen more often. As life goes on you begin better to budget your strengths and time, and the sheer novelty and kick out of returning to the stage (especially for a "showcase") has to be mediated by reality.
Thanks for the sharp eye of you who continue to catch mistakes, broken links, outdates, typos and other errors on the site. We've gone through a mess of them again this month, and along with adding this newest Open Letter to the Write Wendy page , have taken care of those we know about. One of the biggest pleasures from having a "Living Page" (as most websites in fact are) is that nothing is engraved in stone, and you are not forced to live with gaffes, typos, and other serendipitous acts which Hal (the computer in 2001) might endearingly (--not!) describe as: "human error." As those irritating yellow and black stripes on some pages proclaim, though: "Dig we must!" Your help's always appreciated.
In answer to two short surprising questions, no, I don't do heavy metal, synthwise or sidewise. To the best of my knowledge, nor does my ex-producer, Rachel Elkind-Tourre, either. We also don't do windows, or at least not often enough... <grin>.
In answer to recent questions about new albums, yes, I am indeed working on new music. The collection of remastering which continues on ESD has felt rather like a sword of Damocles', a responsibility that had to be attended to, done as well as possible. It's consumed FAR more time than I ever imagined it would. Yes, it has kept my new work on a back burner. But it's finite, and nearly finished. Soon...
Still, I've been remaining sane (well, relatively sane) during the work by composing new music, building new families of timbre, sound design, and planning 2-3 new albums. Right now there's one that is well into the "launch stage" which I'll be mentioning again soon, and in a lot more detail, you bet. My next responsibility is getting "By Request" out on its first CD (any "yeay's" out there?). But the new music continues along beside it. I know I'm slower than other composers. Guess it's obsessive, that I care too much over details, but that's how I'm wired. The results take longer, but I find I can live with them better by doing the best I can, even if few others seem to hear or care. Short answer: "yes, indeed, all new stuff -- we're working on it!" And thanx for asking.
Hey, there turn out to be quite a few "widescreen heads" out there hiding among you. Neat! Thanx writing, and for your comments on several ultra wide screen images (for example: HERE and HERE and HERE) now on our webpages, and for sending us those links to additional panoramic info online. Yes, we're discovering a rich vein of web background info (well it is the "world wide web," afterall...) on techniques old and new, both in cinema and stills. I'm just sorry that most younger people have no idea of how realistic and involving a really large angle curved screen projection can be. In one of the older movie palaces with the real three-strip Cinerama, or even Todd-AO on such a screen, everything was palpable, nearly, despite their flaws. It's a sensation that no longer exists, except , perhaps, a few OmniMax and IMAX theaters. Other super-movie ideas, like true 3-D and very fast frame rates are also at times astonishing. Wish we could combine them all together!
Due to two unexpected but important other deadlines, By Request became slightly delayed. I also stumbled upon some original extra materials that were long thought to be lost for good, which will be included within the Enhanced-CD portion of the ESD remasterings. This includes quite a bit of material on the featured selection, Pompous Circumstances, including many of the actual score pages (how about that for something not often seen on music CD's?) from a very limited press run that was made at the time of the original CBS release. You'll probably see it out late this winter, not so bad. That added to the delay, but we think you'll agree when you see it that it was a justifyable reason. We're slowly working on two other releases, and also the new, "secret" instrument is taking shape at long last. That will be described in great detail on our site before the end of 2002, hope you get a kick out of it!
Thanks for reading this continuing (slowly) growing stream of (loosely) connected thoughts triggered by you. I'll get back with more feedback and comments when I can. Please stay tuned!
Carlos Open Letter 5
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