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An Open Letter
Part Six
to those who have written,
and other site visitors

(This part was begun October 2004, and continues through late 2006. Newest additions are near bottom. )

Here is Part Six of the Open Letter, containing collected feedback from y'all site surfers. 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. Part Five, began in mid-2002. This section, after a long gap, begins in October 2004. The Gold Leaf Awards (for those who located the SOB 2000 album's single Moog sound) are usually located at the top of the newest, current letter. New replies and material go to the end (with any exceptions noted in place), so read from the top down for the original chronological written order. (Note: the 2005 additons begin about half way down this page, with 2006 well below that. Or click HERE to jump to 2004, HERE to jump to 2005, and HERE to jump to October 2006. To go onto November 2006 and Letter 7, just click HERE.)

red leaf Let's break the usual rule, right off the bat, of placing new additions to the bottom, with this note. (Note: the rest of the new replies are still found at the bottom.)The open letter essay just below, from six months ago, October of 2004, candidly explains the shortage of Open Letters and other web additions during the past year. As 2005 has progressed, the outrages I refer to have continued, escalated. And people of good conscience and intelligence, over a broad spectrum of personal, political and ethical views, have expressed far better than I can why so many of us in the USA are now so concerned, about a self-righteous and radical agenda that is ultimately damaging our lives. We can only do our own best, stay busy and productive, spread the word and our observations, and hope that those still oblivious, or still in denial, will wake before it's too late.
There's a well-known saying, that there's nothing like a death sentence at dawn to focus one's mind. Similarly, there's nothing like fear about our country and our own survival to alter one's priorities. Chatting with you here, which has been a pleasure up 'till now, recently seems like a luxury that must await its turn, as reality is dealt with (but I have added some more new comments down below).
That said, I share the frustrations of many of you who have written to ask about certain currently unavailable pieces and projects, when that status might change. I'm acutely aware of the problems, and thank you for your interest. Generally speaking, there are other people and companies involved who remain uninterested in finding a solution, and make it needlessly difficult. Well, we are small potatoes. Older contracts run-out, and leave no easy path to make the music available again.
But then most music is created for the short-term and is basically disposable. We live in a world that doesn't really care about art or longevity. Those of us who work for the long-term, and spend months or even a couple of years on a project, to try to create art of some kind as good as we can make it, are in a tiny minority. For us it is painful when our projects are made "invisible."
Our What's New Page has just been updated with the first details on what I've been doing since my last web postings. A new two album project is just about complete. There's a decent amount of music which I wrote for films, but which for various reasons either was never released or was heard only for a brief time, and has remained unavailable since then. You've asked about some of it yourself, and when we'd release new Hi-D remastered CD editions of them. The news is good, those two new albums will answer your requests and then some. Check the new pages for Rediscovering Lost Scores -- volume one is HERE, and volume two is HERE.
A Special Open Letter, Oct. 2004:
Pieces of Mind

red leaf An honest question has come up recently from faithful fans who have noticed the long lapse since the last update to our website, the longest ever. I've been asked by some of you what's up, why has our website been dormant for so long? It wasn't planned; I'm sorry it turned out this way. My last work on the site was a new page additions about my dad, who died just over a year ago. I wanted to add a brief homage to him, and took my time to collect some photos and scans of his artwork, to share with you. That was posted at what would have been his 97th birthday, near the end of 2003.
More than I realized at the time, I was still quietly grieving over his loss, although it certainly wasn't unexpected, and there was no bitterness over the way it happened. It's just the normal cycle one must work through, which delayed my concerns with a lot of things I normally attend to. And during the same period, I'd grown much further depressed at the alacrity with which our country seemed to be heading off the edge of the world, so to speak. I automatically distrust "missionaries" and pundits: political, philosophic, religious, who try to convert us to their beliefs and prejudices. So I'll describe these observations as neutrally and honestly as I can.
My dad and I often discussed the situation during our weekend long phone visits, checking on my mom and him (BTW, she's still doing very well, I just visited with her a week ago). Those of you who have read the closing parts of my encomium for the grave losses of September 11, 2001, will know that I took it very hard and personally. It happened just a couple of miles from where I live. The story is told in my special Aftermath pages, created when it all was fresh and most painful. The final section in particular was an extremely difficult and heartfelt discussion of innermost reactions, of fears and concerns I experienced and shared with several close friends. After updating the page very slightly at the one year anniversary of the attacks, I left it alone, and have not returned to it since then.

But the underlying worries never left me, have not worn away. Like many of you, I've felt some of the sharpest pangs diminish over time, as those of the loss of a loved parent. It's something we're prewired to do, to reach some kind of equilibrium after sufficient time has passed. Life must go on. The attacks, though, are not the only tragedy that befell us that day. The way we headed off since then is, if anything, even more distressing. I know many of you share in my concerns, from your letters. For someone like myself, who was never particularly political, who tried to remain balanced, centrist, and independent, experiencing this growing kernel of unrest and discovery was a major surprise. If current conditions can turn a relatively passive citizen like me into an apprehensive activist, what must it be doing to those who have always been very involved?
This is a terribly difficult time to live through, whatever your persuasions. I realize not all of you will agree with me, but that's one of the things that still makes this country great -- our freedoms to express conflicting opinions, to agree to disagree, the liberty to stand up for our beliefs. I dread that we are a country not only under attack from without, but also from within. I know things can often look worse when you are close-up to them. Hopefully that's the case here, as well. But with each passing month since 9/11, the reality has grown increasingly troublesome. For awhile I began to feel I was being cast as the child at the end of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes." But gradually I observed that I was but one of many, of thousands, now of millions, from both political parties. To us, too many citizens still seem to be in denial.
As an independent, curmudgeonly cuss, I find both partisan extremes nearly as frightening as the other. To choose between, say, anarchy and fascism, is no choice at all, is it? The two extremes have more in common than either seems to realize. Who cares what labels are attached, when you deal with radical left or right, the worries are the same. It's the absolute, close-minded, zealous certainty that's so scary. Whichever "party" would sponsor such radicals as are now in charge of our government, I would consider them equally guilty, equally dangerous.
Consider: two opposite sides, two groups or political parties, who need one another more than they perhaps realize. It's true of most systems, this yin/yang symmetry of balance. And if either heads off to its most extreme element, the problems grow exponentially out of whack. Balance is exactly what we're missing right now. I've assembled a small photo essay about it RIGHT HERE. It delineates some historical precedents via visual metaphor, and demonstrates why I have become so damned worried right now.
Over the past couple of years I've found myself becoming consumed by what's going on. Slow, patient creative work requires a mind at rest, undistracted. Instead you could hardly help noticing how much we have been taken over by a blitz of what kindly is called: propaganda and spin. I might blame my parents and teachers for raising me as someone who has trouble telling fibs or even "white lies," perhaps overly scrupulous. Being a skeptic (not to be confused with a "cynic") also determines one's general outlook on life. I don't trust mere anecdotal "evidence," but insist on some double-check, some test in reality, some countermeasures to the "natural skills" we all have for self-deception, seeing what we want to believe. Dogma of any kind drives me nutz!
So it is that I've observed the growing warning clouds of doubt, the storm which is brewing, the attacks on the roots of our country and its founding documents and principles, a "diet" of hubris, oblivious deception, and hypocrisy. Just consider the revival of anti-woman, racist, homophobic early signs of intolerance. Arrogance itself is a complete turnoff to me, as it was to my dad. Cloak it with sanctimonious paraphernalia, the trappings of an ersatz patriotism, pretended infallibility, a chronic bout of neo-empire pretensions -- well, anyone can see where this leads. And ain't none of it good, people.
We had a pretty damn fine country here for 225 years, glitches, warts and all, I thought. Didn't you? Obviously some did not, and were methodically aiming to bring about a hidden revolution, into a bellicose near-theocracy with a small wealthy elite lording it over a vast underclass of the poor and the hopeless (that's us). How un-American. Aren't you honestly ashamed how hated we've made ourselves in the eyes of everyone else on our planet? Thank the friendly folks who also brought us Abu Ghraib. This country's generations to come will curse our names, as they "pick up the tab" for this folly.
And don't blame the conservatives -- there is nothing conservative about what's going on. But you may blame the subculture of the Triple-Selfs: the self-serving, self-centered, and self-righteous. Our own human larcenies encourage many of us to follow these unholy pied-pipers, witness good faithful people showing too much trust, too happy to be placed center-stage in a campaign of hate, ignorant of history. Eventually the masks will fall, once those in control have assured there's no way we can get rid of them. Then we who've been duped and used will at last grasp our blunder -- but by then it will be too late baby.
As I write this we stand at one of those major crossroads. There's still a chance we'll heed the writings on the wall, set aside our most selfish motives, and change course. That includes even those who have to "hold their noses" to act wisely, to purge the radicals and regain their party's former values and greatness. Or am I being histrionic here? Those of you in other countries, particularly those with historically similar dark episodes, will understand. So many of us remain "on tenterhooks," viscerally frightened, where these past months are leading. One way to try to get past it, if only temporarily, is to write this candid, sincere message to all of you tonight, even though it's painful to try to put such thoughts into words.
You see, I've been maintaining my own "grip on life" by work, mostly. And music. Since I finally got my new pipe-organ based instrument assembled (which I call the Wurly II), I've been putting in a lot of practice on it, trying to acquire the necessary skills. At first -- boy, did I stink! What can one expect, from a couple of months of organ lessons decades ago, with no home instrument to practice upon, now pretty well forgotten? Anyway, when I've been feeling the most vulnerable, the most worried, that's what I've been doing, running fingers and toes over the musical notes which have always been such an important part of my life. As a side-effect I finally hear some progress, at least approaching a modest goal.
Perhaps I'll soon find the courage to record myself. A few of you in your letters have asked me what the new instrument sounds like. I'll connect some gear in a way I can at least do a few informal simple live tapings. After all, this IS a recording studio, beneath all the computer and MIDI gear that often overwhelms me lately. I've also spent a lot of time both last year and this, in putting together the best possible job I can do of the final albums for ESD, the audio, texts, and time consuming graphics work. I'll mention some of the latest and ongoing results below. Again, though, under a specter of increasing anxiety, the work has gone much more slowly than usual -- especially for an obsessive type like me.
Well, there you are, pieces of what's been on my mind much too much. You can sense by my passion and submerged anger how freaqued-out I've become. Perhaps you can't trust these observations -- I may no longer be capable of being objective, and have gone around the bend. It's also made me much more aware of things I used to take rather for granted (I'm always checking many news sites each day now, of every viewpoint I can manage to locate on the web). Unexpected. I promise once my focus can leave the very real worries about "big" topics: country, safety and honest governing, then the "lesser" topics of web page creation, new music making, and a lot of other once important issues, will once again take center stage, as artists historically are wont to do.
Meanwhile, thank you for your patience, especially those of you who don't see the current situation as so grave. And don't forget to check out that short pictorial essay on Balance. I hope our great nation will soon begin to heal the optimism and respect we were so well know for. Also, while it's very late to point this out, the observation will apply for the next many years and elections: for those of you in the USA, whatever your convictions, be sure to get out and VOTE! It's our duty to be informed, honest citizens, and it all begins with that act, as we've so painfully learned: Every Vote Counts.

I feel like I was just whistling in the dark with this deeply-felt message. We'll see how large a two by four it takes to get the mule's (or ostritch's) attention. 99% of us are going to pay the bill for the hubris now on display, and it'll be a doozy. We'll see how much it was worth it, to tell everyone else how they ought live their lives, moralizing on how evil they are, feeling better to shred someone else rather than raise a finger to do something constructive, to protect our country's values and its Constitution. We can act like a "ME-Generation" of savages; but the reality is we're all in this together, an "US-Generation." Diminish one part of us -- you diminish us all.

(Gor, do I still sound angry, or what? Sorry. Anyway, on to other thoughts and Open Letter replies.)

2005 Open Letter Additions:

red leaf During 2003 we completed two more long awaited CD remasterings, for By Request and Secrets of Synthesis. The latter had been originally available on LP and Cassette, as well as CD. But the new CD version is cleaned and optimized with the latest tools, and contains some bonus material that will be of interest to synthesists and fans of the electroacoustic medium. By Request was NEVER available on CD, having been originally released by CBS records in the mid-70's on LP, prerecorded tape, and cassette. It has been constantly requested, and finally is available on the new ESD album. For details, see our Discography page.

red leaf This year marks the final series of deluxe CD remasterings. Recently completed (at the end of 2004) is the sequel to my first and most requested album, which had been released by Telarc, Switched-On Bach 2000, back in 1992. It was pointed out that this album had become unavailable for two years, when the Telarc contract ended. We wanted to correct this situation immediately, and have finally taken great care as usual in coming up with our new edition. Again, the audio has been brought up to date, and the new edition contains new bonus material befitting our special edition series.
red leaf
Why is it that whenever there's been a lapse of time in updates to my website, or even when there hasn't been, I hear of folks trying to render me as "newly deceased?" I suppose now I can finally understand Mark Twain's famously outraged exclamation: "Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated!" Indeed. Trust me on this -- I am currently still alive (best I can tell) and in pretty good shape, and staying fully occupied with all sorts of interests and projects. Even with all the nasty things going on, it's an interesting experience to be alive, one I heartily recommend to all of you!
If I had a staff of folks to assist, or the funds to hire some professional help, this website would be expanding continually. There are so many things I'd love to post, have available on the web, to share with you. Truly. But with only a few friends who occasionally can help, and only my one "engine" to push things along, I find myself unable to keep up. In the end, only the major priorities at any given time gain my full attention. But seriously, isn't this also true for most of you, too?
Is this reality of unexpected interruptions and "too much to keep up with" the same thing as having departed this mortal coil? Are we to be assumed dead unless proven to be yet among the living? I don't think so. Please, if you hear any further such asinine rumors, remember my promise here and now: When I die I'll let you know about it here at once. You'll be the first to know, right after I become aware of it. :^) Meanwhile, merrily we roll along, okay?
red leaf
The ESD current series is about to conclude with the long promised release of music never before available, from several filmscores, some of which you will probably have heard of, others not. The title is: Rediscovering Lost Scores. Since there was so much good material available, we're putting it together on two CD's. As this is written, the mastering is nearly complete, with an end of May release scheduled for the first volume, and end of June for the second. Read the details on Rediscovering Lost Scores -- volume one is HERE, and volume two is HERE.
red leaf
Occasionally I receive suggestions about producing some more "Switched-On" realizations of a famous piece of music from the past. It's very kind of you to think that I'm an ideal musician to interpret other people's music. But I've hung out with many musicians all my life, and realized early on that I couldn't hold a candle to them. There are performers with enviable skills and insights into works of the past which far surpass my limited perspectives. I studied to be a composer, and believe that my greatest gifts, such as they are, lie in that direction. The original albums which happened to catch the attention of the music-listening public early on were intended only to show that the new instruments were becoming serious tools. They were showcases for the latest electroacoustic breakthoughts, which had then crossed a threshold from experimental to something nearly practical. (Fifteen years later, they WERE practical -- and becoming very popular!)
It was never my intention to pursue a career in an area that I knew well was not my greatest strength. I hoped that if I could demonstrate that I was capable of producing something that clearly was "real music" my own music compositions would be seen as valid, more than mere novelty or avant-garde wallowing. Naturally life doesn't work out the way you want it to, and I've been typecast from that time on as a synth performer, first last and always. It'z nutz. And a common trap.
From time to time I do expect to incorporate other music into my own compositions and music projects, and you will find them there. But as things stand, with life feeling shorter and shorter every day, I hope to spend the remaining years of my productive life trying to come up with new music, not retreading over what's been done very well already, and will be done again by others more capable than me, in the future. I hope you'll understand, and forgive me that my goals are not necessarily along the direction that's been expected of me for too long.
red leaf
Hey, it's a nice surprise to read that some of you have found certain additions to the website of some help. I've heard from some fans of Quadraphonic sound again, who enjoyed reading my several pages of information on Surround Sound. Yes, I am generally aware of most of the systems that were devised back in the early '70s up through quite recently, to produce surround sound in many of its forms. I do expect to find a way to make available my rather extensive back-catalog of music which was originally produced in surround sound. Right now the tools are either too expensive, or unable to be used with my hardware, or some other problem exists. Let me complete the current CDs in standard stereo first, and then I'll get to that important topic.
I will point out that whatever you may read about some new digital process for reconstructing the original discrete tracks from the pseudo quad systems, like SQ, QS, or a few other variants, be aware that there are artifacts in every case. The matrix equations remain four unknowns with only two equations. So even in theory, with an infinitely powerful DAW or audio computer, you could not ever recover what had been lost when the tracks were folded down into only two. You can't really make mono into stereo, only an approximation, you can't conjure the fill color of photos taken with even the best black & white cameras, and once you dump out the contents of Pandora's Box, they will never go back the way they had been. Part of this is like the law of entropy: it progresses only in one direction. And part is described well by Information Theory, and a few other related fields. You could waste as much time as "inventing" a new perpetual motion device, and be guaranteed as much success, too!
That said, yes, there are ways to minimize the compromises of the earliest quad decoders, to be sure. But the best methods would require splitting the audio up into many passbands, treating each with a perfectly balanced and tweaked system of instantaneous panning or energy redistribution. You might get some lovely results, and so that would be reward enough. Better still, there are at last good new digital media, like DVD-A and SACD, which can handle multichannel surround sound without much compromise at all, we've come a long way, baby!
red leaf
Thanks to another correspondent who asked about my work with Joao Gilberto, in the mid-'70s, and a few other artists. Yes, it's true that I recorded him and his wife at the time on an album of his own wonderful Brazilian music. Rachel Elkind-Tourre, who was my producer for a dozen years, also worked with a few other artists during the time we had a studio up in her former Upper West-side brownstone. Most of the time I tried to bow out of the way, to be of as much assistance as I could be, but not to interfere with the artists and Rachel, as they assemble their albums. So in several cases I was the main audio engineer, ran the console and sessions, and provided musical help only when called upon.
With Joao, who's older and more experienced with music than me, I felt it was a fine learning experience, to observe him at work, the way an album would come together. I found his skills on acoustic guitar amazing. Also he has such control I needed only to position the microphones with care, and set levels once, then let him go. He did all the rest. We brought the mikes in really close, for a very intimate sound, knowing he'd keep it all in perfect balance and consistency, no false sounds or bumping into microphones mere inches away. Everything went down at one time, aside from an occasional percussion instrument, although those were more often recorded along with him, not overdubbed.
Joao is a nocturnal artist, and being the same, the hours suited me just fine. We'd usually set up in the early evening, and then he'd arrive, Rachel and he would discuss the current pieces and then we'd head downstairs to the studio and begin laying down tracks. It wasn't much pressure on me, quite straightforward. I found him to be modest, rather high-strung, a bit wary of other people, strangers. I tried not to upset him, just smile and blend in. He seemed very appreciative, and loved the way the album was coming out. (BTW- I have no copies of any of these albums mentioned here, although I believe Rachel still has a few, and the master tapes.)
Rachel was easy to work with, musically astute while supportive, and it was interesting to watch her work with someone else. During the same time, she produced several other projects, including an easy listening album (on the charts for months) by a talented group of young musicians called (as was the album): "Michaelangelo." It was a satisfying experience, one which at times called on me to help out with some musical bits, an odd overdub or two. Their biggest hit was the infectious: "300-Watt Music Box." For some years we stayed in touch with their lead songwriter, auto-harpist Angel Petersen, and multi talented guitarist, Steve Bone. Eventually they moved away and we lost touch.
Another artist I recorded with Rachel was the great jazz-pianist, Albert Dailey (who died way too young, in the mid-'80s). An astonishing pianist, it was humbling to watch him play any kind of music at all. His album, "Day After the Dawn" remained high on the jazz charts, a wonderful album of mostly original songs written by Albert, performed by a professional big-city jazz trio. It remains among my better memories of music-making during those days we worked in the brownstone, and a chance to witness how jazz was put together. Rachel asked me to help Albert with some of the arrangements here and there, and in using the big Moog synthesizer for a few of the tracks. But my main job again was audio engineer. It's tragic that we lost this "pianist's pianist" so soon. Ask anyone hip to 60s through 80s jazz -- his name frequently comes up.
Two other artists I worked with back then, who Rachel produced: Henry Krieger and Sal Galina. Henry's a first-rate musician and songwriter, very easy to take. He loves the music of Fats Waller, and often entertained us with uncanny renditions of some of Waller's best songs (you can hear a snippet in track 16 of volume one of the new Rediscovering Lost Scores). I was particularly pleased that Henry later gained fame as a composer with the score to the Broadway smash, "Dreamgirls," Sal Galina is another unique musician, the best electro-woodwind performer I've ever met. His first instrument (that I saw) was the Lyricon, which he could make sound like a solo sax or clarinet, or a violin or whole string section for starters, with just a few twists of some knobs. His expressively took my breath away. Later he assisted Yamaha with their WX-7 MIDI wind controller. He went on in the late '80s and early '90s to work on film score projects with good people like Hans Zimmer, and several other composers and well-known recording artists.
Great people, all, thank you -- it's been an honor to work with you.
red leaf
Many of you who take the time to write me clearly know a lot about the electroacoustic music making field already. I can share your thoughts and the reactions you often receive from people who still draw a blank about synthesizers, studio music in general. When I began there were no prefab tools really well suited to making music this way, no synthesizers (aside from the clumsy behemoth that RCA built), no samplers, no CDs of samples and even (yawn) canned loops and "grooves", not even (more basically) prebuilt consoles. You pretty much were stuck having to go it alone. As you did, if you managed to get anywhere at all with the pursuit, you learned a great deal, about acoustics, instrumental sounds, electronics, wiring, orchestration, and creating music itself.
So although it's gotten a LOT easier to "get into" making music via electronics, those other goodies, the stuff you once had to learn, no longer are as easily learned. Many folks are satisfied with the prefab options, the canned choices, and treat it as just another kind of musical instrument. Which is certainly no problem, you don't have to know how to program a computer to send e-mail. And George Gershwin did not need to know how to construct and tune a piano to compose his masterworks of popular, jazz and classical music.
But there is a real option to climb behind the front panel, learn how instruments perform their tricks, and see where this awareness might lead you. I've gotten a new message from someone who had difficulty explaining why he wants to build his own sounds, twist all those knobs, spend so many hours in coming up with new musical sounds. I know, I know. I have the same problem, and it's never much changed since I began. I guess it is true that "if you have to ask..." applies here. But we all know what curiosity is about, and we probably have interests and hobbies that not everyone seems to understand, our passions about the un-obvious.
I guess I'd just explain that in all fields there are many places to work, many points of view. Computer graphics allow essentially anyone to become a creator of new images. Some will be content to copy and paste some clipart in a newsletter they're writing. Fine. Others will scan photos and magazine clippings, and carefully copy and paste pieces of these into collages, as many magazine illustrations now rely on. Fine as far as it goes. Others will learn to use Wacom style pressure tablets, and hand draw and create brand new shapes and images that come from their own mind and skills.
The last one is the way people like me prefer to work. In our music we want to create ALL of it, not just the tune and chords and underlying rhythm. People like-minded in the past would use a band, chamber group, or orchestra to put the works together. Some built their own instruments, too, like Harry Partch. It's really only a matter of how deeply you want to be involved. And there's a matter of the abilities you have, the talents you're born with (which you can take no bow for), and what you do with those talents, learning and practicing, and putting in the patient time to channel them into something human and creative in the most essential way. Or not. There aren't any rules.
Um. That still doesn't fully say what I'm trying to communicate here. Well maybe it IS true. If you have to ask, you'll never understand. Let's just admit that we come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, colors and heights, mental and physical inborn skills, and all the rest, drive, passion, care. So why wouldn't we expect some of us to enjoy taking fuller advantage of the precision new tools to dig very deeply into the world of musical sounds, while others swim perhaps more swiftly on the surface, but never learn about the wonders below?
red leaf
Okay, the question keeps coming up. Will my music be available in a high quality Surround Sound format, or won't it? (See the comment above about Surround Sound, too.) Call me a cockeyed optimist, but the answer is: "Definitely!" As in: "affirmative." As in: "yes, you bet!" My plan has always been to complete definitive stereo editions of all my albums, plus a few collections of music never available before, the best editions I could assemble, with graphics and layout help from some talented professionals. My perfectionism has meant that this has taken several years, about two years longer than expected at the start. But that isn't so long, is it? It's not nearly as lengthy a wait as two decades during which much of it was not available at all.
Once those are all completed, which is to say soon now, I expect to collect the surround music tracks that are already mixed on master tapes, and convert them into Hi-D digital form. It's not going to be as fast and easy to perform the final edits and polishing, as the mastering tools for multichannel are still quite limited, slow and clumsy. Some multitrack mastering tools are also extremely overpriced, even now, imho. Be that as it may, I will first see how the collection and initial assembly works out. There are two equally good sounding methods of releasing true Surround Sound, as most of you know: DVD-A and SACD. There's a new standard planned which combines those with a standard stereo version, so it can be played on essentially any compact disk home equipment. And finally, there's the decent-sounding and easy to play Dolby Digital Surround Sound standard that's been available for many years. Several options there. Kewl.
We'll figure it out. It's too early to set any dates, but I promise it's on my list of things-to-do. I'd like first to assemble a sort of Surround Sound Demonstration disk, a collection of some of my more dramatic surround sound selections. Let's catch the ear of those who don't know too much, don't feel that excited about multitrack music, not just a film's soundtrack. So let's see: 1) how difficult and expensive it will be to assemble this collection, and: 2) how much interest it can generate. Up 'till now I've been told by some of my more savvy audio engineering friends that the surround music market has been pretty "soft" -- it hasn't grown as expected. I hope that's just due to the lagging economy, and that the inroads to home theater surround equipment will lead to a gradually growing interest in high quality music created originally to be heard AS Surround Sound. I've lived with and created so much of my music for this medium and heartily recommend it to all of you!
red leaf
It's been a happy surprise to discover that there are still a lot of fans of the "Mighty WurliTzer" out there. Thanks sincerely to those of you who've written in regards to my new instrument, the Wurly II. Yes, I must admit that those big beasts fascinated me when I was growing up, still do, even though by the time I began listening to music, the golden age of the theatre organ had long passed. I could tell that by the fact that I never did find a passably working instrument nearby to try out, and those which did work well were miles away, beyond reach. So I became only a fan, then eventually found another exciting musical instrument lurking within the possibilities in the world of the electron.
The oddest thing is that thanks to the Wurly II I'm finally acquiring some modest skills to play one of those beasts. It's not exactly the same, to be sure, but it comes derned close. I've also heard from a few professional theatre organists recently, which is a real kick and a half (thank you!). I suspect we're all a lot more closely related than many would have us believe. When I performed a bit of my Moog synth music eons ago live on a Dick Cavett show, several people in the audience, and also in the band, came up to me later to explain excitedly that this seemed to them like the next step after the pipe organ. And the path will continue into the future. We have a lot to learn from each other, and to leave for the next generations which will follow.
And for the offers to "try a big real Wurly, if I'm ever in the area", you bet I will! NYC, where so many of these unit orchestras once delighted young and old, sadly has been 99% stripped of these impressive beasts. When I'm walking back home to the loft sometimes I pass locations in my neighborhood which once were occupied by movie palaces containing majestic WurliTzers and Mortons. Some are still in great operating condition out west, where they were bought and moved before the theaters were demolished (thankfully). I'll make a prediction, though: "Every last one of our new electronic instruments will cease to be playable well before the decades that these pneumatic and electrical mechanical monsters have lasted." Or: one step forwards, one step backwards...
red leaf
Yes, I'm very aware of the electroacoustic music from the '50s and '60s by such brilliant pioneers as Henk Badings, Dick Raaijmakers, Tom Dissevelt, Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaefer and a few others. Edgar Varese should be included on the list, the only one I met and worked with (near the end of his life). For a long while it seemed to me that some of the most interesting electronically produced music was being created in Europe. I won't list all the names I can think of here, but there's a good list of folks who lead the way. Well, I should at least add the names three American pioneers who were among my teachers: Vladimir Ussachevsky, Otto Luening, and Milton Babbitt.
Even as we've moved on, the technology has advanced, and time has passed, such pioneers and the debt we owe them should not be forgotten. I see you agree. Thanx to those of you who share my feelings, and have written to express your admiration for several of these often forgotten wizards who came before us all, and created amazing work, ever more incredible when you look at the severe limitations of their tools.
red leaf
It's always a smile to hear some of your stories about becoming involved with electronic music. In the most recent batch there were two which referred to home-brewed synthesizer modules, some oscillators and filters, the heart of the early synths, and most of the newest, too (if in digital hard/software form), even if in that case there are other ways to generate the original waveforms, or just playback previously stored waves. But it's clear that a LOT of us have learned the care and maintenance of soldering irons and the like. Back to basics...
red leaf
Even the passage of a few years has not dulled the response from those of you who discover my webpages about the 9/11 attacks, the Aftermath Pages. Thank you for the breadth and depth of shared emotions. Too many of us are willing to allow this tragic day to blind us to where we are now as a country and a people, and where we should be heading.
I still can't look South of my street without feeling the same wince. Those who live far from the main target cities and regions of the country may find it hard to grasp these unexpected twinges, the tightwire sensations within those for whom this was a neighborhood assault, where we might be targetted by hate once again. Yet nothing really has been done to protect us, despite all the posturing and excuses, or the diminishment of our personal rights and freedoms.
red leaf
Indeed, all of my earlier albums were recorded one little bit at a time: a phrase, a handful of notes, sometimes only a single note. Chords and harmony took several similar tracks, carefully played so that the notes of the chords would be sounded together, not unintentionally broken up or "rolled." That's just the way it was, you learned how to work like that or just didn't become involved. Yes, it does take longer than what we expect when playing a piano or keyboard synth. You know, I still work mostly the same way, although I usually perform chordal parts together at one take.
Why do this? Simple. It's not some example of misguided masochism. Rather, it's the way the best orchestral performers put together their magic: one note, one line at a time. Think about it, they dedicate their many years of experience and musicality to just ONE element at a time. It all focuses on one spot, the beam of their attention, care and expressivity.
As a result the blend of sound in the hall from instruments performed this disciplined way carries an extra layer of energy, interaction and subtlety that no one performer can bring about all at one time. Take it from an "adult beginner" organist as I've recently become. That king of instruments can create a pretty impressive, truly joyful noise, considering all the coordinated motions and gestures being made by one musician at one time (you really are very - very - busy!). But it's a different category of music from what an ensemble will create. I like both, don't you? But they're different. And for polyphonic, often complex orchestral types of music, the best way to work is very much as I did when creating Switched-On Bach. Surprised? (The more things change...)
red leaf
Thank you for sending messages about some of your favorite selections of my music, and why. In fact, two of your recent messages, in regards to some of my TRON score, happened to arrive in the same batch, and just in the "nick of time." I've been working on the audio mastering for some music from that filmscore, bonus tracks that have been unavailable in any form until now. And I noted that one track I had selected probably would not be the best choice to satisfy your comments.
Um. There was still time, I went back last week and found a better track to use, transferred it to Hi-D sound, and replaced the original choice. There was still time to change the track name and timing and write new liner notes about it. You'll be able to see and hear the results shortly, when volume two of Rediscovering Lost Scores comes out on ESD. Oh -- I even changed the track listing on the new web page, only a week after its first posting. Talk about your quick web response!
red leaf
I was sent a rather well-done article to proof-check, about electroacoustic music. It looked into the odd inertia of instruments and musicians from the beginning, towards adopting expressive means to create human feeling in our music. He claims that there has been a steady erosion of respect and value of synth music and its artists, as seen by the broader base of musicians. To some extent this is nothing new. I can well remember the snobs and arrogant "soothsayers" long ago who pronounced our field to be no more than garden fertilizer or even the work of the devil. I had thought things had moved on past those old, tired prejudices.
But the point of the article is that the music made with the latest technology is perhaps even less expressive than what I was tinkering with back in the days of the first S-OB project, with that crude hardware Bob Moog developed for and with me. It had full velocity sensing, and also depth sensing, which is seldom found to this day, it's true. But also I relied just as much on using a separate expressive controller knob or two while playing each line or set of notes onto tape. It became instinctive to use my left hand to shape the phrases my right hand was playing, one line at a time, just as its done in an orchestral ensemble.
Later I added foot controllers, as well, much like an organist can use to shape the passages of an organ work expressively. I just assumed this is being done all the time. Isn't it? Well, it IS annoying that the manufacturers of synths have not really moved very far ahead in years. I still long for a full hybrid instrument which can do purely additive synthesis and resynthesis of hundreds of partials, added to complex modulation: FM, PM, AM, and all the wonderful tricks of VAST inside the Kurzweil line of synthesizers. But also add MIDI accessible controllers to the "must-haves", you bet. The more the merrier, and I kid thee not. If this isn't being done, if the music made is now fully quantized to death, stripped of the human side of the equation, made by robots for robots, then I do fear the field is doomed, or at least will become associated with only the cheapest short-cut kind of music making. Those of us in electroacoustic music have to press on that we escape this fate, don't yield to the lazy shortcuts, or retro-schmetro, keep moving ahead in sophistication and elegance, or we'll have only ourselves to blame.
red leaf
We're adding an announcement to our News Page about an award It was my honor to receive a week ago. I was sent some e-mail this week asking about the award, so I'd better explain right away. Late last year I was contacted by Russell Pinkston (nice, bright man) from the long respected electroacoustic music society: SEAMUS, and learned of their intentions. Couldn't talk them out of it. I've not received any academic awards since college and graduate school, and this lovely surprise has me feeling like a kid again! Formally it's called the : SEAMUS 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award, and was presented during their Conference just over a week ago, April 14-16, 2005, at Ball State University.

In another way, it makes me feel kind of old, that phrase: "lifetime achievement", you know, am I supposed to fade into oblivion now? ;^) Here I still have the nerve to believe I've still got some of my best work ahead of me, the old "you ain't seen nothin' yet" conceit. But when I saw the list of pioneers who've received the award in the past 18 years, I realized how lucky I am to be included on this notable list. I see the names of friends, teachers and musical peers I've visited with, people like Bob Moog, Les Paul, Mario Davidovsky, Otto Luening, John Chowning, Milton Babbitt, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, Paul Lansky and Don Buchla. I'd like to thank all the members of SEAMUS for the honor, I'm truly touched.
I also want to thank Bob Moog here especially, for his generous and enthusiastic comments about me, written for the Convention and their website. That provided an extra layer of happy surprise to the good news, indeed!

red leaf It is with deep sadness that we report on the death of synthesizer pioneer and good friend, Robert A. Moog. I knew Bob for more than four decades, and have tried to capture some of my thoughts and memories as best as I can in this time of grief on this new page about him and our collaborations. Rest in Peace, dear friend.

2006 Open Letter Additions:

red leaf As it turned out, that brief mention above about Bob, with the new page link, was the last entry I was to make into these open letters for over a year. (I'm sorry if some of you got worried that I'd gotten sick or died or something. No such luck. ;^) The final ESD albums featuring a collection of previously unheard filmscore music were completed and released as planned. I got back to some studio maintenance and additions that had been put on hold. The "Staircase of Keyboards" (as one venerable friend calls my Wurly II) also had some odd problems, and that took quiet time to dope out and rewire. It was probably folly to create such an intricate MIDI instrument this way, one that can operate stand-alone as if it were a single instrument, but there you are, a done-deal.
I brooded quite a lot about losing Bob, but also became better in touch again with the rest of his family since the touching visit to Asheville. I'm now a part of their new Moog Foundation, a project many of us heartily support, something that truly leaves a legacy after Bob's premature death. They've posted a very decent initial website entry (with some fine photos of Bob in the masthead), and you can expect more to follow. Applause.
I've remained very aware of the passage of time since this site was last edited and added to. Over the past Spring and Summer I acquired a few new software tools which facilitate creating complete PDF files of things like magazine articles and interviews. I'd really wanted to post several of them on our site for a long, long time. It took awhile to learn the best way to do it, but finally I have several files to add to the site. There are also additional pictures and words and other items I've been collecting since the year began, in a dedicated "TO DO" folder.
In the end, I have sort of lost it. I'm handling the current plight of this country not well at all. I had no idea how deeply I felt my connections to this "grand experiment in democracy", the land where I was born. And when my country seems to be under attack both from without and within, as it now has been for several years, my former rather distracted and apolitical position has evolved and matured. I now keep close tabs on the daily news from several sources, trying to make sense of all of it as most of you do. This also takes up much of the time I used to spend on the website, alas...! Nutz -- am I becoming a news junkie so late in life? (Welcome to the club!)

You've perhaps read some of my previous comments along these lines. The most cogent now is from two years ago exactly, called Pieces of Mind (above on this page). Earlier, after the attacks downtown here in NYC on 9/11, I posted my most deeply felt observations as they were during the early aftermath months. It was a time when nothing was too clear, and danger seemed to have become standard operating procedure -- check the Flames of Hate section on page six of the aftermath collection. A year later, I appended a brief postus scriptus, at the bottom of that page. Things have only gotten worse, much worse, since then. If you've been paying attention, you know what's happening, and will understand why so many of us have become a little "unglued" by now. It's just too bad it's taken so long for most of us to wake up.
Let me add one brief aside about HAVA -- the "Help America Vote Act." Why would those who have shown little concern for disabled people suddenly want to assist them in voting, was there a sudden "change of heart?" Yeah, right. A more cynical, sinister motive might be that the bill is being used to leverage in a perfect tool to alter our voting tallies, the vulnerable, flaky PC "voting machines." Takes under a minute to swap/edit the results (without a trace) to suit your own interests. Or set a computer worm that does it for you automatically, then removes all evidence of itself. Since 2002 many computer experts have been trying to warn us of the inevitable, but we haven't listened to them. Once it happens (it will -- more fun and profit than writing a PC virus, fer sure!), we'll have no way to regain our democracy, having been asleep at the wheel until it was "too late, baby..." Pay attention, compare the exit polls with the "official results" (which have matched very closely in the US for years, although recent pundits now want to make you believe the opposite -- guess why) to check for evidence of this unfolding disaster (stupid, stupid, stupid!).
Feel free to disagree. It's what our country was setup to encourage: unencumbered, honest open debate. I long ago learned one can't really affect things like public opinion or patterns of voting via introspective, candid words between private citizens, especially from a "non expert on such matters" artist. You need loud mouthed media pundits in full repetetive PR mode for that! We all form most of our own opinions for ourselves, although too much of it, alas, happens when we are young and very impressionable. Then it's damn hard to change or jettison unneeded baggage as we grow older. We get locked in too easily, seem to spend too much of our remaining years trying to justify the earlier notions, even when down deep inside we suspect many of them lie on rather shaky ground. Shux.
Well, it's an interesting old life, isn't it? But as I've said before, with the warts, pimples, pains and disappointments and all, it's still a trip I wouldn't have missed for the world!

red leaf W-o-w... Like the song says, what a difference a day makes. Many of us entered into the 2006 election season under a black cloud, with little hope for change. The mainstream media has become lazy and controlled by the moneyed interests who support them, so it's difficult to learn much about what's really happening in the world and country. You can no longer trust the "news" you read, see or hear, unless it's backed up redundantly. Important news is "conveniently overlooked", or pushed to a back page, nearly impossible to find anything about. For example, the whole issue of voting machine vulnerability and fraud has scarcely been addressed, until very recently. That was my main personal concern, as you read above (thankfully, it didn't happen as it could have, and now neither side trusts them).
In the end the country simply had had enough. We decided collectively that this midyear election would be about more than local issues -- it would be a statement that we needed a change, to stop following the lemmings into the sea. If we've learned anything these past frightening six years, it's that we should never allow one party to control ALL the tools of government at the same time. Keep 'em guessing, shuffle the deck regularly. And that's what we got. Balance has been reinstated in the land, and not a moment too soon. But then a Democracy is rather like the "Living Page" of most websites: never engraved in stone, but to be constantly renewed, reevaluated, defended, and allowed to progress through time, as our own lives proceed.
You still can't trust politics or politicians, and no party has a monopoly on that. Power will eventually corrupt many of who come in to clean up a provious mess. Stay alert -- it will happen again! We are a species wired to be glibly expert at lying to ourselves. It's why eyewitnesses have to be treated with skepticism, as must most of life. Yet skepticism (reasonable doubt until you have evidence) is treated as "out of fashion", frequently confused with cynicism (a negative prejudice that no one ever acts for honorable, unselfish motives). Not the same thing. Good scientists learn to devise double-blind tests and controls so they won't fool themselves. If you first lie to yourself, it's much easier to deceive everyone else.
That all said, I'm among the majority of citizens who felt strong disagreement with the direction the country has been pushed into, fed up with the hubris, extremism and spin. For six years D.C. served only the richest and most powerful, left everyone else in the dust. Divisive issues, hate and fear, were hoisted up the flagpoles again and again, like straw-men, to split us in two. It's an old story -- history is ripe with such schemes, when those in power will do ANYthing to hang onto power.
We are the country, the citizens and voters. The branches of government are our "public servants", and must show us respect, let us us know exactly what was done, to help decide what we ought do next. I see a lot of good, honest, American faces among the new freshmen of Congress. They'll do their sincere best (at least for awhile) to represent us, to govern and help heal our country, restore it to what it was. We have a massive blunder in Iraq to resolve (the lives lost can never be regained). Little action has yet been taken to protect us from natural OR terrorist attacks. There's a lot to do to help unite us as a nation, repair the damage to our integrity and our Constitution, drive out the corruption and incompetence, and counter those who resist the transparency and ethics of an open democracy. Let's give everyone our support, with the optimism to hope for some better years to come.
And now that's jolly well enough(!) on the current political scene. I intend to stay aware, you will, too, but there's a lot more to life that's been waiting... which we'll pick up on the next Open Letter.
red leaf
Thanks for reading this continuing (slowly) growing stream of (loosely) connected thoughts triggered by you. I'll get back with more feedback and comments, and certainly more questions from you, ASAP.

--Wendy Carlos

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