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I heart my new speakers

19 Jan

Harman Kardon SoundSticks IIWhen I moved out of my last apartment (and the nice stereo system there), I didn’t realize that my laptop would become the center of my musical life, almost more than my instruments. I’m a power digital music user. To give you an idea, here are many of the musical things I use my computer for:

  • Listening to music (recreationally)
  • Learnig lyrics, melodies, and chord changes to songs
  • Slow songs down to learn and/or transcribe the mandolin or guitar parts
  • Transpose songs to different keys to learn the parts in a girl singer-friendly key (most bluegrass is sung by guys)
  • Transfer audio recordings of lessons, back-up tracks for practicing, recordings of new solos I make up to iTunes

You get the point. I should really have good speakers.

But it wasn’t until I realized I couldn’t finish working with our engineer on finishing mixing the Nellies‘ CD unless I could actually HEAR the mixes, that I finally bit the bullet. I read the CNET reviews, I read the feedback on Amazon, and I went for the cool-looking ones with the good sound but weird controls (otherwise known as the Harman Kardon SoundSticks II).

It sounds hyperbolic to describe new speakers as life-changing, but it’s really not. Music was starting to, um, bore me, which didn’t exactly put me in a panic — more like an identity crisis (who am I if I don’t devote a big chunk of my life to music). Now, I feel like I’ve found that joy of discovering new music again, only I’m listening to things that I’ve had on my computer for years. And when I heard how clearly Doyle Lawson’s mandolin comes through on the left speaker on the Bluegrass Album Band stuff, I couldn’t believe how I learned as much as I did on the Bluegrass Album Band Plan* with my teeny speakers.

Now playing: Buck Owens, 21 #1 Hits: Ultimate Collection.

*Bluegrass Album Band Plan (BGABP): A total bluegrass geek endeavor in which a few friends and I learned an entire album by the Bluegrass Album Band (a bluegrass supergroup) note-for-note Yeah, I’m a dork.


Guitarists Need Pictures

7 Jan

My friends over at Fretboard Journal just posted this link in their hilarious music-geek blog, so I’m posting it too. So funny because it’s so true.

I had the top news story on yesterday

29 Jun

Shawn Doyle-Lawson-sing-alonging his heart out.I so wish I had taken a screen shot of it. It’s my piece on Amnesia’s Bluegrass Mondays and the Doyle Lawson Singalong. Not only is it one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written, but it’s also one that was the least edited. (And no, the light edit isn’t the only reason it’s a favorite of mine.)

See the rest of my photos here.

I like a synth-pop band?

22 May

My friend Dan’s band, Squaretape, played–or rather, ROCKED–at Bay to Breakers on Sunday. Check out this KRON-4 video on them:

Marche aux Puces II: Sunday, 1 April 2007

1 Apr


Originally uploaded by commamommas.

Here’s a busker playing a sweet piano on a rolling cart at the flea market at Vanves. Note the jaunty angle at which he holds his cigarette in his mouth.

Clignancourt & Montmartre: Saturday, 31 March 2007

31 Mar


Originally uploaded by commamommas.

One of the things I was most excited about doing on this trip was seeing the flea markets (les marches aux puces–literally “flea market”) at Clignancourt and Vanves. People tend to have a strong preference for one over the other, and it’s difficult to sort through all the information as to which is better. The short version is that Clignancourt has a lot of stuff. A lot of crap, a lot of pristine (and expensive) antiques, and a lot of stuff in between, all organized into multiple marches (markets). Vanves has much less of everything–much less junk, much fewer nice antiques–and has more of the feel of an American flea market. And it only takes about an hour or so to meander through.

Clignancourt feels like a little city, once you push your way past the booths of jeans, incense, knock-off pocketbooks, etc. (and you do have to push), you get to these organized markets of antiques dealers. Everyone has at least one dining room table in their stall, and around one p.m., I discovered why: they lay out a tablecloth, put out a pretty impressive spread of food, open a few bottles of red wine, gather up their shopkeeper friends, and eat lunch together. It’s really cool.

By the way, my advice is to head straight for rue de Rosiers a Saint-Ouen when you’re going. That’s where La Chope des Puces is, and it’s also the far end of the nice stuff (Marche Paul Bert has the nicest things).

I searched for pots for pots de creme, but didn’t turn up anything. A monsieur, who was very helpful and had a stall of fancy kitchenware, told me they’re very hard to find. I did see a stuffed baby kangaroo and was going to ask the shopkeeper to take my photo with it, but he was eating lunch with his friends and talking to some other Americans. Come to think of it, there was a lot of taxidermy at Clignancourt.

After Clignancourt, I headed for La Chope des Puces, the bar with Gypsy jazz. It’s a tiny place. You enter and the art deco-y counter points right at you. You can take one of the eight seats (at four tables) in the front, stand by the bar, or go and sit at one of the six or so tables in the restaurant part in the back. The musicians–two guitarists–were mostly talking and telling jokes with some friends standing at the bar, but the music I did hear was great. Plus, it was fun to stare at the photos of Django and compare everyone’s version of the de rigeur Django moustache (I liked the bartender’s best).


Originally uploaded by commamommas.

I wandered around Montmartre in the rain Sat. afternoon. Sharlene was right, it’s “very Amelie.”

Avram’s recommendations (Pt. 2): Paris

26 Mar

Here’s more from Avram:

okay here’s some stuff:,+France&sa=X&oi=local&ct=title – it’s even got a picture of the same guy i shot that video of.
and do you know about this: it is so cool.

and the other cool flea market is by the Vanves metro stop. you gotta check it out. it’s just about a block and a half or so from the stop. i believe the name for flea markets is something like “marche des puces” (and i think puce or puces means flea …)
and, here is the shop i got my django guitar at.
over there they are often called manouche guitars and “django jazz” is often called “manouche jazz”
there are two places in my friends neighborhood that they really like. one is chez janou and the other is le petite fer au cheval (i need to check those spellings)
the neighborhood is the marais – not far from the bastille and place de voges. there is a street near there called (i think) rue de rosiers but it’s not the same as the one with the gypsy bar (way different neighborhoods) and also a big street called rue saint antoine (which turns into rue des rivoli as it gets close to the river and ends up by the louvre). it’s a great neighborhood for wandering around. the picasso museum is also there.