Up Close Binaural

Here are a couple of little recordings I made in 2008 while experimenting with Fritz, the artificial head we used to record Up Close with. You will need headphones to hear the effect. If you don’t have headphones you can try covering you EarPods or AirPods with your hands, so that no sound escapes.

The first recording is whispering into Fritz’s ears:

For the second recording I swung the guitar around the head:

These files are 16/44.1k, but the album will be available from Bandcamp in 24/96k.

The above examples play on my computer and phone, but may not play on PC. You can try this sample, which is an mp3 file.



What should I release today?

  • Up Close Binaural 24/96k
  • Bare Wood 24/88.2k
  • Jon’s version/remix of Dance 4 Me

I rolled the dice and then confirmed the release order by laying Tarot cards and, because I was still not convinced, I called a well known medium in New Orleans… Jon’s remix of Dance 4 Me is available on Bandcamp now. Next week I will release Bare Wood



This week I listened to a podcast interview with the British Author Martin Amis. He spoke about how an author is the host and the reader a guest and that 1a book is the co-creation of author and reader. No two readers create the same story from the words on the page.

from 2014-08-26

Music is a kind of alchemy. It involves the musicians and the listeners + together we make it what it becomes. This is especially true for instrumental music.
This is also true for performances. Maybe even more so. The audience performs alongside the band. Sometimes they don’t realize it, but it is so.

There is also my rant from the Nineties.


(This is a story I wrote last year. The word was Gallery and I had 25′ to write something. This was the result)

Are you ready, she asked with that determined look I knew so well. I nodded, Google Glass is turned on, I said.

Seeing us walk to a large painting on the wall a gallery associate walked over, how do you like it, he asked.

She smiled at him and said, it says price on request, how much is it?

Ninety-five, I think, he said. It’s wonnerfull, isn’t. The color, the mood… it’s just wonnerfull. Let me check whether I gave you the right price.

How is the light, she asked me. Perfect, I replied, that window next to the painting lights you up nicely, and by turning I can record the full painting as well.

The associate came back. It’s seventy-five, he said with a big smile, full of perfectly spaced and whitened teeth.

That’s perfect, she said and, turning to me, added, pay the man and let’s take it with us.

Without changing the angle of my recording glasses I fished a hundred dollar bill out of my pocket. She took it and said: there you go, keep the change.

What? The associate swallowed visibly. Is this a joke?

You said seventy-five, did you not?

I did, but…

It has to be seventy-five dollars, although I suspect that it only covers the materials. It can’t be seventy-five hundred, because that would be too much for a painting that is not art, merely some kind of pretty craft, and not even very pretty. I only wanted to buy it because it matches the throw pillows on our couch. There is nothing there, just a few color splotches. No brush work to speak of. No real idea or message, just a conman splattering some colors onto a canvas.

The associate looked around for help, but the other gallery employees were moving and hanging canvases and he found that he was on his own.

He cleared his throat… as a matter of fact this painting costs seventy-five thousand dollars… Is this a joke? He looked around like those people on candid camera but, of course, there was no camera in sight. The camera was on my nose. It was becoming difficult to keep a straight face.

Seventy-five thousand dollars? She over emphasized the word dollars and I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t laugh. Are you kidding me right now? I have seen pigs that painted more interesting paintings than this. Take this to a flea market and see whether you can get more than seventy-five dollars for this.

This is not a flea market. It is one of the finest galleries in this city. I think you need to leave now.

Gladly, she replied, this place isn’t a gallery, it is a warehouse for overpriced decorative panels that masquerade as paintings.

She turned around on her heels and stomped out of the gallery. I followed her, but made a slow 360º turn to record the whole scene.


(this is from 2019… the word given was Wood and I had 25′ to write something… this was the result)

“Modern life is making me crazy,” he said apropos of nothing.

She looked up from the book she was reading, and regarded him questioningly, with one eyebrow arched high.

“One day your eyebrow will get stuck in that position and what will you do then, permanently disfigured by that expression.”

“What is making you crazy?” She asked, her eyebrow slowly returning to its neutral setting…

“Well, It’s so hard to navigate even the most simple tasks. I am working on a house for a client and we are looking into which materials to use to make the ecological footprint as small as possible. Concrete is out because it releases tons of carbon, wood is lovely but we need more trees, not less… brick or adobe are very labor intensive and expensive. So we’re looking into recycled materials, like old concrete blocks and wood from torn down buildings, but in some cases those are becoming more expensive than brand new materials because so many people are trying to go this route.”

“And what about deciding between vegetables that are organic, but highly packaged in plastic and bulk vegetables that are not organic?”

“I know!” he said, a little more forceful than necessary, “it is so frustrating! Sometimes I spend way too much time grocery shopping for that very reason.”

“But we have to eat.” Her soft tone calmed him. “I have thought about this quite a bit. For us to eat something always has to suffer, doesn’t it. Whether it is a fish or chicken or cow that was slaughtered, or the insects that were killed during the farming or harvesting of vegetables. Now we have come to that point where we suffer ourselves from eating. Pesticides, plastic, micro plastic, pollution. It’s enough to make one crazy if one thinks about it for too long.”

The room became silent for a while as they both thought about it.

“You know,” he said, breaking the silence and taking her hand, “perhaps it is a sign that too much is on offer when we spend so much time comparing. When you are hungry you don’t care about what you eat, or what materials you build your shelter from. Perhaps it is a good sign that we have the luxury of contemplating these issues. We should be thankful.”

The Plan

My plan for the rest of the year.

  • work on the Full Version of vision 2020: trumpet has been recorded already with percussion + accordion still to be done
  • add more of the old SSRI catalog to Bandcamp – where possible in high def., including Up Close in 24/96kHz
  • work on four new compositions which will either become part of an album called Bare Wood 2 or will be the start of a entirely new album… restrict instrumentation to Flamenco guitar, upright bass and cajon/djembe
  • plan one more Twitch performance or perhaps two performances as before – one in evening + one in late morning
  • add Jon Gagan’s version/remix of Dance 4 Me to Bandcamp… it’s beautiful + creative + different + rich + orchestral!
  • write a post about the different music file formats and their advantages
  • stay home :-)


Watch this interview with a nurse and stay safe. Reality doesn’t care what we believe.

There is an old Zen saying: All beliefs are false, especially this one.


I woke up with the feeling that I was in a spaceship on my way to another galaxy. Flashes of Bruce Dern in Silent Running, which I watched on German TV when I was a teenager, and Dr. David Bowman in A Space Odyssey, jogging around a centrifugal device, which created artificial gravity on the Discovery One spacecraft.

This year I spent more time in my house and studio than ever before. Very early in the morning I leave the house to walk through mostly empty streets – it’s not a big step to imagine that the streets that I know so well could be a projection and that I am actually walking along a narrow path around the circumference of a ship. The bumps in the road, that not only look like bumps but also feel like bumps, are very well engineered. They make this a better exercise for the body because I have to take them into account and step over or around them… eye-to-feet-coordination. I usually wear headphones and listen to music or a podcast or just to binaural beats. The headphones remove the noise of traffic and make my world quiet.

I have several rituals that mark the time. There is my daily meditation, for example, and the daily afternoon celebration that consists of taking an espresso and a small madeleine with my co-pilot, sometimes combined wih a game of cards, usually at 1530 and after a yoga session. Yes, I learned how to make really good madeleines a few months ago. There is the guitar practice and some daily reading. There is the weekly making of bread…

I realize that I could be good at interstellar travel. I am content on this ship, content with my morning walk, and the little things that fill the day.

Music Notes to Winter Rose

Winter Rose feels like it might be the perfect Christmas music for 2020. The album is more introspective and wistful than most Christmas albums. There are more non-traditional pieces on it. In fact it is the mix of Christmas songs, original compositions and classical music that makes it stand out.

Winter Rose and La Semana were recorded around the same time. In fact, Le Cafe was recorded prior to Cocteau although the latter was released first. If you hear the two pieces back to back you will hear that the rhythm is identical while the arrangement and the melody are very different.

Westcoast is dedicated to Roger “Snake” Klein, the A+R person who signed me to Epic Records in 1991, after hearing NF at a Tower Records store. For most of the Nineties Snake would ask me every year when I would record a Christmas album for Epic. One time he told me that I didn’t have to actually play Christmas songs… if I wanted to I could record anything: “Just add some sleigh bells to it and it will sound Christmas-ey.” So Jon added a bunch of different bells to the song that became Westcoast. The percussion is from a live recording that was made at The Triple Door in Seattle during the 2004 tour. Robby played the cajon and the dumbek, which you can hear during the bass solo towards the end of the song, was played by Ron Wagner. Judging by the tempo and the rhythm the drums were taken from the live recording of La Luna. The guitar melody was one long improvisation I came up with while listening to the percussion and the rest of the piece was built around that. Very unusual for me to record a melody without rhythm guitars and bass…

In 2014 SSRI released a version of Westcoast on the album Bare Wood 2002-2012 that featured Jon playing upright acoustic bass. It was dedicated to the memory of Tony Green, the tall Aussie, who heard NF playing somewhere in 1990 and decided to start a company that would import the album into Australia. Under his guidance NF went Platinum in both Australia and New Zealand.

Les Roses D’Isphahan is a lovely piece. Here the bass plays much of the melody. The very last sound is a recording of my hand hitting one of the three steel rain catchers that my dad designed and which are stationed around my house. From CultureCourt.com:

But surely, as some advance listeners have proclaimed, the best track is Les Roses d’Isphahan, OL’s interpretation of Gabriel Faure’s [1845-1924] homage to the ancient Persian city known for its superlative rug weaving. While Faure was mining romanticism the same way that Coleridge used the ancient world in the opium fantasy Kubla Khan, he was also evoking the poetic image of the rose, which of course is used as a mandala motif on many Persian rugs.

No question, this is a landmark interpretation. It’s really a duet between OL’s guitar and JG’s bass as lead, with some synth as back-color. Nice big valley echo here and there, and believe it or not, the ghost of jingle bells in one passage. The spacey call & response between the flamenco guitar and the fretless bass, cadenced like roses floating on a river, beauty flowing through… memories flowing… you, flowing. Melancholy? Sure, but a masterpiece of the continuously unfolding melody form.

Kora/River of Stars starts with Robby playing the Kora – I am pretty sure I took this from another live recording, an intro for Snakecharmer that we developed during the 2004 tour. From CultureCourt.com:

The mood is never allowed to collapse into sentiment, although sentiment is used. Tradition sets the ceremony, although the ceremony includes reggae… just as in Track 7, Kora/River of Stars. This is one beautiful number. For those familiar with Ottmar Liebert, you’ll recognize his jazz octave ghosting, and the hypnotic flamenco glides. Bassist Jon Gagan is riding shotgun on the old sleigh here, so you bump into reggae time, and then space out on the “river of stars” via JG’s big string harmonics and synth squeals.

O Little Town of Bethlehem/City of Tijuana. From CultureCourt.com:

A time to reflect, a time to party. As a collection of classic Christmas refits and original OL compositions, the concept here is brilliant. The kids have gone to bed, you’re on the couch dreaming in front of the fire, a glass of wine, a glass of Napoleon B, who knows, but you’re dreaming. Track 2 is playing, Little Town of Bethlehem/The City of Tijuana… people you miss, people you love… then there’s a gentle shift into electro fiesta time, and you’re south of the border, maybe in some dodgy cantina slinging back Aztec Golds as the fireworks explode… and then, gently, you’re back in acoustic Bethlehem in the snowfields under the stars. Amazing compositional control here, this double-character style that’s the signature of Winter Rose. mail

The last track on the album is a version of Le Cafe with a crunching snow section – recorded while I walked from my house to the studio.