Grant Muller

Back for the Winter

With Summer over I’ll be back behind the keyboard for longer periods of time, which should give me more opportunities to post. Here are a few things I have planned:

  • Experiments in personal fitness, aimed primarily at testing extremely high-intensity workouts for endurance purposes
  • New features for the GOLSequencer Bank and Harmonic Table
  • Arduino and Microcontroller projects
  • Some new music
  • Peering inside of and occasionally repairing old synthesizers, stereos, and effects
    My home will also very likely be an explosion of DIY home improvement, so stay tuned for a lengthy list of things NOT TO DO.

Mandala Meets Drumset

Mandala

I’ve had several chances to play my new setup now, including the Mandala. I played a live gig (recording to come) on Friday of last week, and learned a few lessons. Now that I’ve got things under control, I started to create some basic kits in Battery for my Mandala.

The Mandala is capable of subdividing into 7 zones. For a 10 inch surface that’s a lot. It’s really great for emulating snare sounds, and extremely realistic percussion (you can effectively assign any number of samples to these zones, velocity map them, and have a “real” drum). But I don’t need that. I have plenty of drums.

My first little attempt at a custom kit for the Mandala is a riff off of the tabla kit released a while ago. I found that 3 zones per pad is my ideal number, so this little snippet features about 30 samples mapped over 3 zones. Each zone is actually only one “instrument” of course, but velocity mapping dictates that I have more than one sample per zone for a more realistic implementation. Here’s a little sample of my drums and the Mandala working together.

Mandala Tabla Test

A Trend You May Notice

For all those paying attention, you may notice that I’m posting with less frequency. This is normal. The fact is, its getting warm again. When that happens, I spend more time outdoors, getting my triathlon on, reading in a hammock, or making my yard happen than hanging out on my computer. When the cold happens again, I’ll be back in front of my computer writing code, or making electronics happen, and other indoor projects. Expect fewer posts for the next few months.

Christmas Time is Tabla Time

tabla-5I’ve had Christmas surprises in the past, but my wife pulled a fast one this year that is particularly noteworthy.

As many of you know, I’ve been taking tabla lessons for the last few months, and having a lot of fun at it. I had been borrowing a pair of my teacher’s to practice on, all the while looking at getting a pair for myself.

If you’re in the market for a tabla set in the U.S., your options are limited. There is a college in California called Ali Akbar that sells them, but they can get pretty pricey. Getting them from India is much cheaper, the downside of course being that shipping can get dicey, and of course I would have to go through someone to get them.

A month ago I found out that a Ganesh, a co-worker of mine, was going to be coming in from India and asked if he’d kindly bring a set back for me. My teacher Amit offered a while ago to broker something for me, and was able to get the name of a shop to Ganesh. Little did I know that I was throwing a wrench into Cary’s plans.

As far back as October Cary had started working with Amit to get me a set for Christmas. If she were to tell me that she already got a set that would ruin the surprise, so when she was informed that I was trying to acquire a set, she had to get everyone to play along with a little ruse. Amit gave a fake shop name to my Ganesh, who in turn claimed to visit the shop and let me know that that the set would be ready in time. I was really looking forward to getting the set, but was a little disappointed when Ganesh arrived and convincingly told me that “the set wasn’t quite finished in time, but it should be done my the beginning of January, and he could send it out with someone else”. I could wait a few more weeks I guess, but I was really looking forward the them.

Christmas arrived and a great big box was put in front of me, which I didn’t expect. I usually have some idea of what I might get for Christmas, so when I unwrapped the box (a toilet paper box), and saw the same round hard case that Amit brings his tabla over in, I was completely shocked. Here is the shipping label, which I thought was very cool:

tabla-1

Notice the “new Zaibaba Temple”, I wish mail addressed to me was labeled “near something-or-other”.

I’ve played the new set a few times, but I’m going to hold off until I can show the set to Amit and make sure everything is kosher with them. not to mention I still don’t really know how to tune them. Here is the baya, and detail of the copper which is pitted really nicely:

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Here is a detail of the stabilizer ring that the drums sit on, and the wooden pegs for the tabla:

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American Gods and running with the dead

So I finally got around to reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman this past winter, and as it turned out I couldn’t have picked better circumstances.

Actually I didn’t so much “read” American Gods as I listened to it. As narrated by George Guidall, who I am convinced is the finest narrator of audio books I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to.

It turns out the story takes place largely in winter, and since this book was to be my running companion for much of the season it turned out to be perfect. Most of the time anyway. Gaiman’s descriptions of the sub-artic temperatures in Lakeside made my balmy “barely freezing” weather that much worse.

The story itself wound its way through much of the midwest into the south, just as I was training for my pre-season marathon here in Atlanta, and the journey quality to the tale in particular made the 2 and 3 hour runs memorable, even enjoyable. I really got a kick out of the final scenes, which took place in Rock City. Anyone who’s live south of the Mason-Dixon has seen the “SEE ROCK CITY” Birdhouse and can certainly relate.

Towards the end of the cold season I found myself running through a confederate graveyard just across the street from my home, just as the protagonist of the story is beaing lead through the ceremony of the dead. What timing. It was about here that I realized how old the city I lived in was, and how much history I was passing as I ran through it. Later I would realize how much history my city has managed to collect in such a short time, when I’m reminded that:

“In England 100 miles is a long way, in America 100 years is a long time”.

It was a nice experience, and I hope to be able to match my book selection and season again in the future. Its a sunny spring day as I write this, and already I’ve swapped Tennessee Whiskey for tequila and lemon and Doc Martens for flip-flops.

As a last note I have yet to read a Neil Gaiman story I haven’t liked. The way he weaves primal myths into everything from sci-fi to road stories is entertaining at least, timeless at best. I think I’ve read Sandman three times now. When my only disappointment with a story is that it has ended, then it was a fine story.