Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Times Online UK on "Mozart In The Jungle"

Sure to cause a stir among classical musicians is the new book Mozart In The Jungle, by Blair Tindall. What is upsetting some musicians is the implication that classical musicians must sleep with the right people to get choice seats in orchestras. You can read what Times Online UK has to say about it here.

One entertaining excerpt:

“Instrument players had a sexual style unique to their instrument,” she writes. “Neurotic violinists, anonymous in their orchestra section, came fast. Trumpet players pumped away like jocks, while pianists’ sensitive fingers worked magic. French horn players, their instruments the testiest of all, could rarely get it up, but percussionists could make beautiful music out of anything.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

StarWars DJ

Darth DJ

A cool short turntable performance piece

Monday, June 27, 2005

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

This is one website I'm going to re-visit a lot. The pictures just kill me! A sample:



I still don't do Yoga, but this blog looks like an interesting read. I found it while doing a google on self-massage using small balls. There are at least 3 different competing methods (Yamuna Body Rolling, Small Ball Release Therapy, Miracle Ball Method) as well as competing brands. This blog has a nice comparison page.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Mondo DC: Insider's Guide to Washington, DC's Most Unusual Tourist Attractions

Mondo DC: Insider's Guide to Washington, DC's Most Unusual Tourist Attractions

Gotta help my boy Jeff here in getting the word out. When tourists come to Washington DC, they think of the monuments, the Smithsonian museums, etc. You know, the usual stuff. I think this book will be great for return visitors to the area, so see the less usual stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Susan Rawcliffe - Performer, Instrument Builder & Ceramic Artist

Susan Rawcliffe - Performer, Instrument Builder & Ceramic Artist

Susan Rawcliffe is an explorer of primeval soundscapes. She is a master flute maker, player and researcher as well as a master didjeridu player. Her work evolves through a circular process of making acoustical copies of ancient and contemporary specimens, learning to play them, and investing new insights into the creation of more instruments to then learn to play. She delights in exotic and potent sounds, whether as a performer, a creator of musical instruments and sculptures or a researcher into ancient flutes and their music.

I listened to the sound samples of Rawcliffe's instruments and was fascinated by the primeval nature of their sounds. After my brief flirtation with experimental music with electronic devices (Triwave Picogenerator, Nord Micromodular, looping pedals, etc.) I've become more interested in experimental sounds with acoustic instruments. In the world of free improv, musicians have been creating experimental music on standard musical instruments for decades already, via extended playing techniques. However, I've become more intersted in acoustic instruments such as Rawcliffe's that have even greater inherent potential for experimental music.

Weight Training Equipment For Sale

I'm selling the following equipment. This decision is based on the need to make room and because of the evolution of my training. When I first started lifting weights, it was because I had a vague desire to become "strong". I did the usual health/fitness club type lifts (curls, dumbell bench presses, leg presses) with machines and dumbells because I didn't know there were better ways to train. The personal trainers that worked with me put me on the typical bodybuilding type program and tried to sell me supplements.

Results from this type of training were slow to come. I got a little stronger, but not much. I sure did not put on much muscle mass. I never really cared if I grew bulk muscle or not - absolute strength was my main concern, but I found it ironic that I followed a bodybuilding program that did not do a good job of bodybuilding.

I found a wrestling coach named Matt Furey and started taking lessons from him because I wanted to learn his style of "combat wrestling". However, he said, rightfully so, that I was too weak to take the rigors of training and sparring. He wanted me to do Hindu pushups and the wrestler's neck bridge but I was too weak to do either. So he put me on a program of regular pushups, situps, and wall walks (stand in front of a wall, bend backwards, and walk your head down the wall using your hands until your nose touches the wall). I eventually worked up to one-set rep maxes of 32 pushups, 51 Hindu squats. However, I did not note an improvement in my absolute strength. Propoents of the Furey method and similar programs may argue that I should have worked up to 200 Hindu squats and 100 Hindu pushups to realize absolute strength gains. If you are curious, feel free to try it for yourself. This was all before Furey started working with and promoting Lifeline equipment, most notably the Power Wheel, Chest Expanders, and Power Pushup.

I then discovered the methods of Pavel Tsatsouline. I bought my first kettlebell (16kg, or 36lbs) and my first Olympic barbell set for his Power To The People (PTP) program, which adopted the deadlift from the sport of powerlifting into a simplified program for developing absolute strength. Under Pavel's methods, I finally realized strength gains and fat loss. PTP was great because I only needed to do 2 exercises (deadlift and side press) and only 2 sets of each. The deadlift built up my back and lower body strength like no other exercise I tried previously.

Over time, I learned that there are several different kinds of strength and about specificity in strength training. Charles Staley wrote an article that offers a clear explanation of this specificity. When I realized that the types of strength I desired were best reflected by gymnasts and breakdancers, my training began to change. I realized I didn't need the barbell, because my goals are not the same as a powerlifter's, who want to deadlift 600lbs and above. Gymnastic/breakdancing strength does not require a 600lb deadlift. I can work the muscle groups trained by the deadlift by doing other exercises such as swings and snatches with kettlebells and hip-ups with the Power Wheel. I could get all the upper body strength training I need by using gymnastic bodyweight and ring training methods, supplemented by work with rubber bands/cables and lifting my kettlebells and clubbells. I have also been influenced by Scott Sonnon's notion of sophisticating movement rather than just "doing more" (as in more reps or with more weight).

Hopefully the reader now has a better idea of why I'm selling this stuff. I am however keeping my lighter Olympic weight plates for use with my Ironmind grip training devices.

Ironmind Olympic Bulldog II Barbell Collars

Ironmind Apollon's Axle

Texas Power Bar

Body-Solid Olympic Plate Tree Rack

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Feel Better for 10 Bucks

Testosterone Nation - Feel Better for 10 Bucks

Excellent article on how to use a $10 foam roller for self-myofascial release (SMR). An excerpt:

Traditional stretching techniques simply cause transient increases in muscle length (assuming that we don't exceed the "point of no return" on the stress-strain curve, which will lead to unwanted deformities). SMR on the foam roller, on the other hand, offers these benefits and breakdown of soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.

One mustn't look any further than the overwhelmingly positive results numerous individuals have had with Active Release Techniques (ART) to recognize the value of eliminating adhesions and scar tissue. Unfortunately, from both a financial and convenience standpoint, we can't all expect to get ART done on a frequent basis.

SMR on the foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to both reduce adhesion and scar tissue accumulation and eliminate what's already present on a daily basis. Just note that like stretching, foam rolling doesn't yield marked improvements overnight; you'll need to be diligent and stick with it (although you'll definitely notice acute benefits).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sound On Sound Home

Sound On Sound

The home page of British recording magazine Sound On Sound. Lots of good stuff in the Articles section, including the Synth Secrets section.

A trick for reading music (for you beginners)

Somebody asked for help in reading music. Mapping a note to a pitch isn't too bad. It seems that people have the most problem in figuring out a rhythm. So, here's a nugget for beginning musicians who have to read a lot (eg. classical musicians, jazz musicians, etc.). This seems to be a secret in the musician community - I haven't come across it in any book yet. So here it is....

One trick I learned from orchestra that may help you if you are having trouble with those pesky dotted notes and figuring out the rhythm and stuff:

Just double (in your head) the number of beats in a measure. So...

In 4/4 time, you count to 8 instead of 4
In 3/4 time you count to 6 instead of 3
In 6/8 time you count to 12 instead of 6

And thus...

A quarter note gets 2 counts instead of 1
A half note gets 4 counts instead of 2
A dotted quarter note gets 3 counts instead of 1.5 (see where this shit becomes easier? )

For example, let's say you have a measure in 4/4 with dotted 8ths. Instead of counting to 4, you count to 8. So now in your head, you count 2 for every quarter note, 1 for every eighth note.

If you still have trouble, double the number of beats (in your head) again.

When you're practicing at home, just set your metronome to a super slow speed and gradually increase speed as you get more comfortable. Don't have a metronome? Well, you better get one!

Kalarippayattu - The ancient martial art of Kerala

Madhava Madom CVN Kalari.........

The first time I read about this martial art was in the book The Way Of The Warrior. I asked some of my Indian coworkers about this and they said Tae Kwan Do was more popular. Of course, it did not occur to me at the time that not all Indians are from Kerala (duh!).

Lots of cool photos and descriptions concerning this rare martial art.

Thursday, June 16, 2005



This is the website of Farhad Bahrami, an old Internet acquaintance of mine from the college days. I met Farhad through a mutual interest in progressive rock, jazz fusion, and ethnic music. Farhad has been promoting Persian music in San Diego for years.

Despite the devotion to the music of his homeland, a perusal of the Events, Reviews, and Links sections will reveal his support for other ethnic music forms, jazz, movies, etc.

Christopher's Music Page

Christopher's Music Page

This page has some info on Persian classical music, as well as some microtonal music theory. Info about both is rare, so I look forward to investigating the info on this page further.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Blog link added - Acoustics, Health & Sufism

Read about the Acoustics, Health & Sufism blog on the Traceless Warrior blog that I follow. It's written by a fellow musician who is also studying Middle Eastern music, so adding the link to his blog was a natural. I have also heard that there is a relationship between Sufism and Persian classical music. Whether this is like the relationship between Hinduism and Hindustani (Northern Indian) classical music, in which music and religion is said to be indistinguishable, I do not know at present.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Making a Journey from Fatness to Fitness

Making a Journey from Fatness to Fitness

I peaked at 175lbs with a 36" waist, before losing 30lbs and thus sizing down to 145lbs, between 30" and 32" waist during my last period of unemployment. I'm currently holding at around 155 but I still fit in my 32" waist pants.

However, my own transformation is nothing compared to this gentleman's. This is assuming the pictures are genuine (not doctored by Photoshop or similar program). If so, the pictures and story are amazing and inspiring.

EUCD1786 Dastan Trio – Journey to Persia

EUCD1786 Dastan Trio – Journey to Persia

There seems to be a lot of outstanding Persian music CDs that are unavailable or verydifficult to find in the United States or at online shops. This CD is on that list. It came to my attention via airplay on, where else, Radio Darvish. Even more difficult to find is the Bambad CD.

It seems that any recording involving Hamid Motebassem is worth the search - everything I've heard so far corroborates with his reputation of being an innovative composer and arranger.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Coach Sommer in a discussion on one-arm pullups

Sommer's post on the 8 1-arm pullups video

For your convenience, click here to view the video of the 8 1-arm pullups.

Take the time to click through this thread, especially Coach's other posts. He goes into detail on using static hold training for the 1-arm chinup.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Testosterone Nation - 10 Strength Training Tips

Jack Reape's 10 Strength Training Tips

I am neither a bodybuilder nor a powerlifter, but Reape gives consistently good training advice. Especially pertinent to all trainees, whether one is a powerlifter, gymnast, etc. is the section on volume, intensity, and cycling. The tips about abs and shrugs are also good.

An aside on ab training:

Because I aspire to gymnastic type bodyweight feats, my ab training is different from a powerlifter's, which relies more on equipment. The Spinal Rock (presented in Body-Flow, Be Breathed, which is almost entirely devoted to the Spinal Rock and its variations, plus easier "performance breathing" exercises, and Five Minute Miracle, which also includes The Five Tibetans) has been my primary ab exercise, because my lower back at present has not allowed me to use my Power Wheel. Gymnastics ab training includes the Planche and Front Lever progressions described in Building an Olympic Body through Bodyweight Conditioning. While the Planche and Front Lever do not target the abs specifically, Coach Sommer claims the practice of these exercises will develop tremendous ab strength. As noted on my June 06 post, at least one trainee has reported unexpected ab strength gains from doing just these two exercises. There are many other gymnastic exercises that work the abs, but the practice of these two may make the other exercises redundant.

Charles Earland - Leaving This Planet

Music: Leaving This Planet

Suitandtieguy on HC KSS recommended this album by the late jazz organist Charles Earland:

b) Herbie always needed Patrick Gleeson (or whoever was around ... in the 80s for Future Shock it became Bill Laswell) to patch his synths up for him. i'll bet if you threw him in front of a Minimoog with all the knobs turned down he wouldn't be able to make noise with it at all.

contrast this with Charles Earland's Leaving This Planet (1974, Prestige) where he cuts a great classic soul organ record at Rudy's and then goes to fucking town on the multitrack recorder with a Minimoog, a string ensemble, a Mellotron, and some pedals and creates an album which is (seriously) the closest that organ jazz ever gets to Tomita's The Planets album. even starts out the same ... spaceship blastoff, radio voices etc. at some points i swear to god Earland has 9 layers of bubbling space synths in the background of a burning chitlin circuit organ solo.

and he did it BY HIS DAMN SELF. he didn't need some white dude to programme his synths for him. he was CHARLIE FUCKING EARLAND.

and he kept it real. when Charles left this planet, he didn't leave the soul behind.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Super Joints, The Book

I recently mentioned joint mobility and how I think everyone ought to practice it, whether you are a musician, martial artist, gymnast, housewife, or just not willing to accept the so-called "inevitable decline of age". I also mentioned several DVDs that teach joint mobility methods. Of the ones I mentioned, only Super Joints has a matching book.

I just reread this book. It is probably still the only one on the market that offers in depth explanations of the hows and whys of joint mobility in a straightforward, pragmatic manner. Much of what is written in this book applies to the joint mobility programs of the other DVDs.

First, here are the cons in comparison to the other programs, in no particular order:

  • Warrior Wellness has a better selection of neck drills, with increasing levels of sophistication (eg. lateral figure 8s).
  • The wrist drills are harder to understand than the Warrior Wellness wrist drills, whose beginner level drills are easier to understand, and whose higher level versions are more sophisticated. Steve Maxwell has some of the Warrior Wellness wrist movements on his DVD, but because his DVD is a pure follow-along, there is not as much explanation.
  • Same comments for the elbow drills
  • Better finger drills in Warrior Wellness
  • The Harley Davidson joke bothers some people (I personally don't care who really invented this bike)

Now, the pros:

  • Secrets Of Safer Back Bending is pure gold
  • The Cossack is an excellent lower body drill. It's also in Maxwell's DVD, but again, not as well explained.
  • The Demographics of Stretching section
  • A couple of "Better Posture" regimens
  • The entire Strength-Flexibility section, which include The Pink Panther and Reach The Mark principles and some drills incorporating them

Dragondoor is kind enough to provide a Table of Contents as well.

Overall, this is a great book.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bodyweight Conditioning progress and questions from an adventure racer (Coach Sommer?): Kettlebells, Strength, Fitness, Martial Arts

Bodyweight Conditioning progress and questions from an adventure racer (Coach Sommer?): Kettlebells, Strength, Fitness, Martial Arts

Very good post by an adventure racer reporting results from bodyweight-only strength training, using Coach Sommer's Building an Olympic Body through Bodyweight Conditioning program. Check out Coach Sommer's response as well. The "pelvic bridge", if I understand Steve Maxwell's post that was quoted by the good coach, is any bridging movement which raises the pelvis but leaves the upper back and shoulders on the ground. This Pilates article shows one example. The first version I learned was of a Paul Chek Swiss Ball videotape, with the legs resting on a Swiss Ball. There is another version for use with the Power Wheel, which is harder than on the Ball because of the Wheel's instability.

I don't really take sides in the old bodyweight-only vs. weight lifting argument, because of specificity. If you are training to compete in powerlifting or strongman competitions, you have to lift weight. If you are like me and want to get your body to do things some people consider impossible, such as pushups with your feet completely in the air (planche pushups), you need to strength-train with the appropriate bodyweight drills. Mixing it up adds more fun and variety. For us wannabee-gymnasts, low volume weight training for the legs and lower core (hips, glutes, low back, etc.) would round out our training. Perhaps the powerlifters and strongmen could benefit from something like Body-Flow, Yoga, Qigong, or something along those lines on their active recovery days.

Everybody should be doing a daily joint mobility routine, regardless.

Friday, June 03, 2005

O'Reilly: Look Ma—Hands! Choosing and Using MIDI Controllers

O'Reilly: Look Ma—Hands! Choosing and Using MIDI Controllers

Every now and then, music publications come out with this type of guide to MIDI controllers. Check out this 2005 edition, which includes the interesting new Keyfax FlatBoy, for which there are demo videos.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hypothesis: How Breakdancers Develop Their Bodyweight Strength

I've begun working in my recent Body-Flow practice on eccentric strength. This is the type of strength used to slow down a load, such as your own bodyweight or an implement such as a dumbell. Body-Flow biomechanical exercises that emphasize eccentric strength include Quad Switches, Quad Hops, Springing Tripods, and Backward Spinal Waves. Yet another reason Scott Sonnon favors Body-Flow training prior to taking up Clubbells is that great emphasis in the Clubbell lifts is placed on slowing down the Clubbell so you don't hurt yourself and are set up for the next movement.

I have read some claims that breakdancers do no exercise other than dance. I am more inclined to believe them now. Check out the Dive (sorry, Internet Explorer only) for example. Impressive air time aside, note how they end up practically doing the negative portion of a planche pushup, thus training the eccentric strength for the planche pushup. There are lots of moves in breakdance that similarly train eccentric strength.

I'm sure the fact that most of them are skinny, and thus have good strength to bodyweight ratios, helps a lot. Still, this is my hypothesis: Training eccentric strength through frequent practice of moves like the Dive will make you strong. Heck, I could be proven wrong, but in the meantime, I intend to have a lot of fun working the Backward Spinal Wave and related moves such as the Dive and Bronco (yes, also Internet Explorer only).

New Band: Croniamantal

My friend, Jeff Bagato, created a new band, Croniamantal, to serve as a vehicle for improvisational collaboration between poets and musicians. I was surprised and honored to be invited to be a part of Croniamantal's inaugural performance.

The first and only, to date, jam session went very well. Jeff has assembled a good group of people, as in, nice and friendly, for this project. It is unfortunate that "nice and friendly" is often associated with "bland" but if you check out the audio clip, the music is not necessarily so. One thing I notice often in free improv is that much of it tends to be a-rhythmic, which is unfortunately all too conducive to chaos. Inviting Pat into the band was a brilliant move. He specializes in modular analog synth, with a penchant for rhythmic sounds. Thus, we have one source of rhythm we can play off of. The other is the poet Buck Downs, as his poetic delivery has a natural rhythm as well.

Secrets of Orchestral Musicians (Western classical music)

I wonder how many non-musicians or even musicians themselves know the following about orchestral musicians:

1. They bring pencils to every rehearsal and mark up their sheet music. One reason is for the "secret tablature" (below). Another is to highlight codas, repeats, etc.

2. They practice alongside recordings. So, jamming with CDs and other audio media isn't limited to rock and jazz players after all. I record rehearsals and music lessons onto my PDA. The PDA records the audio, as a WAV file, onto an SD card using Personal Audio Recorder Pro software. I then transfer the WAV file into my computer via a USB card reader.

3. Violinists, violists, and cellists have a tablature system. Even though there are no frets, there is still a mental mapping of notes to fingers and positions on the neck. Now, nobody, as far as I know, ever gives Western classical sheet music to a string player in tablature. However, chances are the string player will, when given a chance, start marking notes on the sheet music with tablature numbers. Arabic numerals are used for the finger number (1 for index finger, 2 for middle finger, etc.) and Roman numerals are used for position number. I am not yet aware of this tablature system being described in any book. It seems to be passed on by word of mouth.

I cannot imagine living without these secret techniques, especially as a beginner level violist who is frequently thrust into challenging situations beyond my skill level (such as preparing at least 1 hours worth of selections from Handel's Messiah).

JV Askem's Resurrected Strength Training Website

The Cable/Bar Guy (Mirror)

JV Askem had a great strength training website, once upon a time. Unfortunately, he died of a brain tumor (RIP). Fortunately, someone restored his website, so that it may help more people.

How To Breakdance Where Hip-hop, R&B and Soul music collide

This looks like a good introductory page to breakdance moves. Breakdance has a lot in common with Body-Flow, in that both are about dynamic movement exploration and challenging oneself with fun moves that may impress onlookers (except perhaps experienced bboys and Body-Flow players).

The page also mentions two other instructional websites with moves not on this page: (Unfortunately for Mozilla/Firefox users, the movies only work in Internet Explorer)