adrian is rad


story week, part 2

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:12 am

I’m going to tell you a story every day for the week.

I was in the men’s room on the second floor building 14N, the music floor of the arts building, and I was crying. You might imagine the day I learned how to cry again would have been filled with all-out bawling or hours of tears. Or that fourteen dry-eyed years would come to an end because some catastrophic event. You might be wrong.

I don’t remember when I stopped crying, but as a youngster I cried easily. I’m not sure why; I don’t think I was particularly insecure or sad. In fact, I remember being happy and care-free, but something minor would happen and my eyes would well up and I’m be sniffling and wiping my nose on my sleeve like kids are wont to do.

I don’t remember when I realized I’d forgotten how to cry. I thought I just didn’t have a reason to cry, perhaps. I do remember wanting to cry, curled up in a ball on my floor after my first girlfriend broke up with me and waiting for the tears to come. I waited for hours. They didn’t come.

But I do remember when I learned how to cry again. It was February. It was bitterly cold in Boston. I was halfway through my freshman year and to say things weren’t going my way is an understatement. Going from being a top student at a regular Joe high school to MIT could be the archetype of going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

And so my sense of identity started to erode. The Adrian Bischoff of my mind was a good student, the best student; I was doing okay in my classes. He was a good Christian; I spent my days doubting and questioning. He was a good friend; I had no grasp of how to help my friends cope with a recent suicide of a person close to many of them.

And he was a good musician, which brings us to the second floor of 14N. There was a spot open in the orchestra for fourth trumpet on the Mahler and I wanted it. The Italian director had me audition in his office and, though it didn’t go horribly, he picked apart my intonation and my phrasing. When he was finished, I speed walked to the bathroom and as I walked through the door, I put my forehead against the cold window and my shoulders shuddered and my eyes wet my cheeks.


hold me close

Filed under: — adrian @ 6:49 am

I love this clip. Among other reasons why, it reminds me of how great it is to just open up and sing along with gusto.

It should be noted that Mark Kozelek (of Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon and solo) is the first to start singing.


I’m a little hoarse: trying Sacred Hard singing

Filed under: — adrian @ 1:41 am

Monday night I tried my hand at Sacred Harp singing. There are local groups that sing and I went to the one that meets weekly in Berkeley. I’ve written about Sacred Harp before here and more extensively over at the music blog.

They meet and sing in a small chapel in a theoligical seminary just north of the UC campus. Pews are moved around to make a square with a couple rows per side: basses are across from trebles, altos are across from tenors. Some started–the first person to lead got up in the center of the square and called out a number–28, I think it was. We all turned our books, the Sacred Harp, 9th Edition to that page. The leader–in this case, but sometimes it was another singer–sang the starting notes. We sang through the song once on “so la fa mi” then through with the words and then the cycle repeated. We repeated this process until the evening was up–perhaps 40 times in total.

I was a bit nervous about giving this a try. I haven’t sung from music in a number of years and even then it was quite briefly, with a lot of voices to hide behind and with a lot of rehearsals. It turned out to be fine, of course. I still can’t sight sing, but I could follow the strong singers in my section just fine. By the end I had even picked up the names of the shape notes. As it turns out, these help a lot–going from “fa” to “fa”, for instance is always either a fifth or an octave.

When it came my time to lead, I said I’d pick one–one of my favorites, “Sherburne”–but didn’t want to lead it. I got cajoled into leading that song with someone else.

Anyway, at this group at least, people sang. And loud. And without any pretensions or adornment in their voices. It was a lot of fun. Just letting your voice go and singing out. I was a bit hoarse the next day.

Alabama Sacred Harp Convention – Sherburne (mp3)



Filed under: — adrian @ 4:24 am

A couple weeks ago I went swimming. The next day my left ear felt a bit weird and my hearing felt muffled. I thought there was some water still in it. After a few days it still felt weird so I had assumed it had developed into a minor ear infection, “swimmer’s ear”.

After two weeks, I decided I should have it checked out. I’m going to be place next week where it’ll be even harder to go to a doctor, so with the help of some coworkers I went to a doctor this evening and he checked me out.

There’s no water, ear wax or ear infection in there. The doctor things it’s noise trauma. Basically (hopefully) short term partial hearing loss. (Ironically, I’d light-heartedly talked about thinking I was going deaf in my left ear because my ear buds were breaking about 3 weeks ago.) His instructions: no ear buds/ headphones and try to limit limit noise for a few days.

The short term is unpleasant: no ear buds at work (at night I can play music softly on speakers that I have) means no music and I don’t like being without music. It makes me antsy. I’m going to be on planes and trains for most of Friday, alone and that would be a particularly nice time to listen to some tunes. More than it being nice, at times I almost find it necessary. After a bad or long day, after a frustrating decision, when I need to drown out this foreign world or mitigate loneliness, music is often my first resort. It may not be the best thing to turn to but it’s certainly better than turning to the bottle. This is a bit distressing.

The longer term, the prospects, the possibilities, at least, are traumatizing. That there’s even a possibility of longer term hearing loss is scary. Music is a big part of my life and between being a college radio DJ and having a music blog it’s more like a vocation. That that might be endangered or altered permanently is not a prospect I look forward to.

Just to note, I’ve always been very careful about the volume of my music on earphones and other people who try my headphones often think I listen to music too softly. I wear ear plugs at concerts, even advocating them publicly. If there’s one probable culprit here it’s listening to music on the bus and/ or while walking along streets here. Both are quite noisy and can encourage a louder-than-healthy volume on ear buds.


Announcing new music blog!

I’ve been doing this in stealth for a couple days, but I feel like it’s time to announce my other blog. It’s a music blog.

I’ve felt for a while that I was writing too little about music for this to be a music blog and too much about music for this to be a personal blog. In one case, outside readers see too much personal ranting and in the other, friends get alienated by the constant music talk , so I’ve split it off.

I’ll still be blogging here. I won’t be posting here about music, unless it’s related directly to me, like music I write/ record, radio playlists or if it’s a mixtape. I’ll be co-posting the last two of those.

I feel a bit weird about it—I’m always written this for myself and maybe a couple friends, but writing about any specific x is an admission that someone wants to read that. Now I have a whole blog where I pretend that people want to read my writing about music.


I had embarrassing teen years.

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:51 pm

Andy said that yesterday: “I had embarrassing teen years.” He was going through some boxes of stuff that his parents wanted to get rid of to make space. I laughed at him. I’m not embarrassed by my teen years, I thought. I did alright with them.

Here’s one gem Andy found yesterday:

[yeah, I should crop this and make it a smaller file.]

It’s the original lyric sheet to the Where’s Luke theme song. This was when we were preparing for the coffee house that they hosted at Westminster Presbyterian. I think we might have just been asking Colin if he’d be our drummer.

Tonight I went through my drawers in my desk tonight. I was laughing again, this time at myself. Despite myself I did have an embarrassing adolescence. I found all sorts of ridiculous things that I saved. The pot of gold at the end of the embarrassment rainbow was the half-drawer full of love notes, poems and drawings from a high school girlfriend. I was smiling so much at the ridicilousness of it that I almost cried.



Filed under: — adrian @ 10:19 pm

I had a dream last night where something had happened where I’d been signed or discovered or been given a good review online or something and suddenly I was going to play a show as a headliner. I was trying to get enough material together. I was going to play some originals on wurly and guitar. I was going to play some old songs (Greetings from Johannesburg? Where’s Luke??) and some new stuff. I wasn’t very good at the songs and playing wurly and guitar (in the dream, of course not in real life) so I needed to practice. The night of the show came and the openers went and were good and I was thinking I shouldn’t be the headliner of the show. Then it was my turn to play and I realized that I really hadn’t practiced much and I was totally unprepared.

I don’t remember my dreams much.


three more music things

Filed under: — adrian @ 5:42 pm

I’m all musicy lately, but here are three more things of interest:


album a day

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:31 am

Colin pointed the Album-a-Day project. It looks pretty cool. I remember Jesse and I were going record an album in a weekend once. That never happened.

see also: the covers contest


blogging contest and songwriting blog

Filed under: — adrian @ 2:42 pm

Here’s a contest that can send you to Austin City Limits for three days to blog about the festival. I’m probably going to enter a spruced up version of this post. Wally, you should do this.

And this is a songwriting blog with some tips and whatnot on various aspects of songwriting. I’m not sure I’m picking up all that they’re putting down, but it gets the mind going.

Both of these, I think, I got from largeheartedboy.


6 current thoughts on music

  • I should go to more risk concerts, fewer good concerts by bands I’ve seen before. For instance, I should see Danielson in a couple weeks and I probably shouldn’t be sad that I missed the Mates of State a couple weeks ago (I’ve seen them 8ish times)
  • I’m trying to decide if songwriting taking into account all or almost all of my musical influences is possible. I like a lot of music. I like indie rock, post-rock, old-timey/ early american field recordings, celtic, african, other world music, motown (and other early R&B/ soul), oldies, some hip hop and the list goes on. In the past, I’ve managed to combine some influences together in my songwriting: the Greetings from Johannesburg stuff was largely an experiment in fitting world music ideas into indie pop (“Thaw” is based on the Balinese Ketjak rhythm, “Bitter” has Senagalese sabar drumming, “Nashville” cops a brazilian drumming line, “Drunken” has a 15 beat long beat-cycle). I also combined—in my opinion successfully—motown, indie rock, african drums and a banjo (which I couldn’t really call “old-timey” or country either) on one of the covers contest songs. But really, there’s a ton more stuff out there and floating around in my head. I always thought music had to be segmented a bit. Like Where’s Luke? was the folksy mostly-acoustic group, the Grievance Committee was going to be my post rock band. But many great bands aren’t like that: many of them combine a lot of disparate influences to make their music. I don’t know if I have the ability to do that.
  • I’m thinking of trying to write some hip hop instrumental/ base tracks. I’ve been listening to a little bit of hip hop recently. I don’t like a lot of hip hop because a lot of it is a) musically crap and b) lyrically stupid (sometimes well-written but still stupid). Personally, I think a lot of the hip hop paradigms are stupid: songs about smoking pot and being misogynistic toward women aren’t for me. There is some hip hop out there that has good music and that tackles complex issues in the lyrics. I’m getting off on a tangent here. My point here is that a lot of hip hop has crap music and so I’m thinking of writing some hip hop music. I don’t think I could MC well, so I’ll either leave that for someone else or leave them as instrumentals. Any aspiring MCs out there?
  • At a certain point I stopped really getting jazz. Most music has tension and release. Often in jazz the tension comes from dissonance in the harmonic structure and progressions. I don’t always find the way this is done in jazz satisfying. (On the other hand, I’ve really come to appreciate some “new” jazz, like Magali Souriau’s “Dersu Usala” which is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard.)
  • I mostly don’t like this dance indie rock that is all the buzz (and has been for a year or so). It doesn’t get me going.
  • I’m thinking of spinning of my music stuff into a separate blog and turn that into more of an mp3 blog. It’s probably be over at the new me. It probably me mostly indie rock mp3s, but I’d love it be a place where I could equally post Sacred Harp field recordings and rare Motown tracks. I don’t know what would be left here, though, as half of what I post here is music stuff and I’ve already moved most of my photo stuff over the godhatesmath.


analog drum machines

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:49 pm

I’m thinking about getting an analog drum machine, partly inspired by how awesome will oldham sounds with his Maya Tone one on some of his recordings. Any suggestions as far as models?

In the meantime, I found a pretty awesome virtual analog drum machine playground. I like a few in there. The Yamaha MR-10 has a nice set of features and sounds pretty good.

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