The music of decaying instruments


When I first bought my Fender Squier (above) for about $100 ten years ago, I didn’t know anything about guitars and it was basically the only one I could afford anyway.  After a few years I realized how crummy it was as a status object, even though it played fine.  I was embarassed, thinking that “real” musicians had vintage guitars worth thousands and I had my cheap, Indonesian-made knock-off of the real thing.

Time passed, and I grew up.  The guitar played (and continues to play) amazingly.  Maybe not the delight of a perfect 1960’s Strat but still completely useable.  There have been hiccups in my confidence; nothing could have brought my self-consciousness out more than playing in Rhys Chatham’s “Crimson Grail“.  Four-hundred guitarists in NYC is sure to bring out the gear fetishist in everyone.  That said, I love my guitar and now take pride in playing with it.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about my guitar in a slightly different way.  First, that I’ve had this guitar so long that I know how to play it in a way that can’t be bought.  Ten years of learning it’s quirks and touches isn’t something to be passed up.  I don’t have to think, just play.

But more interestingly I think is that I’ve never had any work done on the guitar – it’s never be re-setup, had a fret job, nothing.  So the guitar decays.  I’ve noticed this recently because the neck is starting to get loose.  Much more easily I can push or pull on it and change the pitch.  I enjoy this, because I can now articulate sounds with my whole body, not just my fingers and along with some new tunings I’ve come up with the sound gets really full and subtle, like a Leslie cabinet.

A few days ago I was doing some improvising in preparation for a performance and was tipping the guitar upside down and back.  The weight of the neck alone was causing deflection and pitch change.  The “problem” is easily fixed with a few turns of a screwdriver but I’ve decided to let it go.  I’m going to age with the guitar and see where it takes me.  If, eventually, the neck falls off I’ll be making some weird music for sure, but I like the idea of following path of the instrument.

Blurred leaves


Found this today while looking through some photographs.  I love the blur when you shake the iPhone while taking pictures.

Images of molecules

Using a specially-designed microscope under extreme vacuum and low temperature, and a measuring tip smaller than the size of an atom, scientists were able to get very clear images of molecules.  This technique, known as non-contact atomic force microscopy (I think I often strive for the titles of my pieces to be as clear as the names of scientific processes, but that’s another post altogether) is covered in this article on the Royal Society of Chemistry site.  The above image is a pentacene molecule on a copper surface.

The technique works without touching the molecule – instead (as I understand it) there is an overlap of the electrons between the sensing tip and the molecule itself.  Energy is exchanged and recorded, that data is then translated into an image.  In a way, this is a lot like traditional photography, where the camera doesn’t touch the object but records light bouncing off of it.  Maybe we need consumer-level imaging devices that aren’t light-based, but record other types of energy.

Via: Make blog