11.21.2014

Sometimes I get busy with life. I don’t post here as often as I should, and I really don’t know how many people actually look anyway. But I’m still plugging away at my music organization, talking to other people who are more active at the moment, and finding a lot to enjoy while still living my life.

My record collection is a monster. There are well over a thousand records of all kinds. Then there’s all the CDs, which I have mostly encoded and backed up. There was a large chunk of mix CDs and compilations in my collection that I still haven’t digitized (in FLAC format – I had to go back and start again because I realized MP3s, even at their highest quality, weren’t good enough for me). I’m actually to the point where I’m trying to digitize my vinyl now. It’s time-consuming, but also rewarding.

A technical problem for a family member brought me their cast-off laptop, which was an extremely nice piece of hardware with a defective hard drive. Luckily, my past life as a computer person enabled me to replace/upgrade the hard drive and now I’ve got a new, non-mac laptop for my DJ software. The last few months have found me trying to carve time out to manage the collection of music on that laptop. I basically dumped my entire collection of music onto a partition of the hard drive (which pretty much filled the whole thing) and am now culling out the tracks I don’t see myself needing when I play out. That work will probably continue for a long time.

Playing out – that would be nice, and I’ve actually started thinking about it more and more. I’d love to do a weekly sort of gig like I had at the Java Hut back in the day. Making connections with interesting people in the community will eventually lead to the right bar (it would have to be a bar!) where I can play that weird variety of music that I’ve got for people who’d like to listen and enjoy.

In the meantime, I continue with my life. Sometimes I think about moving to Finland. One of my grandparents emigrated from there, and it’s an option for me to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Even though I’m only a quarter Finn, I feel like I’m all Finn at heart. I love the cold, snow and skiing. I’m also a bit reticent around strangers and take a bit to warm up – I’m told this is also a Finnish thing. Living somewhere that’s a Social Democracy where people have a sense of responsibility for their fellow citizens and aren’t just looking out for themselves really appeals to me. Lately I’ve felt more and more like a freak who’s ill-equipped to live in our society. I feel physically uncomfortable about being anything less than truthful, and I have a strong desire to see people do the right thing (and expect that of myself). I don’t mean that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I try my best to do the right thing and treat others as I’d like them to treat me. Maybe what I’m looking for is community – people looking out for each other, not trying to make divisions and tear each other down. That whole PLUR thing from back in the rave days might be pie-in-the-sky, but Peace, Love, Unity and Respect seem pretty damned good to me.

04.10.2014

Been thinking a lot lately about how there is so much music at our fingertips in the internet age. Go into the studio, grab a record, play it. Think about how your friends might like to hear that, so you look on YouTube for the song – find it, and then post it on your FB. Even going back to when I started getting serious about vinyl (around 1996 or so), it was hard to find certain records. Hell, a lot of records, really. If you were buying DJ singles, you had to hope the record store had one. The popular ones sold out fast. Online record buying was just starting out around then (or a bit later, really) and you’d have to hope they took the time to encode clips of the single so you could get an idea what you were buying.

Go back further than that – to the stone ages when I was in high school. I lived in the sticks of North Central Massachusetts, separated from the “metropolis” of Boston and its radio stations by hills that made any station other than the strongest nothing more than tantalizing snippets through the static, no matter my antenna contortions or adornments with tinfoil. One day that sticks in my mind, I heard “Der Komissar” by After the Fire on the radio. I’d heard it before and loved it, so I rushed to hit record on the integrated tape recorder to capture the song so I could figure out what it was and listen to it repeatedly. This was also before the Walkman became readily available and I could only really listen to it holed up in my room. There was no looking on the internet to figure out all the related acts and what that genre was so I could wallow in new music. It was probably the perfect environment with easily distracted, probably ADD me, because I had to concentrate on one thing. It gave me time to examine and absorb things, and make connections to what I already knew. Granted, at that time, all I knew was classic rock and maybe a tiny bit of hip-hop from going to the skating rink (Rapper’s Delight!), but it was something new. I know if I grew up in NYC or LA, it would have been totally different, but to most of the world was stuck like me – having to find the music by accident or through friends. There weren’t many friends who were musically savvy in my neck of the woods.

I remember a friend in the Air Force (late 80s) who was from NYC and gave me Depeche Mode and the Cure to listen to for the first time (Music for the Masses and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me respectively). It blew my world wide open and led me down the rabbit hole of clubs and electronic music and I’ve learned so much. Hearing that music at that point in my life, it really made me feel like I’d found “my” music. It fit where I was emotionally and was just right for me where all the other stuff I’d listened to felt like my mother’s hand-me-down clothes (which it kind of was).

Today, you can stumble across a song from a decade ago and find a whole subgenre of music that you never knew existed. I’m thinking about all the dance music I’ve been exposed to in my adult life – I see such a wide array of styles as I try desperately to wrestle my vinyl collection into some semblance of order. There’s stuff that I try to categorize and fail. There’s music like 2-step that existed for a brief period of time and nestles into another style (house, with hints of breaks) but is its own unique flavor. Personally, I have a kind of tunnel vision and try not to get too involved in every song and style of music that happens around me – it would be too much and I have to focus a bit to even get by. As things get more fragmented and blown wide open stylistically, I feel like part of what I can do as a DJ is be a curator of music. With so much music available, it’s harder to focus it and find things that you’d like, in a group that you can listen to (YouTube playlists are great for this).

As I mentioned, I’m trying to organize my vinyl these days. It’s going slowly. I wanted to make a mix for a friend who’s a similar age of a bunch of the songs we listened to when we were younger. My husband has never even heard some of the stuff I’m pulling out, because he grew up on Cape Cod in the same time period as me, and he didn’t even get the stations from Boston out there. He went the punk route, and I went the art fag route. Grin It’s been fun to teach my spouse some new musical tricks, as he has taught me more than a few. There’s always new music (and old music) to learn about. Not sure if that’s just too much or that I need to get busy learning more of it. 🙂

02.07.2014

So, only the second month of the year. Already been skiing and snowshoeing this year. I’ve been working in my studio, and went back and re-encoded everything in FLAC format, reconfiguring hard drives, and playing with the AKAI APC-40 I got for Christmas/my birthday. Did I mention I have the best father-in-law ever? He asked what I wanted, something I wouldn’t have bought for myself, and that was something I’d wanted. It’s amazing how well it plays with Live, and it’s also configurable for pretty much whatever you want to do with it.

When I re-encoded, I turned a more critical eye to what I wanted to keep as far as physical media and and digital format. There was so much I’d gotten as promos that I hadn’t listened to in years and couldn’t even remember what it was. A lot of it didn’t hold my interest when I listened to it again, so I am recycling a lot of plastic.

The most CDs from one artist in my collection? Depeche Mode. Not surprising at all. So many singles, so many versions. I was heavy into the CD format when all of that stuff was coming out in the late 80s and 90s, so there’s a lot in my collection.

So many artists I really love and hadn’t been listening to in a while. Pop Will Eat Itself – so good. Having two CD drives helps the encoding go faster. Getting rid of things you don’t need gets easier the more you do it.

I’m looking forward to actually making more mixes. I love the idea that all of my music is encoded in a lossless format (that I can use in Traktor). I’ll be doing a serious cull for what goes onto my laptop, but the concept of having everything be excellent audio quality – I really believe that’s important.

I’ve been in the studio every day for a few weeks now. Maybe I’ll add the web entries to the studio process so I post more often. Maybe there will even be mixes…or who knows….

Have a wonderful winter – and enjoy the snow if you have it where you are (or the sun if you’re in the opposite hemisphere). It’s a lot easier to put up with cold if you know it means fun outside.

11.03.2013

Yes, it’s twice in one year that I’ve posted. That is, sadly, a first in a very long time.

It really does frighten me how time gets away from me. I was just thinking yesterday how it was only last week when I last wrote here, but no – it’s been longer.

Then again, I was installing oak flooring in the porch room – and that definitely took a while. It was well worth it, and I’m closer to done. When that *is* done, I actually have plans to redo the studio. There are plans afoot to knock down part of a wall to expand the room (and get rid of a closet space that’s been nothing but a repository for junk) and reconfigure it for music storage space. I’ll also get all-new, custom-made (by my in-house carpenter) workspace desks. I’m going to maximize the space I have for mixing and also make it more ergonomically correct. Right now, my wrists aren’t resting at the right height when I’m working at the keyboard, and that really limits my work time because I get wrist pain. All those years of being a computer nerd come back to haunt me sometimes, you know?

But I’m trying to fiddle around with Live every week or so, and I’m still working on encoding my library. If you want to laugh, you can check out what I’ve done so far:

DJ Muse’s Discogs Collection

That’s basically my whole CD collection in alphabetical order. I’m up to the S’s by artist. But there’s a big asterisk – there are piles of CDs in a few crates that were the bulk of my “traveling” library that went with me every week to the radio show. I tried to sort through them long ago and culled the artist CDs, for the most part. There’s also a whole other wall of CDs that has compilations and mix CDs. I basically had a whole wall for CDs from top to bottom, and I pretty much ran out of space for all of them. So there’s that, too. The records? They’re pretty much another thing altogether as I have to record each one of them to encode them. That’s a whole other can o’ worms.

So, I’m around. Doing things. Drop me a line if you feel like it. I miss all the people I saw every week at the Cantab, but I’m keeping busy.

Life. It just keeps happening whether you’re paying attention or not. Or something. Have a lovely week!

I find myself wondering about the nature of communicating online. Years ago, I had a blogger account. Then I had a LiveJournal, and I actually used that fairly regularly (for a while, anyway). But this website, which I envisioned (and for a long time, used) as a DJ-centered platform for musical musings and keeping people up-to-date for gigs, has languished. I’ve also gotten away from writing on a regular basis (see: annual post).

So I’m thinking about using this space to ruminate on anything that comes to mind, fit for general consumption. Sometimes people stop in, far-flung people from the many and varied places I’ve been, and I like that. We’ve all moved on with our lives, and even though music may still be a part of it, a lot of us have gone in different directions. We don’t go out every week and dance, and that’s a shame. I don’t do a radio show every week, and I definitely miss that. Yes, it was a hassle to load up all that gear – especially in the KRSC days when I had the six-foot DJ coffin (two 1200s, the RM-100 mixer and the Denon Dual CD deck) and all those crates of records and CDs. Turn of the century, kiddos. Back in the time of the dinosaurs.

But I miss being “in” music in a scheduled way for three hours every week. It was fun – and I often think about how different it would be now, with all the ways of communicating instantaneously on the internet that are more easily accessible to any barely-tech-savvy person (as opposed to the old days of IRC and the like). At the very end of my time doing a live show at KRSC, I was “talking” online to people on the old Mid-South Raves message board, and that made it a lot of fun. These days, there are some people who do weekly internet radio shows, but the costs for bandwidth can be prohibitively expensive, it seems. I wonder about making it work, and sometimes I think I might go down that road again. Where I live, there’s a community radio station, but finding a three-hour chunk of time for a radio show is pretty much impossible unless I want to do it at the ass-crack of 3am.

So then I think about musical projects – again. The past year has been pretty much consumed time-wise with the deck/porch project, but I’m actually on the home stretch of it now. The spousal unit and I basically built a 12×14 cabin stuck to the side of our house – complete with a wood stove and ten windows. I had to learn how to do roofing (yes, I put those shingles down myself), electrical wiring (all the outlets, light fixtures and all the way back to the main breaker box by yours truly), drywall (I’m great at it now, but I will never like sanding the stuff – what a damned mess) and tiling (which I really already knew how to do, but had to add to my repertoire). Carpentry I sort of knew – but got a lot better at it – practice. There was also a lot of staining and painting, and I’ve still got to finish the surround for the stove and lay down the wood floor. But it’s almost there, a year and three months after we broke ground on the first footer (dug those suckers by hand myself, all twelve of them).

What I’m hoping for here is a start. A place to check in every so often (I won’t say every day), to mention whatever’s on my mind, and hopefully get to the music part of things. It’s been a while since I made a mix, and I’m toying with the idea of a few vinyl-only mixes. Mark Farina does that on the regular in addition to his busy touring schedule, and he seems to do okay – and I definitely miss mixing the old-fashioned way. I’m still encoding my whole CD library to my computer, and recently moved from a Mac platform in the studio to a Windows-based system. Live was surprisingly painless to cross-grade, and now I have plenty of space and computing power for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy a new G4 or whatever they’re at these days. My inner tinkering nerd won out over the cool-kid factor, I guess.

So, that’s what’s up with me. so there you have it. If you’re interested in communicating back, you know who I am – djmuse. This nice little doman, djmuse.com has email too, so you can drop me a line there if you feel so inclined. Let’s see what I can get up to, and maybe there will be some interesting mixes in our future!

07.07.2012

You know it’s bad when you’re bitching about the insane heat on Facebook one minute and the next you look at your webpage and see a message about ski season. Oh, ski season, how you utterly failed me this year.

But really, I’ve been busy. House-type busy. Finished tiling my bathroom floor, painted stuff, and I’m getting ready to build a screen porch and deck in my backyard (party at my house when it’s done!). Of course, this hasn’t left a lot of time for music.

Last month, I went to the home of the lovely and talented Rachel McKibbens for a writing get-together with over 30 other women and I got to break out all the old DJ gear again. It was the first time I’d loaded it all up in my new car, and it fit just fine. Being able to play music and listen to poetry and make people laugh and have fun, well, I’d really missed it. Being out in the beautiful weather on a deck with tiny lights hanging from all the trees – it was magical, really.

I keep having ideas for musical projects, and I keep them under my hat because I know how bad I am at following through. But I think more and more these days that there is so much amazing poetry out there and if you could add music to it, it could open up new audiences to something they mistakenly think is all stuffy, or boring, or shouty or whatever. Not songs, per se, but spoken word with music. Sort of like what Carl Hancock Rux did, but without the singing part (he’s a really talented guy). There are people who’ve never heard of Rachel, but they see something like her video for what’s referred to as “Last Love” – and are knocked out. Poetry, not in a book, but just as significant and maybe even more effective for people who don’t read poetry books. Thinking on this.

In other news, I made a mix. I called it the “Commuter Mix” because it was for my husband to listen to on a long commute (wow, creative, right? *sarcasm*). I put it together in a different way so I have to reformat it for the web, but I’ll finish that up tonight and post it in the mixes area. Go listen to some mixes now – I know you haven’t listened to them all!

02.08.2012

With the onset of winter (lame as it is for someone who wants to ski, dammit!), the nerdery at the TESLA space has gone on hold. When it warms up a bit, we’ll be back there on Wednesdays, but in the meantime I’ll be in my studio, working on mixes, digging through old vinyl. I’m thinking about a picture page so you can see what it looks like in there, and maybe an RSS feed so you can subscribe and get updates when I post new mixes. Lots to do.

Thank you for stopping by, feel free to drop me a line. I’m always taking requests for new mix ideas.

It also soothes my soul. There’s nothing quite like the energy of playing music for other people and seeing their reactions. That perception of a reaction from a listener is a communication, and when you open a dialogue for communication, it affects both sides of the “conversation.”

Recently I started playing over at the TESLA space in Worcester, and I’m loving the way it makes me want to create. That side of me had been in hibernation, really, and I needed to kick it back into gear. Working with other musically inclined nerds, I’ve been exploring the midi capabilities of my Traktor setup as well as just plain spinning music for an hour or more at a time. I haven’t done this literally in years, and I am reminded of how much I grew as a DJ while I was doing a radio show where I would play for five hours at a stretch on Saturday nights. I’ve always been big on playing live sets, and I know how much it helps me refine my skills as a DJ. When I’m playing from a broad array of styles (even if the tempo stays within a narrow range), I challenge myself. When I hear about other DJs being suspected of playing a CD at their “live” gigs, it’s worse to me than the concept of lip-synching for singers. Because as a DJ, I feel like my main talent is in knowing what to pick, what my audience is wanting, and how to create an environment that enhances whatever’s going on. Whether it’s a dance party, a poetry reading, or just a place for people to chill and visit, I want to put the right soundtrack underneath the action. The idea that someone is being billed as a DJ and then they’re just making the motions, especially given all the tools that are available today that make it so easy to mask tiny (or larger) mistakes or opportunities for mistakes – that seems incredibly lazy and disrespectful to your audience, not to mention an indication to me that you have no confidence in whatever skills you do have.

I’ve thought a lot about how the technology available to DJs has changed since the days when I plunked down all that money for a Denon 1200 dual CD deck back in the 90s. With all the beatmatching and looping capabilities in software like Traktor (my choice) and Serato (and all those other variants), it really has gotten almost too easy to accomplish the mechanics of what we do. But always, in the end, it’s the track selection, the way you pick the pieces to fit together, that separate those who truly know what they’re doing and those who just bought a bunch of stuff and call themselves a DJ. Even with the tools, you still can’t mix some things in a way that sounds *right* unless you know what you’re doing.

With this new gig, I’m using it as a playground to play with the equipment – to see what some of these other tools are and figuring out ways to expand the possibilities in both music making and live playing. It satisfies my creative side, and it lets me get my geek on, which I’ve needed for a long time. I’m excited to see where it all leads me, and looking forward to every step of the journey.

11.26.2011

So, after much hibernation, I’m starting a new DJ thing.  I call it “thing” because it’s a strange animal in a unique location – the T.E.S.L.A. space at 97D Webster Street in Worcester, MA (my hometown!).

This will be nice because many moons ago I did a weekly downtempo/leftfield gig at the old Java Hut location in Webster Square and met a lot of wonderful people who are still good friends.  There was a vibe about those old gigs that I haven’t had since, and I think this could be the place to get something like that going again.

This is still very fluid, but it’s going to happen on Wednesday nights, shooting for a start around 7:30pm or so (did I mention this is very new and still not all nailed down yet?).  Come on down to hang out and listen to some music that you might not have heard before and learn about what the people running this wonderful resource are up to – you might be amazed at what we’ve got right here in our own backyard.

Drop me a line if you want more info.

I’m still here.  I’m just working on stuff.  House stuff, mostly.  But I’ve also been working in the studio from time to time, and also arranging my computer environment (I’m becoming less platform-agnostic as I go along).  It’s tough, though, because you invest money in software that runs on a certain platform and it’s cheaper to upgrade than to try and change to a different OS, so it looks like my music will be Mac based for the forseeable future.  But I’m integrating the others, slowly.

The CD encoding is never-ending.  The record encoding is nowhere in my future.  Well, amend that – the only record encoding is on a sporadic basis.  It’s mostly a case of “I have this on vinyl and I want to listen to/use it on my digital devices so I will encode it.”  So it continues.

Today’s CD encoding observation – Ministry’s “With Sympathy” is like finding out your mother was a hooker before you were born.  You still love her, but you’re a little bit embarrassed – and you think yeah, she actually looked hot back then.   Also, Ministry is next to Mister Scruff in my CD collection – I think that’s a lovely statement about my musical taste.

How are things in your neck of the woods?  *kisses*

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