Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I had an astonishing moving-vocalizing meditation yesterday at a friend's earth listening. It was just four of us for just over an hour at the peninsular sundial in Berkeley Marina. One could see, if one looked, far in the distance in every direction: downtown SF, downtown Oakland, Richmond refinery, El Cerrito.

I didn't look. I spent the vast majority of the time glued to the prickly dry grass and occasional stone, listening, echoing. Sometimes I pulled my shirt over my head so the wind wouldn't be so loud in my ears and to reduce sight, smell, and the sense of anyone nearby. I was an audience of one, though others (including innocent passersby) heard me. Once my friend even responded freely, adding her own echoes and echoing mine.

But I rarely noticed the music of it. I reduced as much as I could to my lizard brain, listening without filter, letting my echoes wander with my attention, repeating freely. I shed all self-consciousness in minutes and attained such peace at the end.

It was not unlike my lovely 3-1/2 hours at Piedmont's Garden of Memory, where musicians set up in every nook in a spectacular mausoleum and performed like sound installations. Audience members wandered at will, stopping for as long as they pleased, often chatting enthusiastically with the performer between improvs. Sound spilled and poked across exhibits. The professional performances of soft, sensitive pieces on one stage were occasionally punctuated by a honking stationary bike installed just outside the entrance. It made me giggle. I didn't hear anyone complain.

I've been appreciating the most recent RadioLab that my dear friend Kerrick shared with me. It has recast my concept of the lizard brain in artistic context and references a 2007 neurology paper:

For those who are interested, I've included my real-time notes from the meditation below.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DIY - Doing it yourself

I want to give a shoutout for this simple but powerful TED talk about contributing to a world we want with the work of our own hands.

It's human to complain. I even take relief and joy in sharing a vent with a fellow discontent. But my deepest satisfaction is in getting something done, however imperfectly, finally and with certainty.  I feel this way about my latest stay in Indonesia, where I got a real taste of life there and decided I won't stay, and about the CD projects.

I wanted to share my passion for the less-known sounds of my teacher's music and I did. I wanted listeners to have an inkling of the complex, unfamiliar cultural context, and made interpretive jackets. Now I want you to have a space to share your reflections, disagreements, and additional observations of this music. Is the comment option space enough?

Friday, June 15, 2012

First field recordings released on Bandcamp

In an era of music defined by studio recordings I am pleased to release the first of a series of CDs that capture the essential social contexts of Balinese gamelan. Unlike the last album these recordings are unaltered by mastering and may include environmental sounds from the ceremonies that called for the repertoire.

This first release surveys six distinct genres of gamelan from Buleleng, North Bali. This is an excellent way for a newcomer to sample a variety of traditional Balinese music, whether that's you or a friend. For details, samples, and a complete track listing please visit The sliding scale starts at $9 for download, $10 hardcopy. Folks earning $50k, please contribute $20.
Please comment about the music, including environmental sounds, here.

PS If you're still looking for last week's Gerantang/Rindik album, it's on the side navigation bar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bandcamp goes swimmingly & first review

As the first week of Bandcamp sales comes to a pleasantly active close, I've made it a fair way down my laundry list of tasks and errands to bring Munduk music to the world. I was satisfied to send Pak Terip and his son home with over 80 CDs ready for sale to art-hungry tourists. I did reserve the compact printer-scanner and a surplus of labels and sleeves to continue my work here. grossed over $50 in five days!

 Some folks still prefer a hard copy audio CD. Thanks to my three housemates for letting me have the whole dining room table much more than 25% of the time.
A case of 100 for double the price of a case of 30? and yes, it's holding up the power adapter to the Singaporean printer.
I was super pleased to find not only that thin, glossy paper perfect for inserts, but with the appropriate settings the troublesome printer could turn out some much better-looking inserts than before. So if you weren't happy with your Indo-diy copy, you'll get much nicer ones for your loved ones if you order them now. Just donate by PayPal or Dwolla (top right).

I ran into my estranged art mom at the Grand Lake Theatre (he was going in, not I) and he immediately demanded if I was making art. I squirmed, squeaking that I was working on something (I am), but I got an encouraging mention in the transmasculine community's favorite nonfree zine. The latest issue of Original Plumbing was a party of performers. The reviewer (not an acquaintance) briefly described about half a dozen FTM musicians on one page. For my paragraph he drew heavily on my bio posted to the right, which I like -- that's why I keep a current bio posted.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tripittaka is up on Bandcamp! and instrument making

Sanggar Seni Tripittaka's first independent album, Munduk Gerantang, is now available for download at the same sliding scale starting at $12. No shipping costs!

You can even sample and purchase individual tracks if you please, but the sliding scale starts higher. I'm not driving a hard bargain, that's how the Paypal fees work. I'm working with Bandcamp to accept an alternate means of payment (Dwolla).

While you're sampling, here are highlights from my last weeks in Central Sulawesi. We made instruments in the backyard whenever we were home.

Here we are sawing PVC pipes for resonators. The open length directs the sound from the bamboo key to be placed above and the pitch matching the closed length is prolonged and amplified.
Often friends from the group or gamelan across the street would visit and help out. 
Sometimes we get overzealous with the sawing, raising the pitch above the target key, and have to cut a larger piece to glue up our mistake.
Unlike bamboo resonators which have natural stops at the end of each segment, plastic pipes need stops added to the end. The shop didn't have the right size caps so we had to saw and cut them to circumference from scrap wood, then pound them into place.

Tying up an instrument for shipment. Pak Putu (center) leads the gamelan at Pura Sari across the street.
I got better with knives, fast. When I first got to Sulawesi I had a lot of trouble sticking CD labels on CDs so they were center, not hanging over and not wrinkled. Not anymore!
"We're helping..."
We also made bamboo angklung, the ancient predecessor of the four-key bronze kind used in funerals. This set, unfortunately, we had to leave unfinished. All the parts were there but we didn't have time to assemble them. They were a gift to the local police station, but I think the work also helped Pak Terip get stress relief from the disagreeable teaching contract. He and his son didn't get paid until the night before they left, and with the small advances Terip had begged earlier during our stay, on top of the cost of transportation home, it really hadn't been profitable.
Our host's servant who wept bitterly the whole last week we were there is a sweet Javanese widow worked 16 hours a day, most of them alone in the house. Here she is doing laundry. It must be dead quiet there now that we're gone. Someday she'll be able to go home to her fortunately nearby children.
All things come to an end: my last photo with my teacher. He's shaving down a dowel while I position the webcam.

We were actually having some "juice" that very last day over the tenuousness of my proposal to bring him Stateside for a service and performance tour. College students in particular demand the kind of world-savvy, intercultural, multimedia, participatory presentations we would have to offer as a team. Yet the responsibility of facilitating immigration is no triviality, and negotiating commitment and boundaries has been difficult. But in the spirit of the culture, we set aside small differences to share in a deep love of our fellows.

That's the cultural context of my music.