Pale White Men

Here’s a recent quote from Steve King, the sitting Republican Senator from Iowa:

I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people [other than white males] that you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?

I have just two words to say to Mr. King: Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood starlet through the 1940’s and 1950’s. She also happened to be an inventor who worked out (and patented) a method of frequency-hopping intended to be used by the military to avoid frequency-jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes during WWII, and which is a core component to modern WiFi and Bluetooth interfaces.

Did Lamarr contribute to civilization? Do Hollywood sex-kittens contribute to civilization? Do women contribute to civilization?

No. They don’t. Not nearly as much as they could, or should.

The implication — the innuendo — that King lays down is that these others are incapable of contributing to civilization. The reality is that they are prevented from contributing to civilization, and when they fight through the hurdles and contribute anyway, their contribution is plagiarized, minimized, or covered up entirely. History is written in such a way as to make their contribution completely invisible. As though it never happened.

Our nation is much poorer because of this.

So yes, Mr. King, if you search through a biased history of a nation founded on sexism and racism, you will find damn little evidence that anyone other than white men ever contributed anything to civilization.

Mr. King, there may come a day when white men like yourself — ignorant, arrogant, sanctimonious, hypocritical white men like yourself — will be painted out of history in the same way you have painted out women, and darker-skinned people. Because I am also a white male, that brush will paint over me, as well. We will become the Fomorians, the Pharisees, the ghost-people of myth: a symbol of evil, and decay. People will ask, “When did a white man ever do anything good?” and they will shake their heads and pity us. They will hold up their own biased histories, in which no white male ever did anything but rape, pillage, cannibalize, and betray. And if any white men are left in that world, they will be wretched creatures barred from any opportunity that might allow them to contribute anything of value to civilization.

Or perhaps… perhaps it will play out differently. Perhaps the women, and the darker-skinned, will not be so arrogant, hypocritical, and thin-skinned. Perhaps they will find a way to make a place for white males, in a way that white males could never make for them.

Maybe the women and the colored peoples are better than white men.

You are certainly not setting a very high bar for them to surpass.

The Joys of Scoring

The title is sarcasm. Yes, it is.

The Ukiah Symphony is planning to perform my piano concerto next season, and before that can happen, I have to get them a full score with parts. This has been a bundle of joy.

Here are a few examples of the kind of things I’ve had to figure out how to do in Finale (the software I’m using to score the music):

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 5.05.58 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-03-09 at 5.04.39 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-03-09 at 5.06.30 PM.png

Bleaugh! Of course, it looks gorgeous NOW.

So what does this process of scoring music look like?

The process starts with the Cuebase sequencer file I used to produce the CD. The first task is to quantize the sequence. You see, when I want a staccatto note in Cuebase, it looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 6.35.10 PM.png

If this came from a live performance on a keyboard, it isn’t nearly so regular. If I try to turn this into a score, I end up with a lot of very short notes, and lots of strange rests in between them. Editing those in Finale is actually worse than a root canal. On a plane. To Australia. So to make it easy, I want to convert it to something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 6.40.29 PM.png

Lining everything up with the grid lines is called “quantizing.” There’s some other prep I can do, like separating out the different piano lines. That takes a little creativity, because it’s usually not as simple as left-hand/right-hand, or even bass-clef/treble-clef. But after going through all the tracks and quantizing everything, separating everything, and testing it to make sure I didn’t move notes around to strange places, I can export the Cuebase data as a MIDI file — which is kind of like the basic CSV common file format for musical notes.

Then I need to import the MIDI file into Finale, and it converts all those dashes into notes.

I have a lot of complaints about Finale, but I have to step back and take my hat off to them on this: they do an impressive job of converting those dashes into notes. But now the real work starts, because impressive is still a long way from adequate.

The first pass through the score involves putting in the key signatures. It helps if I put that into the Cuebase file, but the key signature doesn’t make any difference to the sequencer, and I always forget. Finale has some algorithms for guessing, but they are … well, a little bizarre. Which I suppose is understandable.

The whole point of key signatures is that the Western chromatic scale over an octave has 11 distinct notes in it, but the musical staff notation used since A. Nony Mous scribbled out the first madrigal has room for only seven notes over an octave. They make up the difference using “accidentals” — flats and sharps — that push you up or down from one of the seven notes. Of course seven goes into eleven roughly 1.57142857142857 times, so there’s some black magic involving something called “modes” — there are seven traditional modes — two of which are “major” and “minor.” And that’s the easy part.

The thing is, musicians spend about twenty years learning to read music well, and so they get understandably irritated when you break the rules they’ve learned and hand them something that they can’t read and perform easily. So you pick a key signature, and the basic idea is to try to minimize the number of flats and sharps you have to throw around in the music. If you’ve written something in C# minor, and then rewrite it in C minor, the only place sharps or flats show up is right at the beginning of the piece, where you specify the key signature. All the rest is accident-free, and the notes will be otherwise identical.

It’s equally easy to add the key signature to Cuebase or Finale, which is why I generally don’t go back to Cuebase and just start over — which would also be easy, since all I’ve done with Finale up to this point is push a few buttons.

The next step is going through the score, staff by staff, fixing the accidentals that remain. As it turns out, that 11 versus 7 black magic ends up with as many as four different ways to represent the same note — as a sharp, a flat, a double-sharp, or a double-flat. This does turn out to be useful, and it’s way easier to show why than to describe:

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 7.06.49 PM Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 7.06.09 PMThese are both identical passages, but the one on the right shows the flow of the music a lot better than the one on the left. You want to follow the natural flow, because it will make it much easier for the musicians to play while they’re reading it. And that’s something you want to do — make it easy for them to read. After all, if you piss them off, they don’t have to play your music well.

Unfortunately, Finale doesn’t always do a good job of deciding which way to write the notes — it chose the one on the left. So I have to go through and correct all of these so that they make sense.

As I’m going through this, note-by-note, I’m also correcting all the errors that arise from Finale trying to guess note durations. Finale does a pretty good job with triplets. That 21-note run up at the top? Not a whisper of a prayer. And, at the same time, I can correct the clef notation, to try to keep the notes more-or-less grouped in the middle of the five-line staff.

All of these edits are judgment calls. The music is already correct, if unreadable. I’m trying to improve the readability, and that’s ultimately a matter of opinion.

Once I’ve gotten through that pass, comes the sniff test — that’s the test you give a jug of milk in the refrigerator that has been in there since you aren’t-quite-sure-when. Fortunately, Finale comes with its own MIDI performance software, so I can tell it to play the music for me. I can listen for errors.

It sounds terrible, by the way. Standard notation is intended to facilitate the performance of a human being who spent twenty years learning how to read music and play it well. The truth is, there simply isn’t enough information in the score for a computer to figure out how to play it. But — and this is the important part — listening will at least tell you if you have the right notes, with the right rhythms.

Now the tedium begins. Every note has potentially a dozen or so “articulations.” Staccatto. Marcato. Tenuto. Tremolo. Pizzicato. Palmetto. Con Gigolo. Mio Spaghettio. Yes, I’ve started making these up-o. Made-you-look-o.

Remember all those short notes I “quantized” way up at the top? Now I have to recover that lost information by putting a little dot over each note that should be played short. More decisions: staccatto, spiccato, or marcato? They’re all kind of the same — but they’re all different, with different markings. Each instrument will perform them differently, and each musician will interpret them differently. Get a little alcohol in them, and they’ll fight about it.

Then there’s phrasing — slur marks to indicate phrases. This is a tough call, because a lot of phrasing is just part of that twenty-year learning curve. Throw a bunch of dots out there, and musicians will make phrases out of them, and usually the right ones. All you’re doing is giving them hints, and there’s no point in insulting them with the obvious.

Even worse, slurs are also used to indicate bowing in the strings, and breathing for the wind instruments. You don’t want your oboist to pass out because you created a single long phrase of twenty-five measures. Of course, they won’t do that, but then you might as well not waste the ink on a phrase mark that is going to be ignored anyway. I always find myself swinging between minimalism — hey, they’re musicians, let them figure it out — and the kind of obsessive notation that I have to put into the Cuebase sequence to get it to sound right.

Dynamics. Forte. Mezzo-forte. Sforzando. Subito piano. Crescendo. Diminuendo. I absolutely hate this part, because it’s like trying to pick your nose with a hammer. Dynamic markings are a very blunt instrument. There are only eight gradations from inaudible to deafening. Fine, ten if you want to include pppp and ffff, neither of which is playable. In fact, it’s arguable whether ppp and fff make a lot of sense — really, there are only six. Again, these are hints, but they can be extremely important hints — like when you want a horn swell that sends all the squirrels in the rafters running for cover, versus the sound of a dream falling into a feather bed.

Then there is the expressive text, like molto agitato. Or perhaps like butterflies hovering over a glass of pinot. I’ve seen very silly notations, like a passage in Wagner for the strings marked interminably, oh dear God will this ever end?

I usually end up putting in the tempo markings last, for some reason. That one is pretty easy: the Cuebase file has utterly precise tempos — it needs to. So I could add notation that says, slow from 111 bpm to 93 bpm. I don’t, of course. It would instead be Allegro (quarter = 110) followed by rit. The conductor is only going to take it as a suggestion, anyway.

Sprinkle in fermatas, indicating that a note should be held until the winds are blue in the face. Add a break, or even a Grand Pause, where there is pregnant (or perhaps blessed) silence for a moment.

Finally, there’s all the print niceties: measure numbers, page numbers, rehearsal marks, title, composer, copyright, etc., etc., etc.

Still not done, however. Now the parts have to be broken out. Musicians don’t read scores. They read parts. A flute part. A violin part. A piano part.

Here, Finale is truly your friend. It’s pretty much few button presses, and you have all the parts broken out for you. They still have to be individually edited, because sometimes Finale makes some rather silly decisions. In particular, it always seems to put the last measure of the piece on a page by itself, a single measure across the whole page with one stupid note in it.

And then — finally — let it sit for a week, and then edit it again with fresh eyes.

I’ve just gotten to the tedium on the second movement of the concerto. First movement is done and mellowing for that final edit. Third movement should be quick and relatively easy.

Almost there….


I’ve recently had occasion to talk with several different people about “mid-life” and the dreaded “mid-life crisis,” because they’re about twenty years younger than me and happen to be going through it at the moment. I’d like to pass on a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up in my travels that they seemed to find helpful.

I was talking with my niece on the phone the other day — she’s nowhere near mid-life, but she’s currently taking a psychology class in college — and she brought up something called Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, which I thought were interesting from the standpoint that they seemed to have been developed by a bright but very young man. They are heavy on childhood developmental stages, but once they get to “well-adjusted adulthood,” they trail off into a vague mumble, as though adulthood is a featureless landscape that ends suddenly in the Cliffs of Senility and Death.1

Nothing could be further from the truth. Adults continue to develop, and some of the changes are as dramatic as puberty.

Mid-life is a particularly interesting developmental stage.

One way of talking about this is to use Carl Jung’s concepts of individuation and integration. In very general terms, a person spends the first half of life individuating, and the second half of life integrating, and this is useful language because the changeover corresponds to the mid-life developmental changes. It gives a lot of insight into the “crisis” that often ensues. So let’s talk about these words.

In a sense, the words are inverted. Individuation is actually a process of learning to conform to the herd, while integration is a process of becoming a true individual. But the words work well enough when framed properly.

To reliably conform to the herd, you have to internalize the expectations of the herd. All infants are, as someone once quipped, a system of unregulated orifices. One of the first thing we train infants to do is to control their bladder and bowels. We then train them to speak and be silent according to a rather complex set of social rules. We teach them to use magic phrases of power, like “Please” and “Thank You” and “In Jesus’ Name” and “When Allah Wills.” Further expectations are impressed on children as they grow, until they become “productive, well-adjusted adults,” which means that all of the expectations have become fully internalized, and the new adult can be trusted to function on his or her own as an independent member of the herd, rather than as a dependent under constant supervision. They have become an individual, an autonomous unit of society, a legal adult: they have “individuated.”

Jung’s insight was that all of the impulses they have learned to control, such as screaming when they are hungry, or simply letting the bladder go when the urge strikes, never actually go away: they just “go dark.” They retreat into an unconscious place in the mind that Jung called, appropriately enough, the Shadow.

The Shadow isn’t merely a collection of unregulated impulses. It’s also an entire collection of suppressed and unexplored potentials. Boys don’t play with dolls. Girls don’t fight back. Boys can’t care for sick people. Girls can’t do math. Black people must never show defiance to a white person. The list is huge, and it is augmented by all of the specific family expectations laid down, such as carrying on the proud military tradition, or becoming “successful” as a doctor or lawyer.

If all this stuff is merely suppressed and not obliterated, then it can come back out of hiding. The trigger that seems to open the floodgates most reliably is awareness of one’s own mortality.

Young people know, intellectually, that someday they’ll die, but they don’t feel it: it isn’t real to them. It is right at about mid-life — for the privileged classes within society, at any rate — when marriages are settled, job tasks are mastered, finances are as secure as they’re going to get, careers start to top out, children (if any) are able to feed and dress and care for themselves, parents are aging and ailing and dying, that a person starts to viscerally understand that what they envisioned as their “life” has peaked, and they’re on the downslope toward death. Two thoughts start to run around in their heads: first, Is that all there is? and second, If I’m dying, what do I really have to lose?

These two thoughts, together, tend to unlock the bars placed over the cave entrance into the Shadow. Unlocking those bars is what starts the process of integration.

It’s called “integration” because all of those suppressed and forgotten hopes, dreams, desires, and even impulses get re-integrated into a more balanced and complete person, who is now capable of choosing to break from the herd — even to lead it, if necessary. While this can trigger a psychological crisis for the person who starts integrating, and certainly causes a lot of uncomfortable feelings, it’s generally a very joyous time — for that person. The reason it’s called a crisis is not because the person going through it is in distress, but because it is a crisis for everyone around them.

The person going through mid-life change says, “I am trying to find myself.” They have a strong sense of purpose, and while they may be uncertain about where they are going, they feel in control, perhaps for the first time in their life.

The people around that person say, “I don’t know him (her) any more.” They feel betrayed, distressed, and — most importantly — helpless. They are the ones experiencing a crisis.

Every mid-life change is different, because it depends so much on what got stuffed into the Shadow. A person with a strong sex-drive that got suppressed is not unlikely to have one, or perhaps seventeen, sexual affairs. If it was emotional connection that got suppressed, they may have torrid emotional affairs without the bedroom athletics. If it was artistic sensibilities, they may quit their job and start doing music gigs in bars. If it was spiritual proclivities, they may travel to India with no notice and sit in an ashram for a year.

Some people don’t have a whole lot of Shadow to integrate, and they don’t have much of a visible mid-life change at all. Some people never integrate at all: they remain obedient, individuated, unintegrated members of the herd, and their Shadow remains dark right up until death takes them.

Others of us have a whole travel-trunk full of Shadows to unpack.

Because sex is wrapped with such restrictive taboos in US American culture, sex is one of the powerful things commonly stuffed into the Shadow, and consequently, a lot of mid-life crises lead directly into other people’s beds. Hence: the stereotype of the middle-aged executive running off with his barely-legal-age secretary to Bermuda. Because of the social taboos, this tends to cause a lot of collateral damage to families and friendships. By contrast, someone who stuffed a literary bent into the Shadow to make room for a legal career, and decides at mid-life to take up reading the complete works of Proust, will probably face no worse consequences than a little ribbing from his beer-buddies.

So with that framework in mind, here are a few personal insights about the process, based mostly on my experience of my own mid-life transition, and augmented by some of the experiences I’ve seen others go through.

First, don’t panic. This is a normal process, a lot like puberty. It’s often even called a second adolescence. It has a natural progression, and it ends.

For the person watching (say) a partner go through a mid-life change, understand that it isn’t about you. It’s about your partner, who is working through an internal issue. Don’t try to take the burden of telling yourself that you “failed” in some way. It simply isn’t about you. Your partner is looking for something lost long before you came into the picture.

For the person going through a mid-life change, understand that it is about you. If you’re having an affair, emotional or physical, it isn’t about that wonderful, charming new person you’ve fallen so madly in love with. It isn’t about your unsuitable marriage partner, or your dead-end job, or your worthless kids. No one has failed you. It’s about you. You are searching for something lost long before any of those other things came along.

Like puberty, once a mid-life change starts, you can’t turn back — you have to move through it. Gracefully, awkwardly, or dragged backward by your feet screaming, you are going to go through it.

Don’t cling to any particular outcome. Believe me, I understand how hard this is, especially for the people not going through the change. But the people who come out the other side of a mid-life change are never exactly the same people who went into it. It’s not at all uncommon for a mid-life change to renew and deepen existing relationships, but in many ways, the relationship has to be started over — which is a delightful rediscovery, if it works out that way. It’s also not uncommon for a mid-life change to completely end relationships, and mark the beginning of a new stage of life for everyone. There is no single right outcome.

Don’t cling to a timetable. Some mid-life transitions are quick and slick: a brief fling with a college student, or a crazy weekend in Vegas, and then it’s done. Some mid-life transitions drag on and on, or get stuck in a repeat cycle. Some introduce major life changes that are permanent. It’s worth giving a mid-lifer some clear space and looser boundaries to “find themselves,” but it’s perfectly okay to decide that it isn’t working for you, and move on with your life. No one needs to be a victim in this.

Try to not judge a person going through a mid-life change, if possible. It’s difficult, because the essence of the process is re-integrating things that were suppressed because they didn’t conform to herd expectations, and one of the tools the herd uses to enforce conformity is judgement, and shaming. People always try to shame the mid-lifer back into conformity with expectations, in an attempt to “re-parent” this wayward mid-life adolescent. It simply won’t work: at best, it will merely encourage secrecy and deceit.

Don’t go it alone. Get psychological counseling, if you can. If not, enlist the aid of an older person you consider “wise” in a non-judgmental way.

Don’t approach counseling as fixing a marriage problem. Remember that what probably started the whole thing was the recognition that you are actually going to die, and you’re asking Is that all there is? and What have I got to lose? These are not marriage issues, they are existential, or meaning issues.

Finally, don’t panic. It’s going to be okay.

In fact, it’s going to be wonderful.

[1] A dear friend and long-time counselor notes that Erikson’s “Childhood and Society” was, in fact, one of his early works, and that Erikson went on to develop a lot of the theory and science behind some of the very mid-life things I’m talking about above, as well as going further into old age and dying.


firsts-front-3000My first commercial album is now out and available for purchase! Seriously!

Very cool stuff.

You can get MP3 downloads of the album or the shorter movements (under 10 min) from Amazon or iTunes (search for ‘joseph nemeth firsts’), and you can download a higher-quality version, or purchase the CD, from CDBaby.

This features the Piano Concerto and the Summer Symphony.

And in an act of naked commercial self-promotion, I’d like to ask that if you’ve heard these, and you liked them, hop over to CDBaby or Amazon and drop a review.

Gifted is Boring

I’ve been reading a lot of comments and posts lately by “gifted” individuals — people who score high on IQ tests — involving the Imposter Syndrome, and its closely related cousin, the Failure Syndrome. The former is when you succeed, but don’t think you should have, and the latter is when you think you should succeed, but don’t. Both of them are errors in self-assessment, yes, but to a greater extent they seem to be a misunderstanding of what success actually looks like.

I turned 60 last year, and I’ve been out somewhere beyond the 3rd or 4th standard deviation of “giftedness” all my life. I’ve suffered from both Imposter and Failure syndromes at various points, and I think I finally have enough perspective to make at least a few comments.

I have to deviate from conventions of modesty for just a moment, so that you know who is speaking. I have an advanced degree in physics from a premier research university. I  moved into software development, where I’ve remained for nearly thirty years. I’ve started four companies (three failed). I have my name on several patents. I have a blog, one published short story, and a bunch of (as-yet) unpublished writing. I play the violin well, and once toured Europe with it. I worked up enough performance skill on the piano to play Chopin’s Aeolian Harp Etude, then never performed it. I recently sang the Bach b-minor mass as a member of an 80-voice choir at a well-known music festival. I have composed a piano concerto, a symphony, a mass, and numerous other works, and have even had a handful of live performances. I have a home, children, grandchildren, a wife, and good friends.

You would think with all that success, I’d be a fascinating person to talk with.

I’m not. I’m moderately boring, sometimes irritating (sometimes very irritating), and my life is quite pedestrian.

On a typical day, I get up, make breakfast, pour a cup of coffee, then “go to work,” which consists of unblocking the screen saver on my computer and logging in to a remote site. I sit and stare at the computer screen most of the morning, interrupted by occasional phone conference meetings. I make lunch, and spend the afternoon doing what I did all morning. I pour a glass of wine after work, help my wife make dinner, we eat and chat, then I wash the dishes. I read, watch TV, or “kill orcs” (play video games) until it’s time for bed. Next day, reset and repeat.

It’s pretty boring.

So how on earth did such a boring person write a symphony? One note at a time, just like symphonies have always been written.

The thing that most anguished, syndrome-suffering gifted folks misunderstand is Time: the slow accumulation of minutes, days, and years. Sixty years is a lot of minutes, so many that the number is meaningless to the human mind, yet a single minute is enough to compose and orchestrate a musical phrase. Yes, you have to learn how — that’s another accumulation of minutes. You have to spend still more minutes getting past your Failure Syndrome, and your Impostor Syndrome, and your stage fright, and your childhood traumas, and your adult traumas, and your phobias, and the trials of marriage, and raising kids, and enduring in-laws, and working for a demanding boss, and dealing with an unjust society that keeps you down, and watching over friends having emotional melt-downs, and paying bills you can’t afford, and filing tax returns, and all the rest of the things that make up the boring details of a life.

After all that, there are still plenty of minutes left to sleep, make love, go out to dinner, watch football with friends, play video games, and write a symphony.

Yet there are never enough minutes. They run out. You cannot get it all done.

In my late forties, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, which could have been terminal. Had I died, nearly all of my music, and all of my stories would have died before even being born.

In other words, I did not really bloom into all this success until I turned fifty — an unthinkable number of minutes into my life.

I have, perhaps, another twenty or thirty productive years’ worth of minutes. At some point, I will become unproductive or die, with things left undone. Even the most successful die too soon. Beethoven never wrote a tenth symphony. Mozart never finished his Requiem. Steve Jobs never got to collaborate on the iCar.

You cannot get it all done.

You see, you actually cannot succeed, because “success” is an ever-moving target. A child who dies at the age of nine months has perhaps never succeeded at the simple task of standing on his own two feet — all he has done is to try, and fail, and try, and fail. He did not stand, or walk, or run, or write a symphony. He did not get it all done.

Yet, that same child learned to suckle, and to roll over, and to crawl: all that could be expected in his short allotment of minutes.

As a gifted person, you were likely sold a bill of goods regarding how your future was going to play out. You were sold fantasies of success and recognition at an early age: of winning the National Spelling Bee, or the State Science Fair, or the Intel Prize, or an advanced degree followed by a Nobel Prize. You were sold an exciting life, filled to the brim with nothing but success.

What has actually played out is a boring life, even a hard life, full of too many minutes.

What I want to say here is that this is exactly as it should be. Gifted is boring. As is every life.

And yet… the minutes continue to accumulate. One day, you’ll get a bug in your head that tells you to take up snorkeling, or playing the fiddle, or walking the Camino from St. Jean to Finisterra, and you’ll say, “What the hell. Why not? I have lots of boring minutes in front of me.”

Maybe the impulse will come to nothing at all. Then again, maybe it won’t come to nothing, and you will accomplish something extraordinary. And then the minutes will roll onward, giving you an opportunity to do something extraordinary again. After a week of binge-watching Netflix.

Take heart, be patient, be curious, be unafraid. All you have are minutes, and they are precious, even when you choose to “waste” them.




Internet Feudalism

I think there’s an interesting lesson to take from my recent migration to It’s an example of how feudalism is born.

The original Internet — not DARPANET, nor even the tribal comforts of the old BBS systems, but the first full-blown World Wide Web — was an anarchic utopia. It was free, it was friendly, it was a wonderland of beautiful images and new thoughts. And lots of free pornography.

And then Satan entered the Garden.

I could point to different classes of “bad actors,” from gullible Facebook fools, to vicious trolls, to aggressive advertisers, to malign foreign (and domestic) propagandists, but that’s not relevant. What’s relevant is how we react to this incursion of bad actors who have overrun the pristine plains and forests.

I was one of those tough homesteaders who maintained his own site. I learned how to milk a PHP script, seed my own MySQL database, train my own JavaScript hunting apps, and I learned enough about computer security to think I could handle myself out there on the lawless prairie. All it took was knowledge, a steely resolve, and a good six-gun (in the form of SSH access to my account and admin privileges).

I’ve now given up and moved into town: there’s a structure of laws that I have to follow (I’m not allowed to add plug-ins to my site), compensated by a militia (the team) that keeps the borders patrolled and my site open and safe. They have free lodging over in one section of town, but I’ve opted for slightly nicer facilities over here where I can have my own domain address and hang my own website curtains — which means, however, that I have to pay town taxes.

I am a refugee and an immigrant.

Can the town withstand a combined assault of Russian hackers, NSA rogues, and Google?

Of course not. But all of those Powers have bigger, badder games to play: they vie over thrones to be won, not a piddling mayorship in our little town. In their Game of Thrones, they may contend, not for, but over our little town: the Baron of Google might sweep through and claim, or perhaps it will be the Earl of Facebook. Perhaps the Tyrant of the NSA will decide to turn everyone out and salt the fields to discourage the spread of dangerous free-thinking. Perhaps the High Priest of Russia will drop a digital nuclear bomb on us to score some kind of point in his perpetual war with the Tyrant.

In the meantime, we live our blogging lives, protected under a system of laws, paying taxes, and going about our daily business, hoping that no great catastrophe will sweep us from the face of the Internet.

It’s fascinating to watch the forces that drive history playing out in our little digital domain.

Third Movement

concerto-iiiSo, it’s done.

I may remix the Concerto again in this lifetime, but I think it’s unlikely. Certainly, electronic orchestras keep getting better, and I can easily imagine a day when this set of samples will sound as crude as the “synth violins” on my old Korg M1. But playing that future orchestra is a whole different matter.

Even though I’ve spoken somewhat disparagingly about sampled sounds, the real issue is, as always, the performer. I’m sure that I will, bit by bit, become more proficient at performing a whole orchestra. But to really make these samples sing as they should, would take a wholly different level of artistry. Just as learning to play the violin, or the saxophone, or the guitar, can absorb a lifetime of effort and still leave you wondering when you are really going to learn to play the darn thing.

So yes, I may someday upgrade my orchestra again, and maybe I’ll decide the Concerto needs another remix.

But I’m pretty pleased with this.


(Music at