Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last night I went to see The Honky Tonk Dreamers at McGrath's Pub in Alameda.

I mainly went to see Tony Marcus's guitar playing. He did play guitar on a few songs, but mainly played fiddle. I was also impressed by the rest of the band. Charlie Wallace was great on lap steel, pedal steel and guitar. Jerry Logan played excellent bass and sang a few songs, including one of my favourites, Across the Alley from the Alamo.

The surprise of the evening was Julay Brooks. I had seen her with some bluegrass bands, so I assumed she would just be the singer but she played a very nice swing rhythm guitar and took some good solos as well.

The band bills themselves as "Western Swing and Country Music". The set I saw was mostly Bob Wills songs, which isn't a bad thing, with a few country tunes thrown in. Overall, a very fun band to see live.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I just finished Perfecting Sound Forever by Greg Milner.

This is by far the best non-fiction book I've read in a long time. It covers the history of recording music, from Edison's first cylinders to the modern Pro Tools/MP3 era.

It's not an exhaustive history, but gives snapshots of important events and people along the way. Not only does it cover these, but it also goes into detail on how the different and conflicting viewpoints of the time were reflected in the recording technology, from Edison wanting to stick to analog, mechanical recording to capture the "true" sound to the use of electronic recording and then digital and the quest to capture the sound of a space plus the sound and then to create new sounds out of nothing.

The one thing that could have improved this excellent book would be an accompanying CD or web site with sound samples based on what is mentioned in the text.

Well written, well researched, overall excellent.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last night I finished In War Times by Kathleen Anne Goonan.

In War Times is almost an alternate history book, but in this case the protagonist thinks about alternate histories, wants to create alternate histories and, in the end, interacts with alternate histories. It follows a soldier who loses his brother at Pearl Harbor, gets involved in the design of directors for anti-aircraft guns, and travels through UK and Europe during the WW2 and lives through the birth of bebop. Early on, he is given the plans to a device that is never clearly described, but could change the world through some foggily described relationship between DNA and consciousness.

The creation of that device, and it's nebulous effects, run through the rest of the book. It is a very literary and intellectual science fiction book, filled mostly with discussion and ruminations on the nature of things. The unspecified nature of the device, and it's effects, does undercut a lot of that discussion though.

The movements, but not the specific character, of the protagonist are based on Goonan's father, who kept a memoir of his life in the war and just after.

There is one other annoying point in the book - a major plot point hinges on the Kennedy assassination and Goonan does seem to subscribe to the liberal trope that if Kennedy had survived, the result would have been Utopia. In truth, history has made it clear that Kennedy was just another scheming, deceptive, over-medicated, philandering politician.