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Archive for February, 2012

We, as in the Big Sky Gliders, are back in the studio recording some more songs. The goal is to eventually get 10 songs done and then release them as an album. We have been using Rick Garvin’s Backyard Studio. Rick is very knowledgeable in matters of recording, having years of experience in these matters. We have become more efficient and prepared in our approach as well, which means less time and hence, less money.

I have always found recording to be a fascinating process. I did some in the 1980s on purely analog equipment with some friends. In those days, you were looking at a purpose built studio that cost lots of dollars. Our first recordings were done at the university radio station in 2-track. Most of our later stuff was on 16-track equipment. To watch my buddy edit tape with a razor blade and adhesive tape was a lesson in its self.

But now with digital, recording has come to the masses. I appreciate Rick’s expertise, but I have always wanted to have the capability to record my own music at my own convenience. When my oldest son moved out a couple of years ago, I requisitioned a former bedroom and having been putting bits and pieces together to be able to record at home. I started out using Audicity, the freeware recording software. However, I just purchased an M-Audio MIDI controller that came with ProTools SE software. It certainly is a limited version of ProTools but it is a good way to learn. I am not really worried about isolation or ambient noise – now I can put down tracks to experiment with before we go into Rick’s studio.

The Bedroom Studio

The home rig has already come in handy. One of the songs we are working on is called ‘Sunday Morning Alibi’, written by Don. I normally do the vocals but in the real studio, because I was fighting a cold, I found I couldn’t hit the high notes. But, using the home setup, I was able to do a recording of the song and try different vocals to see if I could sing in a different register and still get the effect I was looking for. I added guitar, mandolin, bass and a midi keyboard track to get a sense of the arrangement as well. So, here is a home recording of the song, complete with scratchy and off key vocals. This is fun!

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Snow Day

Today we had our first good snow storm of the winter. In fact, the Edmonton Journal is saying we have had as much snow today as we have had up to this point in the winter.

Snow Day

This was a nice snow. The wind was not bad, it was only around -10 C and the snow was light. It came gently down all day and by the time I went to shovel, there was about a foot in some spots. A good winter’s day – as long as you didn’t have to get anywhere in a hurry.

Heavy Snow on Spruce

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For Canadians my age, I am probably in the minority as I never played organized hockey when I was young. Sure, there were pick-up games and shinny, but my folks didn’t have a lot of money, only one car and Dad worked early mornings so it would have been hard to participate. And I was never that interested in playing. But, I did follow the game in my younger days. Tim Horton, the Maple Leaf defenceman, lived in our neighbourhood for awhile and his daughters went to my public school. When there are only six teams in the NHL, having a star live close by was a big deal.

My Dad was a fan as well and since we had a TV even in the 1950s, I got to stay up on Saturday nights and watch Hockey Night in Canada. It was a ritual – Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner at 5, Dad making burgers with homemade fries for supper and then the game. I remember Dad was in a pool at work where 30 people each put in a dollar – this was the 1950s – and you got two numbers between zero and 60. Whoever had the same number as the second the last goal was scored on won the pot. I don’t recall whether Dad ever won, but it was a big deal not only to cheer for the Leafs (yes, I will admit it) but to hope your number would come up. Such are my early hockey memories.

But things change. I was in a complicated rotisserie pool for 25 years and only quit last year. The main reason I left our big pool was that it was becoming less about hockey and more about the economics of what used to be a game. There is a certain fascination about the way the business works but I just grew tired of the politics and money around what hockey has become. Of course, Edmonton is a big hockey town with the Oilers. However, going to an NHL  game is out of the reach of most people with the best seats going for a couple of hundred dollars each. Add parking at $12, a beer for $8 and everything else inflated beyond belief and it doesn’t add up for a lot of folks.

Rexall Place

Happily, there is an alternative in town – the Edmonton Oil Kings. This is a team in the Western Hockey League – a feeder league for the pros. They play at Rexall Place – the same arena as the Oilers. But it is affordable. I try to make at least a couple of games a year – if nothing else to show support for the team. A friend and I went last night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The team is young – no one over 20 – and they are playing to make it to the pros. And there is a lot of skill on the ice. Last night, we saw the Kelowna Rockets beat the home team 6-4, but it didn’t really matter. I really enjoy the speed and skill of the game. Nothing better than an end to end rush that ends in a goal. I can take or leave fighting but watching a great save, a smart defensive play or a fast scoring play makes it all worthwhile. Go Oil Kings!

Goal Mouth Scramble

Face Off

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Yesterday, February 20, was Family Day in Alberta. I took my third son and my daughter out to a visit relatives who live out in the country about an hour north and east of Edmonton. Upon arrival around noon, we socialized and then enjoyed an amazing lunch featuring mostly items from their garden. They live in a house that overlooks the North Saskatchewan River with an incredible view of the river and the surrounding countryside.

One of the most entertaining parts of the visit is the bird feeder just outside the dining room. The feeder is over a meter long and Merv keeps it stocked all winter with sunflower and canola seeds. There was action at the feeder the entire time we were there.

Redpolls at the Feeder

We saw common redpolls, blue jays, english sparrows, chickadees, pine grosbeaks and a magpie at the feeder. It’s a great backdrop for having a meal … certainly better than television!

After lunch, my daughter and I went for a walk to take some photos while my son and our host retired to the basement to chat about brass instruments. They share a common interest since my son played the baritone in school and Merv has a collection of nine different brass instruments and plays in a band himself.

I took my Canon 20D and a couple of lenses and we set off into the fields. There is something about a crisp clear winter’s day that is really refreshing. For all we complain about winter in this part of the world, there is something to be said for the bright sunshine on a pristine white snowfield.

Shelterbelt Shadows

My daughter is also interested in photography and the two of us wandered around for about an hour just enjoying being outside and the wonderful photo opportunities that were presented to us. I probably shot around 200 images while I was outside – most will never see the light of day. A day like this helps to satisfy my creative urges.

Aspen

Frozen Pond

I find myself calmed and refreshed after a day like yesterday. Enjoying time with good people, appreciating the natural world around us and just being thankful for being. A very good way to spend Family Day.

Snow Topography

 

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It has been a week since our participation in the songwriter’s circle at the Common Ground Festival. I am still smiling about that one. Jim’s wife, Wanda, was also taking pictures and has supplied a few more of the afternoon.

Jim as the 'Mysterious Stranger'

Look way up!

The Big Sky Gliders in the warm glow of the LED light bar.

We went back into the studio this week to record some more tunes. However, I realized that I had screwed up when I put our first three songs on to Bandcamp. I had .mp3 files and converted them to .wav. This really didn’t work well, so I got the original .wav files from Rick and have replaced the .mp3 conversions. The result is a better brighter sound for all three songs. It is worth another listen at our Bandcamp site.

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Tipi Music

I have to confess my musical career, such that it is, has taken some interesting turns. We were invited to play at the Common Ground festival, which is part of the larger Winter Light festival in Edmonton. We, as in the Big Sky Gliders, were part of a songwriter’s circle. As well,  Meghan Kemshead from the group ‘Low Flying Planes’ and Dana Wylie joined in for the circle.

And the interesting part – the music was held in a tipi in a park in the Edmonton inner city.

Our stage at the Common Ground festival

Now while the weather was sunny, the temperature was -6 C and the wind chill -14 C. There was a wood stove inside the tipi but our backsides were still on the outside wall. I invested in long johns and merino wool socks to be on the safe side. Don placed a glass of water on the ground and it was frozen when he went to pick it up a couple of hours later.

The Big Sky Gliders

The concept was simple … we just took turns singing our songs and those that weren’t directly involved helped out on whatever instrument they were holding. We played from 3 to 6 in the afternoon and the time just flew by.

Happy Audience

Dana and Meghan were great. Terrific original material and a lot of fun to be with. Turned out one of the folks helping with the festival was also a very good guitarist and so I gave Bob Cook my guitar and he took a few turns as well.

Don, Dana, Meghan and Bob

And the amazing thing was … we got paid! Our first real paying gig! The money will go back into the recording studio but it felt great to have that much fun and actually make some money at it. A great afternoon.

Your correspondent

Jim

Don

And now the only thing to do is thaw out!

And as well, a very big thank you to my daughter Kathryn for tagging along and being our photographer!

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In my current work situation, this is the word of the day. Nevermind that no one really knows what it means, especially when it used without context … but it makes you seem like you have deep thoughts about the environment.

From XKCD: (click to enlarge)

XKCD: Sustainable

http://www.xkcd.com/1007/

 

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