My name is Matt Glenn. I am a student of music technlogy and sound engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Outside of class (and sometimes during) I do a ton of thinking about music and audio engineering. This blog is a my attempt at organizing my mental maelstrom.

Matt Glenn

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Recent Ailments of "The Beatbox"

I must digress for a moment from my usual "This is what I recorded today!" posts. It has been nearly 4 months since my faithful, aging Subaru Legacy made the 550-mile trip from Bethesda, MD to Ann Arbor and it has been squeaky-clean since then, albeit only in analogy, not in appearance. Recently, though, it began losing its grip on the fan belt, producing the infamous *eeky eeky eeky eeky eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* sound. I took him to the shop, all is well (while I was there, check out what I saw)

I think a lot of college students with old-but-reliable cars develop a bit of a loving pet-human relationship with their loyal vehicle, myself included. So when I began to hear this cry for help my mind instantly filled in images of sudden auto-death instead of the $50 that it actually took to fix this relatively routine problem.

But hey Beatbox is fine, and before I took him in I even got a sweet sound recording of his squeals:

You didn't think I would let this sound get away, did you? (Warning: this is a bit loud)

Car Start w/ Loose Fanbelt by mattglenn

Flutes, Drums, and Composing...Oh My

Back in Diver land I have been doing much research on the culture behind the Shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute who's use dates back to 13th century zen monks, or komuso, who used the flute during prayers and meditation and to seek alms on the street. Music for this flute was organized into honkyoku, individual pieces that varied in tone, tempo and length. Here is an example, entitled Akita sugagaki:

In the 18th century, a komuso named Kinko Kurosawa was commissioned by the shogunate to travel throughout the lands of Japan to document the enormous variety of honkyoku that existed by that time. Incredibly, many of these honkyoku are taught and performed without the aid of scripted music. I have been in contact with Shakuhachi master Michael Chikuzen Gould (not to be confused with UM percussion professor Michael Gould, although the two have collaborated). We are hoping to work out a mechanical license agreement so that I can use his gorgeous recordings in the sound design for The Diver.

The Diver, by the way, is heavily influenced by traditional Japanese Noh theatre which, while an incredibly beautiful art, can appear very jarring to western audiences due to its slow pace and the unique vocal style employed:

I am hoping to adopt the instrumentation of Noh for some of my designs, including a shoulder-played drum called a Kotsuzumi, a hip-drum called a Otsuzumi, and the unmistakeable high-pitched Nohkan flute.

It will be fun and very hard to bring a new twist to the usual use of these instruments; on the other hand, it seems that most Japanese musicians and actors have trained for their entire lives to become masters, so I probably won't have a choice :).