Kris' Blog - the world according to a vegan, skateboarding, taiko nut

We’re off to see the wedding… the wonderful wedding of Maz!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

I’m so excited about this weekend celebrating Maz and Courtney! They have succeeded in designing the perfect event, even for an anti-event homebody like me.

You see, I generally do not dress up, and this is a problem for wedding attendance. I am a fan of the humble t-shirt, the most egalitarian of clothing items. So when Maz indicated gently that this wedding would not be a come-as-you-are affair, and subsequently rejected my proposal to wear a bridesmaid’s dress, I was disconcerted. Nothing I own would suffice. Well, leave it to Maz…

Maz has rented the groomsmen tuxedos. Yes, Shoji and I will be wearing tuxedos. And not only did Maz arrange the whole thing, but he will personally deliver the tuxedos to the dressing room. Even at his own wedding, Maz makes others feel like the star.

Generally speaking, one’s attire connotes one’s sense of the significance of an event. Without this form of expression at my disposal, I have resorted to the measure, “distance-biked-to-be-here”. So I am excited to make my first long-distance ride on my new bike for the wedding, and my longest, single-day distance yet. Here again, Maz has revealed his considerate nature by choosing a delightful venue, precisely 70mi from my apartment. I would have happily ridden farther, but appreciate the gesture.

And so it is with happy thoughts of soon seeing Maz and Courtney and family and friends that I depart! Aliso Viejo, here we come!

gear

Recent book reviews — March 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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Sugamen work in progress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

For the last year or so, Yuta and I have been working on an approach to playing fast rhythms as a duo. One person plays the downbeats and the other the upbeats, a technique called “sugagaki” in the shamisen world. For On Ensemble’s Works in Progress concert, we took the most successful rhythms thus far (two-person oroshi and drum-and-bass’ Amen break in two voicings) and slapped them together for a short demo we’re calling Sugamen.

Sugamen work in progress

I think the technique has lots of exciting potential. Since each person is only doing half the work, two players together can create impossibly fast, powerful strikes. Once you reach about 1000 hits-per-minute, the sound becomes a blur of power. I’m sure there are applications to odaiko and two-person naname and nidan, and multi-taiko set as well. We’ll continue to search for musical applications that benefit from the new-found range (hopefully without devolving into a non-musical skill-fest).

In addition to the musical uses, Yuta and I have felt an improvement in our ability to play complicated, syncopated rhythms and keep constant time. The hours of metronome practice and new way of feeling the pulse are likely helping. We’ve had a great time teaching the sugagaki method to participants of last month’s LATI’s Valentine’s Intensive too.

If you have ideas for how we might use sugagaki, or want to start practicing too*, let us know!

* The first 6 months of practice, for example, can be accomplished playing with an audio recording of the second-person part. Contact me for details.

Recent book reviews — January 2014

Friday, January 24th, 2014

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Recent book reviews — November 2013

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

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A life upgrade

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

When I gave up my car last year, it was a sacrifice in support of the environment. In the 10 months hence, the switch to biking has instead proved to be more convenient and more pragmatic than driving.

When I owned a car and needed to get across town, I would often compare my driving and biking options. “If I drive, I can get there in 45 minutes… if I ride my bike and take the bus, it’ll take 90 minutes.” The conclusion was often, “I can’t afford to ride my bike.”

Since ditching the car entirely however, I’ve adjusted to the new lifestyle in ways that reverse the conclusion. I now have a “bus work” category for my task-list, which includes note-taking, rough planning, music memorization, and listening to review exercises. Now the calculation goes, “If I drive, I’ll be sitting for 45 minutes. If I ride my bike, I get 30 minutes of exercise and 60 minutes of bus work.” The new conclusion: “I can’t afford to drive.”

Ditching one’s car involves a fair amount of work, and I’m still devising solutions to certain challenges, like the desire to purchase multiple watermelons, the occasional need for lumber, and my solo taiko work. Trailers are in the works.

But while the adjustment has required commitment and work, switching to biking and public transit here in Los Angeles has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. I’m healthier. I save thousands of dollars per year. I have more time for my work and study. And I’ve achieved my original goal of reducing my impact on the environment.

Recent book reviews — July 2013

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

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Introducing the teko technique

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

“teko” technique (taiko) introduction 5 groove b

I don’t know why we didn’t find this sooner! A surprisingly easy way to create double-strokes… now called the “teko” technique (“fulcrum” in Japanese). By simply moving the rim click hand (left hand in the video — my right hand is using “ryoutan”) over the edge of the drum a bit, one can totter the batchi over the edge, allowing the butt of the batchi to leave the skin for a moment and hit again when the batchi returns upward. It works on tsukeshime, okedo, and nagado… any drum with a roughly horizontal face and no protruding rim (like a snare or uchiwa). Now to find more uses!..

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