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October 02, 2006

The Vow of Electronic Chastity

Well, I have missed the deadline for my dissertation. Desperate measures are called for. I have vowed to play no video games* until it is complete. That little asterisk is the exceptions, which are:

This still rules out 99% of all known games. And I have done no gaming since Thursday. Which has given me plenty of time for non-gaming activity. Like, say, blogging.

fissionicon.jpg I definitely need to plug Fission, which is the new stripped down lossless audio editor from Rogue Amoeba. Rogue Amoeba's products seem to be designed to reflect real life workflows. They observed that many people were using Audio Hijack Pro to grab a lengthy audio file, and then needed to trim it a bit and split it into tracks. And the programs that could do that were either high-end, complex or lossy. Or all three. Fission still feels a little bit 1.0ish, but it basically does the exact task that I need to do all the time. And I think the icon, which is dead simple and reflects both audio editing and nuclear fission, is perhaps the finest I have ever seen.

Over at Melnet, somebody asked me about my Edirol R-09, and I wrote the following:

I basically love it; it replaced a minidisc which I'd used for several years after buying super cheap on eBay (I would still, I think, recommend second-hand minidisc recorders as a way to get started recording on the cheap). Basically, the festival workflow went from 'look for blank minidiscs, curse lack of blank minidiscs, try to find somewhere that still stocks minidiscs, fill backpack with minidiscs, put blank in recorder, record, curse lack of adequate level meters, keep eye on watch because disc runs out in 80 minutes and many sets are longer than that, keep eye on watch because batteries run out completely randomly, make sure minidisc record-protection is set because it's incredibly easy to tape over them by mistake, carefully spend spare time at festivals labelling and sorting minidiscs, get home with massive pile of minidiscs, slowly get round to transferring them at 1-1 time to the computer using Audio Hijack Pro over the course of the winter' to 'put R-09 and mic in pocket (and it doesn't actually matter if you forget the mic, which is a win), record, change batteries between concerts, transfer files in a couple of minutes when you get home'.

When I first started using it I was using a 2Gb Kingston card and it was apparently prone to corruption; I didn't lose any files but I did have to transfer some of them at 1-1. I have since switched to Sandisk since when I have had no problems. Touch wood. Weirdly, I am fairly sure my Sandisk card is a fake. But it works.

The only other criticism I have of the R-09 is that it has a massive and incredibly obvious red light-up record button. I am sure this is handy if you're recording legitimately, but given how small and inconspicuous the R-09 is otherwise, a record button that's clearly visible 100 yards away and incredibly distinctive is not the perfect choice for anyone who might be stealth recording (perish the thought). It is the same weight and very slightly larger than a minidisc recorder (but substantially smaller than, say, a minidisc recorder & a pack of five discs).

I mostly use my R-09 with my Sony ECM-719 mic; I've done test recordings with the internal mics and they sound fine. I am not a good person to judge audiophile quality. I am rarely recording material where purity of sound is the key consideration, and I am a coarse recorder to boot; I record in MP3 and I leave AGC turned on. (Because recording is normally very much a secondary consideration; I'm mostly there to enjoy the music).

I probably should also have mentioned that it runs on AA batteries (good!) but that the battery case is so badly designed they ship a special warning (bad!). And there have been reports of weaknesses in the mic input.

Anyway, the combination of the Edirol and Fission mean that there's some realistic chance of my processing all the live recordings I make now. I do still have a big minidisc backlog.

Headphones for neighbours appeal: One of my 101 things is to play in a band. For the last few days, Steven, Marianne and I have been playing Rakes of Mallow, very slowly, on recorder, fiddle and melodeon. Marianne doesn't have all the notes yet (one of the trials of violin is that it's taught in a way that means you can't play tunes for ages). But she's just got her music for the 'Violin III' line in the local primary school string orchestra; given that the song is Sloop John B, we expect to be able to join in in yer actual harmony.

Keep music live: we've been getting out a bit, in fact. We saw two shows in the Spitz festival of folk, Jim Moray and Show of Hands. Show of Hands was very lively, with them obviously relishing playing in a pub full of enthusiastic fans. Jim Moray was capably aided by Jamie Delarre on fiddle and Nick Cooke on melodeon; the overall sound was very good at this one and I hope he continues to tour with traditional musicians. I don't think it's just my folkie predjudices that cause me to prefer this to his electric band.

We saw Jah Wobble and his English Roots Band at the 100 Club last Friday. We'd only previously seen an excellent festival set at Cropredy; JW had cancelled a planned gig at the Bloomsbury because it's a seated venue. We did have seats for this one, by arriving early, but abandoned them when the main band started.

We're terribly apathetic about our excellent local folk club, ignoring one choice guest after another due to inability to stir ourselves on a Sunday evening. But we couldn't ignore that their 5 November guests are Spiers and Boden, and they decided to ticket that night by selling tickets at other club nights. So we thought we'd better go along and get tickets, which would give us a chance to see Mick Ryan and Pete Harris. I knew nothing of their work, though I quickly turned up the fact that Mick wrote a song called "The Widow's Promise", covered by the Poozies as "The Widow". Marianne had remarked on it, in fact, the other day, asking me what it meant, and when I prevaricated, saying "that's because it's naughty, isn't it Mummy?"

Well, they were great; entertaining songs with uniformly good choruses, and cheery patter in between. Well worth catching if they're in your area. They were launching their new album The Island of Apples last night; they played half a dozen songs off the new album, all strong.

This week we have tickets for the Bellowhead album launch party. Can't wait.

Posted by Alison Scott at October 2, 2006 09:14 PM

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