The Allure of Risk

[The Cadillac ATS-V] cranked through Turn 17 at Circuit of the Americas sideways and gentle, a froufed-up hooligan with leather and manners. But there was no fear of death, no implausible. Several times, I found myself wishing for less car, not more.

Smith, Sam. “French Connection.” Road and Track July 2015: 24.

Nikon D100 Nikkor 28 -105mm f/3.5-4.5D 1/1250 @ f4.2

Nikon D100
Nikkor 28 -105mm f/3.5-4.5D
1/1250 @ f4.2

Sam Smith in his column of the July issue of Road and Track wrote, that sometimes he finds himself wishing for less car, not more. That is, a simple and very slow car, in this case a Citroën 2CV, can have a special allure, that a fast complex one does not. Yes, automobiles are getting faster and easier to drive every year. As a consequence, something is sacrificed. Progress requires sacrifice. As ease of use increases, the risk of failure is diminished; and ultimately the excitement, and allure of many activities.

When I started djing, vinyl records were the norm. During my first gig, I wasn’t just nervous, I was terrified. I remember as I stepped past the wall of sound into the dj booth, the ground continued to shake. I stopped to gaze at all the equipment; the speakers seemed to tower past the ceiling into the sky; and the flashing lights of power conditioners, compressors, and amplifiers. Past the equipment, were people happy and dancing. The source was incredibly simple, two vinyl records rotating on a pair of 1200s and a mixer in the middle. This simplicity contained no safety nets, no help, just a massive amount of risk, and it was about time for me to begin.

My hands were trembling as I carefully cued the first record. The risk of failure is enough, no one actually wants their mistakes to be amplified through several thousand watts to everyone dancing inside, and those on the outside waiting to get in. I’ll admit that my start was a little rough, but I recovered quickly; most importantly, people were still happy and dancing.The act of playing and transitioning from record to record in front of the crowd became intensely exciting, almost like being elevated to a higher state of being. I had practiced the same actions many times before, yet never felt this way. I believe that is was the risk involved, and ultimately overcoming my fear, that contributed greatly to the intense excitement I felt that night.

The word, ‘digital,’ is often used as adjective. The digital dj, digital photographer, or digital artisan, is typically perceived as better than the dj, photographer, or artisan, who for whatever reason, is unable to use the same adjective. Yet, ‘digital’ is simply a technological advancement, an adjective that indicates that microprocessors now play a significant role in whatever word it modifies. The microprocessor also serves as a catalyst, increasing the rate of progress and what must be sacrificed. Microprocessors have made djing in front of crowds, much easier, and to a large extent, risk free. Sacrificed is the nervousness, increased alertness, and ultimate satisfaction of getting though a task without emotional injury; and sadly, the stories to tell.

One night, I witnessed things go horribly wrong for another dj. He was transitioning into a new song, artistically scratching, and cutting back and forth; when the tempo of one record began to slip. I could see him darting from side to side, working all the controls very hard to correct the error. He was really on the edge; still, but barely, holding on musically. He just needed to go a little further. I thought, if he succeeds in pulling this mix back from disaster, it will be epic! Well, I will never know, because the overloaded mixer suddenly died.

My friend and I looked at each other, and he broke the silence, “That mixer was never going to survive that abuse.” We figured things might get nasty and began to leave, discussing whether or not the dj would have successfully finished the mix. I thought there was the possibility, where as my friend, a turntablist who has won several competitions, did not, “I could tell he was finished as soon as he started.”

“Come on,” I said, “So, there’s no possible way?”

He just looked at me and smiled as if to say, “Well, he couldn’t do it, but I could.” Today, with beat sync, hot cues, and auto loop; progress and the microprocessor would ensure we all could. Look at any dj controller for sale today, you will find there is a clearly labeled button for each. While these advancements might have saved at least one character in this story from embarrassment, it certainly removes the risk, the display of skill, and consequently some of the excitement.

I do value the progress ‘digital’ technology provides. Beyond music, modern cameras allow me to operate more accurately, quickly, and creatively. There are also things I cannot do. I am unable to: match the tempos of two records within a thousand of a percent, and continually create perfect 8 bar loops endlessly for hours; or shift gears with the speed and precision of any modern dual clutch gearbox; or split a scene into more than 90,000 segments, identifying and mathematically combining each color, distance, and light value into a single solution in milliseconds like Nikon’s new 3D Matrix meter; but the better these become, even if I benefit from them, the less I care. The allure of using vinyl records, driving a 5-speed, and fully manual cameras, have nothing to do with them being better. The reason is simple, the possibility of mistakes; there exists a risk of failure.

Inspired by Sam Smith’s words, I looked for less camera to use, and found the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. The Brownie is very little camera. So little, it lacks very basic manual controls like a shutter dial, an aperture ring, and focusing. Photographically, its use is dangerous, and could possibly even be described as blissfully suicidal. Just to increase level of danger, I will not bring a light meter with me. I will guess, estimate, and shoot. I am quite confident that I have enough experience to get it right, but allure of all this, is the knowledge that if a few frames of film must be sacrificed in the name of increased risk, and a little excitement, then I have made some genuine progress.


AcousticalPropagations 143C

Download: AcousticalPropagations 143C
May 19th, 2015

Frameworks – Music Box (Graviton Intro Edit) (First Word Records)
Roland Klinkenberg – Twilight (Original Mix) (Electronic Elements)
Matan Caspi – Turn The Beat Back (Leventian Re Animiation) (Nero Bianco)
Danny Howells & Stef Vrolijk – Photo Corono (16 Lolitas Mix 1) (Yoshitoshi Recordings)
Thomas Gold & Dirty South Feat. Kate Elsworth – Alive (Original Mix) (Phazing Records)
Steve May – Utoolity Belt (Orignial Mix) (Baroque)
BT, Adam K — Tomahawk (Original Mix) (Armind)
Magitam – Cover Edge (Original Mix) (Ava)
Sebastian Sand – Creeps (Cressida Remix) (Euphonic)
Parker & Hanson – Afterthought (Original Mix) (Anjunadeep)
The Thrillseekers – Waiting Here For YOu (Night Music Edit) (Adjusted Music)

Acoustical Parallel Transport:
Guest Mix, None

Paul Keelly’s Fragmented

FragmentedPaul Keelly, is a fantastic electronic artist. His album, Fragmented, was released about a week ago. I have had a promotional copy of this album for quite some time now. When I first listened to Fragmented I thought very little of it. It seemed like a decent, but not a note worthy album. I listened to it again last week as the release date approached and it is really special. It moves gently, enveloping the listener in sound rather than smothering them in bass and sound. The more I listen to it the, more I love it. This is genuine affection; I have mountains of other music I can listen to. The artwork is simple, but suggests much. Those 3.5″ floppy disks weren’t just prone to fragmentation but corruption as well. They were like serpents simply waiting for an opportunity to strike misfortune upon unsuspecting users. It’s doubtful that anything like that will happen to Fragmented’s listeners, and thankfully those days of hoping your boot disks aren’t corrupted are over. Paul Keelly’s work is available on beatport. It won’t blow you away, but I am confident that everyone will find gems inside this release.

Fragmented on Beatport

Rachmaninov Beginnings

Rachmaninov Prelude in C sharp minor

I have been quite fortunate to have a sister who competed and studied the piano from childhood. I grew up surrounded be some wonderful music. For several weeks now I have been listening to Rachmaninov. During a search of his music on youtube I came across, Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C sharp minor. I first heard this piece when I was about 7, and it was the first time I felt captivated by music. There where songs on the radio I liked, but this was different feeling.

When my sister had finished practicing I remember walking over to the piano thinking did that really come out of this? I got up on to the piano stool. I looked at the keys, I looked at the sheet music, and thought about what I just heard. A myriad of things passed through my mind. Such as the mystery of how a person, notes, and keys, create emotion. I was even looking inside the piano while pressing the keys and pedals.

I didn’t find anything of consequence inside the piano. Strangely, I always though the piece was written by Chopin or Liszt. These were the books I always saw on the piano, I don’t remember ever seeing Rachmaninov’s name anywhere. These details don’t really matter though. I now know, the musical emotional affair started with Rachmaninov. I’m happy to hear, and feel, it once more.

Rules, Completeness, and Style


BCBG Max Azria, St. Vital
Nikon F100
Fuji 400 H
1/60 @ f5.6

Black Caviar Productions:
Angela Vogt Schelleberg
Elayna Bilous
Nikon F100
Fuji 400 H
1/60 @ f2.8


BCBG Max Azria, St. Vital
Nikon F100
Fuji 400 H
1/100 @ f4.5

My camera and I were invited to BCBG Max Azria for the, “Behind Closed Doors,” event. As you may expect the store was bursting with style. Style may take many forms, however fashion is one of styles more ubiquitous manifestations. Fashion surrounds us. I am told that I dress well. I have heard it enough times that I will just accept it as fact, but I wouldn’t dress any differently knowing what I do about fashion. Fashion has provided me with a simplicity and sense of discovery that every physicist craves.

Style is the result of rules that when combined reaches some level of completeness gives birth to something that is, hopefully, esthetically pleasing. Completeness is a concept that I was exposed to during my study of mathematics. Simply, a number of rules or principles are needed to create a system. For example, knowing that the color of one’s shoes should match one’s belt is not enough to make a man stylish. More is needed to be complete and create style.

The various areas of physics like fashion have a style, or underlining rules or principles. Such as Newton’s laws and mechanics, or the postulates that make up relativity or quantum mechanics. Combined, the postulates of quantum mechanics give birth to a hibert space which is like a party in which the hermitian operators are the fashionable guests.  There many other operators in mathematics, but who want such disastrous guests.

Personally, fashion is fascinating, because I simply choose a set of rules, or principles, and discover what they create stylistically. I really do think of every outfit as a system created by a set of rules. The beauty of fashion is that these rules change and can be interpreted differently. Perhaps an intrinsic understanding of completeness is what fashion designers such as Max Azria and other great designers have. They can select a set of rules that consistently give birth to great fashion.

At the end my camera and I found rules, completeness, and style; but what I enjoyed most was the style!


Casio fx-991MS

Nikon FE 50mm
Kodak T-Max 400
1/30 @ f1.8

“Does anybody have a calculator?” The response was overwhelming. Suddenly, there was a kaleidoscope of calculators raised in the air in the grade 7 class that I am teaching in my practicum. I was about to smile and let the students know that I wanted them to do the calculation, when I saw it. The Casio fx-991MS. I wasn’t about to let the students have all the fun. I walked over, plucked it out of air, and cleared the screen. I was going to perform the calculation and give a play-by-play breakdown of the action as I pressed buttons.

My enthusiasm for the Casio fx-991MS is ridiculous. I used it extensively during my undergrad as a physics and math major. Everyone had their TI-89s, I had my Casio.  During that time of late nights and spontaneous calculations I had become quite attached. That’s probably why I have photographed it so many times.

Well, I lost it. After much deliberation, the sales staff actually walked away from me in Staples, I replaced it with the fx-991ES Plus C. I figured I’d try out something new. The ES was shiny and more expensive. It’s good, even very good, but I miss the MS. It was amazing. There are three reasons for this: its weight, you can feel the goodness inside; the stored physical constants, these are the goodness inside; and the engineering mode and entry. I really liked the last one. It is similar to scientific notation; however the appropriate metric prefix can be entered and is displayed with the number. Simple, but fun.

Anyway, when I was done playing with the student’s calculator it was hard to hand it back. I simply said, “thank you,” wondering if she knew how great her calculator really is.

AcousticalDiversions 002

The last time I made a ‘diversion’ DJ set, I was putting a mix together for my friend’s trip back home to the Bahamas. I reserve the ‘diversions’ title for anything different that what I usually do. This is the result of a class assignment. AcousticalDiversions 002 has various samples. This is something I rarely do. This set is also very short, 17 minutes verses the typical 1 -2 hours sets that are the norm. It also has a theme and message. I prefer to say little about the message this set contains. I believe that each person should interpret and travel through the soundscape freely and without restriction. Check it out, I love to hear your thoughts.

AcousticalDiversions 002

November 4th, 2012
Marc Romboy & Stephan Bodzin – Callisto (Joris Voorn Remix) (Systematic Recordings)
Massive Attack – Teardrop (Bart claessen & Tom Fall Bootleg) (White)
Art of Trance – Love Washes Over (Mosic & Zidan Remix) (Platipus)