How does one summarize a year like this? Words like “unprecedented” seem trite, and we learned from our experience with 2016 that even a difficult year has its beautiful moments. 2020 started out normal enough, with our annual pilgrimage to NAMM but quickly veered into surreal territory, and that was before the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced…on my birthday. Everything that has happened since has happened in the shadow of the pandemic. Perhaps the lowest moment was losing our dear friend Serena Toxicat. But the year has also brought unique experiences and opportunities, such as making music with musicians I admire together on opposite sides of the country. Indeed, as I was grieving the sudden loss of Serena, I received a call from my then-new collaborator G Calvin Weston offering comfort and support, and we have developed a closer friendship along with our musical collaboration. That moment perhaps summarizes the complexity of 2020 as much as any.
It has also been a banner year for CatSynth TV with rapid growth in viewership and subscriptions, but also the craft of making the videos in a variety of structures: synth reviews, interviews, documentaries, and art pieces. Of course, a few things remain active on the blog, our cat-and-music pics, Wordless Wednesday, and the occasional article. But for the most part, the transition from blog to video is complete.
The year ends on a note of optimism for 2021. The vaccines are arriving (we just need to make sure people take them); things are a bit more hopeful politically in the country, and we can start to repair the damage of the past five years. The album I have been working on – a musical statement – is coming together and will be released in the first part of the new year. Our little household at CatSynth HQ is safe and healthy and closer than ever – even Sam Sam and Big Merp seem to be getting along better now. And of course, we’re going to continue to share more videos, images, and ideas.
2020 has reminded us that we cannot know what is in store, and that improbable things can have a tremendous impact on our lives. We will face what comes as best we can, and focus on what is most important. And thank you for continuing to be a part of this journey with us.
We have been having some amazing weather in San Francisco over the past week. Warm, hot even, not too windy. Perfect for spending some time out on the patio. And as I enjoy a glass of wine and some snacks, taking in the sounds and textures of urban summer, Big Merp has discovered that he, too, enjoys some outdoor time.
In true cat-like fashion, he wanders the perimeter, and when things seem “secure”, he just relaxes nearby.
Seeing him wander the patio with his tail up reminded me of Luna, who also enjoyed her time out here. I think she would be proud (Sam Sam is more of an indoor-only cat and has rarely ventured outside, but she enjoys looking out windows).
The first pairing features a dark zinfandel (Amador County) with dry Spanish chorizo; the second is a chardonnay with Port Salut cheese and a spicy calabrese salami. Indeed, it was the latter that inspired me to re-release the “commercial” as a standalone video.
Big Merp came over to sit underneath, probably in the hope that something would fall off the table.
I like the way the combination of Merp’s fur, the afternoon light, and the colors of the slate contrast with the bright blue of the table.
We hope you are enjoying your weekend. For us, it’s back to the studio to work on our next video…
Getting the two cats to coexist at CatSynth HQ has a long and sometimes bumpy road. Sam Sam in particular has a tough time of it. But things are starting progress to the point were we at least of tolerance and respect. Sam Sam mostly stays on the mezzanine level of HQ, splitting her time between the bedroom and the studio, but she is starting to come out more and reassert herself as the sassy queen of the house.
Big Merp has the run of the downstairs level and enjoying both the relaxing and fun of living here.
He does sometimes come upstairs. In this photo, he jumped up on the main studio console that houses the Nord Stage, Prophet 12 and Pro Tools workstation, and has found a nice hiding place behind the monitor.
From his perch, he supervised part of the postproduction for our latest CatSynth TV, which you can now see here.
Sam Sam also hangs out in the studio a lot. In this video she gives as a little mew as a greeting.
We have exciting news. Big Merp (aka “Marlon”) has come to live with us at CatSynth HQ!
That is a soulful face a cat who has seen a lot in his short life (our vet thinks he actually isn’t that old, but life on the streets can certainly age one quicky). Due to circumstances beyond the scope of this site, our buddy in Oakland found himself needing a new place to live – otherwise, he would be back out on the streets. We’ve come to know him and love him over the past year, so it seemed like the obvious solution to welcome him into our home. Things were rather tentative at first, a new place and concept in a new city.
But it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable, and now he practically owns the place.
Sam Sam, on the other hand, is not too pleased with this intruder into her idyllic life. She has been a bit nervous and skittish, often looking for places to hid and decompress.
She has mostly stayed on the upstairs level while Big Merp mostly stays downstairs for the time being. Their encounters to date haven’t been all that friendly, but Sam Sam is slowly gaining confidence. She prefers to stay upstairs, and I’m doing my best to shower her with affection and remind her that this is still her home and she is my special little girl.
Merp is a very friendly cat, but Sam Sam has had some bad experiences in her past and it’s understandable she’s taking a little longer to adjust. I certainly hope that in the long run, they get along.
Our feline neighbor is back and enjoying himself on one of the terraces behind CatSynth HQ. You can see his face through the glass bricks, albeit in a Cubist sort of way.
Nothing wrong with his being there. I for one love to see cats enjoying themselves. But his presence brings out both Sam Sam’s curiosity and territorial instincts, and she was quickly back up on the ledge to investigate – and to assert her territorial claims. We managed to capture a bit of it in this video.
It definitely makes a bit nervous to have Sam Sam up there, but there really is no stopping a determined cat. It’s also a reminder that I need to replenish that wine rack. The one bottle that remains is from Armida Winery, whom we featured in a CatSynth video back in June.
This is a good time to remind folks that you can follow her antics regularly on our Instagram @catsynth. Please do follow us if you feel so inclined.
The main rug is definitely one of her favorite spots and shows evidence of her frequent scratch’n’rolls. Honestly, we don’t mind as we delight in her antics. But it does require vacuuming, which is on deck for today. I know she is not going to enjoy that, but it is necessary.
Fortunately, she has other spots to enjoy around HQ, including this comfy chair in the loft.
Honestly, I wanted to sit there to read 😸
We hope you all have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.
It’s been a stressful few weeks for us at CatSynth. Not bad per se, just stressful. During times like this, I often lie down to reduce psychic entropy and practice disintegration of thought. And Sam Sam is often lying down next to me.
Like most cats, Sam Sam is quite good at napping. One might even say she is an “expert sleeper”, but that might cause confusion with one of the modular-synth manufacturers we sometimes feature. She does have her own unique way of curling up, though, pull her tail close to her head and sometimes even grabbing it with her paw. It’s adorable, and it never fails to make me smile.
She enjoys the soft blankets, either the burgundy or gray. But she almost always chooses the same corner of the bed. This is not surprising, as all of us at CatSynth are creatures of habit.
We hope you all have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend. For us, it will be a bit stressful once again, but with very focused study and practice on both the technological and musical fronts. But I will do my best to keep Sam Sam’s example in mind as I work through it. We can learn much from our cats!
We have been noticing a new feline presence around CatSynth HQ, through sounds and bits of motion. But this is the first time we saw him/her on the patio ledge. It’s a little tuxedo cat, like Sam Sam.
This cat presumably lives in one of the apartments just beyond our patio. We often see him sitting on the ledge behind this glass-brick window.
As one might imagine, Sam Sam is rather curious about this new cat outside her windows.
She is a bit anxious and agitated by the cat’s presence, and often jumps up on this sideboard and even the window ledge above! Her is always fully fluffed during these encounters. I suspect she is feeling both intrigued and territorial at the same time. (We have already started clearing off the most fragile items and tchotchkes from the glass table).
We hope you have a great weekend. And we’d love to hear about adventures your cats have with their feline neighbors 😺
Sam Sam has her usual spots, but sometimes she sits down in unexpected places. For example, yesterday she entered “kitty loaf” mode in front of an overflow shelf just outside the studio that continued several old E-MU modules.
The E-MU Orbit, Carnival and Classic Keys are all variants of the first generation Proteus. The Orbit, in particular, was iconic in its time, but all rather obsolete now. I do still use my Proteus 2000 module (a Vintage Pro with Mo’Phatt and Beat Garden expansion ROMS) quite often – you never know when you might need a few lines of Mellotron flute or strings or a classic highly-filter-swept drum loop. There are other ways to get these musical elements, but the P2K remains quick and accessible. The Morpheus also still has a place of honor in the studio.
Both of these later-generation E-MU instruments had more to offer, especially the z-plane filters that the Morpheus took to the extreme. These days, I do find myself experimenting with the Morpheus Eurorack module from Rossum Electro-Music more than the old E-MU box, which is just the z-plane filter with CV-controlled parameters. Even after using it extensively in recent shows, I still have a lot to learn and practice with it.
When we’re not up in the studio, Sam Sam enjoys spending time on the living room rug and perfecting her patented “scratch-and-roll” move.
I have too many photos of her in this pose now, it’s just hard to resist. Of course, what she wants is not a photo, but pets and then brushing. I am more than happy to oblige.
Sometimes Sam Sam ends up in CatSynth pics of her own, as when she recently got up to explore the redesigned studio space. She is fascinated by the new decorative shelves as well as the narrow band between the video/office corner and the modular synth.
Perhaps she is picking up some scents on the modular case from our recent live performances.
I have been having a lot of fun in the studio lately, especially making videos and exploring our synthesizer collection in greater depth. I really should be working on some more formal compositions, but it seems I am in more of experimenting and exploratory mood at the moment. I have also, unfortunately, been battling insomnia. It ebbs and flows, and on the worst night (about a week ago), I decided to sit up for a while and play with the Roland JP-08 boutique synth.
The size is actually ideal for playing in bed late at night. I spent some time exploring the architecture (it’s basically a Jupiter 8 with a few extensions) and came up with some new and unusual patches. We hope to share them with you in an upcoming CatSynth TV.