Return to Ommadawn

Return to Ommadawn album cover

I can’t imagine wanting to stop listening to this over and over again any time soon. If you’re new to Mike Oldfield, this is an ideal gateway album. That needs to be stated, because just picking up one album at random may not turn you into a fan. It also wouldn’t be representative of his work. Return to Ommadawn is representative of everything MO has ever done.

He’s done his fair share of self-referencing in the past, but this album takes it one step further. There are allusions to the raging leads from Guitars, mysterious vocals from Tubular Bells 2, deafening crescendos from Songs of Distant Earth, lush chords from The Wind Chimes, and a dash of humor from Amarok. RTO slyly slips in to the best parts of his best albums while remaining completely original.

The form is definitely his older style, something I’ve been waiting on for years. What you get is two LP side-sized tracks mostly of instruments played by the man himself. Many passages have only two instruments at a time, giving the album an intimate feel. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the music at several points sounds like the guy on the cover vanquishing that turtle-city thing in a battle of the ages.


★★★★★ It would be difficult not to like this album. Impossible, I imagine, for those who are already fans. Anyone who appreciates a timeless, complex musical journey that reveals more secrets at every listening, this is the album for you.

self portrait practice

Here’s an art challenge to everyone: get better at self portraits. Here are the rules:

  1. Time limit is 15 minutes.
  2. Paper size is sketchbook size (roughly letter size).
  3. Sketchbook must be held in hand while standing up, looking into mirror.
  4. Use only a pencil and an eraser (nothing fancy).
  5. Start with toned paper which does not count toward your time limit.
  6. After time limit, write one new observation about the process on your drawing.

I used this as a warm-up exercise for my high school students in advanced drawing,  and everybody got better.

This was partly inspired by a TED Talk by Matt Cutts on trying something new for 30 days – mostly the idea that you can pretty much pull off improving at anything you try for 30 days.

As a challenge, there is one extra rule: post your progress somewhere on the internet. Below are day by day scans of my progress.

hail remix

remix this music!

I am seeking remixes of ‘HAIL, a bass quartet’ to be released with a new recording of this work, later this year.

If you are interested in remixing this music, first, please read about the piece of music in question: HAIL. This might give you some ideas about the piece conceptually.

Keep in mind that the stems here are rendered with Sibelius, so you may want to work straight from the MIDI or Sibelius (*.sib) files; just ask by messaging me on soundcloud or using this site’s contact page.

remix comps logoThis contest appears on, and winners will be chosen from what is submitted there. Remixes will be posted in the HAIL Remix SoundCloud group and on this page. Feel free to join the group even if you’re not remixing.

Remixes can be any length, but only the best remix for each movement which is close in length to the original will appear on vinyl (just because of physical restraints).

hail midi files

If working with MIDI is easier, here is a zipped archive of MIDI files for each movement. Contact me for the password.

hail stem files

Stems have been zipped up and ready to download from this page:

hail movement I stems

hail movement II stems

hail movement III stems

hail movement IV stems

hail movement V stems

and of course, here’s everything all at once:

Individual files can easily be listened to without downloading by using the SoundCloud player on this page.

hail Blend project

Files are also available as a project on Blend, using the link here.


[table “3” not found /]



HAIL is a quartet for double bass. The five movements make up a cycle of meters, beginning with eight and subsequently losing an eighth note: seven, six, five, and ending up at four (or back at eight, depending on how you look at it).

The first movement has all instruments playing arco. One bass in each subsequent movement switches to pizzicato for the duration of the work. The basses are arranged in an arc around the listener, and the technique changes go from the first to the fourth bassist – left to right.

When hail stones are formed, layers of ice build up on the original frozen water droplet while wind and heat carry the hailstones back up to their original elevation after beginning to fall. This process is mimicked by the technique and meter changes of the movements.

The current demo on Soundcloud was made with Sibelius 7.5.

what to do with useless information?

During an attempt to get Home DepLowe’s to repair the lawnmower from which I violently extracted the pull string, I experienced a taste of the unusual way humans and our digital overlords have chosen to use computing. The mower was purchased over a year ago, so, no, I did not have a receipt. Somehow knowing my dad’s phone number and the month (just the month, not the year) it was bought, the clerk was able to pin down an invoice number which would later be used thus:

An actual human will go through our microfiche archives to determine whether or not you signed up for the Extended Advantage plan, which will allow me to refer you to one of our certified technicians.

IMAG0243She really said those words. Sinking into moderate despair at the thought that anything could ever be run like this, and that more than likely actual governments are probably being run in more insane ways, I was pretty resigned at this point. I offered the digital image pictured here, asking if it helped. This was the reply:

That’s good information to have, but it doesn’t help.

From this point on, I pretty much zoned out, as 103% of my mental energy was directed at the philosophy behind that statement. I would disagree and say that on the contrary, non-helpful information is by definition not good information. Useless information is, in many circumstances, equivalent to misinformation or even a total absence of information. How could it possibly be good, in any scenario, to have information that doesn’t help you at all? Information’s quality  is directly related to its usefulness.

By now, I had wandered off to aisle 73 or whatever and found myself in front of lawnmower pull string thingies for $4. I got one, went home, and in my DIY fervor, ripped open the plastic bag it came in only to find that the instructions I would surely need were printed on the bag, the most important part rent illegibly in twain. I felt a little solace in the fact that had I had the information on how to proceed, it would have been good, because it would have helped me. (Although, what would have really helped was READ THIS BEFORE NOT READING AND SUBSEQUENTLY DESTROYING being printed on the bag.)

Following my application of forensic typography, I gathered that all the instructions told me to do was to make the broken thing not broken any more. This was when I first realized that all the package contained was a piece of rope and a handle  which would be impossible to attach to it: a parlor puzzle with tautological instructions.

In the end, I fixed the mower in about 20 minutes, only a wrench and a screwdriver, not ninth-degree microfiche, involved. The moral of the story: if your lawn mower starter cord breaks, it’s not that hard to fix; this is good information because it is helpful.

be as full stack as you can be

This post is in response to Stephen Hay’s post Put the “designers should code” debate to rest.

First of all, I think the big answer is that designers should code more. To truly design something is to consider all aspects of the subject: use, misuse, ethics, aesthetics, and so on, but definitely including the media. The implementation of an idea is bound by (as in, limited to) one’s understanding of the chosen media.

Therefore, one can not design something for the web without coding. This is beyond argument to the extent that it’s all code when a computer is being used. To say you ‘design for the web but don’t code’ parallels a painter who paints but doesn’t understand (and therefore cannot intelligently apply) principles of viscosity and solvency; just because you have a finished product in a certain medium doesn’t mean you understand everything about that medium. Designing something  as opposed to just making something) necessitates expert understanding of the medium. Anything less means that your product was poorly designed, in other words, not actually designed.

Consider the well-tempered clavier; this piece was well designed because of the composer’s expert understanding of the media: the notes as well as the instrument. Written 100 years prior, this piece could have only been an interesting study in ‘what might be’ if the music could be played in one sitting on one instrument.
The more code a web designer knows, the less his expressions are limited, and the more those expressions can be realized. This also means that ideally, a programmer needs  knowledge of graphic design and art history.

This becomes an extension of the full-stack programmer argument. Being versed in the full stack is a start. As long as the presentation medium is the web, a web designer’s stack should include visual representation, just as a writer on the web’s stack should include character encoding knowledge and a composer on the web’s stack should include music markup.

The logical extension of all of this is that one’s sphere of knowledge should be ever-expanding. Although the danger to this is a spiral of DaVincian lack of accomplishment due to learning new fields, the alternative is thinking you already know enough. Try to learn everything and be as full stack as you can be.

current definition of art

components of an artwork

A work of art has been fully realized when an artist actively participates in the actions of creating, shaping, and framing. When only one or two actions have been done, this only means that the artwork is not as fully realized as it could be.


Since ideas can exist independently of things, there are no physical properties associated with this action. Creating an artwork could be anywhere from having an inclination to make a particular thing to a deep meaning behind something.


Shaping is the rearrangement of raw materials in order to trade one system of organization for another.


The spatial and temporal boundaries which contain the work establish a frame for an artwork’s beginning and ending in space-time. The simplest form of framing is a change in perspective.


An assumption I make when using proportions in placement, repetition, size, and so on is that mathematical  relationships (such as the golden ratio) can be detected at a subconscious level and higher, and in this way are interesting to the viewer.

role of appropriation

When one artist uses another artist’s art, the former has had an active part in at least creating and shaping, and includes framing if the entire artwork was used. Examples of other people’s art (OPA) include photographing an uncited source, use of a font the artist did not create, and collage. My work seeks to be appropriation-free in order to maximize originality in the creative phase of art making.

torah stitch by stitch typesetting

to-engageThe nature of my involvement in this project has changed for the better. Putting my graphic design skills to use, I am now one of 3 typesetters for the project, and will be creating the diagrams which participants receive upon signup. I consider this to be a great honor and am privileged to have found a way to combine typography and Torah. There is a depth of personal meaning for me in this intersection.

If you’re wondering why the typesetting process involves more than just making sure all the letters are in the right order, there are many other considerations which must be made. In order to justify the columns, for example, one must use a combination of word spacing, kerning, and stretching certain parts of certain letters.

My stitching contribution to the project will continue as well, but I plan on slowing down in order to allow time to do typesetting.

Don’t forget to sign up to be a part of this incredible project.