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Tom Pile - Running Dog Music

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Telegraph Avenue

Michael Chabon is an author whose reputation certainly precedes him, and I don't know how I've managed to go this long without digging in to his work. Certainly, there is a nagging concern that what you've heard or read is hype, and that the actual experience is going to be a letdown. 

This is not the case here. Telegraph Avenue is everything I want in a novel and more. It's a deep and thoughful reflection on the relationships between blacks and whites, the intermeshing of cultures, of gentrification and urban renewal. It's a detailed and insightful memoir of a time and a place, populated with a rich tapestry of characters who are fully drawn and completely believable. There's a compelling story that spins an intricate web around you and makes you care about what happens; that involves you in a complex set of relationships between people and their community and the conflicts between their personal histories, their aspirations, their families, and their limitations. Local politics, social responsibility, Black Panthers, kung fu, environmentalism, aging blaxploitation stars, midwifery, the impossibility of being 14 years old -- it's all there.  

And music. Telegraph Avenue pulses with music, both in the many references that become a soundtrack running in your head and in the detailed, lively descriptions of the incredible conflagration of funk, soul, R&B, rock and roll and jazz that bubbled up out of the American cultural melting pot beginning in the Sixties and continuing to this day. If you don't know what a CTI release was, go do some listening. It will add a layer of depth to the experience of this book that is priceless. 

Chabon delivers extremely realistic dialog that includes plenty of street slang and Clarke Peters handles the narration of the audiobook with superb attention to the personalities and characterizations. He gives a believable and authentic voice to a wide cast of characters that includes everything from a 14 year old gay white kid to a nonagenarian Chinese woman, and delivers the narrative in a style that is deeply sensitive to cultural and political connotations. His wonderful voice becomes the music of this experience. 

Dig it.

Why I Am A Buddhist

Finally! My first audiobook production on ACX is out!

I truly enjoyed reading Dr. Asma's book, and I think it's a good listen. While I don't hold with everything he lays out in his "Chicago-Style" Buddhism, Asma's thinking is very broadminded and his approach is generous. He wants to bring everybody into the tent, and focuses on the practical aspects of Buddhist teaching. Very low on the mystical, hippy-dippy stuff, and high on the mind-focusing, ethical living side of the equation. I found the chapters on science and Buddhism and art and Buddhism particularly engaging.

So. Buy the book. It's worth it, and you'll be helping me get hired by more authors and publishers.

The video trailer is here and a special offer for the audiobook is here.


"Where do you come up with the ideas for your music?"

I got this question from a middle school student whose teacher is an old friend who had shared my Murakami promo with her class.

I thought I would share the answer with you.

Fantastic question, Cameron, and it's the all-important one. I could get all big-headed and say that I'm only the medium, and that I just allow the universe or the spirits or God to speak through me, but I won't :-)

It's really much more practical than that.

Music is a very special language, because anyone can understand it. Babies in the womb understand it. Everybody, and I mean everybody, values music in some way. The sources are infinite, and there are innumerable ways that people use this special language to express things that words cannot say.

I recall riding to work one morning many years ago on the back of my friend's motorcycle, in a sleepy daze, when suddenly everything in my ears - the garbage truck's crusher, the traffic, the subway train passing beneath, the wind, the motorcycle, the radio in the car next to us - all at once, I realized that every single sound belonged there, and that I was experiencing a symphony, and it all made perfect sense. At that moment, I finally understood what John Cage was trying to get at when he wrote his famous and controversial piece, 4'33". Music happens always, everywhere. You just need to be able to stop and tune in.

Here's a picture of my studio. I spend a lot of time in that chair just tuning in. There is no end to ideas. You can see the all-important coffee mug on the right.


When I sat down to write the music for 1Q84, I remembered that motorcycle moment, because the opening scene of the book, where Aomame is trapped in a traffic jam on a Tokyo expressway and needs to escape to get to an appointment, reminded me of that magical sense of possibility. The rest was easy.

Software and tools. Much less important than learning to work with what you've got [you've got everything you need to make music in your own body] but here's what I use:

ProTools, GarageBand, Audio Recorder, Super Looper, Jack Pilot, WireTap Studio, and XO Wave for mastering. CamelCrusher, CamelPhat, and Alchemy for sampling and processing.




David Foster Wallace Lives!

Ever struggle with tedium? Who hasn't? Did you know the word "boring" did not exist in the English language until the advent of the Machine Age? I did not, until this fact was revealed in the course of experiencing David Foster Wallace's final epic, The Pale King. This labor of love, painstakingly brought to life by the author's long-time editor Michael Pietsch when the work was left unfinished after Wallace's suicide in 2008, reveals the infinity underneath boredom. Wallace removes the lid from the gaping void that is always right there for those who dare to look. Clearly, he spent a lot of time looking down that hole, for better or for worse.


Wallace has the gift of being able to stop time. He dives deep down in a headfirst rush into a single moment, peeling back the layers of thought, memory, feeling, experience, sensation, and circumstance that overlay every simple act, until they all stand exposed and elucidated. Then, just as quickly, he yanks you back up to the surface, back to the mundane and ordinary, back to the normal, back to the squeak of the wheel in the document collector's cart in the IRS processing center where much of the "action" in The Pale King takes place. Sometimes you feel like a fish gasping for water in the naked sunlight. Sometimes you feel as though you've been given some tremendous gift, a gem of insight that will sustain you and nourish you for years. 


The IRS? As subject matter for a novel? I cannot imagine anyone else who could pull this off. While the book is understandably ragged in many ways, Pietsch has made it hold together so that the undeniable voice of David Foster Wallace comes through loud and clear. The audiobook's narration is handled masterfully by Robert Petkoff. He lives inside the 200-word sentences, the parenthetical asides, the footnotes, and the flights of language that are Wallace's trademarks, making them real, accessible, and meaningful.


David Foster Wallace lives.

Interested? You can get The Pale King for $7.49 @

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