Posts filed under ‘Musik’


Uploaded a fresh piece of music on Soundcloud. Note this is right off the tape, and still work in progress. The song comes to an immediate halt at about 20 minutes.

The song is called Sway, and as it says on Soundcloud, it’s meant to seesaw by, at 90 bpm (not sure if you can seesaw as fast, or as slow, depending on how you keep stroke on the swing).

Instruments used are drums (VST, 2 different sets), occasionally some electric bass, grand piano, Embracer (synth), Monologue (synth), Padshop (synth), Retrologue (synth), harmonica, mandolin, and guitar.

No change in rythm, Sway is in four-four time, so you won’t have to adjust your seesaw rhythm while listening. Most of the individual parts have 32 strokes, which makes them roughly one and a half minutes long.

I’m thinking of adding more instruments as I continued adding more parts,  maybe some strings (viola, cello mostly), and possibly even some choir. Or maybe I’ll just stick with the current instrument set.


2012/06/21 at 20:05

So Far

My last blog entry is of March 2010. That’s one and a half years ago. I wonder what this means. I also wonder why, from the WordPress stats, more than one person is still looking at this blog each day. Anyway, it’s this time of the year again (in the Northern hemisphere at least) where people start looking back, looking inside, reconsidering. Following the crowd, so am I.

Recently, I’ve noticed that my excitement about social media is declining sharply. I don’t think this is just due to autumn. I’ve never been a trend setter, but certainly a dedicated follower of trends. Whatever is new, hip, trendy, I’m with it. Naturally, I’ve seen trends I follow longer term become mainstream, while trends I eventually lost interest in went away. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the last 20 and guesses about the next 20 years.

Internet? I had no idea of it, but I was on CompuServe in 1992, enjoying to be able to chat with people on the other side of the planet. I had started using computers at 28, and networking, across continents, seemed to me like exactly what those machines had been invented for. World Wide Web? Like Bill Gates, I discovered it in 1995, diving straight into it without a second thought, even trying to make a living out of it (like so many others, and just like them I ended up in what’s known today as the dotcom bubble burst). Mailing lists, forums, wikis? I’m all for these things. Google? I was so happy when it launched – there were too many Internet specialists around before it did. One year later, everyone had become a Web specialist in a way, even venture capitalists, and I think Google contributed significantly to making the dotcom bubble burst.

Next century, next millennium. Wikipedia? I had the same idea in the year 2000, only that I would have based its economics on something similar to Google Ads. MySpace? Kind of boring to me, I had been on Geocities before. There was Facebook, the „MySpace for academics“. I underestimated it, deeming it as boring as MySpace. (And I still do, but I don’t think I still underestimate it. Kind of hard to do so, when 10% of the world population are there.) Blogs? I was a reader, and didn’t see much reason to become a writer. Eventually, I did, but don’t ask me why. Probably because everyone else did. And/or maybe because WordPress is such a brilliant piece of software. I love great software.

Facebook? I eventually gave in and joined, although I consider it an Orwellian machine invented by the CIA. I’ve been on Facebook for a while, obediently sharing stuff from Amnesty International, Avaaz, Greenpeace, Foodwatch, and other NGOs on that platform. And saying thanks to people who wish me a happy birthday. Twitter? I became a big fan of that platform because of the aspect of immediate, unfiltered news. By now, I’ve sent 782 tweets, I’m following 33 people, and 87 people are following me. And even with those small numbers, the signal to noise ratio has become what I consider unreasonable. There are tools like Summify or Twitterfall, but to me it feels like they gloss over the problem, rather than solve it. I still follow Twitter, but with reduced enthusiasm.

To paraphrase Immanuel Kant, „think for yourself“. Gathering more and more information from outside (which is becoming ever easier to do) doesn’t help you think for yourself. After so many years being into it myself, I’d even say it hinders me from doing so. Or, as George Harrison put it, „the farther one travels, the less one knows, the less one really knows“. He wrote that almost 30 years before the WWW took off. For me, the formula of „data -> knowledge -> wisdom“ is starting to become obsolete. I guess that’s because it was never true.

Am I saying the Internet is, at the end of the day, a bad thing, or that the information flow/overflow caused by it has more bad than good aspects? Certainly not. I’ve merely started a process of reconsidering what’s in it for me, for the people around me, for my kids, and so on. I’m delighted to see that the Internet brought the Arab Spring, and I congratulate the brave people in Northern Africa who’ve made use of the Internet to shake off decades of oppression, and finally start establishing freedom and humanity instead. They were able to do so, however, because their oppressors were old and Internet-agnostic. The Internet was the right tool at the right time – from now on, oppressors will know what to do about it. There won’t be a Chinese Spring with the help of the Internet, for example. This is over.

What’s coming up? In 2015, Facebook will be alive and kicking. I guess at least 1.5 billion people will have a Facebook account by then, tripling the 2011 figure. Likewise, Twitter. In 2020, however, Facebook, Twitter, and similar social networks will be nothing but a memory, albeit a strong memory, because so many participated „back then“. In 2030, you’ll have to google for the Wikipedia entry for Facebook to be able to explain it to your children (or grandchildren). By that time, people would simply call you crazy, and probably call the ambulance, if you even considered publishing as many personal data on the Internet as it seems reasonable to do in 2011. That will be a no-no in 20 years.

So what will remain, grow, flourish? Google will. Wikipedia will. New things will come up that I can’t even think of at this point. The Internet in general will be around, dominating every aspect of life, although at reduced speed, so to speak. Long-term aspects will become much more relevant and dominant, short-term things like Facebook comments or Twitter tweets will be more or less on the ban list. Why? Because the Internet will get more and more under the influence of entities such as governments, authorities, intelligence agencies, corporations, et cetera – certainly not a good thing. This will be seconded by a general conception of being eager to regain the ability to „think for yourself“, though, which certainly is a good thing. On balance, will there be more good, or rather more evil?

Rest assured, there will be more good than evil. 200 years ago, people were hanged for theft. (This still happens today, but not in most parts of the world.) Torture was regarded as a regular and justified way to get confessions – why else would criminals admit a crime? (Torture is still everywhere, but it’s regarded as a crime in most places now.) Mankind is moving ahead, never back (at least long term). That’s why the Internet won’t turn into a medium of brain control. Rather than that, it will become increasingly what it started out as – a medium of/for innovation. (If you’re saying it started out as a military network, then you’re probably also saying you need to guard against the surveillance Americans do from their moon bases.)

I’m a musician. In 1980, record companies would not care about my music because they were more interested in marketing mainstream crap. For that reason, I’d not be able to make a living from music at that time. In 2011, you can produce mainstream crap music, and still not be able to make a living out of it, because people will simply steal your music, rather than paying for it. Is that any better than record companies ignoring you? I don’t know, but it shows that, while the Internet has changed (and still changes) everything, lots of things stay the same, although often enough for different reasons.

2011/09/29 at 01:46


Drakestraße, Lichterfelde West, Berlin, GermanyThey say a blog is read by one person on average, which is the blog author himself. This is probably especially true when there are very few new entries, as for my blog, but still a dozen people per day read my articles, even though the last one was published in early December last year. Which reminds me to say Happy New Year to those who read this and who I might have forgotten to send a Happy New Year message to.

I’ve been so silent for two reasons mainly:

  1. Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle on January 26.
  2. I bought an apartment on January 25.

Getting acquired is always stressful. I know what I’m talking about because MySQL, the company I had been working for for five years, got acquired by Sun in 2008. Now Oracle purchased Sun, but this time it was much more painful because the acquisition was announced in April 2009, but we had to wait nine months before it actually went through. For us MySQLers at Sun, this meant working under extreme uncertainty (like for everyone else at Sun), and it didn’t make it easier to know that MySQL was the very reason why it took the EU commission so long to approve the deal. Well, we’ve started joining Oracle now (Germany will do so only in July, from what we know today), but those first couple of weeks are challenging. So, it was „waiting stress“ first, followed by „integration stress“, which has had an impact on my immune system. I can’t remember having had so many colds in so few months like this winter. And it was a long and hard winter … Anyways, I’m happy to know that the MySQL Documentation Team (which I’m leading) is still relevant at/for Oracle, and that we’ll likely remain part of the MySQL engineering department, as we’ve always been. So, for us, change means things will go on the same crazy way as before. People still jump on us for this and that reason, which I consider a good sign, since it means they actually care about the stuff we’re doing. This means we’re relevant, and so is the work I’m doing.

Now we all know that life is a bitch. Rather than letting me take care of one big thing at a time, two big things happened at the same time. The other big thing here was that, after one year and four months of looking for a new home, we finally found one almost exactly at the same time when the Oracle acquisition happened. I’m certainly not the happy-go-lucky kind of guy who can make a fortune out of virtually nothing, nor have I been the lucky heir of a fortune. So I had to find a place inexpensive enough to afford it. The place we found is an apartment in an urban villa in Lichterfelde West in the south-western part of Berlin. I’d definitely love to own the whole house on the picture above, but in reality we purchased one of six apartments there, which is located on the ground floor and the basement on the left side of the main entrance. Well, I won’t complain – my home recording studio will be in the basement, much better than having neighbors above and below. We bought the apartment at a ridiculously low price, but, of course, that came at a price. The house is in good shape, but the apartment itself was a ruin. To turn it into something we can live in, we’re investing a few ten thousand Euros. Normally, in this part of town, you’d pay 2.5 times more than we did, and when we’re done with the restoration, it would still be 1.5 times more. So it’s a good deal, but at the cost of a lot of hours spent to plan and coordinate the works. If you’re interested in the gory details (and many colorful pictures of dust and debris, to whet/spoil your appetite), look here. Anyways, moving there (in April, hopefully) will be very relevant for my family and me: It’s closer to school (Finn has just been accepted at Lennart’s school, so both boys will go there) – when they’re older, they’ll be able to go there with an 8-minute bus ride and another 8 minutes of walking through a park. My home office will be in the apartment, rather than just very close to it, which both has disadvantages and advantages, but I consider the pros more significant than the cons. We won’t have more space than we currently have, but it will be distributed in a better way. And I’ll have a dedicated space for my home recording studio, which will be a five meters walk away from my office. (I currently have no home recording studio at all, in case you were wondering.) The house is located next to a busy main street, but it has a backyard which is fairly quiet. The boys already love it, and I’m confident we’ll have a lot of fun there, turning the garage into a workshop for setting up and inventing all kinds of things. Finn (almost 6) would like to invent a machine that can take us to the frontiers of spacetime, so we can create a black hole there that evolves into a big bang that creates a new universe. This sounds ambitious, but we’ll try, anyway. (Not sure what the neighbors will say, though.) Lennart (8) is a bit more realistic regarding short-term plans: He’d like us to rebuild the ebb-and-flow installation that we saw at the Waloseum in 2008. It will take some time, but we certainly can do that. So our new home is relevant in many aspects, and will become even more so once we’ve moved there.

Now for the music. This keeps driving me crazy. In my last blog post long ago, I’ve outlined the main ideas about what I’m planning to do. In the meantime, I’ve done quite some research on technical things, mostly regarding the home recording studio equipment needed. I’ve discussed various aspects in forums, via phone talks with vendors, and so forth. I think I have a pretty good idea now what to buy first to get started – if I have any money left after the restoration of our new home, that is. I also have Luminita’s mail address now, but prior to asking her for permission to use her lyrics for my songs, I’d like to be able to point her to something I’ve recorded. Maybe I should just buy a video camera and record some of my stuff just like Katie did, but then again the songs I’m writing are meant to be performed by a rock band (uhm, I think I meant to say chamber orchestra rather than rock band), and also I don’t look half a cute as Katie does. In any case, YouTube has just started featuring a channel four „house music“, so it looks like the time is right to start something here. In spite of turning 52  soon, I think my music is relevant today. I’ve been performing music since 1965, which is not an argument but a statement that there’s more behind it than just me practicing 250 years of Johann Sebastian Bach’s pieces on the piano: Whenever I play an A major chord an the guitar (which any guitar player would agree is the most basic thing you can do) it’s like 45 years of active music history popping up in my mind and my ears. Maybe that’s relevant, maybe it’s not. I’d really love Katie to sing some of my songs, because some of them are meant to be sung by a good looking female vocalist, rather than a not so good looking male one. And, of course, I need Luminita’s permission to use her lyrics. I think I can write good tunes, and I also think that some of my poems are quite good, but I’ve never been able to combine my poems and my tunes into something I liked. Using Luminita’s poems and Katie’s voice seems like exactly the right thing to do. But Luminita is in Romania, and Katie is in the U.S., so this doesn’t seem to be particularly easy to accomplish. But, as always, I’ll keep trying by implementing and improving things steps by step.

I can always fail, but so what? Building that machine that can take us to the frontiers of spacetime seems much more challenging to me than making my music successful out in the wild, and, with both projects, I think I have many alternatives at hand that might not be half as exciting or ambitious, but might still yield results that I (or Finn and Lennart, for that matter) can live with. – Lennart prefers me to perform hard rock music, for example. Lately, I’ve created music that’s slightly jazzy (although I hate Jazz music), but he makes me realize I should try harder to create rock tunes. I’ve been playing music to him since he was a baby, and have developed a habit to go by his judgement. Lennart has a good musical instinct I think, so if things fail regarding Luminita and Katie, I can stick to his judgement to help me get over that.

2010/03/22 at 03:06

Stumbling ahead on the way to fame

Since spring this year, I’ve been thinking about ways to become a world-famous rock star. Oh wait – did I say rock star? No, actually I mean I’m going to found a chamber orchestra that will bring a new sound to this world, and in turn become world-celebrated. You think I’m kidding? No, I’m not, but I’m probably exaggerating quite a bit. Or even over-egging the pudding a heck of a lot of a bit. 🙂

Anyway, slowly but steadily I’ve started preparing and  implementing a few things that will help me get there, and I’m planning to post a series of articles on this blog on what I’m doing as I move ahead. In this article, let me start with the core basics, that is, the underlying ideas and reasoning of why I’m doing all the stuff I’ll be doing.

When I was seven, I started playing the violin. I practiced for more than six years, but when I became a teenager I happened to be in the middle of the glitter years, and those years were much more about electric guitars than about violins. So, to the deep disappointment of my parents, I let go of the violin and bought an electric guitar. Years later, I dreamed of becoming a sound technician, and started studying that subject at university. For the entrance exam, I was required to play the piano, so I took piano lessons for about one year. At some point, I realized that I wasn’t particularly good at any of the instruments I (had) played: On the piano, I had barely started playing Bach’s inventions, I hadn’t touched the violin for over five years, and I had never become good at playing the electric guitar. So I gave up my dream, and went to roam the world.

Wherever I went, physically or mentally, there was always a guitar with me, though. For mere practical reasons, I had switched to playing acoustic guitars, however, since it was too challenging to carry amplifiers and stuff in a rucksack. Thinking back, a violin might have been a better choice for traveling, but a steel string acoustic guitar was still easier to carry than an electric guitar with all necessary equipment, or even a piano. So, in the end, I’ve been playing steel string guitars for thirty years. In 1993, I bought a black Fender acoustic guitar, which I’ve been playing until today.

In 2008, just before I turned 50, a neighbor gave me a piano as a present, and I’ve been practicing the piano ever since, focusing on my favorite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach (his wife) is great for practicing as a beginner, but from experience my advice to anyone would be this: Start playing the piano well before you turn 50. It’s not impossible to learn mastering it at that age, but it’s by factors easier when you’re young.

Playing the piano has given me lots of ideas, though, both about sound and music in general as well as about composing songs for voice and guitar. I bought myself a Christmas present in 2008, Oliver Sacks’s wonderful book on music and the brain, which reaffirmed me that music isn’t a question of age. Granted, most of the famous musicians of our days are in their twenties, but there are people out there publishing their first record after they’ve turned 60. So there’s hope.

During the course of my musical „career“, I’ve written many songs for vocals and guitar, starting with pre-punk hippie songs, punk songs, post-punk songs, folk songs, any-kind-of songs. Some of them I still consider quite good, or even outstanding, compared to the popular and successful songs of the respective era, but I’ve never felt like I should preserve them for biographical or future-reference reasons. They were the songs of the eras they were written in. Those eras are gone, and those songs are gone. I’ve never shed tears about the fact that they were never recorded, and have thus gone away forever. Some of the material is still in my head: This may be a guitar chord, a snippet from a melody, or simply a „feeling“ about sound. So the songs are gone, yes, but they’re not gone entirely.

Regarding music composed by others, I have a rather extremist view: I love rock music and Baroque music. Any other musical flavor I view with skepticism, or even straightforward disappreciation. So, for me, it’s all about Vivaldi, Corelli, Telemann, and Bach, and the Beatles, the (early) Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and REM, although I make exceptions: I really enjoy some works of Dvorák, Ravel, Mussorgsky, Mozart, and of course Beethoven. Also, I like Turkish music. Stuff I don’t like includes Jazz and most of Blues, and Wagner scares the hell out of me. But, although I’m a musical extremist, I’m not determined to any particular style of music: I listen to any sound that comes around, and if I like it, I like it. An example is that I normally detest music by Verdi, but I absolutely love the chorus of the Hebrew slaves from the opera Nabucco. I just realize that I could go on and on with a list of examples and counter-examples, so I’ll stop here.

So why am I telling this? Right, it’s about the reasons and the ideas I have about the music I will record, and eventually publish. While I’m writing this, I’m being distracted by music playing in my head (read Oliver Sacks’s book referred to above to understand what this is about). It’s my music that’s playing in my head, music that is deeply influenced by more than four decades of listening to and producing music. Sometimes it’s getting somewhat scary, when the music is there all the time, steadily refusing to go away, or at least withdrawing a bit, so I can do my daily work. I guess it’s trying to tell me to record it on hard disk, and then share it with others. When done, it will be out in the world, and likely out of my head to some extent. And, yes, that’s what I’m going to do.

What will this music be like? Well, that’s hard to describe, and probably somewhat pointless, particularly considering that it will be out there at some point, and, as the saying goes, a (musical) picture tells more than a thousand words. Stay tuned, so to speak. It will be acoustic music, although for a „preview“ version I’ll also use electronic instruments, since I can’t afford to buy a complete set of the instruments that the sound will consist of, and even if I could, I wouldn’t be capable of even vaguely mastering all of them. Even worse, I can’t tell exactly which instruments I’ll be using. Here’s a tentative list:

  • Vocals
  • Guitar (acoustic steel string guitar)
  • Piano
  • Drums (current plans are for a regular set of rock music drums)
  • Bass (I’d like to keep that one acoustic, too, so that would be double bass)
  • Cello, viola, violin
  • Recorded „real life“ sounds

As you might guess from „vocals“ (and what I said above), I’m thinking of classical rock song arrangements, although the instrument set will be much different from a classical rock music setup. Naturally, that different instrument set will also influence the songs, so they likely won’t sound like classical rock songs. But still, the intention is to play (mostly) rock music, albeit heavily influenced by Baroque elements (not just because of the instrument set, which isn’t particularly Baroque, anyway, but bears some analogies). I can’t wait to see if the music in my head will, from a standpoint of ideas, survive contact with (instrumental) reality.

Vocals need lyrics. In November 2008, while I was driving home from a business meeting, I listened to DLF, a German radio station, covering a story about gypsies in Europe, and particularly in Romania. They were heavily citing from a book published by a Romanian gypsy author, Luminiţa Cioabă. I had a hard time purchasing that book, but finally succeeded around Easter 2009. It’s called Poems of Yesterday and Today, and has become one of my favorite books of all times. The original poems are in Romani, and the book includes translations to Romanian, German, and English. Unfortunately, the English translation is the worst (from what I can tell; I can’t understand Romanian, but I can at least guess because it’s so close to Latin). I’ve spent many hours trying to deduce the true meaning of the Romani poems from the Romanian and the German translations, and turn that into something I’d consider proper English. (I’ll ask a friend who’s a native speaker to perform a sanity check.)

While reading Luminiţa’s poems, I’ve cried a river. She’s from the same generation as I am, but has of course grown up and lived in a completely different society and environment (Romania, socialism). Still, her poems strike a chord with me, and I’d say they strike that chord with a sledgehammer. As family tale goes, one of my ancestors was a gipsy, and judging from my sister, my cousins, and myself, that’s a pretty good explanation for much of the weird stuff we’ve been doing in our lives. 🙂 But that’s an aside – even if Luminiţa’s poems have nothing to do with my family history, they’re far above anything I’ve seen in contemporary poetry. From a quality standpoint, I’d compare them with Arthur Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer, a poem for which I started to learn French long ago, for the sole reason of being able to grasp the meaning without having to rely on the German translation. Because of Luminiţa’s poems, I’ve started to look at Romanian and even Romani, to be able to at least partially understand what her poems are about. Plans are to use her poems, and nothing but her poems, for the lyrics of the songs I’m going to compose.

So far, I have three and a half song ready. Here are the titles, without further explanation (which I hope to convey in a future article, though):

  • Suicide
  • Sibiu and I
  • The root of the Earth
  • Trees, flowers, grass, a source

This concludes today’s article. As said, stay tuned.

2009/12/03 at 03:09

Benefizkonzert der DGhK

Am Freitag, dem 3. Juli 2009, lohnt es, sich auf die Reise nach Berlin-Pankow zu begeben. Anlass dieser Empfehlung ist das Konzert „Alles, was wir mögen“, ein Benefizkonzert zugunsten der Juniorakademie Insel Scharfenberg, das um 19 Uhr in der Aula der Rosa-Luxemburg-Oberschule stattfindet.

DGhK-Benefizkonzert 2009, Konzertankündigung, Vorderseite

DGhK-Benefizkonzert 2009, Konzertankündigung, Vorderseite

„Alles, was wir mögen“ ist das zweite Konzert dieser Art: Bereits im letzten Jahr gab es das Konzert „2^3 x Wohltemperiertes“, bei dem Marcus Merkel mit seinen Freunden Josua (am Violoncello) und Charlotte Petersen (an der Violine) sowie seiner Schwester Laura (Klavier & Gesang) zu erleben war – in allen erdenklichen Kombinationen, vom Solowerk bis zum Quartett.

Dieses Jahr setzen sie noch einen drauf – so gesellt sich noch eine weitere Instrumentalistin an der Bratsche zu diesem überschaubaren kleinen, aber feinen Ensemble hinzu: Carolin Krüger. Also sind sie dieses Jahr zu fünft und werden als Solisten, Duo, Quartett und Quintett auf der Bühne stehen – nicht nur Instrumentales, sondern auch Vokales wird zu hören sein!

DGhK-Benefizkonzert 2009, Konzertankündigung, Rückseite

DGhK-Benefizkonzert 2009, Konzertankündigung, Rückseite

Und natürlich bildet der Konzerttitel das Programm: So gehören zum Repertoire des Abends unter anderem Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in cis-Moll, der Schwan von Camille Saint-Saens, einige von Mendelssohns „Liedern ohne Worte“ sowie das Klavierquartett von Gustav Mahler und Vier Klavierquartett-Stücke von Richard Strauss. Vom Rest lasst Euch überraschen!

Das Konzert wird veranstaltet von den Musikern, ihren Freunden und Familien, und dem Regionalverein Berlin-Brandenburg der Deutschen Gesellschaft für das hochbegabte Kind. Die hoffentlich zahlreichen Spenden kommen der Juniorakademie Insel Scharfenberg zugute, die Sommercamps und Ferienkurse für hochbegabte Schüler der Oberstufe veranstaltet.

Marcus Merkel hat einen Videozusammenschnitt aus dem letzten Jahr auf seiner Website veröffentlicht, den Sie sich hier ansehen können.

2009/06/26 at 09:40

August 2018
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