Harbour [Disquiet0456]

A short musical interpretation of the work of Agnes Martin, a painter best known for her parallel lines.

This piece is inspired by the piece titled Harbor Number 1, 1957, and was recorded for my first participation in Disquiet junto project.

I chose “Harbor Number 1” as the subject of my composition. Agnes Martin created this work just after moving to New York City and just before developing her distinctive grid style.

Agnes Martin Harbor Number 1, 1957 | Image from MOMA

Acording to the MOMA page, Agnes Martin created this painting from her studio which was “so close to the East River that she ‘could see the expressions on the faces of the sailors,’”. For some reason this made me think of my childhood in South Baltimore, of the nearby docks and rail stations, and being so inspired I based my work loosely off of this one painting, but really off of Agnes Martin’s work as I experienced it as a whole, and the concept of grids, lines, spirituality, and systems.

I recorded a series of 8 bar phrases using each of the following: A pair of Baoding balls, a pair of clapsticks, a small djembe drum, bubble sounds made by blowing into a heavy glass beaker like object with water inside, drum sound made by setting the beaker down on the table, and 2 separate passes of my voice saying what came to mind.

These 8 bar phrases then became my “lines”.

My kick and snare are made using NI Maschine’s built in drum synths, and the bass synth sound is my Pittsburgh Modular synthesizer box. The kick and snare patterns are dry, and the bass synth just drones a D note on and on. Make Noise Rene is clock synced to the project tempo and modulates filter cutoff on the Pittsburgh synth voice.

Everything was recorded in Maschine and then exported to Reaper for arrangement and mixing.

Cover photo by Jennifer Smutek

Clean Up Aisle About Me

I added the below to my About Me page when I was in the midst of a mental-health crisis. I think it may even have been on my LinkedIn at one point. (yikes!) I’m moving it here because I don’t want it on my About Page, but I want to preserve it. It’s all true, and I’m not ashamed of who I was. I felt the need to broadcast it when I was sick, and having done so I feel the need to preserve it.

Anyway, I do plan to blog more about my life experiences and will likely tell some of these stories in time. For now, I just want to leave this bit of writing here in order to get it off me About Me page.


— Self taught web application developing programming analyst from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m honest, fiercely loyal, autistic (late life diagnosis @47), and an addiction survivor (dope & coke, IV, clean 20+ yrs). Severe anxiety and depression, it sucks & I own it so it can’t be used against me. Been to prison for stealing meat from a supermarket. Sat alone in a cell with a serial killer. Alumni, Baltimore City Jail, D Block, Annex, ECI. Started over in ’99. Stymied by your ever-changing social contracts. Ally. Decent human, interesting too. Once stumped an actuary with simple common sense.

I totally forgot I added that last paragraph, ^ then tonight, when I noticed it and remembered, I laughed, and I decided to leave it.

(it’s all true, if you’re one of my fiends, just ask, I’ll tell you the stories)

🙂 Fuck the haters/

I think equity is important. Everyone deserves a fair shot.


Oh, This is Us

This is an excerpt from one of my “tiny concerts” here at home, where I take some sort of instrument and a little set of speakers downstairs and screw around. Todays concert used my Morphagene skiff (morph, rings, clouds, radio music, wogglebug), my iPad Pro and my Meeblip Anode synthesizer.

Excerpt from todays “Tiny Counter Concert”

The background ambiance (“oh, this is us”) is a recording I made at Pike Place market in Seattle, in April 2019, playback via my MTM Radio Music module. The sines and bell-ish tones are Mutable Instruments Rings being processed with Mutable Instruments Clouds & Make Noise Morphagene. All the aforementioned are being modulated by Make Noise Wogglebug.

The lead-ish synth is my Meeblip Anode synthesizer with a send return feed from my little Cockpit mixer to my iPad pro running Borderlands Granular, Spectrum (iOS Clouds) & Eventide Blackhole. All was sequenced and played via BeatStep Pro, mixed on Endorphin.es Cockpit mixer and recorded to my Tascam DR-07.

For Trees

Track created using Novation Circuit Monostation, through 4MS Dual Looping Delay. 2 channels of Eventide Blackhole reverb & RadioShack CTR-111 tape recorder. Voice is me reading “For the Love of trees”, a poem by Evelyn Ripp.

For the Love of Tree’s

In my mind’s eyes
My far-off forest world
Comes vividly to life,
And again I hide.
The trees know
Why I’m here,
They nod their heads
As they watch over me.

They speak to me and they listen.
I tell them all that I’m thinking
And they keep my secrets.
And they groan and they weep.
Now and then a tree shakes
Frightened by a bad dream.
They’re even capable of suffering.

Trees are self sufficient:
They adapt to every environment,
Bend in the wind and
Stand upright again,
And they regenerate themselves
With every spring.
Yet, something about them
Speaks sadly to me.
They can’t respond to assault —
Fight, or run for life.
it’s as though they opt
To stay dug insideWhere they grew up,
Tied to their roots
Within their native land.

I can still see the forest,
Though it is gone.
It had been harvested —
Cut down.
A new generation of spindly
Saplings sprung up in its place.
They don’t cast shadows yet.
Will they perpetuate the traits
of those distinctive Old Trees?

My deeply heartfelt thanks to you,
Dear Old Trees of righteousness,
Givers of life and sustenance.
For two long years we sat together
Beneath wnter blizzards,
Torrential downpours
As the sky disappeared
Under flashes of lightning
And thunderbolts
Or winds so intense
Sending huge tree trunks crashing.

Without you
Survival was impossible.
And even now,
A longing breaks my heart.

For the Love of Trees
Evenlyn Romanowsky Ripp
The Abandoned, A Life Apart from Life
pp. 157 – 158

Happy Mental Health Month

I originally posted this on LinkedIn, as a statement about mental health, equality, equity, and my own journey.


Autistic Manifesto of Niceness

<2020-05-29 Fri>
~Happy Mental Health Month | LinkedIn 5/30/20, 5:42 AM~

Thank you Johns Hopkins for making this possible. The middle finger picture is for folks who think sharing and equity does not matter. If you think equity isn’t important, then it’s for you too. My life today would not be possible were it not for the opportunity you’ve given me to contribute to your mission, which I find honorable and dignified. You do some crazy stuff too, and about that I’m a pragmatist.

My little boy’s future is brighter because he has 2 parents at home, because my spouse and I formed our relationship on honest and open communications, and we stuck it out together, no matter what. I found my spouse because I was brave enough to come out of my shell, approach her honestly, and make a connection.

My dad blew that Dad part early on, but tried hard to make it up later in the game. He did, it was just too late for me. It was too late for my mom, who still pays for his decisions, and those decisions led me down my own paths. One day, I was able to learn that it’s what I do today that matters, and sometimes, now. I was able to pull it together late game too, but in time for it not to be too late. Connections.

I learned I have autism while working for you, Johns Hopkins, and have travelled a painful, but amazing road of self discovery. It’s truly been epic. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity.

Thanks for allowing me the right to express myself like this as well, Johns Hopkins. To be embarrassed, honest, and open. Thank you for helping me to come out of my shell, even if you do decide to throw me out the window. It’s all good. I understand.

Proud to be me. Yep. If you’re real mad about the middle finger picture, then you’ve completely missed the point, which was my point, entirely. If you think I’m waiting for likes or support, then you’ve missed the point too. Which is kind of the point.

If you still don’t get it, the point is – Don’t judge. Be nice, slow down and listen to the people around you. Folks need to be able to communicate in their own way, and we all need to make compromises, so focus on the shit that really matters. Like honesty. Equity. Sharing. Trust. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, just don’t hurt other people.

Also, practice empathy. I TRY not to judge how others express anger and outrage for transgressions I haven’t experienced. It’s important not to do that, because if you haven’t felt that pain your question should be, how can I help? If you don’t slow down you just might end up missing a really valuable connection.

If that anger touches you, it starts to get fuzzy again. Shit does happen. Always will. Family first, then decency. No matter what, don’t throw down unless you have to, and don’t be provoked. You’ll do okay. Trust me, I’ve been to prison.

I walked out of city jail scared shitless but without a scratch not because I’m some sort of badass, but because I’m a decent person. And lucky, and a tier guard who saved my ass when I’m pretty sure a dude was going to kill me for not giving up my juice box. I didn’t hand it over, not because I’m some kind of badass, but because I knew I needed to hold on. I didn’t check in, didn’t go to PC, just held on. I told him, “fuck you, I drank it.” I lucked out that a bed opened on another tier and a kind African American guard moved me just to keep me safe. Connections.

And decency. I kept to myself when I was locked up and people that matter inside noticed that, and I made it out okay. I sold roll ups in the court yard for a kind African American criminal named Ra who thought I was cool cuz I kept to myself. I remember walking the court yard, and there was a pigeon, in the court yard. It had a broken wing and was stuck there. I remember thinking, man, what a shit deal that bird got.

I almost got beat down when I thought I came up short, with the blue steels, because that’s how it is. I didn’t take it personal, when I left for county, I thanked Ra for the opportunity.
I got scars for shit I did when I wasn’t decent. So I’ll pass on your judgement, thanks, though.

Like, deal with it. Your stories aren’t the only ones that matter. People are living like this, right now. I’ve been there. (PS – the Wire, shit’s really like that. Worse now, from what I hear) So yeah, I’m willing to give up some of my privilege and put my “social rep” on the line. I’ll tell you one thing, my career isn’t over because I’m really good with computers. And nice. And loyal. And decent. And I believe our duty is to empower, not enslave.

I’ll always put my ass on the line for decent people, and walk away from some of the comforts I built up from scratch. With hard work and honesty.

Can you say that?

Anecdotally, I was adopted at 2 months. My name used to be David, then my parents named me James. You can’t make this kind of shit up. Connections. Coincidence. I don’t like that name, David, and no offense to anyone else named David, unless you have shit to hide and debts to pay, of course.

We used to say, in the NA meetings – I’m gonna get real honest up in here. My birth mom was 14 when she gave me up. Apparently my birth dad was military, and I get the feeling he was a decent guy. She was forced to give me up, and that’s all I know. That’s all I want to know. I have a good life today, and I practice acceptance.

That’s okay though, because my family is here with me now, and that other stuff represents a life that isn’t today. I walked away from that life a long time ago, and I know what you were doing to me now. Thing is, no matter where I go next, I know it’s not back to you, and I’ll have a next place to go. Which means, I won. I won on November 19th, 1999 when I stopped shooting dope and coke. When I found my spouse. When I held my little boy for the firth time.

I won because I know I’m surrounded by love, and so are you. And decent people will always do the right thing, sometimes it just takes a little while for them to see it.

I can keep being honest, about the wreckage you’ve caused with your cowardice, the other lives you’ve touched when you lived that lie. I can keep going, but I’ll stop in case I’m making anyone uncomfortable with my flat out honesty.

I’m glad I’m not David, I’m glad I’m Jimmy Smutek today.

Anyway, I digress. If you fuck up, and you will, as we all have, then get back up and try again to do what’s right. Just keep trying. Simple. If there’s ANY chance to understand, look for what matters and focus on connecting.

But like, that doesn’t mean folks shouldn’t be held responsible, especially people who take shit too far.

I’m putting myself out there for all the other people who might be too worried to be called out on a past they already paid for. Because this “social media” shit doesn’t matter if it’s holding you back, everyone deserves to send their own message, and to speak to one another.

It’s just, the answers are so simple. Don’t be mean, try your best, be honest, repeat. No big mystery here. Deceptively simple though. Like the wheel. It’s modular and applicable to many problems, if not, it’s a good foundation to build on.

Call that my weird autistic manifesto of niceness, or whatever. I’m proud of it. I’ll not delete it either. That’s another reason I love Johns Hopkins, and I think they know they need to slow down and listen too, as a whole great big institution. I can see the changes upstream. I think so, anyway. Like our new diversity and inclusion officer, for example, who I personally want to thank for arriving just in time. I hope.

I’m done now. Okay, thanks. It’s still mental health month somewhere. Folks who know me, know I always get the job done just in time. It’s wild, how much one can accomplish with not help from others, flying completely blind. With simple honesty and hard work. Unfortunately, honestly and hard work isn’t enough. I’m proof as to why equity matters.

ps. I have a doctor, stop asking mentally-ill people that. It’s a cop out.


Originally posted to my LinkedIn profile on 5/30/20, sometime around 5:42 AM

I re-posted this here because I’m actually proud of it, which if you don’t understand why, that’s okay. I re-shared it for my friends, and especially for other people like me.

I wrote strictly in metaphor, and kept it honest, and about me.



Particles, grains and birds. Flocks, swarms and clouds. Clouds is a granular audio processor like no other. Clouds is focused on the realtime granularization of incoming audio signals, and their transformation into amorphous textures.

I picked up a Mutable Instruments Clouds module over the break and, though I’m only just starting to get to know it, I’ve been completely blown away by the sounds that come out of this thing.

In this video I have an arpeggiated sequence running, VCA out from the Pittsburgh Synthbox running through the Pittsburgh Reverb module, into Clouds, and the stereo pair out of the clouds to my sound card.

The signal starts out dry with the Pittsburgh reverb coming in around 10 seconds and clouds coming in around 40 seconds. Pressing the freeze button (around 1:08 and 1:40) when the root note hits takes a small slice of incoming audio and freezes it into this lush, atmospheric backdrop that I could just sit and listen to forever.

Networked Midi w/ iConnect Midi 4+

This is a video about me being happy that I finally took the time to hook up network midi.


I sort of have this (totally first world) dilemma where I feel like I need to have ALL MY MUSIC gear hooked up and ready to go, but I also have to have a clean and tidy desk. I do web development for a living, I’m often learning new things and occasionally work from home as well, so I just need to not be distracted by a bunch of drum machines and stuff in front of me when I’m trying to work. Clean & tidy desk is a must.

A clean desk and bunch of synths with their endless wires and shit are kind of at odds with one another. So, I have all my synths set up on a table behind me. It’s a completely “out of the box” set up, meaning I can sequence, record, mix and make music without needing a computer. Awesome, but….

I also like using my computer to make tunes and love sequencing with my Ableton Push. But there’s not enough room on the table behind me for my laptop and my Push, without having to move a bunch of crap, which totally kills the creativity.

I was telling my wife this weekend that I wished there were a way I could just control all the crap behind me, from my desk, but only sometimes. Then I realized that I can, because I have an iConnect Midi 4+.

In the end it was just a matter of running an Ethernet cable from my iConnect to my router, then I was able to use my macs network midi utility to send midi over wifi. Click here to see how to set it up. I use a Thunderbolt 2 dock, from OWC, which has an Ethernet port on it, and I just so happened to have a really long Ethernet cable as well, so I now have my Macbook Pro hard wired to the router as well.

All this means I can now sit at my desk and sequence all my hardware on the other side of the room, which makes me really happy. There’s no noticeable latency when I am playing, but I’m a hobbyist. This may not work for a hardcore keyboard player.

Also, I should mention that the Ableton session on my computer is being used solely to sequence the gear on the other side of the room. If I were to, for example, try to run a virtual instrument in the Ableton session and the drum brute on the other side of the room there would definitely be some latency issues.

For now though, I’m going to get a long ass audio cable to run from the mixer, round the room, and into my sound card, so I can multi track instruments into an Ableton session if I want. Also, my mixer, a Behringer UFX1204, has the ability to multi-track record to a USB thumb drive, so I can noodle around, get some ideas, then pop the USB drive out and pull the tracks into my Ableton session.

One day I’ll have a space that allows me to not have to send midi over my network, and in an ideal world I’d be able to have all my gear directly connected to my computer — but for today I’m glad to have these additional options and this makes me pretty happy. 🙂