My trip to Burning Man 2015, sonically, via Coney Island’s great Dreamland fire of 1911

October 6th, 2015

Paul Belger of Flux Foundation, an art collective based out of San Fransisco that builds large scale public art, invited me to be a part of an interesting project for Burning Man 2015. Flux was building an interactive art piece inspired by Coney Island’s historic Dreamland amusement park that tragically burned down in a colossal fire in 1911. The Flux team wanted me to create music/sound for the experience. The project had many aspects which I enjoyed: sound design, location recording, incorporating found sounds, and historical research, so I gladly accepted the offer.

Dreamland, along with Steeplechase Park and Luna Park, was one of the original iconic theme parks of Coney Island from the beginning of the 20th century. It was built in 1904 and was designed to be bigger and grander than neighboring Luna Park. It had a tall central tower, a railway that travelled thru a Swiss alpine landscape, gandolas on a Venetian canal, lion tamers, side shows and thrill rides.






In the beginning of the 1911 season while preparation work was being done late at night, there was an electrical malfunction. In the ensuing darkness, a worker who was calking a leak spilled a bucket of hot pitch which started a fire. All of the buildings were made of highly flammable material and the fire spread quickly thru the park. Unfortunately the near by high pressure water pumping station malfunctioned and by morning the park was totally destroyed.



The theme of Flux’s Dreamland is wonder, carnivals, childhood rides, and memories of the past. The installation consists of a central spire reminiscent of a spinning carnival ride along with other surrounding sculptures which have lighting, flame, and sound effects. These effects are controlled by the spinning of the central spire which onlookers are encouraged to do.






On reflecting on what kind music/sound I was going to produce I knew that traditional “music” wouldn’t be appropriate. The pacing of regular music wouldn’t have worked because the sound had to go on for hours and hours. I also wanted the sound not to be intrusive to the experience and be more of a background element. I decided an ambient soundscape that slowly revealed different evocative sounds from carnivals, the past etc., was the way to go….

I veered away from the more obvious childlike, dreamy carnival sounds and went toward something more ominous and darker, possibly foreshadowing the fire. The team at Flux agreed that it was a good creative direction. I produced five different pieces ranging from 30 to 60 minutes each with low pulsing drones, static, and vinyl crackle, along with recordings of carrousels, carnival music, barkers, rides and crowds that I captured on location at Coney Island (The historic Cyclone roller coaster included!). It was rewarding to incorporate authentic sounds from the actual location the sculpture was inspired by.

Here’s a video of Dreamland when the carousel section of my piece was playing:


Here’s a video of when a more ethereal section was playing, incorporating music box piano, roller coster sounds, crowd, and dreamy/hazy ambient sounds:


It was a great project all around and I was grateful to be a part of it, thank you Paul!

On a side note, the historic Coney Island B&B carousel, built there in 1906, has been recently refurbished and has a beautiful German-made Gebruder Bruder organ. Turned out it wasn’t working the day I went there, which I only realized after I paid for the ride, sat on a carriage, and turned on my recorder. The carousel music I was recording was coming from a CD playing thru speakers and not the organ I was looking at!

I was determined to get a real carousel organ “on tape” so I went to Brooklyn Bridge Park which houses Jane’s Carousel, a 1922 carousel made built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and originally located in Youngstown Ohio. I got some great recordings of that organ, from on and off that carousel, which ended up in my Dreamland pieces at Burning Man 2015.

It’s Good For You

June 18th, 2015

I had the opportunity to work on a project for industry veteran Linda Lucchesi, owner of Memphis’ legendary Simply Grand Music which is the home of Sam The Sham and the Pharaoh’s “Wooly Bully”!

“Red Rose Blue” caught Linda’s attention which led her to ask me to remix “If It’s Good To You (It’s Good For You)” written by Dan Greer and performed by Barbara and the Browns, a southern soul and gospel vocal group led by Barbara Brown and backed by her family. The band released music from the early sixties to the early seventies.

My approach for this remix was that I didn’t want to just take a snippet or hook of the track and add new material the way many remixes do, instead I wanted to honor the song and work around it’s form and performance. I considered it more of a “re-production” as opposed to a “re-mix”.

The individual stems that were sent to me straight off tape were lead vocals, background vocals, bass and drums together, congas, piano, 2 guitars, horns, and congas. I kept all the vocals as is and re-arranged the background vocals a little. I processed the horns, guitar, and drums in different ways to sound like vinyl samples so I could trigger from a sampler and achieve a “crate digging” hip-hop production vibe. All the other stems I didn’t use. The new material I added were a huge kick and snaps/claps beat and I also recorded some new guitar at 1:15.

Snippet of the original song from the album “The Women of The Sounds of Memphis”:


My remix here:


The remix as featured on Rookie Blue Season 5 Episode 4:


Get on iTunes

(c) 2014 Simply Grand Music, Inc.

Bash out an A chord

December 31st, 2014

“Sometimes you have to forget all of the theory and just bash out an A chord” – Mike Manuele (music educator/guitar teacher/mentor)

“Ripped Jeans in Love” – Firstcom Darkfly (UPPM)


American Idol and the Birth of Hip Hop

December 31st, 2014

A track I wrote called “Birth of Hip Hop” available on Firstcom’s Darkfly series (Universal Publishing Production Music) was used on American Idol Season 13 as background in a segment where the contestants are goofing on each other. The track has the spirit of early 80’s hip hop in its blending of 60’s and 70’s disco/funk/soul samples.

The production of hip hop of that time was interesting because a track could have samples from multiple records made in different studios with different producers using different equipment to create an interesting blend of sounds (and music production technique history!) in one track. Artits like Public Enemy took this to the extreme by mashing/layering together tons of samples to create one production “sound”.

“Birth of Hip Hop” mixes imaginary samples created using different “aging” techniques such as tape emulation/compression, tube saturation, vinyl crackle noise, and eq filtering to simulate the sonics that an early 80’s hip hop track might have had.

The drums and bass guitar are produced as if they might be a drum break from a 70’s record with typical tape saturation and no reverb or ambience. The piano hook is filtered and distorted along with vinyl crackle to emulate a 60’s Motown sample. The guitar riffs could also have been from the 60’s, maybe from a garage rock (or “freakbeat” as they might call it in England) record. The horns stabs could have been from an early 80’s disco record. All of this combines to create a lighthearted blend of samples and sonic colors.


“Birth of Hip Hop”:


Rebuilding The World Trade Center

July 18th, 2014

I was fortunate to have three tracks included in an incredible documentary film by Marcus Robinson called Rebuilding The World Trade Center. The film features amazing time-lapse footage of the construction process as well as drawings and paintings by the filmmaker created onsite. It’s truly a work of art and I am honored to have a small part in it. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 in September of 2013 and an eighty-eight minute version of the film will be broadcast September 2014 on the History Channel.

The first clip uses “Recurrent Act 3” from the Evil Designs release published by Immediate Music:


The second clip uses “Nihilist Tendencies” and “Cavernous Black” from Firstcom’s Darkfly published by Universal Music:

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