Music Listening: Vinyl - Tour de France - Kraftwerk

I have a couple of recent vinyl pickups which I will be posting here over the next couple of weeks. The first one up is the album Tour de France from Kraftwerk. This is a 2009 reissue of the album and I received this as a birthday present. If you do not know who Kraftwek are, they are an electronic music group from Germany who has been around since the 1970's. They are early pioneers of techno and the Berlin techno scene. Their music is sometimes quintessentially identified as "robot" music since the beats and rhythms are very mechanical. The group is also known for their live performances and visuals. 

This album follows in their standard music profile so if you know that you like or dislike Kraftwerk then you will know what you are getting here. The opening tracks on side A, Tour De France Étape, are probably the best tracks on the album. They are a relaxing, almost downtempo collection of synthetic textures. 

The album also features a really nice 20 page artbook, which is a collection of typographic images. It is a nice touch for those out there who are collectors of that sort of stuff. 

Great album and certainly a good evening listening type of album to put on while reading or relaxing. 

DM'ing My First Dungeons and Dragons Session

This past Friday I had the opportunity to be a Dungeon Master for my first session of playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Go ahead...Chew on that....Yup, it is the same D&D that you saw stereotyped when you were a kid. 

I always had a fascination with D&D. I was a nerd at heart growing up and I almost certainly would have played D&D as a kid if my friends played it. A few years ago I got my first taste of roleplaying when I decided to try out Pathfinder when visiting the Wandering Dragon game shop in Plainfield. 

Pathfinder is an RPG system much like D&D. I played a few times at the shop, but it sort of fell by the wayside when there weren't a lot of people organizing games. 

D&D came around about three or four weeks ago when a group in Elmhurst was looking for some people to play. I jumped in and went to the first session. Unfortunately, the DM who was supposed to lead the session never showed up and the three of us who were there were left wondering what we wanted to do. Luckily the Elmhurst library happened to have the D&D 5e starter set on their shelves so I popped it open and we dove into trying to do that first game on a whim. I found that I enjoyed the session while reading through it. 

And that is how I found myself a couple of weeks ago volunteering to lead a regular session on Friday nights in Elmhurst. 

I was nervous all of last week. I only had about two days to try and figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing. I had papers and print outs and books and all sorts of paraphernalia crammed into a book bag.

The night started last Friday and we were away. I couldn't tell if I had enough stuff with me. Did I print up the right sheets? Did I bring the notes I needed? Did I have too much stuff? 

Thankfully the group we played with was pretty good.  Everyone had the same idea of just telling a story and having a good time. The night turned out to be a success and Megan even jumped into the fun and had a good time. 

Friday night ended with a huge sigh of relief and I think everyone had a good time. My first DM experience was a success. I think I may end up doing more of this. 


Légère Artificial Clarinet Reeds - I'm Never Going Back to Cane

Anyone out there who is a woodwind player knows the nightmare that is having to deal with reeds. They are expensive and finicky. You are lucky if you get a couple in a box of ten that are good. At one point I used to be one of those individuals who would sit there an sand my reeds, tweaking them to try and get them to be better. It was a pain and it honestly never worked. 

I have had my eye on various artificial reeds now for a while. Reviews are mostly positive about them, but you always see purists who just won't have anything of them. I noticed that someone in my section was playing on a Légère reed a few weeks ago and she said she loved it since she picked it up. That was it for me after dealing with another night of a sub-par feeling Vandoren. 

I ordered a Légère the very next day. It was not cheap, around $30 on Amazon. When it arrived two days later I put it on my clarinet and the different was noticeable right away. It was immediately responsive when playing and I knew right then and there that I would probably never play on a cane reed again. Why had I waited so long to get one of these? 

Now, playing on the Légère does feel a bit different than a traditional reed. First off, the surface is incredibly smooth and my bottom lip was sliding all over the place. The overall reed characteristics are also different than a normal reed. The tone is for the most part excellent, but if you aren't careful with your embouchure, the open holed notes like the middle G, A and Bb can sound very "plasticy". The rest of the notes above the break and in the low register sound great though and with a little bit of careful playing the open tones sound fine as well. 

I initially had some trouble playing the high register notes well above the staff, like the high E, F and G. I think I may have been biting down on the reed too much, causing it to stop vibrating. I think most of that will just come with some time on the reed. 

I'll also have to see how long the reed really lasts. Will it last a year? More? Less? We'll see, but I am super pleased with my initial impressions.