Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fixing the buzz in my M-Audio AV-40 speakers

A couple of nights ago, I woke to the sound of my UPS going "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE." I stumbled out of bed, shut down my computer, hit the reset button on the UPS, and went back to sleep. The next morning, I discovered evidence of gremlins. My computer was being weird instead of booting up ("whirrrrr ... whirrrrr ... whirrrr"), which was solved by a tip from Matt: unplug all the USB devices. I don't really understand the bug, but the fix worked. (Maybe I should have fewer than eleventy billion USB devices connected to my computer at all times? Nah.)

To my dismay, a secondary problem presented itself: my speakers were buzzing. They continued to buzz after switching them off and on again, removing the input, plugging them into another outlet, and smacking them around a few times. A quick Google pointed to a solution: replace four stupid bulging piece-of-shit capacitors.

How annoying. Lucky for me, I am really good at soldering. No, really, it's my superpower. Things I enjoy soldering include copper plumbing pipe and Theremins.

Here are the replacement capacitors, purchased from Mouser Electronics, which is a pretty great website where I could probably get very lost if I were a soldering Ph.D.:

I am kind of quirky when it comes to my soldering talent. I like to solder on the floor, and my favorite soldering iron is a desoldering iron, which I use to both desolder and solder. That little puff bladder gives me more control.

Here are some progress shots.

Matt's action shot. I can't take my own pictures of myself soldering because it requires both hands and sometimes my mouth.

The dumb capacitors have been desoldered, and I am inserting the new capacitors into the vacated holes.

Snipping the leads.

Applying the deadly flux.

When I built my Theremin, I gave myself a mild case of flux poisoning, so these days I am careful to breathe in as little of the delicious flux smoke as possible.

And hey, look at that, I fixed them. No more buzz. I've also headed off the possibility of any one of these capacitors randomly exploding and barfing all over the circuit board, ruining everything. That happens sometimes. Just ask Matt, who lost his AV-30s to exploding capacitors.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tenth Anniversary recap! AUSTRALIAN SURPRISE!

On September 7 (yes I know it was over two months ago, shut up, I've been busy), Matt and I celebrated our tenth anniversary.


We have been married for ten years (and two months, and two days).

Usually the first reaction we get when we tell people how long we've been married is incredulity, because we apparently don't look old enough to have been married for ten years. And it's true, we were basically little tiny babies when we got married. I mean, look at us:

We're wearing matching wedding diapers
The story of how we met and married is kind of epic, but the very, very short version is that we began corresponding over a love of Nine Inch Nails back in August 2000, and we met and fell in love when I came to the USA on vacation in April 2002 (for a recap of the tenth anniversary of that vacation, including goofy pictures, see this blog post). In December of that year, Matt came to Australia to meet my clinically insane family and propose to me, and in June 2003, I moved to the USA on a K-1 fiancee visa. Technically, when I slipped that engagement ring on my finger on New Year's Eve, we had been in each other's company, face to face, for a total of three weeks. A lot of people thought we were nuts to take the plunge, but we thought we'd be nuts not to do it. And here we are, still in love and having adventures, more than a decade later.

As I mentioned in a previous post, for our anniversary, we threw at party at PhilaMOCA for our friends, and played an Up Your Cherry gig with Jess Lennick guesting on bass, and Jamie Keagy from Slow Andy and Chris Braak contributing some guest vocals.

That was the plan. But as it turned out, a whoooole other subplot was unveiled that wasn't in the script. While we were setting up the space that afternoon, Matt got a phone call from his dad, who wanted to vet a couple of people with whom he had been corresponding for some time. "Matt, I've been talking with these Australians who claim to be friends of Melissa. They're planning on showing up tonight, and I just wanted to check with you that you do know them ... Jason? And a ... Linda Chesterton?"
"Don't tell Mel."

Jason and Lucy are my best friends in the whole world. We have a history that I can't even begin to describe, but it's long, and intense, and amazing. I hadn't seen Jason since he came to visit us five years ago, and I hadn't seen Lucy since I was last in Sydney in 2006. Of course, I'd sent them facebook invites to the anniversary party, because, well, I wanted to include them, but it was a wishful thought; I never dreamed they'd be able to attend. That's at least 20 hours of travel both ways, and thousands of dollars. Neither of them had been able to make it to our wedding back in 2002, and that was completely understandable to me.

But back to the linear version of events. Two of the first people to walk through the door at PhilaMOCA were my friends Julie and Meiling. This was unexpected. Back in 1998, Julie and Meiling had been Texan exchange students at the University of New South Wales, and they lived in share housing with Jason and me; Matt and I had stayed with Julie in Dallas on our Roadtrop last year, but I hadn't seen Meiling since she left Sydney (she now lives in Colorado). Needless to say, I was surprised:

Julie on the left, Meiling on the right. Photo by FIL Bill.
What were they doing here!? They hadn't even RSVP'ed! They were supposed to be in other states! This is very, very strange!! I hugged them, dumbfounded.
"Come outside, Melissa. We have a present for you." They took me by the arm and led me toward the street.

Why are we going outside to see a present? Did they buy me a car? But that's ridiculous. A car would be too expensive. And I don't need or want a car. We have two very nice cars, and I like them very much. Seriously, no car you could get us would be better than our cars. Such was the nature of my deep confusion.

I stepped onto the sidewalk and immediately my brain broke as I saw Jason and Lucy waiting to greet me.

Photo by Bill

Jason has a sound recording of the moment, and when I recovered my voice, all I could say, over and over, for minutes on end as we hugged and cried, was "What is going on!? What the fuck is going on!?"

Photo by Bill

Photo by Melissa Nicholson
In the aftershock of this moment, Jason pulled me aside to let me know that the surprises were still coming; unbeknownst to Lucy, her boyfriend (also named Matt) was flying to New York, where he planned to propose to her on Sunday. We had to figure out a way to get her to Central Park to rendezvous with him and a gospel choir. Shhhhh.

(This really happened. Skip to the end of this video to see.)

The only way I could mentally continue with the planned evening's events was to get extremely drunk. I'm actually pretty glad that nobody got a good recording of the Up Your Cherry Show; the few videos I've seen demonstrate that when I sing drunk, you can very much tell that I am drunk. Drunkenness affects the inner ear, and also the part of the ear that governs how intonation works. So embarrassing! But fun, as the pictures demonstrate.

Our official photographer Kendall Whitehouse was on hand -- here' a slideshow of his rockstar photos:

Also in attendance: amazeballs photographer Kyle Cassidy! Here are a few of the photos he snapped:

Here's one of my favorite shots of the night, taken by Matt's work colleague Art Noir, from our finale performance "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper":
Photo by Art Noir

Things left behind: we received some really cool gifts, including lots of fun art, and some terrific entries on the "guestbook" we set up near the entrance:

Up Your Cherry: Matt & Mel's 10th Anniversary Party

The steadily more drunken offerings were typed on silk which I'll eventually get around to framing or making into cushion covers or something, and included OMG an allosaurus drawing by Bob Walters:

And the next day:

I love everyone. The end.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Link to composition news! Plus ... more avian Ink...?

I just sent out another edition of my e-mail blast, which has lots of lovely news in it, particularly recording news. You can read it here (and by the way, for the moment, you can subscribe to it here):

But for convenience's sake, here are some of the audiovisual elements:

Take note: Together is being performed TONIGHT at 8PM in Newport Beach, California, at the Choral Arts Initiative inaugural concert: details here.

You should also all go read this issue of Sound American, because I'm quite proud of having been interviewed, given the company I'm in.


On a completely different topic: they say tattoos are addictive.

Yeeeeaaah, maybe.

Last year, I got this done by Cindy at No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo just south of South Street (I'm in her gallery too!):

You can read all about the significance of the image in these blog posts, but the short of it is that these are noisy miner birds as depicted in John Gould's The Birds of Australia. I've been thinking about getting something on my right upper arm for a while. I wasn't really sure what I wanted, or even if it would be similarly ornithological, but while doing some idle browsing on the topic of Gould this week, I came across some interesting information.

Edward Lear — yes, he of "Owl and the Pussycat" fame, though my favorite of his poems is "The Dong with a Luminous Nose" — was once an ornithological illustrator. In fact, John Gould employed Lear (without crediting him) for many years to help him with his publications, and Lear taught Gould's wife how to make the lithographs for Gould's works, and drew all of the backgrounds. Lear's own ornithological specialty was parrots; he would spend hours at the London Zoo's Parrot House drawing birds from life, including several Australian species. I sought out his lithographs, and I think they are breathtaking. Frankly, he is a far better artist than Gould or his wife. Here is a selection from his own book The Parrots, but this one is my favorite, which was included in The Natural History of Parrots by Prideaux John Selby (1836):

(I've cleaned up the colors and altered some of the background.)

When I was growing up in Queensland, one of my favorite zoo-type places to go was Currumbin Sanctuary, whose main draw is scheduled rainbow lorikeet feedings that attract hundreds and hundreds of birds, all happy to land on your head and shoulders for a taste of nectar. Later, in Sydney, I lived for a drunken period with far too many college friends in a two-bedroom third-storey apartment with a balcony. Every morning just after dawn, huge flocks of rainbow lorikeets would crowd the railing of our balcony and screech like it was judgement day. It was deafening. I still cringe to remember the effect on my poor hungover head. As much as I swore and threw objects in their direction at the time, I've missed them. The closest thing to such a striking bird here in Philadelphia is the cardinal, and they don't have nearly as much personality.

When Matt and I visited Australia again in 2006, I took him to Taronga Zoo, where the wild lorikeets are so tame they will perch on your hand at the cafe and go for packets of sugar.

They are so numerous and destructive in Australia that they've been designated a pest by the government (similar to the noisy miner — apparently I have a cheeky soft spot for native Australian birds that do the opposite of become extinct after urbanization). Despite this, I was shocked when I came to America and saw two rainbow lorikeets in a pet store in Central PA. They looked utterly miserable, huddled in a corner of their cage with dull feathers. It didn't seem right.

Anyway, I'll let the idea sit for a few weeks at least before I decide.

Listen to the orchestral version of Tesla's Pigeon for free! And more...


ISSUE #3, JUNE 2013 |
View this email in your browser
June 19, 2013

Listen to the orchestral version of Tesla's Pigeon for free! And more...

Hooray for summer! I'm supposed to be working fulltime on composing my dissertation/opera Ayn, but things keep happening, and you should know about them, because they are pretty cool. And letting you know about the happening things is a great way for me to procrastinate, of course. Shhh.

Newsworthy things:

  • TIME SENSITIVE! Tonight (June 19), a piece I wrote for the Whitman College Chamber Singers last year called Together will be given its professional premiere in Newport Beach, California, by the Choral Arts Initiative, a brand new ensemble dedicated to performing new music. The text of the piece is taken from Acts 2, but lest you think that a Bible setting is out of character for me, I should perhaps give you a taste of the opening lines:
    And all they that believed were together
    and had all things common.
    Their possessions and goods they sold
    and divided them to all,
    according as every one had need...
    Needless to say, I think you may find a certain political angle contained therein. Click here for details on the performance and to purchase tickets.
  • If you're nowhere near LA or you'd like a sneak peek of Together, I recently updated my Bandcamp page with a recording created by Matthew Curtis (a member of Chanticleer when they sang Omaha Beach last year) through his venture Choral Tracks (highly recommended to other composers, by the way!). You can listen to it for free:


  • Also available now on Bandcamp: the orchestral version of Tesla's Pigeon! As detailed in my last newsletter and recent Kickstarter campaign, this was recorded in a reading session one afternoon in late April by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and soprano Jessica Lennick under the baton of Kensho Watanabe, and the audio is now available:

    Tesla's Pigeon

    There's also a YouTube video available of Tim Ribchester and Jess performing the piano-vocal version of Tesla's Pigeon in New York the week before.
  • But wait, there's more! Want to hear my incredibly geeky solo violin and Nintendo track, which was premiered last month by Anti-Social MusicTheme and Variables: Scallops and Bollocks for Tea (An Ode to CSIRAC) was recently recorded by Paul Arnold of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and you can hear that for free on Bandcamp too:

    Scallops and Bollocks for Tea

  • If you want some reading material while you listen to all that music, I am pretty proud to have been interviewed last month by Sound American for their "Philadelphia Issue." Apparently I'm a "voice of Philadelphia." Not bad. You can hear me spout off about dodecaphony, feminism and the satanic parking authority by clicking here.
  • One more thing! If you enjoy gorgeous aerial acrobatics (who doesnt!?), Tangle Movement Arts will be performing in the HOT! Festival in NYC on July 5, and one of their pieces will be choreographed to my work for solo voice and looper, June â€” listen to it here. The text for June was written by Tangle Arts founder Lauren Rile Smith, who is also a wonderful poet. Check out the performance â€” their work is breathtaking.
But enough! Back to slaving over a hot keyboard. Keep in touch!


Melissa Dunphy

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marital bliss

(Yeah, I didn't blog for a few weeks, and now all the bloggable items in my head are stacked up in overflowing piles like the contents of a hoarder's house. I have some composition-related news stuff, but I'll save that for another day.)

Last year, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of falling in love, Matt and I went back to New Orleans and recreated a bunch of our goofy snapshots from 2002.
I have been married to my incredible, amazing husband Matt for nearly ten years. Ten yeeeeears. Good god. He ought to get a medal. Recent planning of our anniversary celebration has reminded me just how unusual our situation is among our peers, many of whom are only getting married now, a decade behind us. We, on the other hand, were more or less children; when I hear about people in their early twenties getting engaged, my first reaction is always, "That's so young!" before I realize that we were only 23 when we took the plunge. ["You Know What Turns an Unstable Relationship into a Stable One? Not a Wedding Ring."] It was different for us, though. We had to get married just to give our relationship a chance because we lived on different continents. Before I met Matt, acquiring a husband was never a priority. I was even slightly averse to marriage as an unnecessary institution. Matt and I still laugh to remember our attitude when we got engaged: Honey, I love you so much, I will even marry you if that's what it takes. But against all the odds and no doubt many expectations, our relationship, sealed by wedding vows, has been and still is the most wonderful thing ever, and the most important thing in my life; together we have gone on the coolest adventures, worked on insane projects, weathered disastrous emotional crises, grown closer and grown up (and we continue to grow), and never stopped being best friends. It sounds wretched cheesy when I type it out, but it's true.

We also haven't had kids, and neither of us are really looking to have any in the near future, which is another thing that sets us apart from most people we know. This has been on my mind lately too — ten years ago, when I similarly felt no maternal urges, I figured that if I were ever to change my mind, it would be around now. I check myself ever other week, wondering if the desire to procreate is down there somewhere, hiding under my guilt for avoiding the cat litter perhaps, but I can see no sign of it. I'm happy with my life. I'm working through an annoying depression that has hung around for a few years, but my external life is terrific. I feel no need to change it by introducing a child into it, and I don't think a child would improve it. And I like kids. I really do. What can I say? Jesus suffered the little children, and he didn't have kids either.

Mmmmmm. Cake.
Anyway, for our tin anniversary in September, we're throwing a big party and playing some live music as Up Your Cherry for our friends and family. There will be some guest stars too — Jess Lennick and I are possibly pairing up to present an Ayn-themed duo, Inverse Phase might be spinning some tracks, Jordan Smith of Tears for Agnes might be flying in from Japan, and Matt's been jamming with a few of his friends from work who may or may not be ready to play out by then. So far we've decided to hold it at PhilaMOCA, which is right down the road from our house, and we're thinking of asking our favorite neighborhood restaurant Honey's Sit 'n Eat if they'll provide catering (so local! hipsters++!). I also need to find a good cake source. Can't have an anniversary party without cake. For our wedding, we did multiple cheesecakes: plain, white chocolate, strawberry, and Snickers. It may have been the best part of the day.

I'm really excited about all this because planning fun things with Matt is, well, fun, and it gives us (me, mostly) a reason to devote a bunch of time to writing and rehearsing Up Your Cherry songs too. It's difficult right now for me to set aside time for UYC because I have the pressure and weight of an unfinished dissertation opera forcing itself downward on my mind and forming some pretty gnarly guilt diamonds.

Another handy spousal nice-time distraction from the opera is the redesign of my website(s), which I'm pushing forward from later this summer because some horrid evil scripty nonsense has somehow been injected into various pages of my current site(s), and it's easier to nuke it all from orbit now than clean it up knowing that I'd soon be changing everything anyway. I bounced some ideas off Matt this past weekend, and I'm excited about the new format I want. This week I'm going to do some freeform design brainstorming on my own (it's actually more like scrapbooking) and hopefully come up with some mockups in Photoshop for Matt to begin to implement. I'm so grateful he's not only very able, but apparently willing, even though this is technically work for him. Every time I come back to website coding after a hiatus, I am a cross-eyed idiot, and it takes forever to get my bearings. I used to make a point of relearning everything I'd forgotten and being extremely hands-on in the implementation process, but I've realized that's just me being a stupid control freak and having a chip on my shoulder about needing to know how to do everything for myself. If I never delegate, NOBODY CAN BE BETTER THAN ME AT ANYTHING EVER!!111! LETTING OTHER PEOPLE DO THINGS FOR ME IS EVIDENCE OF INCOMPETENCE!!11!!!!!11!!!! Thanks for that value, Mum, real helpful.

Last thing: a couple of weeks ago, Matt and I headed west to our old stomping region, Central PA, to attend the premiere of No Sanctuary, a fun film project I acted in back in 2005. Jake Stetler, the film's director, has been editing together the film whenever he's had the opportunity over the past eight years, and he was proud to be able to show it to an audience of friends and family at Ephrata's Main Theater. Our friend Kendall Whitehouse showed up as paparazzo:
No Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo SanctuaryNo SanctuaryNo Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo Sanctuary: August and Jake Stetler
No Sanctuary: August, Jake, and Kaden StetlerNo Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo Sanctuary: Jake StetlerNo Sanctuary: Michael Shoupe and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Melissa Dunphy and Katy Stettenbauer
No Sanctuary: AJ Ensminger and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Fred Waters Jr. and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Sarah Treusdell and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Joseph Salaki Jr. and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Jake Stetler and Gail StetlerNo Sanctuary: Stan Roache III and Katy Stettenbauer
No Sanctuary: Larry Snyder and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Kelly Stettenbauer and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Kyle Kreider and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Brandon Ehrhart and Katy StettenbauerNo Sanctuary: Katy Stettenbauer and Dan FisselNo Sanctuary: Kevin Sharp and Katy Stettenbauer
Via Flickr: Cast, crew, and investors attend the premiere screening of Jake Stetler’s No Sanctuary 
at the Main Theater in Ephrata, PA on May 24, 2013.