Communications strategy + design for print, web and community projects

Review: Syrinx Effect, “Snail Songs”

syrinx[written for Earshot Jazz]

Among the many young ensembles creating action-packed music within Seattle’s productive jazz and creative music scene, the Syrinx Effect is a standout. Playing (usually) without a rhythm section, the soprano sax-trombone duo draws propulsive energy from the air like a wind turbine. The group’s second release, out this month, channels that energy into a tuneful and confident set of composed pieces, making Snail Songs a nicely contrasting pair with last year’s gnarly and sweet, a set of unvarnished free improvisations.

In fact, the Syrinx Effect seems to be all about the nicely contrasting pairs–Kate Olson’s skybound reeds with Naomi Siegel’s gently loping trombone; the group’s double commitment to both improvised and composed music, and the two halves of their acoustic palette, which augments the two’s live playing with samples and looped duplicates of themselves. In the new recording, all of these pairings make for a fluid dance, in which sax and trombone slither in and out of the musical foreground, set against an electronic continuo of echoes and loops. (The effect is often as if Pauline Oliveros had been the third member of Jimmy Giuffre’s late 50’s trio with Bob Brookmeyer.)

Moods on Snail Songs range from bouncy to becalmed, and generally more sweet than gnarly. Olson’s lovely “Respired by” has Siegel stretching out in a breathy, bluesy solo, then slowly building up a buzzing, didgeridoo-like drone, before both players come together for the tune’s main theme. In Siegel’s graceful closer “Lonesome and the Moonbuggy,” a gently swinging duet gradually dissolves into a sundrenched pool of prismatic harmonies.

Both Siegel and Olson are members of several other ticketworthy performing groups (including Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble), so there is no shortage of opportunities to catch performances of these rising lights of the Seattle jazz scene. But a Syrinx Effect gig is worth seeking out on its own–not to mention Snail Songs.

Talking to CEOs about Technology

SmartCEOThis article for Smart CEO Magazine was part of a recent freelance assignment, for which I was asked to examine how businesses are responding to the increasing trend of employees using their own personal computers, tablets and phones for work. This has been identified as a trend called BYOD–bring your own device–and there are positives and negatives both for employers and employees. I summarized the most important concerns for a managerial audience.

Teaching about democracy through media heroes

heroes-parkerLast month, Rev. Everett Parker celebrated his 100th birthday. In 1963, at the request of Martin Luther King, Parker led a civil rights campaign to fight racist bias on local television broadcasts in Jackson, Mississippi. Appealing to the FCC for help, and eventually the courts, Parker’s campaign succeeded in getting the station shut down. Perhaps more importantly, the campaign established for the first time that members of the public have standing to demand fair treatment from private broadcasters making use of the public airwaves.

Let’s expand community radio!

There’s a new buzz across the country around low-power (LPFM) community radio, now that the FCC has announced an upcoming window for organizations to apply for new licenses. As director of Reclaim the Media and a member of the Prometheus Radio Project’s national LPFM advisory board, I spent several years working with many others to expand LPFM–so it will be very exciting to see the fruits of that effort, as hundreds of new stations begin serving their cities and towns. Here are a few articles I wrote during that campaign, trying to convey why community radio is such an important resource for many underrepresented communities:

Making the connection: mental health safety net funding and public safety

Early in 2011, Washington state legislators convened to confront a state budget crisis in early 2011. Mental health care providers resolved to do everything they could to protect their clients from the preventable tragedies they knew could result from further cuts to essential safety-net services. As part of their efforts, I researched and wrote this white paper for policymakers.