In preparation for my upcoming “Greatest Hits Vol 4” album, I remixed my 2021 song, “Puzzle of the Heart,” by adding drums, bass, organ, and a touch of back-up vocals — starting at the second verse of the song.
This entailed straightening up the free-form, and somewhat uneven, tempo of the live performance, not only for the new Logic Pro X audio, but also for the new Final Cut Pro video. Having made those subtle modifications, I was able to re-use most elements of the 2021 live video for this 2024 version (with the new 2024 soundtrack).
I wrote the chorus to this song when I was in high school, but only got around to writing the verses and bridge about 50 years later, i.e., just before first recording it live in January 2020. This is a new recording with a bit more orchestration and back-up vocals.
For those interested, the Sartre references are based on a cursory reading of Being and Nothingness (no, not the book; just the Wikipedia entry):
“From Sartre’s phenomenological point of view, nothingness is an experienced reality and cannot be a merely subjective mistake. The absence of a friend and absence of money hint at a being of nothingness. It is part of reality. In the first chapter, Sartre develops a theory of nothingness which is central to the whole book, especially to his account for bad faith and freedom. For him, nothingness is not just a mental concept that sums up negative judgements such as ‘Pierre is not here’ and ‘I have no money.’ Though ‘it is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation.’ the concrete nothingness differs from mere abstract inexistence, such as the square circle. A concrete nothingness, e.g. not being able to see, is part of a totality: the life of the blind man in this world. This totality is modified by the nothingness which is part of it.”
The idea that “man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have” is from Sartre’s “Temporalité,” in Situations (1947, 1949).
Celebrating Time‘s 2023 “Person of the Year,” here is my cover of Taylor Swift’s mega-hit from 2014, Blank Space. The song was re-released as “Taylor’s Version” in 2023.
The background image, visible in the thumbnail above, if of the Palau de la Música Catalana (Catalan Concert Hall) in Barcelona, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century. In my cover version of the song, I do all the vocals and background vocals, piano, electric guitar, organ, bass, and drums (other than the guitar, the rest are actually “software” instruments played on my MIDI keyboard). I recorded the song using Logic Pro and made the video using Final Cut Pro.
Only true Swifties will understand the portion of the video where I’m in bed with my guitar. Hint: see this early Taylor Swift video.
I’ve finally written a new song, called “Count Me Out”!
Thanks to brother Kurt for advice on the arrangement and mix; and to daughter Jennie for additional background vocals. I made the video using Final Cut Pro, with my iPhone either mounted on my bicycle seat (for the moving view of 6-mile Creek taken from Giles Street in Ithaca, NY) or on a tripod in front of my portable green screen. The dancer and the bit of smoke at the end of the video were found with an internet search for free downloadable green-screen-enabled clips; they are credited at the end of the video. The drummer is me in front of a black background from a 2011 video I had made for an earlier song; because I was wearing a black cap, the cap disappeared into the black chroma key void, so I added in an image of a hat worn by Neil Peart, the late drummer/singer for Rush, also found on the internet.
I play all instruments and sing the vocals and background vocals (with added background vocals provided by daughter Jennie). Except for the electric guitars, all other “software” instruments, including drums, bass, piano, strings, and synth, are played on my MIDI keyboard. I mixed the song using Logic Pro X.
1. Count me out I don’t need those pointless invitations Tell your friends I can’t be bothered with their vapid conversations Whatever I told you just print it out and shred it It don’t prove a thing I’ll deny I ever said it Tell it to your lawyers they’ll bill you on your credit or debit card Life is hard Count me out
2. Ah cause you don’t need me hanging out with you There must be lots of people that you know with nothing else to do What about Dmitry just wake him from his trance I know if you call him he’ll jump at the chance And if you determine that your circumstance is unfair I don’t care Count me out, count me out, count me out
[Bridge] Me, I had enough for one night In fact, I had enough for one life I don’t want to discuss it no more I don’t need this strife
Instrumental half-verse 3
Second-half verse 3. Do us both a favor let me off the hook Maybe I’ll just hang out and curl up with a book Order up some take-out so I don’t have to cook here tonight Wrong or right Count me out
4. Ah baby cause you know I never had the patience for this stuff I’ve wasted too much time already can’t you see I’ve really had enough Text me when it’s over call me when it’s through Tell me that you missed my caustic point of view Look it’s nothing personal I’m waiting for you here my friend But till then Count me out, count me out, count me out, count me out
Chad Randl and D. Medina Lasansky organized a book launch event in Trumansburg for their recently-published edited volume from MIT Press called Playing Place: Board Games, Popular Culture, Space. Medina asked if I would perform my board game song — “Squints on a Triple,” which was the winner of the 2008 BoardGameGeek contest for real board games mentioned in songs. Unbeknownst to me, my performance on Sunday, September 10, 2023, was recorded on a cell phone by Jenni Minner, our colleague at Cornell, who was gracious enough to provide me a copy.
I put the cell phone’s audio track into Logic Pro and did some minor tweaking with some added EQ, reverb, and so on, but I couldn’t do much to balance the vocal and guitar. I then changed the aspect ratio from portrait to landscape in Final Cut Pro, and added some transcribed lyrics and other titles.
So, it is what it is, as they say. The original “studio” version of the song is here.
Today in the New York Times, Lola Fadulu writes about New York City’s lawsuit pertaining to Steven Holl’s ADA-noncompliant Hunters Point library:
A few years back, architects designed a public library in Queens that has been lauded as one of the most stunning public buildings produced in New York in a century. But it is also rife with obstacles for people with disabilities, according to city officials who are now suing the designers for the $10 million they say it will cost to fix.
At the Queens Public Library at Hunters Point, a staircase that runs from the lobby to the second floor is the only way to access three areas that have built-in desks with charging stations. A ramp that leads to the rooftop terrace, which has sweeping views of Manhattan, has a slope that is unlawful, the city argues. Bathrooms throughout the building do not have enough space for wheelchairs, the lawsuit says.
Two years ago, in July 2021, I wrote about the same library in my song, “Ballad of Building Bad.” Here’s the song, starting with the second verse:
Verse 2 (Jonathan Ochshorn, “Ballad of Building bad”) Everybody’s talking about the fancy new library Where you must climb up steps to get to these bookshelves Asked about ADA mandates for access he says it’s customary For disabled people not to get their books themselves Now he’s pointing to the killer views you get looking out from those steel stairs But when asked about excluding handicapped users He says I won’t ruin my design just because of some strollers and some wheelchairs This is a gift to the community so beggars can’t be choosers And it’s based on these watercolor drawings in my sketchpad Building bad
The song is based on my book, Building Bad: How Architectural Utility is Constrained by Politics and Damaged by Expression (Lund Humphries, 2021).
It’s probably legal to store combustible material under an exit access stairway (i.e., an exit stair that is permitted to be unenclosed) even though it wouldn’t be allowed under an unenclosed exterior stair or an enclosed interior exit stair. But it’s probably not a good idea. I tested the combustibility of the foamed plastic used as display stands for architecture (and other) reviews and exhibits, here shown stored under the exit access stair in the domed Crit Room in Milstein Hall, Cornell’s architecture building designed by OMA. This video documents my combustibility test and explains the code issues.
In all 50,000 square feet of Milstein Hall at Cornell University, this is the only carpeted area — at the bottom of the auditorium. Still, it’s good enough for 1 LEED point!
I spoke to the second-year Bachelor of Architecture class at Cornell University about health, safety, and welfare — things like fire safety, structure, accessibility, and sustainability — and the role played by politics and architectural expression in constraining or even damaging those utilitarian functions of buildings. The talk was based in large part on my book, Building Bad: How Architectural Utility is Constrained by Politics and Damaged by Expression.
The lecture on March 13, 2023, ended up being way too long, so I delivered the final sections two days later, on March 15, 2023. I divided the Zoom lecture recordings into six parts, corresponding to the sections of the lecture, and I put them all online as separate videos (find links below).
Some light editing was in order: I removed most of my snarky remarks; eliminated copyrighted material (in particular, excerpts from Monty Python’s “Architects Sketch” had to go); corrected one or two words (e.g., “access” got changed to “axis”); and deleted as many “ums,” “rights,” and “you knows” as I could.
I performed four songs at a retirement event at the “Inns of Aurora” sponsored by Cornell’s Department of Architecture on January 27, 2023. This event was originally intended for the end of the spring 2022 semester (when I actually retired), but got delayed for various reasons, and then became a combined event for several other recent retirees who had not been celebrated previously because of Covid restrictions on gatherings.
In any event, my request to do a musical performance was still honored, and the resulting concert footage is embedded here. Well, not quite the original concert footage: I had earlier recorded a “practice” performance in my house which had much better audio than what was recorded at the actual event, so I synced this practice audio with the video clips of the real performance that were shot by my wife, Susan. Except that a clip for the first verse of the last song could not be found, so I lip-synced that verse at home, in front of a green screen, and simulated the performance of the first verse, which is now part of the official video.
These are unplugged — guitar-vocal versions — of four songs, three of which are about getting old (the first, “Endgame,” is an extended metaphor based on the game of chess; the second, “What’s the Point of Even Trying,” is taken from the standpoint of a child watching a parent get old; and the third, “Squints on a Triple,” is taken from the standpoint of a parent watching his child get older) with the last song, “Ballad of Building Bad,” being a critique of architecture (actually an advertisement for my book, Building Bad).
The songs that I perform live here can also be viewed in their original “music video” form (use links in the paragraph above).