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Old 10-21-2008, 07:01 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GS Bones
Here is what I know..........



Well played, the Viola can offer some of the most haunting and moving music on the planet. And they are hard to play well. And they are hard to tune. And good ones are a lot more expensive than high end motorcycles.


SO, how do you carry a good quality Viola on a motorcycle tour (rain and terrain being of concern)?


Let's see pics....

Can't wait for the report.




Bones
Hey GS Bones, you are absolutely correct on all counts, stay tuned! This is soooo cool...
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Old 10-21-2008, 07:34 PM   #17
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Okay, lets test some gear! If I’m gonna do this long term and quasi-professionally I need to be outfitted properly (whatever that means. I’m making this up as I go along!).

I’ve been motorcycle sport-touring for a few years now, and I’ve gotten my system down pretty well, but I’ve recently added new items that will hopefully allow me to chase this crazy music-moto lifestyle. If I’m gonna be ready to communicate professionally I need a computer, so I’ll be taking my Mac which is a first for me. Obviously if I’m gonna be playing I need a viola plus all the instrumental accouterment, so I have to think about that too...

I decided to take a quick three day, two night “warm-up” lap to Guadalupe National Park for some camping, hiking and practicing to shake down my new rig (viola/sheet music/computer/hiking and camping gear, ect). I love hiking, and so far I haven’t yet been to the highest point in Texas (Guadelupe Peak), so I need to knock that puppy out too (‘cause that’s how I roll, knocking puppies out. Yeah.).

Ride what you got, right? My bike is my, uhhh, “trusty” BMW K1200RS, “Red Pill.” Ready to roll. I bought a special pack to fit my ultra-light shaped viola case specifically.



Red Pill and I have been through thick and thin for about five years together and tens of thousands of miles near and far. We know each other really well, I’ve dismantled her down most of the way a number of times and I ride her hard, so she has a lot of “character marks.” I’m not big into garage queens. I badly want a big adventure dual sport, but it’s not in cards as a struggling musician right now, I’m a one-bike man. Besides, I do like the speed thing and crazy lean angles. Off-road riding will have to wait. (maybe...)

It’s funny, it seems like when I ride everyday I can launch quicker, but being away from the bike and cagin’ it even for one day messes up the routine and the next time back on the bike takes ages to prep. The early morning departure quickly turns into daylight which leads to afternoon... Doh. I was hoping to make it to the park to camp both nights, but the sun gets low and my map throws me a curve. Naturally I’m avoiding interstates and I’m trying to avoid the “obvious” high-traffic routes too, and my map shows a parallel road that goes out into the nothingness in way-west Texas. Perfect! Or so I thought...

The Farm to Market road appears to connect through, and with the sun getting close the horizon I turn up the heat and head north on the deserted tarmac. The BMW is humming, I crouch down as best I can with my crazy viola pack to at least get some of my helmet behind the windscreen as the speedo climbs: 80, 90, 100, 110, 120... The road is gun-shot straight and not a soul to be seen for miles. I have almost unending visibility, the only thing stirring are a few jack rabbits which bring my numbers to sub-triple digits from time to time. I do this for 50 miles. I’d really like to make it to Guadelupe to camp tonight, even if it means riding for a bit while it’s dark. I figure I’d ride as fast as I can while I can see, then slow it down considerably for when I can’t.

I’m flying along and finally see the “T” junction I’ve been anticipating in the distance and start slowing for the stop sign, raising my body up back into the wind stream. Suddenly the pavement quality deteriorates and the bike starts shuddering as I cross these crazy invisible lumps. I’m still traveling fairly fast, maybe 70-80ish, and I find my self in a tank-slapper! I try to stay loose as the bars gyrate back and forth while the front wheel searches for grip. Somehow I regain control, still a quarter mile from the junction. I curse the road maintenance more than a little bit, and wonder why it gets bad so suddenly. (Wouldn’t have anything to do with my speed, surely! ;-)) There’s an abandoned installation of some sort at the junction: old antennas, rusty buildings, cable fences and even tall street lights, all corroding away. Military base? Middle of nowhere. Naturally my imagination starts thinking of Area 51 type conspiracies. There were some “no trespassing” signs with some cable over the road, but they looked pretty old and unofficial to me. No matter, just passing through! I hang a right at the sign and continue on paralleling an old railroad bed.



Something isn’t right. There’s no center stripe, and bit farther there are shrubs and cactus growing out into and over the roadway, effectively making it one lane. The road surface has lots of pot holes and cracks. After about two miles I come to this:



Great. Private Property. This explains why the very end of the county road isn’t maintained very well, ‘cause it basically dead-ends. The gate is open and there’s a phone number on the hand-painted sign to call for permission to pass through, so I skeptically retrieve my cell phone to check for a signal: No dice, figured. I could risk it, try to ride on through, but what if there’s a locked gate at the other end? I have enough gas to go on or go back, but not both. Going back means I’ve just lost a hundred miles worth of time at least. Hmmm, what to do?

If I move either direction I know I’ll be riding in the dark. I retrace my steps back to the junction to see if I missed something. Nope, just like the map says, except for the private property/gate problem. I’m getting tired and I don’t feel like making an important/risky decision when I’m not thinking so clearly. Okay, I haven’t seen ANYONE for 50 miles, and I doubt I will after dark, plus I have food, water, and shelter so I decide to camp right there off the road a bit next to the old railroad bed so I can decide in the morning what to do with a clear head. I find a flat spot and pitch, becoming more and more comfortable with my decision to chill here as the evening desert sounds start to come alive.





This monster was passing by, I decided to inconvenience her for a photo shoot. She wasn’t too happy about it, bit my glove and camera a few times.



Is it a tarantula? It was about that size, but I’ve never seen a black one, most of them are brown and not as aggressive where I come from. Normally you can handle them with no attacks. I heard tarantulas’ fangs can’t penetrate the skin, but those big red stingers on this one look pretty menacing to me. As a kid I would’ve simply picked it up, but I guess I’m a little older and more cautious now so I leave the glove on. Maybe in a few years I’ll opt out altogether and just let a spider pass unmolested... LOL!

This camera has a sweet macro mode!



Closer...



CLOSER!!!



This bug was a little bigger than a lady-bug, and FLUORESCENT red, the pic doesn’t quite do it justice. I spotted it from twenty feet away. Anyone know what it is? Kinda fuzzy too.



There are coyotes warming up their voices and a surprising variety of bird songs beginning to sound as the sun touches the horizon. All kinds of Jurassic colossal insects are moving about in the air and on the ground, but none of them are bothering me, and best of all no ‘skeeters!
I’m here to test my gear so I deploy the experimental high-tech moto-viola to contribute my own desert song to usher in the night...
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Old 10-21-2008, 08:45 PM   #18
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Great report! Keep it coming. Having the delight of meeting you recently, I must add that you write with the same joyful abandon with which you communicate in person.

A couple of things more. I also used to own a (much maligned on this board) R1200C. It's a nice bike for what it is, but what it is is not for me.

Finally, I noted with interest your comments regarding hiking in Guadalupe NP in west TX. Come to our Friday breakfast and you'll find out that the S.T.U.D.S. (South Texas United Dual Sports ) are planning that very trip in the near future.

Blake
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:11 PM   #19
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Looking forward to future posts! You officially have my attention. Now I have to find out what that red fuzzy bug is......................
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:35 PM   #20
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Cool! That is one pissed off tarantula! But the other "bug" is a spider too. Note the number of legs --8, and then pedipalps. Never seen one like it, nice shot!
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:22 PM   #21
GS Bones
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Holy SHITE, man.....riding with a high end Viola in a light pack vs. red fanged taurantula like spiders. I can't decide which is more dangerous. But THIS is an adventure ride, for sure. Don't drop that four stringed instrument or get it wet. That would make for some tears. And don't get bit by spiders. You need all those fingers to play.

I don't want this ride report to include "I got home with my viola intact, but I now have only 8 fingers left."


Can't wait for more.......



Bones

p.s. Now, all we need is a link to a sound bite of the Viola as a sound track. Now THAT would be cool.


Someone figure out how to give this thread some stars!!!
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:35 PM   #22
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Just wait until you SEE the viola I'm running on these trips... Next post.

Hmmm, I'll think about the sound clips, but I'm a professional! Need to get paid. That would make for an interesting dimension to the report! Considering...

Thanks for the kind words!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GS Bones
Holy SHITE, man.....riding with a high end Viola in a light pack vs. red fanged taurantula like spiders. I can't decide which is more dangerous. But THIS is an adventure ride, for sure. Don't drop that four stringed instrument or get it wet. That would make for some tears. And don't get bit by spiders. You need all those fingers to play.

I don't want this ride report to include "I got home with my viola intact, but I now have only 8 fingers left."


Can't wait for more.......



Bones

p.s. Now, all we need is a link to a sound bite of the Viola as a sound track. Now THAT would be cool.


Someone figure out how to give this thread some stars!!!
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:58 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GS Bones




Someone figure out how to give this thread some stars!!!
I think 5 people have to rate it before stars show up.
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Old 10-21-2008, 11:22 PM   #24
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Enjoying your thread so far... especially those spiders. I thought you might have photoshopped the reddish-orange one to attract the KTM crowd. Maybe add some black stripes.
And the viola-ator is a bit modest too... although the violin players make fun of the violists, everybody gets to make fun of the double bass players.
eg the conductor was called in to break up a fight between the bass player and the second violinist. " what are you guys fighting about?" says the conductor. "He loosened 2 of my strings!" says the bassist. "And he won't tell me which ones!"
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:21 PM   #25
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Now for the instrument. It may sound like an easy thing to do, strapping an instrument to your back or tucking it in your luggage for a motorcycle ride, but let me assure you it is not that simple. Sure, we’ve probably all seen someone with an acoustic guitar on a bike, or maybe some other simple percussion instrument, but these are usually low in cost and rugged, not anywhere as fragile or expensive as a fine orchestral string instrument. If you’ve ever known a professional string player (violin, viola, cello, or bass) you’ll no doubt remember the near fanatical level of worry they dote over their instruments, and for good reason. Yes, a fiddle can be purchased at the local pawn shop for a few hundred dollars, but classical musicians are expected to pay into the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even MILLIONS of dollars for their tools, most of which are older than the motorcycle industry. Nearly everyone has heard the name Stardivarius, which has become the household term for a fine violin. Antonio Stradivarius perfected his violin making skills by 1700... yes, the year 1700 A.D., over 300 years ago. Old + rare + expensive + Italian = GOOD in the string tradition. String instruments are made of wood which is of course organic matter, so it’s susceptible to decay, moisture, humidity, and shock, all of which are in ample supply on a motorcycle. My viola has a rich personal history, so one of my first personal rules when starting to motorcycle was that the viola would never (okay, almost never) travel on the bike, it’s just too fragile, too valuable and irreplaceable. And camping? Fuggitabouddit. So what to do? I’ve racked my brain for over five years on how to somehow combine my love of motorcycle travel with searching for my dream symphony job, and it always seemed like a cruel irony that both involve travel but had to be mutually exclusive (the accepted method is naturally to fly and stay at hotels). Maybe I could ship my viola to my destination and ride? No, too expensive and risky for the instrument, and I’ll be in no shape to play well having just ridden across the country without practicing for days. What if I take a cheap-o student viola that is stronger, and if it gets damaged, oh well, it was cheap? No, it won’t sound good enough to be a contender in the audition. Hmmmm, stumped...

Don't want to end up with one that looks like this:



Technology to the rescue! Several inventive personalities have been working with carbon fiber technology to make instruments in recent years. Of course we motorcyclists know and love carbon fiber, it makes our machines lighter, stronger, and it looks really cool too, but the classical music world is all about tradition: rules and ceremonies that are passed down orally (and aurally) from one generation to the next, evolving very slowly. Not very often is it that something comes along to overturn the apple cart, and I believe that carbon fiber string instruments are the latest shock wave. I discovered Luis and Clark carbon fiber instruments, and since they are the only company that has actually brought instruments to the market I decided to pull the trigger and buy one, sight unseen (and more importantly sound unheard!), which was a very unusual way to purchase an instrument for a classical musician. Luis Leguia is a Boston Symphony cellist who was into racing sail boats as a hobby. His inspiration to try carbon fiber for instrument construction was hearing waves reverberating off of the hull of carbon fiber boats. Over the course of ten years he was able to experiment and now offers all four orchestra string instruments made almost entirely of beautifully woven carbon fiber. Carbon fiber and/or graphite has come to be accepted as an alternative for bows as the rain forest wood used to make them is nearing endangerment, but the instrument?!?! That’s crazy talk! Carbon fiber is of course very strong (stronger than steel of equivalent thickness!), and is unaffected by temperature and moisture, so it’s almost worry free. I’ve only had it about a couple months as of this writing, and I’ve “tested” it in every different professional situation I can think of, and it’s passed every test so far. I’ve played it in orchestra, chamber music, opera, and professional auditions. It’s been outside, under the sun, in the rain, below freezing, over 100 degrees, and in a bunch of other situations no fine viola should ever be subjected to in the time I’ve owned it, passing all those tests too. I even have a name for it: “Black Death.” If Batman played viola, this would be it! We are in business. Am I really going to do this thing?



Well... how does it sound? The short answer: Good, it is indeed a viola! It does some things astonishingly well, freakish really, better than any instrument I’ve ever laid hands on. It is LOUD! The thing has pipes (a figure of speech, it actually has strings. huh-huh...). The proportions are just right for me, and it is very responsive, so I find getting around on the instrument and playing fast to be easy. It speaks immediately, no hesitation at all! So fast I have to remember to finesse the bow and be very smooth, because it’s easy to play too loud and bright. When I pluck the open strings I’ve counted up to fourteen seconds of ringing vibrations. My “good” viola has about half that. All this responsive power has a downside, however. The main job of a violist is to blend into a warm section sound with other violists. The violas are in the middle of the orchestra (in physical location but more importantly in timbre) and our job is to bridge the tonal gap between the high pitched melody and the bass line. This viola requires great care to play in that blending way. If I don’t pay attention and get a little too aggressive it can get a metallic tinge to the sound, which is not desirable and will make my job of introducing carbon fiber as high art more difficult. Playing solo is great with this instrument! The thing wails, especially in the higher registers and the sound never breaks, it seems there is no limit to how much weight can be applied to the bow, which means more and more sound! And what player doesn’t love THAT? Will carbon fiber render wooden instruments obsolete? Not any time soon, probably never. But it IS a very interesting alternative that has many pluses and only a couple minuses. I have done some “farkles and performance mods” (as we motorcyclists put it) to make the instrument a little more friendly. My friends at Terra Nova Violins added a thicker bridge, a wooden tail piece and Obbligato strings help to soften the tone, and a sound post adjustment has really evened out the sound across the four strings. I added my special tall, fully adjustable SAS Chinrest and a black Strad Pad (they finally make them in black, just in time for my black viola, Yay!).

The master luthier Absss who helps me sound good. What up, G ?!?



Here's the new bridge Absss made me vs. the stock. You can see how much thicker the new one (on the right) is. Those tiny variations in material can make a huge difference to the player, just like having a fine tuned motorcycle with hot suspension.



My new friend Doug who's also a luthier (a person who makes/repairs string instruments). He's also a talented sculptor of sorts and is into geo-caching. Cool.



I spent the better part of a day at the shop trying out every synthetic viola bow they had to find the right relationship. Many string players believe that bow selection is just as important as choosing an instrument, or maybe even MORE important. Finally I found my Excalibur and it happened to have matching black carbon fiber weave finish, so all the better.



One HUGE benefit of all this carbon fiber is cost. The old Italian instrument and fine French bow prices are out of control these days. Carbon fiber is expensive “bling” for motorcyclists, but compared to antique wooden instruments this stuff is quite “cheap.” These Luis and Clark instruments are certainly not toys and they cost real money, but I can actually (almost) afford this experiment! Wheeeeee! (Even though that means my orange KTM dreams will not be fulfilled for some time. Darn. Patience...)

The really interesting pitfall about the carbon fiber viola is the reaction from other musicians, string players in particular. String players are definitely in that traditional “old school” mind set, in fact I think that the term “old school” could have been coined to describe string musicians. Many have trouble believing that my new instrument could sound good, even though they are hearing it with their own ears. “T’ain’t natural!” I’m the first person in Texas to have a CF viola, and probably the first professional to have a CF instrument in the state, so everyone wants to know about all about it. I’m calling it the “CFDF” - Carbon Fiber Delay Factor. Between my instrument case and my chair I’m usually horse and thirsty from fielding questions. I think that several of my colleagues made up their minds the moment they saw the instrument, and it wasn’t a favorable judgement for my “plastic” or “fiber-glass” viola. I’d say I’m facing roughly 90% skepticism from string players. The reactions of non-string player musicians (brass, woodwind, and percussion players) is “that is so cool!” and the audience loves it, especially children. I recently learned of other instruments that are starting to be made with with carbon fiber: clarinets and some percussion instruments. One of the finest clarinetists I know says point blank “it’s the wave of the future.”
The big question is: can I win an audition with this thing? I remember hearing the saying for Moto GP racers that winning is 80% rider and 20% machine (in the past anyway, I guess the technology is becoming more and more a factor for winning). I think it’s probably a similar set of numbers for an auditioning musician, but when and if the screen comes down at an audition, will the committee (which will be made up mostly of string players) make up their minds based on the fact that my viola isn’t made of wood? My experience so far is unfortunately yes. If it’s a blind audition all the way then it shouldn’t matter, unless the sound is actually repulsive compared to wood, but I don’t believe that. Winning a job is hard! (Interesting that we call it “winning,” not “getting” or “earning.” It really is a kind of wacky lottery... You just have to have your good day at the right place at the right time) I’ve been moderately successful at auditions, but I have a long way to go. Is this really a fight I want to wage right now? Winning the audition is difficult enough as it is, but to do it with unproven technology that the committee will almost certainly hold against me? All of the places I’ve taken the CF viola have been firsts, there’s never been one before, and I expect that at the highest level of competition it will be the same story, I will be the only one crazy enough to bring one. Different isn’t always good... The “other” carbon fiber instrument company, Quintus, has developed carbon fiber instruments that have more traditional shapes and even the appearance of wood grain, but sadly the violas are still in the prototype phase and not available to the public (according to their website, more investigation is needed...). Perhaps I need to become one of their testers, I wouldn’t go easy on them!

Speaking of testing... Tomorrow when I finally get to Guadalupe National Park I have another idea on how to initiate the Black Death!

Stay tuned...
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:15 AM   #26
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How about posting a Vimeo or Youtube clip of you playing?
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Old 10-24-2008, 01:46 AM   #27
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I will admit, though your ride report doesn't have a lot of pictures in it, and half of it is only loosely about motorcycles or even riding, I really like your report. The challange you face, and the sollution in the form of a CF viola is quite interesting. And being in China and on their internet, my connection usually times out before 1/3 of some of these more pictury reports are loaded up, so I get text only reports anyway.

I certainly look forward to reading more of your report.
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Old 10-24-2008, 07:39 AM   #28
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I will admit, though your ride report doesn't have a lot of pictures in it, and half of it is only loosely about motorcycles or even riding, I really like your report. The challange you face, and the sollution in the form of a CF viola is quite interesting. And being in China and on their internet, my connection usually times out before 1/3 of some of these more pictury reports are loaded up, so I get text only reports anyway.

I certainly look forward to reading more of your report.
I'm glad you like the report so far, it's very much about motorcycles and is gonna start having lots of pics soon, I just gotta get through the overture before the show can begin!

I just missed a chance to visit China, I'm looking forward to seeing some of that part of the world soon, mb in about a year. The Chinese are way into strings!
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Old 10-24-2008, 08:29 AM   #29
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What a wonderful report! I'm looking forward to more!

Viola-Tor and I have introduced ourselves before via PM, but in the interest of full disclosure I also play the viola professionally, although part time in a Dallas suburban symphony orchestra. Imagine my shock when rumaging through ADVrider one fine day and seeing a post from a FF whose avatar was the alto clef. The alto clef... are you kidding? Most people who are introduced to music become familiar with the treble and bass clef from childhood piano lessons. But the alto clef is fairly uncommon except for those of us who saw away on violas. I had to PM the man to find out what was going on!

I've never had the cajones to strap my viola on my back and take the motorcycle to rehearsal or a concert! Although, I'm currently looking for a case cover with shoulder straps, so you never know.

Finally, like all violists, I love viola jokes. My little contribution:
Did you hear about the violist who played in tune?
Neither did I.

How can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune?
The bow is moving.

What's the difference between a washing machine and a violist?
Vibrato.
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Old 10-24-2008, 02:23 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by mistercindy
What a wonderful report! I'm looking forward to more!

Viola-Tor and I have introduced ourselves before via PM, but in the interest of full disclosure I also play the viola professionally, although part time in a Dallas suburban symphony orchestra. Imagine my shock when rumaging through ADVrider one fine day and seeing a post from a FF whose avatar was the alto clef. The alto clef... are you kidding? Most people who are introduced to music become familiar with the treble and bass clef from childhood piano lessons. But the alto clef is fairly uncommon except for those of us who saw away on violas. I had to PM the man to find out what was going on!

I've never had the cajones to strap my viola on my back and take the motorcycle to rehearsal or a concert! Although, I'm currently looking for a case cover with shoulder straps, so you never know.

Finally, like all violists, I love viola jokes. My little contribution:
Did you hear about the violist who played in tune?
Neither did I.

How can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune?
The bow is moving.

What's the difference between a washing machine and a violist?
Vibrato.
Hello there brother!
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