Friday, 25 May 2012

Om Mani Padme Hum

Buddah of great compassion, hold me fast in your compassion.  From time without beginning, beings have wandered in Samsara, undergoing unendurable suffering.  They have no other protector than you.  Please bless them that they may achieve the omniscient state of buddhahood.  With the power of evil karma fathered from beginningless time, sentient beings, through the force of anger, are born as hell beings and experience the suffering of heat and cold.  May they all be born in your presence, perfect deity. 

Om purifies bliss and pride
Ma purifies jealousy and lust for entertainment
Ni purifies passion and desire
Pe (Pa) purifies stupidity and prejudice
Me purifies poverty and possessiveness
Hum (Hung) purifies aggression and hatred

The Samsaric real of Om is gods
of Ma is jealous gods
of Ni is human
of Pe is animal
 of Me is hungry ghost
of Hung (Hum) is Hell.

Copyright VàVà Vol 2012

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Analog Girl

Throughout my musical career, I’ve tried many different brands of synthesizers and have loved some and un-loved others. Moog, Elka, ARP, Yamaha, Roland, Prophet, Kurzweil and Oberheim were just a few of the keyboards I have worked with but somehow I have always gravitated back to Korg.  What initially attracted me to their synths, over and above the bold, fat Korg sounds, unique sonic character and solid construction of their units, was the graded hammer action weighted keys technology used on certain of their models.  This real hammer mechanism makes the keys feel heavier in the bass and lighter on the treble end of the keyboard, similar to that of an acoustic piano.  Pianists really appreciate this feature as the quick response and feel of the keys emulate that of a piano and the key sensitivity can also be adjusted to suit the player.  

ARP Odyssey - Photo by VàVà Vol © 2012

When I began to perform live in the late 70s, I played in the traditional guitar/bass/drum format groups.  I only had one keyboard and that was the Farfisa Fast Five organ.  It served its purpose up to a certain point but I eventually sold it to upgrade to the hot new Sequential Circuits Pro-One mono synth and the Korg VC10 Vocoder.  My musical direction was changing at that time and I began to experiment with electronic music. There was an extreme learning curve with both new instruments but I managed to craft the sounds I was looking for by referring to the user manuals and by trial, error and experimentation.  It proved to be an excellent training ground on how to program analog synths and enabled me to move forward to the more sophisticated poly synths that were being developed in the early 80s.  

VC-10 Vocoder

My absolute hands-down favorite synth is the 48-note semi-modular two piece poly analog synth the PS-3300, which I acquired from a fellow musician in the 1980s.  This synth is essentially three Korg PS-3100s in one.  Each note on the keyboard has its own filter, envelope and share of a divide-down oscillator, making it a fully 48 note poly synth.  At that time, it was one of the world’s first true polyphonic analog synths and Korg only manufactured 50 of these amazing units between 1977 and 1981.  Weighing in at 80 lbs., this synth is not an easy ensemble to move around a studio, let alone gig with. 

PS-3300 photo montage with skulls - Photo by Sophie/Bunker Montreal © 1991

Sans owner’s manual or instructions, I applied my analog smarts to this beast and realizing the huge task at hand, began experimenting with the 48 VCOs, VCFs and VCAs and complicated patch panel which allowed the default connections to be overridden by plugging in various patch cords.  It took me a very long time to figure it out but with perseverance and patience (both of which I have a plenty of), I was able to get it.  Here are some of my earliest compositions using the PS-3300.

Here are a few of my earliest works using the PS-3300.

Improvisation in E Minor
Les Mannequins
Some Symphonie
Allegretto to my Heart

I went on to collect various other analog synths which are considered vintage and rare in this 21st century.  Today, I work with the Korg Triton LE Pro-X Music Workstation and am very happy with its functionalities but still keep my mono and poly analogs around just in case I need to find that “special dirty sound”.

Korg Triton LE Pro-X Music Workstation - Photo by VàVà Vol © 2012

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Reflections On This 2012 Mother's Day

Welcome to my brand new blogspot.
Mother's Day has always been a reflective day for me.  Having lost my mother several years ago and recently helping friends cope with the losses of their mothers, this day inevitably came to a full circle in many ways.

I would like to dedicate my first post to my dear and great friend, Steven Bortnick, who passed away on Mother’s Day, May 12th, 1991.  The many years that I was blessed to be his friend were the absolute best times, which I fondly remember to this day.  We met when I moved to Montreal’s east end and he happened to be my next door neighbour.  One day he leaned over from his balcony and said “Hi, I’m Iki!” in that elfin voice of his and the rest was history.
Steven was born on April 17th, 1954 in Montreal, Quebec.  Throughout his life, he was known to his close friends as Iki or Iki Elfin.  For the first five years of his life, he lived with his grandmother, whom he fondly called “his mother”.   His French Canadian mother, Charlotte, regained custody of him shortly thereafter and brought him to Georgetown, Ontario, where he lived and graduated from Georgetown District High in 1971.  Steven had an uncle, Yves, whom he called his “brother” and who lived with the Bortnick family for many years.
Steven’s father Steve was an explorer geophysicist and in his 20s Steven would accompany his father to work in the great expanse of bush of Northern Ontario as an instrument operator helper.  Steve taught his son all the tricks of the trade and this eventually became Steven’s trade.  Every fall, Steven would depart to work up north with his dad, returning in the spring to enjoy the Montreal weather and summer festivities.
Steven certainly lived up to his Aries sign!  He was magical, gifted and his lust for life sizzled.  He was unstoppable when he was “revved up and ready to go”.  He had a passion for music and his vast vinyl collection rivaled anyone’s at that time.  The first thing he would do when he got back into town after working up north was to hit the numerous Montreal record stores and buy up hundreds of dollars of LPs.  He would spends hours mixing his music onto 90 minute cassettes, which was de rigeure in the 80s, hand draw the original cover art and gift them to his family and friends.  One of his favorite things to do was take black and white self-portraits in the St. Mathieu metro station photo booth (that was the best one in town, he insisted) and hand decorate them for his cover art.
Steven also enjoyed the Montreal nightclub scene and would spend hours ripping up the dance floor in Montreal's many night clubs partying the nights away with his friends.  Over the years, he had also become a self–taught professional photographer specializing in black and white self-portraits and would take his camera with him everywhere he went just in case there was a photo op. The photos displayed here are but a few of his works taken between the late 70s and 80s and represent a small fraction of his photographic legacy.
Steven passed away at the St. Luc Hospital in Montreal on Mother’s Day 1991, his mother at his side.  His last words to her were “It’s Mother’s Day today.  So was yesterday”.  He confided to his mother that his greatest fear was “to be forgotten”.  By publishing this blog in his memory, we, his friends and family have ensured that he will never be forgotten.  Thank you to his family for allowing me to publish his photos.  We love and miss you, Iki. 

All captions and photos copyright Steven Bortnick 2012.  All rights reserved.

Iki aka as Petals - 1983

Contemplating "the" change - 1982

In Vegas - 1982

Iki on Jacques Cartier Bridge - 1983


Vorkin' up nort' - 1982

My biker days - 1957


Just moments before drowning my brother... 1960

Iki's first encounter with acid snow - 1980

Photo montage 1

Photo montage 2



1984 birthday card from Iki

Port of Old Montreal - 1981

Untitled - 1981

Well-heeled bicycle - 1983

Iki and Vava on Jacques Cartier Bridge - 1983

3 months overdue with the gas bill - 1978

Steven and his mom Charlotte - 1991

On a mountain

My buddy

Lil' Iki checkin' out the baskets at the beach - 1959

Cunning Elfiin - 1980

My kitchen - 1974

Boring, huh? - 1982

My first apartment - 1974

Photographer and artist 1954 - 1991

Nappin' - 1982

Comin' back from the Sally Anne! as Cheryl Tiegs says "Love 'de look" - 1984