Trans: Latin prefix implying "across" or "Beyond", often used in gender nonconforming situations – Scend: Archaic word describing a strong "surge" or "wave", originating with 15th century english sailors – Survival: 15th century english compound word describing an existence only worth transcending.

Author: transscendsurvival

Album Review: Hiromi’s “Spark”

Listening prerequisites:  Well caffeinated, thoughtful and contemplative mood

This is a real contemporary Jazz album, full of epic changes and tweaked drums.  Holy smokes, Simon Phillips on the drums, (This guy drummed with Art Blakey back in the day!) with the sound of “I think Hiromi just told Simon to do whatever he please, and go as nuts as possible”.  🙂


For what it’s worth, Hiromi is a Berklee music school piano teacher.   She is very technically minded (modal jazz is so last century- we’re talking cutting edge theory) and likes creative ways to use keyboards and time signature.

Three first songs sum up the album:

Spark & In A Trance:  These tracks seem to be the hallmarks of this album (Simon has drum solos in both).  Spark starts off sounding very subdued and surreal; this quickly changes when Simon and Anthony Jackson (the bassist) comes in, effectively “dropping the bass”.  Speaking of which, Anthony doesn’t go too big in most of this album.  I think that is due to how much space Hiromi and Simon are taking up- it is Hiromi’s trio project after all.   There are a great deal of mini-build ups and sections all over these tracks, creating more of a rolling  landscape  than a traditional song structure.   Simon’s first drum solo is still accompanied by the other two- listen for the use of hi hat and ride/cymbals (AFAIK Simon has more cymbals than Guitar Center before black friday)

In A Trance epic drum solo:  Skipping ahead (all this stuff is great) one will notice in a trance is a ~9 minute song, and it seems the whole thing is setting a magnificent, sharp, and well polished table- just so Simon can rip the tablecloth off and generally wreak havoc.  This is a jazz album, but it is not subtle.  The use of instrument volume and intensity, as well as repeating motifs and phrases build up to exactly 5 minutes into the song, at which point Anthony and Hiromi stop completely and wait for simon to finish.

The dynamics, use of the snare in relation to toms in relation to cymbals is unbelievable.  At 7:04 Simon seems to start whispering via his drums, playing a quieter but still with a certain vigor.  7:18, dropping the bass again the other two start.  7:20 is the greatest thwack ever to be heard.   The End.

Take Me Away:  This one starts with less energy of the first two, up through about 2:00.  Here, Hiromi is toning the complexity down to set up for a straight up jazz groove, starting at 2:28.   Anthony can be heard burbling around in there.  Hiromi is doing a sort of conversational jazz with this groove, laid back and breathing with the other two.   At 5:00, again Simon can be heard banging his drums, particularly the hi hat with quick, decisive strokes.  Good low end on this track after 2:00 ala Hiromi’s root notes and similar notes played by Anthony.

…The rest of the album is yours to enjoy and decipher; it does seem to fall under these three songs framework (or lack thereof).

Required Custom Tools?

“First, we build the fusion reactor.  then, upon creating the mini sun, we shine the light onto the prehistoric spores. We now evolve the subsequent grass to be healthy for the custom-wound sheep animal we designed.  Soon we will harvest the sheep to make the leather, which will of course be used for making the most comfortable ear pads in the… …WHAT??!!  You wanted them in black velor and suede?!?!!”


In order to make the design and manufacturing processes faster and the most flexible a dorm environment (in addition to making the fabrication of bizarre custom objects that may or may not function possible), all outsourcing and use of specialized equipment must be cast aside.  Instead, we must build very, very small versions of rapid prototyping tools.  These tools are:

  • 3 axis CNC mill.  It only needs to be ~150mm cubed on the x,y,z axis, but it must have enough kick to not break or overheat when cutting hard wood cups.  This tool can be used to drill PCB (ES stators), make internal chassis pieces, and slice various materials to fabricate parts that can’t be 3d printed.  There is much to learn about how to use this tool, such that assembling one one is only the beginning.   
  • 3d printer.  This is my go-to for housings, internal spacers and interior connectors.   It is easy to use with some research, and a few hundred hours behind sketchup.  CADs include Sketchup and many additional extensions, Meshlab, 123d products, Blender, Inkscape, and more.  Often people will use multiple softwares to get the best results.  These printers can be built cheaply, requiring only an extruder, a small brain, and stepper motors (which can be avoided if extra work goes into recycling old parts from the floppy disk era).  The rest is up to the builder’s expertise in figuring out how to make the x,y,z axis function.  
  • Membrane stretching jig and etching tank.  These are about as cheap as an inner tube, a few buckets, and a battery…  …However, care must be exercised in figuring out how to get repeatable stretch percentages and solid etches without destroying other materials in the chemical process.  
  • Transformer and voice coil winder.  This will be a very custom and relatively unusual tool, but will be helpful in getting the optimum step up voltages in amps.  Additionally, custom voice coils can be made for new dynamic driver designs.  The electrical parts are all very similar to those of a 3d printer or CNC- think a single axis moving back and forth to position wire very carefully over a spinning transformer or coil.

Waxwing Audio:

High-Brow Foreword:

“I understand ultra high-end headphones and audio pieces are the epitome of superfluous consumerism, only for the .1% of the world’s population, and do not get positive remarks from spouses as good places to spend money.  Luckily, none of these are what this venture is about.  My goal is to meld hand-crafted art and design with an open source philosophy, culminating in unique audio pieces and headphones, as well as a completely open source build log and design resource for others.”

To be frank:

I am a dorm-dwelling college student, studying experiential education.  Everything I make is made from scratch, in my dorm, when I’m not doing other things more pertinent to my BS in adventure experiential education.  

As we know now, the only tools anyone needs to make anything these days is access to the internet, time, and a deep desire to learn…   

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