Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: robyn dell’unto

Haise Wedding: Photos and Video

I’ve now been married for a year. I’ve been meaning to share more from the wedding. I’ve already posted my wedding speech, but there are also the wonderful wedding photos taken by my aunt, a few photos I took myself during the day, and a video clip of Robyn Dell’Unto playing her song, Dreams of Me, for our first dance (the song I fell in love with when I first met Robyn).

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Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve Performance with Robyn Dell’Unto

Photo by Ed McAskill

I’ve been in love with Robyn Dell’Unto from the moment I first heard her voice, and it’s been almost two years now since we became friends and she first introduced me as her secret weapon.

This past Thursday, we had the opportunity to perform at the Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve party on the main stage. Though our set was cut short, it was a fantastic experience. We made it onto the Global TV national broadcast for about a minute, and I’ve stumbled upon some great photos taken by Ed McAskill (including some outstanding shots of me).

Robyn has been taking off recently, getting signed with Orange Lounge and having her music featured on CBC’s Being Erica season finale and other TV shows. She’s started work on her first full-length album, and it’s only going to get more exciting from here… I hope she remembers me when she’s famous!

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Singers, Songs and Strings

Hart House Chamber Strings Pops Concert Poster

If I’ve been MIA over the past month, it’s because of a huge concert I have coming up next weekend. I play double bass with the Hart House Chamber Strings (HHCS) and for the past three years, we’ve done a pops concert in March with independent songwriters. The concert was started by Paul McCulloch, who was conductor when I was in first year. I played bass for the concert and talked to Paul afterwards about performing as a “guest” artist, so at the next concert in March 2007, I wrote out arrangements for my band (which, I think, may have recently slid from “coma” into “permanent vegetative state”) and we had the privilege of performing with the ensemble.

Last year, Paul left the group and I took over the pops concert. I was cautious about writing arrangements for songs I wasn’t terribly familiar with, so I only took on three artists — Robyn Dell’Unto, Jadea Kelly and myself. (I was playing violin with both Jadea and Robyn, so I was pretty familiar with their music.) We filled out the rest of the night with music from popular films. Like previous years, it was a lot of fun and a great success.

We have seven artists on the bill for next Saturday, March 14th — Mandippal (@mandippal), Dave Borins (@daveborins), Lucky Fonz III (all the way from the Netherlands, in town for Canadian Music Week), Robyn Dell’Unto, Pat Robitaille (@patrobitaille) and Peter Katz and myself. I play violin with Mandippal, Dave and Robyn regularly and am excited to write for them, and I’m thrilled to be working with Peter, Pat and Lucky Fonz. As always, I’m honoured to have the chamber strings play my arrangements, especially for my own songs. I’ll be on bass with the ensemble for all of the other artists.

So, if you’re in the Toronto area, this is going down Saturday, March 14th at 7pm in the Hart House Great Hall (Facebook event). Admission is free, and I promise it’ll be epic.

If you’re not in Toronto (or if you can’t make it), I’m hoping to get the video camera out… so, with any luck, I’ll have something to upload afterwards.

I promise to come back to life March 15th.

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Video: Cuba and The Patient at Kelly’s Korner

My sister was kind enough to film my set at January’s Kelly’s Korner, a monthly open mic. at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. I played two covers. The first is a song written by a friend and inspiration of mine, Robyn Dell’Unto (a local singer/songwriter I usually accompany on violin). She didn’t know I was covering the song, but another friend texted her during the performance, so my secret didn’t last too long. I played her the video last Thursday and she didn’t hate it! The next video is the third acoustic Tool cover I’ve done, but the first to be recorded/filmed. There are a few rough spots as this was the debut of the cover, but it turned out fairly well.

Cuba (Robyn Dell’Unto cover)

The Patient (Tool acoustic cover)

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Kevin Fox is my hero

In March 2006, the Hart House Chamber Strings had their first pops concert (photos). I play bass with the chamber strings, and I’ve since taken over as administrator for the pops concert, but that first concert really left an impression on me.

Especially Kevin Fox.

He closed the night and played a song called “Phone Booth” off his upcoming album, Songs for Cello & Voice. Unreal.

I’ve since run across Kevin many times. He worked as musical director with Shaye for a while, and I met Damhnait Doyle through the Humber Summer Songwriting Workshop, so I saw him perform with them. I swear I saw him in a Jann Arden music video, and I saw him play with Andy Kim at Hugh’s Room. He also played cello on some of Robyn Dell’Unto’s recordings.

As a songwriter and cellist, he’s doing exactly what I’m trying to do with songwriting and violin. Kevin Fox is my hero.

I’ve had Phone Booth stuck in my head for years, and yesterday I finally got to hear it again. After finding his Facebook Musician Page, I came across this YouTube video and found more tracks from his upcoming album on his website.

Definitely worth a listen.

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Cleaning up HTML entities in MySpace blog RSS feeds (or how to eliminate squidginess)

I recently setup a Facebook musician page for Robyn Dell’Unto. We ran into one really annoying problem importing her blog posts from her MySpace blog. As Robyn described it,

my only issue with the notes is that they go all squidgy when there’s punctuation in the title. which, frankly, embarrasses me! I’m really embarrassed by squidgy punctuation!

By “squidgy,” she meant that the HTML entities were not displaying properly. Titles from imported posts displayed like this: “I’m doing stuff I swear.”


First, I thought it was a problem with Facebook Notes, but upon inspecting the MySpace RSS feed, I found that (aside from being woefully invalid — iTunes?) MySpace seems to have no freaking clue how to handle HTML entities properly. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of MySpace. Why would I expect a valid feed? *sigh*

There were two really annoying things that MySpace was doing (aside from the whole iTunes thing):

  1. They double encode entities. Sure, it’s necessary that they turn each & into & in links, but not in text that they’ve already encoded!! This leads to the ’ “squidgies” in the titles
  2. There are a bunch of unicode characters that they don’t encode. For all the double encoding, other characters which ought to be encoded are missed entirely.

On top of that, I discovered that Facebook won’t display any of the unicode characters (I think?) even when they are represented by the proper HTML entities. They just display the entity code, causing the ’ “squidgies.”

Now, I’m no expert on character encoding and HTML entities, but I can do better than that. I’ve hacked together some PHP code to clean up the feed a bit before importing to Facebook, which has solved all of our problems so far. I realize I’m only addressing a limited subset of unicode character entities, but it’s working for our purposes for now.

View the code.

It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a definite improvement and it works so far. Hopefully this can be of assistance to someone else. Suggestions welcome!

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Make your music downloadable so people can connect with it

Mathausen Concentration Camp - July 2004

I’m listening to my music library on random right now, and a song just came on that was playing on my digital audio player when I was arriving by bus at the Mathausen Concentration Camp a few years ago. When it started to play on the bus then, it sent chills down my spine. When it played just a few moments ago, I felt as if I was there again.

I was introduced to a few Dispatch songs in the fall of 2002 — The General and Out Loud. I bought one of their live albums, Gut The Van, a few months later. I was disappointed because it didn’t really click with me. In August 2003, I gave it another chance while I was in Barbados. It clicked. I found out later that fall that the band had broken up, but I went to Boston in 2004 and New York in 2007 just to see their reunion concerts. And I didn’t like the live album at first.

Last night and on the way to work today, I listened to a few songs off some of my favourite albums — H. from Ænima (Tool), Lateralus and Schism from another Tool album, Lateralus, All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands from Seven Swans (Sufjan Stevens) and Recycled Air from Give Up (The Postal Service). I can tell you the precise moment when the Sufjan Stevens song became a part of my life and exactly what I was going through. When I listened to Recycled Air, I was brought back to the second week of May when the song helped get me through a rough few days. H. immediately brings to mind the face of a friend I parted ways with for a while. Schism and Lateralus both evoke so many different emotions (pieces, spirals and math), all linked to specific times or places over the past five years. From the same album, I can tell you exactly where I was and who I was with when I finally and fully felt and understood Reflection.

It’s these moments that make me want more.

I remember when I first saw Robyn Dell’Unto perform. The song she played first isn’t recorded yet, but I heard it again when she played it for me leading up to a gig in May. Both of those eternal instants are still present in my mind. Yesterday, Robyn introduced me to Craig Cardiff‘s music. I could tell she was a bit disappointed that I didn’t seem to be impressed at first. His music sounded great, I just haven’t had a chance to connect with it. She left it playing in the background.

I’ve tried to make the point before: if I can’t listen to your music, how am I supposed to connect with it?

Music alone is often not enough to catch your attention. I hear a lot of good music all the time, but I couldn’t possibly come to love and know all of it. I find what makes the difference between the music that crosses the threshold and that which remains unnoticed is often merely fortune and circumstance, which determines whether or not we are given the opportunity for that music to resonate with us. Hearing a song in one situation might not leave an impression, but hearing it another time when it has a direct connection to your experience or current events in your life can leave a permanent mark.

This is one of the reasons I think artists should make their music available for download. It’s like Andrew Dubber says, people hear music, people like music, people buy music. Or in Haydain Neale‘s words, people feel music in this order: hips, heart, head (well, he actually said “groin, heart, mind”, but I like the alliteration).

In order for people to go from hips to heart to head or from hearing to liking to buying, they need exposure. There’s no real pattern in my examples as to whether the connection came before or after a purchase, but when I connect with music like I have in the cases above, I don’t forget it. And I support it (e.g. Dispatch concerts). That’s how you earn a true fan. Streaming a couple tracks on MySpace doesn’t do it. I can’t take that with me and hear it when it might be relevant for me, when I might connect with it or relate to it. I don’t have the same opportunity if I have to sit on your website. Make it downloadable.

To those with hesitations, what’s more important — another album sale or another true fan? True fans buy albums. Focus on allowing people to connect with your music.

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Andrew Dubber and Robyn Dell’Unto convince me to get a MySpace profile

I caved. Recently stumbled upon Andrew Dubber’s (excellent) blog. An expert on new music strategies, he admits that his “dislike for [MySpace] borders on the pathological.” Me too!

I begrudgingly agree with Andrew that MySpace is still relevant. Facebook Musician Pages are much better, but the social aspect is not the same. Facebook allows you to connect with other fans, but it doesn’t allow you to connect with other artists in the same way. Musicians are still on MySpace… unfortunately.

Don’t expect much on the profile though. I guess I should upload my music, but I’m going to keep it pretty bare. I’d prefer to interact with people on other platforms, but I’ve decided to at least maintain a personal presence on MySpace (as opposed to using my band’s profile for things).

Also, MySpace acts as a standard gateway of sorts. If I see a list of bands for an upcoming show, I’m more inclined to visit their MySpace profiles quickly than to visit their personal websites. I don’t know if they’ll have music easily accessible on their websites, if they’re websites will just link back to their MySpace profiles… For all of its loathable inconsistency, MySpace still does provide a basic consistent interface and I do admit to looking at MySpace profiles before bothering to look at websites.

Plus, Robyn wants to add me to her Top Friends. How can I resist?

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Great photos of Robyn

Wow. When great talents collide… Kyle Weir has some amazing photos of Robyn Dell’Unto up on his site. No idea when they were taken, but they’re new to me!

(He took photos at a gig I played with Robyn back in January too, and was kind enough to let me use them on my website!)

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The Red Rooster with Robyn

I’ve been called many things before, both good and bad, but “secret weapon” has got to be one of my all-time favourites. Well, second favourite… being asked “were you a ninja?” when returning to my high school definitely tops the list.

Last night, I played my first gig on violin with Robyn Dell’Unto at the Legendary Red Rooster Vintage Cafe in Burlington.. If you haven’t heard her music yet, go to her MySpace right now. I mean, you’re not allowed to read the rest of this post unless her music is playing in the background. (Take a look at how much I’ve been listening over the past week…)

When I first heard her in August, I was floored. Trevor Howard, the headlining artist of the night (what a cool guy), put it best: she’s just in an entirely different class. I must admit, I was pretty intimidated when jamming with her at first. I wasn’t sure that I could add something to her music as opposed to just getting in the way, but she actually seemed to like what I was playing and I guess it worked out pretty well.

One of the coolest parts about the show last night is that we apparently have a DVD of our performance. (Robyn, you were right… hard core hair washing action indeed!) It’s great to have captured the moment because it’s in moments like that when I realize I want to do this for the rest of my life.

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