Saturday, March 14, 2009

the old gods awaken...

There are two possible ways of re-mounting the auto-advance plate and cam lobe in the distributor on a Guzzi, and it's impossible to know which one is right without splitting the frame, dropping the engine and pulling out the distributor drive cam; so you have a 50-50 chance of getting it right. This morning, I stood next to the Guzzi's inert carcass and flipped a coin in the mild late-winter sunshine, full of hope for the immediate future.

On the one hand, hitting the start button is greeted with a throaty roar (and as a musician, I've begun to realize that the reason the sound of various V-twins is so attractive is because of the asymmetrical firing pattern - each one , Guzzi, Ducati, Harley, has a unique signature sound depending on the degree of that asymmetry; the, say, 135 degree da-dup of a heartbeat instead of the even, bland 180 purr of a BMW [sorry Rog...]); or, on the other , the engine produces a few strange poops and echo-y metallic burps as the ignition tries to fire on the exhaust stroke. Needless to say, the latter was the outcome at lunchtime, after a morning spent stripping out the old electronic ignition system I now knew to be dead, and re-installing a pair of standard breaker points.

It took two clumsy hours to install the first time, but only 30 minutes to change over for the second try; and the fact that it was the right way around was announced by a hellish, rising open-pipe din as one of the carb sliders stuck and I frantically stabbed for the kill switch. Whey-hey.

Next, some time spent trying to getting the timing, points, valves and carbs back in the ballpark, as I've changed the whole set-up between all the mismatched parts from the two bikes..

In the meantime, I've been spending a lot of time sketching some Arias for the opera project Holy Goof while I'm waiting for some text from Malcolm. The idea of Cassady's adventures, first with the Beats, later with Ken Kesey, to his last mad walk of into the freezing night along some railway tracks to his death is beginning to get exciting. If I can get a couple of arias into some kind of orchestral suite form for Peter Britten's orchestra next year, it could serve as a launching for an entire opera production. All I need is (sigh) money.

Also, I'm spending some of the weekend going over the AHRC composition grant for the Riprap project, and starting to think about the Ruth Padel gig this June 27th, and setting up a companion gig in Cambridge for her as well, and I've just gotten a green light for one in November as well. I'll have to organize a recording of the new stuff once we play it in a bit.

Still thinking about bass clarinets.... when will they come into my life?

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