#012: Hard Bossa • cellular communities • modal improvisation

Welcome to the twelfth edition of Ephemerata, a weekly-ish digest of links, ideas, learnings, and sounds that I think are worth sharing.


I’m doing this to stimulate discussion around what I find interesting, and also to share things before they disappear into the void of my journal.


Linus Lee’s cellular theory of communities uses biological metaphors to describe optimal community growth:

[Communities grow less like linear software products and more like multi-cellular organisms. The conditions are as important as your contribution, and if they aren’t conducive, the entire structure can collapse.]
[It’s easier for cells to stay alive when they are smaller. Multi-cellular organisms grow not by getting bigger, but by producing more cells.]
[Might be more strategic to build a large community by connecting many smaller, more intimate micro-communities. Enlarging small groups destroys the qualities that make it potent.]
To scale a community, build lots of special, one-of-a-kind places for a few people at a time, and then work with the most active members to build fast interconnects between them.

Joe Smith shares what helped Toastmasters become a thriving global community over the course of its hundred-year history:

[Newer people are helped by more seasoned people to create mentor relationships.]
[Making it fun is more important than the educational aspect.]
[Nobody gets paid, but they gain experience that creates real dividends in other aspects of their life.]
[People shy about lacking experience are prime candidates for growth by practicing leadership.]

Susan Collier shares about taking time to sit with ourselves.

[Why is it easy to reach for our phones for ten minutes but not stay silent for ten minutes?]

At the Sparks Between Us salon, the participant identities were secret, so I present the following ideas without credit:

[The word ‘love’ has societal connotations that may push us to conform to patterns that don’t reflect our true sentiments toward other people. What if we used the word ‘adore’ to break these pressures and define our relationships without external influence? ‘I love you’ comes with baggage that we need to clarify and justify. ‘I adore you’ is a blank canvas for us to express more purely.]
[I love everyone by default.]


A recording is now available for my discussion with Fission on Zero Data apps, entrepreneurship, funding, building software together—timestamps are available for the different sections.

Geoffrey Litt’s conversation on Metamuse goes into technological flexibility and implications of separating apps from their data:

[Despite having invented an infinitely flexible medium, we’ve all settled on small groups of people making something and throwing it over a wall for others to use.]
[The secondary market of module providers is often more important than end-user programming possibilities itself.]

While Dave Hakkens spoke at length about his sustainability projects, he pointed out something that I rarely hear in the discourse around ‘the sum of all human knowledge’:

[People with knowledge about certain domains are not in front of computers most of the day, so what is available online does not reflect what we know.]


If you’re enjoying this, consider contributing to my Open Collective. Virtually everything I create is public, accessible for free, and open-source. Your support helps me keep adding to the commons and making it available for everyone.



All the following items can be accessed as a one-click playlist via Joybox without accounts or sign up—just open and play.


More Moreno (via Joyce aficionado @dokoissho)

I try to avoid saying here whether I think something is ‘good’ as it’s not a useful comment, but I can’t help stating that Hard Bossa (1999) by Joyce Moreno (featured in #005) is excellent. I was fooled by ‘the b word’, thinking that it would be easy-going music made by Brazilians catering to an international audience, and I was very wrong: traditional elements are unapologetically slathered throughout.

I’ll share my impressions of some songs, but the whole album is worth a listen:

  • Zoeira starts the album with complex interlocking rhythms between instruments, yet it flows like air.
  • Nome De Guerra’s rapid pandeiro beat and [that universal folk rhythm clapping pattern whose name escapes me] underpins a moment sung by Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, and it flows like air.
  • London Samba sounds to me more like bossa nova than samba, but it feels like you’re dancing and someone is twirling you around. There is a trombone solo and it flows like air.
  • Todos Os Santos features duet harmonies in a seven meter, and it flows like air.
  • Hard Bossa’s scurrying onomatopoeic melody doubled rhythmically by flute flies right by, and it flows like air.

This falls under the #Under45Minutes classification that I disclosed last week.

I also thought it was neat that a legendary artist from the 1970s has a Bandcamp.


Mákina Kandela’s CUMBIAKISTÁN (2014) is sometimes cumbia digital, sometimes afrobeat, sometimes reggae/dub. They use quite a few sudden metric changes throughout the album, which I find unusual for genres that are often more ‘steady’. There is also a peculiar sensation at around forty minutes where the groove always seems slower than you expect.

Junior Braguinha has a set of live quintet recordings that could probably go together as an album, but seems impossible to assemble together without creating a YouTube account or relying on autoplay, so here’s just two tracks: Goonies (2017) mixes a high-octane bass solo with ambient noise (emphasis on noise) from the keyboardist—reminds me of Robert Glasper’s Black Radio. Brisa (2018) is hard-driving and odd-metered with harmonies that shift like mechanical gears. (via Shedid)


I was waiting to set aside a year of my life to listen to Jacob Collier’s Djesse suite, but happened upon Time Alone With You, with a harmonic complexity that results from someone starting with Moon River as their baseline. It sounds like being possessed by the opposite of the devil. I found it impossible to sit still while listening. Notice as well the fluid physicalizing of music in the video.

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad have been recording a series since 2020 called Jazz is Dead with some renowned musicians. I have queued up all seven albums and am pretty sure at least one will end up here. One track called Distant Mode with saxophonist Gary Bartz caught my attention for its intricate drumming punctuated with sections of hyperspace warp speed that reminds me of Flying Lotus. They also collaborated with Method Man on Bulletproof Love from the LUKE CAGE soundtrack—the drum beat and rap lyrics feel like part of the same expression.

I posted to my SoundCloud for the first time in a while: a guitar improvisation from Tiny concert for a friend.


Rich Brown (bassist extraordinaire) explains music theory of improvising on a fundamental chord progression and goes quickly from banal to outer space while describing both using the same framework. I have known the names of the Greek modes and their notes for a while, but only intellectually—I have hardly thought of them consciously while improvising. Here they are presented as composable parts and it seems approachable (using a ‘cheesy bossa nova’ backing track)—feels like I went from having one thing to do on each chord to 12 x 7 (= eighty-four…) possibilities.

Harry Mack slows down his freestyle process so that us mere mortals can understand how far in advance he plans.

@dokoissho documents his journey into multiple generations of Brazilian music. Wonderful to see this old school and beautifully human way of relating to music, a culture that may eventually be replaced by the current tendency toward algorithmic discovery.

(I heart music)

I always love receiving music. Send me recommendations anytime, anywhere!

That’s all folks!

Feel free to reply and share any reflections you might have, or just say hello.

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