Part 1: Music, Electronics, and Magic

Part 2 soon.

I don’t remember much of my brother Mike from when I was growing up in Wheaton, 20 miles west of Chicago. Mike and I were exactly 12 years apart—we shared the same birthday (January 23rd)—so you’d think I’d remember early birthdays together, but I don’t. He moved out of the house to go to college when I was 5 years old, and the family only saw him a few times a year after that. We moved to California when I was 10, so that obviously made it much more difficult.

My earliest memory of him was when I was five. I remember sitting on the front porch steps of our house as he showed me a card trick. I had "Lemon" with me—my small yellow stuffed rabbit. Someone wanted to take a picture of us together so Mike said "Pick a card," and I reached for one. Then he changed his mind. "No, have your rabbit pick the card."

He was very interested in magic when he was young—buying magic tricks and performing shows from an early age. I remember him doing a few tricks for me and one of my four older sisters. He poured milk out of my sister's arm, and made a ball levitate on a piece of fabric held in front of him. I wanted to know how it was possible, but he would not reveal how they were done. He kept all of his magic gear in a cedar chest he had painted black. Now stripped of its paint, we use it as an ottoman in our living room.


Another early memory I have of him from those years has to do with his love of electronics. I had moved into his small bedroom upstairs when he moved out, and one night I went up to my room, not realizing he had come home to visit. My room was dark, but I froze when I entered the doorway, because several small red LED lights were blinking at me from inside my dark room. The lights were changing pattern and I must've stood with my mouth open, because soon enough Michael came out, laughing, showing me this cool box his friend had made. It was a book-sized wooden box with a dozen or so LEDs on the front and some electronics inside and switches, too. I don't think it was a game, just a strange experiment. I think he was trying to freak me out.

My other memory was from when I was ten years old. It was the spring before we moved to California and our oldest sister Sue was getting married. Mike and his band "Humpback Whale" played music at the reception in the basement of Sue's husband's parents house. He'd changed in the last year or two--dropping out of college, wandering Europe, and growing his hair long. He seemed so different to me now, more mysterious than ever, as they played their set of mostly original rock tunes in that basement. My parents and the youngest three kids were about to move to new lives in California, without much plan of exactly where we'd end up. Mike was about to start a small recording studios called Acme.

Many years later, he told me that audio engineering was his perfect profession because it combined the three things he loved most: music, electronics, and magic.


Part 1: Music, Electronics, and Magic

by Jim Rasfeld, February 2008