September 28, 2003 (link)
More on the "Nowhere to go" song: here's a MIDI file of the melody I posted with a (very) quick-and-dirty accompaniment added, and here's a MIDI file of what I can remember of the chorus. I'm hoping that adding the harmonies should make it easier to ID; on their own, neither passage is particularly unusual, but what makes the song interesting is the relationship between the two.
Does anyone recognize this melody?
Click here for a MIDI file version
I heard this song last weekend, playing on the radio at a Denny's in Lexington, MA. I've heard it once before, and the above melody stuck with me for some reason; hearing it again made me want to find out what it was, but unfortunately, I didn't manage to remember any more of the words (though the chorus is in G, is sung as a duet, and may start with a line like "These people stand" or something similar...?) and there are a lot of songs out there with the line "Nowhere to go", which makes a lyric search more-or-less impossible. The melody I transcribed is from the bridge of the song, or at least the part that transitions from the verse into the chorus; it's sung by a female vocalist with a nice sound and a smooth, sweet voice. I'd guess the song comes from sometime between 1973 and 1981; it's got a horn section and a bit of a Big Band Lite sound, if you know what I mean. Not normally a genre I'm drawn to, but the harmonic inventiveness of the song, among other things, caught my ear. I have a feeling it was a minor hit, but I might be wrong.
Anyone know what it is?
Current music: Agent K - Feed the Cat
September 25, 2003 (link)
Take a look at this great unpublished article by Lester Bangs on Brian Eno. One of the most appealing pieces of music writing I've come across in a while -- I've barely read any Lester Bangs, but if this is what his stuff is like, I'd love to see some more.
Current music: Biosphere - Live at Salurinn, Kopavogi, Iceland, Oct. 19, 2000
September 11, 2003 (link)
S: i'm stuck on smile
Current music: Bonobo - "The Shark"
September 10, 2003 (link)
Damn, damn, damn. So soon after Wesley Willis -- though actually, Shooby died all the way back in June: I guess the news only surfaced now. (I'm told it was announced on WFMU today.) I suppose this is a bit less unexpected, but still...!
I'm glad I got to talk to him last year, and that I sent him that birthday card. And I'm glad that, before he died, he learned that there were a lot of people out there who dug his music. (The BBC even interviewed him!) But it would've been nice if he'd lived to see a CD come out.
Plav da shree, lo ku pah: rest in peace, Shooby.
Current music: Deep Chill Network - "Explorations"
September 4, 2003 (link)
I just got the coolest automated telemarketing call ever. I think it was a recorded message selling life insurance, but either it was playing from a CD that was defective, or something was wrong with the computer system they were using, because it sounded like a sampler going mad! It played about 10% of the message properly; the rest of the time, it would take about 0.2 seconds of audio at a time, and repeat it rapidly, usually 8 times each, so that instead of saying "We have a great offer for your consideration" the woman on the recording might say:
"We-we-we-we-we-we-we-we ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha va-va-va-va-va-va-va-va gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-eat offer for your conside-de-de-de-de-de-de-de ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra" etc.
It was fantastic! It sounded enough like it could be an intentional creation that at first, I thought it might be Spherey J. playin' a trick on me. But when I realized it wasn't, I grabbed my headphones, plugged 'em into my mixer, fired up Sound Designer II, and tried to record it (using the earpiece as a microphone). Alas, the signal was too faint to use -- what a pity! The call probably should've been about 30 seconds long, but the glitch-ifcation stretched it to about 2 minutes or more. And naturally, right at the end it sorted itself out: "Thank you, and have a nice day!" Shades of the McDonald's practical joke I've always wanted to play...
My amp has a bad hum, and an odd, bad mix. Why, I ask? I do not ken. Too old an era? Too low a fee? And why is the mix I get on my low axe not in the bag, and not fat? Who can say? But it can vex me a bit, oy veh. I am mad and sad -- it is no fun. J. and I cut an ace mix, six and two ago, but I owe it to me to add to my mix set so I can be a top guy. The mad pop man DJ was sad, but he did use his box on Hi How Are You, and it was ace. But I do but a bit of pop. I can use a CPU mix, or do up a bit of a jam, but I do not mix on my lap (not so hot, I'd say). The mix of AAS can wow me. (AAS is USA and "the old way to do a mix" and "set".) I do not ken how AAS can do so hot a mix, but he who is AKA "Bot" can say "Ace axe, ace mix; bad axe, ass mix."
Oh, and a not-so-old gal was by at my job as I had a CD on, and she did say, "AAS is a fab, low mix! I dig it!" How rad! So I say "I can cut a CD for you, hon". It was the "as the hue of the sky, one is apt to sit on it and nap" mix. An old AAS set had it, and it was an ace set. I had a yen for it, but all was new to me and I did not peg it, so ESP was the way.
Now my mix is: no mix now.
September 2, 2003 (link)
My bass sound has gone to hell, and I'm not sure why. Back in the summer of 2001 when I recorded the Scottsongs, it sounded great; true, my amp picked up a little interference from the local radio station, which was annoying, but basically it was getting a nice, full tone that I felt good about. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have turned down an Ampeg fliptop, but still, I was happy with the sound I was getting.
But for months now I haven't been able to get a really decent sound out of the thing. For one, ever since I moved out of my old apartment into the building I'm in now, my amp has had a major buzzing problem. Part of it, I think, is the electrical system in the building, which almost definitely isn't properly grounded, but I'm starting to wonder whether there's more to it than that. The buzz is bad enough to ruin most attempts I've made to record bass tracks through my amp, and I just don't have the cash to invest in any elaborate project of tracking down, isolating, and removing the ground loop that I assume is going on. (Will one of those rackmount Furman power conditioners help?)
On top of that, the tone itself of the bass is crappy, especially when I record it direct (through the effects send of my amp -- the XLR line out on the back has never been very good). It's been especially bad since the start of the year; I tried recording a bass part to Scottsong 3 today, and it just sounds lousy -- flabby, brittle, thin. One guess would be that the tubes are dying, but I have the same problem when I bypass the preamp (my bass has active pickups). The sound coming out of the speaker still sounds OK, and actually, when I turn it up, other than the buzz it sounds just fine. (Even my Danelectro guitar starts to sound pretty nice that way.) But even if the buzz disappeared, I don't have a good way of miking the cabinet right now; my options are about to improve drastically with the arrival of my new mixing board, but I don't have decent mics for it yet! I'm hoping I get a decent sound when I go direct into my mixing board; when I tried using my Ibanez delay unit as a preamp, the results were pretty poor.
As you can probably tell, this state of affairs is getting me down. I'm tired of dealing with crappy timbres, and of trying to solve all the problems of music-making on my own. Fortunately, J. and I made something pretty good (albeit brief and off-the-cuff) a few days ago during his brief visit here, so at least I've got something in the recent past to feel pleased about. But man, this uphill battle, of trying to make good sounds and failing, is getting me down. Of course, I need look no further than Daniel Johnston to see an example of why I ought to suck it up and keep going no matter what technological impediments I may encounter; if he can make great music with a chord organ, a cheap guitar, an old record player, and a boombox that isn't even going at the right speed, surely I can make do with what I have! But I'm not Daniel Johnston, and most of the things I want to make need to have good sounds for them to work. Daniel writes pop songs, basically, and pop songs are relatively good at retaining their identity independent of the sounds used to realize them. Though I like writing pop songs too, my main interest is in writing music in which timbre is much more to the foreground -- so if the timbres I'm using don't on some basic level sound good, it feels like I'm trying to make an illuminated manuscript out of supermarket receipts and cow manure...
So if my birthday -- which is coming up in just a few weeks -- doesn't bring me a Fender Rhodes deposited at my doorstep like the harmonium in Punch-Drunk Love, or a set of quality condenser mics, or an appointment with a fine luthier who can upgrade and fine-tune the electronics on my bass and amp to make them both sound fabulous, it'd be nice if at least these things would sort themselves out. I definitely can't keep going this way -- "man cannot live by software synths and SoundHack alone", so to speak -- and I just can't bring myself to make the kind of laptop/bedroom-studio music that, I'm beginning to realize, is at least partly the result of technological convenience. (That's another reason I have so much respect for what Amanset have been able to do -- though then again I suppose it's also evidence of the Thompson doctrine of "Quality instruments make good sounds, cheap instruments sound like ass.")
Speaking of Amanset, listening to From Our Living Room to Yours today, I got a very favorable comment about the music from a colleague of mine in her early sixties -- something along the lines of "Hey, what's that?...That sounds really nice!" Granted, she's unusually youthful for her age, but still, to my mind that reflects well on her and on the band. And "Blue Chaise" was playing at the time, which makes it all the better. At my first Amanset show in October 1997, I didn't know any of the songs from The Fun of Watching Fireworks (since I didn't own it yet), and I hadn't yet a hard time associating the songs on the second CD with their respective names. So when they were about to play an encore -- or maybe they just took a final request: it was a very short show, because of the curfew -- Jonathan started shouting out "Where Have All the Good Boys Gone!" and I joined in because, even though it was probably my least favorite song on Living Room, it was just about the only song I knew they hadn't played yet whose title I also knew. Fortunately, the band demurred, and played "Blue Chaise" instead, which was beautiful and would've been my request if I'd known how to ask for it!
Current music: Sleepbot (currently playing "Sailboat Anchored at Night" by Saw Trigge)
September 1, 2003 (link)
Interesting page with an excerpt from a new book about the early days of Pink Floyd. I like the part about the compere (Pete Drummond) going out to face an angry crowd with ten minutes worth of bad jokes:
"Hendrix used to say, 'Did you hear me tonight? I was out the back yelling FUCK OFF! early on in the proceedings.' Yeah, I heard you Jimi. I'm getting that audience so wound up against me that you could be the shit worst player on Earth and they'd love you!"
Another song with an unusual phrase structure: "Telephasic Workshop", by Boards of Canada. At one point I think I was listening to this one with Morgan and decided it had a 7-bar structure or something like that, but it's much more complicated than that: it's actually a 41-bar structure, divided up into 5 + 7 + 5 + 6 + 6 + 5 + 7 (which I'm sure has some kind of numerological significance I can't suss out). It breaks down as follows, with each letter standing for the main synth tone played in that measure (not quite referring to chords per se):
And the whole thing repeats four times over the course of the song.
It took me a long time to notice that the ending of Amanset's "It's All About Us" (The Golden Band version) has a fairly unusual, five-and-a-half-bar phrase structure:
And it sounds entirely natural -- you'd never pick up on it if you weren't looking for it.
I just put the song on, to double-check my notation above: I'd forgotten how good it was. It wasn't one of my favorite songs on The Golden Band at first -- particularly since I initially preferred, and still love, the quieter, shorter 7" version -- but to quote Wes, I love it like a milkshake now. It's also been a highlight of the live sets I've seen that have included it, particularly the way it builds and builds at the end -- and a big part of what makes it so powerful is that elliptical phrase length, with that 5-1/2-bar structure giving it an immediacy and unpredictability a 4- or 8-bar phrase wouldn't have. Maybe it's a bit like the way that 7/8 often feels fast or exciting, in part because it can sometimes seem like a trimmed-down, sped-up 4/4, one that's catching up to itself a bit quicker than you expect. When you're dealing with loops, or repeated material, one of the keys is to find a way to make the repetition seem fresh and unstereotyped -- which the ending of "It's All About Us" certainly does: it never feels like one-too-many-times-to-the-well.
Current music: American Analog Set - The Golden Band
Euripides I, ed. Richmond Lattimore and David Grene