Tuesday, January 29, 2013

well, that was stupid of me

I was at a function and ran into someone I hadn't seen in about a year. He plays trombone. But for some reason I had it in my head that he plays the saxophone.

To make smalltalk I asked "How's the sax coming along?"

"Trombone," he said. "I play trombone."

Without thinking, I asked "Are you sure?"

Friday, January 18, 2013

the melting pot in action

It epitomizes New York as a melting pot. A New York subway busker. He's black, he performs in a tux, playing Jewish music on saxophone and clarinet. Often, runs around in circles while playing, in a manner that reminds me of Chassiddishe men dancing.

What's the story behind it? Maybe he just likes Jewish music. Maybe he works nights playing at Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Maybe he's Jewish.

If I ever have the chance to see him -- he plays in the Times Square subway station -- I'll try to find out.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

ouch =/= help

I was once talking to a friend about the Rutles. I avered that "Ouch!" was my favorite song of theirs. He said he didn't like it because it was exactly the same song as "Help!", the Beatles song that it was parodying. I argued that it was a close parody but it's not the same song. The melody, I pointed out, is different. No dice. He insisted that it's the same song and since he's a musician (he'd been in, like, you kow, actual bands) he knows better.

Well, I don't care how many bands he's in. It's a different song. You can judge:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


What won't they think of next? A Swedish band, the Shout Out Louds, have released their new single, "Blue Ice" in a new format: a playable record made out of ice.

I'd love to follow up by saying it's available in the refirgerated section of your local record store, but you'd see through that particular joke. First of all, most record stores don't have a refrigerated section. Second, the ice version of the single is an extremely limited edition. Only ten were made. And technically, when you get it (assuming you are one of the chosen few), what you get is a mold, a bottle of water and instructions. You pour the water in the mold, freeze it, remove the record from the mold and then play it. Cool! For more details, here's the article I saw.

Yeah, it's obviously a gimmick. Keeping the record as part of your collection is not an easy thing to do. I would assume it's not great for your record player, and I doubt the ice would survive many playings. Heck, even the first play seems to be pretty porr quality. But it is a clever idea and good for some attention.

In a similar vein, I recall reading about a record that came with a cardboard turntable that -- if memory serves -- had to be folded together. And I also recall reading about a digital record that has some kind of software built in to change it in small random ways so that it never sounds the same twice. Don't ask me for details. I don't recall.

A bunch of questions come to mind: Do you have to use the water provided in the bottle, or does plain old tap work? Will the music sound bubblietr if you use seltzer? Can the mold be used more than once? I would hope so. I'd hate to think that you can use it once and that's it. But I could see the possibility that the plastic mold is damaged beyond reuse when the frozen disk is removed.

What I will admit is that it shows how far gimmick releases have come. I remember some gimmick releases from my youth, but they were all simpler. There were some singles that came in odd shapes. I particularly remember a specially released single by the turtles that was shaped like a turtle. Split Enz' first album came with some kind of laser etching so that if you held the record at the right angle you could see the album's logo on it. I also had a 5-inch single (Jona Lewie's "I'll Get By in Pittsburgh") and a 6-inch single (Squeeze' "Another Nail in My Heart").  And, of course, there were picture discs, and albums released on clear or colored vinyl.

My favorite gimmick, though, was a flexi-disk produced by Mad Magazine. It was for a song called "It's a Super Spectacular Day." The gimmick was that it had eight different endings, and you didn't know which one would play any given time you listened to it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

could wilko be the next fester?

Can anyone watch this and tell me that Wilko Johnson wouldn't make a great Uncle Fester?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

gene roddenberry: piece of work

"Work" isn't the noun I wanted to end the title of this post with. But discretion is the better part of valor

One of the stories out of Hollywood, and I'm assuming it's true, centers on Gene Roddenberry and how he managed to snag (unethically, in my opinion, 50% of the royalties for the theme from Star Trek.

I assume you know the theme. ethereal music with a wordless female vocal. To my ears, it sounds like a theremin.  It's aired without lyrics, but there were lyrics to it:
Beyond the rim of the star light
My love is wand'ring in star flight.
I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star-woman teaches.
I know his journey ends never.
His star trek will go on forever.
But tell him as he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.
The things about it is that Alexander Courage wrote the music for the theme. Afterwards, gene Roddenberry added his lyrics. Roddenberry never expected to air the lyrics. But by writing lyrics he could claim credit as co-author and get half the royalties for the song. Courage (rihtfully) considered this unethical, but Roddenberry defended it by saying "Hey, I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek."

I still like Star Trek, but this bothers me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

tfia at licm

Today the family went to see Trout Fishing in America (TFiA) at the Long Island Children's Museum (LICM). Before talking about the concert, I'd like to go off on a couple of tangents and talk about the band and the venue.

Band first. Trout Fishing in America (Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood) are far and away the best children's band out there. Their songs are catchy and entertaining, and accessible for children. But the songs are structuired like regular songs. What I mean by that is that they have all the musical complexity of pop songs aimed at an adult audience, so they don't bore ears trhat have spent decades listening to music. Another thing that I like can best be described in terms of what it's not. A lot of other performers of children's music are very self-conscious about being educational. And they make the music educational at the expense of the music itself. TFIA don't do that. The music is the music. And it's damn good. In one song they're counting the wheels on a truck, and the kids are enjoying it. But it's so catchy that adults are going with it too. Another song is about a space alien that made it's way into the singer's nose. The kids are amused (OK -- some are grossed out), but the song sounds like something from the early new wave (circa 1980), and adults are loving it. I'll note that TFIA is not strictly a children's band. They do "serious" "adult" music as well, and their CDs are generally split into the adult and children's categories. I tend to like their kids music much more. But that's just me.

Now for the venue. The theatre at LICM, in Garden City, New York, is one of those underappereciated and underattended gems. They have some great shows there (not all music, mind you) by great performers. Off the top of my head, I can remember shows by Chinese Theatre Works, Ken Waldman, Nappy's Puppets, and Chip Bryant. There have been others. These are high quality shows by great performers in an intimate environment. There's not a bad seat in the house. Today was the first time that TFIA played there. Theatre manager Jim Packard told my wife that getting TFIA to the theatre was on his bucketr list. Another thing that I appreciate about the theatre at LICM is the price point. The show was $3 per ticket. Admittedly, that was the member price. I think the nonmember price was $4. Having a family of 5, I really appreciate that. There's lots of activities where the price seems reasonable until you multiply by 5. We' have seen TFIA in other venues where the cost for the whole family runs in the $100 neighborhood. Jim, if you're reading this please don't take it as encouragement to raise the prices.

As for the show, It was a good assortment of their favorites. There was "18 Wheels on a Big Rig" (see video below, which was not from today's show, but pretty well captures the spirit of what we saw), "100 Little Ducks" and "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" and others. They played these with the usual good humor that I've come to know. At one point, Keith talked about how they recognize some people who have been to their shows before, and I would swear that Ezra was looking straight at my wife. We were, by the way, in the front row. OK, we (along with the other family we went went) were the front row.

The only thing that seemed out of place was one of the new songs, "Don't Touch My Stuff," a musical reaction to theft last year of their van with all their musical intruments in it. TFIA is, if nothing else, a playful band. And even in their few angry songs ("Mine!" is the only one that comes to mind) the anger is offset by playfullness. But "Stuff," from the starting thundering bass riff, is angry. And it didn't sound right at a TFIA concert. I understand the motivation, but still...

There were a couple of other new songs. "Creepy Dead Bug" is one I look forward to hearing on an upcoming album. And " You've Got a Funny Name" from theuir latest album, Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important. The album is a CD with a book around it -- they call it a book with a CD, but I prefer my description.

One thing that's difficult when I talk about TFIA is that I have to avoid talking about a favorite song or even a short list of favorites. I may come up with a list of three songs that come to the top of my head. Maybe "We Weary Deer," "Alien in My Nose" and "Chicken Joe." But then you ask me about "No Matter What Goes Right," and I think Yeah! That's one of my favorites too!. But what about "King of My "Mountain"? Yeah, that too! And it keeps going.

At any rate, following are some videos:

"18 Wheels on a Big Rig." This was not from today's performance, but it is of recent vintage, and captures a lot of the same feel. I note two things about the song: 1) At the end, when Ezra recites digits of pi, he does it wrong. I once mentioned that to him after a show. He said he knows. I don't know why they still do it that way. 2) I would love for them to add a bit where one of them notes that most wheels are round. But some of the wheels are perfect squares, and now we're gonna count the perfectly square wheels. They would then sing "Oh, there's 1, 4, 9, 16 wheels on a big rig." I suppose that would go over too many heads.

"Alien in My Nose," which they did not perform at today's show. It sounds like it should have been a new wave / powerpop song thirty-five years ago. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away.

"16 or 17 Hours of Sleep." This is a new song I hadn't heard before today. It's from the new album, whcih comes with a book wrapped around it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

listen long and prosper

Do you remember the background music when Captain Kirk first faces the Gorn? Or when he and Spock go at it with Lurpas? How about when he almost found himself in a fast draw with Morgan Earp? If you're a Star Trek fan -- or even if you're not -- you're probably familiar with the music. You may not know exactly which piece plays when, but it probably brings the show to mind.

Now, you can listen to these -- and other Star Trekian musical gems to your heart's content. The Wall Street Journal reports that La-La Land Recotrds has just released a fifteen-volume set of CDs featuring all the music from the original series. The WSJ reported described it better than I could (I wish I could write like this):
Even non-Trekkies will likely recognize some of the more memorable passages—like the tyrannical horn motif of the treacherous Romulans in the episode "Balance of Terror." Or the screaming trumpet threat of the mindless, planet-destroying berserker in "The Doomsday Machine."
Now, not all Star Trek music was brass-heavy and foreboding like the pieces cited above. There were the playful bits, like when Kirk and Spock are caught stealing clothes back in the 1930's, or when Scotty drinks an alien (from the Andromeda galaxy) under the table. Whatever good and bad there was in that show, the soundtrack music was arguably the best in television.

The downside to this is that the CD set is priced at $225, which places it out of the realm of impulse purchases. I suspect that the good folks at La-La Land are simply taking advantage of Trekkies. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- I believe in the free market, and recognize that we don't have any kind of fundamental right to cheap Star Trek music. But I won't be buying this collection unless the price comes down a lot. No matter how much they begs.

Ahhh ahhh ahhh. Bitter dregs.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

trombone silliness

I find this kind of amusing to watch. A camera mounted on the hornd of the trombone, aimed at the face of the person playing it.
I will admit that it gets me a tad seasick.

Friday, January 4, 2013

the strangely cd

So I've had a chance to listen to and digest the Strangely CD, Hot Air Boat Lune.

I like it, though it's not what I expected. Of course, I'm not sure what I expected. Strangely is an iconoclast, and his music, based on what I can find on Youtube, doesn't fit the conventional molds. In fact, it's probably more accurate to call him a performance artist than a musician, though music is part of said performance. For examples, here are some videos:

There's a bit of old-timey spirit and some hillbilly influence. My favorite track on the album (sadly, not depicted above) is "Hey Lady," a kind of louldly touching tribute to a woman in New York.

The only musical issue I have with the CD is that there's a certain intensity on it that I haven't seen in his earlier music. Some of tracks sound very angry as a result. It's almost as if Strangely felt he had to come through big time and was just trying too hard.

The packaging is, of course, a real DIY job. The disk is a Verbatim CD-R designed to resemble a record (you know, those big black vinyl thingies they used to make). No one bothered even to write the name of the album, or artist or anything on it. The CD case is brown cardboard with minimal black ink. The song titles are on a paper insert.

Strangely did write (on the inside of the case), "To Marc, My only fan in (Jamaica) New York..." and he signed it. He also inserted a paper with a handwritten note expressing his hope that we got through superstorm Sandy OK. I don't have the heart to tell him that my wife is also a fan of his, and she's in Jamaica, New York. I suspect that his Kickstarter money was almost exclusively from his Bellingham fan base, and there were very few contributors from elsewhere. So he was tickled to see a New York address.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

got strangely

A while ago I blogged about Strangely and his Kickstarter campaign.

I finally got the album in the mail. It came some time in December while I was away on vacation. I haven't really had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm looking forward to it...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Someone (with whom I agree) noted that "The only thing more pretentious than "They Might Be Giants" is "They Might Be Giants" for children.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

more on musicifying with hp

As a followup on my recording with HP...

I learned a few things from the experience. HP pointed out that the bridge of a song doesn't need a melody that resolves itself. It can be good if the bridge ends with some tension leading into the verse that follows. And I did change my melody for the bridge in order to achieve that effect.

I've also been thinking about the lyrics in choruses. I tend to think of choruses as static -- each verse has different lyrics, but the choruses are all the same. That's the way I think of it, anyway, even though I know it's not always the case. There are songs where the choruses all differ in a line or two. But what I did with "Five Missing One" is keep all the choruses the same, except for the last one, which has one different line. I like the way it kind of creates an expectation that the choruses will be the same and then throws a curveball at the end. Of course, I'm throwing another curve at it. That one line that changes? I decided on a different different line for the final chorus. Problem is HP and I already recorded it the way I had it. So when I register the copyright I'll just have the lyric sheet reflect the new line. That should cover me.

After I register the copyright I'll write a post in which I reveal the lyrics, and I'll address that final change. Of course, if I can figure out how to embed a ReverbNation widget in this blog, I can make my demos available to anyone who reads this.