Sunday, November 23, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here's a squirrel from today.  There I was in Denny Park; the sun came out and I called this squirrel over.  I had no luck getting him to stand still until I gave him a peanut.  And then he wouldn't move.

11. Common Touch

He's an early try on electro-soul.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I went to Birdman, but saw penguins instead!

I wish this happened every time I went to the movies.  By the way, I did go see Birdman and it was really good.

10. Tuesday Night

Here's another tune without chords.  It's just me playing five sax parts over beats.  I was initially a little shocked at how much key noise is generated by all the saxes, especially the bari.  For those not accustomed to the shorthand, that's baritone saxophone.  I don't own any, but I rented one from my sax repair-guy.  It sounded quite good, but the keys were so noisy.  Plus, my tenor has fairly loud keys, as well.  The result was lots of non-musical noise.  Well, there's no taking it back, so I've gotten used to it.

I wrote this tune shortly after the revolution in Egypt.  It was a time when the goodwill following the ouster of Mubarak was beginning to wane and many Egyptians were worse off than before.  So I decided to write a song from the perspective of someone who can see this coming.  It really doesn't matter that it has a latin feel to it.  I didn't want to make it country-specific.  I mean, even though it concerns itself with Egypt it doesn't have to have the arabesque sound.  Anyhow, I wanted to throw in as many saxophone parts as I could and I did.  I apologize for all the key noise, but it is a pretty slick tune.

Friday, November 21, 2014

9. Poor Players

The life of a working musician is often filled with petty indignities, most of which are tolerable if there aren't too many of them or too many of the same sort happening at the same time.  What is completely unacceptable is when someone hires you for a gig and then blames you for ruining it when things don't go according to their inflated expectations.  This generally occurs during weddings, but it happens at regular gigs, too.  In the case of this tune, it's at some swanky party.  The evening is a flop, the guests are a bunch of powerful louts and the musicians get blamed for it.  This is where I make my stand in the tune.  I point out the party's failings and question the nature of all those involved.  In the end, the musicians win because they're doing something they truly enjoy.  After all, if you don't enjoy making music, what's the point?  Seriously, only a very few people can be in it for the money because the money simply isn't there.  Me, I do this because my mind makes up tunes and picks out words, not necessarily in that order.  Anyhow, I've tried to convey at least a partial reality encountered by working musicians and I've tried to set it as a kind of hearty, rustic waltz.  The big open fifths in the upper and lower strings give the arrangement some real heft.  I'm so happy that I hired really good players who could really dig into their parts.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Other Morning... 3rd & Bell.

8. Supercollider

Here's "Supercollider," a tune about the supercollider!  This is the second track on the album that has no chords.  OK, so it has a few intervals, but zero triads.  Trust me, it's true.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

7. The Old Castilian

If there's one thing I like more than not writing love songs, it's writing songs about amorality.  And if it be made into a story, all the better.  Here we have a guy who kills people.  It's implied that he's experienced enough in the trade to have developed a jargon for certain tasks.  In this case, "the Old Castilian" refers to assassinating a very important official, a fictional king, in fact.  Now, this being fiction, I'm also implying that this guy isn't a constitutional monarch.  He actually rules a country that's big enough to make a difference.  And he is beloved in his country and beyond.  But some shadowy group decides that he has to go, so they hire the tune's narrator who gives the play-by-play.  The rest is pretty easy to understand.  And though he takes great pride in his work, there will come a day when the people who hired him will hire someone else to take care of him.  He accepts that and just keeps hanging out at the beach.

This tune was something of an experiment.  I wanted to see how many different melodies I could stack on top of the same chord changes.  Basically, except for the bridge (the part that tells about the ship blowing up and sinking), you're hearing the same chords all the time.  The tune and instrumentation are different, but the chords don't change.  This hopefully gives the track unity in the face of what seems like too much variety.  It's one of my favorites on a technical level.  There's a lot going on, but it doesn't seem like it.  Plus, it tells a complete story.  There's a beginning, middle and end and at the conclusion, the narrator doesn't come to any great epiphanies.  I wish I could write a song like this every day, but alas, something like this only happens occasionally or by accident.      

Monday, November 17, 2014

6. Maybe Rabies

This is a breezy little tune about not being able to break up with a really annoying person.  It doesn't come from my or anyone else's reality.  I mean, who doesn't know that rabies is a serious disease?  Who's that stupid?  Still the conceit is enough to give the tune a fairly exasperating end for the hapless narrator.

In the semi-interesting facts department, did you know that all instruments except the drums are fake?  Obviously, the backing singers and the claps are also real, but yes, everything you hear - bass, harpsichord, guitar, koto, chinese zither, etc. - are all virtual instruments.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Your Sunday Squirrel

Have you ever seen a squirrel eating a pear?  Well, now you have!  I saw a lot of squirrels this week, but almost all of them were skittish.  This guy couldn't lug the pear very far, so he had no choice.  When I got too close, he retreated to a bush and glared at me.  I'm pretty sure he ate the whole thing after I left.