Tuesday, November 25, 2014

13. Rats Are Learning

I like rodents (especially squirrels) and this tune speculates that when rats finally get organized, we're doomed.  Did you know that rodents make up 40% of all mammals?  So that's a lot of rats.  I do hope that they won't bear too much of a grudge.  OK, so maybe it's not much of a possibility, but there comes a time when a species whose prime talent is adaptation and survival makes the leap towards dominance.  I'm not saying it'll happen tomorrow, but it would be kind of cool to have some super-intelligent competition.  Oh, and I really dig this tune.  It also has no chords but it does have a real definite groove.  Plus, it's kind of weird, which is a definite bonus.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Birdman - A Few Days Later

Don't worry, no real spoilers here.

OK, so I went to see Birdman on Saturday.  Overall, it was a very enjoyable film.  The performances were very good by nearly everyone, but one thing has bothered me ever since: it's this naive belief that in order for art to be real, it has to be dangerous.  The more dangerous, the more real and vice-versa.  Michael Keaton is trying to redeem himself for years of hackery by doing something difficult.  First off, there's an assumption that since what he's doing is outside the mainstream (he's adapted Raymond Carver stories) it is automatically art.  Add the fact that Carver was deeply flawed and you have something worthy of everyone's notice, right?  Well, not really.  And that seems to be incorporated into the film on some level, because from what you see (all of two scenes), it doesn't look that great.  But if you add in the whole art-must-be-dangerous ethos, that seems to give the film a real kick in the shorts.  The only problem is that it's complete malarkey.

Acting, music, visual art, etc. don't require danger.  They need a certain focus on the craft.  And craft doesn't trash dressing rooms, have spectacular meltdowns or go into rehab.  Those things happen when (for the most part) when there's a lack of craft and a full-on belief in art-danger.  The problem is that art-danger makes for a better show, while craft is process-oriented and dull to watch.  Art-danger is quick, exciting and has a limited shelf life.  But here's the thing, very generally speaking, those works that involve heavy doses of craft tend to be the most complete.  In my case, say, if I want a snappy horn arrangement for one of my tunes, what do I do?  I write it myself, using knowledge that I've gathered from years of writing and arranging.  In the studio, I run the players till they get it right.  This is always a very calm and fun thing.  Everything goes smoothly and we're onto the next tune.  My experience is that a musician who believes in art-danger will hire horn players, go into the studio with nothing and then expect something to happen, which it doesn't.  But boy, is there a lot of shouting and drama.  And they usually emerge with a terrible arrangement.  My whole point is that the one way is unfeasible while the other is just unentertaining.  And once you've embraced art-danger, it only escalates.  If you've almost killed yourself over some project, what's next?  Killing yourself for real.  Of course, I'm an adherent of the craft, because it's a way of being good.  But in this world, it's advisable not to be too good, because you'll write stuff that looks/sounds/seems weird when run against mainstream faves.

But seriously, listening to opinions about art is a pretty dry socket.  It's just that there was something about that film that was really bugging me.  And I figured out what.  And it still bugs me, but I can live with it.          

12. Gutterati

At last, a tune about fun-loving drunks!

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...

...at 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.