Moving day!

Hopefully in my last ever move, I’ve finally rented my little space of the internet.

Please go over and check out I like the Idea of Us. Thanks to all my faithful followers who stop by and check in on me.

Look forward to your thoughts on the new site!

Thanks again.



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Being Smaller

When I started playing music 11 years ago, I hated it. Just another thing to cross of my list of things to do. When I started to enjoy the music, listen to the music, and went about “musicking” (a term I didn’t realize I was doing until this morning) my repertoire, technique, and love expanded. This happened about 5 years ago when I was playing the piano. My “piano” time exploded from 15 minutes a day to a daily regiment of 6 hours. I couldn’t get enough.

However whenever I went to “go music” in front of other people I go so nervous that I stumbled across the keyboard and was usually embarassed. My form of musicking was private. A distortion of real musicking. The term,  musicking, was created to change the idea of how music is done. Typically we’ve grown up thinking of music as a noun. “Let’s go”; “Let’s Listen to…music”; “What music is that playing”; “They play great…music”. Music isn’t (it is, but shouldn’t be) a straight line of thought from composer to listener via the medium of the performer. Music is a collaboration of a society, big or small. Music is a communal event shared by everyone. We music together, informing each other of our thoughts, pleasures, and energy in a linear line that stretches beyond some notes on a page written by some dead European white guy who was born before WWI. There are no elite in this fantasy of mine. (I’m not a socialist, I just believe in rural sustainable communities) Everyone is just as involved, just as important, in music making, in musicking.

Hopefully you clicked the hyperlink above, because I’m doing a horrible job explaining this. Hopefully you’ve heard of Christopher Small (1927-2011), but if not, now you know about this brilliant musicologist and some of his work.

I’ve found almost all of Small’s ideas to be lining up with my own quite perfectly. There’s something wrong with how the symphony hall works. In this 21st century world we’re losing touch with a few very important things. The symphony hall isolates each participant. Listeners don’t interact with each other, with performers, or the composer. Performers hardly interact with each other or with the composer. And the composer is usually dead, buried on the other side of the world a century ago. I’m not saying this music is bad (these men were brilliant and I might even worship one or two of them), but it’s disconnected from our world. It’s like the linear line of great musical works ended at WWI. WWI ended in 1918. The year is 2011. (Just thought I’d throw that in there incase you forgot.) I’m also not saying that I am right, I have the answers, I have the musical work that will unlock all of this, or that everyone else is dumb. I’m just saying – Doesn’t this make more sense?

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Got ya! Nothing to post this week. Stay tuned for next week’s blog on something that I’ll figure out soon enough! In the mean time enjoy a quick look at one of my favorite street artists – Morley

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Holding Homer’s Hand

Book 12 of Homer’s Odyssey (lines 1-54) spoken. Space provided by 2 percussionists playing a variety of instruments and gadgets.

This blog’s getting back to a subject that I know a lot about – me…and some of my music. The track above, being a diametrical response to another project of mine, is crossing another threshold for me – “Space Music”. That’s what I like to call it. Linear time separated by events of sound. Each sound enhances the surrounding moments of time. Usually I’d set up a hyperlink to Wikipedia to give you a horrible description of what “Space Music” is. But the Wikipedia article is truly horrible. (Perhaps the worst one I have ever read.)  Space music typically evokes a sense of spatial imagery and emotion. Another claim; the predominant defining element of spacemusic is its contemplative nature. In this example, the linear time is presented by Homer’s Odyssesy Book 12, an epic poem about…time. The events are presented by drums. I tried giving a visual example, but I’m not as confident in presenting my weak ideas in that medium. So just try to picture music with your eyes. You got it. Now what does space music do? What’s the point? I think it beautifully illustrates the purpose of space and the support of tone by space. I point this ‘accusation’ more at some very specific 20th century ideas, and as much as I hate this, I think stepping away from my composition at hand would easily slip into a crazy crusade that would probably diminish my little credibility.

Back to the “hall” idea: This piece is about the support of the spoken word through either enhancement of certain syllables/entire words or by simple coloring the area around the words. I’m not saying I can enhance Homer’s Odyssey, (I’m not that pretentious) but I think some sounds spaced around can draw the listener in and bring a little more uncertainty to what the text actually means. When specific words or lines of text are supported by events, the listener will change their perception of what is happening. This is what I mean by enhancement. I may not be supporting each idea correctly and I might be missing a tone hear or there, but overall the text seems pretty happy. So hopefully I’ve beaten that into a dead horse…I mean…bad for the horse, but good that you’ve got my idea in your head.

About a month ago I went through a real whirlwind phase of space music; Feldman, Davidovsky, and some Varèse. Given my long gestation process, I think I timed it right for this piece and am fairly pleased with the outcome. I used Fibonacci’s Sequence to group the sounds. I get up to 34 sounds within a grouping. 55 seemed like too much work. I set a few ground rules before I began about spacing between each group and within each grouping, but the more I delved into the piece, I continued to break those rules more and more. When looking at this piece fresh, I am almost certain it would appear that I had no logic in the spacing, but I would counter with some Wagner-type “I’m a composer so I know” type response. But I really don’t. They just sounded good there. (I’m mostly kidding about that.) I limited myself to the number of instruments and sounds I would use not only in a linear fashion, but also vertically because I didn’t want to have more than two percussionists. Even one is hard to come by. (/sniff)

So with that tear in your eye… I think I’m just harping on some of my own experiences. Hopefully it’s not like that for everyone.

Overall, I would consider this piece a noticeable experiment. I like me some chords, even if they’re non-functional. I don’t view this as a reflection of my style, but I think it’s borderline stupid to only stay in one type of sound that’s comfortable for me as a composer. There’s a world out there. I’m gonna go explore.

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Cindy Cindy

– While on Thomas Deneuville’s blog, “I Care If You Listen“, I listened through a free mix-tape that was being offered for download. There were a few tracks which I enjoyed, so I clicked the Facebook “Like” button on them and enjoyed a few moments of pleasure for being part of the social empire. But none of them struck me as truly original or progressive. They all seemed like logical steps in the artistic progression of music. They’re not borderline mundane; I think these pieces are truly important steps to take, but sometimes it’s nice to see someone reach across the border. Cindy Cindy’s track – “Stay” – is one of these pieces, or I’d like to think so.

– The name of the artist, “Cindy Cindy”, is actually an old time folk song. Sung on the porches in the South, it reached out through the albums of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley which helped make it a popular tune. As with  most folk songs, people tended to add their own verses and many had an amorous feel about them. I think that’s a fitting thought to think when listening to this piece. (Yes, I am that good with my words – *insert hip texting word* “jk”)

– The old folk song is about a man and his Cindy, the girl he intends to marry, but for now must send home. It’s about letting go of the things you love for a future reunion. The chorus (of the folk song):

Get along home, Cindy Cindy,
Get along home, Cindy Cindy,
Get along home, Cindy Cindy,
I’ll marry you some day.
gives a general show of what the old folk tune was about. I imagine this chorus being howled by men, missing their lovers, while sitting around the fire or in the bar. Kinda like a lovers remorse, Death Cab for Cutie, type sound. Ya follow my drift?
– I mentioned earlier that I thought this was a step beyond where music is going and I’d like to offer these points:
1)This has American heritage to it. Not the heritage of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s like so much of our “great” heritage we see everyday, but a true American heritage dating to the pioneers and the porches of the hard-working American. It garnishes this heritage by it’s rich name and subject and the history involved with a proper understanding of where those ideas are coming from.
2)Secondly, this truly is a progressive mix of folk instrumentation and electronic drones. I would dare say beautiful. Some of the harmonies are just so beautiful and how they resolve, so perfect, that sometimes I didn’t know what was going on haha. You have a musique-concrete feel with the birds chirping. You have a little electric guitar in there to. All around pretty crazy mix. But obviously done by an intentional, ordered mind.
3)Lastly, a musician has to work in the idioms he’s given. I could give you examples of every composer for their genre and style, but what’s the point? You probably already know all that. As children in the 21st century we have to work in the genres that work and provide us with an audience that listens and an experience that is rewarding. Without an audience it really isn’t music and without satisfaction why would you be doing music? Go plant a field or something. I’m trying to say that whoever Cindy Cindy is has taken the genres and idioms before them and organized them into perfection…or pretty darn close.

– In closing, I did eventually find some links to some more of CindyCindy’s music thanks to “I Care If You Listen”! Here they are!

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Dead Mouse!!!

Put in some headphones. I know it’s long, don’t worry there’s no text, just some heavy beats. And please don’t be freaked out by the creepy glowing mouse head. It’s a thing that is supposed to have some special meaning thing. Just finish reading then go play Minesweeper.

Did you click play? Okay okay…So, if you came to this blog thinking it was about how to kill a mouse or a story/song about my triumph over a rodent, bad news is coming. This is actually about a person, one whom I didn’t know even existed until this past weekend. His stage name is Deadmau5 (pronounced Dead Mouse); real life name is Joel Zimmerman. He’s a DJ, producer, and I would throw “music composer” in there as well. I honestly have no idea what he would call himself.

I’ll get right to your question. What is the point of this post? Why are you telling me what to listen to? Don’t you have better things to do? (I should probably study for a midterm tomorrow, you’re right.) I just want to point out a few things and let you get on your way. Straight up: this is club music; techno, dance, disco, whatever you call it – it’ll get a person moving. With this bundle of classifications we can also just state some very obvious things:

1) the composition is probably played from a laptop.
2) You’ll probably sweat a lot less listening to this from your computer than listening to it live.
3) The instrumentation isn’t mind blowing, but when your dancing in a sea of people with huge waves of treble and bass rolling through you, a person can’t be to picky.

Thinking about the sound and feel of this piece, I want to bring up Erik Satie a French composer who was a major precurser to the musical minimalism movement. All the sounds, in this piece, feel warm and are incredibly repetitive, which is maybe were I am drawing the connection with minimalism/repetitive music. Satie wrote some piano pieces late in his life called Gnossiennes, a word he made up. I want to refer directly to Gnossiennes No.1. Satie’s piece is basically 5 different blocks (an A, A’, B, C, and then an A”), maybe even only 4 depending how you look at it, that Satie will just cycle through. The form is simple. There’s no modulation, just quick tiptoe moments outside the key. The harmonic rhythm is always the same and there’s really only 3 different chords for the entire piece. The rhythm is always the same – we know what to expect; it has a slow dance feel, sparkled with beautiful moments to enjoy in the melodies. I want to propose that “club” music, or whatever you want to call it, is a legitimate offshoot of what Satie started. Key word being “legitimate”.

Thinking about it as a composition, it has obvious form. Basically it has the same shape as Ravel’s Bolero and Goreki’s Symphony No. 3, Mov. 1 by starting small and slowly moving towards a very intense, beautiful high point in the piece. I think of much Debussy and a little Chopin when I listen to where this high point occurs in the piece. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the idea of 2/3 being the perfect place of symmetry, but the Ancient Greeks (what do they know?) saw this and wrote about it. They called it the Golden Ratio, and when dealing with music, it mathematically surmises that the high point for a composition is around 2/3. So take that idea or leave it. Just something I noticed. Now, I’m not equating this DJ with any of these great composers (or Greek philosophers), I’m just saying he is (or appears to be) smart enough to borrow their ideas. He’s obviously got a good ear (or his producer does) for this music. Enough parentheses.

What I want to say: this is a good piece of music that maybe doesn’t say something out right, but connects the listener with every other listener around them. This composition connects the live audience with each other by movement. When preformed – people will dance. Maybe not at first and maybe not through the whole thing, but it’s impossible to resist the urge to move when you reach that apex. I think of dancing as a very primitive response to being happy. It puts a smile on your face. I want to propose that this song is about being alive. So maybe it does have something to say; I think it does. Let me know your thoughts.

Hopefully in my next post I’ll submit some more of my own ideas before you readers and you can tell me what you think.

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Rashida Jones and Schoenberg

Let me start by saying that Rashida Jones seems to be in just about every TV show and movie I have seen in the past few weeks. I’m not saying that I mind, because I don’t, I’m just pointing out that she seems to be all around awesome at the moment. ‘Nuff said.

Now moving on to some ideas that I’ve been thinking through. I don’t actually claim any importance or validity to any of these remarks, but they come from a study of Schoenberg’s op 11 and about 2 years of rambling through his “Fundamentals of Music Composition”. So, those magical ideas I’ve just referenced mostly focus on this one piece by Arnold Schoenberg, his Mov. 1 of Op. 11. Here is a link to this piece. Most helpful is the score to follow along, but secondly is that it is played by Glenn Gould, a personal favorite for his work with Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Some might say that it is almost to mechanical and not quite what Schoenberg had imagined for the piece, but who am I to say? That could turn this into a completely different conversation.

So what’s so great about this piece? And why does this music sound so horrible? Both valid questions that I asked on my first listen through…and had to ask myself again when I listened to it again 5 minutes ago.

I wish to simply state the facts as I have learned them. I’m not a great essayist or an orator; I just wish to convey my thoughts on a subject which I claim no scholarship.

The basic unit of a melody is a motive. The motive, that small gesture that we hear in the soundtrack of “Jaws” or in the rumblings of Beethoven’s 5th, is what gives a musical work movement. It’s the sole creator of minutes, hours, and pages of music. Most composers either know how to use this small object and manipulate it to their will, or they don’t. I’m gonna step out on a limb now and say that most well-known composers did/do; 95% of those you’ve never heard of didn’t. (I fall somewhere right in between: ignorant.) Now, the motive, the basic unit of music is always associated with some type of tonality. The “Jaws” clip is almost all in the same key and the same interval, a m2 I believe. In Beethoven, the motive changes tonal centers and intervals, but never leaves the basic system of tonality.

Let’s move to this Schoenberg piece. Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951) came along, shortly after all the big German romantics had stretched tonality (the predictable pattern of hymns, the beautifulness of Bach; Major/Minor keys. I-V-I) pretty thin, and poked a hole in the system and asked (and I paraphrase an imagined conversation) “this isn’t working/isn’t fun, let’s just use the motive, get rid of all this other crap”. Wagner, Mahler, and Bruckner (all those big German romantics) had left the musical world wondering what was next; they had taken tonality to its’ limits, there wasn’t to much more that hadn’t already been done. I think what Schoneberg did with tonality is best summed up by his chief student, Anton Webern: “We broke its neck”. I never really knew what Webern was talking about and always felt like he would have been a rather pretentious man to meet, but I think I’ve finally grasped what he said when I began to understand Schoenberg’s genius. It wasn’t that Schoenberg destroyed tonality by creating a new language (which apparently is difficult. I’ve never made a new language, but I hear it has its’ rough patches) . His genius rests only on the fact that he could wipe away all the confusion of early 20th century music by gernerating more cleaner, leaner, simpler motives. Sure let’s debate about wether 12 tone serialism (atonality) matters or sounds pretty. Go ahead and talk about it. I’m gonna go get smarter by listening to Schoenberg’s gift of motivic development while you debate.

I want to add some links that I have found useful:

In closing, please tell me if I’m wrong. Please tell me if I’ve confused you. Or just tell me that you like the post or that you would rather see me burn/delete it.

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