May I introduce you to an interesting website, Letters of Note? Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed in my day to day that I have not much to say when I sit down to write. This very cool entry at Letters of Note,All of this is nonsense, (do click on the link, it’s worth a look) brilliantly and perversely embodies such a situation – a situation where the writer simply has to write something…
Mr. Ward Cleaver
485 Mapleton Drive
My Dear Mr. Cleaver:
This paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
It is here merely to fill up space. Still, it is words,
rather than repeated letters, since the latter might not
give the proper appearance, namely, that of an actual note.
For that matter, all of this is nonsense, and the only
part of this that is to be read is the last paragraph,
which part is the inspired creation of the producers of
this very fine series…
In the course of reading various books on theatrical directing, I found my way to Harold Clurman’s On Directing. Now, I am interested in the theater, but I always find myself, perhaps inevitably, considering any thoughts I have concerning the theater as potentially applicable to my various musical endeavors. So it is with Clurman’s book. At the beginning of Chapter 7 – The Director’s Work Script – the author has this to say:
Having read the script six or more times and decided what the play’s main action or spine is, the director would then do well to study the play in still another way. He should read all the parts separately as if he himself were going to act each of them. This will help him find the spines of the chief motivating action for each character. The character’s spine must be conceived as emerging from the play’s main action. Where such a relation is not evident or non-existent, the character performs no function in the play. There is no basis for a true characterization unless the character’s prime motivation or spine is found.
Hmmm…this seems to be a particularly fertile metaphor for choices one makes in arranging and orchestrating music.
I’m a huge Police fan and a huge Elvis Costello fan, so imagine my joy when I belatedly ran across these two icons video intersection:
Oh, and what’s your favorite Police song???
Sorry, Elvis, the reharmonization doesn’t really work – kinda jumps the shark – but, I hasten to say, Elvis Costello’s Alison is just a fantastic song…lets see if I can find it…
The first time I heard this song was in the late 70s on the radio in Los Angeles, sung by Linda Ronstadt. I haven’t heard that cover for years and years, but with the magic of the internet: (don’t look at this video – just listen)
She basically just covers Elvis’ arrangement, with musicians who play in a style acceptable to the then current radio gods. But, in fairness to Linda Ronstadt, check this out:
Oh, the joys of YouTube. The above cover is a good example of the Southern California pop sound circa 1978. There was a true archetypal style by then. The backing band could have backed the Eagles or Jackson Brown, or any of a numbers of others. I like this sound. Did I say Eagles, circa 1978?
You know, I get carried away with this stuff. I really loved a lot of this late 20th Century rock/pop music. There was a real good run there. I don’t know where we are now. Records are no longer what they used to be. The old music business business model is a dinosaur. Yet music always finds a way. Like mathematics, music is always there on the cutting edge. It can’t help it. It’s just that the cutting edge is no longer to be found in record companies or on radio stations controlled by corporations.
The first explosion of culturally – mythically transformative music that makes its mark through the great mythical tubes of the internet – that’s when we’ll feel it again.
I spent last weekend in Chicago at the 2009 TAA Tamburitza Extravaganza. To seize upon just one musical marvel among many, let me note that I really enjoy Macedonian music, and in particular, the extraordinary grooves that grow as a hybrid collaboration between the dancers and musicians. In fact, there is no need to distinguish between the dancers and musicians, as they are both in these grooves very much together.
How do people dance in 7/8? Here’s how:
In the above video dancers at the 2009 Tamburitza Extravaganza dance in a fast 7/8 meter to the music of Sviraj, of Steeltown, PA.
As far as I can tell, these “odd metered” Macedonian musics are constructed of segments of 2 and 3 beats. For instance, a 7/8 will be felt as (3+2+2) or (2+2+3). An 11/8 might be felt as (2+2+2+2+3) or (3+2+2+2+2) or (2+2+3+2+2) or (2+3+2+2+2) or whatever… A 25/8 might be felt as a conglomeration of smaller units, like ( (2+2+3) + (2+2+3) + (2+2) + (2+2+3) ) – that’s one “bar”.
Of course, if you have to count it, you’re probably not feeling it. Also, these musical events often get going so fast that the 2′s feel like single beats, and the 3′s feel like a single beat followed by a bit of an amorphous pause. After a while the dancers simply levitate.
I’ve played around with composing to these rhythms. Here’s me on bass, Aron Kaufman on traps, and Sam Clark on guitar kicking around a 14/8 groove (2+2+3+3+2+2) a couple of years ago at Oz’s here in Ann Arbor.