The alternatives are not placid servitude on the one hand and revolt against servitude on the other. There is a third way, chosen by thousands and millions of people every day. It is the way of quietism, of willed obscurity, of inner emigration.
This page renders best in Firefox (or Safari, or Chrome)
Some songs I like to play. See also my Charts page.
READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
"You'se a Viper" by Stuff SmithHarlem Hamfats [wow! I always thought this was originally a Stuff Smith tune! He was covering Hamfats] -- this is Dale Burleyson and the 4th St. NiteOwls performing a truly spectacular cover version. Dig the washboard, dig the pedal steel and clarinet solos -- fast forward to 20:30:
Or really, don't -- watch the whole concert, get a "Viper" treat midway in. This is the NiteOwls performing a year ago at Barbes -- tonight Ellen and I are going to see them at Tierney's. Can't wait! They are opening for Ruby on the Vine, whose new album is included in the admission.
posted afternoon of June 30th, 2012: Respond ➳ More posts about Music
I was once again unable to resist cutting up my fiddle, though I think with potentially better results (cf.) this time. I bought a new C string -- a Super Sensitive Red Label from Musician's Friend -- and found it a huge improvement on the string that had come with the instrument. Suddenly I wanted to play on the bottom strings which made me notice a problem with the bridge; namely, when I cut grooves for the strings I did not make enough space to accomodate the width of the C string. So I cut a little more away and have been playing almost exclusively for the past couple of practice sessions on the bottom 3 strings. See whatcha think of this recording I made of "Walkin After Midnight" : After Midnight by The Modesto Kid
This is the sketched-out notation of a melody I was working on the other night. (The focus is not right, I can't seem to take a picture of the page in focus; not sure why. The unreadable text is "slow walking tempo" and "(let ring)" -- the Ⅴ-shaped symbol above the staff I think means to stress the marked note; in any case this is my intent where I've marked that symbol.) An interesting aspect of writing this out was trying to justify writing it out, trying to explain to myself why it's not a waste of time, what's useful about it...
Writing the melody out ends up being useful to me as a way to let myself improvise -- my favorite thing to do when I'm practicing is to take a short melody and repeat it with variations. I had been trying recently to improvise the melodies "from scratch" but the problem I run into is not being able to keep them in mind long enough that the structure of the melody repeats among variations.
While I was thinking about this I got a message from Vance Maverick that he had written out a transcription of the recording which I'd posted on YouTube. (The images of my and Vance's output are linked to the YouTube video.) The recording is my eight bars repeated three times with variations, plus a measure of intro and one of outro. Vance's transcription is the full 26 bars. This is fun: he has transcribed what is in many ways a completely different song than what I wrote out -- what is certainly a more readable, more accurate representation than mine of what's on the tape -- but which I would have a hard time using to produce what's on the tape.
There is a metric rule we both followed, which makes the notes on the page different from "what's on the tape" -- we both represented metrical values as eighth-notes throughout the song regardless of whether or not they're swung. And as Vance points out neither of us writes out the double-stops -- I think of these as a form of improvisation on top of the written melody -- or is precise about writing out the occasional flat fingering that slides up.
I'm fascinated and impressed by the notion of being able idly to jot down the melody one is listening to -- I am not at all fluent in musical notation, producing it is for me a very clumsy, mechanical process. I'd love to get better at it.
For the first time in a little while, I've found a new fiddle tune I want to learn. Here is the Ether Frolic Mob (featuring Peter Stampfel, Craig Judelman, Stacey Samuels, Eli Smith, Jeffrey Lewis) playing "Billy in the Lowground":
This weekend I started working on a couple of new songs, some solo fiddle tunes and a blues tune I could play with John.
I thought I would explore the latter half of the alphabet in my music book a little; paging through the R's I found "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" -- well! I've been to Lisdoonvarna -- on a bike trip in western Ireland, with Ellen about 13 years ago -- and remember it fondly, and I have a shortage of jigs in my repertoire; so I thought I'd give it a try. Looked it up on YouTube to get an idea what it sounds like, and I found Ryan and Brennish Thompson playing it along with two other Dorian tunes:
I like all of these songs and have set myself the task of learning them -- they're coming along pretty well, I think. "Lisdoonvarna" and "Swallowtail" are jigs -- i.e. fast tunes in 6/8 time -- and "Drowsy Maggie" is a reel, in 4/4.
Another song I took a look at last night, which I think will be great to play with John, is "If the River Was Whiskey", Charlie Poole's version of "Hesitation Blues." Here are The Dough Rollers playing it:
or you can listen to Poole at
lala.com. It's a great fiddle part, a lot of fun, and it'll sound great with John's guitar.
This is encouraging! I went to sleep last night thinking about "Walk Right In", with the different versions running through my head; and I woke up this morning with some ideas for my own version running through my head. So far today I have recorded three versions of it, each one sounding progressively better -- takes 2 and 3 even being music that I would play for somebody else without feeling embarrassed! It still needs guitar in it to sound like a complete song -- if you'd like to hear what I'm working on you can download take 3 from my box.net account.
This seems like a good place for a note about my current recording setup, which has gotten a lot more hi-tech in the last couple of weeks. I am recording into condenser mics which are going to a Behringer Xenyx 1204 mixing console, then a Behringer UCA-200 analog-to-digital converter, into my USB port, and REAPER is storing the sound and turning it into .WAV and .MP3 files. This seems to work pretty well -- I am happy about the sound quality of the recordings -- I need to spend some time on learning the ins and outs of the software, which is a good deal more complex than Audacity but also works better. John and I are working towards the goal of recording both of us together; to do this properly we mainly need another mic stand or two and possibly another mic.
(Not today; yesterday -- today the sun is shining.)
Snufkin got a feeling that he wanted to write songs. He waited until he was quite sure of the feeling and one evening he got his mouth-organ from the bottom of his rucksack. In August, somewhere in Moominvalley, he had hit on five bars which would undoubtedly provide a marvellous beginning for a tune. They had come completely naturally as notes do when they have been left in peace. Now the time had come to take them out again and let them become a song about rain.
This is nice: last night I was reading Moominvalley in November with Sylvia, and we came across the passage above. Later on, and without being conscious of the coincidence until this morning, I sat down and finished writing out a song I have had in the back of my mind since two weeks ago (when I first thought of it I wrote down the first two bars) -- I'm tentatively calling it "Rainy Day".
An interesting thing with the key of this piece -- when I started out I was thinking it was in D minor; but then something happened in measure 5. If the three-note run at the end of that measure is D-E-G♮, then the song ends up resolving on D; if it is E-G♮-A, the resolution is on A, and the key is A phrygian. I am not sure what the accidental sharps on C and G are doing to the key. Hoping to record this later on, it's pretty hypnotic (like listening to a heavy rain outside, was the genesis of the working title.)
So I've been practicing this folk tune called "Devil's Dream" -- I happened on it in my book of tunes, and recognized it pretty well so I thought I'd try learning it. It's starting to sound alright -- not 100% yet, and not up to speed, but it's getting to where it sounds like a song. And then today, I was sort of noodling around with the idea of it and started playing a different song, in triple time, which I'm calling "Devil's Drunk" for now -- it is recognizably based on a similar tune idea, but it sounds drunk. Here is a rough recording of the two pieces: