Archive for May, 2013

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The Penguin, AKA Oswald CobblepotThe chords and melody for “What’s This Music For?” came along years before the opera, in September-October 2001, in fact. The chorus melody was slightly different, so I altered to fit the words. I remember writing the words while I was at work, and recording a “demo” by whistling while stomping up steps in the stairwell to keep the beat. The “flute” solo at the end was a late contribution by John, as was the percussion in the background. Both enhance the final product immensely.

The title is a bit of an in-joke. When I did desktop computer support a number of years ago, one of our customers was a character we nicknamed “Oswald Cobblepot” because of his resemblance, in body and behavior, to Batman’s nemesis the Penguin. One day he asked me, in all seriousness, “Doc, you’re the expert—you tell me: What is this Microsoft Office for? ‘Cause I don’t have a damn clue!” I thought this was funny, and it came out when naming the song.

“What’s This Music For?” was another of the Transposition songs on the set list when put together a short-lived performing version of Chameleon Red in 2008 and was the only one actually performed in front of an audience. It was also performed live several times by our other band, Mother Zephyr.

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Electric Sitar“She’s Changing” was actually called “He’s Changing” until just before the vocals were recorded.  I had a very long and agonized debate with myself on whether or not to use male pronouns when referring to Jack/Jackie.  I knew it was more correct to use feminine pronouns when referring to Jackie, but I thought it would be too confusing to the listener to switch genders back and forth.  But ultimately, that’s what the character does, so I finally decided to flip the pronouns.

I wrote it in November 2005; the working title was “Moonie”, for whatever reason.  I specifically wanted a song sung by the character Lucy.  As such, it’s the only song on the album where my voice doesn’t appear.  Originally, the song was in the key of D, but I changed it to E to accommodate Katie’s vocal range.

I play an electric sitar on this song, which is basically just an electric guitar with a special bridge to make it sound like a sitar.  I actually used this song as an excuse to buy one; I knew I wanted a sitar sound, so when I saw the electric sitar on sale in a catalog, I of course had to get it.

 

And the album title is…

Posted by on May 17th, 2013

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Recording "Revolving Door"Skeleton Crew!  Yep, we finally decided on a name for our upcoming second album, taking from what will be the final track.  It seemed appropriate in a number of different ways.  We’re putting the finishing touches on the music right now; the recording process has been delayed somewhat by allergies, throat problems, and life in general, but we’re getting close to the finish line.  Personally, I’m really excited about the music.  I think it’s definitely our best work so far, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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“Could Be Me” was written in August 2005.  I was trying to write an upbeat, happy song; the first try didn’t quite work, so I went back to the drawing board and came up with this one.  It wasn’t until much later, November 2006 to be exact, that I worked out the harmonized guitar line and the chord progression for the end of the song.

I was trying to explicitly create a Beatlesque sound on this song; the arpeggiated rhythm guitar sounds similar to some Abbey Road tracks, and the dual lead guitars in harmony is in homage to “And Your Bird Can Sing”.  The very last chord was an accident; John, thinking there was one more phrase left, played a G and then an A on the bass (instead of going straight to a D), but I liked the sound of it so we kept it in.

Do Artists Deserve To Be Paid?

Posted by on May 10th, 2013

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After reading this article in the Huffington Post about tensions between Pandora and musicians, I happened to scroll down and read the comments.  This is almost always a bad move, guaranteed to lower one’s faith in humanity; this experience was not an exception.  The general drift of several posters seemed to be that musicians not only didn’t deserve to be paid royalties for plays of their songs, but that songs were like commercials and therefore musicians should pay to be played on the radio, Pandora, etc.  What?!?  One commentator opined that musicians should all get day jobs and that music should be no more than a hobby, not a vocation.  It makes me wonder, where does all this hostility toward musicians come from?  Believe me, producing quality music is hard work and can be quite expensive.  Most of us do indeed have to work other jobs because we can’t make a living otherwise.  But I would be interested to hear others’ opinions on this.  Should musicians just work for fun and give up any hopes of generating an income from their craft?  Should we all just hang it up and do something more “productive” with our time and energy?

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AshikoRather late in the writing process, I decided that an explanation of the term “Two-Spirit” was needed, and it was obvious that the opening song should be reprised in some fashion in doing this.  To avoid any copyright infringement, I read a number of original sources on the subject and then, in my own words, wrote the “book quote” that the character Lucy reads to Jackie.

We recorded the instrumental backing long before the vocals were laid down, so we had to guess at how long it would take Katie to read the text.  It turned out that she read it much more quickly than I had expected; this led to a significant elapse of time before Jackie’s response began.  I ended up cutting out several measures of the backing, and I also digitally slowed down/stretched out her speech so that it occupied a little more time.

The drum I play in the background is an African ashiko, which I actually made myself.  Well, sort of.  I attended a drum workshop where we were provided the wooden shell, which was made of several pieces of wood of different shades pasted together.  I sanded down the shell till it was smooth, then painted it with shellac; once that was dry, I sanded it again.  Then I took an African goat skin (also provided), made holes in it, and stretched it across the shell by weaving strong twine around the drum in the traditional way.  It was a lot of work stretching it!  Later I had to shave off the hair on top of the skin—yes, with a razor!  It took two days to finish the thing.  I really like this drum, but I’m not sure if I’d want to go through the ordeal of making one again.