4/26/17: The happiest man on earth

There’s a game going around Facebook today where you list nine bands you saw and one you didn’t. Your friends have to guess which band you didn’t see. Music nerd that I am, I’m having a blast with this (incidentally, the answer to mine is “Queens of the Stone Age”).

Anyway, this leading to that, I started thinking about Iron Butterfly, a band I had the unlikely opportunity to see. As a Gen X-er, I’m too young to have seen them in their late 60’s/early 70’s heyday, but in 1988 they did a reunion show at Atlantic Records’s 40th anniversary celebration.

I guess as a warmup show, they played at the Chance in Poughkeepsie. And I went with some friends from college and we had a great time.

The Cult Brothers, which was two members of Blue Oyster Cult and two other guys, opened up the show. Their drummer was not a member of BOC, and looked like he was about 20. And while they were onstage, that guy was the happiest man on the planet. He was having a blast. He was twirling his sticks and throwing them up in the air and catching them, and he was playing with BLUE! OYSTER! CULT!!! it made me happy just to watch him being happy.

I hope that guy had a long happy career in music, and I’m dedicating these two songs to him.

 

 

Image courtesy of the British Library.

4/23/17: Rain and Sun and Led Zeppelin IV

Up here in the Northeast, April can feel like November. But not as bad.

The difference is what’s coming next. Flowers are already out now, and the trees are blooming. Springtime and sunshine and all that happy stuff are on their way, and nothing can stop it. No even a gloomy cold thundercloud day.

We just had one of those days; rainy and cold and grey and Novembery. So I made tuna casserole with my super-secret ingredient* and put on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. And I heard this, the second movement of the first Brandenburg (as opposed to the first movement of the second )

 

And I thought, what a great piece of music for a gloomy cold rainy night in any month.

 

April being what it is, the next morning was sunny and warm and perfect. And this came on my iPod Shuffle and I thought, what a great piece of music for a perfect spring day:

The universe is providing me with a soundtrack.

 

 
*mustard

 

Image by Elizabeth Walsh (copyright 2013)

4/14/17: Dean Drummond

I’m a day late, but then again I usually am. Dean Drummond died four years ago, on April 13, 2013, and I will not forgive him for it.

Dean was a fantastic composer, who worked with microtonal music. His ensemble, Newband, used the Harry Partch Instrumentarium to create wild, complex music. He invented the zoomoozophone.

I studied with Dean while I was working towards my masters degree at Montclair State University. He was a really tough teacher, with a very direct approach to both teaching and interacting with his students. He pushed me really hard in a good way – thanks to him, I can articulate why I write what I do, which helps me to improve my work.

I wrote a few pieces using the Partch Instrumentarium, and he made me conduct them. I hate conducting. But there you go. That’s Dean.

The years 2008 – 2012 were tough ones for me, and I really only communicated with Dean occasionally, when I wanted to use the Instrumentarium. Then in 2013, I saw the post on Facebook. He died. Way too young, from an awful cancer.

The Partch Instrumentarium continues to be in good hands, and is now located at the University of Washington. I assume Dean is now working on ever more complex and beautiful music over on the Other Side.

Here’s one of his works, “Congressional Record” (using actual government records for vocal text):

 

And here’s one that I wrote. I never thought I could take composing in this direction, and am so grateful for the opportunity to do so. RIP Dean; the world is less fun without you.

4/10/17: Monday Funday Dance Party

My favorite things about this song? Inez Foxx’s fabulous voice, first of all. It’s like honey, but is so powerful. And she’s got great vocal control.

 

The rhythm track is great, too. There’s so much going on, you just get pulled into the music. And the next thing you know, you’re dancing on top of your desk while you sing into a fake mic made out of a paper towel holder. Then you have to have a meeting with your boss, but it all turns out okay because he also loves the Foxx siblings, and he has his own fake mic/paper towel holder.

Sometimes, it all works out.

April 4, 2017: Kansanthrax

It’s another one of those cold, gloomy April days when you know spring will never come. Everything’s dank and grey and brown and ick.

On days like this, the best thing to do is make yourself a nice cup of tea or vodka and crank up the Anthrax:

You can tell they love that song; I found it via the Aquarian’s interview with Charlie Benante.

Ebeth fun fact (sort of): I love to compare and analyze different versions of songs. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of U.S. folk music and the different ways it’s been interpreted over the years, but I’m always interested in how one band interprets the work of another.

Like “Carry On My Wayward Son” – Anthrax’s version is very respectful, and it really brings out just how well the guys play.

There’s another cover song they do that I love: Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time.”

I remember when I heard this for the first time. It was at an Anthrax show at Roseland. I didn’t know they covered it, and it was like getting slapped in the face with a wet sock full of awesomeness.

Roseland is a great place to see bands, by the way. Although I’ve got to say I think the shape of the room could bring out the bass too much in a live band. And I say that as a bass player.

But you know what? Sometimes too much bass is not nearly enough. I also saw White Zombie play at Roseland, and there was so much bass that night. Soooo much bass. And it was perfect.

 

 

 

 

Image: Screen Capture from Anthrax’s “Got the Time” video

1/23/17: Suffering for my craft

Folks talk about practicing until your fingers bleed as an indication of your dedication to your craft.

I only had that happen once, over a series of two or three gigs at a club in the suburbs of New Jersey. I was playing bass in an Irish/pub rock band, and this was a really fun place to play. Lots of dancing and conviviality.

So we did a series of three or four gigs there – something like every other Saturday night And it would be a three set night and we’d get paid something and it was great.

One of these Saturdays, I finished Set One, and noticed that I’d ripped open the ends of the third and fourth fingers on my right hand. My first reaction, of course, was “Cool! I’m bleeding! I’m a real rocker now!”

fonziecool

I think that using band aids (they have to be the right kind to allow for movement) and maybe switching to a pick would have been the best solution to deal with the next two sets. Naturally I had none of those things with me, so I just kept on playing with the open wounds.

The rest of the night was not as painful as you might have thought. It actually didn’t hurt while I was playing. Bass strings vibrate as you play, and that seems to have numbed the pain. By the end of the night, there was blood spatter on my nice white pickguard.

I went home after the gig, and spent the next two weeks taking really good care of my fingers. I also checked out my bass to see if there were any issues that might have caused them to bleed, and there weren’t.

When the next gig came, my fingers were healed and I was all set to play a night of music. I felt extra rock and roll that night because I just made my fingers bleed, man. I rock.

And the exact same thing happened again. Same fingers, even. Now I know my limitations when it comes to being cool, and although someone else might rock ’til they bleed at every gig, I don’t. I do not rock that much.

You may have noticed by now that it hasn’t occurred to me to check my amp. But finally it did, after a total of 4 sets (about 3 – 3.5 hours) over two gigs with no fingertips. And yes, that was the problem. The amp was gradually losing volume during the sets, and I would unconsciously respond by playing harder.

In my defense, that was a tough problem to diagnose. I couldn’t hear what was going on very well during sets, and when I went to check my amp before each new set, it would sound fine again.

But … I should have thought to check ALL of my equipment when something unusual happened. Lesson learned.

Still, I waited a long time to clean that blood spatter off of my pickguard. Kind of gross when you think about it, but rock and roll is not for the squeamish.

So in honor of my poor fingertips, here are a few songs that finger-bleeding cool.

1/16/17: Monday Funday Dance Party

Way back in 2005, a man named Dr. Cliff Arnall looked at things like weather, debts following the holidays, and all those New Years resolutions we haven’t been following, and came up with a date for the most Depressing Day of the Year. It’s the third Monday in January, if you want to mark your calendar.

You can find out more in The Telegraph:

Blue Monday 2017 could be bluest ever, says expert behind equation

This year is slated to be extra depressing, what with Trump and Brexit, and all those celebrities who died in the past year.

Anyway, in my mind, that’s all hooey. I am a lady with depression, and although the illness and the mood are different things, I know a thing or two about both of them. Let’s all decide to make today the most awesome Monday of 2017 – until next Monday, of course.

Also marking the third Monday in January in the U.S. is a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died before I was born, and oh God, I wish he was still here with us today.

mlk-jr-earnoize-11617

Photo: The Seattle Times

12/16/16: Sharing feelings with Beethoven

It’s Beethoven’s birthday – Ludwig Van was born on December 16, 1770.

Honestly, if you’re going to listen to this, which is the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th (and last) symphony, let’s do it right. Slap on some headphones, crank up the sound, and listen to the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. If they give you trouble at work, just tell them the lady in the blog said you could.

In terms of Western classical music, there is before Beethoven and after Beethoven. And those are very different things.

Beforehand, in the Classical era, there were very specific formulas to how a particular piece of music should be written. Mozart worked within these formulas to create sublime works. Beethoven expanded these formulas and reinterpreted them to foreshadow a more modern, free expression of music.

After Beethoven, as you move into the Romantic era, you hear composers take much more liberty with music forms. Check out Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” for example. Or anything Schumann wrote.

To me, Beethoven seems to have the ability to express a wide rage of emotions musically, more so than many other composers. He can harness the delicacy of a couple of flutes as well as the big macho power of a full concert orchestra.

I’m more of a fan of chamber music in general, and Beethoven’s string quartets are fantastic.

Again, he is an expert at expressing emotion musically. And not the simple emotions like joy or sadness; I hear regret, yearning, hope, all the complicated ones.

earnoize-121616-magnolias

Even laughter through tears.

11/28/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

I remember seeing Mos Def play this on “Letterman,” and immediately bought the single. I love the way the way everything is so laid back and restrained, but there’s also this underlying tension that permeates the whole song.

 

And of course, the timpani. From the Ronettes to Pizzicato Five, I love my pop music with a big side dish of kettle drum.

The clip at the beginning is Fela Kuti, by the way.

11/18/16: Leonard Cohen

Oh Leonard.

Eighty-two is a good long life, but for me he’s been taken away far too young, He’s one of my favorite songwriters. Every song is a novel, condensed into three or four minutes.

I’ve got to be honest – I prefer it when other people cover his music, for the most part. I’m not a fan of the production used on his stuff. There are a few exceptions, of course.

I was introduced to his music by the tribute album “I’m Your Fan.” It was a European release, and I only have it on cassette. You can find it out there on the internet.

Here are a couple tracks from there:

 

Johnny Cash was born to cover Leonard Cohen songs; here’s “Like a Bird on a Wire.” Supposedly, Kris Kristofferson told Cohen that he wants the lyrics from this on his tombstone. So do I.

 

Of course, everyone recognizes “Hallelujah;” here it is by Jeff Buckley, another good soul who left us too soon.

 

I’ll close with Cohen performing “Famous Blue Raincoat.”I’ve covered several of his songs, but I’ll never do this one; I’ll never be able to do it justice.

Thanks for the trouble you took from my eyes, L. Cohen. Requiem in pace.

 

 

 

Image by Shawn Carpenter CC 2.0 License.