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.

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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.

11/07/16: Special Election Edition

Tomorrow the United States will be electing its next president. This is one where the stakes are really up for grabs; we could wind up in an awful, awful place for real if this goes the wrong way.

As a momentary distraction, here’s some dancing that reminds me of American things. A bluegrass jam and clog dancing. A family (or group of friends) enjoying themselves together. I’ll bet you there’s a pot of coffee on the stove and something good in the oven. Nothing too fancy, and a lot of fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs2j8f7H2WY

10/31/16: Scary Halloween Dance Party

I made a playlist on Spotify this week, with some scary creepy music.

The music I picked isn’t usually associated with Halloween (except for “Red Right Hand” and “Goo Goo Muck,” but I picked out some of the darkest, most unsettling songs I could think of.

No “Monster Mash” this year – trust me, I love that song, but that’s for another Halloween playlist.

It’s a dark world inside this music – stabbings, murders, monsters, and whatever it is Lux Interior is going to do to us.

This is a test-drive for the Spotify playlist; please let me know if it doesn’t work, or tries to get money out of you, or steals your car.

Tomorrow we return to happy shiny music that’s just bursting with joy.

10/24/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

I sometimes work as a dance class accompanist, and have spent a certain amount of time hanging around ballerinas.

First of all, I want to point out how much respect I have gained for dancers through this job. Dance requires the strength and coordination of an athlete, extraordinary self-control, and dedication to the craft. If you don’t believe me, go take a class. You will be lying on the floor weeping in pain within the first eight minutes. I know I would.

It also appear that everyone who studies western classical dance for a while will have to learn some version of “Four Little Swans,” from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gApOfm4qd0

I was goofing around on the piano one day between classes, and began to play the music to this. Immediately, a row of dance teachers came through the door in perfect formation. I laughed so hard I had to stop playing.

Ballet Fun Fact: The technical term for four people dancing together is “pas de quatre.” 

Here’s an interesting interpretation of the piece. The swans have become frogs, and the choreography reflects that. It’s a lot of fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDy_XrWfxHY

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

10/19/16: Digging in the bins

These days I buy a lot of albums by digital download, but I also like to go out and purchase real-live, physical CDs. I’m lucky enough that I’m near a very good used CD/DVD/vinyl store, so I still experience the fun of discovering music that you thought about once a couple of years ago and now here it is again and you can actually afford it.

Today I had a good haul: “A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon,” Rilo Kiley’s: “More Adventurous” and Spirit’s “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” And of course, the latest copy of “Weird NJ.” One must stay up to date, after all.

“Dr. Sardonicus” was pretty intense. I’ll have to sit down and listen with headphones, but for now: Wow. There’s a lot going on there. In a good way, but I need to absorb that a little more.

I still have to check out the Warren Zevon album, but I’m loving the Rilo Kiley CD. A friend made me a mix CD a few years ago that had “Does He Love You?” on it. I loved the lyrics, and also how Jenny Lewis presents her vocals. She tells her stories so well.

The arrangements are country-esque in places, with some orchestral pop and folk. Very tastefully done.

Following a quick listen to the whole album, here’s a couple of songs I liked.

Photo by: Jane Rahman; Issued under CC 2.0 License.

No changes have been made to the image.