Linus

Not sure where this comes from — but danceability is where it’s at!

Update on Hide Me Down

Well, I did it, and it was one hell of a blast. Here’s the audio from the Finale arrangement, scored for fake voices. Sorry about the audio clipping, but mp3 compression is cool like that.

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Slow and Hidden

I’m starting work on an arrangement for the Simmons Sirens and I’m currently in the Land of Potential under the Shadow of OverAmbition. It’s a scary place. They asked me to do an arrangement of “Slow Me Down” by Emmy Rossum, and I decided to fully blend it with Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”. Not only were they looking for a blendy smooth tune, but they’ve eyed Hide and Seek this past semester. No problem, especially since the chord progressions are so similar (and Slow sounds freakishly similar to Hide…).

So I have my charge, and now it’s the challenge of turning dream into reality. In most movies, this would be the time to cue the montage because now is when it gets kind of boring. It’s also quite tricky to make something, period, which is not what movies want to show. They’re all about the sex. But, my dear Reader, this is where magic is made.

I have my pen, my paper, my lyrics, and both tunes memorized. I’ve sat for a while and mused on the meanings of the songs, to see if their themes would meld well. I’ve daydreamed about performing the tune and if I should tie music with performance or it should be art for art’s sake. I researched all the decent YouTube videos and recordings of both songs, in any version but with an eye to the a cappella versions. I was disappointed to find that these two songs- with great melding or splicing potential- don’t get altered that much, so there’s not much to steal.

[aside: Hands down, though, my favorite recording of Hide and Seek was done by Transit.]

I made a list of how I want to characterize the two songs in conflict, hoping that I can pull together a Hegelian dialectic and get them to spar and synthesize before the end. Soloist vs. Ensemble, Compound meter vs. Simple meter, Arpeggios vs. Homophony. Fingers crossed on that one. I didn’t do so well on dialectic in music theory class.

So here I am- all my tools and ideas at my fingertips, waiting for magic. Somehow, I have to trust that my subconscious will start making decisions for me, giving me inspiration of how the pieces fit together. After much headscratching and tea drinking, ideally there will be some plan of action on paper before I start putting note to page (which will be another creative battle on its own).

So now I’ve just got to do it. Thanks, Nike, for the inspiration.

Aca-Casting

Sounds like...Back in college, I loved downloading the newest podcast of Acappella U. It was a glorious tradition: putting the fresh podcast on my iPod Nano, running on the treadmill in the late morning (when all those kids-who-go-to-class were in their “classes”), and jamming out to Hyannis Sound and Joey C’s commentary. It felt good, even those times that I nearly fell off the treadmill because I didn’t expect the 12 Days of Christmas to be so awesome. I particularly enjoyed Joey’s casual, sometime dorky, but earnestly well-intentioned and spirited analysis. He seemed like a guy that knew what he enjoyed and was sharing it to the people who couldn’t quite articulate what they liked about a bunch of people singing.

Alas, Acappella U is essentially a relic as the updates have withered in the past few years (as well as my exercise regime). Perhaps it Icarus’d by flying too high to the sun by doing HD video segments. I was very excited to see Acappella U doing video workshops with top groups before the CASA Academy was even born, but it must have been too much for one passionate guy to pull off essentially by himself and essentially out of his own pocket.

I tried to find a surrogate aca-cast so I could get my ears and legs back into shape, but Mouth Off left a bad taste (pun intended) and Aca Originals didn’t have the allure of cover songs (I was a composer, and I had heard enough of “new music”). Not only was I trying to fill the void of clever arrangements and comparative listens, but the podcast personality of Joey C just couldn’t be replicated.

It is with excitement that I start to listen to Chad Bergeron’s Acapodcast, hoping to find a new holy grail and running mate. From the sound of Episode 64 that I just started to listen to, signs are looking good. I’ll be popping over there to see if Chad can fill a Joey-sized hole, and at least hitting the gym a couple more times.

If you’d like to listen to Acappella U, they have things on their website, YouTube Channel, and even on iTunes.

Yeah!

To those who read Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin, you may remember the opening chapters about how the Divisi, an all-female group at University of Oregon, competed at the 2006 ICCAs singing Usher’s Yeah. In the book it talked about how it was a crime that they didn’t win, a crime tantamount to supposedly-biased Russian votes in figure skating.

Well, here’s the video of Divisi at the ICCAs singing Yeah, and yes, it was a heinous crime.

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More Cranberry juice

Trying to regularly post on a blog requires serious cranberry juice. Fortunately, I’ve been drinking plenty, so yes, hello world.

I’ve relocated to Simmons College and am working with the Simmons Sirens, the ONLY group here at Simmons (and yes, an all-women’s college means all-female a cappella group).  I was surprised when I hit the campus to find only one group at a college- I’m used to double digits and special niche groups. There were a lot of culture changes for me, going from a 12-group school to a 1-group school, but I thought I’d open the boards and hear what the world has to say:

Do you have a lot of groups in your area (institution or city, depending where you are)? What kinds of challenges do you face by having a big/small community of aca-groups? What’s so awesome about having so many/few?

Click this post’s heading to comment.

Interval exercises

If I asked you to measure the distance between two objects, you could reply with a variety of valid responses-

  • Feet and inches
  • Meters
  • Paces
  • Cubits
  • Smoots (Anyone from MIT?)

Well, the same can go for the aural distance between two notes-

  • A number of pitches
  • Several notches
  • Steps and skips

These musical units of measurement are called intervals. An interval as a unit of aural distance between two notes, basically. A crucial skill in ear training is to recognize interval distances, which is the aim of this section. Yes, you’ll have to practice. I’ve set up goals for you. Don’t worry, I care.

Read more…

I had a cat named Mittens once.

Learn a chord. Save a night.

Tons of people have guitars. Affluent people have pianos. Those two instruments are almost as ubiquitous as singing voices (though suffer from far less social stigma), so I think it would behoove society to give some passable instruction to every youth so they could raise the quality of life with a I-V-IV progression at a party. Imagine a world where many more people could play an instrument well enough to have it be an accepted social event- whip out a guitar and make music. Wouldn’t that be bohemian? Instead of insipid conversation or gorging on freshly baked cookies, we could stand around a piano and sing selections from Wicked, with everyone taking a turn at the keys.

Then again, our school systems are failing so hard that high school graduates are effectively ninth graders from 10 years ago, so I guess this dream can wait so Madison can learn how to read.

(But when will she learn how to feel ?)

An historical

Quiz: is this a diacritic, a diaresis, both, or neither?

Something of a language-evolution-now observation: I had always thought that “an historical” is wrong, and the result of us getting lazy with our aspirated “h” sounds. It should be printed as “a historical,” at least for now. Nonetheless, I and many others pronounce it “anistorical” when speaking quickly, so I’m totally down with not pronouncing things completely correctly.

I do cringe when people pronounce the phrase “an historical” very carefully in their public speaking voices. Kinda like the CEO of a company carefully pronouncing “LOL” without irony. Course, this is how language changes over time, so what we’re witnessing is really the same sort of thing that took the aspiration OUT of “who” and “what”. Or changed all the “in-” prefixes to “im-” in words beginning with bilabials, like “impossible” or “immoral”.

But there’s more to the story than that, involving several opinions. Tina Blue has more, invoking a whole hierarchy of syllabic stress:

In the word historical, the first syllable is actually slightly stressed, though far less so than the second syllable, which carries the primary stress.  But in the word hotel, the first syllable, though less stressed than the second, is significantly more stressed than the first syllable in historical.
In historical, the first syllable receives only tertiary (third-level) stress, whereas in hotel, the first syllable receives a secondary stress so strong that it is nearly equal to the primary stress on the second syllable.  For this reason, the h in a hotel is pronounced almost as fully as the h in a hot day.

Music, the Arts, and Ideas – Leonard Meyer (1967)

Leo Mey, the Music Guy.

Earlier this summer, I finished reading Meyer’s Music the Arts and Ideas.  Now Leonard Meyer is no slouch in the field of music theory—his classic text Emotion and Meaning in Music (1956) has been endlessly cited for convincing music theorists that there might actually be something to *gasp* empirical descriptions of musical works!  Of course, I jest; it’s only half-true.  The postmodern wave in the humanities was still a decade off when Meyer published his opus (the same year as George Miller’s The Magical Number Seven), and Claude Shannon’s introduction of information theory was still tickling the minds of humanities scholars, who thought we might have struck on an Urtheorie of culture.  Well, the short story is: no such luck.  Humanities types retreated into hermeneutics and hyperrelativism, and that seemed to be that for the time being.  Meantime, Leonard Meyer shifted his focus to studies of musical style, since meaning was too fraught with postmodern peril.  Oh, silly academes.

Which brings us to Music, the Arts, and Ideas, published in 1967.  The book is something of a ragtag collection of essays, but there are some common threads.  Most importantly, Meyer sets out to describe how he forsees culture in the postmodern age progressing.  This happens to be exactly the age in which I was born, so I figure I have a reasonably good standpoint from which to evaluate his statements.  But oh, what statements he makes.  Get a load of this one, chosen by flipping through and pointing with my eyes closed:

Though analytic formalism and transcendental particularism are clearly in conflict regarding the efficacy of causal explanation, it should be emphasized that they do not necessarily disagree about either the existence or the nature of causation.  (p.163)

Woo-ee! now that’s a humdinger there.  Meyer is an incredibly well-loved and much-missed personality, and deservedly so.  But boy does it take some effort to wade through his prose.  Here’s some reader’s digestif:

Easy-drinking format.

Meyer has learned from cross-cultural studies of the 20th century that sayings like “Change is the only constant” don’t really apply world-wide.  Sure, in Western history from the Romans on up, we’ve seen a huge parade of history, a flowing river of chaotically repeating eddies and flows.  But looking around, it seems like stasis in culture is far more “normal” than the constant bustling change that we’re used to in the Western world.

But what has changed, says Meyer, is that technology has grown to the point that we are able to look back and enjoy recordings of music produced forty years ago just as well as we can enjoy recordings of music produced yesterday.  All time periods and fads, all historical styles are equally accessible.

So in the end, he describes rather effectively what it looks like for culture to move to a steady-state system with local fluctuation.  He even predicts that, due to a “psychological accessibility of the past” (p191), all sorts of recycling of old culture will take place.

Is this an artist, an oeuvre, or a work?

Furthermore, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that “A multiplicity of styles, techniques, and movements, ranging from the cautiously conservative to the rampantly experimental, will exist side by side… past and present will, modifying one another, come together not only within culture, but within the oeuvre of a single artist and even within a single work of art.” (p209)

Sounds like remix culture to me.  More distressingly, he seems to have a certain Williamsburg, NY demographic pegged, but didn’t correctly predict the ultimately uncontrolled spiral of meta-snark and strangeloops of ironic kickballing.  We can compliment ourselves for those!