January 5, 2013

Where was I?

Austin

My first visit to Austin the beginning of Dec for a wedding (not mine). Took Thursday and Friday beforehand in order to soak up all that is, according to everyone I spoke with there, the only city in Texas a liberal would want to visit. My people indeed run a very nice burg. Thursday night was swank, 3-course dinner night at Congress. Post bar-hopping plans were cancelled due to too much good food. No matter. The next morning was donut breakfast at Gourdough's then a walk through the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The internet speaks of great swimming holes but, even though it was too cold for swimming, the creek was bone-dry. I learned later from a local at the wedding that the drought of the last two years hit the Greenbelt hard. Still, it was a nice, alien, southwest landscape to walk through.

Continue to post-hike drinks at Trudy's (no food, still full from Congress and donuts) then on to the entertainment of the trip: a Doug Loves Movies podcast recording at the Alamo Drafthouse. Buy the podcast and you'll probably hear Lisa cackling at one point in the background! Sadly, they weren't doing their Trapped in the Closet Sing-Along while we were in town :-(. Wander the strip and people-watch until time for our second swank locale of the trip: drinks at Midnight Cowboy Modeling and Oriental Massage. Thanks to the name on the apartment buzzer that gets you into the bar, I now know who Harry Craddock is. More wanderings, eatings at a pizzeria, and drinkings to finish our undirected tour of Austin. On to the wedding.

We checkout of The Driskill in downtown Austin and drive to the Barton Creek Resort a few miles out. Beautiful, but to quote Al Czervik Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate. The wedding proper was at a ranch a few miles away and it was the pinnacle of swank for the trip. Among the appetizers offered before the wedding were a whole pig on a spit. I got to speak to many fascinating guests including a lawyer for Texas teachers unions. Usually, I attract rabid conservatives (one of the gay guests we were chatting with declared me at first sight as Mr. Conservative, so I guess I give off a vibe), so it was nice to be immersed in a gaggle of liberals.

Sunday brunch with our only live music of the trip (I know, I know), a visit to Waterloo Records where I got a replacement copy of Tales from Topographic Oceans, then home.

The Musical Box

Genesis tribute-band extraordinaire, The Musical Box, performed for the last time ever the seminal concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. As much as Einstein on the Beach--seen live in London at the beginning of 2012--this was an iconic work for me growing up. I'd always heard of TMB and their faithful interpretations, but never made the effort. With the range of music, costumes, and sets, this was a stunning show. Memorable: "The Lamia" where the singer was hidden within a glowing cloth tube for the entirety of the song; pulling off the metrically manic solos for "In The Cage" and "Riding the Scree"; "Cuckoo Cocoon" where the singer lies on stage with his head towards the audience during his flute solo. More than any concert, I'm sad I'll never see it again.

X-mas and New Years miscellany

The Cheatham's first holiday bash in their Decatur digs; my first holiday party with my current company; A Christmas Carol at Shakespeare Tavern; our (usually) annual holiday dinner with friends, this year at The Optimist; our soon-to-be annual holiday dinner with Bob&Lisa, this year at no246 in Decatur; annual holiday party at The Barry's. Special weekend in Blackberry Farm as a gift from the mom-in-law with the Foley family. Cold days in the mountains with fireplaces, amazing food, nano-brewery tour, and a failed attempt at our first geocaching foray. Finally, a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens--my first--with Lisa and Theresa for their garden lights display.

This is the first weekend in a long time that we're doing nothing.

Oh, and my 3-week-old car got broken into and is spending a week at the body shop. Fuck you, thieves. Fuck you in your anus.

posted by sstrader at 11:53 AM in Concerts , Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

March 20, 2010

Hobby Frames and framing album covers

After going to the Run For Cover exhibit of album covers, I decided to frame some of my own. After searching in various locales online, I settled on a place called Hobby Frames. Their web page has a certain Geocities charm that makes you expect to see a tilde in the URL, so try not to judge them. To test the waters, I ordered a gatefold frame ($41 total = $29 + $12 shipping!) with the intent of christening my gallery with Tales from Topographic Oceans. Sadly, I have been so far unable to find that (I think my mom still has a box of albums that were hidden in storage, if not, prepare for a meltdown) so I started with Nursery Cryme:

nursery-cryme-framed

Smell that 1971 vinyl fabulousness! The frame is wood with a sturdy, scratch/stain resistant matte black enamel and it comes with an acid-free foam board plus glass. Minor lip on the frame so little of the album cover is lost. Everything's held in with bendy metal tabs. A+++++++++.

posted by sstrader at 5:40 PM in Art | permalink | comments (1)

June 3, 2009

Top concerts

An attempt to list the most memorable concerts I've been to. I don't go to many concerts, so there are really only a few to choose from. Guessing at chronological order and probably--except for the first and last--getting it wrong; I wish I could remember when most of these happened!

  • GWAR at The Masquerade ~1990 - First mosh pit and I was hooked. Everyone I tried to describe it to was aghast. I blame my explanatory skills. A group of 6 or so of us drove in from Carrollton in a van. Once there, I had to leave my glasses at the ticket desk (they actually accommodated?!) so I could jump into the fun. The most profane spectacle I've ever seen. By the end of the evening my clothes were stained gray from fake blood thrown from the stage.
  • Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve at The Fox in Atlanta - Excellent arrangements for piano and voice (with some guitar). Best was Nieve's orchestral voicing for Watching the Detectives.
  • McCoy Tyner at The Variety Playhouse in Atlanta - Amazing improvisations reminded me of Prokofiev.
  • Philip Glass Ensemble at The Fox in Atlanta performing the soundtrack live to the movie Koyaanisqatsi - We had never seen Koyaanisqatsi before and this was the perfect introduction: musicians working to keep up with a film projector that's showing a movie about humans working to keep up with the machines they've created.
  • Yes at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center - I almost didn't go 'cause I had stopped listening to them in college. Rekindled my love of (some of) their music. Best was getting to hear Ritual from Tales from Topographic Oceans. This has become a touchstone album for me (and was the soundtrack to my recent re-entry into the jogging life).
  • Beastie Boys at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center - Them doing a fun/sloppy version of Sabotage was neat. Great to see Mix Master Mike live.
  • No Fun Fest 2009 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg - A singularly unique experience.

(I can't believe I never tried listing these before...)

posted by sstrader at 4:34 PM in Concerts | permalink | comments (0)

April 19, 2005

Currently Listening To

Still listening to The Who Sell Out (still loving it), and just beginning an arrangement of "Our Love Was" which I'm completely smitten by. But--gotta move on. I have been waiting for an Amazon shipment of several CDs of Shostakovitch preludes and fugues, but they are still weeks away. Gah.

I've been really sweating over the "Starship Trooper" arrangement, so let's get some more Yes in my head to seal the deal. Close to the Edge and Relayer are both the Rhino re-release with a few b-sides and demos (studio run-throughs). I've always drooled over doing a piano/voice arrangement of "The Gates of Delirium." Hearing the studio run-through provides some insight into the process of the song, but it's still far off. I was blown away to read in the liner notes that Jon Anderson was the primary composer of Gates. Patrick Moraz (the keyboardist) comments:

Jon actually led me through the compositions and through the core of the arrangement and the construction of most of the themes of 'The Gates of Delirium,' which were composed by the time I came in. Not all of it was complete, but everything was in his head. I think he had the plan for the whole symphony. It was like a symphony. In the world of rock 'n' roll, although very influenced by The Beatles and the English music scene at the time, I always acquaint Yes with what Stravinsky would have dona as a rock musician. Yes music has that kind of symphonic approach and arrangement. The sophistication of the orchestration is absolutely staggering.

This from someone who worked on the album, but all the same. I never considered Anderson the "big picture" kind of composer. The Close to the Edge album has a similarly illustrative run-through of "And You & I" and "Siberian Khatru."

Decided also to re-investivate the backgroundy-but-enjoyable Kid A from Radiohead. Brad Meldau played the opening track at the recent Variety Playhouse concert, so it's been in my head. Its simple harmony was used as an example of modal mixture in rock in a recent MTO article (which I tried to make sense of back in January).

Finally, Schnittke's Concerto for Two Pianos and Concerto for Cello. I can't pretend to understand his manic shifting of harmonies, but that's what makes it so compelling. And I-shit-you-not I actually find myself humming melodies (as best I can) from the cello concerto. He reminds me of the harmonic "wow" I felt when I first heard (and still feel when I listen to) Messiaen.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 10:51 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (1)

April 10, 2005

Transcription: "Starship Trooper" by Yes

I finished the transcription last Tuesday and have made a few minor changes over the past few day as I've been practicing it. Here are the MIDI and MUS files. I need to buy the upgrade to Allegro so that I can save the sheet music to PDF.

My scribbled notes on the manuscript say I began on the 24th, so it took about two weeks to complete. Much of it came very naturally and practically wrote itself. The most difficult section, and most of the effort, was the instrumental crescendo in part III. Three chords repeated and strummed over a three-minute period doesn't offer much to a pianist trying to get the same effect across. I'm happy with the results. I'm still not sure about the ending and how I've solved the issue of the fade cadence, but I think with the right pedalling it will work out.

I'm shooting to get a recording done in the next week or so.

[ updated 28 Feb 2006 ]

There's unfortunately a shortage of transcriptions online, so I'd like to emphasize to anyone looking at mine that I took many liberties to arrange it for piano. I've added too many variations for anyone interested in studying the source or playing along with the album. The most prominent alterations are:

  • The turn at the end of the first measure is a scale step higher than recorded. I wanted to use it against a IV-V harmonization.
  • The chords in the "Disillusion" section are slightly different than recorded. I changed the voicing to fit the hands better while still trying to mimic guitar finger picking on the piano.
  • The harmonized vocalizations at the end of "Disillusion" (at the point the first theme returns) are reduced to octaves in the right hand.
  • Several of the ornaments in the final guitar solo are removed, and the deuling guitars in the stereo recording are changed to swapping between the hands and registers.
  • Throughout, strumming and drum figures are replaced with arpeggios and runs that are not in the original.

Overall, the most prominent bass lines have been retained as has, what I value most in the song, its structure. If you want the keyboard solo from Yessongs, Ian below has kindly offered up his version. For more information, you might want to search Steve Howe's site for references to "Starship Trooper." I haven't been able to find any other information on Wakeman's solo.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Starship Trooper" by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:38 PM in Music | permalink | comments (11)

March 27, 2005

Busy?

Pretty busy this weekend (until today) and pretty out of it. I batched it while the wife was in Knoxville, so it was piano and pizza and joggin' and drinkin'. Went to a co-worker's house after work on Fri to see his home studio. I tried out his Alesis keyboard: yuk. Very fluffy touch to it. He said it's an older model, so maybe I can find an (affordable) one with a better feel.

I started Working on a piano arrangement of Yes's "Starship Trooper" (geek). I was thinking of doing a Radiohead or Fiery Furnaces song, but wanted something a little longer. I've always wanted to do "The Gates of Delirium," but that's a little too ambitious right now. Anyway, got a good arrangement for the first third of the song. Much of that music is shared throughout the rest of the piece, so the rest will be cake. The most interesting part will be getting a good accompaniment for the last section and filling out the antiphonal guitar solo. I'm going to try to have the final arrangement later this week.

Man, I love the 40-hour-a-week contract gig. No more hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime for this worker bee.

posted by sstrader at 6:26 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

July 4, 2004

Transcription: "Ritual" (coda) by Yes

In a previous entry, I transcribed the 1st bridge of Yes's song "Ritual" from Tales from Topographic Oceans. This entry contains a transcription for the coda lasting from 19:50 to 21:33, the end of the piece. I was interested in this section because of its freeform melodic development and harmonic structure similar in style to the bridge.

The full MP3 is here and an excerpt with only the coda is here.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Ritual" (coda) by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:10 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

June 10, 2004

Transcription: "Ritual" (1st bridge) by Yes

The song "Ritual" (15-meg mp3, or this excerpt) is the fourth in the four-song cycle by Yes called Tales from Topographic Oceans. Each song is aproximately 20-minutes long and many of the musical themes are shared throughout each.

"Ritual" opens with an instrumental introduction after which a short section for guitar transitions to the first verse. This is a transcription of that bridge which lasts from 4:01 to 5:24.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Ritual" (1st bridge) by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:47 AM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

June 4, 2004

May 23, 2004