July 29, 2010

CDs I Forgot I Owned

So I've been embarking on a project to rip all of my CDs so that at some point if I decide I don't want to lug the three massively heavy plastic totes full of music around, I don't have to. I decided that rather than discriminate, I would instead just rip every single CD to an external hard-drive so that if in the future, for whatever reason, I could within minutes access that elusive track...say the "Hell Yes" Dizzee Rascal remix of Beck's "Fax Machine Anthem". You know, the important things. Along the way I found a great number of albums that I had completely forgotten that I own, both good and very, very bad. Following are some of these albums, along with my reviews of them after listening to each for approximately 2 minutes.

Lindsay Lohan's Speak
Her juju is a-ok.
Maybe it's my current exposure to teeny-bopper music, or the advent of extreme-auto tune music, but I don't hate this as much as every particle of my body tells me I should. I listened to the entire first song, "Rumors," which consists of one giant complaint about the paparazzi following her. I don't keep up much on Lohan celebrity gossip, but these kinds of songs (I think Chris Brown has some of them too) are just pathetic. Also, how exactly am I supposed to relate to this song? Maybe everyone in California has their own crew of photographers following them, but I somehow doubt it. Well, maybe I don't doubt it but it doesn't relate to me very strongly. The other track I listened to was "Symptoms of You". My favorite parts of the track are the MIDI piano at the beginning that sounds like it was recorded straight off of my composition software Finale, and the undeniably perfect lyric: "I don't need a pill to fix my juju". I agree, Lindsay, your juju is just fine.

I give it one Milli and one Vanilli (both holding Grammys) so....  (1Milli + 1 Vanilli) x 1 Grammy

July 25, 2010

Reach Out (I'll Be There)

I'm a big fan of the song "Reach Out, I'll Be There" most famously performed by the Four Tops. One night while looking for a good video of the song on YouTube, I noticed that a whole heck of a lot of other people also like the song. So I guess it's time for an around-the-world exploration of "Reach Out"!

July 15, 2010

Pokemon Theme Song

I have such love for this song. Time well spent.

July 10, 2010

Microcuts Explained

Taking inspiration from one photo per day websites I decided to compose one short piece for piano every day over the past week.


By clicking on the word "microcuts" found in the labels on this post or on the label cloud to the right of this post, you can get to a complete list of the short pieces I've composed over the past week.

I took inspiration from certain things I had seen during the day or particular topics I had been thinking about. "Antichrist" was inspired by the Lars von Trier film of the same name, "Pluie" was inspired by a sudden burst of rain one afternoon, and "Day by Day" was inspired by a friend of mine who has overcome substance abuse problems. Other tunes, like "Shrew Dance" and some that didn't make it up onto the site were simply a result of an activity that I love doing: sitting at the piano and writing the dumbest thing I can make up.

The project has been extremely rewarding and I'm excited to keep recording, posting, and eventually notating and compiling these for some sort of collection. I probably won't keep writing new songs every day, but they give me something exciting and creative to do at the piano.

The term Microcuts comes from a song by the band Muse. Their song has very little to do with my pieces, but I've always liked the word and I thought it fit my short composition style well. I've composed pieces like this in the past, calling them flash-compositions after the same style of writing in literature called "flash-fiction". Although it might sound a little hackneyed to name my collection after a rock song, I like the word and think it applies well to these compositions.

Microcut - Day by Day

Dedicated to those recovering from addictions.

July 8, 2010

Microcut - Shrew Dance

Combo of two things: talking about a shrew at lunch today and my never-ending desire to write stupid but personally amusing tunes.

July 7, 2010

Microcut - Time Travel

If I played long enough, one of my hands would be older than the other. I'm just not sure which one.

July 6, 2010

Microcut - Pluck

Whoops. Clipping.

July 5, 2010

Microcut - Pluie


July 4, 2010

Microcut - Antichrist

Dedicated to Lars von Trier, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Willem Dafoe.

July 3, 2010

Microcut - French Girls

A piece from me to you, ladies of France.

July 1, 2010

Tim's Camp Rock!

At Theatre E3 this year, I've been working with one of my classes on rock and roll, and how to play instruments in a band. I've been wanting to do this for a long time now but could never quite figure out how to do it. I think I've figured out some sort of system now.

All of the kids love the idea of making rock bands, but most lack the actual skills necessary to put the components together. I had to have some way to simplify the entire process so that I could teach a basic skillset across the whole board. Here's what I came up with:

First off, I chose six different songs that they could pick from. The songs all shared the same chord progression, using I, IV, and V chords and nothing else. The songs were:

"Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
"Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley
"All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley
"Good Golly Miss Molly" by Little Richard
"Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard
"Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry

In addition to using only I, IV, and V chords, these songs (with the exception of "All Shook Up") use a blues progression as their primary harmonic progression. I transposed all of the songs to the key of G Major so that the only chords they had to learn were G, C, and D.

I took the opportunity to teach the class about chord charts and how to read tablature. Kids who had some preexisting guitar experience were able to pick up the three chords easily, and others set about diligently learning them. For kids who just could not move between the chords fast enough, I taught them the three bass notes necessary to play the chords and basic bass-guitar technique. Because I only have one bass guitar, some of the electric guitarists also picked these three notes.

The kids who have basic experience playing piano naturally gravitated towards it. For kids who have trouble inverting their chords, they move them around the keyboard in root position. For others, I taught the nearest inversions to use and they were allowed to choose whether to use left hand, right hand, or both.

For drums, a student loaned his snare drum, and I brought in a plastic bucket to act as a bass drum. Drummers are expected to play the snare drum on off-beats (beats 2 and 4). To help facilitate this, the kids can use one hand on the "bass drum" and one on the snare, alternating between the two. Because many people have an easier time finding the strong beats (1 and 3), this gives them something to do on every beat and keeps the tempo steady.

From my time at Birch Creek Music Camp in Wisconsin, and from my friends' Tartufi's Saturday Morning Rock Out!, I took the idea of having the kids play along with adults in order to learn from imitation and have the support of stronger musicians. I play along with the kids, filling in on instruments that need someone, or else playing piano with whoever is at the keyboard. One of the interns at the camp (Caleb), will be playing drums in the performance, and I'll have an adult guitarist as well.

The kids all learn at different rates, and some will not be ready in time. I expected this, but am really surprised by how many of them have picked up the instruments quickly, and look forward to coming in and playing. Some have gravitated to specific instruments, with many of the girls enjoying the power of the bass guitar and one particular girl sitting in on others' sessions in order to play drums when they need someone to pound the skins.

Overall, what I feel they've gained is a sense of empowerment and a greater ability to work in an ensemble. Looking at the pictures after today's classes I noticed their extreme concentration on the task at hand. Most of all they're having fun, and it makes me wish I had the equipment to let them all work the entire day. As it is, I have to cycle through each group and groups get no longer than ten minutes on the equipment. Over the course of the week though, each group gets about a half hour of time with me and during the off time they can review lyrics, song form, and performance ideas.

Now I can't wait to hear from the parents who are getting badgered by kids to buy them instruments.