Tags: music



"The only one in the entire festival who questioned our position was Bob Dylan. Maybe he didn't put it in the best way. Maybe he was rude. But he shook us. And that is why we have poets and artists." -- Jim Rooney, describing Bob Dylan's shocking use of electric guitars at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

"The outbursts at Newport that Sunday night, July 25, 1965, brought to mind another startling event in music history. At the premiere of Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring,' on May 29, 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysses, the Paris audience was torn in two by Stravinsky's pioneering score and Nijinsky's choreography. [...]" -- Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan


Oooh, bendy ...

+ I can play whole-step bends on the bass guitar at the third fret and hit the pitches I was aiming for (including the pre-bends), but ...

- Yow, is that rough on the fingertips when I haven't done it in a while! (Time to get the digits in shape.) Still ...

+ It sounds wicked cool in the tune I was doing it in, even though ...

- It was recently pointed out to me that a tendency to play legato on bass may be the reason my bass parts don't sound loud enough despite how loudly I play them -- not enough definition -- so in performance adding a bunch of bends might not produce a clear enough line. Therefore:

+ I'll just write out what I was doing in detail and see whether the guitarist on that tune likes it.:-)

As a side effect, I know a smidgen more Postscript than I did the day before yesterday, since my notation software doesn't support guitar bends but does allow user-defined custom Postscript decorations.

[info] syntonic_comma and [info] anniemal should be arriving any minute to drive up to Baitcon, so the promised footnote to yesterda's electronica post will probably have to wait until I return.



I've got the song "Signs" (at least I think that's the title) stuck in my head and I've no idea what put it there today.

The sign said, longhairfreakypeople need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask them why ...

Me, My Instruments, My Day

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Today's an achy day. *sigh* Fortunately I was feeling well enough yesterday to pick up a few essentials at the drug store (yow, when I have to buy my OTC meds, including Prilosec, things add up in a right hurry -- quite a hit to the bank account), so I don't desperately need to hike anywhere tonight or tomorrow. I did manage to get in a couple hours of practice for a gig at Pennsic and get ahold of my mother by phone to hear how her trip to China with my sister had gone (I now have a newly-adopted niece).

Last night I fit a temporary nut in the electric mandolin (to replace the one that broke Friday. I figured I might get away with wood since there's a "zeroth fret", but the narrow spacing between the paired strings of each course makes for awfully fragile fingers of wood separating the strings of each pair. Sure enough, despite trying to avoid imposing any lateral stresses while installing it, I knocked off the bit of wood between the A strings. So those two strings are currently being held apart by a folded-up piece of cardboard. If it holds until I can get the bone nut blank cut in half and shaped (most likely after Pennsic, though if I can get it cut to the right size before Pennsic, shaping it and cutting the grooves will be a reasonable while-sitting-around-camp-shooting-the-breeze project) then at least I'll still be able to practice. I ordered a pre-grooved plastic nut online, which may or may not wind up having the right spacing for this mandolin -- if it does, it saves me a lot of rather annoying work; if not, it goes into the random parts bin and didn't cost very much.

I did tune up one of the other mandolins, a round-back, but the neck started tilting forward and opened a gap where it attaches to the body ... I think I can get enough glue into the gap, but I haven't yet figured out how to clamp or weight the thing while the glue sets. If I can solve that problem before the end of tomorrow, I can leave it to set and cure and dry very thoroughly while I'm off at Baitcon. I'm hoping that this style can be repaired effectively at that spot, since it was a similar failure that did in the mandolin that I really liked (it was much easier to play than the electric). Of course, then I get to worry whether the dry, cracked soundboard on the round-back will hold up.

Hmm. I wonder whether the instrument that appears to be a triple-strung mandolin is actually built strong enough to withstand the tension of twelve strings ... and whether there's enough room on that fingerboard to play it that way. I should've picked up extra strings last week when I was out in Catonsville. (It looks like a late-19th/early-20th Century style round-back mandolin body (I don't think this specific instrument is that old), with an elongated head and six-on-a-side tuners like a 12-string guitar, and a very shallow wooden nut with twelve faint grooves in four sets of three. At the moment it has six ancient strings on it and the broken ends of two more.

I still want a mandola and a solid-body electric mandolin someday (I've seen a Fender solid-body but it only had four strings rather than eight), but at the moment I'll settle for getting one of the ordinary mandolins into proper condition. (The electric with the nut problem is a regular modern teardrop arched-top-and-back design with f-holes -- i.e. not a bowl-back but not a Flatiron or a Flatiron-clone -- with a coil pickup and a couple of knobs, and an extra-thick soundboard (to reduce feedback, I presume) which makes it difficult to get much volume out of when it's not plugged in. I'm counting it as an "ordinary mandolin" because it's basically a modified modern acoustic mandolin, and that's what it sounds like plugged in or unplugged.)

While I'm thinking of instrument repairs and instruments-needing-repair, I should go downstairs and take the oud out of the winter coat that serves as its case, and check whether the repairs that I made just before Conterpoint are still holding up.

And while I'm thinking about broken-things, I'll take a moment to natter about the frustration of having broken my box-cutter today[*]. It's on my fretting hand, so it won't affect my playing (I also refer to it as my "spare nail"), but I always forget, until I've had to cut it off, just how often I use it without thinking. I just tried to check something on my PDA, which was lying next to my left hand, and rather than bothering to take out the stylus for a mere couple of taps, I automatically tried to use my thumbnail. The thumb-tip doesn't work as well as the thumb-nail, not precise enough. Feh. But the guitar-picks are all intact, and that matters a whole lot more.

I'm still thinking about what I didn't like about the doctor I saw last week and what I should try to make clear to the doctor who will become my regular physician when I see her for the first time just after Pennsic.

This weekend, Baitcon; then a short week to get everything lined up to be ready for Pennsic.

While I was finishing this up, I heard an Arabber go by, up Fulton Ave. I'm not used to seeing them right around here (usually farther north or east) but this makes three times in the last month and a half that I've noticed. This time he was singing. If one has made my intersection part of his route home, I'll have to start keeping an eye out, especially while I'm without a car. (I didn't get a good look at what he had. I saw bananas and maybe canteloupes, no watermelons this time, and I'm not sure what else. I would've gone and bought a canteloupe, but I would've had to pause to throw on clothes -- hey, it was a hot day and I gotta maximize the effect of the electric fans blowing across my skin, don't I? -- and he was on his way someplace (presumably the stable), not stopping to set up and sell. But he must have a selling-spot not too terribly far from here in the afternoons.)

[*] Well, not just a box-cutter, obviously. I recall the time I startled my boss by using it to cut drywall[**] -- it was her own suggestion, but she'd meant it as a joke; I looked at my hands, realized my thumbnail was long enough to be useful, and jabbed it into the drywall and started sawing. Basically, it's the "everything I don't want to risk damaging one of my guitar-picks on" nail. The other nails on my left hand have to be short for fretting.

[**] A slightly unpleasant sensation, yes, but not anything like nails-on-a-chalkboard intense, and I only needed to cut a few inches. And yes, my nails are naturally that strong -- I've got acrylic on the three that take the most wear from strumming and thin spots near the tips of the other two that show why the acrylic is needed; the left thumbnail is the one that shows my natural nail thickness.


Two In A Row

My prettiest guitar is also, alas, also the least versatile of my guitars. So I don't use it much. I got to use it today, and I think it'll be a good sound for an upcoming performance. This pleases me.

I got through the day (which started late afternoon), and it was a productive day. I got kinda wobbly at one point in the middle, but a little Ultram and a whole lot of water helped; my muscles got stiff and creaky at the end, but then it was time to go home anyhow. It was work, but it was fun work and my prettiest guitar was involved. And there was word of more cool stuff possibly following from what we're working on now (knock wood).

So: two days in a row that worked out pretty well. Cool. No idea whether I'll be at 3LF rehearsal tomorrow night. Hoping I can get a ride to HCB rehearsal Wednesday. Not sure when I'll get around to catching up on LJ comments (and -- whoops -- some email from a week or two ago that I forgot to get back to). I have a considerable amount of practicing to do on my own this week, as well as some transcribing I need to take care of, but right at this particular moment I only need to muster enough energy to deal with the trash, litter box, and recycling, rebandage my toe, and feed the cat, then I can let myself fall over. There are a lot of things that need to get done (and a few optional things I'm itching to do, including a couple of essays I've been wanting to write), but the rest aren't getting done tonight.

The mandolin is almost certainly not getting fixed until after Pennsic, unless somebody randomly brings the right sort of saw[*] to Baitcon (unlikely). I'll have to see about bringing another mandolin up to snuff (there's one that I hope can get away with only some WD40 on the tuners, which I'd been meaning to get around to for ages anyhow).

Since there's a zero-fret, maybe I could get away with a wooden nut temporarily, until I can get the bone cut? It'd be a lot easier to shape.

[*] I have a piece of bone 1/2" x 1/4" x 25/8", and I need a piece of bone 7/32" x 7/32" x 5/4". I'd rather not spend so much effort & tedium just getting the rough dimensions when I'll still have a tedious cutting and shaping task ahead of me regardless of how the initial cut is made. If I wait until after Pennsic, I've lined up use of a friend's band saw.


Review: uh, Today

I am very tired. I'd like to try to do something more productive/interesting/fun than just trying to make sure I'm somewhat rested up by tomorrow afternoon, but I'd better not push.

I started the day pretty tired, and felt various kinds of crappy at several points during the day, but not constantly and I managed to get through my day without getting to the turn-grey-and-fall-over stage or having to bail on anything early. (I felt pretty close during part of the ride home.)

So, since my body only threatened to interfere but didn't monkey-wrench things, and only made me somewhat distractingly uncomfortable rather than can't-think-straight miserable, I got to enjoy stuff -- the supposed-to-be-fun things were mostly fun. That makes it a good day however fragile I feel now, at the end of it. And the pain didn't exceed the "can cope using Ultram" range, another good-day marker.

I found a ride to the monthly meeting of the recorder club (which needs a web site) up in Towson this afternoon, which ride wound up also being a ride from there to Emory's afterward, where I met up with [info] justgus37 to ride to our HCB gig in Columbia, where we were made to feel quite appreciated and I got, as usual, very very sweaty.

There was some interesting music at the recorder group, and although I still don't sight-read anywhere near as well as I'd like to (and didn't read as well today as I have at the times when I'm most in practice), I did a lot better than I was afraid I would. I did, of course, miss many fewer notes the third and fourth times we played each piece. I started off on alto for an all-altos-and-sopranos round ("Souldier take off thy wine", by Henry Purcell), and switched to bass for the rest of the afternoon shortly thereafter. A few of us got into discussion of early-music stuff (notation, hexachords, cantus firmus, and so on), which I rather enjoyed -- and which is kind of appropriate given that the name of the group is the Society for Early Music (I think there's an "of Central Maryland" or something tacked on as well), but I'm afraid I'm one of the people who got a bit carried away and contributed to the non-early-music-geeks' eyes glazing over. Uh, I should try to be more careful of that.

Pleasant weather, a vehicle blasting chilled air at me when I needed it most, playing nifty new-to-me music, playing familiar, well-liked music, playing recorder better than I thought I would (even if still not in the same league as a number of other people in the room[*]), conversation with cool people, appreciative audience, no SNAFUs or technical glitches, I didn't hit the fall-over stage until I got home, and the pain never got quite bad enough to warrant codeine. Yup, gotta label that a good day.

The plan for tomorrow will feel a lot more like work, but it should be fun work. (Brainstorming arrangements of tunes for a not-very-distant performance, and polishing and practicing, on electric instruments.) I just need to make sure I get a useful amount of sleep tonight ... or tomorrow morning, just "between now and tomorrow afternoon".

[*] Hearing one of the other players on my part across the room, and thinking, "okay, we both hit all the notes, but damn, their tone is a lot better than mine; it's a better instrument than mine, but that sounds more like different-amount-of-practice than more-expensive-instrument, from here," does reinforce the whole Need To Make Time To Practice Other Than At Group Rehearsals idea.

Note that I have heard a better instrument make a shocking amount of difference -- I once tried a $300 wooden Yamaha soprano that made me sound like someone you'd assign melody parts to ... but it still didn't make me sound as good as its owner did playing either of our recorders.


It Was An Afternoon, Now It's An Evening

Made it to pharmacy. Made it to nail salon after very annoying wait for wrong bus due to misinformation. Stopped at Appalachian Bluegrass for a nut blank because the slot for the bottom string on the mandolin I was practicing on while waiting for buses crumbled. (Blank is way bigger than I need; gonna have to cut it lengthwise. Anybody local have a band saw and not mind the smell of bone dust too badly?) Stopped at grocery on the way back. Am very tired.

Especially annoying numbers of rude, immature people out and about today. Funny thing, when I hear people laughing and turn around and see a cameraphone pointed at me (with such an exaggerated gesture that it seems my seeing them is half the point), and I bring an SLR to my eye pointed back at them, people freak out. Dayum, either it's acceptable behaviour or it's not, idjits; make up your minds! But suddenly I go from curiosity to something-to-flee once the lens is aimed at them.

Have lined up rides for tomorrow. Tried to avoid pushing myself so hard today that I'll be too beat to cope tomorrow, but with the amount of walking required because of where the bus lines do and don't go, and just being Out And Active fort so long, I'm pretty darned beat. Hope I didn't push toooo hard. Gotta manage to be functional Sunday as well!

Want ABC 2.0 <-> MusicXML converter. Found an ABC 1.6-> MusicXML tool, but a) it dropped three measures when I tested it, b) it barfs on V: tags, and c) the source seems to have been lost and the author is unreachable. Half a mind to start banging one out in C (and wondering whether I could to the MusicXML->ABC direction as a 'sed' script), but already have Too Many Projects in the queue so should try a little longer to find existing tool maintained by Somebody Not Me. Also want shareware or o-s OMR (aka 'music OCR'); closest I've found is 30-day free evaluation of $190 program. Will try that, but will try to time the start of the eval period to maximize usefulness. (Probably worth $190, if I had the spare dough for that sort of thing.

Have found annoying amounds of ABC FUD on chat boards while Googling for tools, as well as an awful lot of "since I don't need that, I can't imagine it's of use to anyone else on the planet either; they should just all use the same proprietary notation tool that I do" attitudes. Feh.

Doh! Should remember to ask about XML conversion on ABC mailing list!

Tentative lead on Volvo wagon. More news ifwhen more news exists.

Difference between now and the long-tiny-nested-paren paragraph before, is today I realize I'm this tired.

Perrine is much more tolerant than I thought she'd be, of the "cat-on-keyboard bad, so if you choose to occupy keyboard zone, it's keyboard-on-cat" rule I've instituted. Though her acceptance or disgusted departure depends somewhat on my typing speed.

I do wish she'd tell me where she hid the mouse I can smell rotting. *sigh*


A Long Day, Sliced Up Into Pieces

The good and bad: I finally felt well enough to go to the doctor. That's mostly good, but it means I'm now incredibly exhausted on a rehearsal night.Oh. Never mind. My ride to rehearsal tonight fell through -- I got the phone call while I was writing this.

The inconvenient: Lots and lots and lots of walking and a bunch of mis-guesses regarding bus routes (the system map on the MTA web site is in Flash, which the computer I've mostly been using doesn't handle well, and when I can look at it I have to zoom in so far to see street names that I lose any sense of where on the map I'm looking -- lose, lose, lose -- so I just started walking and asking folks who were sitting on their front steps where the nearest north/south bus was). And when I got to the clinic, the doctor wasn't in today, but they're transferring all their patients with diabetes and/or hypertension to a better-equipped facility anyhow (not that I'm sure I need the special docs anyhow, at least not yet -- the glucose tolerance test says I'm diabetic but every glucometer reading (and my A1C) gets a reaction of, "oh, that's nothing" from medical professionals).

The dunno-whether-good-or-bad: Being transferred to a different provider ... The clinic I'd been going to provided the best health care I've had since I was a child. Much better funded / better equipped outfits, such as Kaiser, seemed to treat patients as an unfortunately nessecary inconvenience to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible (and to collect as many copayments from as possible, so if you have two problems / questions, they want you to make two visits). The clinic, which started as a city-funded free clinic until the state's new health-care-for-poor-people program changed the whole game (they're now affiliated with one of the larger providers that has a contract with the state) seemed to be full of people interested in keeping me healthy. So it is with some trepidation that I deliver myself to a larger commercial enterprise, but hey, who knows, maybe they'll turn out to be good too, eh? (Still, there's the whole getting used to each other, getting them familiar with my chart, etc., to face.)

A silver lining: City buses, which I spent quite a lot of time on today, are air conditioned. Much cooler than my house. (I tried to post that observation from my cell phone while I was riding a bus, but it appears to have not gotten through.)

The convenient: The new place I'll be going to is closer to my house -- a long walk on a day when I'm feeling well (though I have absolutely no clue how to get there by bus on a day when I'm feeling well enough to go out but not well enough for that long a walk). And they have their own pharmacy, which means I have a walking-distance alternative to the Rite Aid that royaly botched a prescription a few months ago.

The oops-oh-well: I wish I'd thought to clip on a pedometer before I set out this morning.

The somewhat-almost-clever: Knowing I'd be spending time walking and waiting at bus stops, I took a mandolin with me so I could practice. (And I remembered, for a change, to bring a book to read on the bus and in waiting rooms -- one that [info] siderea recommended. Of course, now that I've started it and gotten sucked into the story, I'll have to finish it tonight or tomorrow.)

So ... saw a doctor (who was filling in for the absent doctor I got transferred to instead of the also-absent doctor I'd expected to see), got a month worth of prescriptions and instructions to come back within a month to see the doctor who will become my regular doctor (Pennsic interferes, so it'll be a month and three days ... a little bit of drug-stretching will be needed, but only a little), got confirmation that I did not, in fact, absolutely fuck up my toe by not going to the ER when I sliced the end nearly off or by not limping to a doctor in the weeks following (it looks a little funny now, but the doctor's reaction was that it was about as expected for that type of injury at that stage of healing) and that slathering it with Neosporin and trying not to think about it too much seems to have been about right. (Though when the nurse, having asked me why I was there, heard "foot injury" after seeing in my chart that I'm diabetic, she looked like she was bracing for much, much worse. Hey, I did look at it every couple of days, and sniff the old bandage when I changed it to be alert for Ominous Sick/Rotting Odors ... I would've asked someone for a ride if it had started scaring me. I've been down to a Band-Aid with a finger-cot to help hold it in place for the past several days; no longer making "armoured bandages" for it.) And I answered too many queries about the way I dress. I don't mind explaining things every so often, but when everybody asks on the same day -- as when breaking in a new health care provider and their staff, or riding unfamiliar mass transit routes, or walking through unfamiliar neighbourhoods (today was three for three) -- I get tired of it.

I have to go back to that pharmacy tomorrow afternoon (they were out of one of the drugs) and manage to get out to the nail salon before Saturday's gig. Let's see whether I can feel well enough to get out on the bus and on foot two days in a row, or if I spend tomorrow recovering from today.

And now there's some sheet music beckoning to me that I should attend to.


When Perspiration Actually Works

My house usually gets insanely hot in the summer, refusing to cool down once it's heated up, and often winding up warmer than outdoors.

Today the temperature reported on the news is insanely hot, but, as they noted on the telly, we're getting a break on the humidity. My bedroom is only 91°F and it didn't break 90 until fairly late, and the humidity is low enough (for, ah, local values of 'low') that perspiring actually does some good. And therefore fans help, as do gentle breezes wafting through the windows. I can't really say it's super comfortable, but it's definitely not miserable. And both the weather forecast and past observations of this house predicted miserable. *whew*!

When I'm in a room without a fan, I definitely notice when I step out of the path of the breeze from the nearest window. It's probably not the best day for heavy lifting or too many trips up and down the stairs in a short time or wearing much clothing, but it's not one of those "brain baking, eyeballs melting, gonna burst into flame" days like we had a bunch of a couple weeks ago.

39% relative humidity versus 70%. Yowza.

Alas, I didn't sleep enough last night so I'm feeling a little brain-fried for reasons other than the weather, and I'm moving kinda slowly in general, but the day has not been a complete loss to sleep-deprivation: I finished the other half of a tune that I had started last month, and I'm feeling rather pleased with it. I should start practicing it on guitar -- I wrote it on mandolin (and it's pretty distinctly a mandolin tune, though I'm counting on the fiddlers to make it sound better on a real violin than the MIDI I generated). The middle section wound up being somewhat recorder-unfriendly, alas (though I did see fingerings online for notes that high recently, so recorder is not out of the question -- er, except for one insane note, a harmonic on the violin).