Category Archives: Music

The Coventry Carol – Video

Notre Dame

I have always like The Coventry Carol.  I’m into dark, medieval music, particularly Christmas music, which seems like it should be bright, not dark.  So I decided I wanted to record it.  But I needed a little research first.  I was surprised at what I found, and this led to the video (hint, read this before listening)

The carol was part of a “mystery play” that went back to the 14th century.  The words were written down in the early 16th century and the music in the late 16th century, some believe in a bid to try to get it performed again (it wasn’t).  This song is about the slaughter of the innocents.

Yes, The Coventry Carol is a lullaby sung by the women of Bethlehem to try to calm their frightened babies as they wait for Herod’s men to murder the babies. “Bye bye, lully lullay.” Nice, right? So “the little tiny child” in the song is not the baby Jesus, but some poor, doomed child.

The words and music survived as much by accident as anything, as such things do, and was revived again in the 20th century.During The Battle of Britain in WW2, the Germans bombed Coventry on the 14th of November, 1940.  On Christmas, 1940, the BBC played The Coventry Carol live as it was being sung from the bombed out ruins of the Coventry cathedral.

So the song went from the poor woman resigned to their fate when brought up against powers beyond their understanding to the women shaking their fists at the sky when brought up against these powers.  You may bomb us and kill our children, but we will rise from the ashes. Continue reading

Review – Behringer VC340

B VC340

Last week I received a Behringer VC340 that I ordered a few months back.  This is a recreation of a classic synthesizer, the Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus, which was made in 1979 and 1980.  Although the production of this synthesizer was short, it, along with the rackmount version, the SVC-350, is found all over music of the early 80s, including artists as far apart as Vangelis and Laurie Anderson.

The VC330, like the original VP-330, instead of being a general synthesizer is divided into three main parts: a string synthesizer, a “human voice” synthesizer and a vocoder.

The string synthesizer is just what it sounds like, a synthesized string ensemble sound that uses simple analog technology of the day.  String synths were very popular in the late 70s and the Roland version can be heard on a lot of music by a wide variety of artists.  It offers a simple tone (brightness) control, attack (how quickly the sound starts) and release (how quickly the sound fades after you take your hands from the keys). Continue reading

Higher Ground – Video

Modular Synth - November 2017

Some of you may know that one of my interests is building a playing a modular analog synthesizer.  This is an “Old School” instrument where sounds are created by patching different modules together with patch cords.  Well, more to it than that, but the idea is that it is a very hands on type of instrument.

An issue with this type of synthesizer is that if you like a sound, oh well, you will eventually have to tear it down.  At that point it is gone.  You can make a drawing of the patch, a quick schematic.  A photo, well, that would be so complicated you will get nothing.  Or you can learn the instrument well enough to be able to recreate it later.  That’s my goal. Continue reading

House of The Rising Sun Part 2

Steamship Paddles

If you couldn’t tell from my first post about my video for The House for the Rising Sun, I was not happy with my voice.  OK, part of it was that I made an arrangement that pushed my range from the A below the staff to the A above the staff.  That’s three ‘A’s and two octaves. Also, I’m not a great singer to begin with so…

I decided to do a new version with a synth line instead of vocals.  I used the same background but I changed the mix slightly to bring down the arpeggios and bring up the organ.  I also added a little counter-melody part.

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

The video is still the same, just a change in the music.

OK, question time.  When I posted this, I noticed Sony records put a Copyright claim to the video.  As I said in my last post, this is a traditional song that has been performed for a century and recorded for almost a century.  The melody has its rots in the 17th century.  I spent several hours trying to hunt down the copyright and read a lot of interesting stuff about copyright.  Everything indicated that it is Public Domain. Continue reading

New Video – The House of the Rising Sun

Red New Orleans

After doing the promo video for my upcoming book, the Fireborn, I have been in a musical mood.  Out of nowhere I decided to do this video.  This was a lot of fun, but you will immediately notice that I am much more of an instrumentalist than a singer ;)  Don’t let my voice drive you away…  As far as the music and sound effects and such, well, here, watch it and I’ll talk about it afterwards, OK?  Yeah, I may be wordy ;) Continue reading

Weekly Smile 80 #weeklysmile

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmile

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmile

It is funny but my mom is much better known in classical music circles than I am.  Of course the contemporary classical music that I’ve written has been heard by only a few people.  Yes, you can buy a CD of my Hamlet Symphony or listen to some of my classical music here on my blog or on YouTube, but not many have heard it.  My mom, though…

I don’t know, maybe 20 years ago, give or take, she bumped into a man at a Cleveland Orchestra concert.  They started talking and he said he was a classical composer, that at the time he was concentrating on on Art Song, but he was writing his own lyrics because  nobody else said what he wanted to say.  So she said, “I’m a poet.  How about I send you some of my poems?”  Funny thing, he said sure, why not?

The composer’s name is H. Leslie Adams, and he is a well known son of Cleveland, though his music has been (continues to be) played around the world.  He’s used a few of my mom’s poems for his music. Continue reading

Bob Dylan Post Revisited (AKA – Plagiarism Day Man #1 & 2)

Blow

The other day I did a post about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture.  While I think it is still a great read and a great listen, in some ways classic Dylan, I have also discovered that some people think he plagiarized at least part of it.

First, in the past when it was pointed out that some of his lyrics and much of his earliest music, seem to be pretty similar to existing works, he pointed out that there was a long tradition in folk music (and jazz) to quote existing works.  This is true.  Some of his earliest songs work because of these quotes.  There are some who think he never did an original thing, that he is complete phony.  Of course, I’ve never heard that his classics, like “Blowing in the Wind”, “The Times They are a Changin'”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Positively 4th Street”, or anything off of Highway 61 Revisited are plagiarized in any way.  But some think they are all phony and awful. Continue reading

Challenge Thirteen

Osprey

One of the very first posts I ever put up on this blog was called Challenge Me!  It was about musical challenges that I used to participate in when I followed a music forum back about a decade ago.

Here is a super quick synopsis of that post.  Someone would post a phrase or a theme.  The “contestants” would compose music based on that theme.  The music could take any form, any genre, etc., as long as it used the music software that the music forum was about.  The winner of each challenge would post the theme for the next challenge.  You can read more on the original post. Continue reading

Bob Dylan – Nobel Lecture

Pyschodelic Music

Once I was discussing music with someone and they said something about how late in life they were before they understood that there was more to a song than just the words.  I laughed and said that it was even later in life that I realize that words in songs had any meaning beyond how they sounded when sung.  In my world view, the voice was just another instrument that was very flexible in the sounds it could produce, a kind of organic synthesizer.

Funny thing, though, as soon as I began to actually pay attention to meaning, Bob Dylan quickly became one of my favorites.  Doubly funny, is that for some of his songs, it is the immediate imagery more than the actual meaning that jumps out.  Close your eyes and listen to just about anything on “Highway 61 Revisited” and let your imagination run wild.  Do you see it?  At times it is back to my original thought of the sound of his voice, the individual words, creating its own meaning beyond what the words taken together mean. Continue reading

The Two Ricks

When I was a teenager or in my early twenties, everyone knew that my favorite band was Yes.  I mean, I have a very positive personality, and how much more positive can you get than ‘Yes’?  Not ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’, but ‘Yes’!  Their music is full of shimmering light and high fantasy.  Sure, you could say the same about the Prog-Rock era Genesis, but there was something about Yes that just pushed that positivity in a way that Genesis didn’t.  There was also a big emphasis on Musicianship and showmanship. Something that their keyboardist (at least for a few ‘classic’ albums) Rick Wakeman had in spades.

Rick Wakeman had a style that could go from very hardcore, if showy, flowery, rock to pretty little filigrees and flourishes.  Outside of Yes, listen to some early David Bowie, like ‘Life on Mars?’.  Also listen to Cat Steven’s ‘Morning has Broken’.  Listen to the flash of the playing.  It is pretty and complex at the same time.  Virtuosity was what Rick Wakeman’s playing was (and still is) about. Continue reading