Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: music

456. Driving Rule

No music for your first year of driving.

439. Instrumental Value

There are few things worth what you pay for them. Instruments are one of those things, partially for how long they will last and partially for how well they can communicate from your soul.

438. Homemade Groove

Make homemade instruments.

Blow over the top of a glass bottle. Put wax paper over a plastic hairbrush for a kazoo. Put dry beans in a plastic container for a shaker. Stretch rubber bands or string over a box as a guitar. Make a cube out of wood panels, each with a different thickness for varying tone; cut a three-inch hole in the bottom or side so the sound can escape.

Now groove.

Master that before you pay hundreds for decent instruments.

403. Suggested Music: Marc Broussard

His Carencro album, specifically the song “Home.”

Incredible groove, but not difficult technically. The smokey character to his voice and the vocal acrobatics he is capable of are impressive. One reviewer likened him to a bit of Ray Charles; I happen to agree. Broussard’s live hurricane Katrina charity album shows those qualities off a bit more than the studio stuff, but that is expected. And his live drummer matches his intensity the whole way.

Listen to the studio version of “Home” by Marc Broussard here.

400. Suggested Music: Hoi Polloi

Hoi Polloi, their Happy album. It has a picture of a doll with a burlap outfit on the cover; very post-modern.

This was an indie band from the mid-1990s — I bet not more than a few thousand of their albums sold in their touring time — but they did some great studio work. Incredible drummer, impeccable sonic palette, and arresting vocals that unfold the poetry behind the music. One of the great unknown hard rock (progressive rock) albums.

Listen to “Tiptoe” by Hoi Polloi.

Listen to “Love Has Come” by Hoi Polloi.

396. Essay: Argumentation Categories

I believe there are four main categories of argumentation, with one subcategory that is combined as needed with the primary four:

  1. Religious: Either defending or vilifying the authority of spiritual works.
  2. Rousing: Appeals made on emotional grounds. Generally, these are smokescreens and hold negligible weight upon scrutiny. Because each side displays equal passion and because riling emotions is not the front where progress can be made, emotional arguments should be swept away almost immediately. This includes sarcasm and verbal sparring.
  3. Reasoning: Logical progressions, syllogisms, comparisons and contrasts, philosophy, and the like.
  4. Research: Clinical studies and meta-analyses. These, however, do not reflect true daily situations and cannot account for every possible variable.
  • Reality: The undeniability of our human experience; existentialism in its true meaning; what we go through each day. This subcategory is reflected in some of the arts — music, movies, poetry and such — and fits easily with the prior categories and can be used to support them at will.

Though, for instance, the religious may use their sacred text more and the analytical may use research more and the ignorant may use sarcasm more, all sides utilize all four categories to undergird their perspective. They are wise to do so. No single category can solve a disagreement, but cumulatively they clarify each perspective overall.

Know when and when not to use each.

395. Suggested Music: Fleming and John

Both albums, The Way We Are and Delusions of Grandeur.

Their first was Delusions, and it was rock to the core. Difficult subject matter is broached with honesty and whimsy at the same time. The musicality, however, was not second on the list. They retain tight control over every chord and transition, turning it into a musician’s playground as well as a tool from which budding musicians may learn.

They are a married couple with real skill. Fleming’s vocals are second to none. She can flow from rock to big band to operatic octave jumps without thinking twice. John Mark Painter played every instrument except drums (Fleming’s brother did that). Painter even taught himself how to play new instruments just to get the exact right sound for their second album. He was obviously not impressed with the samples he could have gotten off any decent engineering program. And thank goodness. It gave the album that extra sincerity not found in layer upon layer of samples.

Way is their foray into expressing emotions with completely different styles of music: a touch of punk, a bit of emo, rock ballads, love songs, a haunting theme, a disco romp, and a jazz epilogue. All without selling either the lyrics or the style short one bit. In musicianship, it is rare to flow seamlessly from one style to another with complete competence.

Way is dominated by themes of love, relationship, what it means to be married while your friends are still dating, and the inevitable broken heart. There is seriousness and lightheartedness at once. And who has ever compared their spouse to a La-Z-Boy recliner? Fleming and John, that’s who.

John moved on to some producing and they started a family, so their music took a back seat after the second album. They did a special song for a Christmas album, but it was only one song and it wasn’t the best. I only wish we had more material from them. If they ever do release a comeback album, it will be the first on my list of music to purchase.

Listen to “Not Afraid” by Fleming and John.

Listen to “Letters in my Head” by Fleming and John.

Listen to “I’m So Small” by Fleming and John.

Listen to “The Pearl” by Fleming and John.

392. I Love Drums

I love playing the drums. Rhythm, syncopation, tone, the sound . . . even wood grain itself. I love everything about the drums. I love it when I play and when I get to hear other good drummers play. I love a well-placed lick that makes you rewind and hear it again. I love a solid groove. In the pocket is what it’s called. I love volume and finesse, I love drum clinics and music that highlights the technical prowess and caliber of skill that another rhythmic soul possesses.

When I play, I play loud. I am not good at finesse. It is probably not my calling. When I hit a tom, it is heard; it is a good, solid, unmistakable tone. My sticks are worn around the middle because I hit my snare in the middle of the head and on the rim at the same time. That’s called a rimshot and it cuts through every other tone with a khah that can split eardrums. (Just ask my band mates.) Cardboard-sounding snares annoy me, so my snare is always tuned high. Not so high that there is no tone, but high enough to be definitive. I have a 4×14 piccolo snare that is the pride of my instruments. It is gorgeous and has always pleased my ears.

I love drums.

376. Whistlestop

Don’t whistle to the music in a public waiting room.

367. Essay: Disappearing Concepts

Legacy: Worth Less

I bought a laptop once I decided to switch from a Microsoft operating system to a Macintosh system. (Best technology decision I’ve ever made, by the way. I only regret not doing it sooner.) That was 2004; it is now 2011.

On a recent Apple store visit I was clued in to the nickname of a computer that old: legacy. That means newer than vintage but older than classic — and still worth less than both. So I started thinking about the pace of technology and what things are disappearing.

The kicker for me is not that gadgets come and go, but that concepts themselves are changing. Entire categories of technological concepts will have disappeared by the time you are fluent in the technology of your day. Because of touch- and gesture-based technology, the vestige method for selecting an item — the mouse click — is currently being replaced by the more natural finger tap. The tap is more in line with what we expect should happen, but how long will the tap be around?

Legacy Technology

Let’s take the simple act of listening to music as an example. Of course it starts with an instrument, but recording that instrument and then playing it back is another matter. There was the phonograph, then the vinyl album turntable, the eight-track tape, then the cassette tape, the compact disc, and then the world of digital audio. There are a few more subcategories to each of those, but that’s the general overview.

With the phonograph and turntable, a needle had to be guided directly into a groove on a spinning disc. We had to ensure careful placement of the needle or the resulting scratches would distort the sound. Utilizing a needle also meant that the more the album was listened to, the more degraded the sound playback quality became.

Legacy Concepts

Eight-track and cassette tapes had to be inserted into a playdeck certain way; the playback head needed cleaning; if the magnetic band got crinkled, the sound became warbled; to listen to an entire album we had to flip the cassette to the other side, or — crazy words here — fast-forward and rewind to the song of your choice. Of those two terms, because of digital audio, you may never truly understand what rewind means. Sure, you can skip to this song or that movie, but rewinding will be a non-concept to you. It was part of my world, but it won’t be part of yours.

We rewound everything. If we liked a song, we had to rewind it. If we liked one side and not the other, rewind it. If we watched a movie on a VHS tape, we had to rewind it if we ever wanted to watch it again. This was especially true when we went to a physical store to rent a VHS movie. It was the renter’s responsibility to rewind it before returning it or the store would charge extra to do it for you. So we bought dedicated machines with the sole job of rewinding video cassette tapes.

DVD discs and digital movie files changed this entirely.

I don’t lament newer, faster, and better technology, but it does feel odd that an entire concept will be foreign to you: Be kind, please rewind.

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