Category Archives: Music

On the Road Pt 1 & 2

I’m by no means a Jack Keuroac.  I don’t think I have the capacity for drugs and drink or the vocabulary.  But I do love the occasional monologue about travel, drive and watching the miles click by on the odometer.  Granted it’s a little more glamorous when you’re cruising in a Lexus, but the feel, the dirt the scenery, the weather on the horizon is still the same as it ever was.  The adventure is the same and affected by the shift in winds and the wet of the road.  The climate of the car can change with a word or a song and therefore contains it’s own atmosphere and stable vs. unstable conditions.  Snacks, salt, sweet, caffeine, songs, jokes, a laugh all add the varying weight of a drives potential energy.  The physics of travel.

I love to drive.  I really will opt to drive whenever I get the chance.  I have only a handful of friends that I think share the same passion for driving as me.  Though I feel that some of them do it out of a desire for control or rather a difficulty in relinquishing it.  I prefer to drive, but not because I don’t trust others to do it.  I have equally as much fun watching the terrain pass by in all of its layered horizons.  How the grasses flit by almost fluid, then the fence posts and telephone poles meandering at a jogger’s pace while the mountains and cows take their time leisurely and deceptive, making the distances seem twice as far.  The beckon for speed and so to them I tip my hat when I have the wheel and oblige their indulgences.  85 the average as we were whisking our way south.

Saugache (pronounced Sa-Watch).  Reminds me of the Antelope Valley where I grew up in So. Cal.  Hi desert.  Sky, upon sky.  The threat of tumbleweeds lingers as the sage and brush are blown by westerly winds.  Saugache is quiet, almost desloate and abandoned.  As we rolled through there seemed to be no people going about their days.  Inside, hunkered down in their A/C and swamp coolers, or off in the hills watching us drive slowly through their town through ancient telescopes and waiting to carry us off to some dungeon under granite.  This may seem far fetched, but they make movies about this shit.  Though my mind does wander I’m not always this morbid.

I think I’m too liberal with my use of commas.

Kyle won the Road Trip Mix Song contest.  We all had 3 to 4 mix CD’s to provide for this sojourn south and the rules were as follows: 1) Everybody gets a turn, 2) No Skipping Songs!  No matter how terrible or obnoxious.  So when Kyle dropped the Angelic Bomb on us he catapulted to the front of the pack for Song of the Trip.  Initially my vote was for Colorblind by The Counting Crows, but it go usurped and rightly so.

Since I’ve been working on finishing this post for almost 2 weeks I’m just going to sum up my feelings about this trip: I love getting to know people better and I think 4 people in a car for 16 hours is a great way to get to do that.  I am super thankful for that.  The show that we went to see was brilliant and I am now on a constant search for Neil Labutte plays to read.  The cast of this show rocked socks and I was super impressed with all of them and very proud to know them as performers and people.  The Bridge Jump was awesome (check out the vid for more info http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=wHOf5Mdm8eE). People, please speak truthfully at the outset.  And lastly, Colorado, you are BEAUTIFUL!  I love this state and am very excited to have gotten to see so much of it this summer.

Till next time,
Vaya Con Dios

Coldplay – Viva La Vida (or Death And All His Friends)

I wouldn’t really call Coldplay’s 2008 Viva La Vida a concept album in the strictest sense of the word. Not concept like Talking Heads or Frank Zappa concept. They’re not that type of band. But what I mean by concept is that Coldplay created an album that conceptualizes them as a band. Viva La Vida is Coldplay. It defines Coldplay as a creative entity, a stand-alone, a force in music and the creation of it.

Discrepancies with Joe Satriani aside, this album puts the group into the affectors of music and not just the affectees. What I mean is that Viva La Vida is the album that will inspire musicians to create. It is free from influence. It is typically epic which has been a staple of the Coldplay diet since A Rush of Blood to the Head, but it provides twists and turns and while at a mere 46 minutes, packs 10 songs with mature thoughts, lyrics, hooks, composition, arrangements and heart to make you wish it were just 10 – 15 minutes longer. The tracks themselves are concepts in miniature and tend to lean towards being in and of themselves ideas that could be albums all their own. From the ominous Cemeteries of London questioning the ability of the ears to hear a God walking in the back yard or the conclusive Death And All His Friends with it’s soaring bridge and ending that wraps up where the album started off, every song could contain 9 – 10 other songs like it on 9 – 10 other albums. This disc is that involved and involving from the first note. The album could have been 14 songs if you listen to it carefully. A number of songs contain songs within themselves, which again proves that the concept behind this album is that Coldplay is not going anywhere anytime soon and has been maturing and marinating for the last 9 years that they’ve been making albums.In the maturing process, something of note has taken place with Viva La Vida: While political sidings and alliances still linger within the tone and lyrics of some of the songs, something much more personal has emerged. Rather than an attempt to align itself with a particular set of ideals or beliefs, Coldplay has sought to infer a sense of moral conviction about life and the quality of it.

There’s a seeking and searching spirit behind many of these songs. Reveling in love, dancing through the streets as the sun rises, common hearts and minds, and a movement away from what death and his followers have offered in the past. This album reveals itself as a concept album in that Chris Martin and crew have a new urgency to communicate with the world; Life is Beautiful and should be absorbed through every pore, but change must happen in our hearts in order for this to happen. Though my favorite track is Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love something resonates within me in the chorus of the finale Death And All His Friends – ‘I don’t want to battle from begnning to end / I don’t want to cycle or re-cycle revenge / I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends‘. And that’s the height to which Viva La Vida takes its listeners – Personal responsibility to a new quality of life amongst the ugliness and hatred that perpetrates us as people. I like that.  X & Y carried with it hints of New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen, Rush moved through the darker realms of life and love, Parachutes brought the strains of U2, and Travis from Johnny Buckland’s guitars and relied on Martin’s falsetto to carry much of the album into the hearts of adoring fans. But Viva La Vida stands alone, on its own as a coming of age for a group that is destined to keep the edges of music sharp. Very sharp indeed.

Highly Recommended
Also Check Out: Parachutes

Back to One

I’ve never fancied myself a songwriter. I like songs. I like the capacity it takes to create songs and many of my friends and family are very gifted songwriters. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with some of them and currently am playing with some of them (Andrew Webb aka Map Water Blue), but haven’t ever undertaken the art seriously. This isn’t a post about what I’m now undertaking as a songwriter. No, this is about being taken back to something. Something serious, something that inspired the movement of music within me. The art of the Soundtrack.

I love movies. I always have. The element of sound and music in a movie is part of why I love them, but more than that it’s a part of why I remember them. A scene in a movie by itself, silent, without music and the only sound is the lips and mouth of the performer creating the sound of speech or a look that creates terror. I can remember that, but I remember a scene, hell, a preview more with the emphasis of a soundtrack. A chord, an orchestra hit, an undertone, an overtone, and I will never forget the movie, time or place.

In school I’m being challenged to compose in a digital format. What this opportunity affords me is the ability to explore a part of me musically that I was sure I could do, but didn’t know if the time would ever be right. It also allows me access to orchestra upon orchestra without the need for live musicians until the time comes.

Here’s the rep for my current projects:
Aaron Copland, Hans Zimmer and Russell Brower (composer of the WoW expansion Mists of Pandaria) for starters.

John Mayer – Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles

Since John Mayer came on the scene as the pre-coital soundtrack to the sorority and fraternity life in 2001, he’s progressed from purely bubblegum radio pop to thick bluesy mojo to bluesy mojo radio pop. A not-so-subtle transition for some who have claimed him as their ‘wonderland’ or have wanted to lay beside him in bed whilst “Daughters” plays in the background and he ‘completes’ them. The issue with being a serious artist after having found a niche in the hearts of the collegiate femine is that it’s hard to be taken seriously when what you’re really passionate about as a musician begins to move you into a new musical direction. But he seems to have suffered no fan loss for his movement towards the bluesy side of things, which is some thing to be grateful for when we’re on the verge of losing one of the greatest expressions of music on earth.Hints of Mayer’s love of the blues seeps through in live albums like Any Given Thursday released back in 2003. While not overtly heavy in the blues arena his inclinations and leanings musically towards this genre come through in his live improvisational arrangements of his more popular and less radioed tunes, like “Neon”.Mayer’s growth as a producer, arranger and songwriter was evident in 2006’s Continuum. The highly Motown and R & B influenced tracks are a foot-tapping accomaniment to his romantic and deeply personal lyrics with the occasional politcal footnote (listen to the head-bobbing, yet slightly passive “Waiting on the World to Change”. But where Mayer has always shined as a musician, performer, songwriter, guitarist and arranger is in his live performances.

With 3 previous live endeavors under his belt, two of which boast two discs each, Mayer has proven that the library of music he has to pull from, both as an artist and from the public domain, has thrust him into the category of “Consument Performer”. Highly entertaining both in banter and it artistry, Mayer’s live shows are what they should be, entertaining. I haven’t yet been able to experience a live show, but I enjoy listening almost as much as if I were there and he personalizes each song to the point of being able to ‘see’ what he means musically without having to be there. Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles is no exception.
Thoughtful and reminiscent of his more poppy days the first half of the first disc has a VH1 ‘Storytellers’ vibe to it, without any storytelling. Not overly flashy in the playing deptarment it’s a nice introduction to the evening that progresses both sonically and in the number of musicians involved. I do however find the cover of Petty’s “Free Fallin'” to be a little contrived and it feels like he was practicing it before he went on stage and decided to throw it in for the hell of it.
The second half of Disc 1 is the “John Mayer Trio” made up of Berklee College buddies’ of Mayer, Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan. Jordan also helped with the production of Continuum. Mayer’s Trio released a live album back in ’05 and while a vast majority of that album made it onto this live performance some tracks lack the conviction and tightness that Try! conveyed. Live in LA boasts some tasteful forays into the Band of Gypsys camp of 69/70 Hendrix. Particularly at the end of “Who Did You Think I Was” when they rip into “Power of Love”. The ‘Trio’ portion of the album is energetic with some musical risks that, whether planned or not, take away from the prescence that the band has and the sound that they have the ability to produce. Purchase Try! if you’d like to hear them at their sonic best. Take particular note of “Vultures”, “Out of My Mind”, “Come When I Call”, and Hendrix’s epic ballad “Bold as Love” on Live in LA.

Disc 2 really shows off Mayer’s prowess as a guitarist. With a full R & B band + more vocalists and another guitarist, Mayer is free to explore musical regions of the map that the previous two sets limit. Of particular note are the solo sections on two of his more prominent ballads “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” and the epically beautiful “Gravity”, reworked with a more blues saavy ending than on the Trio’s Try! album. It is really exquisite. This sort of electric ballad was touched on in 03’s Heavier Things with the track “Come Back to Bed”.

Tonally the second disc lends itself to Mayer’s understanding of the guitar as an amplified instrument moreso than the previous Trio set. Use of octave pedals, delay and univbe/leslie cab simulators add a depth to the music that is enhanced by the sound of a full band. Musically this set is a lot tighter as well. A good example of this is “I Don’t Need No Doctor” where after the double-time solo section there’s a nifty unison guitar hook that both Mayer and the rhythm guitarist, with Mayer occupying the higher octave.

John Mayer has brought a revival to the Blues, regardless of what your personal opinions of him are, and that alone has won me over as a fan and a musician. Thanks are due him, oh ye faithful.

Recommended
Also Check Out:
Try! Live, The John Mayer Trio

Application Process

I am in the very basic stages of coming up with a guitar chord/scale app for the mobile markets. I have downloaded/purchased a few in the past that have been helpful to an extent and then leave me wanting more when I come to a fork in the road in my creative/learning process on my instrument. A lot of the apps out there cater to the beginner and intermediate markets, of which there are many, but my idea is to incorporate those beginner and intermediate ideas in to a more comprehensive app.

The motivation behind this is my awareness of how deep an instrument the guitar is. A lot of times it is considered a fast track to stardom or the constant comment I get is “Well, doesn’t everybody play guitar? Aren’t you going up against hundreds, if not thousands of people who pick up this instrument and go out and make records?” My answer is no, because I feel that a vast majority (though, not all) of people who pick up the guitar don’t have it in mind to pursue the instrument as a lifestyle. The guitar is a wonderful instrument. It’s portable, a great creative outlet, and can be picked up very easily. My purpose in creating this app is to further the desire to know the instrument and not just play the instrument. Styles of playing and music are varied and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you like to play or listen to, the awareness of all genres can deepen your knowledge of the instrument. Studying Wes Montgomery is equally as deep as studying Yngwie Malmsteen regardless of the style of music you play on the instrument.

Here is a general list of concepts for the app. 1) Chord positions/inversions/extensions in multiple places on the fretboard. 2) Arpeggio positions/inversions/extensions in multiple places on the fretboard. 3) Scales, in multiple variations in various places on the fretboard. 4) Scalar relationships to chords and the suggested scales to use over a particular chord (this is a Jazz Theory element that pushes the knowledge of the instrument past the beginner/intermediate moniker). 5) Suggested practices/use of time.

If you have any ideas or would like to see something in this app that maybe doesn’t exist in something else you’ve tried before, email me or get in touch via Facebook and I will attempt to incorporate them in versions to come.

Cheers.