Tag Archives: Amin

Growing a Tune: The Seed

Here is my latest tune.
 
latest tune
 
I know it doesn’t look like much, but it is how most of my tunes start out. A fleeting idea enters my head as I’m driving to work. I reach into the console to find something, anything, to write on. I fervidly scratch the lines of the staff onto paper as I’m taking a corner (hey, at least I’m not on my cell phone). I pencil in a few dots to make up the first couple measures. Those first few dots are seeds. Sometimes nothing happens with them and they don’t grow. I have hundreds of scraps of paper lying around with seeds that never bloom into anything. My wife loves the mess. Other times the idea does grow. Sometimes into a weed and other times into something a little more enjoyable. I add more dots. Maybe even enough dots to make a tune.

At this point, I generally let that tune sit for a few days. This is part of my vetting process. If I can remember that tune a few days later without looking at the music, it might be worth playing for someone else.

Yesterday I played this tune for Unstachio, what I could remember of it anyhow. I haven’t wasted time trying to figure out a name quite yet. No sense in finding a perfectly good name for a perfectly crappy tune. Gotta save names for the good tunes. This might be one. Seems better than a weed.

So, here is the plan. Unstachio and I are going to continue watering this one and see how it grows. First I need to really learn it. Then I am going to do a rough recording of it send it to him so he can learn it. If we think it has merit, we’ll spend some more time caring for it…and we will see what grows.

I’ll post about the progress as we go.

Franklin’s Harem

Franklin in France
 
Benjamin Franklin, aside from being a founding father of our country, the ‘discoverer of electricity’, a diplomat, an inventor and the guy that first formed public libraries and fire departments, was also quite the ladies man. In the recent HBO series, entitled John Adams, Franklin is portrayed in a less-than-iconic and promiscuous light while performing his diplomatic duties in France. I suppose when you’re a guy that can tame lightning and create counties your gonna have the women fawning over you.

In reference to Franklin’s escapades in France I entitled my most recent tune Franklin’s Harem.

In this recording the tune actually comes behind another tune that I recently posted called The Nobel Train. It has three parts. The first two are in 9/8 and the last part is in 12/8. So, I guess it is a slip jig sort of. You can find the sheet music here.
 
The Nobel Train / Franklin’s Harem by baconworks

The Nobel Train

A classic corporate metaphor for teamwork is the crew team. In college I rowed in the two seat of an eight man scull and I can attest to that fact that if you are not pulling the oars in perfect unity, the boat moves like a duck.
 
teamwork
 
The visual simplicity of the crew is one reason it lends itself nicely to the teamwork metaphor. However, the stakes are low if the team fails and in the best case scenario, the winning crew goes home with a medal and a warm happy feeling. Nice, but not the most griping example of teamwork.

Recently I was reading David McCullough’s 1776 and I was reminded of an example of teamwork that I would prefer to see on those motivational posters.
 
The Nobel Train of Artillery
 

As winter approached, in 1775, George Washington and his untrained, ill equipped rabble in arms were trying to figure out how to dislodge the kings mighty army from Boston. By all accounts, including that of General Washington, the situation was untenable and the obstacles look insurmountable.

It was during this dire period, with Washington’s army perilously close to destruction and the hopes of liberty for the new Americans in jeopardy, that a young man named Henry Knox approached General Washington with a bold idea.

Henry wanted to take three hundred men and march them to upstate New York where they were to appropriate sixty tons of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga. He and his men would then drag the cannons back to Cambridge, MA during the dead of winter using wooden sleds and oxen in what Henry described as a ‘noble train of artillery’.

Henry left for Fort Ti in early December and for the next two months lugged artillery over Lake Champlain, through mud and snow and ultimately arrived in Cambridge on January 24th, 1776. Washington then set all fifty-nine of Knox’s cannons on Dorchester Heights during the course of one night and pointed them down upon the British army. When the British awoke to see the deadly line of artillery pointing at them they thought better of retaliating and within a few days were boarding their ships in Boston harbor and preparing to evacuate. A major victory for the American’s and not a shot had been fired.

History is a great place, of course, to find good tune titles. This tune’s title is a nod to the teamwork and perseverance of Knox and his men during the most trying of times. I was really intending on recording a quick demo of the newly written tune…and then I got carried away with the instrumentation. It was one of those rare evenings where the recording session went smoothly (i.e. my furnace didn’t click on during the perfect takes!). As a demo, unfortunately, the recording is rather short. Consequently, I expect to rework it into a longer set at some point.

 
The Nobel Train / Franklin’s Harem by baconworks

Moving Cloud / Star of Munster / The Scholar

cloud

This is a set of tunes that my buddy Joe, a great flute player, wants to play in Switzerland. The tunes in the set are all fairly common and can be heard at most sessions. Nonetheless, they all rock. This is definitely a reference track as you will hear some flubbed notes here and there. Recording this gave me an opportunity, however, to figure out how I might like to back Joe.

Versions of these tunes can be found on thesession.org
Moving Cloud
Star of Munster
The Scholar

After taking a glance at the music it appears I don’t play them at all like they are written. Oh well, that’s folk music for ya.

Sketch

Sketch
 
I once took a painting class where we were asked to do ten paintings in thirty minutes. The rules were simple.

  • No more than three minutes per painting.
  • The entire painting surface had to be covered at the end of three minutes.

What one quickly discovers is that there is no time for detail. Instead you focus on the bones that define the structure of an image. Bad bones, bad painting, and one that is not really worth details anyhow. What you also discover is that details is not where the energy lies. The good stuff is in the most fundamental elements of the image such as line, balance and color composition.

I painted a lot of ugly three minute sketches. Keep at it long enough, though, and suddenly a good painting pops out. You then realize that the ugly ones were just part of the process of getting to the good one. The ugly ones are where you explore all your good ideas. It is where you separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say.

The image above comes from one of those sketches that, at the time, I was not really all that happy with. Fifteen years later my wife found it, framed it and put it on the wall. I love it. It reminded me that sketches, serving most often as a means to an end, occasionally have the power to stand on their own.

A lot of what I have been musically producing lately is what I would consider audio sketches. I have not focused too much on details such as set arranging, voice leading or instrumental variation. Instead, I have been focusing on melody and tempo, the basics. Going forward I will group these sketches under the internet album title of ‘Sketch‘.

Yesterday, after changing the strings on my borrowed bouzouki, I became mesmerized by its exotic sound. I was noodling around and a melody in minor started to take shape. I envision that it has a second strain but I am not sure what that would sound like yet. Or, maybe it is an intro to a song or even a set of tunes. I don’t really know. For now I have given it a working title of ‘Crosswinds’. That could change too, though I do like it. What I do know is that it has a couple brush strokes that I wish it didn’t but enough good ones where I will continue to push the paint around. It is a sketch.

Castaway

Like many artists I tend to be protective of my work until it is complete. Picasso toiled for seasons and changed painting styles several times before unveiling the most grotesque masterpiece the world had seen in El Bordel, later renamed to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

avignon

Like Picasso, I’m aware that critics are part of the creative game and I generally have no interest in attracting them until the work is complete lest a novel idea be diluted with the thoughts of others. The question, then, is this; when is a piece of work complete? Some critics argued that Picasso’s mockery of modern art was, indeed, incomplete, which implies that maybe completeness is all about personal perception. How can a critic say that Picasso’s painting was incomplete when Picasso himself had packed up the paint and cleaned the brushes? It seems fair to say that, overall, Picasso’s work was not complete but he would not continue that work on the canvas of El Bordel.

Mozart’s Requiem, on the other hand, marked the end of the line for the great composer. His death made sure that there was to be no more work. And yet the world wonders, was it complete? It is common knowledge that Mozart’s friend and pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr ‘filled in the holes’ for his dying friend. Had Mozart lived longer would we have a different masterpiece? Completion was a result of his death and not a desire of the composer to move on to new work.

While all this talk about ‘completeness’ is interesting to ponder, the fact remains that the world is a better place with great works like Requiem and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Their level of completeness doesn’t change what they are or the enjoyment they give us.

With my own work, in which I am certainly not intending to draw any parallels to the aforementioned geniuses, there are pieces in various states of completeness. In particular and as I mentioned in a previous post, I recorded a number of tracks over the course of a few months in early 2000 at a little place called Melville Park Studio. I have kept them hidden away from any real critics because they were incomplete. I have not changed a flawed note on these roughly-mixed recordings since 2000 so it is with great trepidation that I have decided to cast them away and move on. In my mind they are unfinished because they ultimately don’t sound as I intended them. For example, this track has some tuning issues that were to be reworked and I had hoped to add percussion. But they represent a time in my own musical development that I have hopefully passed and I think it would be a disservice to my own work to go back and change anything with the ideas I have today. Therefore, they are complete. Besides, what good will they serve if nobody ever has a chance to enjoy or criticize them?

So, here is the third track, not that they are in any particular order, to Castaway. The track is made up of two traditional tunes. The first is called Devany’s Goat and the second is called The Morning Star.

In keeping with the theme of incompleteness, I whipped up some cover art for this internet album.

castaway

I don’t really think the image has much to do with Castaway except for the fact that it was a picture that was taken of me a couple years prior to these recordings. The photographer’s name was Jessica Strauss.

In addition, some have asked if it is possible to buy this recording. It is not. It has never been printed and I don’t really expect it ever will be.

Calliope House / Stone’s Mongrel

Home recording has never been easier. Recently I have been experimenting with some equipment and have found the audio quality to be quite stunning. The experiments have looked something like this:

recording

I record in my basement in between the furnace going on and off, which is a real pain since it has been so cold lately. Nothing like a perfectly good track ruined by the boiler firing up.

The track at the bottom of this post is made up of two tunes. The first is called Calliope House and is a tune that was written by Dave Richardson of ‘The Boys of the Lough’.

The second tune is one I wrote in January of 2007. I have been attending a session at a pub called John Stone’s Public House. After hearing lots of A minor jigs this tune fell out of my head on the way home from the session. I am quite sure it has to be a mix of all the tunes I had been listening to. The thing I like about the tune is that the A strain has ten measures … two more than is typical.

Stone’s Mongrel

For those interested in the recording details, I used the following equipment:
AKG C1000S microphone ~$200
into a
Pesonus TUBEPre preamp ~$100
into an
Echo Indigo IO ~$150
into the pcmcia slot on my laptop, which is not at all optimized for recording. It has a Pentium M processor, 1500 MHz and 1 GB of RAM.

I used free software called Kristal Audio Engine for mixing tracks, adding reverb, EQ and such. I also added additional effects such as compression from Kjaerhus Audio. They provide a set of free VST plugins.