TRANSCRIPTION | Philip Glass Violin Concerto No. 1, Movement I (excerpt)

Posted in transcriptions with tags , , , , on October 12, 2017 by dukewisdom
Philip Glass Violin Concerto, Movement I (excerpt)

Philip Glass Violin Concerto No. 1, Movement I (excerpt)

From the because it’s there file: Here’s an excerpt from the first movement of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 1. This section, rehearsal nos. 3-8, is full of Glass trademarks: rolling arpeggios, hypnotic repetition, swirling rhythmic phrasing. I mean, if you’re at all familiar with the music of Philip Glass … you’ll recognize that this sounds just like Philip Glass.

Violin music, of course, often translates well to guitar, and this example certainly does. These 30+ measures as arranged contain some relatively unusual shapes and wicked stretches, and they make for a nice sweep and hybrid picking workout. As Classic FM‘s guide to Glass points out, the concerto on the whole “doesn’t champion extreme virtuosity (but) relies on conveying texture rather than melody, using the solo violin as part of the ensemble rather than showboating.” So, though it may not have the Romantic shredding grandiosity of Mendelssohn’s or Paganini’s violin works, Philip Glass’ concerto does unique offer challenges as guitar material.

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RECORDING | Gentleman Echo – There Shall Be No Circles

Posted in recordings, writings with tags , , , , on October 10, 2017 by dukewisdom

Gentleman Echo – There Shall Be No Circles

First things first: Why the fuck would anyone want to listen to a self-indulgent vanity project featuring 50 minutes of me playing improvised guitar solos? Hell if I know. But if that sort of thing is up your alley, consider this a lucky circumstance.

The blueprint for this album sketched itself out while I was submersed in listening to saxophonist Colin Stetson, whose New History Warfare recordings combine a whitewater stream of adventurous improvisation with the percussive element of contact and other close microphones. His use of circular breathing and the manic attack on his instrument yields a unique texture. My original plan was to execute a set of improvs using 2-hand tapping techniques, each piece restricted to performance on one string of the guitar. The first completed segment (on the B string) was promptly lost in a hard drive failure (back your shit up fast, people). While that was a setback, I was already questioning whether I could actually sustain interest (my own or anyone’s) and keep from repeating myself over the course of a full album. So I switched gears.

What I wound up with is a combination of the original principle and some regulatory arrangement impositions used on previous Gentleman Echo releases. More on that below. These recordings are 96% first takes, but to be clear: I have made edits, added garnish, dabbed on mascara where I felt like it. I also left some blemishes. Here come the track-by-track details:

1. Colonist at the Transom 
[Drone note: B]
“Indeed, they have arrived. You’re being watched and I think you know it.” 

Though my performance concept shifted, I decided to stick with letting the pitch centers be dictated by the strings of a guitar in standard tuning. The pitch center of each track is underpinned by an electronically generated drone employed to perhaps put me in a state of mind the way a tamboura might provide atmosphere for a raga. Atop those I winged it. “Colonist” is a brooding little trip, and though it differs in obvious ways from Eddie Hazel’s Funkadelic freakout, it may be my own personal “Maggot Brain.” (Then again, it may not be.)

2. We Cursed the Day with Distended Tongues 
[Drone note: D]
“There’s no longer any need for self-censorship.” 

This is the most agitated (agitating?) track on the album, and the most in line with the original spirit of the project. I’ve never really been a big tapping guy, but I certainly appreciate those who’ve done something fascinating with the technique—Hackett, Zappa, Vai, Satriani, Buckethead, Rhoads and Van Halen come to mind. Yet when I listen to “Cursed,” I think more of something Billy Sheehan might play. That will work. Another side effect of this not being my normal bag is that I found the actual performance to be a definite physical workout. I wound up winded and sweaty when the take was done, like some junior varsity Colin Stetson. (You really should watch the guy play. It often appears he might pass out or disintegrate.) And speaking of Stetson again, his influence is present not only in the unceasing spew of notes, but also in the fact that you can occasionally hear my physical interaction with the instrument, the mic picking up my fretboard whacking. This track also features the additional intermittent sound element of cicadas recorded from my driveway. Oh, how they drone.

3. Man Amid Oscilloscopes 
[Drone note: E]
“There are many voltage changes to be analyzed, are there not?” 

“Man” combines two guitar tracks, one restricted to the low E and one to the high E (though rote motor moves may account for a note or three on other strings). Each take was created without reference or respect to the other. This idea has been used elsewhere in the Gentleman Echo catalog such as the track “Clandestine Umbrellas” (Research Arc) and the entirety of Islands Shouting Lies: Multiple tracks are pitted against each other to produce a false interaction that never happened in real time. If you’re familiar with the technique, you’ll recognize this fake blind jamming as what Zappa called xenochrony.

Happy (?) accident regarding the high E part: Owing to a sketchy cable or iffy jack or who knows what, I occasionally got some glitchy weirdness, mostly in the attacks of notes. In the back of my mind I knew I’d read that during the making of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis and/or Teo Macero decided to keep the unexpected result of a certain piece of gear misfiring [citation needed]. So, on the spot I decided to just go with it.

4. An Injured Shotgun Firing Ivory 
[Drone note: A]
“Even weapons feel the pain now.” 

Here’s another false duet with myself, but one that contains a kind-of-planned interaction between electric and acoustic guitars. At some point while recording the distorted guitar line I thought, hey, I should leave a couple of spaces for an acoustic. So that’s what I did. Instant interplay! Happy (?) accident related to that overdriven part: While recording, I was working a wah pedal with my right foot (the only true and proper way to do so) and switching a delay pedal on and off with my left. At some point in trying to click the delay off, I hit the switch too many times and sent it into some unknown mode I didn’t didn’t know how to stop. So, there’s that.

5. Murmansk 
[Drone note: G]
“At last, beneath the railway station.” 

Still there? “Murmansk” serves as a bookend to “Colonist,” another clean tone meditation on a single pitch. What scales do you hear?

Did I manage to sustain interest? Not sure. As I get a bit further away and more detached from the actual production of the music, I think this may ultimately serve as good mass of material for self-study. What are my own habits and cliches? What do I think is sorta bitchen and what do I hate? I waver between thinking that a) the music is something to dive fully into, staring at the phrases as they pass like comets on an infinite bed of velvet and b) that it’s something to put on while doing something in another room. I suppose both serve a purpose.

Gear used on this album: ’00s Michael Kelly Valor-Q with direct-mounted, zebra-coil Rockfield SCW humbuckers, 2006 Gibson Les Paul Studio, ’70s Opus XX acoustic, ’70s Fender Pro Reverb, ’00s Fender Hot Rod Deville 4×10

Performed and assembled by Troy Van Horn
Realized at The Prussian Film Commission

Thanks and acknowledgements to: Venus forever, Mas for Yeti macrolending, Gregg for POG passage, Rex Woodwind for design stewardship and dumpster chicken object, Remote Dave for disappearing percussion, Alberto and Dahveed from Giant Deer Bear, Duke Wisdom, Syd Faraday.

Coda: Walter Becker of Steely Dan died the weekend I was finishing this music. Though I wasn’t specifically thinking of him while making these recordings, I suppose his pristine clean tones on the likes “Hey Nineteen” and “Negative Girl” are always in my ear as a benchmark. Molly Hatchet’s Dave Hlubek also passed the same day. I can safely say his playing did not influence my performance–at least within the present project. At any rate, this album is dedicated to the two guitarists.

Want to listen? Download for free (or throw a man a couple bucks) at Bandcamp.

RECORDING | Southbound – “I’m Missing You” b/w “Southern Roads”

Posted in recordings with tags on June 28, 2017 by dukewisdom
southbound_missing_you_45

Troy Jens, 1962 – 2014

Usually this type of post sees me going on and on in great detail about the minutiae of some self-indulgent project I’ve just unleashed. But this post is actually a tribute to my friend Troy Jens, who made his own choice to head off into the woods and not come back three years ago. Some of the below is adapted from a Facebook post I made when his body was discovered on this day in 2014.

did perform on this record, so it belongs here categorically. Way back in 1986-7 I played bass in a band called Southbound led by Troy, a fantastic singer and songwriter who became a good friend and mentor of sorts. We played mostly in the Omaha area, covering whatever bar patrons of that era wanted to hear. (I’m having strong memories of playing .38 Special, Bryan Adams, Bob Seger—very good memories, as a matter of fact, “Old Time Rock and Roll” notwithstanding.) Like many bar bands, we also mixed in a smattering of originals. Troy was steeped in everything from the above classic rock fare to gospel music and all points in between. I think he once told me his favorite singer was Barbara Streisand. At any rate, with this type of background Troy’s tunes were a cut above the type of original music you might hear in the Cabay Lounge in Papillion, NE—and a cut above lots of our cover fodder. Which is how it came to pass that we recorded a single most obscure.

In early ’87 we made a few trips to Topeka, KS (don’t ask me) to record a couple of tracks. The producer played a very smartly arranged bass line on the A-side, “I’m Missing You” (I was an 18-year-old guitar player—what the fuck did I know about it?). And my bass playing can be heard on the B-side, “Southern Roads.” I think it’s actually my only appearance on a vinyl record.

I’m pretty certain this one single is the total recorded output of the band, though Troy did release at least one more 45. I’d fallen out of contact with my old friend for most of the ’90s and ’00s, but we were able to digitally reconnect and share a few laughs and memories later on. I’m thankful for that.

RIP, Troy. Glad I got to know you and make music with you.

IMPROV | Quartal voicings et al.

Posted in video with tags , on June 27, 2017 by dukewisdom

The fabulous Rick Beato got me thinking about using quartal voicings (based on 4ths), à la McCoy Tyner on the guitar neck. If you stack diatonic 4ths in G major, for example, you get G C F# B E A going across six strings. Based on A dorian (the second mode of G), you have A D G C F# B across the neck, and so on. Naturally, these sets of notes imply sus4 and +4 chords (among others) throughout the key. Some of this thought pops up in this bit of improv.

Of course it would be preposterous to say that my rambling has a damn thing to do with the great McCoy Tyner, but it’s nice place to start and a good way to bump creativity.

TRANSCRIPTION | Zappa “I Come From Nowhere” (excerpt)

Posted in transcriptions with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2017 by dukewisdom

Their eyes are all frozen over

… and when I say excerpt, I mean approximately one measure. Here’s a shard that I can hardly believe still exists, a transcription of a harmonized line featured in the Frank Zappa song “I Come From Nowhere” (from the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch). I deciphered this tangle (presumably originally performed by Steve Vai, Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars and/or Bobby Martin) in about 1999 for an ambitious project that never quite got off the ground, by working from a vastly slowed down version of the recording. (Back in those days we just let the kerosene powered record player run down, of course.) As the run is written in tablature, there’s no key signature indicated. And it really wouldn’t help: This is classic Zappa, full of chromatic twists and turns, arpeggio inversions battling each other in parallel harmony and other madness that defies clear categorization. And, seeing as it was essentially an internal memo, I didn’t include a time signature. With Zappa, of course, the rhythmic concepts are as complex as the melodic material. This transcription by Kasper Sloots has the pattern in 27/16, which makes sense, though I’m not sure I agree with it in context.

Is it accurate? I thought so at the time. If Mike Keneally were swinging by to give me a technical edit I wouldn’t withdraw the scrap of paper, but I might not bet my paycheck on it. While there’s no archival film footage of any of Frank Zappa’s bands playing the piece for reference (it was apparently never performed live), there are video clips of Zappa Plays Zappa (or whatever the hell they were allowed to call themselves at the time) taking it on in 2013. I notice Dweezil plays his part in a different position. Maybe that would make it rest under the fingers better. (Just kidding.)

Care to spend an evening working this handful of notes up to tempo?

TRANSCRIPTION | “Friday Night (Is Killing Me)”

Posted in writings with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2016 by dukewisdom

friday_night

Here’s a scrap I found floating around on the old laptop. It’s a transcription I made (at the request of a friend) of the song “Friday Night (Is Killing Me)” by Bash & Pop, a band formed by Tommy Stinson after the Replacements broke up (and who have reemerged in 2016). (Sorry for those hoping for tab of “Friday Night” by Vandenberg.)

Why bother dusting off this handwritten fragment? For starters, check out the amorphous EBEBAE tuning. Is it “open E11” or “open A sus2” or … what? Also, it reminds me to talk about learning songs by ear: We’re now probably in the best position ever to figure out how to play songs. In this instance I studied the studio recording and a live YouTube video. The combination of hearing a clean version and eyeballing what’s actually going on can be pretty illuminative (assuming they’re both being executed the same way). What’s more, we now often have access to loads of online transcriptions. As most of those are in no way vetted, it can be a risky proposition, but stitching together the best of several interpretations can be effective. And, of course, we no longer have to degrade our media and hardware by playing one second fragments of Zappa keyboard lines again and again (am I projecting?) since there are many software options for looping and slowing down audio. Use all of your resources, people!

Speaking of the accuracy of random online transcriptions, is the above 100% precise? Not sure. Why don’t you play along and decide for yourself?

RECORDING | The Great Vehicle – Observatory Sermons

Posted in recordings with tags , on December 4, 2016 by dukewisdom
The Great Vehicle - Observatory Sermons

The Great Vehicle – Observatory Sermons

Please have a listen or download this progressive rock EP at bandcamp.

The Great Vehicle | Observatory Sermons
A Space Operetta in Six Stanzas

[[Each of the scenarios described below is taking place simultaneously. Right now and always.]]

001 The Man With the Neutron Scalp

[[Neutrons carry no electrical charge; their behavior is essential to the production of nuclear power. Yuri Gagarin, the star of this song, said, “The road to the stars is steep and dangerous. (Spaceflight) isn’t the work of one man or even a group of men. It is a historical process which mankind is carrying out in accordance with the natural laws of human development.” As he was hurled through space, Gagarin was an analogy: As neutral, yet powerful as a subatomic particle.]]

This song nearly refused to exist. Each time “Neutron” was exported—even by them most ballin’ computer we had access to—the mix became haunted by inconsistent glitches and other weirdness. (The machine was anything but “working normally.”) The finished product is the result of several subatomic edits. Embedded in this track is the explosive sound of a door slamming shut in the stairwell of a Virginia Beach Sheraton. We know you people love the field recordings. Internal notes about this song make reference to “the Prong section” and “the Queens of the Stone Age riff.” Please try to identify these sections in the interest of mental dexterity.

002 Lazlo Szombathy

[[Lazlo Szombathy is a peripheral character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Mother Night, whose inclusion was a nod to the interconnectedness of all actions. Watch what you’re doing: We are all peripheral characters in the Novel of the Galaxy.]]

Wherein Betse Ellis makes the Kansas and Mahavishnu Orchestra dreams of those who have such things come true. That’s the main melody there in the acoustic intro, reharmonized a fifth lower. We know you people love reharmonization. The melody at 1:54 originated as sort of a guitar placeholder, then took on a most macabre flavor when doubled by Betse. The song is in 7/8, but contains exactly one measure of 8/8. Can you spot it? Do you care?

003 Did I See You Limping?

[[Things can get a little perilous down around the gantry. In fact, near Baikonur Cosmodrome, cases of “launchpad lameness” (стартовая площадка хромота) were once so common that it was easy to identify a certain grade of worker based on his gait.]]

The main riff may be considered 11/4 or 6/4 + 5/4. Or perhaps you will not consider it at all. For more counting, the section at 1:27 has 5/8 and 8/8 going on over drums in 5/4. Let’s boogie. Additional nuts & bolts: Note how the harmony guitars that enter at 3:24 foretell the drum pattern at 3:29.

004 Sundials

[[So long as a planet rotates on its axis, sundials operate the same regardless of the star supplying the light. The sundials in question happen to be on EPIC 201637175b, an exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf K2-22. This destination is 734 light years from Earth, but due to the nature of this story, listeners there are currently receiving.]]

This piece has undergone many revisions of arrangement, concept, and title. It started as a memorial to a departed friend, then took on more meaning and dedications as more friends departed. Enough with that bullshit, people. This is our first song to feature a ship’s bell. (We know how you people … oh, forget it.)

005 The People’s Cathedral

[[By its strictest definition, a cathedral is a very specific religious edifice. In the scope of the Observatory Sermons legend, a cathedral is any space in which the Invocation of the Bald Chemist is being observed. This may include a frozen warehouse, near a tree, or aboard the Chinese Shenzhou 5 reentry capsule.]]

It’s the title track to a different release … you know, like “Sheer Heart Attack” or “Houses of the Holy.” For those interested in the schematic, “Cathedral” is built around a fairly simple 6/4 over 4/4 polyrhythm. Just don’t try to listen to the opposite part when you’re playing along. Also, the bass and guitar are playing the same repeating pattern, but offset by three notes.

006 Pioneer 11

[[NASA ceased communicating with the exploratory spacecraft Pioneer 11 on September 30, 1995. But it’s still out there, a ghost ship heading toward Lambda Aquila, a star it will encounter in about four million years. Hitch a ride on that great vehicle.]]

“Pioneer” is The Great Vehicle’s longest, most spacious piece. The guitars are tuned, low-to-high, DADFCE, or what you might think of as open Dm9. Y’know, if you wish to do a cover.
The free-form middle section was harvested from the defunct Great Vehicle song “23/24 of Something.” It was conceived as a cross between musique concrète and a Calder mobile, and may or may not accidentally owe something to “Cygnus X-1” by Rush (probably don’t mention that to Gregg) or possibly “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party” by Pink Floyd (definitely don’t mention that to Gregg).


The players:
Mason Fann – Bass, fractional wave mutilation
Gregg Todt – Drums, percussion, baritone strangulation
Troy Van Horn – Guitar, percussion

Also featuring:
Betse Ellis – Violin (or is it Fiddle?)
The Tuvan Learning Center Annex Singers – Singing

Produced by The Great Vehicle
Recorded at #Industries
Basic tracks engineered by Paul Marchman
Additional recording at The Prussian Film Commission

Thanks to:
Paul Marchman, Betse Ellis, Joey “Boatswain” Hamm, Jason Brown, Mike “Whoof” Stover, Rex Woodwind, Robert Crypt, the late Cozy Powell’s leather gauntlets, North Tunnel Whitespace Math

Cover art: Some unsigned thrift store painting that hangs in Troy’s house.

Gear geek data:

Guitar sounds:
1974 Fender Stratocaster, 2006 Gibson Les Paul Studio, ’00s Michael Kelly Patriot Hot Rod, 1982 Gibson Marauder, ’70s Opus XX acoustic, 2005 Gibson SG Standard, FrankenBaritone (Fender Jaguar body with Danelectro neck), Peavey Power Slide (all strings tuned to A), Scarlett custom 50 watt guitar head, Marshall 4×12 cabinet, ’70s Fender Pro Reverb, 2005 Vox AC30, slide … Craftsman 11/16 socket

Bass sounds:
1974 Fender Jazz Bass modified with DiMarzio P-bass pickup in neck, original J’s in humbucker configuration in bridge with series/parallel switching (custom candy apple red finish ,once owned by member of The Commodores … for extra fucking vibes), 1995 American Fender P-Bass with custom wound Scarlett pickup in tobacco burst finish, Clayton Acetal standard 1.00mm picks (clear), 1972 Ampeg B15S, Scarlett 200 watt White Knight head into fearFul designed DIY 15/6 + fearFul designed DIY 15.

Bass pedal chain: Boss TU-2>Joyo Ultimate Overdrive> Boss LS-2 (A loop) EHX MicroPog>1972 EHX Big Muff fuzz>Boss PS-3>Dunlop 105Q bass wah>Boss RV-3> (A output) -> Ampeg (B output) Dunlop TS-1 tremolo>Akai Headrush E2 ->Scarlett

Drum sounds:
Ludwig Green Sparkle John Bonham kit – 26 x 14″ kick drum, 14 x 10″ rack tom and 16 x 16″ and 18 x 16″ floor toms, Yamaha Tour Custom snare 14 x 8″, whatever cymbals were laying around not broken, Blue Rhino propane tank (empty) (we suppose).

Additional:
Bebot Theremin App played on iPhone6S through Scarlett head
credits
released October 14, 2016