Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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A Card Carrying Fiddler

August 13, 2007

Well, not a ‘card’ so much as a fiddle. That’s right, I now own my very own fiddle. It’s very exciting. I no longer feel like a pretender, I now feel like an honest-to-god fiddler. I took some shoddy pictures this afternoon, but the sun light was not very good; I shall probably try to take more in the next day or two with better light. If a detailed recounting of my fiddle-quest does not interest you, I recommend you stop now and go read some comics.


Some weeks back, when Jessie was in town for a short period, she suggested to me that it was time to consider buying my own fiddle. I was quite excited by this suggestion because a) I’m always happy to add a new instrument to my collection and b) it felt like a serious vote of confidence from Jessie. She recommended a few places to look, and Mom and I dug up a couple more on the internet, but I did not begin looking straight away. It takes a little time to pick an instrument, especially one as sensitive as a fiddle—it is important, I think, to try many of them to find one that suits you, they are not as forgiving an instrument as a guitar. As such, I did not truly begin my search until last week.So near the end of last week I began looking for my own fiddle. I ended up at Reed Bernstein’s on Thursday, and he spent about two and a half hours with me looking at instruments. We began by looking at the fiddles themselves; using a very nice carbon fiber bow I tried four or five different instruments until I found one with which I was happy. I love both the sound and the feel of this instrument. Which is to say that not only does it sound great, but playing it feels completely natural to me.

Once I’d pretty well settled on the fiddle, we moved on to bows. We looked first at carbon fiber bows because Reed said that in my target price range they tended to be superior to wooden ones. I played probably six to eight different carbon fiber bows—including the $500 one I’d used to find the fiddle—and narrowed it down to one bow. Then, just to sate my curiosity, Reed brought out a few wooden bows. I played four or five of these and quickly narrowed this selection down to one as well. At this point it was very nearly a tough call: the carbon fiber or the wooden bow? I played both of them successively for probably five minutes. I suspect that some of the difficulty in this decision came from innate tendency to gravitate towards more “natural” materials. However, at the end of the day, the carbon fiber bow felt easier to use, so that ended up being my choice.

Now I had selected a fiddle and a bow; I was nearly set. The next step was to find a comfortable chin rest. Apparently, at least according to Reed, many shops don’t take this step. But Reed pulled out three or four different chin rests and had me try each one to see which I preferred. I tend to center my jaw on the body of the fiddle when I play, so I ended up with a chin rest that was centered on the violin, instead of being off-center towards the top of the instrument.

And last, but not least, I chose my beautiful case. Since my parents paid for the bow for my birthday, I decided it was worth the money to buy the higher quality case. Lined with a dark green velvet, and sporting a dial indicating the humidity in the case, I could not be much happier with it. Not to mention that it is very sturdy.

As though it weren’t enough that Reed had spent over two hours with me to help me find the right instrument, he offered to let me take the instrument home without purchasing it to play it over the weekend. A fortuitous turn of events for me, since I knew it was going to be hard to walk out of there without that fiddle, but I wanted to postpone the purchase on the off chance I found something I liked better. To make the rest of this long story a little shorter, I called a few places, visited another shop, but either they had no instruments in my price range, or I didn’t like the instruments they had. So today I drove back over to Reed’s, handed him my credit card, and walked out the proud owner of my very first fiddle.

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Moving Forward Musically

March 4, 2007

It might not be coincidence that this week both Jon and Jessie taught me a tune without the benefit of sheet music.  The best part—besides just learning two tunes that I love to play—is that something clicked in my head when they taught me these tunes. It started clicking when Jon taught me the B part to The Humours of Barrack St. and finished clicking when Jessie taught me Angelina Baker. I suddenly began to understand how to learn tunes by ear.

So this afternoon I spent a little time with their CD and began to work out the melody to Sousa’s Reel. It’s slow going, but I’m getting there. It’s pretty cool. I’m not sure I’d have been able to do this 6 months ago.

It’s exciting for me. I feel like I’m really turning into a musician of sorts. Perhaps I’m in the wrong field…

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If You Don’t Listen to This I Hate You

February 16, 2007

http://myspace.com/voltairenyc

Listen to Stuck With You ruf. It’s a track Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame recorded with Voltaire. If you don’t love them both, seek immediate medical help.

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That Screaching Sound You Hear Is Me

January 23, 2007

That’s right, guys and dolls, I’m going to learning to play the fiddle. I called Jessie tonight and set up my first lesson: Thursday at 11:00 AM. I’m really looking forward to it.

I also called John this afternoon about starting some guitar lessons, but he wasn’t there. Still waiting on him to call be back.

Making noise is fun.

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The Onion Cellar

January 12, 2007

Nothing could have prepared me for this play… Nothing. It was quite possibly the most amazing experience of my life to date. More than anything I want to describe the experience to share it with anyone reading this and to be able to relive it myself. But I can’t find the words. I could never hope to describe the events of the play in a form that would do them justice, let alone the feelings it evoked in me. I was moved beyond words.

The play was touching and funny, the characters were very real; I very nearly cried on more than one occasion (which is somewhat ironic given some of the subject matter in the play, perhaps I should have just let myself go). I found a great deal of comfort watching the characters’s problems unfold and realizing that everyone has problems, and that mine are no less significant because they aren’t the same problems other people have. At one point during the play they passed out slips of paper with a question written on it: “When was the last time you cried and what made you cry?” or something to that effect. We were to write our answers on it and hold it up collection. I’m not sure why they did this, but I can tell you the effect that it had on me. It made me realize how very long it’s been since the last time I cried, it made me wonder why it had been so long, and it made me realize the significance of that event. Though it had crossed my mind since it happened, I had not truly thought about it in a long time. And I know, if anyone is actually reading this, that you will want to know what I wrote. Alas, I don’t believe in airing my dirty laundry on the internet, and since this isn’t livejournal I’m not going to get all angsty and depressed about these things. It was a relief to be reminded tonight, it did not depress me.

The end of the play found the whole cast sitting on stage engaged in a cacophany of monologues while the Dresden Dolls performed “Sing” (most of the music was from their previous albums). At the end of the song, when Amanda is singing “aaah aaah aaaaaah,” the audience stood up and sang along with her. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever experienced. I feel truly blessed for being given the opportunity to see the play. At the end I stuck around outside and got the opportunity to thank many of the cast members for the performance, and I got their autographs too. I wish I could have gotten the entire cast, but either I missed them, or they didn’t come out. Once again, Brian’s autograph has eluded me.

It was a fantastic experience. I shudder to think that I might have missed it. My only regret is that I shan’t ever see it again. I wish I could have seen it more than once to try and assimilate more of it. But even then, no two performances would have been the same. But that’s the magic of live theatre, I suppose: it’s never the same twice and it’s only around for a limited time; that’s what makes it so special.

I feel that I am close to rambling now, so I will close this post. I wish that I could continue to remember the events of this evening in crystal clarity for the rest of my life, but I know that that can’t happen. I can only hope that I will at least remember the feeling that I feel right now, and felt during the show, even though I won’t remember the details of what made me feel this way.

Thank you, cast and crew of The Onion Cellar.

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Possibly the most disappointing night evar

November 15, 2006

Tonight Waqphael and I went to see the Decemberists at the Paramount theatre in Denver. Show started at 8:00pm, the opening act was pretty cool. About 20 minutes after the opener finished, the Decemberists came on. They’re show started with a cool little audio track to introduce the band.

Unsurprisingly they opened with “The Crane Wife 3”. Followed by “July, July, July” which totally rocked my socks off. Unfortunately, Colin Meloy was just getting over a cold; that combined with the altitude made it very difficult for him to sing. He was having an awful lot of trouble staying on key. That was pretty dissatisfying, but OK; the music was still jumping, even if he wasn’t at his best. What made the evening so disappointing was that after what couldn’t have been more than an hour, they stopped the show. They jumped to the last song in their set—“Sons and Daughters”—and left. We stood clapping, hoping that they might have enough left for an encore, but then the house lights came on. You could feel the disappointment wash over the entire crowd.

I can’t say that I blame Colin Meloy; I’ve tried singing while recovering from a cold, and it’s very difficult. It probably wasn’t even that he was just upset at his poor performance, he probably physically couldn’t continue. He was obviously unhappy about the whole situation; I’m sure he feels pretty guilty about what happened tonight. But that doesn’t make the show any less disappointing. I think it might even have been better had they just canceled the show before it even started. Getting a taste—even if they weren’t at the top of their game—of the show and then having it cut short is just so frustrating.

Oh well. I expect the next time they play Denver it will be extra awesome. Colin did promise to do an extra good show next time. Here’s hoping that’s not too far off…

On a more positive note: Alisdair Roberts, the opening band, was pretty good.

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Yes, Virginia…

April 19, 2006

Yes, Virginia… is The Dresden Dolls newest album, and what a fantastic album it is. Based on their other two albums I had some high expectations for this one, so I was a little worried about being disappointed today as I went to purchase it. Not only was I not disappointed, I was more impressed than I could have imagined.

This album possesses much of the same appeal of their first two, but does not feel as though it is rehashing the same material again. You get the feeling that are continuing to change as musicians; a necessary trait to avoid becoming a caricature of yourself… *cough*Korn*cough* For one thing, Brian has started singing back-up vocals on some tracks. It's almost hard to get used to hearing a male voice in their music, but it sounds great all the same. I also detected a new theme — or at least one that I had previously not noticed — in some of their songs: rebellion against, for lack of a better word, Corporate America. Certainly rebellion isn't new to their music, but rallying against business is. "Modern Moonlight" is a call-to-arms against the massive amounts of advertising now rampant in this country, and "Backstabber" is, I think, about the music industry. Finally, there is "Sing"; not an uncommon rebellion theme for them, but one which I find so touching that I feel it is worth mentioning. To put it succinctly, this is what I understand the song to mean: do not be afraid to express yourself, it doesn't matter what others think:

there is thing keeping everyone's lungs and lips locked
it is called fear and it's seeing a great renaissance

Moving on, there are an abundance of songs that keep you torn be laughter and tears. Amanda's way with words keeps you smiling, and yet this cleverness conveys such sad narratives. Sometimes almost comical in their cynicism (Shores of California), sometimes describing painfully futile situations (Delilah), songs about loneliness and love abound. And of course, every once in a while, irreverently macabre songs (Mandy Goes to Med School) that you can't help but laughing about. This is the stuff of which classics are made.

In addition to the fabulous music on this album, the cd comes packaged with nice case and great liner notes. The liner notes for Yes, Virginia… are filled with fantastic pieces of art; all of which relate to songs on the album. Only two songs are not represented here, as far as I can tell. It is quite fun, especially the first time through the album, to contemplate each picture juxtaposed with its song. There are also a one or two tidbits slipped into the lyrics transcribed at the end of the booklet.

Yes, Virginia… has all the depth and wit of their eponymous first album, and perhaps even raises the bar a little for their next album. No doubt, if you enjoyed their firstcd, this one is worth the money.