Tag Archives: Music

If We Were Having Coffee on the 22nd of January, 2022 #weekendcoffeeshare

Hello and Welcome! Come on in (close the door quickly!) and I’ll get you a nice large mug of steaming dark roast, a piping cuppa tea or a (very) hot cocoa. By my adjectives you may understand that it is a wee bit chilly out there. I think it was -8 F/ -22 C when I got up this morning. But don’t worry, it has warmed up significantly! Yep it is now a balmy -1F/ -18 C! OK, it is early and it might hit 22 F/-5.5 C later in the day. So, yeah, come on in and warm up a little. Oh, where are we? Some of you may recognize the photo at the top as being from New Hampshire.

I drove back to New Hampshire Saturday evening, cutting my trip to Cape Cod a little shorter than usual. I had a few things to do Sunday, so…. We had snow on Sunday night into Monday, but it rained all Monday morning. Yuck. Several inches of slush. It was wet and nasty to clean up, and then it all froze. So, yeah, it’s pretty icy out there.

My wife took the dogs up to Maine for the week, but I still did a few walks a day on my own. That being said, I didn’t get as much exercise as I would have liked. I had an appointment Tuesday morning. Work was super busy. The cats needed a lot of cuddle and play time.

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Covering The Sparks – Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth (Video)

In early December I watched a documentary on the band The Sparks. Don’t know them? They have been around for about 50 years and have helped change music several times. The band is really two brothers, Ron and Russell Mael. They have a distinctive look (Paul McCartney did an impression of Ron on his Coming Up video. Russell sported a new hair cut in the late 70s that was copied by everyone, from Duran Duran to Depeche Mode) and a distinct sound (usually odd!). All of their songs have a twist or a joke to them. I would say that they are much easier to enjoy if you get the joke…

I have always known about the band but rarely heard them. In fact, I think I heard their Propaganda album twice when I was a teen and based most of my knowledge of the band on that, even though they are the truest musical chameleons of all time.

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Song Writing Part 2

In a post last week I said that I was working on a new song.  Well, I finished it over the weekend.  It started with a little part I wanted to record so that I would remember it.  From there it turned into a real pop song. Yeah, with words and everything!

A few quick comments before I turn you lose with this.  Although parts of this recording are “finished”, this is very much just a quick demo, or, if this were one of my stories, this is a rough, first draft (don’t worry – if you have read a story on my blog, it was a rough draft….).  I can hear many things I will change if I decided do this a little more seriously. And I might.

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Song Writing…

So after spending too much time doing that old craft of setting Bach to Moog Synthesizer, I have started to actually write my own music again. Sort of… But there are consequences.

I have written about this many times, but I have a difficult time being deeply involved in more than one art (craft). If I am deep into visual arts, and I mean really studying it, not just a few quick sketches or creating a book cover for my latest, I am not deep into writing or writing new music. The same with writing a book. The deeper I am into it, the less time I have for music.

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Review Behringer Poly D

I have had the Behringer Poly D analog synthesizer for a couple of months now and have done a major project, so I want to do a quick review of it.  First, as always, I need to give a quick history lesson.  Why?  The Poly D is a Minimoog clone (sort of, in a way…).

(Skip to the review if you don’t want to read all of this, or the videos at the bottom)

The Minimoog was released in 1970 and was the first synthesizer that you could pick up in a normal retail music store.  It was one of the earliest synthesizers aimed at stage musicians and was extremely popular.  Even though Moog soon had a lot of competition in the portable synth market, such as the EMS Synthi (used by Pink Floyd*) and the different Arps (used by many, including Genesis), the Mini was so huge that most people used the terms “Moog” and “Synthesizer” synonymous.  And it did find its way into pop, rock, r&b, dance, jazz and beyond through the 70s.  Even in the 80s, it was the main synth on the Thriller album and was used by most of the early Technopop bands.  In the 90s it helped create the emerging electronica and electronic dance music. 

In other words, the Minimoog is one of the most iconic synthesizers of all times.

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Music Video – Electronic Little Fugue in G Minor (Bach)

One of my recent projects has been recording JS Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor with a synthesizer. I will post the video here in case you you want to hear it but don’t want to read about it. Be aware that I did a few fumbles, but I think overall it worked well.

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

(Note – I replaced the original video with a newer version November 1, 2021 – below is still about the old version. Click here for info on the new)

OK, a little bit about it, then…

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Dido’s Lament – Music Video

Last week I worked on a little music project, arranging and recording an electronic version of Henry Purcell’s great aria Dido’s Lament (technically it is named “When I am laid in Earth” but everyone knows it as “Dido’s Lament”) .

Quick back story – Henry Purcell was a 17th century English composer and is regarded as one of the greatest English composers of all times (until he 20th century, no other English born composer compared since Handle was not born in England). One of his most famous works was the opera Dido and Aeneas, based on the Aeneid.

After escaping the downfall of Troy, Aeneas ends up in Carthage. Dido, the queen of Carthage, falls in love. He would happily spend the rest of his life there, but destiny calls; he has to found Rome, you know. So he leaves, and Dido commits suicide.

The opera ends in three pieces: a recitative to introduce the aria, the aria itself, and then a choral part in all of its Baroque counterpoint glory. The recitative (Thy hand, Belinda) is often performed with the aria while the chorus isn’t, but to me the chorus caps it all off greatly… But that aria, called Dido’s Lament, is what most people know.

Have you ever taken a music appreciation class (talking Western Classical music here)? If so, you most likely have heard this before. It does a great job of demonstrating a few Baroque techniques, such as ground bass (that part you hear from beginning to end). It is also often called one of the saddest songs in Western Classical music.

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Mt. Rushmore of Female Musical Artists

A few days ago, I came across a blog post by Dale that was about Joni Mitchell.  She had chosen Joni as one of four female artists that she’d place on a “Mt. Rushmore” type monument to female musical artists.  I can see that – she would deserve such a spot!  I looked at Dales other posts and saw Carole King (great song writer and performer), Madonna (helped revolutionize pop music – several times) and Dolly Parton (a very talented lady and all-around good person and giving person).

Chatting with Dale in the comments, I wondered out loud who I’d chose for a female musical artist Mt. Rushmore.

It’s not an easy question!

How do you rank artists?  By ones that are my personal favorites?  By those with the biggest impact?  Those who had/have the greatest talent?  The most original?  Those who charted over a period of decades?  Some combination?

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First Impressions – Sequential Prophet Rev 2

I picked up a Sequential (DSI) Prophet Rev 2 polyphonic analog synthesizer a couple of weeks ago. After two weeks of playing, I decided to make a recording and talk about it.

First a few terms. “Analog” means that the sound is created by electronics as a continuous electrical signal which is then manipulated by other electronics. I know,obtuse, but that definition is a contrast with “digital”, which means the sound is created and manipulated by a computer. Most of the first commercial synthesizers were analog.

I said it was a polyphonic synthesizer (poly-synth). In this case “polyphonic” means more than one note can be played at once, sort of like a piano, with each note being distinct. The distinct note is called a “voice” – my Prophet Rev 2 is an 8 voice synthesizer (16 voice Rev 2s exist – more about this later). The way this works is that each voice is played by a completely different synthesizer! In the late 1970s, Dave Smith perfected a way for a computer to store values for a synthesizer so that all of the different voices (synthesizers) could have the same sound though the user only has to set up the sound once (one set of controls). It also let the user save sounds. This instrument was the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. It helped to revolutionist the music industry and, actually, music itself.

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Video – Piano Sonata in g minor, 1st Movement

Piano keyboard

First, here is the video:

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

Years ago I studied classical composition.  After fiddling about for a year or so, I took lessons with an established composer.  As part of my lessons I wrote a little “classical sonata”.  It was more or less in a Mozart style, though perhaps it was closer to Clementi.  If you don’t know Clementi, look him up!    Although there are shining moments on this “sonatina”, I wasn’t satisfied. Continue reading