Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, May 06, 2006

someone with my name invented the tuning fork in 1711

Lovely party at Bob the drummer's house tonight, in honor of his wife's birthday. I brought my guitar but didn't get it out. Mr. Jumping Chocolate Pudding fell in with 2 brothers we hadn't met before, a boy a month older than him and a boy 3 years older. It was great to come into the living room after being outside and see my son leading a sing-along of "The itsy bitsy spider" and "The alphabet song" while playing toy snare drum. A little while later Skip played fiddle tunes and Mr. Jumping Chocolate Pudding accompanied him with quiet fills on the toy snare. Skip and I chatted about organizing house concerts for our music -- preferable to clubs, which start so freaking late and lack chairs (which is fine for dance bands), or even cafes, where half the people there aren't paying attention. Hopefully this summer.

I remixed 3 songs on the band's album the other night, and re-did a vocal part on a 4th song. Unfortunately re-doing the vocal part at the beginning of the song somehow threw out of balance a vocal part at the end of the song. I have no idea how that happened, but now I want to go back and re-fix that vocal part at the end that I didn't want changed. Happy with the re-recorded vocal part and the re-mixes, but good golly I want to be done. I may even keep the out-of-balance conclusion to that song, I'm so ready to be finished.

Carl Wilson had a post on band names the other day, which got me thinking -- I wish I could forego band names. I seriously thought about naming my band "John Shaw and the [something something]," which doesn't really solve the problem -- there's still that name at the end (leading contenders were "John Shaw and His Issues" and "John Shaw and His Weapons of Mass Destruction," which Mac suggested and I hated -- I didn't want to be invaded!). It wouldn't be right just to call the band "John Shaw," because even though I convene the band, write the songs, book the gigs, pay for the recording, and have final say on arrangements, we do arrange the songs together (I never would have thought of half of Bob's drum parts), and four of us share lead vocal duties. The band's name is Ruby Thicket. But now I'm tempted simply to omit the band credit. Keep the songwriting credits & recording credits & musician credits, but have it be more like a movie -- "It Happened One Night" rather than "Frank Capra's 'It Happened One Night.' " That might be interesting.

(While Googling to see if I'd written about these discarded band names before, I learned that a professional trumpeter and lute player with my name invented the tuning fork (scroll down to 1711), which is funny because I don’t like electronic tuners and prefer to tune my guitar by ear.)

I'm dreaming of the next record, and the next one after that. Definitely want to keep the band together, but have different guests on different songs. Maybe get my friend Jake to play some lead guitar; would love to get my friend Joe to sing lead on part of a song and maybe play his bodhran; hopefully bring in a few other players, diversify the pallette.

By the way, Carl's paper at the EMP Pop Conference last weekend was absolutely aces, a really thoughtful, deeply felt exploration of what his revulsion for Celine Dion's music reveals about his feelings about identity and social class. He's writing a book about it, which I'm eager for.

A few thoughts, quickly:

* I missed most of the conference, mostly because as a musical observer I'm a volunteer, and I couldn't justify taking more time away from my job and my family. I would have loved to have caught more, but I also love my life the way it is, and was simply happy to have heard what I heard.

* Alex Ross's hour-and-a-half speed-skate through 20th century classical music history was entertaining and charming -- great to hear so many clips, many from pieces I know, many from pieces I knew of but hadn't heard, a few from pieces & people I hadn't heard of. Alex's love for and consummate knowledge of the music always comes through. Was happy to be able to accost him afterwards and shake his hand -- we had corresponded before; now he's post-virtual to me.

* Jody Rosen and I had actually snail-mailed each other and exchanged CD-R's, so it was great to meet him in person too, though I missed his talk.

* Happy also to accost Franklin Bruno and shake his hand (another email correspondent), though I missed his talk as well.

* Shook the hands of Douglas Wolk (another occasional correspondent) and Michaelangelo Matos (with whose blog this one is mutually linked), but they were both in hurries and I didn't have a chance to introduce myself but merely paid them compliments, which was nice to be able to do. Matos's talk was largely autobiographical and deeply moving (and here is the complete text), and Douglas's apparently got a standing ovation, but I missed it.

* Wanted to meet Daphne Carr (another occasional correspondent) but didn't get the chance; missed her talk, but read it online and enjoyed it.

* Briefly said hello to popcrit power couple Ann Powers (whose talk I missed) and Eric Weisbard (whose talk on the Isley Brothers I really liked).

* Elijah Wald's talk on Louis Armstrong's love for Guy Lombardo reminded me that the macho critical denigration of sentimental sweet music pre-dates rock criticism: the great jazz critic Martin Williams (the music writer who has probably taught me more about listening than any other) hated Guy Lombardo. I had long noticed similarities in timbre between Lombardo and Duke Ellington in his "sweet" mode; it was nice to hear someone make the connection publicly. (The dichotomy in the early recorded jazz era, '20s through '40s, wasn't hot vs. cool, it was hot vs. sweet. I think we should bring "sweet" back into the critical vocabulary -- it really gets at what a lot of music is trying to do.)

* New Orleans drummer and professional scholar Bruce Boyd Raeburn (who is white) gave a masterfully detailed talk on the racial/ethnic category "creole" in New Orleans history, culture, and music, accompanied by great slides. Two slides stuck out for me: King Oliver's guitarist in 1931 had a double-neck guitar, which totally piqued my curiosity -- what was the 2nd neck used for, and how was it tuned? And a 1915 shot of Jelly Roll Morton doing vaudeville in blackface really altered my conception of Morton. I had thought of him as a pompous and pretentious person; this shot reminded me: In addition to being a great musician, he was a professional entertainer, and one who, it's too easy for me to forget, had to endure the insults of a deeply racist society.

I was happy to hear that EMP will host the Pop Conference again next year.
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