DJ DUCLOCK writes extensive review / interview (originally in French).
here's a whole 'nother way of looking at things.
Overture to the Schillinger System
Henry Cowell (~1941)
The Schillinger System makes a positive approach to the theory of musical composition by offering possibilities for choice and development by the student, instead of the rules hedged round with prohibitions, limitations and exceptions, which have characterized conventional studies.
If a creative musician has something of importance to say, his need for studying the materials with which he must say it is acknowledged as a matter of course. No great composer has ever omitted the study of techniques. Musical theory as traditionally taught, however, has always been a profound disappointment to truly creative individuals. Such men have invariably added to the body of musical theory with researches of their own. Invariably, also, they have not followed the "rules" laid down in conventional text-books with any consistency. If these rules had been based on something inevitable in the nature of music, composers would have had no reason to disregard them.
Actually, musical theory has dealt with no more than a small part of the potential musical materials; its assumptions concerning the science of sound have often been based on misapprehension, and the rules it lays down often reflect the personal taste of a certain theorist, or they may be based on the study of a single composer or of some one historical period. The resulting generalizations are far from being objective, but they are nonetheless imposed upon the student in the form of "rules". Writers on theory have not been scientists, and no scientist has tried to make a complete and co-ordinated system of musical possibilities.
Joseph Schillinger is the single exception: he was superbly competent in the two fields of musical composition and science. His monumental System of Musical Composition represents a lifetime of work in research, co-ordination, and creative discovery. The synthesis he achieved has resulted in an entirely new point of view about the function of theory studies.
In the course of the research which led to the formulation of his system of musical composition, Schillinger took all known facts concerning the nature of musical materials from conventional theory studies, and added to the discoveries and speculations of modern and less conventional theorists such as Schoenberg, Conus and myself. By applying the laws of mathematical logic, he found that he could co-ordinate all of the seemingly diverse factors. He found also that he could open further untried possibilities for the development of new materials. A glance at his Table of Contents will show an extraordinary number of aspects of music here organized for the first time for inclusion in the theoretical approach to the study of composition.
The idea behind the Schillinger System is simple and inevitable: it undertakes the application of mathematical logic to all the materials of music and to their functions, so that the student may know the unifying principles behind these functions, may grasp the method of analyzing and synthesizing any musical materials that he may find anywhere or may discover for himself, and may perceive how to develop new materials as he feels the need for them. Thus the Schillinger System offers possibilities, not limitations; it is a positive, not a negative approach to the choice of musical materials. Because of the universality of the esthetic concepts underlying it, the System applies equally to old and new styles in music and to "popular" and "serious" composition.
Schillinger is sometimes criticized on the basis that his system reduces everything to mathematics and that musical intuition and the subjective side of creativity are neglected. I have never been able to understand this criticism. The currently taught rules of harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration certainly do not suggest to the student materials adapted to his own expressive desires. Instead he is given a small and circumscribed set of materials, already much used, together with a set of prohibitions to apply to them, and then he is asked to express himself only within these limitations. It has been the constant complaint from students of composition that their teachers fail to make clear the distinction between the objective and subjective factors in music. A young composer is constrained, as things are now, to spend several years following rules deduced or assumed from the works of his predecessors, but as soon as his works begin to be heard he is reproached, and rightly so, if they sound like somebody else's. He has not been shown what possibilities there really are in music in any objective, scientific way, nor has he been trained in the manner best calculated to develop an original talent, by exercising his own taste and judgment in choosing from among those possibilities the materials best suited to his musical intention.
Whether or not one agrees with Schillinger's great personal interest in the scientific realities of music, it is nevertheless true that no composer is well equipped to express himself subjectively until he has so profound a knowledge of musical materials and their relationships that, consciously or unconsciously, he seizes on just the right ones to use for whatever he wishes to say in music. He can be trained to do this if he will subject himself to the disciplines inherent in musical materials themselves, as they are set before him by the Schillinger System.
The Danny Barnes model banjo is now available to the public. Barnes and Bishline have been at work on the prototype for two years, and now they've settled in on the math and the components. Listen to Barnes describe the banjo here (click "Banjo Models" and then "Danny Barnes Model").
hey here's a bit of inspiration for you and something to think about all at the same time. an oft mentioned essay from 1958, and one of the primary influences on the folktronic approach.
"Who Cares if You Listen?"
Milton Babbitt, High Fidelity (Feb. 1958)
This article might have been entitled "The Composer as Specialist" or, alternatively, and perhaps less contentiously, "The Composer as Anachronism." For I am concerned with stating an attitude towards the indisputable facts of the status and condition of the composer of what we will, for the moment, designate as "serious," "advanced," contemporary music. This composer expends an enormous amount of time and energy- and, usually, considerable money- on the creation of a commodity which has little, no, or negative commodity value. He is, in essence, a "vanity" composer. The general public is largely unaware of and uninterested in his music. The majority of performers shun it and resent it. Consequently, the music is little performed, and then primarily at poorly attended concerts before an audience consisting in the main of fellow 'professionals'. At best, the music would appear to be for, of, and by specialists.
Towards this condition of musical and societal "isolation," a variety of attitudes has been expressed, usually with the purpose of assigning blame, often to the music itself, occasionally to critics or performers, and very occasionally to the public. But to assign blame is to imply that this isolation is unnecessary and undesirable. It is my contention that, on the contrary, this condition is not only inevitable, but potentially advantageous for the composer and his music. From my point of view, the composer would do well to consider means of realizing, consolidating, and extending the advantages.
The unprecedented divergence between contemporary serious music and its listeners, on the one hand, and traditional music and its following, on the other, is not accidental and- most probably- not transitory. Rather, it is a result of a half-century of revolution in musical thought, a revolution whose nature and consequences can be compared only with, and in many respects are closely analogous to, those of the mid-nineteenth-century evolution in theoretical physics. The immediate and profound effect has been the necessity of the informed musician to reexamine and probe the very foundations of his art. He has been obliged to recognize the possibility, and actuality, of alternatives to what were once regarded as musical absolutes. He lives no longer in a unitary musical universe of "common practice," but in a variety of universes of diverse practice.
This fall from musical innocence is, understandably, as disquieting to some as it is challenging to others, but in any event the process is irreversible; and the music that reflects the full impact of this revolution is, in many significant respects, a truly "new" music, apart from the often highly sophisticated and complex constructive methods of any one composition or group of compositions, the very minimal properties characterizing this body of music are the sources of its "difficulty," "unintelligibility," and- isolation. In indicating the most general of these properties, I shall make reference to no specific works, since I wish to avoid the independent issue of evaluation. The reader is at liberty to supply his own instances; if he cannot (and, granted the condition under discussion, this is a very real possibility) let him be assured that such music does exist.
First. This music employs a tonal vocabulary which is more "efficient" than that of the music of the past, or its derivatives. This is not necessarily a virtue in itself, but it does make possible a greatly increased number or pitch simultaneities, successions, and relationships. his increase in efficiency necessarily reduces the "redundancy" of the language, and as a result the intelligible communication of the work demands increased accuracy from the transmitter (the performer) and activity from the receiver (the listener). Incidentally, it is this circumstance, among many others, that has created the need for purely electronic media of "performance." More importantly for us, it makes ever heavier demands upon the training of the listener's perceptual capacities.
Second. Along with this increase of meaningful pitch materials, the number of functions associated with each component of the musical event also has been multiplied. In the simplest possible terms. Each such "atomic" event is located in a five-dimensional musical space determined by pitch-class, register, dynamic, duration, and timbre. These five components not only together define the single event, but, in the course of a work, the successive values of each component create an individually coherent structure, frequently in parallel with the corresponding structures created by each of the other components. Inability to perceive and remember precisely the values of any of these components results in a dislocation of the event in the work's musical space, an alternation of its relation to a other events in the work, and-thus-a falsification of the composition's total structure. For example, an incorrectly performed or perceived dynamic value results in destruction of the work's dynamic pattern, but also in false identification of other components of the event (of which this dynamic value is a part) with corresponding components of other events so creating incorrect pitch, registral, timbral, and durational associations. It is this high degree of "determinancy" that most strikingly differentiates such music from, for example, a popular song. A popular song is only very partially determined, since it would appear to retain its germane characteristics under considerable alteration of register, rhythmic texture, dynamics, harmonic structure, timbre, and other qualities.
The preliminary differentiation of musical categories by means of this reasonable and usable criterion of "degree of determinacy" offends those who take it to be a definition of qualitative categories, which-of course-it need not always be. Curiously, their demurrers usually take the familiar form of some such "democratic" counterdefinition as: "There is no such thing as 'serious' and 'popular' music." There is only 'good' and 'bad' music." As a public service, let me offer those who still patiently await the revelation of the criteria of Absolute Good an alternative criterion which possesses, at least, the virtue of immediate and irrefutable applicability: "There is no such thing as 'serious' and 'popular' music. There is only music whose title begins with the letter 'X,' and music whose title does not."
Third, musical compositions of the kind under discussion possess a high degree of contextuality and autonomy. That is, the structural characteristics of a given work are less representative of a general class of characteristics than they are unique to the individual work itself. Particularly, principles of relatedness, upon which depends immediate coherence of continuity, are more likely to evolve in the course of the work than to be derived from generalized assumptions. Here again greater and new demands are made upon the perceptual and conceptual abilities of the listener.
Fourth, and finally. Although in many fundamental respects this music is "new," it often also represents a vast extension of the methods of other musics, derived from a considered and extensive knowledge of their dynamic principles. For, concomitant with the "revolution in music," perhaps even an integral aspect thereof, has been the development of analytical theory, concerned with the systematic formulation of such principles to the end of greater efficiency, economy, and understanding. Compositions so rooted necessarily ask comparable knowledge and experience from the listener. Like all communication, this music presupposes a suitably equipped receptor. I am aware that "tradition" has it that the lay listener, by virtue of some undefined, transcendental faculty, always is able to arrive at a musical judgment absolute in its wisdom if not always permanent in its validity. I regret my inability to accord this declaration of faith the respect due its advanced age.
Deviation from this tradition is bound to dismiss the contemporary music of which I have been talking into "isolation." Nor do I see how or why the situation should be otherwise. Why should the layman be other than bored and puzzled by what he is unable to understand, music or anything else? It is only the translation of this boredom and puzzlement into resentment and denunciation that seems to me indefensible. After all, the public does have its own music, its ubiquitous music: music to eat by, to read by, to dance by, and to be impressed by. Why refuse to recognize the possibility that contemporary music has reached a stage long since attained by other forms of activity? The time has passed when the normally well-educated man without special preparation could understand the most advanced work in, for example, mathematics, philosophy, and physics. Advanced music, to the extent that it reflects the knowledge and originality of the informed composer, scarcely can be expected to appear more intelligible than these arts and sciences to the person whose musical education usually has been even less extensive than his background in other fields. But to this, a double standard is invoked, with the words music is music," implying also that "music is just music." Why not, then, equate the activities of the radio repairman with those of the theoretical physicist, on the basis of the dictum that "physics is physics." It is not difficult to find statements like the following, from the New York Times of September 8, 1 957: "The scientific level of the conference is so high… that there are in the world only 120 mathematicians specializing in the field who could contribute." Specialized music on the other hand, far from signifying "height" of musical level, has been charged with "decadence," even as evidence of an insidious "conspiracy."
It often has been remarked that only in politics and the "arts" does the layman regard himself as an expert, with the right to have his opinion heard. In the realm of politics he knows that this right, in the form of a vote, is guaranteed by fiat. Comparably, in the realm of public music, the concertgoer is secure in the knowledge that the amenities of concert going protect his firmly stated "I didn't like it" from further scrutiny. Imagine, if you can, a layman chancing upon a lecture on "Pointwise Periodic Homeomorphisms." At the conclusion, he announces: "I didn't like it," Social conventions being what they are in such circles, someone might dare inquire: "Why not?" Under duress, our layman discloses precise reasons for his failure to enjoy himself; he found the hall chilly, the lecturer's voice unpleasant, and he was suffering the digestive aftermath of a poor dinner. His interlocutor understandably disqualifies these reasons as irrelevant to the content and value of the lecture, and the development of mathematics is left undisturbed. If the concertgoer is at all versed in the ways of musical lifesmanship, he also will offer reasons for his "I didn't like it" - in the form of assertions that the work in question is "inexpressive," "undramatic," "lacking in poetry," etc., etc., tapping that store of vacuous equivalents hallowed by time for: "I don't like it, and I cannot or will not state why." The concertgoer's critical authority is established beyond the possibility of further inquiry. Certainly he is not responsible for the circumstance that musical discourse is a never-never land of semantic confusion, the last resting place of all those verbal and formal fallacies, those hoary dualisms that have been banished from rational discourse. Perhaps he has read, in a widely consulted and respected book on the history of music, the following: "to call him (Tchaikovsky) the 'modern Russian Beethoven' is footless, Beethoven being patently neither modern nor Russian…" Or, the following, by an eminent "nonanalytic" philosopher: "The music of Lourie' is an ontological music... It is born in the singular roots of being, the nearest possible juncture of the soul and the spirit…" How unexceptionable the verbal peccadilloes of the average concertgoer appear beside these masterful models. Or, perhaps, in search of "real" authority, he has acquired his critical vocabulary from the pronouncements of officially "eminent" composers, whose eminence, in turn, is founded largely upon just such assertions as the concertgoer has learned to regurgitate. This cycle is of slight moment in a world where circularity is one of the norms of criticism. Composers (and performers), wittingly or unwittingly assuming the character of "talented children" and "inspired idiots" generally ascribed to them, are singularly adept at the conversion of personal tastes into general principles. Music they do not like is "not music," composers whose music they do not like are "not composers."
In search of what to think and how to say it, the layman may turn to newspapers and magazines. Here he finds conclusive evidence for the proposition that "music is music." The science editor of such publications contents himself with straightforward reporting, usually news of the "factual" sciences; books and articles not intended for popular consumption are not reviewed. Whatever the reason, such matters are left to professional journals. The music critic admits no comparable differentiation. We may feel, with some justice, that music which presents itself in the market place of the concert hall automatically offers itself to public approval or disapproval. We may feel, again with some justice, that to omit the expected criticism of the "advanced" work would be to do the composer an injustice in his assumed quest for, if nothing else, public notice and "professional recognition." The critic, at least to this extent, is himself a victim of the leveling of categories.
Here, then, are some of the factors determining the climate of the public world of music. Perhaps we should not have overlooked those pockets of "power" where prizes, awards, and commissions are dispensed, where music is adjudged guilty, not only without the right to be confronted by its accuser, but without the right to be confronted by the accusations. Or those well-meaning souls who exhort the public "just to listen to more contemporary music," apparently on the theory that familiarity breeds passive acceptance. Or those, often the same well-meaning souls, who remind the composer of his "obligation to the public," while the public's obligation to the composer is fulfilled, manifestly, by mere physical presence in the concert hall or before loudspeaker or- more authoritatively- by committing to memory the numbers of phonograph and amplifier models. Or the intricate social world within this musical world where the salon becomes bazaar, and music itself becomes an ingredient of verbal canapés for cocktail conversation.
I say all this not to present a picture of a virtuous music in a sinful world, but to point up the problems of a special music in an alien and inapposite world. And so, I dare suggest that the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute, and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media, with its very real possibility of complete elimination of the public and social aspects of musical composition. By so doing, the separation between the domains would be defined beyond any possibility of confusion of categories, and the composer would be free to pursue a private life of professional achievement, as opposed to a public life of unprofessional compromise and exhibitionism.
But how, it may be asked, will this serve to secure the means of survival or the composer and his music? One answer is that after all such a private life is what the university provides the scholar and the scientist. It is only proper that the university, which-significantly-has provided so many contemporary composers with their professional training and general education, should provide a home for the "complex," "difficult," and "problematical" in music. Indeed, the process has begun; and if it appears to proceed too slowly, I take consolation in the knowledge that in this respect, too, music seems to be in historically retarded parallel with now sacrosanct fields of endeavor. In E. T. Bell's Men of Mathematics, we read: "In the eighteenth century the universities were not the principal centers of research in Europe. They might have become such sooner than they did but for the classical tradition and its understandable hostility to science. Mathematics was close enough to antiquity to be respectable, but physics, being more recent, was suspect. Further, a mathematician in a university of the time would have been expected to put much of his effort on elementary teaching; his research, if any, would have been an unprofitable luxury..." A simple substitution of "musical composition" for "research," of "academic" for "classical," of "music" for "physics," and of "composer" for "mathematician," provides a strikingly accurate picture of the current situation. And as long as the confusion I have described continues to exist, how can the university and its community assume other than that the composer welcomes and courts public competition with the historically certified products of the past, and the commercially certified products of the present?
Perhaps for the same reason, the various institutes of advanced research and the large majority of foundations have disregarded this music's need for means of survival. I do not wish to appear to obscure the obvious differences between musical composition and scholarly research, although it can be contended that these differences are no more fundamental than the differences among the various fields of study. I do question whether these differences, by their nature, justify the denial to music's development of assistance granted these other fields. Immediate "practical" applicability (which may be said to have its musical analogue in "immediate extensibility of a compositional technique") is certainly not a necessary condition for the support of scientific research. And if it be contended that such research is so supported because in the past it has yielded eventual applications, one can counter with, for example, the music of Anton Webern, which during the composer's lifetime was regarded (to the very limited extent that it was regarded at all) as the ultimate in hermetic, specialized, and idiosyncratic composition; today, some dozen years after the composer's death, his complete works have been recorded by a major record company, primarily- I suspect- as a result of the enormous influence this music has had on the postwar, nonpopular, musical world. I doubt that scientific research is any more secure against predictions of ultimate significance than is musical composition. Finally, if it be contended that research, even in its least "practical" phases, contributes to the sum of knowledge in the particular realm, what possibly can contribute more to our knowledge of music than a genuinely original composition?
Granting to music the position accorded other arts and sciences promises the sole substantial means of survival for the music I have been describing. Admittedly, if this music is not supported, the whistling repertory of the man in the street will be little affected, the concert-going activity of the conspicuous consumer of musical culture will be little disturbed. But music will cease to evolve, and, in that important sense, will cease to live.
This coming weekend brings the BAD LIVERS reunion at the Oregon Pickathon!!
Barnes put in a stunning weekend at the Northwest String Summit, where he played with Bill Frisell, Yonder Mountain String Band, members of Leftover Salmon, and apparently just about everyone else! Jambase has a 3-page writeup (w/ pics) of the summit... click to read.
Jambase has a 3-page review with pictures from the NWSS in Oregon, including Barnes' appearances with Yonder Mountain String Band, Bill Frisell, and many others.
Jambase published an in-depth feature on Danny Barnes in July 2008.
kory cook sees thousands of cds a year as assistant music director for kut public radio in austin. i asked him to write a little about what advice he might give for folks sending him music and what he thinks about the whole deal.
When banjo-master, string-wizard, songwriter/composer and all-around cult-hero musician extraordinaire Danny Barnes asked me to compose a piece/blog/article for his site, I was suddenly overtaken with the simple question of where to start. So thanks for pushing my mind to work harder, Danny. You’re always reliable for getting the creative juices-a-flowin.’ Here goes…
What should an artist/musician keep in mind and do to have his or her music be heard on the radio airwaves and introduced to listeners of both non-commercial and commercial radio entities?
Since the first known radio broadcast transmission in 1906 (with the exception of satellite and internet radio), many of the greatest musicians and performers alive or dead never had the pleasure of hearing their recorded works played in any consistent rotation on the radio. I counted on one hand how many times the altruistic improvisations of saxophone preacher and jazz legend Albert Ayler have aired on any American radio station in the past year. 1! Meanwhile, countless punk rock and American garage bands that helped fuel rock-n-roll and pop music as we know it today are either deemed too offensive or too loud or too….whatever. Even the otherwise “popular,” oft-offensive genius of classical and rock composer Frank Zappa still has no place in commercial radio. Okay…maybe “Montana” might pop up somewhere on the classic rock FM dial late on a Sunday night, but that’s about it for Frank. He probably wanted it that way though, and that’s a different story.
Radio is driven by ratings and ad sales and plagued by competition without creativity, listener demands, enormous egos, nepotism, extreme disparity with exorbitant salaries vs. people who work for nothing, spin, cheaters, whores, fat white guys, Joe 6-pack, bad breath and a whole slew of other rotten little items that have nothing to do with your beautiful music, so forget about impressing anybody at a radio station and just play. Then record it..cause we wanna hear it!
To avoid the issue of commercial radio and hit records dominating the charts while pushing and shoving out anyone’s chance of being heard on the air, we’ll focus on non-commercial radio as it is in respect to the artist. I happen to be very lucky that I’m part of a radio station (KUT 90.5 FM in Austin, TX) that promotes the musician’s personal, creative endeavors and not so much record or ad sales. Although, as the Assistant Music Director of one of the nation’s leading public radio stations I am partly in the business of selling records. In this ever-changing shift in the economy and technology, it’s simply unavoidable. We keep the music business alive, but many of you have still never heard of public radio. Again, that’s another story. As a musician and radio programmer, I’m aware that artists know there must be a place somewhere for their music to be heard, but your local commercial radio station isn’t hearing it because they’re too busy looking at a selector computer screen with a list of the same 25 artists in heavy rotation.
1. Play what you know:
Play what you know! I don’t mean for you to ignore growing technically on your instrument. But find your roots, think about them and embrace them. I may want to be the next Max Roach on the drum kit, but I’m not black, nor did I grow up listening to jazz. As a matter of fact, I didn’t hear my first jazz recording and fall in the love with the fat, trumpet blast of Dizzy Gillespie until I was 16. By that time, The Kingsmen, The Rascals, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Ramones were already swirling around my head like some cosmic electric hydra monster let loose. So now when I crank out a song with a group of musicians playing and recording music in the vein of what I grew up listening to, the nuance is there and I know I’m where I’m supposed to be creatively. Then as I grow to learn more about other forms, ideas and theories of music, my music grows with it. This may all sound more like instructions on how to approach your art rather than what you bring to a radio station, but the point is that your finished product and the music you ultimately present to a radio station should be a reflection of yourself and your music and not something specifically designed for a radio programmer, hence….
2. Don’t tailor your music for radio:
I hear it on a regular basis. A CD comes in the mail representing a fresh new artist with great pipes, hot looks and some of the best studio musicians in the world behind them. But suddenly, forgetful and predictable lyrics with a formulaic, almost strategic, song structure painfully designed for radio vomits through my speakers. You know who you are. And you may be a star in some circles…for a week or two…with an ethic like that, but your musical integrity has thus been violated and in short, you just wasted your money and everyone’s time.
3. The right producer – maybe it’s you!
Find a producer that likes and understands what you’re doing. An experienced and highly-paid producer/engineer can tweak the knobs, sail the faders and give you something sonically pleasing, but it may not be to your specifications until it’s too late. Or you’ll have what you want, and the next day you’re confused because your recording sounds completely different from when you left the night before. A producer already familiar with your work will work with you and help guide the process of recording. Then mix and master that thing. Spend a few days, a few weeks, or a few months with it. In some instances, a more lo-fi recording may represent a particular artist’s style. So be sure your abstract concept is somehow conveyed through your art, so as not to have your recording dismissed as unfinished or “unmastered” for the airwaves.
Best case scenario: You and/or your band produce a competent recording.
See Thurston Moore: google.com
4. Presentation and follow-up: Album art / Press packet
It sounds meaningless in terms of ‘the music,’ but I have 126 CDs stacked on my desk as I write, still waiting to be heard, and you have to grab my senses if I’ve never heard of you. That orange-yellow colored slip cover with the giant cartoon robot eating a slab of vinyl will probably get my attention first before your common name typed onto a white piece of paper complete with arial-font typed track list.
Case in point: Russian Balalaika master and former Red Elvis Zhenya Kolykhanov sent me a CD with the name “ZEEGRASS” lazily emblazoned in red magic marker across the white sleeve. No track list! “What the hell is this?” I asked myself. Then I sat it by my phone and forgot about it for a week. Zhenya called a few days later to ask me if I had heard it yet. “No, but I’ll get to it.” I calmly stated. He said thanks and hung up. 5 minutes later I popped it in the CD player. In an instant I recognized the dexterity, virtuosity and highly original music of Zhenya. I called him back instantly to book him for a live performance in Studio 1A, to which he casually agreed, although it was past his official CD release. Today, I make music with Zhenya when he’s looking for a drummer and Pat Mastellatto can’t make the gig. I often look back on my judgment and initial passing of his material and think if artists just took the time to ponder presentation and the overall impression of what they want their recording to “look” like, it could help get the attention of programmers flooded with reviewing everyone’s creation. And follow-up calls don’t hurt either, obviously. Just don’t do it too often or I’ll never call you back.
One-sheets droning on with meaningless adjectives, lame/drawn-out descriptions and producer/sideman name-dropping doesn’t impress me. I don’t care if you hired the guys from Radiohead or Tom Waits himself to produce your record. Nor will it turn my head around to learn that you paid Roger McGuinn or local string-king Lloyd Maines to make your record sound better. Your song, if not the entire album, could still lack quality. And for godssakes, if I see another picture of a band grimacing in front of a brick wall or on the hood of a car my teeth’ll start to hurt.
5. Finally, ask yourself what’s missing?
What’s missing in your local clubs or on your local radio dial? What’s the sound that’s being deprived from the ears and minds of your relentlessly energetic children, teenage degenerates, jazz snobs, senior swingers, cowboys, patriots and anyone else capable of enjoying music on any level? Maybe you think there’s a lack of indie-pop bands with distorted keyboards, lyrics about the end of the world and a cheerleader horn section? So do that! Maybe you think there are too many Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan or Beatles wanna-bes still on the radio today. So do something different! Then ask yourself why anyone would want to hear the music that you’re making? Maybe you can’t come up with the answer and would prefer to subject your art to passers-by in a bus station or on the street corner. That’s kind-of-cool too, and not such a bad idea. But questioning your motives will at least begin to help guide you in the right direction of where your music will eventually be heard.
One man’s scrumptious, thick, and hearty gravy is another man’s slop. Remind yourself that music is the universal language, therefore it is understood and appreciated on multiple levels. What I deem as essential to one’s record collection could be considered garbage and a waste of recording tape, even to another self-described music aficionado. Such is the nature of criticism. Just believe in yourself. The music will follow.
here's a short bio on kory:
Kory Cook lives, works and plays the drums in Austin, TX. He holds two bachelor’s degrees in Broadcast Journalism and English, respectively, from Oklahoma State University. He’s earned a certificate of music performance from the Drummer’s Collective in New York City. He’s recorded and performed with the Sons of Hercules since 1997. He’s also recorded and performed with, Jeff “Monoman” Connelly (DMZ, The Lyres), Jesse Sublett and Jon Dee Graham as the Skunks, Dave Bone and the Troublemakers, Todd Snider and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Check out the new feature article at Jambase.com "Diggin' Deep with Danny Barnes." Please give it a read and maybe leave a comment over on the Jambase site. Also check out myjambase, a clever notification service to help make sure you never miss a Barnes show in your area.
highline ballroom in manhattan june 20, 2008, 8:45 pm for one hour
thursday june 19
leave home at 5 pm
catch 6:30 pm ferry to downtown seattle
9:00 pm fly sea-tac to jfk overnight
friday june 20th
6:00 am land
subway to friend's apartment in brooklyn
8:00 am sleep
12:00 pm wake up, shower, subway to load-in in manhattan
8:45 pm play one hour set
11:00 pm show is over, subway back to brooklyn
sleep as long as possible
saturday june 21
7:30 am wake and subway to jfk
12:00 pm fly jfk to sea tac
3:00 pm land in seattle.
pick up jeep and drive to ferry boat downtown.
drive home, eat thai dinner my wife picked up for me, fall asleep after mariners choke in the ninth
bishline danny barnes model banjo in flight case
three packs of strings
a few tools, picks, capos
(1) 15' cord
(1) 4" patch cord
cds to sell (five different titles)
dress pants and shirt
creature from the black lagoon t shirt
insect skateboard t shirt
bishline banjo t shirt
tan plaid pants
3 pairs of socks
red bandana hanky
a grey hoodie from my wife's business (doubles as pillow or sheet)
small hand towel
flannel sleeping sack (can be used as pillow, sheet or cover)
a very good book
pen and pencil
a sacred text
cell phone and charger
(2) peanut butter sandwiches
a stack of papers (contract, boarding/flight info, subway map)
envelope for receipts
pack of gum, box of mints
sum total of containers carried:
(2) a banjo flight case, and a small red wheelie backpack
this seems like a long list but it all fit into a banjo flight case and the backpack. traveling light. jet blue charges for second bag so i checked my banjo and took my backpack on board. leaving the computer home saves a good deal of weight and my personal banjo is lighter than a normal banjo.
the set up:
i was to fly out to nyc from my home in the northwest corner of washington and play at the highline ballroom on a co-bill with king wilkie in manhattan. my plan was to take the red eye out of seattle, sleep on the plane and land about six am the following day. subway/train over to my friend's apartment (they were on vacation) in brooklyn and sleep for about four hours, get up, shower and subway over to manhattan for a 2pm load in. (which is the earliest load in i've ever had for an evening show i do believe.) figuring i could sleep in the dressing room for another few hours prior to the show, which turned out correct. grab something good to eat, warm up, and figure out with king wilkie some tunes we could play together and all that. do the gig, crash, wake up and fly home.
(it's only 547.72 more miles to fly from new york to london)
total hours away from the house:
49 hours + or - 10 minutes
window seat, in an odd numbered row, on the right side of the plane, towards the back.
my usual. i like row 19 or 21.
best part of the flight:
being able to watch a baseball game in transit is very hip. they have little tv screens on there that you can watch, between that and my books and ipod, i'm pretty set. and my ability to sleep almost anywhere in almost any position as long as it's not too loud.
worst part of the flight:
outbound, easy going.
however on the return trip i met:
the Fidgeter. for six hours straight the lady next to me on the way back fidgeted constantly. every four seconds or so (i timed her) she would shift and adjust something else. this never let up. move the air vent, sit back, get something out of her bag, sit back, return item to bag, sit back, get a drink out of her water bottle, sit back, turn the light on, sit back, turn the light off, sit back, tap her foot and twiddle her thumbs, stop, get up and walk around, sit down, fish around in the seat pocket, sit back, you get the idea. she brought enough food for a flight to australia and nibbled constantly like a goldfish. it was very interesting/ironic to spend time on the subway and on the streets of brooklyn and manhattan and find everything far out and groovy and all that and be totally relaxed, and then on the way home be strapped in a seat next to the freakiest person on the whole trip for six hours in very close proximity. i have to cut her some slack she may have had some other challenges, some folks are very nervous on flights, maybe she had something else heavy going on. however, that said, she was the kind of person that dumped out a bag of cashews on her tray and then picked through them seemingly to eat them in a very particular order as though they were all somehow numbered. she ate from a bag of rice chips (she ate the whole time, almost six hours) and moved her arm against my arm for every bite, i stopped counting at 126 little movements. this kind of deal makes me nervous. and within ten minutes of catching her act i said to myself, "oh man she's going to fidget the whole way." oh to have incorrectly called that one.
if you grow up with older brothers, you learn not to hassle other folks in their space. or they will sit on your chest and drool a long dangle of spit in front of your face and tap endlessly on your sternum. so i'm culturally not prepared to deal with this. for instance i don't put my headrest back on a plane because it's a drag for the person behind me.
seatmates that will apply the drag to your flight:
-the Talker gives off the call "so, where are you headed to today?" best get the headphones on with the quickness.
-the Parent that Explains the Universe in Great Detail to the Children as though they were Addressing Everyone on the Plane
-the Armrest Hog
-the Cell Phone Business Man running the empire from the middle seat
-the Control Freak Mom she constantly tells everyone in her life how to do every little move and can't resist adding you to the list
-the Sicko (mucus factory with no hanky)
-the Puker (when they reach for that sack, look out)
-anyone with loud voice
my airport method:
i get there two hours early. relax, read and stroll around. that leaves you plenty of time to deal with things should they arise. have a cup of tea. this technique has saved me more than once in regard to a cancelled flight and being there in plenty of time to catch a different flight.
what i think of flying:
i don't mind it. most of the time, i get a lot of reading done, and it's a pleasant enough experience. it's a part of my job. if there weren't a certain degree of hassle involved in one's job, that would be Free Money in a Box and not a job. commuting and sitting behind a desk surely has it's own hassle factor also. (i've never done that so i can only guess) being out of work is a big hassle. i'll stick with the cards in my hand, thank you very much.
in flight food:
they don't serve anything on jet blue, truly a blessing. on the outbound leg, i had a peanut butter sandwich that i made myself from home and a can of cranberry juice. inbound, they have these little places in JFK airport called cibo. gourmet snacks and stuff, at gourmet prices yikes! anyway i bought a bowl of granola and soy milk and dove into that about halfway through the return flight. i thought about breaking it down into about seventy little moves for the benefit of mrs. kite, but thought better of it, no need to be hateful.
prevailing nyc thought:
being there is an odd mix of camping and urban life. it's very civilized but it's also like going off into the woods with the predators and the fleas and nuclear rats, and the odd decaying moose carcass over behind the rock. personally i think the city could use a good scrubbing, but i dig the place. (ever since i've been on a tour with a dude that caught scabies, i've been washing my hands like felix unger)
in comparison to the last nyc trip's prevailing thought which was:
it's a ruin of an ancient civilization
amount saved by taking subway and not renting a car or cabbing:
about 200 bucks and an ulcer
overall subway experience:
sure beats renting a car or taking a cab, van or tour bus.
though one has to pay attention and ask questions because it would be very easy to stroll onto the wrong train. sometimes the destination marked on the car is cryptic. everyone was very helpful to me however, i always asked and folks seemed eager to provide the proper data. very easy and cheap. the website is very good.
comparison of going in solo with no car vs. with a car/van/bus:
no contest, it's much easier just to wing it on your own sans vehicle and on one's own. "hey you wanna go over here?" ZING there you are. "hey let's go back over there." WHOOSH "hey we're back." and yes i talk to myself as though i were a separate person. with a band, it takes them a half hour to figure out they are leaving. not to leave but to figure out they are leaving, and to finish doing what they were doing when they heard the data, and for one to wander off, and one to go get them.
here's another rough formula. this might be why the corporate world could be nuts. if you travel and do say 120 solo shows in a calendar year, the odds are you will have perhaps two weird things happen. maybe you'll get sick once, and the airline will lose your luggage. two things like that. in a year. your banjo will break, and there's a flood and you have to stay an extra day or something. now if you add in a band of five guys say, and two crew guys and in 120 shows, each will have two things like that go wrong, all of a sudden you've jumped into 14 things you have to deal with in a calendar year. more than one disaster a month. as a solo, your odds are very good. it's like trying to shoot a butterfly. small moving target. i can only imagine if there's fifty people in an organization it's two disasters a week. "how is the team today saunders?" "well sir, sally in accounting accidentally swallowed an anvil yesterday, and franklin out on the loading dock was hit with a piece of skylab. today started off well until our marketing director Lufkin spontaneously combusted just after break."
backstage dressing room:
the highline is a very nice place, some of the nicest nyc folks i've met. very clean and nice dressing room where i crashed for two more hours midday after my sound check. i have played in various venues where the dressing room is very small, and then you have people that want to stand around in there for some reason, thus there is no space left for actual dressing. why is that? i should go over to their house and stand around in the bathroom. anyway, this place was very nice. there were three acts on the bill total and eventually it filled up back there but it wasn't too bad. there was a nice lady that kept coming in from the venue to make sure everyone had everything they needed.
unexpected backstage perk:
clothes steamer. my shirt looked good at the gig.
condition of backstage couch:
the light wasn't very good but it looked alright. i still made a little bed out of my hoodie so i wouldn't have to lay directly on it. (see scabies reference earlier in this screed)
was there a taper:
of course, most all of my shows are taped and available on the web. this one should show up fairly quickly on archive.
shared bill with:
king wilkie. i enjoyed them very much and they were very nice and it was a fun hang. we worked up some songs to play together and i enjoyed seeing my friend jonah their banjoist. it's cool to hang out with folks that are into music and putting out records and writing songs and learning an instrument. out where i live, there aren't really musicians dedicated to the lifestyle so much and there's no studios or venues, so when i get out amongst them so to speak it's a real relief. i don't feel so weird around other people that have made a lifetime commitment to working on music. regular people can never really get their heads around what i do, and it's best to steer conversation well away from my work.
i was eventually well rested and felt good and very warmed up. had my show prepared with some room left in there to take wide turns if need be. i performed sans electronics and just stood there and played my banjo and sang a bunch of songs. you can listen yourself, the show will be posted very shortly on archive. i have been doing an experiment of talking more in between songs to let folks know what the songs are about and all that, not sure if that's the way to go or not, but i'm always adjusting things. overall i felt like it was a healthy outing. the sound was good and i was warmed up. there were some of my friends there which makes it nice. the bill was a cool one with lots of different kinds of music and i felt at home in that regard. so i'd say it was a good show from my viewpoint. crowd was nice. mostly folks that didn't know my work, which is good for me. good to reach those folks.
i played the last song with the band that played first, did my set, and then played the last three songs plus encore with the band that played last (king wilkie) jammed in the dressing room so there was plenty o'picking.
i think my breaking ball was happening, the knuckleball was getting strikes, i gave up a couple of runs and had trouble keeping them on base, but we won the game.
funny yet painful gig moment:
during the sit-in with the band that played first, fronted by a nice lady that was a very good slide guitarist with FX. unfortunately for me, her amp was pointing towards my head. interesting that she had it turned away from herself. anyway, it was kind of an allen funt moment because at the station where i was to stand onstage, it was like standing in front of a nail gun. here i am with my banjo, which is the wrong tool for this particular job. i wanted some of those ear protectors like you see at the gun range. she hit this one high note, and held it and unrolled the volume pedal potentiometer and it went in my right ear like a frozen ice pick. i tried stepping out of the way and considered diving behind a drum kit that was right behind me as though i was evading sniper fire. anything to get out of the way of the blast. they were very nice and i liked their music, but that part hurt. if you get your bell rung right before showtime, sometimes it's hard to hear what you are doing during your set. like if there's a feedback blast or something that catches you off guard. fortunately there were no ill effects of this audio tazer.
this is for you mike bub, i found a good turkish place. awesome vegetarian food. manhattan rocks for chow.
there wasn't one, i wasn't backed into a food corner even once. i was in the same terminal at JFK a week before with a very long layover coming back from richmond virginia and had the place scoped pretty well. and it's hard to go wrong in manhattan. yes it is possible but i have very good food radar.
difficulty in getting a proper cup of tea:
zero. my rider has earl grey on it and it was easy to get tea in the neighborhood. and at JFK.
it was a warm night, with a slight rain shower right before i split the venue, new york smells like the bottom of a dumpster at that moment. that's what i mean, it's such an odd contrast, on the walk back to the subway stop, there's all these very well dressed folk coming out of limos and stuff going into a fancy club with a velvet rope and door man in a tux and at that same moment there's a prevailing odor akin to the floor of a dumpster behind a seafood restaurant permeating the atmosphere. not like a hint, or a slight degree. but like you are inside the dumpster with your face on the floor and the doors are all shut. and someone is peeing into the dumpster. kind of like that. the smell-o-meter pegged out to 11. none of the beautiful people notice. the guy walking by with the banjo is on the lookout for a rotting corpse under a tree or something. or is thinking someone snuck an old catfish head into my bag.
what was on the ipod:
- ornette, the double quartet album.
-lots of gospel, i like the positive vibe, and there is so much new music coming out of this genre. gospel is one the most happening musics right now, there so much going on in that world. rashawn ross turned me onto israel and the new breed, in particular a cd called real. i love that record.
-i'm obsessed with this song called undertaker by jeff pinkus's band honky. love bobby rock's guitar playing. that's a good loud.
biggest change from when i left:
tourists on the ferryboat on the way home. they show up like someone opened the barn door and the cows were just standing around.
listened to the braves beat the mariners in the ninth on the radio on the way home. overall though, i'm not really into inter-league play. i wish they would cut that out until the world series.
rangers hover at .500, catcher gerald laird on the DL. they don't have any starting pitchers. or middle relief. or closers. they make too many errors. other than that though, a couple of grand slams and they're back in the game.
mariners fire the GM and the manager, so from the boat i call my friend that's a scout for them and get the scoop. fascinating cat. i like the way he watches a game, it's not so much about the score but about potentials and abilities. he has a whole different way of looking at the game.
best selling cd at the merch table:
get myself together
one a scale of one to five, how much fun did i have:
same scale how good was the bidness aspect:
i really enjoyed hearing and meeting king wilkie. i have some good fans in the city and i really enjoy going there and playing. it's so easy to go as a solo. it's like moving in between the raindrops. plus when i get off on a trip like that, when things are going good, i can make lots of notes about other stuff that i want to work on. it's a good time to think. as a middle aged cat it also gives me economic and artistic confidence that i can get out there and do my thing under most any conditions. that makes you feel good. especially when the art part is producing results.
would i do the same trip again:
overall tiredness factor:
not too bad. i have learned the secret of the nap. as a man pushing fifty (and this is something i learned from watching robert earl keen work, that man can go to sleep twenty minutes before showtime, wake up and walk out there and do a good job) the nappage is essential.
there's some guys i have worked with, many of them older than me, that will hang out after shows and drink and spend lots of energy with their friends and all this type of stuff. myself, i get my buttocks out of there and go lay down. consequently, i'm not burned out. conservation of energy is of great value. many of these same folk complain about how hard all this is getting and how they look forward to stopping, i don't feel that way at all, i'm into the whole thing.
when i look in the mirror i am reminded of my age, but i feel like i'm about twenty and i live as though i have plenty of time left for all this stuff.
my best days are ahead of me. and i'm forging ahead with faith and a good attitude.
thanks for keeping up with my movements.