Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Streak of Moonlight

(image from wikimedia commons)

What do you know? It's been less than a month between my posts!  :)

Today I want to share with you my most recent solo, non-wikiloops, musical piece.  I call it "Streak of Moonlight".  I've uploaded it to my SoundCloud page and you can also listen to it right from this blog by clicking on the embedded link below.  I hope you like it -- you can read more about it below the link...

This piece is all me -- I put together the drum tracks from editing and combining some MIDI drum loops that I found, then I added some simple keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar, more keys, lead guitars, a smattering of ambient background guitars.

But there's something else about this piece that was a new experiment for me -- hear the voices?  I've realized that the human voice can add a tremendous amount of emotion and focus to a piece. But I don't sing -- trust me on this.  So what to do?  Well, I don't want to sample vocals from another musician, and I don't want to deal with copyright infringement, and I'm not going to spend money on what's basically a hobby, and I'm still  a little too insecure about my own pieces to try and get any singers I might know to record something for me, so my choices are pretty slim...

Enter the wonder of recordings of old, forgotten radio programs -- I'll stay away from any of the well-known classics.  So hopefully in the case of the things I use, the artists involved are long gone and if there were copyrights, they've likely either expired or been shuffled through so many hands that they've essentially been lost.  Plus, at this point, what I'm doing is not a commercial endeavor -- I'm not making any money off of this.  I'm giving it away for free.  So if there were still a valid and tracked copyright that I've unintentionally infringed on by using short samples of radio broadcasts from 70 or more years ago, there are certainly little if any damages, and I will gladly give full and proper attribution or comply with any 'cease and desist' orders should they ever come my way.

So -- there you go.

This piece is called "Streak of Moonlight" because the vocal samples come from a episode of a 1936 radio romance which was entitled -- you guessed it --"Streak of Moonlight."  The snippet of strings is also from that recording.

I took my time putting together this piece.  Each layer assembled was done slowly, and I like how this turned out.  There's still some of that 'jam' feel to it (especially in the double guitars during the third lead break), but it has some nice structure to it, too, I think.  It also has a bit of a "chill" feel with some ambient, delay-heavy guitars in the background and my simplistic keyboard drones mixed in.

I really hope you enjoy this, and I'd love to know what you think.  Feel free to comment and let me know...

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keep It Short...

Wow -- it's been a month since my last blog post update!?!?  I'm really sorry about that.  Clearly I was right in pulling back as I mentioned in my last posts...

But I also do want to keep this blog alive, so in the interest of quickly interjecting some new content, I will post a couple of short offerings.  One writing and one musical.  I will also promise to try and get a little more content on here, on a little more regular basis. 

But in the meantime, here's this:

A Short Writing Snippet:

I've recently made another submission to 50-Word Stories, and I'm optimistic that the owner of the site Tim Sevenhuysen will like it and that it'll get published on the site.  But who knows?  So rather than wait, I'm also going to go ahead and share it here, too.  To refresh your memory, a 50-word story has -- you guessed it -- 50 words.  Not one word more; not one word less.  It's fun to try and get as much emotional impact and story 'arc' as you can into only 50 words.

I hope you like this one. I call this micro-flash story, "The Sound of Forgetting:"

The Sound of Forgetting
I heard your old rocker creak and for a moment, I forgot.

It might have been a stray breeze, or maybe just the cat brushing against it -- a remnant from all the years he rubbed contentedly against your legs.

But in my heart it was you, home once again.


A Short Musical Interlude:

At Wikiloops, I continue to periodically add new tracks to all the great stuff that's there.  One recent thing I did was add a couple of quick guitars to a short, moody keyboard piece ("Through the Eyes of the Defeated") by a user named "GhostFish".  I thought the feel was very cool with an epic build, and so I added a couple of quick guitar tracks.  I started with mellower clean guitar, and then switched to a more raucous, screamin' lead as the track intensity climbs.  This is one of those short, off-the-cuff things that I ended up liking how it turned out.  I wish I could embed it here, but unless I upload it to SoundCloud, I can't.  So please click below and see what you think of this short musical piece:

Before The Storm

Also, feel free to check out the "My Tracks" tab of My Wikiloops Profile page if you're interested in hearing any of the other stuff I've uploaded there.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and listen!  I hope you thought it it was a short time spent well...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Music: "Snow Day"

(image from wikimedia commons)

My intent for this blog is to have a place to share my creative work -- my music and my writing, primarily.  But recently, I've unfortunately been unable to post a much as I would like to on this blog, and a lot of my most recent posts didn't really adhere to this core intent.

So I'd like to remedy that by posting a recent musical piece I created.  I call it "Snow Day" because it was created in January during the height of the polar vortex, when we were basically snowed in at home for a couple of days.  The roads were closed, work and schools were closed, and there was a good two feet of snow in our back yard.  Not to mention sub-zero temperatures and wind-chills near 30-below zero.

I took a lot of the time to make some music, and this piece is the main one I came up with during that time.  It is not a wikiloops piece -- the only musician involved is me.  I played bass, keys, and (of course) guitar, and even created my own drum loops from editing some free ones I'd found and adding in some of my own MIDI drum patterns.

It's not too involved of a piece compared to some tracks I've made, but I like the overall effect -- the vibe kind of has that 'trapped in the snow with nowhere to go' kind of slow vibe, I think.

Feel free to have a listen and see what you think:

I welcome any comments or thoughts you might like to share.

Thank you very much for listening!  I'll see you again with my next post which will be...  at some point in the future, but hopefully not to far in the future.  ;)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Blogging Update -- Time for a Change...

Hi, there.

Well, it seems that in my on-again, off-again blogging, I have been very much in the off-again mode this past month.

First, let me apologize for any concern that my unplanned and sudden absence may have caused -- I can assure you that really, all is well.  I went through a battle with the flu and some other things, and in spite of my good intentions, my short blogging lull stretched from a few days into several weeks.  But on the overall scale of "things-that-could-go-wrong," I'm thankful that my absence was mainly caused by things that are actually pretty low on the list.

However, it's become clear to me that at this stage in my life, blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat.  It's not that I don't like it, and -- thankfully -- it's not because I don't have anything to blog about.  This is supposed to be an outlet for "the creative output of StratPlayer" and I'm glad that I'm still managing to squeeze in at least a little time to do the creative things that I want to blog about.  So that's a plus.  It's much better to create and not blog, than to blog about what I'm not creating, right?

But still, I think it's time to make some changes to this blog.  I obviously need to step aside from any scheduled blogging activity.  I enjoy them, but I can't seem to make them a consistent, long-term commitment that I can honor.  So I'm stepping aside from the Battle of the Bands, and also from the Insecure Writers Support Group.  I enjoyed both and have nothing but respect for the founders of both, but I think it's wrong to take part in something unless I can consistently do so.

I may still post a "Newsday 200" kind of story from time to time, but the scheduled "Tuesday" part of it will stop. 

Moving forward, this blog will become more of an unscheduled, solo journal -- no "gotta post on a given day" kinds of posts.  More like just a place to post and share any writing and music that I create.  That's really my core intention for this blog, anyway.

But I'm afraid this will not be much of a social blog.  No blog-hops, no blogging events, no blogathons, no "sign-up-in-the-linky-list" activities.

I know there are a LOT of wonderful bloggers out there that I've come to know and admire and enjoy over the years, and I do regret that I don't have the time to interact with them much for the foreseeable future.  I also know that my blog will likely suffer in terms of readership -- there will unfortunately be very little, "I'll read and comment on yours if you read and comment on mine" exchanges for a while. I don't want this to sound selfish -- as I said, I REALLY do enjoy all the other bloggers I've interacted with, and I will still try to visit their blogs as I can. 

But for at least the short-term future, my blog will pretty much shift to being just an journal of my own stuff and not as much of a home base for any interactive, social blogging activity.

Of course, I still welcome you to visit and read and listen and hopefully enjoy what I post here.  But that posting may be on an erratic schedule, and I will not be able to do much in the way of return-blogging and commenting reciprocity.  Please don't take it personally -- if you have a blog of your own and don't see much from me, it's absolutely NOT that I'm avoiding you or that I don't enjoy your blog. 

I'm just that when it comes to blogging, I'm afraid I'm kind of stuck in a "post-and-run" time-crunch these days.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BOTB 2/1/14: "All Along the Watchtower"

Happy February!

That's probably not a salutation you encounter often.  However, if you live in the northern half of the US and you're like me, then you're probably very sick of winter and cold and snow and yearning for warmer weather.  Well, I may not be able to take the fact that we're out of January as a sign of imminent spring, but at least it means we're getting closer to it, and I'm finding that cause for joyous salutation!

You know, you might think that having to endure a long winter would inspire me to blog more, but it seems that my blogging activity has been much less over the past few months.  The good news is that I have been busy actually doing the things I blog about (making music and actually writing), and if I have to choose, I'd rather be creative and not blog, than blog and not actually create.  I just need more hours in the day to be able to do it all, I guess.  :)

But I do want to keep this blog at least a little active, and the Battle of the Bands (BOTB) is one way to do that. Committing to posting on the 1st and 15th of each month means that you're guaranteed at least some new content on a semi-regular basis.  Just in case you haven't seen my previous BOTB posts, let me explain that the BOTB is a blogging event started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013.  This event occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and each of the bloggers taking part offers readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition. 

Today, I'm going with a classic song that -- truthfully -- I'm surprised hasn't already been covered by one of the other BOTB bloggers:  "All Along the Watchtower".

"All Along the Watchtower" was written by Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka 'Bob Dylan') in 1966 as one of many songs he wrote while recovering from a motorcycle accident.  Dylan then recorded it in 1967 as part of his John Wesley Harding album.  Here's Dylan's original 1967 version in a video that's sound only:

Jimi Hendrix was so impressed with the song that he recorded a version of it six months after John Wesley Harding was released, including it on the Electric Ladyland album in 1968.  Here's that version:

The Hendrix version has a lot more production, definitely has some excellent guitar playing, and is probably the better-known version of the song, but is it really better than Dylan's original?  What if there was a version of the song that combined stellar guitar playing with Dylan's original sparse arrangement?  How about a solo acoustic rendition of the song?  Well, here's a live version by acoustic guitar master Michael Hedges recorded at Wolf Trap in July, 1986:

A side note -- i you enjoy acoustic guitar and are unfamiliar with Michael Hedges, I encourage you to seek out some of his recordings.  He was a phenomenal player who specialized in alternate-tunings, and who -- like Hendrix -- died at a much-too-young age.  Hedges was 43 when he was killed in a car accident in 1997.

For this BOTB, I could post many, many more versions of "All Along the Watchtower"  --  it's been covered in the studio and live by a myriad of musicians and there's even a very cool Indian-influenced version of it on the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. Also, given it's catchy groove and three-chord simplicity, there are a gazillion self-made cover videos that have been uploaded to YouTube.  You could spend days listening to versions of this song.

But what about Michael, Jimi, and the original composer, Bobby Z.?  Who did it better?  You get to decide in the comments below!

I invite you to listen to each and give them a chance. After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime -- keep thinking thoughts of spring!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Newsday Two-Hundred #5 and BOTB Results

It's a Tuesday, so that means it's an opportunity for an entry in my semi-regular, quasi-periodic, almost-feature blogging topic, the Tuesday Newsday Two-Hundred (TN200).  This is where I create a snippet of blog-exclusive writing of exactly 200 words, based on a recent story in the news.

So I'd like to offer you a new TN200 post, and also provide my own vote and give the results from my last Battle of the Bands post -- I'll do that at the end of this post.

But first, for this initial 2014 edition of TN200, I thought I'd go in a different direction than using a humorous odd-ball story as inspiration like usual. In this piece, my inspiration is more... Inspirational.  I call it "Bridging the Gap" and I hope you enjoy it.  As always, the link to the original news story is at the end.


Bridging the Gap

Jonny felt the swirling winds tousle his hair.  He hadn't come here for the view, but the light reflecting off the water far below him was riveting.

The voice came from behind him again.  "Please don't do this, mate," it said.  A man's voice. Jonny heard anxiety in it.  Jonny had to admit he felt nervous himself.  Funny -- he'd thought it was going to be easy.

Jonny didn't turn around. "What's your name?" he asked.

"Mike," the man said.  Or maybe the man said "Mark?"  "Ike?"  Jonny wasn't sure. Whatever -- 'Mike' worked.

"Why do you care, Mike?" Jonny said.

"I just do," Mike said. "You can get through it."

Jonny snorted. "You don't even know what's wrong."

"It don't matter, mate. You can get better, whatever it is."

Jonny stopped staring at the flickering water and turned to look at Mike.  He was in his early twenties and looked like a typical yuppie, probably on his way to work.  Jonny noticed a small crowd gathering behind Mike.  He could also hear sirens approaching.

"Let's go for a coffee and talk it over," Mike said.

Jonny sighed.  Why the hell not? The moment was past, anyway.

He climbed down.

Original News Story: Trying to Find 'Mike'


Battle of The Bands 1/15/2014 Results

In my last Battle of the Bands (BOTB) post, I offered up "Take Me to the River" by both Talking Heads and Al Green, who originally wrote the song.

This is a favorite song of mine, and I really like both versions.  The Talking Heads can be a bit of an acquired taste -- and there are many of their songs that get not much more than a "meh" response from me.  But the funky infectious bass line of "Take Me to the River" and the groove and catchy chorus are awesome.  I know that a big reason why I like the Talking Heads version is probably because Al Green wrote the song to begin with.  The mix of arty and weird with earthy funk and groove is what I like most about the Talking Heads, and when that earthy foundation isn't there, the band is not nearly as good in my opinion.  The pinnacle of the band was their "Remain in Light" album, when that funk and groove were up-front and hitting you hard, and then when coupled with freak-out guitar master Adrian Belew? Incredible.

So, yes --a lot of why I like "Take Me to the River" is because of the funk and groove that Al Green put there (and I especially love his live version of the song in last week's BOTB post), but coupling it with the arty weirdness of the Talking Heads gives it extra impact, I think.  

But that really doesn't change the result.  Even with my vote, Al wins this one:

-- Al Green 4; Talking Heads 3.

However, as a parting gift, let me leave you with a live version of "The Great Curve" from the Talking Heads album "Remain in Light".  This was recorded live in Rome in 1980 and the sound and video quality are shaky, but check out that funk!! Busta Jones as an extra bass player to compliment Tina Weymouth, and Adrian Belew in full psycho screaming guitar mode.  Amazing!  I defy you to listen and not start bobbin' your head or tappin' your toe. ;)


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

BOTB 1/15/14: "Take Me to the River"

So far, my 2014 blogging is not going as planned -- I've been a little more absent than I'd like, but I do expect that to change soon.  And at least I'm staying on top of the Battle of the Bands (BOTB) event -- we're on to the second BOTB of 2014!  To refresh your memory, the BOTB is a blogging event started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of last year.  This event occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and each of the bloggers taking part offers readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the the readers get to vote for your favorite rendition. 

This is the third BOTB I've taken part in, and I let the first two be partially dictated by the calender:  Christmas music in the one for 12/15/13 and "Auld Lang Syne" for New Year's Day on 1/1/14. This is the first BOTB where the playing field is wide open, so I'm going to do the song that I first thought of as a BOTB contender when I was considering joining this event:  "Take Me to the River."

This song was written in 1974 by Al Green, but I first remember hearing it when I watched Saturday Night Live on February 10, 1979 and saw the band Talking Heads perform the song (you can watch the episode on Hulu if you want).  The song was also their first single to break into the top 40 (reaching #26 on the Billboard charts), and it's a song that many people associate with the band.  But how does it compare to the original by Al Green?  Let's find out in a Battle of the Bands!

Here's the studio version by Talking Heads, from the 1978 album "More Songs About Buildings and Food":

And just to compare live versions, here's a Talking Heads having fun onstage with it, from their 1984 concert film and soundtrack, "Stop Making Sense":

And now, the original by Al Green, from the 1974 album, "Al Green Explores Your Mind":

And finally, a live version by Al Green on Soul Train from 1975, complete with roses:

I think this is one of those songs that's just so good that every version of it is enjoyable -- and it's been performed and recorded a ton of times by many other artists including, Foghat, Annie Lennox, and Tom Jones

But between Talking Heads and Al Green -- studio and live combined -- who do you think did it better?

I invite you to listen to each and give them a chance (and remember -- the goal is to compare the music, not the videos, so I encourage you to ignore the images, although I admit it is hard to overlook David Byne's big suit and Al Green's roses).

After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Finally -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:
Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the first part of next week to find out how the voting has gone!  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner!