Music



Stuff of mine

Here's a tune that I composed and play soprano saxophone on. From the 1991 recording by The Balkan Noyz Boyz (Dan Auvil, Allan Cline, Bill Cope, Steve Finney, Ruth Hunter, Kip McAtee). The entire album (originally released on cassette) can be found on Youtube.

Pamela's Ruchenitsa

I was very flattered when Andy Irvine covered this on his 1996 "Rain on the Roof" album, in a medley with two traditional Balkan tunes. Amusingly, he learned both "Pamela's" and the "Gruncharsko" from a tape I had sent him of a pick-up band that performed one 25-minute set at Mendocino Balkan Camp in 1988, under the name "The Sex Potatoes" (Kip McAtee, Erik Butterworth, Jerry Kisslinger, and me). For historical purposes only, those original versions are provided here. "Pamela's" includes what is possibly the first performance of a Johnny Cash song in a 7/8 rhythm since Earth 1.0 was released.

Pamela's Ruchenitsa #2

Gruncharsko

I was also flattered when Medna Usta asked me to play kaval with them for a few reunion gigs: the first times they'd performed together since 19...ahem, ahem. Here's an instrumental from a 2014 gig at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley (Dena Bjornlie, Ruth Hunter, Anne Cleveland, me). This tune also appears on their "All Dressed Up" recording.

Kavrak Eleno

TUNE IN PROGRESS (Sep, 2016): I've been meaning (for a Long Time) to compose a few tunes and then record them with some basic overdubbing. Since I've been dragging my feet on actually taking it seriously, I'm going to quickly post a few versions of something that is somewhat interesting (at least in the genre of Bulgarian-Celtic tunes in 5/8). The first is a 2-minute improv with drum machine, chords played with foot pedals, and kaval (Bulgarian end-blown flute). The second is an improv kaval overdub onto the first version. Recorded at home with a small ZOOM digital recorder.

Very preliminary, but I think it has potential as a 3-part tune.

Edgewood1 (a)

Edgewood1 (b)

Stuff from others

A version of a Punjabi tune played by Brooklyn-based brass band "Red Baraat".

Apna Punjab Hove #1

What I assume is the original Punjabi version (by Gurdas Maan). I have no idea of the political context of the video.

Apna Punjab Hove #2

The "Golden Record" on the Voyager spacecraft. The ultimate, physically instantiated, "Desert Island Disk". Featuring Valya Balkanska, Chuck Berry ("Send more Chuck Berry"), Bach, Pygmy, Gamelan, Stravinsky, and Blind Willie Johnson, but not the Beatles because EMI objected. The following link allows you to play all the content (click on the large round object in the upper left).

Golden Record

Scribbles

Wardell Gray

Wardell Gray is one of my favorite saxophone players. Here's some miscellaneous trivia and commentary about Wardell.

The entire melody to Twisted (the song with Annie Ross lyrics made famous by Joni Mitchell) is Wardell's composition and **improvised solo** over a bebop blues chord progression (many people are surprised to discover it's not a Joni Mitchell composition). In addition to the released take, there are 4 alternate versions; transcriptions of all of them are available at Jeff Rzepiela's excellent website.

Recordings like The Chase and The Hunt are often described as "duels" or "battles" or "cutting contests"; this strikes me as completely wrong. Rather, these seem like cooperative ventures, where Wardell and Dexter Gordon are having a blast completing each others melodic lines. (I'm sure that what went on in some of the late night jam sessions one reads about was much more competetive)

Wardell's "The Hunt" is mentioned repeatedly in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (in my Signet paperback edition, at least on pages 94 and 105). "They ate voraciously as Dean, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called "The Hunt", with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume".

Bill Moody has done a series of jazz-oriented mystery novels. "Death of a Tenor Man" (1995, Walker Publishing Company) is a fictional story of a contemporary detective and jazz pianist investigating Wardell Gray's mysterious death.

A ridiculously thorough Wardell Gray discography is available at wardellgray.org

Jefferson Airplane's "Crown of Creation"

Many of the lyrics for the (magnificent!) song "Crown of Creation" (on the 1968 album of the same name) were creatively adapted by the late Paul Kantner from John Wyndham's post-apocalyptic novel "Rebirth". (Here's a lipsynced version on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968). If you know the song, the following passages should seem very familiar (page numbers from my 1978 Ballantine paperback edition). It adapts very well to 60's counterculture :-).

(p 168) "Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking, will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled, they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature...Soon they will attain the ability they strive for, in the only form it is granted--a place among the fossils"

(p181) "In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise; in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction".

Frank Zappa's Use of Assymetric Meters

I have made assorted contributions to the Wikipedia article on Quintuple Meter. However, although Frank Zappa played frequently in 5, there is little reference documentation that meets Wikipedia standards (any claim that a song is in 5 without a 3rd party published reference is deemed to be "original research", which is not suitable for an encylopedia). So I stuck in a couple of sentences, but not as much as I'd like. One useful thing documented there is that among Zappa's hand signals for conducting the band (see this Youtube video) was a signal (5 fingers up) for the band to immediately switch to playing in 5.

This page will list songs of Zappa's that my highly-developed sense of quintuple meter tells me are in 5 even if no published author confirms it. I'll also list songs in some other meters, and reference some Zappa quotes about Bulgarian music. No attempt is made at completeness.

  • Flower Punk (a takeoff on "Hey Joe" from the 1968 studio album "We're Only In It For the Money") has a rhythm which consists of 4 bars of a fast 7 (the instrumental interlude) and 4 bars of a fast 5 (the sung part).

  • Didja Get Any Onya (a 1969 live recording from "Weasels Ripped My Flesh") is in a fast 7 (2-2-3) from 0-:24, and goes into a fast 5 (2-3) from :24-:50. This seems pretty clearly to be a hand-signal controlled improvisation (HCI). The tempos are actually quite appropriate for a Bulgarian paidushko or ruchenitsa. Try them at your next folk-dance event!
    Another (slower) 7 starts around 3:40.

  • Are You Upset (a 1969 live recording from "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore) (YCDTOSA), vol 4) is in a fast 5 from :00-:09 (another HCI).

  • Five Five Five is a composed guitar solo combining 5/8 and 5/4; it appeared on the 1981 album "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar". A portion of Steve Vai's transcription is available in this Guitar Player article that discusses Zappa's use of odd meters.

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