Da Weekend

Jul. 9th, 2017 09:18 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
So Friday evening we flew to Roanoke, VA, the nearest airport to the farm where my brother [profile] mankoeponymous was getting married. The wedding had a "burning" theme: part Burning Man, part fire-dancers (which has been a good deal of my brother's social circle for the past ten years or more), and since [personal profile] shalmestere and I are old fuddy-duddies who have never been to Burning Man OR (intentionally) danced while carrying or wearing anything that was on fire, we were a little dubious. But everybody was very welcoming, and it was a good chance to see a bunch of my family: my mother, two aunts, an uncle, my step-sister, a step-nephew, my half-brother, and my father. My mother and father, I gather, were halfway through introductions before they recognized one another; I guess they hadn't seen one another since my wedding, exactly 22 years before.

The bride had been in a pep band in college, so a marching band playing Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" accompanied the bride and groom to the space where the ceremony was to take place. (I played pipe-and-tabor, while [personal profile] shalmestere played sopranino recorder; I don't think anybody heard either of us. There was some confusion over what key to play the piece in: my brother sent out sheet music, but it was band score in which all the instruments are in different transpositions. Anyway, it was very spirited and peppy.) The vows were largely about recognizing that both parties are fallible human beings, that it's better to argue fairly and constructively than to not argue at all, that the only certainty in life is that things won't go exactly according to plan, etc. etc. During dinner, about a dozen twenty-and-thirty-somethings testified, passionately, in alternation about how wonderful the bride and the groom are. After dinner, we bid farewell to a bunch of relatives, watched a slide show of alternating kiddie pictures of the bride and the groom, and returned to our hotel before it got dark enough for fire-dancing (see "old fuddy-duddies", above).

Between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, we got to drink some good milkshakes, eat some good barbecue and Southern biscuits-and-gravy, and visit the Roanoke city zoo, which is on top of the mountain in the middle of the city (nice views of the other mountains that surround the city on all sides). It's a small zoo, where one can see pretty much everything in an hour, so it fit nicely between brunch with my mother, step-sister, and step-nephew and our afternoon flight home.

A bizarre but enjoyable weekend.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
A few days ago I heard about a workshop on barbershop-quartet arranging, led by a guy named David Wright (who I gather is a macher in the barbershop world, and was influential in broadening the scope of allowable barbershop music beyond pieces written in the 1920's and 1930's). It was too late to sign up for the advanced morning master class (and I didn't have a barbershop arrangement to bring in anyway), but I attended the less-advanced afternoon class, which was a lot of fun. Three hours of music-theory geekery, including discussion of just intonation, Pythagorean commas, the distinguishing characteristics of barbershop harmony, the palette of typical chords used in barbershop, which traditional rules of voice-leading barbershop obeys and which it cheerfully ignores, etc. Wright's day job is as a math professor, so his explanations were exactly in the right language to speak to me (and I think made sense to the rest of the twenty-odd people in the workshop too). And to make it all concrete, he brought up "Happy Birthday" in Finale on his laptop and we collaboratively worked out a four-part barbershop arrangement, arguing measure by measure and note by note over different possible choices.

Now, I'm not really a member of the barbershop world: I've sung about four barbershop pieces in my life, and have never actually arranged for barbershop. But I've arranged in late-medieval-early-Renaissance style, which has certain similarities, most notably that the "melody" is usually in the middle of the texture rather than on top (called "lead" in barbershop and "tenor" in medieval), and that the other middle part (called "baritone" in barbershop and "contratenor" in medieval) tends to get the weird notes left over, and therefore makes no sense on its own. And hey, vocal harmony is vocal harmony. If it sounds good, it is good.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
We're all familiar with "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy," "There's a bathroom on the right," "You're a mahogany tree, babe," and the like.  This morning on our favorite folkie-singer-songwriter station was a song with a country-western vibe whose chorus tag-line seemed to be "She's a mixed up meshugginah girl".  On further listening, I concluded it was really "She's a mixed up, mixed up sugar girl," which actually makes LESS sense than the mis-heard version.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I'm glad I live in a time when technology allows somebody to do this.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I first heard of Pete Seeger when he made a guest appearance on "Sesame Street".  My parents were visibly startled: "I thought he refused to appear on television" or something like that; they told me the story of the blacklist.  It must have been no later than 1972, because my parents were seldom in the same room after 1972.

Some time in the 1970's, my mother took me and my brother to see the annual Pete-and-Arlo show at Wolf Trap, outside Washington, DC.  We were in the cheap seats, on a picnic blanket on the lawn, but we had no trouble hearing, and between the stellar performers and the adoring audience, it was a great show.  Eleven encores.  Or maybe that was the second time we saw them at Wolf Trap... or maybe the third....

I grew up, of course, with songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (which I learned in both English and German).  I heard more stories about the Weavers, the blacklist, and HUAC from my mother's boyfriend Dick (who played banjo, IIRC) some time around 1977.

The last time I "encountered" Pete Seeger was a New York City concert thrown in honor of him at 89 his 80-somethingth birthday, featuring Pete's grandson Tao, Arlo, one or more of Peter, Paul, and Mary, and a bunch of other folk luminaries.  Pete was unable to get to the concert, having come down with a cold, but Tao stood on stage, called him on his cell phone, and had the audience sing "Happy Birthday" to him. [ETA: this is probably a reconstructed memory, not a real one, since as [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere points out, the concert was in January, and his birthday was in May.  Tao did stand on stage, call Pete on his cell phone, and have the audience say or sing something, but I don't remember what.]

I'm not sure when or where I last saw Pete Seeger on stage, but I remember thinking "he has no voice left, he's doing almost none of the singing, and he STILL has the audience in the palm of his hand."  A Pete Seeger performance was not about Pete Seeger; it was about the audience, with Pete as a sort of instigator.  And when he wasn't performing, he was still instigating: getting people to seek peaceful solutions to problems, getting people to clean up messes, getting people to hold the powerful accountable, getting people to make the world a better place, or just getting people to play banjo.

As [livejournal.com profile] osewalrus put it, his death is not a tragedy: he lived to 94, doing the things he loved, making people happy, and making the world a better place, and he was reasonably healthy and mentally alert until the last few days.  Few of us could complain about that.

My fellow Americans, as long as this country has patriots like Pete Seeger, who care passionately about peace, justice, and leaving our children a better world than we were given, the state of our Union will be strong.

"How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get-up-and-go has got up and went.
But in spite of it all, I'm able to grin
And think of the places my get-up has been."
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Met [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere at Madison Square Park to celebrate anniversary with burgers and a free concert (The Duhks and Red Molly).


Dec. 7th, 2007 09:11 am
hudebnik: (Default)
Last night [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I took the train into Manhattan, had dinner at went to a concert. Not medieval stuff this time, but folkie-WFUV-ish singer-songwriters.

The opening act was a Christina Courtin, whom I'd never heard of (which is usually the idea of opening acts). Watching her was frustrating, like watching somebody drive a Porsche in first gear: she's got a good voice, with power and range, but she spent most of her 45 minutes on stage choking it back to sound like either Ani DiFranco or Minnie Mouse. And she has a strange stage presence: for most of that time she was looking off stage right rather than at the audience, and for a few minutes all I could see was a swirl of hair in front of her face (think Invisigirl from "The Incredibles"). She's got a skilled, flashy acoustic guitarist, whose name I didn't catch.

The headliner was Vienna Teng, who has a lovely, clear alto voice and classical piano training. Her tight ensemble of backup musicians comprised a violinist who sings mezzo-soprano, a cellist who sings baritone, and a percussionist who also plays guitar and sings tenor. She's got an interesting compositional style, influenced as much by Debussy and Kurt Weill as by Radiohead (whom I know from nothing, but she talked about them in between songs, and one of her songs was evidently a cover or a commentary on a Radiohead song); she has a real knack for the emotionally effective use of chromaticism. The biggest crowd-pleaser song of the evening, however, was the musically uncomplicated, country-esque "City Hall", about a couple road-tripping to San Francisco to get married during the few weeks that the Mayor was performing same-sex marriages before the State stomped on him. Most of her songs are less political, more personal. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed it.


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