The Amazing Mirvana

Travels, and makes stuff.

Archive for the tag “music”

Notes from Music class at Gulf Wars

Middle Eastern Influence on Medieval Western European Music
by Master Avatar of Catsprey, Ansteorra

Mr. Avatar provided a handout with lots of interesting tidbits of information and references, and I would recommend visiting his Web site and getting his book, Medieval Songs and Dances.
He seems a very knowledgable person on the subject, and if his class at Gulf Wars was any indication, the book should prove useful to any aspiring melody musician in the SCA.

These are just my personal notes (not in the handout) and what I can remember from the class.

Mr. Avatar’s research is based on the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of roughly 410 songs from the period. However, the accuracy of the musical notation is a bit sketchy and subject to interpretation.

-Nahawand was used
-The Arabs commonly used dorian modes
-Quarter tones??? not known for sure if they were used or how they were used
-Hexachord tuning was used: 1 2 3 4 5, 1 2 3 4 5
-Mixolydian was used heavily by the Spanish

We played a musical game called estampie(sp?)–the stomping game, so named because there was supposedly an accompanying dance that may have involved stomping.

We borrowed a melody from the Cantigas–#42–and agreed on the following tuning: dorian starting on G. We applied a syrto rhythm to the melody. I imagined that this is how musicians would work in period because sheet music was not used; players would just negotiate the rhythm and mode and learn the melody by ear. So we played this melody a few times until everyone got it. The melody has a first and second ending–first ending is open, second ending is resolution.

Play the melody through as an ensemble once, then first person plays about an 8-beat solo (variation on the melody), and follows it with the main melody and first ending. Everyone joins in to play the main melody, then first person repeats the solo and follows it with the main melody and second ending. Each musician takes a turn being the soloist. You try to repeat the same solo each time, and as it goes around, if you remember the solo that someone else is playing, you are free to join in. It’s a memory game.

The other exercise we worked on in class was simply how to construct a new main melody line, and then each musician takes a turn playing a solo (variation on the melody) after some number of repeats of the main melody. Once again, we made up a melody based on the syrto rhythm, dorian mode starting on G. I was surprised by how quickly we were all able to learn the new melody, by ear, without any sheet music or anything written down. I also got more comfortable with improvising the solo bits.

I really liked the whole idea of improvising and creating a new melody in the period style, as period musicians might have done. The melodies had to be simple, so that everyone could learn quickly and play along. This style also gives you the flexibility to negotiate tuning, mode, rhythm and such. I think I prefer this over trying to get all the musicians you know to learn the same songs, which are more modern and complex.

One thing that helped me was my pocket guide to music theory. I don’t know what all the modes are, so I had to look up dorian. But once I had that figured out, it was no problem picking up the melodies we were using.

20/20 Proof CD release party

I almost forgot…it was a great show last Friday and you shoulda been there! The turnout was somewhat disappointing, probably due to the weather. You silly Pittsburghers! I thought there would be more of a crowd because of all the different bands playing so I didn’t try promoting it too hard, but I think that the cold wet yukky weather kept a lot of people away. Anyway:

All the bands put on a great performance.

Boca Chica went on first. They are very folkie sounding, with all acoustic instruments: banjo, guitar, violin, stand-up bass, etc. Female vocalist. Sounded like Joan Baez or Indigo Girls, but I’m not very knowledgable about that genre so don’t go by me. I thought they sounded good but it’s not my cuppa tea.

Between the Waters went on next and they were awesome, as usual. My friends at the show who never saw them before said they really liked them, and liked their “haunting” sound.

There was a long pause afterwhich, and we sat there wondering what was taking so long for the next band to come up.

Harangue – after they finally got started, I didn’t think I would like them at first, but by the end of their set I really really liked them. The singer looked like Johnny Depp and acted just as strangely as some of his characters. On some songs, they sounded vaguely like The Cramps, and P said they reminded her of Klaus somebody…an art rocker from the 70s? They put on a quirky and weird stage performance. The singer even stopped in the middle of a song because his mic had fallen out of the stand, and then they started right up again where they left off. There was much chuckling about it in the audience. I really liked the instrumental they played, which is the track on the 20/20 Proof compilation CD, N’est Front Pas. I was especially impressed with their drummer. He played a lot of complex funky rhythms, like what you find on the last page of your “Funky Rhythm Primer” (note to those of you who never had drum lessons, the rhythms in the book get progressively harder and harder.)

Chalk Outline Party – liked them a lot. They were the “loudest” band to go on. I think the singer sounds like Nick Cave, if Nick was more energetic. You can tell that the lead guitarist is heavily influenced by classic rock and progressive metal. Some of the guitar licks reminded me of Van Halen and Rush. But this band definitely has their own unique sound.

The last band was Ennui, and I had seen them before, and we were tired, so we did not hang around for their set. But I do like Ennui and will make an effort to see them again some other time.

Sianspheric and A Northern Chorus @Garfield Artworks

Sianspheric–…like ocean waves crashing into my soul, and…musical orgasms. Liked ’em a lot. Exemplary shoegazer sound–shimmery, layered guitar effects, almost overtaking the vocals, but still with a sense of melody. I purchased their RGB DVD and CD set.

A Northern Chorus–…notes ringing out like droplets of rain into a still pool…also liked very much. More artistically crafted landscape of sound, with cello and harmonizing vocals. I purchased their latest CD, Bitter Hands Resign.

If you like these bands, you should come out to see Between the Waters play at the Club Cafe on Tue., Aug. 9, the early show.

MC Homeless (hip-hop) from Ohio opened up and I thought it was pretty good for hip-hop. However, the other opening band did not show up and I spent and excruciatingly boring time waiting for something else to happen. There was hardly anyone there when I showed up, and all told there were maybe a little over 20 people in attendance for the headliners. I talked to Manny and asked him stupid questions, to which I got extremely informative answers which made me feel stupid, but I appreciated the information. Manny is an amazingly useful resource when it comes to indie music, if you can stand being served. Otherwise, it was uncomfortably warm in the venue, the sound was a bit fuzzy, and I became dangerously tired in the middle of A Norther Chorus, so I didn’t see their whole set. But I got the CD, which is awesome, having listened to it in the car on the way home.

Noteworthy: Some new friends/acquaintences lured me away from the show briefly to get a beer at a local bar, Nico’s. This place is one of those cool neighborhood corner pubs. We played the “there are almost no degrees of separation from anyone if you live in Pittsburgh” game. I just met these people and sure enough, we discovered that we had a vast pool of mutual friends and connections. Needless to say, I enjoy meeting new people, even if I already practically know them.

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