Tuesday, May 29, 2012

solo Twang: Swamp Castle

The switch from a solo-oriented computer-based recording setup focused on solo multitracking to a band-capable setup centered around the Zoom R24 was great for the production of The Sound of Secret Names, but it was something of a setback for my own ability to do quick sketches. The shortcoming was logistical, but I think I've got all the cables in all the right places now so that I can switch back and forth between solo and band projects pretty readily.

This sketch is built as a simple elaboration on a Dorian modal figure (albeit with some passing chromatic notes). I'm not sure if it has further evolution in its future. I can imagine Joel playing the guitar line on the bass, perhaps, and seeing where that leads, but who knows.

When I invented the loopy guitar riff, I was specifically thinking of doing something "swampy" to accompany some imagery I captured recently at Barataria Preserve. By the time I added the recorder and such, though, the sound was headed in rather a different direction, hence the odd title.

Bonus points to you if the title makes you too think of "huge tracts of land."

I eventually used the swamp video elsewhere.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

solo Twang: How Moxley Rolls

This is about as close to a 'blues' as we get. Yes, it's sort of 18-bar jazz blues, not counting the bridges, and unsurprisingly, it doesn't follow a "normal" blues progression. Probably I'll make the 18 bars into 19 or 20 sometimes. It's really the blue feeling that motivates me, not the blue rules. Also, I really can't keep a count in my head very easily.

Named for Joel's spazzy dog Moxley (who totally chills out whenever we start playing music, often rolling over on her back and playing dead), this recording is a good snapshot of Twang composition at work, offering a glimpse of a pre-band arrangement. Generally, I'm the "writer" of our original material. But as we operate in a jazz & rock realm, "writing" means little more than creating a structure within which others can move musically. Put Joel and Troy into this, and it'll be quite different -- and they'll be doing their own thing.

Compositional credit is strange thing in that regard. Of late, I've been reading Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (an excellent read, by the way). One of the issues covered briefly is a bit of controversy over whether Bill Evans deserves shared credit for some of the songs, "Flamenco Sketches" and "Blue in Green" in particular. Davis is listed as the sole composer on the album, but beyond the direct Evans issue, what does the idea that Miles Davis composed these songs mean? Naturally, Davis wasn't telling Coltrane, Adderley, Chambers, Cobb, or Evans what specifically to play; rather, he was directing the sessions and laying down ground rules for the pieces they'd record over two sessions. In other words, he was saying "it goes like this," and expecting them to get in the groove. Miles is clearly the bandleader, with Evans serving as the key musical adviser, but everyone is utilizing their own creativity to participate.

My Twang composition proceeds in a similar fashion; some songs are about particular chordal progressions (like this one), others are about progressions of modes, and sometimes there's a combination of these approaches. I'm usually offering some melodic ideas that allow the progressions to have identity as a "piece," but my directions to Joel and Troy are basically just of the "it goes like this" variety. And then the music is off the leash, I'm surprised, the band is working, and that is how Moxley rolls (click for the band's version).

Friday, May 4, 2012

acoustic Twang: Phrygian Enchantment # 1

So, Joel and I were discussing modes last night, especially as connected to medieval music and a possible future recording project. I happened to have my Zoom recorder to hand as we experimented with different modes, so I captured a couple of our study improvisations.

The present piece is in F# Phrygian, which it so happens a dulcimer tuned DAA with a capo at the 2nd fret is primed to play. Joel's playing accordion on this one, which led to a contemplation, as yet unresolved, over how best we might amplify accordion to work into the live show. We do live in Louisiana, luckily, so I'm guessing we can find some folks who have solved this problem already...

I shot the strange little film of bugs and flowers in my backyard earlier in the day.