Browsing Tag



For the record, I have indeed seen this

A couple of people have asked me already if I’ve seen this video of 16-year-old David Thibault in Quebec, covering Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”. So before anybody else does, yep, seen it!

To my ear, the kid sounds like he’s trying just a little too hard to mimic Elvis’ accent and vocal mannerisms, which isn’t exactly his fault–I make that objection about most Elvis impersonators I hear. In his particular case, he’s crossing a language barrier here too. So I cut a lot of slack for that.

And he does have great resonance to his voice, and the overall quality of it is definitely Elvis-like. I’d love to hear him try something backing off just a tad on the accent, then he’d be spot on. Alternately, I’d love to hear him sing something in his natural accent, just to spook me right out and make me wonder when the hell Elvis got resurrected in Quebec. 😉

And if he REALLY wants to combine more of my musical interests, he should play the bouzouki!

+10 as well for the reaction of the lady at the mike. I’m pretty sure I actually understood her crying “t’es incroyable!”–i.e., “you’re incredible”. \0/


Author questions: In which I am asked about music

When I put out a call on Facebook for possible post topics for my last Here Be Magic post, I got a couple other excellent questions that I thought would be excellent post fodder on their own. One of those was on what I’m sure y’all will agree is a topic near and dear to my heart, to wit:

“How does your music influence your writing and vice versa?”

Mad props to Kaye for this question, for lo, it is a good question.

How music influences my writing is pretty blatantly obvious to anybody who’s read Faerie Blood. I mean, I’ve got a male lead character who’s a bouzouki player from Newfoundland, f’r cryin’ out loud–though to my amusement, I have in fact actually surprised a person or two when I told them that Christopher is not in fact played in the Faerie Blood Movie in My Brain by Alan Doyle.

And of course there’s Elessir, my Unseelie Elvis impersonator, calling upon the other great musical fandom of my life. Pre-dating Great Big Sea by years and years and years, even. I’m basically throwing all the music I love into the Warder universe, and that meant that it was absolutely imperative that Elvis show up somehow. (For the record–Quebec trad will also be eventually showing up. Christopher’s young cousin Caitlin is getting a boyfriend. And that boy’s going to be from Quebec!)

But in a larger sense, Faerie Blood‘s just one example of how music winds up being critical to just about all of my characters. Over in Valor of the Healer, Kestar Vaarsen (who is played in the Movie in My Brain by Alan Doyle) is a mandolin player. And back in the day, when I was active on my various MUSHes, a whole hell of a lot of the characters I played were musically inclined to one degree or another. Faanshi’s original AetherMUSH incarnation could play the lyre, and she wrote a lament in honor of her lost first love. Rillwhisper, my primary alt on Two Moons MUSH, played the flute. So did F’hlan, my bronze rider on PernMUSH. Shenneret Veery, my primary alt on Star Wars MUSH, was my bard babe with a blaster and could play any instrument she got her hands on, and she headed up the band called the Womprats for several months of my roleplay of her.

Long story short, in pretty much anything I write, there’s going to be at least one character who makes music. Probably more. It may not even be immediately pertinent to the plot–I keep thinking of one of the things I love about the Aubrey-Maturin saga, wherein one of the defining characteristics of those books is how Jack and Stephen periodically just take time out and play the hell out of the violin and cello. Because they love music that much. I want the same for my characters in my books, because I don’t get enough of that in my personal, actual life.

There are reasons that the covers of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker feature the characters with their instruments as well as hints of magic–because the instruments are as vital to them as the magic is. (And when I finally get Kiri Moth to do Christopher on top of Signal Hill in St. John’s with his bouzouki, oh, that’s going to be good.)

How my writing influences my music is the tougher flip side of this question. I have been known to occasionally write music–that aforementioned song of AetherMUSH!Faanshi’s? I wrote actual, singable lyrics for that, and I’m going to eventually turn it into a reel that could in theory be playable at a session.

But writing music is a different skill than writing prose, and I’m not very practiced at it. It’s hard for me. That said? I often find myself wanting there to be music to accompany my books. This is, after all, why Dara’s still working on the Bone Walker soundtrack. My history with filk is a contributing factor to this–I’ve heard so much awesome filk that’s about various and sundry books or graphic novels (especially Elfquest) that a big part of me would squeal in delight at the prospect of Warder universe filk.

And I keep totally wanting to filk Great Big Sea’s “Ferryland Sealer” to “Faerieland Sealer”, which is absolutely and unequivocably a Warder universe song.

That about covers it, I think! Any questions on this, drop a comment! Or any further questions you want to fling me, to be addressed here or in future Here Be Magic posts, let me know!


A little STOMPY for your Friday!

When I commit acts of musical fandom, I learn tunes (and have a tendency to pester fiddle and flute players).

When Dara commits acts of musical fandom, major cities are leveled and the Cascadia Mecha Militia is deployed! Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, I give you my belovedest supervillain’s latest composition: Kaiju Meat, her ode to all things Pacific Rim, written for this weekend’s Jaegercon on Tumblr!

Go! Clickie! It’s a free download! THE CASCADIA MECHA MILITIA NEEDS YOU!

Other People's Books

And now, I need to talk about The Hum and the Shiver

I said as much in my previous post, but I’m pulling this up to a post of its own because it’s absolutely worth it: I’m about halfway through The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe.

I could and should tell you that, pursuant to the previous post’s topic, this book is a) written by a male author, and b) passes the Bechdel at least twice, and this is with me being only about halfway through. But what I really want to tell you is oh holy hopping gods I love this book so much. It could commit several sins in the second half–though I’m really hoping it doesn’t, because I want to finish this up and plow straight into Book 2, Wisp of a Thing, now that it’s out–and I’ll still love it. And here’s why.

For one thing, I’ve posted before about how, although you couldn’t pay me to live again in the South, I am indeed from there, and stories set there tend to resonate with me. Like this one.

But for another, and way more importantly, Bledsoe has created the Tufa, a people who live and breathe music. And when I say ‘live and breathe’, I don’t mean just to the degree you might think of if you’re part of a culture where music is important. The Tufa aren’t just people with a musical tradition. These are people for whom music is woven into the very fabric of their lives. All of them sing, play instruments, and make songs. They get together every night for that express purpose.

The book starts off with Bronwyn Hyatt, a veteran of the war in Iraq, coming home to her family after being severely wounded. And because of the trauma of her injuries, she’s taken a bad hit to her ability to make music. Many of you will probably remember that back in 2003, I broke my arm. Which wasn’t remotely in the same league as the injuries that Bronwyn sustains in the story–but I’m here to tell you, my heart cracked for her when she tried to hold her mandolin and realized she couldn’t play. Because I remembered exactly what it felt like to be unable to play my guitar.

And without going into spoiler territory, I’ll say also that in the bits I just read today, there’s a scene where all of Bronwyn’s family has finally gathered in their home. The very first thing they do when that happens is whip out their instruments and start playing “John Barleycorn”. And again, my heart cracked, because I want to be in a family like that. And a third time, when the music began to work palpable magic on Bronwyn and she was able to play with her family.

There’s a subplot too, involving another character of partial Tufa blood, who reaches out to that part of him and begins to rediscover his musical ability. That, too, makes my heart sweetly ache. Because hi, yeah, I’ve been doing exactly that the last several years of my adult life, after losing the connection to my music when I broke my flute in school.

In the context of the story it’s very, very clear that music is literal magic to the Tufa. “Yes, well, fantasy novel,” you might say. But anyone who’s ever picked up an instrument in their lives will tell you that it’s absolutely true.

There are reasons the Murkworks has so many instruments, played by myself and Dara both. Reasons why you will find at least one musician if not more in almost everything I write. And most of all, reasons why I have to go to session even if I play only one or two songs. There is a special kind of power in a gathering of people who are there for the express purpose of making music.

And I adore this book for celebrating that power no matter what else I’ll find in the second half. I can’t wait to finish it up. And I fully expect that, like any good song, it’ll stay in my heart forever.


Musical adventures at Folklife!

Those of you local to the Seattle area know that Memorial Day weekend is Folklife, and userinfosolarbird and I being well, us, of course we’re hitting the festival as much as possible this weekend!

Yesterday’s adventures started off with an Irish session, apparently the first one at Folklife in four years, and which turned out to be hosted by a flute player named Ming Chen. (He was an excellent flute player, it must be noted.) I saw oodles of flute players besides him as well, and each and every one of them had more Serious Business flutes than my Norouet–which only strengthens my resolve to save up for a Serious Business flute from Casey Burns.

Ming described the session as being intended to welcome newbies who aren’t necessarily brave enough to lead a tune in session, and/or who know only a few tunes, in which category I definitely qualify. So I said HI I’M ANNA and told everybody I knew “Blarney Pilgrim” and “Morrison’s” and “Swallowtail”, and got encouraged to try to play something. So I started playing, which was all very well and good except for the part where I was aiming for “Blarney Pilgrim” and what popped out of my fingers instead was “6/8 d’André Alain”! Because um hi yeah, guess what tune’s stuck at the top of my queue of Jigs I Know In D. *^_^*;;

I went “oh shit sorry” and everybody was understanding (Ming found me later on Facebook and said ‘yeah this happens to all of us’, hee, which is reassuring), and I asked for somebody else to start “Blarney” since I was sure I’d remember it once I heard it. Which I did. “Morrison’s” was also played, which I kept up with more or less. And “Swallowtail Jig”, which I also knew. We did NOT do a couple of the other tunes I know–“Road to Lisdoonvarna” or “Banish Misfortune”. But I did more or less recognize “Butterfly Jig” from it having been played in the now-defunct Renton session. And I tried to actively listen to unfamiliar tunes as well to see if I could at least TRY to piece together any of them by ear. It was hard since everybody blazed through about eighty million tunes.

Several familiar faces were in attendance as well, Jason and Miki and Marilyn from the Renton session as well as Valerie and her husband from the current Quebec session I was going to. Saying hi to all of them was definitely satisfying!

And speaking of my Quebec session crowd, there was later on the great satisfaction of seeing La Famille Leger perform, immediately followed by a group called Podorythmie–which contains no fewer than four of the session crowd. Between both performances there were four, count ’em, four different stepdancers (Dejah with her family, and the three others with the Podorythmie group), and Podorythmie brought along a crankie as well since Sue Truman and Dejah both are really big into those. (If you don’t know what a crankie is, click over to The Crankie Factory, where Sue Truman will tell you all about this old art form!)

Today, Dara and I actually opted to go down for the evening on the grounds that our aforementioned session pal Miki has joined Piper Stock Hill (Facebook link–they don’t have an off-Facebook or off-Myspace website), Seattle’s only band dedicated to the music of Newfoundland. It pleases me DEEPLY that we have such a band, and so Dara and I kinda had to make a point to stop and see them.

Plus, we’d never been down to Folklife during the evening and we wanted to see what it was like. Survey says: a bit more relaxed and groovy, with a thinner crowd. Dara and I scoped out the various craft tents to kill time, at which point we came across a booth FULL OF FLUTES AND WHISTLES. I immediately had to stop, because I’d been highly curious about whether I could play a better whistle, well, better, than the cheap toy one I have now. This particular flute maker had flutes and whistles made out of carbon fiber, in fact, and ZOMG they were pretty.

I was quite impressed by the D whistle they had, and did in fact note that I was able to play it significantly more cleanly than the toy one I’ve got. And I might well have walked off with that whistle as a purchase if I hadn’t then picked up their A flute. Which immediately informed me HI I WANT TO BE YOUR NEW SECONDARY SESSION INSTRUMENT SO YOU CAN PLAY THINGS IN A.

So I went “OKAY!” and promptly bought it. Internets, meet my new flute, shown next to my piccolo for scale!

I Do Not In Fact Have Enough Flutes Yet

I Do Not In Fact Have Enough Flutes Yet

After that, Dara and I wandered around some more and wound up finding another bouzouki player–which necessitated stopping to say hi, because HOLY CRAP SOMEBODY ELSE IN SEATTLE WHO KNOWS WHAT A BOUZOUKI IS. And, like we do because we’re US, we wound up improv-busking a bit of Great Big Sea. I destroyed not one but TWO different thin picks banging on Ti-Jéan, reminding myself to my chagrin that when playing ANYTHING by Great Big Sea, um, yeah, I need the medium picks. I think we can declare this guitar well and throughly broken in now, anyway. And that set us up with the perfect frame of mind to go see Piper Stock Hill have their act!

Last but not least, there was Piper Stock Hill! We’d seen them perform at Folklife before, but this time they had Miki! And this time we stopped to say hi to their leader singer after, so that a) I could buy their CD, and b) I could identify myself and Dara as raving Great Big Sea fangirls. We had a lovely conversation with said lead singer and his wife, and his wife particularly charmed me when she was trying to remember Alan Doyle’s name and couldn’t, so she did a hair flip instead. Because OH MY YES, that’s a gesture universally understood by ALL raving Great Big Sea fans. ;D

So all in all, a great time at Folklife so far! We’re going back down tomorrow for the French-Canadian jam/session that the Legers will be hosting. Maybe we’ll see some of you there!


New music picoreview roundup #1

This being the first of a flurry of mini-reviews of all the various albums I’ve picked up lately!

“Come What May”, by Ad Vielle Que Pourra: Mostly instrumental, but with a lot of hurdy-gurdy goodness. The hurdy-gurdy here isn’t nearly at the powerhouse level that Le Vent du Nord delivers, but that’s not a bad thing, given that I happen to like how the voice of the instrument lends itself to more delicate tunes. What vocals are here are almost choral in their quality, which fits in nicely overall with the understated instrumental performances.

“Eaux-de-vies”, by Les Batinses: I already had this group’s other album, so I fully expected to like this one too. I was not mistaken. More jazzy/bluesy in style than how I usually listen to my trad, but again, not a bad thing. Especially in the extended solos in track 2, “Vin Et Amour” (and how’s that title for a summary of two of the major topics of Quebec trad music, hmm?). Also: appears to be a live album! This was obvious at first only with the audience noise at the end of the tracks, but the last couple of tracks really get bouncy. So that makes it extra fun to listen to.

“Koru”, by Mauvais Sort: Another group I’d already sampled with an initial album, so yeah, I thought I’d pick up a couple more of theirs. Mauvais Sort are similar to Les Batinses in overall vocal style and instrumentation, with a few hints of Mes Aieux as well. General thumbs up for rocking up the trad, though it’s odd to hear a drum kit in the background. I wanted this album in particular though for their take of “Ziguezon”, which is imprinted on my brain with the La Bottine Souriante take sung by Andre Marchand. Fun to hear alternate versions of such things!

“Gront”, by Väsen: This being the group from Sweden I became aware of via their touring with Le Vent du Nord! I’d been meaning to find one of their albums, and when this one shot across my radar, I was happy to pick it up. Partway in on the first track of this album, which is from 1999, I’m thinkin’ yeah, these guys are totally compatible with my musical interests. The nyckelharpa sounds very cool, and they’ve got some viola goodness going on as well. Rhythm-wise, their percussion is very familiar-sounding to anybody familiar with Celtic music. Or Quebecois, for that matter, even though I’m hearing drums here and not feet. The album’s entirely instrumental, so I suspect this’ll mostly serve me as background music for writing code. Or writing prose, for that matter. Of particular amusement to my fellow Browncoats, though: the last track in particular struck me as something that would not be out of place AT ALL in the soundtrack of a Firefly episode.

More to come!


A bit of musical squee!

And now, several moments of musical squee from last night!

In a move that should surprise absolutely NOBODY who pays attention to what I post for more than five minutes running, a little part of my brain demanded last night, “YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT THE CHORDS TO VIVE L’AMOUR NOW.”

Because y’all knew this was coming, right? I mean, what with all the delighted slurping up I’ve done of chords for Great Big Sea songs, working on Le Vent songs was pretty much inevitable. I’d already futzed around a bit with “Lanlaire”, but “Vive l’amour” is pretty much the other major song of theirs that’s prone to grabbing my guitar-based attention. So it’s the easy and obvious candidate for me to play with.

So I did! And there I am last night with Ti-Jéan in my lap, and I’ve got my piccolo too to try to twiddle out the melody line and make sure the key is actually what I think it is–which, for general reference, is G. And the first moment of squee is when I’m hitting note on the piccolo and the guitar strings start echoing them back at me, in this strange, lovely resonance that sounds a lot like a wet fingertip running around a wineglass. Very, very cool.

Second moment of musical squee: realizing that the chords to the song are in fact dead simple. Dara and I like to make cracks about GBS’ “Goin’ Up” being subtitled “Four Chords No Brain”, and really, “Vive l’amour” is pretty much the exact same chords in a different order (G, C, Em, and D) with occasional bonus A minor thrown in in places. What I haven’t quite gotten down yet is the strum pattern, since I keep wanting to play GBS-style and that doesn’t work with the flow of the song. But I broke out the original studio recording, the one Bernard Simard sings lead on, and it’s easier to follow that one on guitar than it is the Symphonique version. I foresee several more spins through this as I get it down. And possibly transposing into D, or maybe capoing up a fret or two, so I can get it into a better range for me to sing. 😀

Third moment of musical squee: realizing that in the huge pile of sheet music transcriptions of various Quebec tunes I’ve slurped down from a couple of places, I do in fact have the reel that serves as the outro for this song! “Reel à Ti-Zoune”! WOO! Much fun to be had there as well!

And the final moment of musical squee for the evening was in fact unrelated to any of the above, but it’s also goddamned awesome so I’ve gotta squeal about it here too. Dara came downstairs with the mandolin last night and plucked out for me, I kid you not, a swing arrangement of “Road to Lisdoonvarna”. Y’know, the most basic of basic jigs in the Irish tune repertoire. She’s got a PROJECT in mind for this. And she’s jazzing this tune the hell up. She played it for me and I instantly had the swing band sound she’s envisioning pop into my head, complete with a full rocking horn section. I wanted to be able to play trumpet JUST so I could actually play that lovely thing myself. I cannot WAIT to see how her project progresses. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Dara rolls.