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Wow! New Julia Ecklar album!

Just to demonstrate to you all that every so often I do in fact listen to other forms of music besides “Great Big Sea” and “everybody in Quebecois trad”, I share with you the news that Julia Ecklar is finally releasing a new album! And it’s available for pre-order now!

For those of you unfamiliar with her, Julia’s the lead voice on a lot of the songs on A Wolfrider’s Reflections, the album of Elfquest music that came out in fandom in the late 80’s with the blessing of Wendy and Richard Pini. She was a seriously big name filker back in the day, and I adored her not only for the EQ tape, but also for her affection for Star Trek. She actually played Kirk in a couple of fannish productions of parodies of the second and third Trek flicks–preserved for posterity now by my own belovedest of Daras! Wrath Side Story and Spock Pacific, hee. Oh, Julia was an excellent Kirk.

Her song “Horsetamer’s Daughter” was a classic. And she was frequently beautifully parodied by userinfofilkertom–Tom’s “Temperature of Revenge” to this day remains one of my very favorite filk songs. And later on, she became the first filker to ever have orchestral accompaniment on an album when she released Divine Intervention, which features a heartbreaking song about Kirk reacting to the destruction of the Enterprise, yet another of her beautiful Trek songs.

Now, the new album has more orchestral work on it and I’m really looking forward to it. I heartily endorse y’all going to pick it up, since it’s gone over budget and Prometheus Music can use all the support it can get! Go support them and an awesome indie musician and filker as well!

Bone Walker

Music transcription is hard!

My new task to contribute to the soundtrack for Faerie Blood and Bone Walker: transcribing some of the more challenging sets that Dara’s putting together! In particular, the one that goes along with the fight scene in Chapter 7 of Bone Walker. That’s got some fun, fun Japanese stuff going on in it along with a heavily mutated version of “Road to Lisdoonvarna”–and Dara’s also doing some fun almost orchestral things here as well, with interlocking themes representing Christopher and Kendis fighting with the nogitsune.

It sounds really bitchin’ cool in Dara’s work track, especially given the drums she’s laid in!

But Dara doesn’t read sheet music; she learns music by ear. I am pretty much exactly the opposite. I’ve been trying to improve my ability to learn by ear, but I am still very, very much better at learning something if there’s sheet music for it in front of me. That said? It was challenging and FUN to take Dara’s track, slow it down to half speed in my Tempo Slow app, and try to get all the notes and rhythms right on my piccolo so that I could transcribe them into actual musical notation.

My head is very full of notes now and I cannot brain any more tonight. I’m here to tell ya, it’s almost easier writing the book. Well, almost! ;D Not to mention that this is only the first part of the fun with this piece–now I have to actually learn to play it properly. And I’m actually going to have to break out my seldom-played flute with keys, since I don’t have a proper Irish flute with keys on it yet, and this bastard is changing keys WAY too often and into way too annoying keys for me to handle on Norouet at my skill level. (Read: my generally sucking at half-holing.) The piccolo’s too high and perky for this, so it’ll have to be the flute.

I’ve flung the PDF as well as the original Finale Songwriter file over to the others who’ll be playing on the soundtrack with us, and have shared the PDF with the Kickstarter backers as well. Really looking forward to doing my part for the recording–even if it means YIKES Dara’s going to record me! This won’t be the first time my flute playing’s been recorded; there are still the old MP3s from our Three Good Measures days. But this’ll definitely be the first time for something as formal as a soundtrack album, with studio work on it and everything! YIKES! *^_^*;;


Let me sing for you the songs of my people

I’ve mentioned before that something I ardently respond to in both Quebecois and Newfoundland trad music is how many of the bands and singers I’m following have learned their music from their parents, who learned it from their parents, etc. I.e., they grew up with this music, and it was woven into their lives so deeply that it made them who they are. Their love for it shines through brilliantly in their performances.

Devon Léger quite correctly pointed out to me that Americans are not without such traditions–you just need to know where to look for them. Certainly many American Celtic or folk or country performers are fortunate enough to have that same sort of background, too, and classical performers as well. Those of us in the science fiction folk music community, filk, have some small rumblings of this too. Filk hasn’t really quite been around long enough to have songs handed down from one generation to the next, but I have met people who are doing it, and it’s really cool of them. (I am thinking specifically of you, userinfomdlbear!)

In the bigger picture of American society, though, people getting together and making music just for the joy of making music is not so much of a thing. This is why I’m so very delighted to have discovered both Irish and Quebecois sessions, and it’s why I linger on the edges of filk circles as well; it’s all part of the same idea.

I had a delightful little epiphany last night, too: all that Elvis Presley music my dad played for me on the stereo when I was a kid is absolutely generational handing down of music. And I’ve actually done it too–playing Great Big Sea songs for userinfokathrynt and userinfollachglin‘s kid Lillian!

So the next time you hear me say “Let me sing for you the song of my people”, I’ll be about to belt out “Hound Dog”. Or “Ordinary Day”. Or maybe now also “Dans le ville de Paris”, or “Re: Your Brains”.

Because no matter where you’re from, Quebec or Newfoundland or Kentucky or any filk circle in any science fiction convention in the world, if you love music, and you get up and you share it with those around you, you are my people. And I will sing your songs.


The naming of instruments is a Serious Matter

My new applewood fife and mopane flute have now been officially broken in at session, to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Those who attended session along with userinfosolarbird and me last night (which would be userinfosutures1, Matt, and Marilyn) expressed their approval in particular over the voice on the flute, which was very nice indeed in the pub. 😀

I learned pretty quickly though that I’m not quite up to speed with my known tunes on these instruments yet. This is in no small part due to the fingerings on keyless flutes. The fife and flute both are in D, which means that the good part is, the fingerings are therefore very close to my piccolo. All fingers down means D on these instruments and on Shine alike, for example.

The bad part is, however, that the fingerings are not exactly like the fingerings on the piccolo! Shine being a concert C instrument (kicked up an octave) of course means that it’s oriented around the C scale, NOT around the D scale. So one finger down on Shine means C, not C#. I therefore will have to get the cross-fingerings for accidentals into my muscle memory on the fife and the flute in order to make these tunes work properly. Relatedly, I’ve also discovered that “Da Slockit Light” requires a G# and THAT in particular is going to be amusing to finger on these instruments.

Likewise I have learned that while the new instruments are going to be in regular session rotation, this does NOT mean Shine gets to stay home. I discovered VERY fast that if I’m trying to follow the others by finding sheet music for tunes in TunePal, I will be much, much more able to play on Shine than on either of the new guys. This is very clearly because when I see sheet music, my visual association with those notes is still solidly attached to the fingerings on keyed flutes. So next time, Shine comes to session along with the new ones.

On a much easier note though I have also discovered that the “Road to Lisdoonvarna / Swallow Tail Jig / Morrison’s” set we’ve been doing is surprisingly easier to play on the fife than it is on the piccolo. No half-holing is required for any of these tunes, and I seem to actually have an easier time playing Chirp, the fife, than I do Shine! The required embouchure is not as intense.

Which of course leads me to report that the fife is well and officially Chirp, now. The jury is still out on what to call the mopane flute, though. Ellen has opined (and I am inclined to agree) that this instrument should be named something Irish, since I am after all intending to use it primarily for Irish music, even if it’s made out of African mopane! She has proposed ‘Selkie’, which I must consider with due consideration–since this flute’s got a deep, rich voice and a deep golden brown color, both of which I could see being evocative of a selkie. I need to commune with the flute some more though and see if it agrees with me on this important matter.

Dara and I were discussing instrument names last night, too, and I shot down naming the flute either Herp OR Derp, pointing out that if any instruments in the world would be named those, they would clearly be kazoos. Dara now wants kazoos for the express purpose of naming them Herp and Derp.

And for that matter, I further opined that an accordion is too complex an instrument to be named Herp or Derp. To which Dara immediately replied that an accordion is NOT too complex to be named PAMCAKES!

I think her squeezebox has a name now.


Day of Bouzouki Player Awesomeness, Part 2

So yeah! Those Beaudry boys? Making a powerful showing today. But they have their work cut out for them when it comes to the OTHER bouzouki player I adore. 😉 (Well, the other one who isn’t like, y’know, my partner and stuff, she said, looking meaningfully at userinfosolarbird…)

Y’all saw my post asking for Newfoundland band recs, right? So this morning, I think to myself–what the hell, I’ll go straight to the source. Alan, Bob, and Sean are on Twitter, I’ll ask them what THEY think we should be listening to while they’re on hiatus!

This was the result. \0/

What what wait that actually WORKED?

What what wait that actually WORKED?

The Doyle Has Spoken

The Doyle Has Spoken

I leave it as an exercise for you, O Internets, as to exactly how high-pitched my squee went. (Remember: I’m a piccolo player!)

I proceeded to get in several more Newfoundland band recs from Twitter folk as well, but as promised to The Doyle, I went and promptly checked out The Once. They are notable because Mr. Bob Hallett himself is their manager, so of course big ol’ GBS connection right there. I’ve now listened to the samples of their first album on iTunes, and yeah, I’ll be buying this. Their lead singer has a lovely voice, and while they don’t have the kind of raucous energy I love so much about the B’ys, they are very, very good. They remind me a lot more of oh, say, Solas, and that’s good, because I like Solas! And I’ll be making a definite point of checking out their new album when it drops next month!

For general reference, the other artists and bands that have been thrown at me on Twitter to check out are: Amelia Curran, Jim Fidler, the Novaks, Matthew Hornell, Hey Rosetta! (who I actually already previously knew about but had not checked out in depth), Andrew James O’Brien, Tarahan, and the Navigators (who I again also previously knew about).

Many thanks to @GBSIndyFan and @barbekresla, who threw me the Twitter recs!

Not all of these acts are trad–the Novaks appear to be more rock, and iTunes seems to think Jim Fidler is reggae. Dunno about Matthew Hornell or Amelia Curran yet either. But I’m going to give them all a shot! (Though in the case of the Navigators, I’m apparently going to have to work a little harder because their albums are not on iTunes.)

So yeah! Great big pile of Newfoundland band recs! And a tweet from The Doyle Himself! What a way to end a week! \0/


Newfoundland vs. Quebec: FIGHT!

Okay, all you bands over there in Newfoundland? You b’ys aren’t going to take this MIGHTY QUEBECOIS INVASION of my iTunes playlists lying down, are you?

My fellow Great Big Sea fans, especially those of you who live or have lived in Newfoundland, or who are otherwise well-versed with Newfoundland music: I call upon you: who are the Newfoundland bands I should be investigating, to continue this whole delightful theme of “other bands I should check out while Great Big Sea is on hiatus”? Here are Newfoundland bands I already have albums by:

The Irish Descendants (Across the Water, Rollin’ Home, So Far So Good, Southern Shore)
The Fables (all of their discs)
The Punters (Certified Trad. Music, Songs for a Sunday Morning)
Shanneyganock (Volume VII)

Recommendations for any specific other albums by any of these groups welcome!

Also: the Navigators have already been brought to my attention, but so far I haven’t been able to find their albums sold somewhere where I can actually get them. Recommendations on that also welcome!

And, anybody not on this list, I want to hear about them. Bonus points if they’re anyone GBS has had dealings with, extra bonus points if there are bouzouki players involved! GBS-like style–i.e., high energy, with big full harmony on the vocals, the more people in a band singing the better–is ideal, although I’ll take smaller groups or solo artists too!


This past Wednesday's session

Writing this now since I haven’t had a chance or the brain to blog about it until this afternoon, but here we go!

There were a couple of extra fiddlers at this past Wednesday’s session at A Terrible Beauty–people who turned out to be stunningly awesome, a couple of professional performers, Andrea Beaton and Glenn Graham. What really sold me on Andrea and Glenn’s playing was its liveliness and the excellent foot-stomping rhythm they had going at the same time–very, very familiar to me from all the listening I’ve been doing to La Volee d’Castors and La Bottine Souriante and Le Vent du Nord. It turned out that the reason their music resonated so strongly with me was because they are in fact Canadian, Cape Breton specifically, so no wonder. 😀

I’d already been pleasantly challenged trying to keep up with Matt and Annie, as I’ve written before–but trying to keep up with Andrea and Glenn? WHOA. WHOA AND DAMN, people. I’m just this fortysomething chick who likes to noodle around on her guitar in her living room, y’know? And there I am in the session trying to provide a decent rhythm line underneath two hardcore fiddle players, who, I might add, proceeded just last night to go perform with Matt at Benaroya Hall for the Mastery of Scottish Arts concert.

I have been in sessions now with people who have performed in Benaroya Hall, people!

Only by focusing with laser-guided intensity on every motion of Glenn and Andrea’s bows was I able to keep up, and more than once, I lost track of their key changes. But I was at least able to come back around when they jumped back to a key I could recognize. A lot of what I’ve been doing at the sessions so far has just been playing the same six or seven chords in different keys and strum patterns, just trying to be decent rhythm backup for all the people who actually know the tunes. But these two took it up a whole extra order of magnitude for me, and I haven’t had so much fun on a guitar in ages.

Afterwards a couple of older gentlemen came over to say hi to Dara and me, and to admire the General! I got asked what kind of Taylor it was, and I was happy to say it was a 210, and I thanked the gents nicely for the kind things they said about my playing. I also went over to Andrea to make a point of telling her how awesome their playing was, and she was very gracious too.

I am so, SO outclassed at these sessions, it’s kind of scary! But in a good and exciting way, one which is making me go OH SHIT I’d better practice. So this afternoon I whipped out the piccolo, worked my way through an octave of scales, and then tried to stumble my way through “Road to Lisdoonvarna”, “Morrison’s Jig”, and “Drowsy Maggie”. I made it through the first two, more or less, before my embouchure fell over and started sending me “you haven’t played piccolo in a long goddamned time, have you?” signals.

I’ve also gone through my songbook and yoinked out the little sheet music bits of the various tunes GBS have used as bridges on their songs, in the hopes that I can then track down fuller versions, and use those for practice fodder. I have “Si Bheag Si Mhor” too, along with “Fisherman’s Frolic”, which those of you who read the TGM Jam Reports may remember as our outro to “Acres of Clams”. I have a LOT of source material to learn from. And it’s awesome to be able to have a reason to use it.

ETA: OO OO OO and I forgot to mention that when called upon to do a song by Matt, I stood up and did GBS’ arrangement of “The Night Pat Murphy Died”. *^_^*;; I cannot roar it like Séan McCann does and I really need to learn to project, but at least I managed to go through the whole thing without falling over. And when I went DARA, Dara whipped into the bridge on cue; she’s been practicing the Bitchin’ Bouzouki Solo.

Another practice assignment I want to do is to see if I can whip up a proper version of “As I Roved Out”; the arrangement I’m most familiar with is the one by the Fables, but I can’t sing it in their key so I’ll need to finagle it some.