5.25.2005

My Musical Influences

As a human musician, countless musicians have invariably shaped my musical interest, understanding, and output. I feel it my duty to acknowledge with a great deal of respect the outstanding figures in my own personal musical development. This extremely challenging endeavor will require me to limit my selections to only the major influences that I can label directly. I will list, in chronological order of my introduction to the artist/music, the artists that have directly affected my personal taste and output of music. Here goes everything…

Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin, Raffi, the Muppets, bedtime lullabies, and church music comprise my first musical memories as a child. However, none was more pervasive in my internal desire and enjoyment of music than the ragtime of Scott Joplin. Soon after my parents would tuck me into bed, they would set our primeval record player in the hallway playing The Sting soundtrack that included the music of Scott Joplin as performed by Marvin Hamlisch. The music kept me awake rather than causing me to sleep and my love of music was born and forever implanted at the fore of my dome. Of course, The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag were personal favorites but the gripping Solace remains one of my favorite compositions ever.

Musicality – 8

Influence on my performance – 7

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of - 8

Oldies, Chopin and Debussy
I hesitated to pick a genre of music but reflecting on my experience, the most important music of my formative years were “Oldies” (1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s) and the music of Chopin and Debussy. My father usually was singing Oldies along with the radio and my sister was quite often playing Chopin and Debussy on the piano. While I had no desire to perform Oldies or even Chopin/Debussy, the music undoubtedly influenced my musical hermeneutics. On many a Spring day, when the shadows of the window panes hit the floor just right, I’m quickly taken back to the sound and smell of my childhood home. That sound is always either Rain Drops or one of Chopin’s Nocturne’s. Also, random quotes from good times and great Oldies consistently pop into my mind and cause many awkward moments, usually going something like this: A guy named E will say something gross, someone else will say “Ewwww E, that’s gross.” I will then start dancing around and singing “Eww Eee Eww Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang.” Cue the crickets. Alas, Oldies have instilled in me an inescapable love of 4/4 time and catchy melodies.

Oldies:
Musicality – Ranging but an average would be 6

Influence on my performance – 5

Continuing/Current impact – 7

Overall love of - 6

Chopin/Debussy:
Musicality – 9

Influence on my performance – 4

Continuing/Current impact – 5

Overall love of – 7

Weezer
What can I say? Weezer’s Blue Album is my favorite album of all time. The reasoning is simple. Weezer’s pop appeal combined with its Oldies-like melodies and guitar driven rock music was a timely component to my musical journey. As I was beginning guitar, the ability to learn simple, yet creative songs, was a redeeming aspect to listening. Furthermore, the Blue Album is the first album I listened to critically. While I still listen primarily to music and lyrics only as to how they work with the music of the song, I listened to the words of the album along with every production component. I can describe what instruments are used and how in every track. I completely dissected that album by listening to it every night as I was going to bed on my discman. While they lack in musicality or virtuosity, Weezer more importantly finds their own voice and conveys it as effectively and creatively as any other artist I have experienced. Weezer also blended a degree of reality to their music that I appreciate. Sarcasm, humor, depression, concern, heartache, love, redemption…it’s all there. The indie-like production of Pinkerton was a welcome addition to my musical collection. The Green Album was a much-anticipated release that caused great reactions of nostalgia and novelty upon a first and memorable midnight listen with my closest friends. Weezer’s music has been as much a corollary to my middle school and high school years as it has been to an eye-opening creation of music.

Musicality – 6

Influence on my performance – 5

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of – 10

Dave Matthews Band
While it seems to be a prerequisite for high school and college to listen to Dave Matthews, I use the geographical argument as my fallback. However, I have recently quit using that as an argument because I have absolutely no shame in citing Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band as one of my main musical influences. Hearing his demo at an early age, hearing him playing in town early in the development of his band, and loving the releases of his albums through high school were valuable interactions between the music of this group and me. While I almost completely stopped listening to them after Before these Crowded Streets (a fantastically unique and well-produced album), I still enjoy the freshness, authenticity, and energy of the band.

Musicality – 5

Influence on my performance – 9 in high school, 4 currently

Continuing/Current impact – 5

Overall love of – 7

Funk
What is hip? Take for example Tower of Power, Average White Band, The Ohio Players, The Commodores, The Meters, George Clinton, Parliament, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Curtis Mayfield. At Governor’s School I fulfilled my interest in Funk by joining a killin Funk outfit we called Funk Nazty. Playing with advanced musicians at an early age was exciting, energizing, and inspiring. The main thing about Funk is that it is FUN! Not only is it fun but it is also generally creative and fairly reputable in terms of musicality. Most of it is very jazz-based, bass and drum driven, and made for live performance. I am partial to this genre because of my participation in a live band. Memories of performance are the reason I have to select the genre instead of one influential group. Nonetheless, Funk music is a central aspect of my musical interest and explains my love of underground hip-hop and jazz-based hip-hop.

Musicality – 7

Influence on my performance – 9

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of – 9

Agents of Good Roots
When I first became interested in what was beyond rock-music, I found funk music but still desired the need to rock out. AGR are another local group that have influenced me greatly. This band was incredibly creative while maintaining an ability to write catchy melodies. My constant impact to this point mind you remained melody and 4/4 driven (while interesting) rhythmically driven music. I loved AGR because Andrew Winn’s unique distorted nylon guitar sound with obvious jazz and classical influences started expanding my ears to what could be. I feel that AGR was the ear-opening group that connects my main musical interests. The groups/genres I have previously mentioned to the forthcoming ones. Also, AGR really kicked off my realization that music is meant to be played live. While I appreciate well-produced and creative studio work by groups, music is a medium that can evoke so much emotion when performed live. While the band eventually faded albeit great potential and opportunity, I remain loyal to their music and wish them the best. For some reason, this group, while most definitely a band, led me to listen to more and more alt-singer-songwriters. For example, an odd but direct extension of AGR was Jeff Buckley. His magnificent album Grace, one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, seemed to have some sort of connection to the unique structuring of rock songs. I would not be surprised if AGR appreciate his work as much as I do.

Musicality – 8

Influence on my performance – 7

Continuing/Current impact – 7

Overall love of – 8

Monte Montgomery
My freshman-year college roommate introduced me to this Austin guitarist and songwriter. When I say guitarist I should specify by saying “mutant.” Monte led me to want to understand the guitar fretboard in its totality. While I do not consider him one of the most musical guitarist I have heard, he is endlessly creative and eternally able. Seeing Monte play an acoustic steel-string at warp speed with ridiculous passion was an encouraging sight and sound. While I have no desire to slash and play as fast as possible, Monte still had the ability to break out an amazing ballad, like his crazy good version of Romeo and Julliet. I spent a few years learning most of his tunes and solos to increase my soloing ability for standard progression music. Monte also led me to more musical and truly marvelous acoustic guitarists, Don Ross and Tommy Emmanuel, both of whom I have stolen many tunes and licks from.

Musicality – 6

Influence on my performance – 8

Continuing/Current impact – 6

Overall love of – 6

Wes Montgomery
In the movie Sweet and Lowdown, Sean Penn’s character is truly enamored with Django Reinhardt to the point that Django’s records cause him to sob uncontrollably. This is how I honestly feel when I listen to Wes. My love of melody and tone explains why I love Wes’ style over other famous jazz guitarists. I even have a hard time explaining my appreciation for his music in writing. His creative use of melodic variations, octave usage, phrasing, soul, and using only his thumb (like me) all contribute to the specific tone that I regard as the quintessential guitar sound. Thanks Wes. Beside Wes, I am most appreciative of Django, Joe Pass, and Joao Gilberto in terms of jazz guitarists.

Musicality – 10

Influence on my performance – 10

Continuing/Current impact – 10

Overall love of – 10

I notice many things from my list. If someone reads this, they still will not get a full picture of my musical influences. Where is the pop music? Where are the hymns? Where are the musicals? Where are those individual works like Palestrina’s Agnus Dei from the Pope Marcellus Mass? Another I note as a personal observation is where is the global music and music by females? Both have been influential but why don’t they make my most influential list? Nancy Wilson’s recording with Cannonball Adderly of Never Will I Marry may be in my top five favorite songs, but her music does not make my influences list. I am extremely interested in global music, specifically Bossa Nova and African indigenous music but these also do not make my most important list. My list is obviously guitar (lop)-sided whereas my general music listening is only slightly guitar-sided. I know I have forgotten many important and subliminal items and you may expect this list to change often. I wonder what will come in the future years. My ears are open as I hope yours are, too.

5.24.2005

Best Drum Fill Ever

At 3:43 in Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight.

5.04.2005

Movie Review: Locusts

"They're grasshoppers not tarantulas."

Well, you'd be surprised. They're more like resistant to like every single pesticide, can reproduce like infinity more times than a regular locust, and can travel totally like 300 miles in a single day. Peter, played by John Heard, who shares his stage name with his more worthy performance as Peter McAllister in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Peter makes it clear that these are his locusts..."My locusts!" The drama is set.

Lucy Lawless, or as I will call her Xena: Warrior Princess, is dealing with a dull marriage at home. "I'm just sick and tired of feeling like I'm married to myself." Her husband, some dude from some episode of Dawson's Creek, also feels the tension in this relationship. Her job as some uber-bug expert for some ridonculoid government agency is taking much of her time. He feels like her theme is "Bugs first." I could be wrong but when bugs take priority in a relationship, it may be time to check things out.

Xena wastes no time in dealing with the issue of Home Alone Dad's crazy bugs. She has them all torched. OR SO SHE THINKS! CBS geniuses thought that they'd totally shock the viewer with a twist this early in the film. Creative filmmaking. Six, hear this, six locusts escape originally. The filmmaking team also teamed up with CBS for another genius move: 20 minutes without a commercial. But not 20 minutes without an attack! Right before the first commercial break, two people are sleeping in a tent when locusts start popping through the ground into the tent and attacking them. The scene ends with a Dali-like close up of a locust's eye digging into what one can only imagine is human flesh. Even though the grain of this footage is totally different than the rest of the movie and it obviously looks like stock footage from Marty Stauffer's Wild America, one can only imagine what will happen next. If the drama in this scene were the drawing of a newspaper, it would be sub-Ziggy quality.

Two locusts escape on the East Coast and four hitch a plane ride to California. One may argue that it is too coincidental or just too scripted that the first place attacked is the town of Home Alone Dad. However, this involves clever watching. One realizes that this is just evidence of “his locusts” coming home. They locusts spread at massive rates from both sides of the country and aim their attack inward. They attack the coasts with a great degree of success and swam toward the heartland. A four-star military officer is dead set on dropping VX gas on the rural areas (“because not many people will notice”). At this point we start to see the underlying premise of this film.

The post-Rather CBS network is obviously shifting their political bent. This film is obviously a Red State propaganda piece. The locusts, a human creation originating in the Blue State areas, do not know what they are up against when they face the apocalyptically minded heartland. When the bugs swarm a Pittsburgh office building, a man starts railing with Biblical passages. This would not seem so unusual except his only role to this point was the suave businessperson who is the object of a young girl’s fancy. Obviously, this is a film. He starts pulling out his premillenial charts and scatting off verses. “The hand of God blacked out the sky… a swarm of locusts will come on the eve of the apocalypse.” How will the Red States prevail with a crazy military man trying to VX them?

Enter Xena. Instead of kicking some Tarzan butt or something, this time she cries, “I am pregnant and hormonal and you don’t want to cross this mother.” If she were pregnant with locusts I feel this movie would have (a) been much more exciting, (b) proved more biblically sound, and (c) been more realistic. Nevertheless, she regulates and the Red States rally to what may be the most anti-climactic moment in movie history…EVER! I’m serious, we’re talking more anti-climactic than Titanic. The Red States come up with the idea that locusts will be attracted to weather balloons and then all dive into two strands of power lines, one protecting the heartland from the East, and one from the West. Meanwhile, we witness the only death attributed to the locusts: Home Alone Dad. He cries, “Tell my family I love them.” While this is a valid and realistic line to deliver, something like “KEVIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!” would probably have been delivered with as much believability. Do they seriously expect us to believe that when all it took was two locusts to start a swarm of billions (maybe even trillions!) that every single locust will crash into the same power lines in a matter of minutes? Alas, the Apollo-11 control booth starts cheering and all is well in the Red States. Furthermore, liberal scientists learn that they shouldn’t mess with God’s creation.

“My locusts? Pssssh…” said the Red States.

5.03.2005

Movie Review: Spring Break Shark Attack

The time has come. A new masterpiece has been born. Not since the production of the esteemed Good Burger have we seen a film director so preciously hone his/her craft. Finally Spring Break Shark Attack gives us a hyper-realist depiction of the emotional, romantic, and terrifying side of one wild week at a Florida spring break destination. SBSA is a made-for-TV movie by the CBS network. How could a movie fail with a tag line of “Spring Break is a time to go wild and have fun…but for these college kids, spring break bites!”? With the directing and producing team holding a repertoire of Road to Avonlea and Category 6: Day of Destruction. Throw in a few C-list actors and one can just picture CBS execs saying, “What we have here is something very special.” They don’t disappoint.

The plot is situated around Danielle (The OC’s Shannon Lucio), a college girl whose domineering parents have forced her to live at home while attending a local college. They try to prevent her from attending the traditional beach spring break and instead suggest she attend a Habitat for Humanity project in Colorado. In a heated conversation she reminds her father of his infidelity to gain the upper hand (a recurring trend). However, her parents prevail and she goes to Colorado…or so they think! Danielle has pulled the classic teen-movie switcheroo and told her parents she’s going to the Habitat project but instead heads off to meet her wild friends at a Florida spring break destination. Upon arriving, the viewer is treated to a great montage which includes a preview of the sweet possibilities of a traditional college spring break: beer bongs, jello wrestling, girls dancing, and gratuitous butt shots. Danielle’s friends encourage her ever so slightly to hook up with some guys. “This is like the perfect place for you to lose it.” We are introduced to Shane (Riley Smith, Eight Legged Freaks), Danielle’s spring break crush. Shane is trying to earn money with his mother’s (Kathy Baker, Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story) boat rental company to attend college. But to be a sweet movie, there needs to be a love triangle. Enter JT (Justin Baldoni, episode #1.7948 of The Young and the Restless). JT is a playa who is interested in Danielle. He and his friend Max are making a soft-core film called Girls Unleashed and he is probably interested in Danielle because he suspects that her breasts will get bigger and bigger throughout the movie, as they prove to do. The boys state that “the body is a beautiful thing that needs to be displayed…then paused, rewound, and shown again.” JT claims that Danielle is his “Everest.” Even though I doubt that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay needed roofies to conquer their great mountain, JT feels the need to compensate for his lack of chest hair by drugging Danielle.

This love plot remains a sub-plot amongst the more prominent premise of tiger sharks maliciously attacking the spring breakers. Six people die early in the movie and the sharks continue to pester. Charlie (Wayne Thornley, nothing else, call this his breakthrough performance), Danielle’s scientist brother pulls giant sea turtles from the water with one hand saying “Five, no six, adult sea turtles weighing about 175-250 pounds with massive bites taken from them by a large sea creature…Inescapable conclusion: sharks.” Even though he’s certain, we know one shouldn’t rush to conclusions. His science partner says, “You remember the boy who cried wolf? Don’t be the boy who cried shark.” But Charlie is convinced. Now that we’ve got that determined, the sharks, en masse, wreak all sorts of havoc on drunken spring breakers. Probably the most amazing scene in the movie is when a guy on a wake board and parachute flies right into the mouth of a shark. He makes little or no effort to avoid the shark that, on the other hand, remains completely still, agape even after the wake boarder flies inside its jaws. This is a redeeming scene because it is so realistic. The CGI in this movie is understated and effective and finally we have a vivid depiction of the way blood actually explodes from a human when a shark attacks. This movie supersedes Jaws in the fact that shark attacks actually look more like a person crashing into a strawberry slushee machine.

The movie is filled with many Emmy worthy deliveries. When JT first sees his best friend and business partner, Max, he says “How long has he been here?” One is immediately captivated by the depth of mourning he must be facing as he confronts his dear friend sans half of his torso. Shane grips the audience when he is trying to sway the sharks away from the drunken spring breakers he yells “Come and get it, you hungry?” And perhaps the best…JT yells to Danielle, “Swim for your life!” Once again this shows the director’s ability to step beyond typical Hollywood and capture a hyper-realistic element. One may think that “Swim for your life!” would never actually be said in reality. But this is where they are wrong, as SBSA convincingly shows. Shane’s performance is above par for a TV movie. While it may seem that many of the rest of the actors just seemed like they want to get home and watch typical TV, this is merely another tool of the director’s to show that these people are unsatisfied with not only their context (being attacked by sharks) but also with their inner struggles, again capturing the realism of life.

Furthermore, this is clearly a propaganda film made by Habitat for Humanity and joined by CBS. Too many spring breakers are choosing a traditional party atmosphere of Panama City Beach instead of more worthy charity work. Habitat for Humanity needed an outlet to gain some interested workers. What better demographic than a post-Cold Case and March Madness TV crowd. It’s an obvious linkage. The concluding question by Danielle to Shane of “Next year Cancun?” is a subtle hint that college kids just don’t learn from horrendous situations. SBSA was so brilliantly constructed and multi-leveled that intelligent and charitable college students will be able to determine that next year they should think twice before skipping out on the Habitat project in Colorado. Or else next year’s spring break will bite, too.

5.02.2005

Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkle!

Tragically or untragically, I have decided to form a blog. Time and God alone will be the judge of this decision.