Blog: entries tagged with "flickershow"

Drawing blanks

Drawing A Blank coverTo summarize the summer:

We released the first full-length Flickershow CD, entitled Drawing A Blank. Ten songs; I played bass, sang harmony, did arrangements and other odds and ends. We’re quite proud of it, and the CD release party was a blast. There’s a link to buy it online from our website, and it’s also available through that music store Apple runs. Things have been a bit quiet since the CD release, since Julian’s just got married (check out their awesome first dance on the YouTube) but there will be gigging in the new year, and with luck some out-of-town gigs in the spring.

All other music ventures have been on hold, meanwhile. I’m starting to plot my return to action, but it’s been nice to take a break for a few months and mess around with other things like writing and drawing (including the cover art for our CD) and catching up on comics.


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Making arrangements

Over the past couple of weeks J and I have spent another few days in the studio, without playing a note. Yes, it’s session-player time. In particular, we’ve now got:
Part of the trumpet score for "Mute"

  • electric guitar (a Dano 12-string jangle on “Invincible” and some sweet swell-pedal action on “Still Life”) courtesy of Dominic;
  • more drums and percussion by our engineer/producer Don
  • violin on “To The Nines” by Andrea and more on the way for “Aphrodite”;
  • crazy undersea bowed-string noises and vocalizing on “Siren” from Rami
  • organ, piano and harpsichord, courtesy of Richie; and
  • a suitably over-the-top trumpet section on “Mute” all played by Stefan.

Who knew just sitting and listening could be so much work? We’ve learned a lot about listening, and coming up with musical ideas on the fly, not to mention guiding other people into realizing those ideas. It’s a fun challenge, communicating musical concepts to other people through words, singing, vocal noises, and occasionally, actually writing things down.

The whole trumpet score for "Mute" Julian had always had a trumpet melody in mind for the bridge on “Mute”, and wanted big, bold chords for the ending. I added a harmony to the bridge, and started fleshing out the “chords” idea with a swingy rhythmic motif… and then realized I was going to have to write the thing out. I’d composed the part in Logic, and couldn’t get the program’s “Score” view to output anything that made any sense. So I summoned up every last bit of music theory I’d ever taken, and wrote the whole thing out. Took a couple of late nights, and I worried that it was illegible, but our players approved.

Here’s the bridge from the demo version, with lovely synthesized trumpets: Mute (trumpet demo, 880k)

Not everything we did could be scored, of course, but regardless, we found it really, really helps at least to have a clear idea of what you’re after before you start. When Rami came by to play, bringing with her an Iner Souster creation called “Fat Bob”, we didn’t have parts written out - Bob, having one string and no fingerboard, isn’t particularly suited to playing melodies, anyway - but I think we had a strong idea of the texture and atmosphere we were after. J quickly joined in, offering images of a ship breaking apart at sea, the creaking of the rigging, the cracking of the timbers and the crashing of the waves. I’m really looking forward to sifting through the resulting noises and building them up into a soundscape.

Lots more to go: more drums, keyboards, backing vocals, violin and percussion - not to mention mixing and mastering. But it’s all starting to come together nicely.

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A quick summary of an eventful season:

I’m settled into my new position as web maintainer for Evergreen, an organization focused on environmental education and community-based greening initiatives. It’s a fine bunch of people, and the work feels much more worthwhile than almost anything I did working on the “agency side”.

We’ve been dropping into Don Kerr’s studio every few weekends to record the new Flickershow album - we have ten songs in progress, with vocals, guitar, bass and drums complete on almost all of them and keyboards on about half. I’m currently working on the trumpet arrangement for a recent song called “Mute”. We’ve also played a whole pile of gigs, most notably busking in front of Pages Books on Queen St, and a swell gig for Earth Hour which included an hour-long, completely acoustic songwriters’ circle.

Sean and I spent a few days in San Francisco last month - he was there to attend a couple of different conferences, and we got to visit his sister, her partner and their two black cats (it seems to run in the family). I spent several days walking all over the downtown area, and up to Fort Mason, where I visited the Long Now Foundation’s museum and shop. Spent many hours checking out every sound-related exhibit at the Exploratorium. I came home with far too many books, and a new pair of shoes - my old pair having disintegrated completely after several dozen hills too many.

Much more to come - more musical experiences; several books to discuss; and my obsession with ruins continues.

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2007 wrap-up

The dust’s settled on 2007 at last, and does it ever feel like a new year now. Here’s a few highlights, including some stuff I didn’t write about the first time round:

Props from the shootJanuary: Spinglobe moves into a brand new office in a neat building in the east end. One of the first projects is a music video for the Mahones. It’s a takeoff on that Fellini scene where la Saraghina dances the rhumba on a Mediterranean beach - except it’s January, on Ashbridge’s Bay, and the warm spell of the previous week is most definitely over. We should have called the production Minus 8½. We freeze our collective asses off, but the video ends up looking pretty darn fine.

February: Played in the band for a musical revue put on as a fundraiser by some friends - my first time playing Broadway style is a fun challenge; I stress way about it more than I have to. Reconceived long-running audio drama idea as a podcast; later in the year would reconceive it again as a comic. Expect it to morph into a novel, a musical extravaganza and finally a series of haiku in 2008.

March: In the studio with Ellen Carol to record bass tracks for her new CD, produced by Don Kerr. Restarted work on Flickershow CD; we get some solid demos done and some cool results on a trip-hoppy new song called “Hold Up Donny”. It doesn’t last, however; I end up firing myself as producer later in the year. If all goes well we’ll be recording with Don in 2008.

May: Played with Flickershow at the Sammy Sugar Day Festival, the kickoff for Ellen’s fundraising bike tour of Eastern Canada. Finally launched a site for Presonance, a collaboration with Rezo Largul.

June: Attended OpenCities, an “unconference” about the convergence of civic engagement and the open source movement. Among the topics are the waterfront revitalization, public space, DIY electronics and public art, dancing in the streets. Coincidentally, the next day, Flickershow played at Pedestrian Sundays, a monthly car-free event in Kensington Market (other events occur in Mirvish Village and on Baldwin Street); our first outing with keyboard player Rich.

Trees downLater in the month, Sean’s mom comes up from Pennsylvania for a visit. Tuesday we’re at work while she takes it easy; she’s out having a smoke on the front porch when lightning strikes a tree two doors down, and a gale-force gust of wind tears off branches for several blocks. We return home to find our street a maze of police tape, tree limbs and downed power lines. Neighbouring streets are almost unaffected. “I didn’t do it,” she pleads.

July: Played Newmarket and Brampton - our only out-of-town gig prior to this was our TVO appearance taped in Parry Sound. First steps toward developing an analog-to-MIDI interface using that splendid new toy, the Arduino.

August: Cottage outing with co-workers. Lots of laughs, plenty of good food and drink, and some cool photographic exploration of natural forms and painting with light.

October: A week from hell. Two or three clients go through reorganizations, and a number of key projects go on indefinite hold. Contractors removing a cellular tower break a sprinkler pipe and flood part of our office. None of this registers, however, because our co-worker’s 21-year-old brother has just died in his sleep. Things are very quiet for several days.

IMAGENovember: Two good friends of ours invited us to play a song at their crazy cabaret-style lesbian wedding. The only question was what to wear. (As MC for the evening, Sean had no such dilemma, since they’d put him in a rather lovely kilt and feather boa.)

At the end of the month, a beautiful, awe-inspiring, mad trip to Marrakech with Sean, his mom and stepdad, and a new friend, the irrepressible and energizing Katie. We stayed in the heart of the medina, a maze of winding alleyways full of people, tiny shops, mopeds and stray cats. A handful of local kids kept asking for money; Sean juggled for them instead (years ago he did it for a living in Dallas) and became an instant hit. Later, we drove through the Atlas Mountains to ride camels into the desert and sleep in a tent. Beautiful country, lots of wonderful people. And occasional strange family moments.

December: The partners make the tough decision to sell the company to a bigger firm. Some of us move over, the video business splits off (taking on the name Robotnik Films), and I start looking for work. I’ll miss the place, and I’ll miss working with the Spinglobe crew. But it’s a huge opportunity, both to find work in a field that’s important to me and to have some actual free time again. Here’s to the new year!

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Art and music

Tonight, Sean’s out of town and M. is performing in a musical uptown, so the house will be free for Flickershow recording, hooray!

Only yesterday I was reading Muffy’s reports from the Open Ears festival and wishing I’d made it back to KW to catch it. I don’t generally get to see many shows, and the reason mostly boils down to Too Damn Busy. Either I’m working late (Sean and I seem to be home at 10pm as often as not), recording or playing with Flickershow, or recovering from the above.

I’m determined to change things around now. Coming home at a more reasonable time, for one thing; for another, working Saturday and staying home to work on music in the middle of the week, when the house is empty.

And I think I’ll have to check out some of the events at Deep Wireless: A Festival Of Radio Art. (Thanks, Torontoist.)

Particle trails with gravityHere’s the latest version of the particle sim - the particles attract this time around, and have random values for mass.

I’ve cleaned up the source and commented the hell out of it, and collected most of the major parameters so they’re easy to adjust before compiling.

Source plus the containing FLA file:

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Spring music

Fender Jazz headstockThis winter I seem to have been in a sort of musical hibernation. No gigs, no writing, hardly any jamming, no listening to any new music.

My main musical effort was playing bass in the band in show-tune revue some friends were putting together. Good experience, and while I still can’t sight-read well, it certainly gave me the chance to improve at it. (My favorite tunes to play: “Nobody’s Side” from Chess, “Life Of The Party” from The Wild Party, both full of syncopations and time changes; “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent, where I got to rock out a bit; and “I Could Be Happy With You” from The Boy Friend, just because it was so damned cute in that faux-‘20s, so-very-English sort of way.)

But other than that - perhaps in part because of it - I’ve just been burned out. Frankly, I was getting worried how little interest I had.

I managed to rouse myself enough to familiarize myself with Yes and Peter Gabriel, having borrowed some of their albums… and suddenly, much was explained to me about ‘70s rock.

A while ago J and I laid down some scratch versions of a whole pile of songs, both new and old, to use as the basis for a new CD. They sat untouched until a few days ago, when I stuck bass parts on some of the newest ones to send to our drummer. Here’s one:

Hold_Up_Donny.mp3 (3’43”)

I was afraid I was getting into a rut with my parts, so on these new songs there’s all kinds of pushed rhythms and other oddness. For the first time I’m making use of the Jazz bass, and taking advantage of its punch and sustain with a much more legato line. I’m attempting to play chords on the “choruses”, also for the first time, and the whole thing has a sort of Fender Rhodes feel to it. Starting to sound pretty trip-hoppy. Fleshing this one out is going to be a lot of fun!

The Golden Dogs: still from 'Construction Worker'New music discoveries this week too. Currently on the playlist:

Flook (borrowed from my Go-playing friend downstairs, also a Celtic music aficionado) an Anglo-Irish band who specialize in wonderful hyperactive flute-and-bohdrán grooves.

The Golden Dogs. Ran across two of their videos while browsing idly, and immediately went and got their album Big Eye Little Eye. Chock full of my kind of hooks (my favorite is “Runouttaluck” - if you cranked Stereolab up to double speed and mashed it up with the B-52’s it might sound like this) plus the same sort of dueling boy/girl vocals that make the New Pornographers and other bands so addictive. And they exude such joy in the video for “Construction Worker” that I think I have a crush on the whole band.

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Be afraid…

Spine-chilling, bone-thrilling acoustical pop music! It can only be… A Very Flickershow Hallowe'en the acoustic harmonies of SPOOKYHORSE
and a special appearance by New Wave pop sensations SPIELFILM

Toronto: The Renaissance Café
($5 - show starts at 9pm)
1938 Danforth Ave (at Woodbine) [map]

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Last night was a blast - great sets from Dave and Rich DeJonge and the David Hein Band. Each act did two sets, and for our second set we played as a quintet. Great three-part harmonies on “Gold Thieves”, and “Searchlights” finally came together live like it did on the CD. And we covered “Lucky” by Radiohead and “A Day In The Life”, which both benefitted enormously from having Lance and Ellen there. Hope we got a good recording.

Hot Rod bitsHalfway through our breakneck rendition of “Idiot Grin”, I felt something sharp hit me in the back of the leg. I realized after a moment that it was part of one of Clark’s “hot rod” drumsticks. Hot Rods are essentially a slim bundle of narrow wooden sticks that are a little quieter than solid sticks, while still having a comfortable weight for playing, and Clark’s were disintegrating on the spot. Another piece of wood pinged off the back of my head during the bridge. After the show, Clark told me he’d bought them just when he joined Flickershow about a year and a half ago, and was curious to see how long they’d last. As it turned out… it was exactly long enough.

We’ll miss ya, Clark. Happy dadhood. :D

Clark lent me his DVDs of The Beatles Anthology, which are fascinating viewing (though how the band ever put up with the screaming fans I will never know). I wasn’t as familiar with their early stuff, so I’ve just heard “I’ll Follow The Sun” for the first time. What a nifty melody, with that augmented fourth!

Dreams: lots of people I didn’t recognize, all living together in a big (sometimes small) house for a few days. Middle-aged… but were we on some kind of sports team? Looked briefly like my Grandma’s house (the setting of many of my dreams when I was young). There was a thunderstorm, and lightning struck an old dead tree out the back, about three times. I could see the electricity snaking across the yard and into the foundation of the house to ground itself.

I woke up speaking in the voice of a mysterious new character for my radio plays.

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Saxes and arranging

There’s nothing like being awakened at 5:30 in the morning by a cat throwing up on you.

I’ve realized that I don’t really care for sax solos on rock songs… but I love rhythm parts, especially with bass/baritone sax. I’m thinking of “Good Morning” by the Beatles, and the neat arrangement on “This Song” by Ron Sexsmith with a pair of (tenor?) saxes, the lower of them doubled by an electric guitar.

Hmm. Might have to try doubling violin and piano, or violin and guitar.

Other voicings I’d like to try sometime:

  • Two male voices singing an octave apart. The Fembots have some octave-doubled voices on their latest. Also, Julian’s got me listening to some early Tears For Fears, and “The Hurting” in particular does this. It’s very ‘80s, come to think of it - Depeche Mode used it all over the place; also Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” (and “Space Oddity”), and Talking Heads on “Mind”, the Police on “Bring On The Night” and “Spirits In The Material World”... a quick survey of an ‘80s compilation turns up A Flock Of Seagulls, INXS and Squeeze.
  • Heck, just two voices in unison. I instinctively go for harmonies, but unison can be powerful too.
  • And speaking of octaves, piano octaves. I just did a disco-ish track for a short film, and played the melody on a piano that way. Punchy! Ooh, and how about 12-string guitar?

I’ve finally gone and wiped my studio machine and reinstalled Windows. It’s so much perkier now - years of forgotten software layers and busted registry bits swept away… ahh, that’s better.

Unfortunately, I can’t find my Cubase install CD - gah! But I did bring home my Mbox and installed Pro Tools 7, which will be very nice to have. Next step: good monitors.

Fun rehearsal last night, in preparation for our next gig (our last one with Clark for a while - details on the Flickershow site.

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Banging on things

So I’ve been pondering alternative and found percussion, and scooping together some playlists full of inspirational material… everything from samba and African stuff to Peter Gabriel’s early solo stuff (when he got tired of the usual pop percussion and avoided using cymbals for two or three albums), the Fembots (alarm clocks! gunshots!) and Graeme Kirkland (that guy who used to busk with big paint buckets all over town).

Might try out some found percussion when we record “Catch-22”, our ostensible Latin number. And I’m planning to have another crack at the “song-a-day” experiment: write a piece every day of any length and style (usually they ended up being about a minute long); quality is less important than consistently making the effort.

There are a lot of songs with typewriters in them.

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