Friday, July 27, 2012


I have, in my possession (knock on wood), a very rare 3-day weekend.

I spent day 1 of said weekend catching up on yard work. Not that I have a lot of yard to worry about, but my black-eyed susans and coneflowers were literally overgrown by weeds.

Much better now.

Music, if you haven't noticed, surrounds us... it's a background noise in stores, it's in the car, it's in our homes. (I've got mixed feelings about this, as it generally trains people subconsciously to talk over and tune out music. It un-specials the music, to a degree.)

Weeding is extremely meditative. Almost always, I work in the garden without musical accompaniment. I find that with my hands busy, my mind free, the brain spins its own records from memory.

And I think it's important, for a number of reasons, that the brain should be allowed to do this from time to time. It exercises our memories. I believe it can also work to help refine pitch-sense, since you're recalling the music and trying to reconstruct the details in your mind. (I don't have anything to back that statement up, just what I suppose.)

But mostly, I think it's like... dreaming. The mind dreams at night, regardless of whether you remember the dream. It's a way for the mind to refresh itself and/or to look into itself. (Many of my own dreams fall into that category, which, for lack of a better term, I'd call "window dreams," since they provide a momentary window into how I'm really feeling about certain things.) I honestly do believe that there is some, some merit to the notion that the songs that get stuck in your brain can reflect how you're feeling.

As a musician, I think it's also important to pay attention to what gets stuck in your brain because it's a key to defining your taste. Why's it stuck in your head, is it a certain riff, or a timbre or texture, or a story? Pay attention.

So, I'm weeding in the garden. And here's what my brain comes up with...

Fell in Love With a Girl - The White Stripes 
In the Garden (ha... yep) 
Dogs - Damien Rice 

a song of my own that's been unfinished for a few years... not even a title...
When my own unfinished songs get in my head, I wonder if it's not a call to finish it... there's a reason these things come to mind, y'know?

That Summer - Garth Brooks
Rowing Song - Patty Griffin
Blank White Page - Mumford and Sons

Over My Head - the Honey Badgers
Honey Badger! Actually, The Honey Badgers and Battleshy Youths have a habit of getting in my head quite a bit, and it's usually the stuff they don't tend to play on stage. "Don't," "Battle," and "Temporary" all get lodged in my head with fair amount of frequency, Michael (I KNOW YOU'RE READING THIS)

Violet's Dreams - Erin Magnin
Okay, so I didn't actually have the music in my head, but I could not stop thinking about the story of this song for a long time. It's a haunting story. I love it.

Also, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" ALWAYS, without fail, gets stuck in my head for a loooooong time while I'm weeding. I can't really explain it, I'm not really proud of it, it just is what it is.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Two days, two gigs, plus random radio things.


Last Thursday, I had the extreme pleasure of filling the Hockessin Memorial Hall with music for a couple of hours. Locally-owned business Performance Physical Therapy was celebrating their 20th anniversary. I was, of course, totally thrilled to support locally-owned business. :D Also, I definitely ran into my elementary-school principal. What a crazy feeling. Also, the lieutenant governor was there, which was snazzy as well.

On Friday, I was on the bill for Mocha, Music, and More, another local gem - sponsored by the Friends of Newark (that's Delaware), hosted at Central Perk (my favorite for CHAIIII and its late hours). I think I've wanted to play one of these for over a year, and I finally made it in! They were celebrating an anniversary, too, now that I think about it - 4 years. Good stuff!

Shane rocked both of the gigs, being all graduated and having free time and whatnot. He learned the Banana Peel Rag in about a day, and played it at Mocha, Music and More. I'd love to have a recording of it sometime soon, but I say that about a lot of things, let's be honest. Gotta choose my battles (see previous post about never having time to sit down anymore).

A crazy thing happened on Saturday, too... turns out one of the guys from My Version Of It, the band that followed me at Mocha, Music and More, has a radio talk show down in Rehoboth. He got the idea to call me after I passed out business cards at the end of the gig. Go figure.

So I get this call as I'm getting ready to go to work, and, well, you can just listen to the interview if you're so inclined.

All in all, a pretty crazy few days. Crazy good.


Incidentally, now that I'm blogging and thinking and all - I might switch to blogging at my Tumblr more. Shrug. I rediscovered it a little while ago, and it's just a ton easier to share media and short blurbs. 'Cause let's be honest, there are a dedicated few out there reading these novels, but I have not a lot of time to write them and photos and music and videos are a lot more fun. For everyone.

Just an FYI.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A week of running very, very hard, and Thanks.

I am, right now, sitting. In a comfy chair, in my house. I don't have to work 'till noon tomorrow, and I don't have anything planned the rest of the night.

It's really a little shocking, and strange, but I might be able to settle into it.

As you might be able to discern: yes, it has been a very intense week. The small moments I had set aside to relax were infiltrated with random anxiety, like the slow leak in my car tire, the inflexibility of my summer work schedule to facilitate its repair, my failure in so many ways to make good on commitments to others. My dreams, the window to my own inner workings, spoke nothing but worry.

And yet, though I walk through it, how should I complain? I was never promised ease, but life, yes. I will never grow if I choose the path of least resistance. Deep, sincere, and completely unsolicited encouragement came to me through many people. My parents (especially my father) turned my car tire around within 12 hours. AND fed me steak for dinner. I had random moments of happiness: taking a new kayak out for its maiden voyage, chirping to a cheeky red-winged blackbird female, finding a message in a bottle. 

With wine still inside. That's legit.
I am thankful for my life.

I am thankful for the two sweet gigs I played this week - one private event as a freelance classical guitarist, one public event as a singer-songwriter. (More details later!)

I am thankful for my friend Shane, who accompanied me to both gigs and took time to learn a couple of my songs, including the Banana Peel Rag, which is a kinduva tricky little tune.

I am thankful for the family and strong friendships in my life, for people who are with you regardless of whether the weather is fair or foul, and maybe regardless of whether you're going crazy and not treating everybody awesomely.

I am thankful for my relationship with God, which is a constant, and which keeps me floating regardless of how well things are going or how I may appear.

I am thankful for a moment of rest, and for grace to let the dishes rot in the sink one more day, and for what's yet on the horizon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Geeking out: vidjagame music

Not that nothing's been going on with me, musically - I do have plenty to report on, and I should get to that at some point or other. Summer is insanity for me - we're transitioning into summer camp mode at work. Once the transition is over and we get into the groove, I should be more focused with the music thing.

For now, I'm going tangential. One of the ways I kick back, relax, and get inspired is by searching out really awesome remixes of videogame music. Also, it's a good practice to keep a listening journal, take time to listen to something and then write down what you notice about it. Sharpens your mind. If you've got interest in making music, you ought to listen with some intent.

Or not. Do what you like. That's just my take.

I am, of course, a gamer, but I am not as prolific of a gamer as I might try to seem. I've still never finished a Final Fantasy, even though I am in love with the music. When I was a kid, there were pockets of communities on the internet where you could get MIDI versions of videogame music - there was remixing going on then, too, but nothing as sophisticated as today. Most of what I had downloaded were attempted replicas, not remixes. VGMusicArchive is still around, where I used to get most of my music. I'd spend hours just listening to this stuff, which is how I know most of the Final Fantasy music without having actually played most of the games. It's just that good. You'll see.

Okay, so here's a well-known theme, even for folks who aren't gamers. It's the Super Mario Bros theme, originally composed by Koji Kondo (also of Zelda fame) and remixed by Saitama Saishu Heiki (otherwise known as SSH). SSH is renowned for his punked-out remixes of a variety of game music. The year is... oh, it's the 80's, I guess.

This one, in case you didn't notice, is real punked-out. He gives it a nice long intro, releasing the main theme at 0:35. The fun thing: IT'S IN MINOR!! We're used to a blithe little riff to introduce the Mario Brothers, but this remix gives the whole theme newfound intensity.

I have noticed about my own music that where melodies are concerned, I like to leap around quite a bit. There's stepwise motion (adjacent pitches), and there's leapwise motion (leaping over pitches). The very beginning of the Mario theme is three huge leaps. And it's very leapy all in the middle, too. It could be coincidence, but...

Time's Scar.

Chrono Cross.

Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda.

Year: 1999. So, we've now got capability for more sophisticated sounds, including actual percussion. This is a live recording, but it's pretty much a replication of how it was in the videogame. You've got to give it at least a minute and 15 seconds to get through the pretty intro into the rip-roaring gypsy dancing part.

Again, notice the two giant leaps with the violin right after the picked-up part.

This is a really iconic and awesome piece of music. I think the intro draws me in, but it's those two leaps right at the beginning that stole my heart away. There's an emotional and adventurous wildness about them.

Battle Theme.

Final Fantasy IX.

Composer: Nobuo Uematsu.

Year: 2000.

Remixer: I dunno, it don't say T_T

Okay, so here's the thing. Final. Fantasy. Is. The. Thing.

Nobuo Uematsu apparently wrote like 160 pieces for Final Fantasy IX, and composed I think most of the Final Fantasies. Nobuo Uematsu is the man. The end.

I was having a conversation after a contra dance one time with a parent. She said her kid rated music based on its viability as boss fight music. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY CONCUR. To be completely fair, this is just a regular fight, and not a boss fight, but it's cool anyways. Uematsu is one of my favored composers, mostly because his music doesn't just convey a mood, it conveys a story. This is something I have innately understood ever since I found Final Fantasy music. Most of the time I would also get visuals and storylines. Sometimes this still happens, but to be completely honest (and hopefully not freaking you out), it's a little bit like a trance. The eyes shut, the inside gets all tingly, there is nothing but me and my imaginings.

So I try to not have it happen when I'm driving, is basically what I'm saying.

I will attempt to explain with this paltry breakdown:

0:00 - intro. There's going to be a fight. There's a lot of tension. The offset rhythms in the guitar, the melody that leaps, but tightly, the repeating of it.
0:25 - a little break. your focus flies away a little bit from the fight, a little space opens up for you to realize your own fear and determination.
0:31 - return to the intro riff.
0:37 - Theme A. (0:49, repeats.) This is the enemy's overture. This is the realization of the hero: this is the enemy. Tough, huge, unimaginably strong. The notes have lengthened, and there's some cool anticipations that seem to make it roar a little (as in the end of the first phrase).
1:02 - Theme B. Up to 1:07, you get these flighty little riffs overtop of a more soaring and stable couple of chords. This is the hero rising up in spirit, drawing up to the full extent of being, striking at the enemy.
1:07 to 1:14, the response. The enemy isn't going down so easily. The harmonies draw into uncertain territory, leading tones pushing you somewhere you didn't expect.
1:14 to 1:26 - actually an ECHO of the original Theme A, in new and more hopeful harmonic space, believe it or not. Listen carefully. The rhythm gives it away. We have a reminder that yes, the enemy is here, but the hero will stand and fight. The theme ends at 1:26 on this triumphant note.

At that point, the theme cycles back around on itself - in this remix, there's a guitar solo, but in the game it loops back around.

Hope you enjoyed my geeking out... maybe I'll do it again sometime ^^

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nobody needs 800 photos of themselves.

I'm pretty happy about how I've changed around social media.

Regarding my personal profile:

Within the last week, I untagged myself from approximately 800 photos. Nobody needs 800 photos of themselves anywhere. Get this... for photos that others have tagged you in, you have to click through three screens each to remove the tag. That's 2400 clicks. It took me awhile. (However, for photos in which you have tagged yourself, no such option appears - you have to somehow intuit that you should hover the cursor over your name so that a "remove tag" bubble appears.)

While it might be easy to connect on Facebook, they go to some insidious lengths to make it hard as anything to disconnect. I get a little skeeved out about an internet service that wants you to put your info up and then actively works to confuse you when you try to get it down.

I deleted all of the photos and albums I had personally created. I took down all my cover photos and profile pictures, but I did upload my little cartoon avatar that my sister drew for fun a few years back.

The best change I made, though, was limiting tags. You can set your profile so that Facebook has to wait for your explicit permission in order to post stuff to your profile - other peoples' statuses and photos, these days. Honestly, I don't know why everyone wouldn't do this.

I find it's useful mostly for personal limitation. Whenever someone posts a photo to my profile, it gets a bunch of likes or comments, and that's what'll keep me coming back to Facebook. I gotta see who liked it or commented on it. Duh. This way, I can still see the photo, but it's not connected to my profile for all time and it doesn't get automatically shared.

PLUS, step two: tag Em McKeever [Music] and then share it on that profile, instead of my personal profile. Because that's where I want my traffic going. I don't care much for my personal profile, other than a tool to manage groups and pages, and as the entity that can actually invite people to events.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Social Media.

"I'd get rid of my Facebook, but I need it for my music."

I've heard this from my peers, and I've said it myself, 

and I don't think it's true.

Occasionally, an article will pop up about Facebook and/or social media in general, and what it's doing to us. This one from CNN recently crossed my news feed. Granted, it's an opinion, but it rings true with me.

Some choice tidbits:

" today's always-on social media world, our solitude has been replaced by incessant online updates, which both weaken our sense of self and our ability to create genuine friendships."

"Kids are growing up ... assuming that it's perfectly normal to reveal everything about ourselves online."

"It's time to wake up to the truth about social media. Networks like Facebook have turned us into products in which their only economic value is our personal data. Like any other addiction, we need recognize its destructive reality. Facebook is free because it sells our most intimate data to advertisers. "

I have long recognized my own addiction to social media. I say it, and people laugh, and I do say it with a smirk and a side of sarcasm, which warrants a laugh. But I admit to times when I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning when I had work at 8 am. I admit to letting the rice burn because I was on Facebook. Some weeks, I have more control than others, but for the most part, I don't own my Facebook account. It owns me.

I've quit for periods of time. I think my longest stretch was two weeks. My longest longest stretch was really when I was on the island in Alaska, and the only connection to the outside world was a radio and 20 minutes of satellite phone per week. Those times, I remember being able to breathe.

I don't actually like Facebook.

There, I said it.

So why don't I quit? The argument comes across thusly: "I'd quit Facebook, but I need it for my music." 

Which, in all honesty, sounds and feels a little bit like "I'd quit drinking, but I need to relax."

Not for me, but, y'know, for an alcoholic. I'm a Facebookaholic. If you will.

What about it do I really need?

As a musician, sometimes the only way people contact me is through Facebook. In fact, on multiple occasions I have been contacted via Facebook message with a request for my e-mail address, which is clearly listed on all my Facebook pages, profiles, what have you.

I use it to create and promote gigs or other events. Socially, I also use it to gather friends together in various fashions, and I administer several groups and pages for work and/or pleasure. It's so mainstream now for so many people that I'm not sure I can ever fully extricate myself from my obligations. Or, even if I did, wouldn't I just transfer all those functions to other places? It's not Facebook I'm addicted to, it's something therein which I haven't yet pinpointed. I'm not sure that just ditching Facebook solves the problem.

I'm not sure that it's Facebook or social media which is inherently evil, and I'm not sure that cutting it out is the answer. But here's what I'm sure of.

It's not magic.

Social media is just a tool to reach people. It is no different from websites, or e-mail lists, or RSS feeds, or snail mail newsletters, or phone lists, or what the heck ever. It is JUST a communications tool. 

Ultimately, my success doesn't hinge on how well I communicate. My success hinges on making great music. That's what I want to do. If what I do is really awesome, people will find out. The end. Maybe instead of banging my head figuring out how to reach more people and scolding myself for not using social media more effectively, I should just focus on being awesome and becoming more awesome.

So heck with it all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Horseshoe Crabs!

Time keeps eluding me, so here is a quick update:

Peace, Love, and Horseshoe Crabs was THE BEST! Ever! Thanks so very much to the Friends of DuPont Nature Center for all their great efforts.

I remember sun and breeze and sand and good, kind people and smiling faces.
I remember sweet free swag, including a PLHSC T-shirt and a free book about horseshoe crabs!
I remember my friend Shane joining me for the adventure and jamming on some sweet tunage.
I remember nearly getting front-ended (?) at a Shell station, which is still really hilarious for some reason.
I remember campfiretimes and sistertimes and beachtimes.
I remember "Hallelujah" singalongs and B95, the infamous red knot.
I remember a Red Knot song, which complemented the Horseshoe Crab song perfectly!
I remember Ennio, whose acquaintance we were quite pleased to make.
He did not regale us in person with any of his Spanish pop music though.


I mostly remember being really happy and making lots of really good music and being around really good people.


 Super-secret project with The Honey Badgers!

 AND some sweet gigs. Next one is the 6 in Willytown, brought to you by Gable Music Ventures.