Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Hear Martians

A couple of weeks ago, this was almost ready to post. Then life intruded and, eh.....


Not literally. Ever have one ear plug up or get enough pressure in it that the natural pitch you hear is changed? The result is two ears hearing in different pitches, and sounds something like ring modulation or detuning. Anyone familiar with the narration on the track "Legacy" from "Darkland Express" knows the sound. You would think, with my background and interests, that this would be really interesting and that I would enjoy it. That is true some times, but those are in the minority. Overall, it's pretty annoying, especially when the girls are running around and screaming as they play, seeing who can laugh most shrilly and loudly. (This usually happens during tub time, when the sound is amplified by the tub walls and glass doors- which pegs my meters, bounces my eyes around in their sockets, and inadvertantly gnashes my teeth together in a lock-jawed grimace. Ah, parenthood.)

The first time this happened to me, many years ago, I found it more interesting, despite that it still was annoying, and in fact the pressure making it possible was painful. I remember standing in line at a local grocery store and listening to music at the checkout, and finding the weird harmonies produced to be very educational and fascinating. But all the voices sounding so garbled definitely got on my nerves after a while.

Sometimes I will fall back on not actually listening, but letting my brain interpret the dialogue and songs around me. Sort of an autopilot function, it keeps me distracted and occassionally amused. Lulu will start singing a school song with the melody of"Frere Jaques", and my semi-idle grey matter will chime in: "Hairy jock strap/ Hairy jock strap/ Dormammu/ Dormammu/ Where is Talky Tina/ Where is Talky Tina/ On the stairs/ Giving glares."

I'd like to get my hands on an actual ring modulator, it's one of the few things missing from my tool box. Of course right now I would't be able to tell what it sounded like. Or, it would sound like everthing else. Or twice as bad. It would be like checking out cologne or perfume if you've got a cold. Of course these days all efforts and funds for the Airship are going into finishing up the studio. I hope to be finished with this sometime before I die, so that I can gaze upon it once before going into the promised land of the eternal jam session, where free grub and free love combine with free expression, and home for my free Willy will be transient yet serially eternal.

Sorry, daydreaming again. Need a cello still, of course, that's actually number one on the list. I recently read the liner notes to the remaster of the first ELO album and took heart from Roy Wood saying that the cello on "10538 Overture" and the rest was actually of the cheap Chinese variety. So as I've often suspected- what I can afford will probably do the trick just fine. I have plans to build something for "long string bowing" (meaning, deeper notes than violin), but getting to that may take some time. Anyway.....Other equipment thoughts....I have been in need of a better drum throne since shortly after getting the one I still use, and that was in 1980. I have this crazy scheme to build something that will mimic the height and angle of the passenger seat in our car, which affords me perfect flexibility and thrust. I don't know how it would work with the actual height of my bass drum though. I think it would be too short. I'd end up looking like a shriveled old lady behind my kit. Of course I could give a crap what I look like, but if I have to play way up over my head, like I'm driving a chopper with ape-hangers, I'm probably in trouble. I may measure the height from the floor to where my butt would theoretically rest, and try to replicate that in front of the kit before I build anything. The ape-hanger routine would be especially problematic considering I have quite a few nice additions to the kit and am trying to build (or buy, if somehow that would be cheaper) a setup to include them. Example: a local hardware store had a huge range of cowbell sizes. They aren't as sturdy as LP bells, but I'm not going to be smacking the crap out of them on a nightly basis either. I think the total, with my oldest and largest LP bell Mark got me 30 plus years ago, will come to around 8 bells. You know what this means; however I manage to mount them, I will have to put up a sign saying "More Cowbell". I have thought about stacking them all vertically on a single rod, possibly fanning them out bit for greater accessability.

The cowbells, then, don't necessarily make for trouble in ape-hanger city. (Take that sentence and say it out of context in conversation, preferably within a group of people; if it's in public, perhaps at a restaurant, or at work, even better. Don't explain yourself; at most, be cryptic and hint mysteriously.In fact, the stranger your bullshit explanation is, the better. Tell me in detail about the event and I'll post it here and send you a free CD from the PA catalog, your choice. Seriously.) But I have also been collecting, and making, various chimes to hang over my head. In the old studio setup, the beams above my head were exposed, so I could hang them from nails and just reach up and hit them. (The best examples of this currently on CD are scattered throughout "A Play Of Light And Shadow".) I intend to add to this, not just more chimes but eventually a set of woodblocks and all sorts of other things. So some kind of cage setup will almost certainly become necessary. Ape-hangers...cage...maybe it's destiny appearing in the form of linguistic kizmet. Huzzah!

Seriously, I have boxes and boxes of stuff I've been collecting- mostly cheap toys and percussives and incredibly cheap stringed things- that have just been stored, waiting for a time when they can rise and bring their ancient evil to a sleepy little northwest town. I had to move around a bunch of stuff to clear the studio to work on it, and got a fresh look at some of it. Makes me salivate in a way that only thoughts of Thai food and certain cunning linguist experiences have before.

EPILOGUE: The hearing eventually cleared up. It took the better part of a week though.

The autopilot song distractor has kept me very busy over the years. It provides me with all sorts of possibilities for mishearing language, and has been an invaluable source of inspiration for my little book of potential song titles. I do hope you'll get to meet some of them later. This will of course mean me producing more music for public consuption, so...Like I said, I do hope etc.

I'm still not much further ahead on settling the apehanger drum quandary. I measured the passenger seat: if I were to recreate it as a drum throne, my ass would be approximately 10 inches off the ground. Don't see how that would be possible playing a 22 inch bass drum, with toms over that and cymbals over the toms.I can solve lots of mounting problems without too much hassle; maybe just build a rack/cage out of threaded pipe. But how to solve that "sittin' low" problem.....I'm as stumped now as I was when the thought first occurred to me.

I am no closer now to a ring modulator or a cello than I have been in ages. I occasionally think about selling some books, but when I go to make the cut, I vaporlock and stall out. As I get older, more crotchety and have less time- WAAYY less time- old dreams of reading every interesting thing I picked up cheap are starting to give way to sardonic realist assessments wherein I choose the most utilitarian or enriching tomes and axe the rest. It's like getting the itch to hack off a big head of hair and just enjoy the simplicity and coolness of a buzz cut. (I have just recently done this, in fact.) This particular dream is a bit of a leaky boat, 'cause I keep buying books. Just not as many, or as often. But the books are different, and hair grows back, It's taken a few decades but I'm almost where I want to be in terms of creative tools. The list is getting shorter all the time.

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