Saturday, August 26, 2006
There will be an artist trail in downtown North Adams this fall.
As the Doobies sang, we're takin' it to the streets.
// posted by Wes @ 1:18 PM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Marjean Wisby, the woman behind the Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, has passed on.
I loved going to the Wisp when I lived in Cincinnati. You could always count on unbelievably good jazz. I got to play there once, when I sat with Adam (Greenberg's) Abominable Big Band about a decade ago. Many incredible musicians have played there - check their website for a partial roster. Every Wednesday night, the Blue Wisp Big Band plays, and you won't find a more talented assemblage of musicians in the world.
This woman will be sorely missed.
// posted by Wes @ 12:32 PM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Friday, August 25, 2006
Continuing a thought from yesterday
Scot Lehigh picks up where I left off in the discussion about John Mark Karr and what it says about us and our priorities.
// posted by Wes @ 8:05 AM |||Comment (0) | Trackback (0)
The Right Thing
The FDA has approved Plan B for over-the-counter sales.
The Nervous Nellies in the Religious Right are prophesying mass sluttiness and acres of Oh Noes! Dead BAYBEEES!!!!1!!!, but I don't see it happening.
First off, contrary to popular belief this pill is NOT an abortifacient - and no study outside of those funded by anti-choice and anti-woman types says that it is.
Secondly, it'll presumably lead to a drop (perhaps insignificantly so, perhaps not) in abortions, since fertilization will be prevented.
The FDA did the right thing here.
// posted by Wes @ 7:57 AM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Friday Animal Blogging
This is Ryan.
Ryan is a 3 year old male Hound mix. He is an extremely handsome pooch with outstanding markings and coat and he knows it. He is independent, high energy, and does his own thing as is typical of his breed. He could use an obedience course. Children over 8 years old would be best and his new owners should have a fenced in yard. Come meet this very handsome dog.
Ryan and many other great animals are available at the Second Chance Animal Center on the Arlington/Shaftsbury Town Line in Vermont - take historic route 7A north of Bennington.
// posted by Wes @ 7:51 AM |||Comment (0) | Trackback (0)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
RIP Maynard Ferguson, 1928 - 2006
Maynard Ferguson, the man with the horn, passed away yesterday at the age of 78.
I got to meet Maynard a month ago in Cleveland. He was a fraternity brother, and he was just named Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia's 2006 Man of Music (as well as a Signature Sinfonian) at the National Convention.
His joie de vivre was unmatched, as was his sound. Go listen to any mid-50s recording by Stan Kenton, or one of Ferguson's recordings with his Big Bop Nouveau band. I know what's on my playlist this weekend.
Rest now, Brother Maynard. No human prayer can add a greater glory to his star.
// posted by Wes @ 9:47 PM |||Comments (2) | Trackback (0)
RIP Pluto, 1930 - 2006
Well, it was a good run, but Pluto is no longer a planet.
Pity, really. There was a nice symmetry there to the Music of the Spheres - Beethoven had nine symphonies, the solar system had nine planets.
// posted by Wes @ 11:36 AM |||Comments (3) | Trackback (0)
By request this week: Modal Jazz - So What?
Before we get into detail, we need to define some terms.
In modern parlance, a mode is a series of pitches organized in a scalar fashion. What we think of as major and minor scales can be considered modes as well, though the modes offer more combinations of whole and half steps. There are seven modes, and we can build them by thinking of a C major scale over two octaves. You'll notice that these are the "white keys" on a piano keyboard:
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
The first mode, Ionian, is equivalent to a major scale, and can be created by going from C to C on the white keys.
C D E F G A B C - Ionian
Dorian is the second mode, and it goes from D to D.
D E F G A B C D - Dorian
Next up is Phrygian, from E to E.
E F G A B C D E - Phrygian
Following is Lydian, F to F.
F G A B C D E F - Lydian
Next, Mixolydian - G to G.
G A B C D E F G - Mixolydian
The penultimate mode is Aeolian, which runs from A to A and which is equivalent to the natural minor scale.
A B C D E F G A - Aeolian
Finally, we have Locrian, which runs B to B.
B C D E F G A B - Locrian
Each of these modes can be transposed, or located at a different pitch level - you're not just limited to the C major scale when you build them. Here's a chart to help you out; the numbers are the scale degrees, and you can build these modes off any major scale by starting at the given scale degree.
Ionian - 1 to 1
Dorian - 2 to 2
Phrygian - 3 to 3
Lydian - 4 to 4
Mixolydian - 5 to 5
Aeolian - 6 to 6
Locrian - 7 to 7
D Dorian is built off the C major scale. On what scale would G Dorian be built?
(theme from Jeopardy! goes here)
That's right - F major. Dorians are built on the second scale degree of a major scale, and G is the second scale degree of F major.
How are these used in jazz? Let's look at where we are in jazz history. To this point, jazz has operated under the same harmonic premise as most Western art music, using functional harmony. In functional harmony, each chord has a specific role (or function), and the harmony must move to a specific tonal goal (usually the tonic, or keynote of whatever key you're in). This motion is usually by fifths, and operates as follows:
ii - V7 - I
In English, that means that most phrases end with the chord built on the second scale degree (usually a minor chord), followed by the chord built on the fifth scale degree (a major chord with a lowered 7th), followed by the tonic chord (quality depends on key). Chords have function, and rules must be followed. This can be extended out to something like this:
iii - vi - ii - V7 - I
That progression is quite common in jazz, appearing (in a slightly modified form) in the bridge to "I Got Rhythm" by George and Ira Gershwin, and in other tunes that use the same chord structure (often referred to as "Rhythm changes"). The chords appear in the bridge as shown here (in the key of Bb):
Old Man Trouble
I don't mind him
You won't find him
'Round my door
and then the I hits on the downbeat of the final phrase. In the Bebop era, these chords were used with all manner of upper extentions (stacked thirds beyond the basic triad of each chord), but the basic motion was still present.
When Miles Davis and others were looking to move in new directions in the early 1950s, they asked the same question that composers from Schubert to Schoenberg to Debussy to Copland to Stravinsky had asked - why does harmony need to be functional? Can't chords and their placement be chosen by color/sound? Why does ii have to be followed by V? Do we even need all these chords?
The response to Bebop was to strip away the upper extensions and slow down the harmonic motion, creating a cooler sound (hence the term Cool Jazz). Modes and modal theory offered one such path. Modes can be used for improvisation over certain chords. For example, if you have a mi7 chord, you can use the corresponding Dorian mode. For a 7 chord (dominant), use Mixolydian. For a half-diminished (ø7) chord, use Locrian. Chords with a #4? Lydian. Let's look at the Miles Davis tune "So What" (from Kind of Blue). The structure is insanely simple:
8 measures (count to "four" eight times) in each section
You can improvise over "So What" using just two scales - D Dorian over the Dmi7 chord (which is 3/4 of the form), and Eb Dorian over the Ebmi7 chord. If you have a piano or guitar, try it - play and hold the following notes over the given chords.
Dmi7 - D, F, A, C
Ebmi7 - Eb, Gb, Bb, Db
Over the Dmi7 chord, improvise using D E F G A B C D. Over the Ebmi7 chord, use Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db Eb. See? It's easy!
One last thought - you can make your improvisations more interesting by playing up notes that differ from traditional major/minor scales. D Dorian contains D E F G A B C D; D minor is D E F G A Bb C D. Play "B", and play it a lot.
Innovation in modal jazz improvisation can come from interesting rhythmic patterns and also from using scalar ideas (up 2 steps, down one, repeat - make your own!). You're limited only by the prevailing mode - and your imagination.
// posted by Wes @ 9:23 AM |||Comments (4) | Trackback (1)
Warhol was right
And the latest person to get his 15 minutes is John Mark Karr, who may or may not have killed JonBenet Ramsey nearly 10 years ago. Now his family is trying to sell the book and movie rights to his story.
Anyone who buys this book should forfeit their right to take part in civilized society for at least a decade. I don't say that because of Mr. Karr's innocence or guilt - that's really irrelevant to this. I say it because we're all cheapened when stupidity and vapidity are rewarded. Let's look at the players in this case:
(1) The Ramseys. They suffered a tremendous loss that no family should ever have to go through (including Iraqi families, for the record). Yet I still hold them in a certain amount of contempt for taking part in the whole childhood pageant thing. Stage parents frighten me - and most likely frighten their kids as well. A child is not a trophy, nor is it a meal ticket.
(2) John Mark Karr. I don't know if he's guilty or not, but from what we've seen in the news, he was obsessed by this case, so it's entirely possible he just wanted to be linked to it in some way. He also liked to marry young (his first wife was 12 or 13 when they married), and engaged in generally disturbing behavior. We shouldn't know anything else other than he was arrested and charged. We don't need to know what he ate on the flight back from Thailand, or how many times he went to the bathroom, or what he was wearing. He's not worth that.
(3) Karr's relatives. Rather then engaging in basic human decency and saying "No comment" until the trial starts, they're trying to cash in. This tells me that family is subservient to cash to them. Of course, given how Karr seems to have turned out, maybe it's best that he be nothing more than dollar signs to them; they obviously screwed him up something fierce.
(4) The media. Shame on all of you. Of all the stories in the world (the Middle East, economic problems, midterm elections, ongoing issues with education, etc. - I could go on and on), the Big Cable News Stations spent most of a week "reporting" about Karr and his background, and metaphorically digging up JonBenet's corpse over and over and over. And of course, JonBenet footage was always from the most titillating times when she was onstage - we need to feel guilty about our leering, after all, and in order to do that properly we gotta leer some more. There are reasons that the only news I really trust is The Daily Show (with NECN up there as well).
(5) Us. For not roundly and soundly sending the message that this, while important in terms of solving a crime, should not have dominated press coverage for over a week.
Through it all, we now all know (against our will and/or better judgment) who John Mark Karr is. If he's guilty, he should suffer the appropriate punishment, and if he's not, he should be set free. But now he's famous, and in today's world that is all that matters. There is no need to know who John Mark Karr is, or who Paris Hilton is, or who Richard Hatch is, but we all do. Fame has superseded all other measures of success. Warhol was indeed right.
// posted by Wes @ 9:00 AM |||Comments (2) | Trackback (0)
Wasn't it great to see all those people downtown last night?
More like this, please.
// posted by Wes @ 8:58 AM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Behold Game Over, in which classic video games (we're talkin' early '80s) are re-enacted with foodstuffs and other household items.
Some people have too much free time. How I envy them.
// posted by Wes @ 10:16 PM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Jeffy, you started out halfway decently, and then you missed the point entirely.
The good people at Ben Gurion Airport engage in psychological profiling - looking for behavior patterns, etc - and NOT racial or ethnic profiling. It's not perfect, to be sure, but it's a far sight better than "Hey! He looks swarthy! Get HIM!"
But hey, brown people scare you. We get that already. You're really no better than the screaming harpies and pantswetters who pester flight attendants when someone "who looks like one of them" gets on the same plane.
Furthermore, change "jihadi" to "crusader" and you've hit the likes of Paul Hill, Eric Rudolph, Tim McVeigh, and Operation Rescue. Last I checked, not a lot of Muslims there.
// posted by Wes @ 9:56 AM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Kids these days
Apparently, some teenagers in Brattleboro, VT like to get a good all-over tan.
(1) Where were these people when *I* was in high school, and
(2) Anyone want to see me visit Brattleboro and take part? No? Me neither. Believe me - no one hates seeing me naked more than me.
// posted by Wes @ 9:51 AM |||Comments (5) | Trackback (0)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Open Gubernatorial Thread
Whom do you support for Massachusetts governor and why?
How about New York, for any readers from there?
// posted by Wes @ 9:37 AM |||Comments (9) | Trackback (0)
First in the nation
Scot Lehigh writes a good piece on New Hampshire's stubborn refusal to let another state have a say. If they are indeed considering having their primary in 2007, then I never ever want to read a letter from a New Hampshire resident complaining about the lengthening Presidential campaigns.
// posted by Wes @ 9:30 AM |||Comments (4) | Trackback (0)
Monday, August 21, 2006
Slow News Day
You know it's a slow news day when the top story on Yahoo! is something about Britney Spears' HUSBAND.
// posted by Wes @ 8:56 AM |||Comment (1) | Trackback (0)
Jawa Girl and I went down to the Grecian Festival at St. George's on Saturday. Good food and good music.
// posted by Wes @ 8:49 AM |||Comments (7) | Trackback (0)
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sunday Religion Blogging
The debate over faith vs. works rages on.
Obviously, I cannot speak for non-Christian religious communities here, but within the Christian religions, the balance between faith and works differs sharply from denomination to denomination. St. Paul defined faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1, KJV) Augustine of Hippo believed that faith was the source of all knowledge. Søren Kierkegaard argued faith was the basis of belief beyond argument, and not something that had to be proven. William Sloane Coffin defined faith as trust without reservation, not acceptance without proof.
Within Christian beliefs, faith plays a central role - to be considered a Christian, one must believe in the existence of God, that this God sent His only son as a sacrifice for our sins, and that this sacrifice is the central act of Christianity. There is wide disagreement of just how literal these events were, but the events form the basis of Christian faith. Most Christians further believe that faith must manifest itself in some way that shows the positive influence of Christianity. Christians refer to this as works. Our friends in the Roman Catholic Church have categorized works further into corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Protestant and Restoration churches do not usually sharply define works in this way, relying more on the general belief that "good works" are necessary for continued salvation.
In those churches that practice adult baptism, hearing and believing the Gospel - faith - is what leads the hearer to repent and confess their sins and then be baptized - works. Some churches believe the moment of repentance and confession is the moment of salvation, and the baptism is merely an outward act triggered by faith. Others believe salvation is not granted until baptism. This line of demarcation is what separates the Anabaptist tradition from the Restoration tradition. Furthermore, there is strong debate over the condition of one's soul following initial salvation. Those in the Calvinist tradition believe that once salvation is granted, it is granted for good, and no amount of works (good or bad) can change it. This belief is drawn from the idea that salvation is a gift of God (which is generally accepted in Christian theology) and that once granted it cannot be "un-granted." Others, drawing upon the Wesleyan and Campbellite traditions, believe that salvation, though freely given of God, can be removed if the person does not carry out certain works or if the person engages in sinful behavior. To be sure, even the Calvinists do not believe that works are irrelevant - on the contrary, they believe works are a manifestation of the ideals of faith. And also to be sure, good works are not just limited to people of faith - there are many atheists and agnostics who live up to the ideal of "Love thy neighbor" to a greater extent than many who claim the mantle of Christ.
Our Jewish friends have what is called a mitzvah, which can literally mean a Biblical commandment; in a larger sense it can also mean any act of human kindness.
What say you on the role of faith versus the role of works in salvation and in general?
// posted by Wes @ 9:39 AM |||Comments (7) | Trackback (0)
Everyone's a critic
Shorter this guy: How come no one exhibits Dogs Playing Poker or Velvet Elvis? And no one paints like that Thomas Kinkade fella.
Sir, just because artists are less representational doesn't make them lesser artists. I reserve some of my most vile criticism for contemporary "artists" who are more interested in being ironically detached than actually saying something through their art, but all periods and genres of art produce artists who have something profound to say. And I would never point to a genre or artist (especially one of the greats like Cezanne) as being indicative of the "decline" of art. If you believe art begins and ends with representational painting, sir, I'm sure you can find something at your local craft store that is inoffensive to your fragile tastes.
// posted by Wes @ 9:30 AM |||Comment (0) | Trackback (0)
And Verdi turned 'round in his grave.
I see our local Johnny One-Note is at it again (bottom story) with his tales of woe on how the Evil Court System is Destroying Fatherhood.