Friday, December 29, 2006

Should old acquaintance be forgot...

Last year at this time, I recorded a version of "Auld Lang Syne" ("Auld Lang Syne 2006") with hammer dulcimer. This year, I decided that it would become a tradition to do a new version every December to see which direction each one took. This time around, I went with mountain dulcimer and vocals. Using the Fantom as a controller, I created a tribal rhythm as the pulse and laid down a simple sub-bass track with a neat soundfont to really ground it.

I was going to embellish the arrangement with some other elements, but something came up. Champ, our 16 1/2 year-old black labrador/border collie mix, took a turn for the worst (he was diagnosed with renal failure some time ago and suffered a sort of stroke as well, from which he bounced back) and the decision to let him go was made. In researching the lyrics, it struck me that the verses containing lines such as "we two have run about the hills", "we two have paddled in the stream", "we've wandered many a weary foot", etc., very much related to the kind of adventures that we've shared with this old dog. My wife Jae has been his companion since he was a tiny puppy and I only have known him for the past five years, but what amazing times we've spent together; he is truly a dear friend and I knew we were living on borrowed time, so this sudden signpost hit me like a ton of bricks. Tomorrow morning, we visit the vet to free him from the pain of this earthly life.

I was going to really lay on the sentimentality with this development, but in the Scots-Irish tradition, I decided to leave out the dramatic modulations and tear-jerking minor chords in order to celebrate his life as opposed to mourning his death. The melodic-harmonic riffs that bridge the verses and end the piece are motifs that recall Champ at his happiest, prancing along in the summer sunshine. Finally, I recorded his voice on this, his last day with us, and let him have the final word, as it were. We're sure gonna miss you old buddy. And we will never forget you.

May we all know love and laughter
of good companions, ever so
may the road rise up to meet them
when it's time to let them go

go forth, ye old dog - you'll always be a rascal!

Your friend, Bing

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll get your pint mug !
And surely I’ll get mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the hills,
and pulled the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine (dinner time?) ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-friendly draught,
for auld lang syne.


"Auld Lang Syne 2007"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

In The Works

Busy, busy, busy.

Sort of working on a number of levels these days - I've got a new piece written on dulcimer in DAA called "I Cried For Days", an instrumental that will eventually have words, but I wanted it to stand as a piece all its own.

I just picked up the PreSonus Firebox and am now experimenting with it for recording. It's sweet. In Garageband 3, you can record a number of tracks simultaneously, and the Firebox has two channels, so I can record vocals and dulcimer at the same time on seperate tracks. Muy excellente. Also, the sound is so much warmer going in now - what a world of difference having the pre-amp! It's basically like a tube amplifier, only for the computer. Much warmer sounds that spill out of the speakers as opposed to sort of pinched in the sound spectrum. This really opens things up quite a bit. I also appreciate having a true headphone buss - which is in stereo and actually goes up to "11" - not that I'd ever do that - still, it's nice to hear what you're recording - the rag-tag, jerry-rigged method I've been using was less-than-satisfying.

The first big test for this set-up will be a song called "Rites Of Passage" by a British artist called Mizieya. We met up through MacJams and enjoyed each other's music, so we're now working on this track together.

Most recently completed is a sort of test run of some new soundfonts I found for Garageband's software instruments. The track, called "One Winter Solstice Morn" is a three-minute orchestral adventure that I composed in Sibelius and then imported into Garageband using the Dent Du MIDI converter. If some of this is just flying over your head, I apologize! If you ever have any questions about what the McHell I'm talking about, please do drop a line and I'll get you up to speed.

I've got raw skeletons of about three dulcimer songs cooking in Garageband - I sketch out an idea, verses and choruses, then record them and leave 'em until I come back with more ideas. When it all boils over, usually that's when I move ahead with recording a song demo. There is another on the horizon here - I'll post when it's complete!

Mohave is gearing up for festival season, which will probably reveal itself to be starting in March, or later spring. There's some even fresher blood in the tribe, as well as a wealth of new material, so this next season is going to be sweet! Thanks for checking back with the blog. Me ke aloha!

Monday, December 11, 2006


The raga that I recorded a little while back has been getting some loving attention from artists over at MacJams. Offering up the six-minute track for an open colloboration in the forums got a flurry of nibbles from inspired musicians who are even now contacting me for the raw data file. The first two tracks are both intense.

The first, called "Raggier Muffins" (a second version of a track originally, and cleverly called "Raga Muffins"), is by a MJ member who goes by the screen name Pete_NB and it adds a sea of chiming electric Stratocaster guitars to the mix, layering textures over the original dulcimer track. It's a mind-blowing approach that sticks very close to the tonal spirit of the original.

The second, called "Sunday At Little Beach", goes in a completely different direction and with stunning results. In recording "Raga111806", I played in a free rhythm without metronome or click track, not thinking that I would be doing more than one track. When I posted the colloab, I'm thinking that if it got any bites at all, it would be mainly melodic or textural, but only rhythmic if someone was ready to do quite a bit of work. Well, this particular MJ member, who goes by the screen name of "Bad Smells", managed to slip a tight four on the floor heartbeat rhythm along with keyboard washes and loopy guitar licks into the mix, ebbing and flowing with the dynamics and emotions of the original dulcimer track. It's an astounding bit of compositional insight, matching the spirit of the main instrument and weaving an aural coccoon around it, occasionally painting with such broad, sonic strokes that the contrast nearly eclipses the dulcimer before retreating like a wave back into the sea, leaving the earth tones of strings, plucked and snapped, to reappear as a musical beach.

Now that I think about it - the title really does reflect that.

There are a few others who are currently working on versions or who have just started, so there will be more to come. This is such a joyous thing to be involved with - working with other people around the world on music by way of our computers - there's one thing about the 21st century that is the absolute shiz-nit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Crazy Feels Like

"However, to create a new cosmos (order), the old cosmos must be turned upside down. Thus the Magician Hermes is the Lord of Contradiction. First, he is himself a contradictory figure: trickster yet savior, king of misrule yet obedient to justice, deceiving orator yet honest prophet, illusionist yet revealer of truth, fraudulent conjurer yet genuine mage, thief yet honest trader, diabolical yet angelic, material yet spiritual." - Pythagorean Tarot - Magus

I'm having issues
a year subscription's worth
I'm causing drama
in a way unbecoming to a gentle soul

Losing function
in the gray matter battlefield of my brain
here it comes again
at the start of the circle, everything's the same

this is what going crazy feels like

I'm hearing voices
they're ringing in my head
I'm seeing writing
on the ceiling at night
while I'm tryin' to sleep

I'm feelin' cold hands
running over my skin underneath the sheets
here it comes again
at the end of the circle everything repeats

this is what going crazy feels like
you've shown me the way
so this is what going crazy feels like
it feels okay

I think I like it

I'm seeing angels
they always follow me
they're tricky devils
and they think I'm stupid, that I do not see

I am afflicted
with a deep desire to kill the pain
I am addicted
to the madness

Music and lyrics by Bing Futch
Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

I've been working on this song for the past couple of days. It's not done yet, but I still wanted to post it somewhere, so it's playing on the page now.

For any dulcimer folks - I am playing in DAD, only rhythm -

"Crazy Feels Like"

MacJams Song Page