Monday, April 08, 2013
Did You Bring Me A Monkey?
Unorganized Hancock is back, larger than life, and twice as loud. Amazing to me what the kids have been able to do with a little bit of hardware and software thrown in. I had nothing to do with this, except pressing the big PHD button on the camera. PHD stands for "Push Here, Dummy."
The Spare Heir is trying to get the hang of playing with his sticks held in the traditional grip, instead of the matched grip like a rock drummer. He likes videos of Jo Jones and Joe Morello, so he wanted to give it a try. He's using sticks that resemble a bundle of chopsticks, which make a nifty stand-in for brushes.
The Heir fished out my ancient trombone, which I tried to explain to him before -- that's plumbing, not music, son. He doesn't listen. He's gotten weary of looking for bass players and learned to play bass pretty passably himself in the last couple months. He's playing my old bass, the one I told you about in this essay -- er, sentence.
If you've been living under a pop rock for fifty years, and don't recognize the song they're playing, it's So What by Miles Davis. It's one of the most important recordings of any kind ever made. We try to teach our children cultural literacy. Pop music is fine, and it can be sophisticated now and again, or more along the lines of I'm Henry The Eighth I Am, but very little pop music is important musically, lyrically, or culturally. People need peanut butter sandwiches as well as pate, so there's no harm in it, really. But pop musicians that think they're saving the world are absurd, and need to be told so, regularly.
In 1959, Miles Davis, who had been bopping hard up until that time, decided to try something new. He thought that jazz had become too dense, chordally complicated, too filigreed. He switched it up completely, and made a modal jazz record, called Kind of Blue. I'm hard pressed to come up another example groundbreaking and earthshaking as it was in its time, and after. Maybe Paul Whiteman playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in New York in the twenties. It's rare that someone is able to turn the musical world on its head.
The Heir painstakingly learned to play the trumpet solo on his guitar. It was the hardest part of this for him to play, though it sounds sort of rudimentary. It's a great education for a player. Guitar players have a tendency to play things that fall under their fingers on their instruments easily. It's human nature. But if you learn music originally played on other instruments, you're playing pure music. Miles was just wandering up and down a scale, followed by another scale, and those scales are superimposed over two chords. That's what modal music is. The bass playing on that record is very fine, and it was a great education for him, too.
The Heir is named Miles, by the way.
[Many thanks to everyone that's supported the boys' efforts over the last year. Your support is paying off, though perhaps that's not for me to say. You decide. There's a tip jar in the right hand column for them if you're so inclined. Links to their video are much appreciated as well]
[Update: Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Thud from Old Blighty for supporting the boys!]
[Up-Update: Many thanks to the lovely Julie from Florida for sending the boys some green courage]
Up-Up-Update: Many thanks to Barbara M. from scenic California for helping the boys out. She suggests a mandolin. I'll go along with anything that isn't the bagpipes]
[Updates, the Continuing Saga: Many thanks go to Leslie G. from A Z for supporting the boys!]
[Updates, We Haz Them: Our thanks go out to Kathleen M. from CT for her constant support and encouragement]
[Updates, We Got Updates:David R. from Cal-if-forn-I-A is generous with his wallet and his advice. Many thanks. He wants The Heir to buy a 5-string bass, though, but I think he has too many stings already, and have been thinking of removing the G string. Maybe we should compromise, and have him play a 4-string bass.]
[Updates Roll On: Many thanks to Paul H. from the Lone Star State for helping the boys out, and saying pleasant things, too]
[Right Up-To-Date Update: Melissa K. From Tejas is very generous. Many Thanks! There appear to be a lot of nice people in Texas]