28 March 2011

One Thousand

I started my first iTunes library in July 2007 on a computer that I'm not even sure works anymore. That music library has since been copied to two other computers (including the Zombie) to continue its expansion and (in part) to two iPods. I'm not sure what the first song was that I ever put into iTunes, but I've narrowed it down to one of three Michael W Smith songs (most likely).
However, I can now tell you what the one thousandth song is -- Do You Hear What I Hear? by Connie Scott. I copied it off the cassette tape and added it to iTunes less than ten minutes ago. It's actually quite exciting to reach that little milestone. Now if only I could get the Zombie working so I can sync the iPod touch and its many remaining gigabytes of free space... (the home of 693 songs; last synchronised on 23 August 2010).

In other news, The Late Great PFR on CD came in the mail today! (You know, the one I stupidly paid thirty dollars for.) Finally I was able to listen to the second half of the album. And I must say, aside from Pray For Rain and Merry Go Round, it didn't seem nearly as good as the first half. Perhaps it was because I was expecting more of the hardcore rock that had pretty well dominated Side A. It'll probably grow on me though; after all, I've only listened to it once.

25 March 2011

Music Day

I'll give you a reprieve from the rock tapes this week (mostly because I've scarcely had time to e-mail my relatives about the birthday party we're planning for my grandmother, never mind spend a few hours at a time importing tapes), but be assured there will be a fairly steady stream of rock songs for a few months yet.
So this week I'll introduce you to one of the newest songs in my iTunes library. This is a rare bird -- I hardly listen to anything more current than, say, 1999. (In fact, I own the most songs from the year 1998. Ninety-two of them so far. 1992 was next with 74; followed by 1989 with 66.)

Title: Transcend
Artist: Group 1 Crew
Album: Outta Space Love
Year: 2010
Here it is on iTunes. Here it is on YouTube.

This song (actually, most of this album) is one of those you put in the stereo and crank up. I generally don't like my music too loud, but you can't resist turning up these tracks.

19 March 2011

The Golden Rule Of Novel Revision For Music Nerds

The Golden Rule of novel revision for music nerds who have just discovered buried musical treasure is this:

Never, never, never, never, never succumb to the temptation to Google song lyrics, paste them into iTunes' Info > Lyrics feature, and then read them the next three times you listen to the song so you learn them.
Not only does this halt all eating, Facebooking, and similar novel-revision-related tasks while you are learning the lyrics; this dramatically slows down all future productivity once you have them memorised and want to sing them while writing about deadly plagues and Y2K-like computer viruses. This is very difficult when you are listening to a rock song with an odd lyrical rhythm that demands your complete concentration to get the timing right.

Heed this advice and your novel is far more likely to survive the harsh uncharted territory of revision.
You're welcome.

18 March 2011

Music Day

Another song from the cassette tapes!
Yes, that means more rock. (I hope all those reading enjoy rock music, because that's most likely what you'll be getting for a while.)
I remember hearing this version of the song on Sunday mornings when the family was getting ready for church. I never really realised how much I like this song until I heard this version of it again last Friday.
It's a bit odd -- I've always sung the song I Will Celebrate with the same vocal inflections and flourishes as this version even though no church I've ever been to has ever played it like this and this tape was stored away so long ago I didn't consciously remember it at all. Amazing how a song sung exactly one way can influence the way you sing it for decades without your own knowledge.
Title: I Will Celebrate/When The Spirit Of The Lord
Artist: Petra
Album: Petra Praise... The Rock Cries Out
Year: 1989
It's on iTunes here and YouTube here.

Despite the fact that those are 'common' praise choruses (at least they were twenty years ago), Petra doesn't butcher it the way most worship leaders do. The primary reason I don't own a lot of worship music is because most of the leaders say every. Single. Line, right before it's sung. Even now in the age of PowerPoint, they seem to assume that despite the fact that they've gone through the song twenty-eight times already, the crowd has no idea what line comes next even though there's only four lines in the entire song. Personally I've never understood how anyone can worship when the bloke with the microphone thinks everyone else is chronically thickheaded and rubs it in their faces with every line.
I've listened to this album four times in the past three days for this reason... Not only does lead singer John Schlitt assume you have some intelligence; it's rock! Not some past-prime fiftysomething on a piano playing the same old melodies the same old way, only dragged out for seven more minutes than they really needed to be. I admit those types have their place, but those who are young and on fire about this should have music to match their energy, yes?

16 March 2011

Why Canadians Tend To Think The Americans Are Out To Get Them

Last Music Day, I was quite excited about the discovery of a suitcase full of old cassette tapes in my father's workshop. I spent several hours Friday evening importing songs from the PFR tape featured in the Music Day post. Over the course of five or six hours, I had imported exactly two songs.
Yes, two.
It appeared that several years of storage in a cold and not-very-well ventilated (not to mention dusty) building had begun to take its toll on the tape. There were muffled patches and places were it droned a bit. Still, the first two tracks were listenable (not nearly CD quality, but listenable) and I added them to my iTunes library. Then I went to bed.
The next morning I awakened giddy at the prospect of spending the day adding old rock songs to my music collection. I showered, ate breakfast, sat down at the computer, and began importing from where I'd left off the previous night.
Two minutes and forty-five seconds later, I began to have my doubts about how well the day was going to turn out. The tape, which had played all right for the first half of the song, started to drag horribly. Driving guitars and the crashing of drums take on a nightmarish sound when slowed to a quarter of their normal speed.
I let it record until the end of the song, but I knew there was no way I would be able to fix the drag using the software. It was too severe.
My father heard it from the next room as it was recording and came to listen.
"It's dragging that badly?" he asked.
I nodded.
"It wasn't that bad when we listened to it yesterday, was it?"
He took the tape out of the player and put it in another player we had in the house -- one that had been known to work (but, of course, couldn't connect to the computer or we would have used that one in the first place). We found the exact place in the music where it had been dragging and listened. It came through completely clear and at the proper tempo.
"It must be that player then," my father said. "I have another one in the workshop you can try."
He went out and found two. I connected one of them and re-imported the song. Nearly perfect.
I continued to import that side of the tape, intending to get all the songs and then go back and re-import the first two (to see if I could get better quality copies). It was all going very well. I finished the first side, flipped the tape over, pressed Play, and waited.
And waited... and waited... and waited.
I checked the little window. The spools were turning; all seemed to be normal. Still, this was quite a long wait. I stopped the player and took out the cassette. The tape around the take-up spool was a bit loose and out of habit I gave it a few manual turns with my finger to tighten it. It didn't appear to tighten. I tried turning the other direction although I was certain I had turned it the proper direction the first time. No effect. So I gave it a good half-dozen turns in what I knew to be the proper direction. It still didn't tighten.
How could this be? It had just been in a properly working player. The tension had been fine until now.
Perhaps the tape had caught on something. I looked at the bottom of the cassette.
There was nothing.
No tape, either clear or magnetic.
Oh no...
I rushed out and showed my father. He examined it, but declared the damage permanent. The cassette had no screws that could have been removed to open it; and thanks to my patience letting the broken end wrap around the spool over and over again, the ends of the tape were far inside the cassette -- irretrievable.
I checked my old friend, the iTunes Store. Believe it or not, I had finally found an album that the iTunes Store does not yet carry. I submitted a request, but I was bordering desperate. I had been on a roll; I couldn't just stop.
What more could I do? Where else could I get a copy of the album without having to wait an indefinite amount of time?
Then an idea came to me. Actually, two ideas -- eBay and Amazon.
I went to Amazon.com and quickly found a few copies, the least expensive being a 'used' (but still packaged) CD for $3.98 US. Not bad, I thought. I proceeded to buy it.
Unfortunately, I live in a very rural area. This means I do not have a house number or a P.O. box. The only way our mail carrier can tell our mail from the neighbours' is by the name written above the address. This is perfectly acceptable to any other shipping company you can find. They may think it a bit odd, but they'll still send the material. Lo and behold it always gets here.
But not Amazon.com. You must, must, MUST have a P.O. box to get something shipped to you. Oh, and an actual town -- not the little pinprick thirteen kilometres away that is home to several thousand people, thank you very much. Oh, does that postal code have letters in it?
On any other site you order something from, you select 'Canada' in the list of countries, and everything else adjusts itself accordingly. On Amazon.com, you select 'Canada' in the list of countries, and it's like sirens go off. Their servers overheat and go into error loops. Smoke fills the building. The safe housing billions of dollars is about to explode.
The Canadians are coming! Arm yourselves! Man the cannons! Women and children first!
Frustrated with Amazon.com's stubbornness, I decided to see if there was an Amazon.ca. There was, but there the cheapest copy available was twenty-two dollars. Twenty-two dollars! I could go to the ridiculously overpriced local Christian bookstore and buy the exact same album for fifteen, tops (and I would have except said bookstore only sells albums released in the past two months and even then you're delving into ancient history. Don't even ask about an obscure band's farewell album from 1997).
Unfortunately, my desperation had clouded my sense (yes I have some, stop laughing). I bought it. Once the shipping cost was added to it (because of course it was coming from Oregon or something like that), I had relieved myself of nearly thirty dollars.
I am the queen of cheapskates. Anything more than fifteen dollars is a major purchase. It isn't that I can't afford to pay thirty dollars, it's just that I could have gotten the exact same item for only a bit more than four dollars if Amazon.com hadn't been so flipping stupid (and if I hadn't fallen to their level and bought it anyway).
If you ask me, it's a conspiracy theory to strip the 'polite' Canadians of every dollar they own. But regardless of whether it's true or not, I will never again use Amazon's 'service.' Whether you try Amazon.com or Amazon.ca, it's a ripoff. Pure and simple.

11 March 2011

Music Day

Today was a very good day in the Asylum's music world. My father found, while cleaning up his workshop, a suitcase full of old cassette tapes. Some I remembered from my childhood, but most were new and amazing discoveries.
Do you remember my music post on the 28th of January? If you listened to the song, you know that it was rather mellow.
Naturally this would lead one to conclude that PFR (the featured band in the aforementioned post) is a similarly mellow band. However, today I discovered that Great Lengths was the exception rather than the norm. This band was apparently a hard-core rock band; screaming guitar riffs, thumping bass, the whole bit. I daresay they rival the Christian-rock great Petra.
I realise I posted a PFR song fairly recently, but this one is definitely becoming a favourite. Don't expect anything remotely resembling Great Lengths though.
Title: Pour Me Out
Artist: PFR
Album: Them and several 'Greatest Hits' compilations
Year: 1996
It's on iTunes here and YouTube here. I hereby give permission to do a full-out air guitar while listening to this.

04 March 2011

Music Day

Anyone who listened to Christian radio in the late '90s will know this song word-for-word. Well, most of the song anyway... In the interest of depraving us of any music that might actually be inspiring and beautiful, the last two minutes of this song never saw the light of day (thanks to Christian radio) unless you managed to catch a copy of the album before it disappeared into the tobyMac abyss.
This is why I like the iTunes Store.
In 1998 I was too young to understand whose song this was supposed to be and what happened to him. It was all over the radio, but I don't remember it. All I remember is hearing the flute and the children's voices -- 'My Deliverer is coming; My Deliverer is standing by; My Deliverer is coming; My Deliverer is standing by...'
After a while though, the song faded, ousted by the likes of tobyMac, Newsboys, and, of course, Phillips, Craig and Dean. Don't get me wrong; I've nothing against the Newsboys (tobyMac and PCD are a different matter), but aside from a completely chance occurrence I would have lost this song entirely to the fog of my childhood.

It was some years later -- at least ten -- and I distinctly remember being in a rush. My mother had errands to run and was already waiting outside in the minivan for me. I hurried to get my coat and began to put it on when suddenly my ear caught something so beautiful it froze me.
I turned to look at the radio. Flute music, mingled with piano -- so familiar.
I continued to get ready to leave, but I moved more slowly so I could hear the radio. I hoped to catch the name of the song, but since telling us the title and artist of the song seems to be a go-to-jail-do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 infraction in radio these days, I knew my only real hope of identifying the song lay in memorising as many of the lyrics as I could and preferably the basic tune as well.
I could only identify the chorus lyrics (and how couldn't I; they only repeat it thirty-seven times or so); but the uncommon use of the flute seared itself across the almost-faded childhood memory. The song finished and I rushed out to my waiting mother, but I made sure to keep singing to words to myself throughout the day. When I finally got hold of a piece of paper and a pen I wrote them down and tucked it away for safekeeping; but continued to sing the fragment to myself periodically to keep the tune in my head.
Some time later -- a few weeks maybe, or perhaps a few months -- I heard the same song again. This time my mother was with me and I asked her, "Do you know who did this song?"
"Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band."
I had been expecting to hear "I don't know. Michael W. Smith maybe?" or something of the sort, so I was rather taken aback when she gave me such a confident answer. Still, I was relieved. Now I had a very good chance of finding the song someday.
It was year later, maybe more, when I finally got an iTunes Store account. I bought two songs (I've always been a rather 'conservative spender'). One was PFR's Great Lengths. The other was this one:

Title: My Deliverer
Artist: Rich Mullins
Album: The Jesus Record
Year: 1998
(You can hear it on YouTube here.)

Although Rich Mullins is listed as the artist; that's not entirely true. He had made a few low-quality demos for a new album with intent to start working on it before the end of 1997.
However, only days (I heard once that it was nine days) later, he was killed in a motor accident. His recording friends took the demos and expanded them into a proper album, which was released in a 2-disc format -- one disc with the original demos, one with the full-blown versions his friends created.