30 May 2012

National Choreography Month - Day 30

Finished The Gift!

It's definitely my best work so far. I wish I could see it on the stage right now.

Also, not only do I have the dance complete, I also have backdrops and lighting figured out (I may or may not have been procrastinating at the time...)

So, with all three of my planned NaChoreoMo dances done, I'm now in the process of picking my next project. I don't expect to finish it by tomorrow at 11.59 of course, but now that I've found my way back in the groove again after basically going artistically MIA for two weeks, I'd like to milk the momentum The Gift has given me for all I can. I feel like I kind of cheated myself out of NaChoreoMo during those two weeks and now I'm trying to make it up to myself. Because really, I could have accomplished so much more than just three dances but I didn't because I let Apathy Alert pysch me out for two and a half weeks.

It's kind of weird having free time, actually. I hadn't realised how much I'd been holding NaChoreoMo over my head until I finished The Gift and sat back and thought, 'so what do I do now?' So for the past two days I've been importing cassettes (White Heart's Redemption and Petra's Captured In Time & Space -- and oh, is a live album ever a nightmare to split into tracks).

I intend to start work on another dance tomorrow (or possibly later tonight). I'm a bit undecided as to which one, though. Usually I have one that jumps to the forefront of my mind and won't let go, but this time I had to scroll through my iTunes library a bit and compile a list.

It's about five songs long, but the two that really attract my attention are PFR's Them and Farrell & Farrell's Hosanna Gloria. As of this moment I think I might go with Them.

Also, for those who care about statistics...

Seven minutes forty-five seconds of music. Seven pages of notes. Fifty-four pages of choreography, at a minimum of sixty frames per page. This equals approximately 3,240 frames, since I know for a fact that there are a few pages which had more than sixty frames on them.

Note that those are the numbers for just the three dances I had originally planned on doing at the beginning of May (King Of Kings, Apathy Alert, The Gift). This does not count the rather sizeable chunk I composed for part of Kerry Livgren's Liquidity, the intro to White Heart's The Cry, or the ending sequence to Petra's Counsel Of The Holy. Take that all together and you could probably add a good minute and a half onto that first number.

27 May 2012

National Choreography Month - Day 27

Apathy Alert is DONE!

And actually, I think it's probably pretty workable. I was seriously worried about choreographing the guitar solo, but I think it turned out rather well (given the fact that most of it was just me desperately throwing random steps in there).

Onward to The Gift! (DeGarmo & Key, 1983)

I have five days to pull it off.

25 May 2012

Day 25 - National Choreography Month

Ways to drive yourself crazy when you're doing choreography at 2.21 am:

- Listen to next song in choreography queue and get yourself all excited to choreograph that one... and then realise you still have forty-five seconds left in Apathy Alert (with one of those cursed fade-out endings to boot), and you've been in a total choreographic block for two weeks.

- Fall asleep too early on the night when you were supposed to be catching up on the backlog.

- Forget whether you counted the last four measures in double-time or half-time.

- Run out of room for project notes... on both desks.

- Two words: iTunes Store.

21 May 2012

National Choreography Month - Day 21

1.49 am -- Just spent two hours reading stuff on contemporary dance, jazz technique and the Shim Sham on the Internet. My eyes are tired now. Thinking maybe I can throw some jazz walks into Apathy Alert somewhere. Also, now I have a really annoying song in my head but I don't know what it's called -- just some song on one of the videos of some girl in a really skimpy dress that was actually more like a shirt. How can anyone walk on a stage before hundreds in that getup without either dying of embarrassment or freezing to death?
Sort of dreading choreographing The Gift. Yesterday morning I realised I've only heard that song like five times in my entire life -- I only picked it because it was short and I was feeling like an underachiever for only planning two dances.
Apathy Alert has picked up a little (as of early yesterday morning, before I went to bed), but it's fast becoming a Sing Your Freedom-like show of potentially-impossible-to-execute technical prowess. And speed. Because technique and complex sequences are nothing without speed to make it look even more amazing.
Also, getting sick of the song Apathy Alert. I've been solving the problem by listening to Sheila Walsh and reading random dance articles online. Unfortunately, that's not very choreographically productive.
Sort of intimidated by all the stuff I read on choreography though. Most of it was modern/contemporary-based, but still. I can't expect any of my output so far to get noticed. It's horrible stuff. But I only have till September to get some solid performance-worthy choreography in place if we want a shot at getting our first decent-sized gig. Thank goodness I'm not the only choreographer on the team...

3.10 am -- Just killed spider the size of a dinner plate. Off to bed now... though whether I'll actually sleep now is another matter.

12.39 pm -- My mother is yelling at me again because I'm apparently not productive enough.

7.39 pm -- Finally starting work (of the choreographic persuasion). Apparently today was spring cleaning and as such I was unable to report for duty till now. Am starting work at about the 2.04 mark of Apathy Alert.

7.59 pm -- Got a phrase divisible into threes? Eschappés are your friend. I doubt the poor saps -- I mean, highly skilled and amazing dancers -- who actually have to perform the sequence will agree, though.

8.30ish pm -- Am now at the 2.34 mark. (I'd like to know how I managed that kind of speed because I'll definitely need to replicate this feat in the future...)

11.45 pm -- iPod just randomly crashed and made me lose my place. Continuing on... Almost done notating the eschappé/relevé sequence.

18 May 2012

That Moment (Music Day)

So I finally bought Classic Petra's album Back To The Rock the other day.

Basically it's Petra (the Greg X Volz mid-80s Petra), but they redid a bunch of their Greg-era hits -- 'modernized' them a little. Since the original Petra was technically disbanded a few years ago, they now call themselves 'Classic Petra.'

On the Petra Zone forum I'd read quite a few 'meh... I didn't like it' reviews, so I was a bit unsure of what to expect. In fact, I probably wouldn't have bought the album if I hadn't already heard the redone versions of Rose Coloured Stained Glass Windows and Adonai (two of my all-time Petra favourites) on classicchristian247.com and loved them both. (Seriously, you wouldn't think mixing strings and an electric guitar would sound like anything, but they do it on that first track and it sounds AMAZING.)

Anyway, so I bought the CD and the next Saturday afternoon my mother and I went birthday shopping for my sister so we listened to it.

It's good.

Usually I'm a total 'original-version-is-always-best' purist, but these are some good remakes.

The first couple of songs have some seriously kicking bass. Clean, formerly an eighties synth track, is now a thumping growling electric guitar extravaganza. Let's just say now I finally understand why people call songs 'crunchy.' This is it.

I don't know if the extra guitar brings it out, but in Bema Seat and More Power To Ya, you can really tell how much Greg's voice has matured. At one point I actually said "He sounds like Steve Green" (which only warps your mind until you remember that Steve Green was once the lead singer of White Heart).
(I just messed with everything you ever thought about Steve Green).
(You're welcome.)
It's not a bad thing though. At least he (Greg, that is) can still sing. Even twenty-five years after his last Petra concert he still hits all the notes.

Grave Robber took a little warming up to, but the use of strings really amps up the drama.

They also added two new tracks -- Back To The Rock and Too Big To Fail, the former written by Greg and the latter by Petra founder/guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire Bob Hartman.

Back To The Rock starts out a little slow and to me it seems almost off-rhythm, but it picks up well in the chorus. And oh man is it ever catchy. I was singing it for the rest of the day. Here again you can really tell how Greg's voice has mellowed.

Too Big To Fail -- Bob Hartman does it again! This is brimming with the 1980s/early 90s enthusiasm that all Petheads know and love. I love how the bridge loops back to the pre-chorus and the chorus again and then they rock out for a while and then they go back to the bridge and do it again. It's a fantastic, soaring song. This is one of those you turn up and sing along with no matter how bad your singing voice may be.

But what I really wanted to talk about was the remake of Angel Of Light.

It's another one of my favourite Petra songs. In fact, I featured it on Music Day a while back.

They put in some pretty sweet guitar for the remake, but there's this moment where (in both versions) all the instruments drop out and they all sing, a capella:
Angel of light
I see you glow in the night
But you only bring darkness to my soul...

On soul, in the original 1981 version, the guitar slides back in and draws in the other instruments for a full-on musical experience by the time they sing the next line.

In the new version, they layered all the members' voices and added an echo so the a capella already has more resonance. Then, starting on but, there's a couple slaps on the drums and on soul, the guitar comes screaming back in and BAM! a wall of sound hits you and almost knocks you off your feet.

When I first heard it, I was actually stunned breathless. It was so epic.

My only problem now is this: how to choreograph something even half as epic to go with that moment...

Title: Angel Of Light
Artist: Classic Petra (yes, iTunes lists them as just 'Petra,' but iTunes isn't exactly known for their accuracy)
Album: Back To The Rock
Year: 2010
Label: Classic Petra LLC (independent release)
iTunes here; YouTube here.

And, of course, I recommend buying the whole album... (also I recommend pumping up the bass and turning up the volume).

10 May 2012

National Choreography Month - Day 10

So after blasting through King Of Kings in less than 72 hours, I have now pretty much stalled out on Apathy Alert.

It's not even a lack of inspiration -- I have plenty of ideas. But my brain has been spinning for the past few days. Part of it might be backlash from choreographing nearly two minutes' worth for eight dancers in three days, but most of it is me trying to adjust to my dad being home all day every day (he accidentally amputated a couple of fingers and is now off work for two weeks) and my sheer excitement over both John Schlitt and Lecrae dropping projects within two days of each other.

Hopefully yesterday will put me on track though.

I don't remember if I mentioned this (and if I did, it might have been in a post that never ended up getting published), but NaChoreoMo is actually a joint venture -- it was invented by my dance friend and I (after discovering on 26 January that January has already been declared National Choreography Month. We weren't about to wait that long for it to come round again so we made our own).

I hadn't seen her in nearly a year. However, long story short she was at my ballet class yesterday to touch up on her technique due to an upcoming audition. I had an extra hour after class and she arranged to stay the extra hour with me, specifically so we could compare choreography notes.

First of all, she's a total overachiever. She showed me a list of songs she intends to choreograph to this month. It was somewhere around six when she first pulled it out. By the time she put the notebook away it had gone up to about nine. Sure, they're all solos and duets, but still... it makes my list of three look positively apathetic.

Second, she's so passionate about the craft that it wears off on me even through the epitome of soulless communication (Facebook). To see her in person again and talk choreography is like a shot of espresso to the creative (and happy) mind.

Third, as of yesterday she's now choreographing a Highland dance solo and a contemporary solo for me. (The contemporary one should be interesting. I've been training in classical ballet since I was six years old.) If that isn't inspirational, I don't know what is. Perhaps it means more to me because I seemed completely 'off' in class yesterday and totally not worthy of one solo, let alone two. It seems to have given me a bit of a kick in the backside.

I haven't added to my workload (because with my brain in this frazzled state it would be insanity to attempt to force anything more out of it), but if I finish Apathy Alert and my third planned song in a timely fashion, I've long had a song in mind that would make a good solo for her. If I have time once these two are done, I might try to throw that together too.

P.S. -- No word on a White Heart reunion yet.

09 May 2012

The Week Of Great Musical Excitement

Can I make one more John Schlitt post? (I'm not his publicity agent, honest. Though wouldn't it be epic if I was...)

Seriously, though. This interview. Funniest. Thing. Ever. I wish I could put this on my iPod.
(Link as posted by the John Schlitt Facebook page.)

Coming later this week... the ever-nerdy Kate on Lecrae's mixtape! (And possibly another John Schlitt post -- me reviewing the new album... stay tuned...)

I don't think I've ever before witnessed the release of a new album by a band/artist I love (mostly because the bands I love have a nasty habit of fading away before I discover their epicness)... and this week I get two of them!

All we need is a White Heart reunion and my week will be complete.

05 May 2012

Missing Out...

John Schlitt's new album comes out this Tuesday. Lecrae's dropping a 'mixtape' on 10 May. And Michael W. Smith is here in concert on Saturday (at forty freaking dollars per ticket. Seriously? I saw the Newsboys for like ten bucks at the same venue two years ago).

SUCH an epic week in eclectic music -- and I have no money. I'm already missing the Pethead Convention in Indianapolis (because it's in Indianapolis and I'm... well... not).

And even if I did have money, I'd have to put it to college.


03 May 2012

Day 3 - New Personal Best!

For the start of our self-proclaimed National Choreography Month, I decided to knock off the shortest song on my set list first, to give me some momentum.

The lucky winner was Petra's King Of Kings (from Petra Praise... The Rock Cries Out, 1989 Word Records). I already had a strong idea for it and it was only one minute and forty-five seconds long. Perfect.

I just finished writing the end pose about ten minutes ago. That's three days, start to finish. I had no choreography written beforehand (as per our mutually agreed-upon rules for the contest), this was all from scratch.

Things learnt:

1. A song that does not end with a fade-out is about ten thousand times easier to choreograph an ending to. Both of my previous pieces had fade-out exits and each took me at least three days to figure out.

2. 'Echoes' (in which one dancer does a movement, copied by the next dancer a beat or half-beat later, copied by the next dancer a beat later, etc... also called a 'ripple') are a pain. in. the. neck. They look fantastic on stage, but choreographing them is a common cause of being admitted to the local insane asylum. This is why you hardly ever see them despite their effectiveness.

3. You can give the illusion of a different rhythm by holding a beat between steps. This is especially effective in a song with a quick tempo (not that I've ever really tried it in a slower song, but I would imagine it would be more obvious that you're holding a beat when the beats come slower).

4. Writing a dance for pointe is actually harder than you'd think. You can't just do any old thing like you can in jazz or something -- you have to be conscious of where the dancer's weight will be and how it would have to move to change to the next position and you have to be especially careful about the ankles -- one awkward move and you could snap your foot off.

Onward now to DeGarmo & Key's Apathy Alert. (Commander Sozo & The Charge Of The Light Brigade, 1985 Power Discs)

I hope to finish it by the fifteenth, worst-case.

01 May 2012

One More Week!

In case you haven't heard, John Schlitt is putting out a new album.

Yes, the John Schlitt. The Grammy-award-winning former lead singer of Petra (sometimes he still does concerts with them, actually), and, if you go far enough back, former lead singer for a band called Head East. He's released three solo albums since 1995.

That John Schlitt.

And the new album is due to drop on 8 May -- next Tuesday (so excited!).

As such, the two singles from the album have been getting decent rotation on classicchristian247.com -- Hope That Saves The World and Where I Wanna Be.

His Facebook fan page promised a rocker of an album a while back, and if these two songs are any indication -- this is going to be a GOOD album.

Initially I liked Where I Wanna Be most of the two. It's amazing how addicting that echo is in the chorus. The rest of the song is actually rather slow, but that echo in the chorus (if love (love) could set the world on fire (on fire)...) sunk itself deep into my mind, even when I first heard it. It soars into your mind. It feels dramatic and epic.

In Hope That Saves The World -- try to imagine Peter Furler (of Newsboys fame) about twenty years from now. That's what John sounds like here. (At least that's who I thought of.) It's not a bad thing though.
It's a good solid rocker of a song. Whoever played drums here is fantastic (actually the guitar is pretty sweet too, now that I hear it again). This one is definitely growing on me.

You can hear previews of them both on his official website (it starts cycling through the two when the homepage loads, beginning with Hope That Saves The World).

But now I'm in a bit of a spot -- do I order an actual physical CD and wait two weeks for it to get here, or do I jump on iTunes and download cold soulless MP3s and be able to hear the album right away? (I could stop by the Christian bookstore on Tuesday but I can pretty much guarantee they won't have it in... heaven forbid they actually have a new CD the day it drops.)