30 April 2013

Transition Day

I (finally) finished the piece of boring crap -- I mean novel -- yesterday. It somehow went from a heartwarming (G-rated) romance in which two cousins try to get their grandparents to rekindle their love to a kidnapping plot which involves said cousins getting violently kidnapped by their aunt who is blackmailing their grandmother into poisoning their grandfather to death. The story's not resolved, but I hit 50,000 words, and that's all that mattered. However, if I get an idea of how the cousins get out of their current predicament (locked in a cellar under the watch of their aunt) and if I ever manage to figure out why the aunt is doing this, I might finish it.

Tomorrow kicks off Unofficial National Choreography Month (the official one is in January, but my choreographer friend and I missed it last year so we did ours in May and it stuck).

So I spent today, the day of limbo, madly trying to whittle down a 'to-choreograph' playlist from eight songs to a maximum of five, and preferably four.

The official list is as follows:

Going Public - Newsboys.
Tap dance. I think it's for eight.

Future Now - Prodigal.
Jazz dance for six. Also, I freaking love this song. I'm just scared I'm not going to be able to do it justice.

Youth With A Machine - Daniel Amos.
Jazz dance for four. This one kind of accidentally made it onto the list -- I had started out with A Sigh For You in the running, but somehow it morphed into this one.

Fade Into You - The Choir.
Another jazz dance for six. I love this song too.

Sanctuary - Daniel Amos.
Ballet dance for eight.

If my math is right (which it probably isn't), it works out to about eighteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds of music.

I also notice, with some degree of horror, that White Heart doesn't even have one song on this list. What the heck, self? However, I've been on a mad choreography binge for the past couple of weeks so I'm thinking (hoping) I might finish early. In that case, whatever song captures my attention is fair game.

29 April 2013

Music Life (And Links For Us To Support It)

Music life is so, so sweet right now.

Petra's recording a new single.

John Schlitt (the legendary Petra singer) has got a Kickstarter campaign going for a Christmas album. There's still a month left on this one, but they're getting pretty discouraged about where the support level is. If you can, definitely go help them out. (Check out John's official YouTube channel here and a great Petra channel on YouTube here. Anything done by Petra after 1985 features John as the lead singer.)

Also, here's Daniel Amos' Kickstarter page for their new album (if you want in on this one, get on it quickly because I think they're almost done...). This one's already funded and in progress, but they're still taking donations for covering travel costs and publicity and generally making the album the best it can be.

And now... Carman (of The Champion and Satan Bite The Dust fame) just put out a Kickstarter campaign for a new album and a music video project.

There we go, ladies and gentlemen. We just went from one end of the Christian music spectrum to the other in two tab-returns. Because I'm just that talented. (And please don't sue me for putting Daniel Amos and Carman in the same post.)

26 April 2013

Music Day

Found this one through a YouTube link. I'd seen the album on iTunes and I previewed a couple of songs from it once, but that was quite a while ago and I didn't really remember it. So I watched the video, to see if I liked it.

It's pretty good. I want to say it reminds me of Bon Jovi, but I don't feel entirely qualified to say that since the only two Bon Jovi songs I've ever heard are Livin' On A Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name. However, the only other band I could really compare it to is perhaps a slightly harder rocking version of Shout, but I'm guessing if you don't know Barren Cross, you probably don't know Shout. Stryper could be another comparison.

Everyone who knows more than I do about the music scene in the late eighties says this is metal, so there you go. As for me, the only actual metal I'm really familiar with is Barnabas. I've still got plenty to learn.

Title: Imaginary Music
Artist: Barren Cross
Album: Atomic Arena
Year: 1987
Label: Enigma Records
iTunes here; non-pixelated but out of sync music video on YouTube here; lip-synched but pixelated music video on YouTube here (both links are the same video, just different visual quality).

A few Twitter thoughts about the music video:
-- His voice reminds me of John Schlitt (Petra), only less gravelly. And perhaps a touch lower... I'm not sure.
-- Dude's got hair to put Rick Florian to shame (circa 1990). Holy smokes. I don't think I've ever had hair that long in my life, and I'm a girl.
-- The pants they're wearing. Just -- wow. (It's the eighties, so where's our zebra pants? It's the eighties, where's our leopard pants? (You now have that song in your head. You're welcome.))
-- Yes. Awesomely eighties.

20 April 2013

Music And Dance And Art And Nuance


This is why I hate the current CCM movement. This is why 95% of the music I own is pre-1995. This is why I wind up liking all the bands that had pretty much quit before I was even born. This is why I will love Daniel Amos, White Heart, and Prodigal to my dying day. Because each musician (and vocalist) in those bands takes his job seriously and does it well. The producer and the mixer take their jobs seriously. Their music isn't just the same screaming-loud recording-software-default mix with every instrument track at exactly the same volume that assaults your eardrums until you start taking out your rage on the traffic around you, because you know however innately that music life has got to be better than the tripe that spews out of your radio.

I open up my eyes and scream
It's not the way it's s'posed to be...
(Prodigal, 1985)

Music -- real, actual music -- is supposed to be nuanced and textured and beautiful and sweeping and imaginative and you should be able to listen to the same song for twenty years and still find new, breathtaking things hidden in the mix. Modern music (especially modern Christian music) is anything but.

Figure without shape
Shadow without nuance
Impotent power, the empty men
Movement without action...
(Daniel Amos, 1983)

And this is why I love how the dances for songs like Climb The Hill, Unchain, The Double, Early In The Morning, and Speechless turned out. Because the music had nuances and motifs and therefore so did the choreography. I could exploit the very distinct rhythms and moods of the bass guitar and the drums and the keyboards and the strings and so on with the quality of the movements of the dancers themselves. With songs like that, the music itself is a sonic dance, a carefully choreographed symphony created by skilled and creative people all working together for one goal -- a wonderful song.

19 April 2013

Music Day

(This is one of those 'awesomely eighties' songs. The usual warning -- if you don't like eighties music, go read a different blog post. Also, don't expect anything deep and soul-wrenching from today's song. Funny, yes. Genius, yes. Life-altering? Probably not.)

So remember a while back when I mentioned my Daniel Amos collection consisted of three tracks?

Yeah, well, it kind of grew since then. Seriously, Doppelgänger was like a drug. One hit and it dragged me down to the underworld. I now own like two dozen DA tracks and once I get paid later this month I'm buying another album (two if the budget allows it). (Yes, 'music' is a budget item here in my weird little world.)

(It's The Eighties, So Where's Our) Rocket Packs.

You just know a song is going to be good when it has a title like that.

Title pretty much says it all, actually. Sarcastic and eighties. I'm also pretty sure this title has the longest parenthetical aside ever in a song title. I'll see people refer to the song just as Rocket Packs (admittedly, it's faster to type), and there's always this moment where I have no clue what they're talking about.

Fair warning: this is heavy on the synth. Some would call it dated, and that it may be, but I happen to like it. (Awesomely eighties, people, awesomely eighties.) I also happen to quite like the synthesized vocals -- adds to the 'futuristic' charm of the song, as do the robotic-sounding synthesizer asides. (A little history lesson for all you hip, cool kids -- this was the precursor to autotune, only here the singer still had to be able to actually sing.)

In a weird way that I can't quite put my finger on, this song (indeed, most of the record) makes me think of ABBA -- what they might have sounded like had they continued into the eighties. I realise it might seem like a bit of a stretch (and the DA diehards will probably lynch me for that), but you listen to ABBA's The Visitors album; especially the title track and Two For The Price Of One... stylistically, this stuff isn't actually that far removed.

But that's enough rambling. Here's the song.

Title: (It's The Eighties, So Where's Our) Rocket Packs
Artist: Daniel Amos
Album: Vox Humana
Year: 1984
Label: Refuge Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.
Support the artist: Buy the CD on their website here (scroll down past the 'featured' section to the part labelled 'Daniel Amos').

Disregard the entire iTunes Store review. Bull crap, pure and simple. Can't the iTunes people ever say anything nice about the stuff they carry? Might help your sales if you didn't criticise everything you offer... just saying.

The only point from that review that's valid is no, this is definitely not Doppelgänger. While that's sad, because Doppelgänger is freaking brilliant, this is still a good record. Yes, it has synthesizers. No, that does not automatically make it horrible. Some of us like keyboards and synths and think that the whole idea of the obligatory guitar solo (except the ones on Doppelgänger and White Heart's Bye Bye Babylon) should just die already. If you don't like the synths, don't listen to the music. Go destroy your mind with dubstep or country or whatever it is you actually like (since it apparently isn't eighties music). Just shut your trap and let those of us who like synths enjoy them without having to justify ourselves all the time.

There. Rant made. Now you can go enjoy the song. And rest assured that you'll be seeing more from Vox Humana on Music Day in the future (I freaking love this album -- there were at least three other songs from there that nearly became today's feature). But next week, I'll give you a break from Dr. Edward Daniel Taylor... I promise.

15 April 2013

Closer To The Dream...

Yesterday I showed the skeleton of the Eighth Wonder choreography to the 'head' of the dance team (there's two of them. I just realised this makes a really weird mental picture. Moving on...).

She seemed to quite like the choreography (I was actually pleasantly surprised at such an enthusiastic reaction), which was a huge weight off my shoulders -- a weight that I didn't even realise was there. I'd never really showed a decent contiguous chunk of my choreography to anyone, except the other head of the dance team back when Eighth Wonder was only a week old (she also had a favourable reaction, but the choreography at the time was rather disjointed because it was still so new even to me and I felt she didn't get a very accurate picture of it). To get such a favourable reaction to the sequencing and progression of it was actually kind of startling to me. I was definitely expecting something along the lines of 'bo-ring!'

That said, my technique sucks. I mean, I knew that already, but still. Part of it was sheer exhaustion -- what was in my head a slow gentle ballet is apparently in actual practice a full-on cardiac workout with oxygen deprivation provided free of charge. Either this dance takes way more effort than it should or I need to buy some stamina somewhere because I was ready to drop halfway through the first run-through.

Also, I definitely nailed my insane-beat-from-attitude-derriere! I had originally put in there forgetting I was supposed to perform this myself, in the very near future, with my limited abilities, and only once I had long since built on it did I realise how insanely complex that move was. Still, lacking any other ideas, I left it in, as a placeholder if nothing else. But today I tried it and I totally nailed it! I just can't believe it's even physically possible, never mind for someone as not-light-and-airy as me. Maybe my stuff isn't completely impossible after all... at least not for everyone.

So I need to work on turnout, being more light and airy, not overturning that one fouette in the second chorus, and not rushing the music (which in turn should help me actually stay on balance). Plus I need to refresh my memory on that part at the end of the second chorus that I couldn't seem to remember for the life of me and I need to figure out what I'm doing with that weird thing that was formerly a standing fouette (choreographed in the same spell of insanity as the beat-from-attitude). And I need to choreograph the last twenty seconds and add some actual arm movements to this thing.

And also, she liked the song. That alone pretty much made my day.

Man... it's really happening. This choreography-stage thing is seriously actually happening. Last year at this time I had only just finished my first-ever piece and now I'm getting (an apparently decent) one staged. Holy cow.

12 April 2013

Music Day

Hey, we all miss Rick Florian, right?

Ahem... Right?

Well, here's a little something to tide us over while we wait for the new album. (*cough*) (Come on, guys, you need to get started on that before my typing fingers get completely hoarse.)

Anyway... it was his birthday the other day (not that I'm obsessive or anything -- honest), so I was listening to White Heart (like I needed an excuse), and then I remembered seeing on the White Heart Facebook page something about 'Rick Florian/Neverlost.' So I Googled it. And after an hour or so of scouring iTunes and other various music sites, I found it:

Title: Simon Says
Artist: Billy Smiley
Album: Neverlost
Year: 2002
Label: Cul De Sac Records
iTunes here. Not on YouTube (of course). (I'm starting to think YouTube has a grudge or something... what thinkest thou?)

The whole album isn't Rick (actually, if I understand correctly it mostly showcases the talents of a certain Andy Joslin), but this song is. Definitely the voice we know and love. And I love the production on that vocal track -- the echo (reverb? I can't think of the technical term for this) throughout, and the heavy processing on the line Simon says is what Simon does. Sonically/production-wise, it's like the 21st century version of the song Inside (White Heart, 1995).

Man, I miss that voice.

05 April 2013

Music Day

This is probably the longest English-language song title in the history of the world. And also one of the hardest to define. Crazy, ridiculous. Completely nonsensical. And yet intriguing...

Seriously, I bought this song for the song title alone (well, okay, that and the insane guitar work in the chorus).

Title: I Had A Bad Experience With The CIA And Now I'm Gonna Show You My Feminine Side
Artist: The Swirling Eddies
Album: Zoom Daddy
Year: 1994
Label: Alarma Records
iTunes here; live version on YouTube here (complete with the story of how the song got its name).

He says in the video that the rule was that he wasn't supposed to make it funny... I'm thinking once you've read the song title (which apparently wasn't his idea), it's too late, it's already funny and there's nothing the lyrics can do to counteract it. But that's okay, because who doesn't like funny stuff?

As a general rule I haven't gotten into The Swirling Eddies much (yet...) -- the lyricism is genius (of course it is, this is Terry Scott Taylor) (yes, the guy from Daniel Amos), but the arrangements tend to annoy me. I would totally buy Hide The Beer, The Pastor's Here because those lyrics are also genius, but musically I can't even stand the iTunes preview of it... sigh... Perhaps the sound is an acquired taste. Good thing there's also Daniel Amos so I can still get my genius-lyrics fix without driving my eardrums crazy.

No matter, this particular song is great and dude, when you watch the YouTube video, watch his left hand during the chorus -- is that not impressive? And he doesn't even glance over to check it! This awestruck reaction may be because I have never touched a guitar in my life, but the fact that I've never seen anything like that before in all my music-nerdy YouTube-watching suggests to me that it takes some serious skill. Plus, it just sounds really really cool.

02 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo - Day Two

Less than four thousand words into the novel and already White Heart is a major plot point (actually, as of right now they're pretty much the only plot point). My, ahem, characters really need to find a different band to obsess over already.

Brain: *helpful poke* Daniel --


So that's pretty much how my creative day went. Yours?

01 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo - Day One

12.03 am (script) -- Definitely just realised Scrivener doesn't count pages. My goal for this script is 100 pages. Crap.

5.00 pm -- Got the best music-nerd idea for the script. That'll eat up a few pages and it totally fits the characters. I don't feel so bad about having no plot now.

6.18 pm (novel: 369 words) -- Daniel Amos reference for the win! (I can't for the life of me place the song though -- it's from Fearful Symmetry, the one which talks about a misty vale and it's driving me crazy...)

7.29 pm (script: 4 pages) -- Just figured out how to count pages in Scrivener! (View --> Page View --> Show Page View if you're in the same boat.) Discovered that I've already hit my page count quota for the day. I forgot how quick this scripting thing is.

11.13 pm (novel) -- Just hit 2,024 words. For those new to this, quota is 1,667 words per day. Still have no plot for this dumb thing. But at least I'm still on target.

The Big Camp NaNoWriMo Freak-Out

So in that mammoth post the other day on what I've been doing with myself lately I somehow completely forgot to mention the part where I'm doing a 50,000-word novel and a 100-page script for Camp NaNoWriMo in April.

Yes, you read that right -- a script and a novel.

The novel will be my eleventh (since 2008). The script is supposed to be a TV script (though that may make a last-minute jump to either radio script or screenplay since I have no experience writing TV scripts, or even watching TV for that matter).

I haven't been this underprepared for a NaNoWriMo event in a long, long time. I also seem to be way more concerned about the fact that I have no plot than I usually am. Usually the clock slips over to midnight on the first of the chosen month and I open Pages and go, "Okay... Plot." It seems to work -- I've written ten novels (won nine) with that technique.

However, musical preparation is going beautifully. Of course, I don't have the money to buy some of the albums I'd still like to have (especially for the script), but I've got a good chunk of new stuff to plow through, plus, of course, classicchristian247.com. I also finally broke down and signed up for YouTube. I've spent almost every night since adding more stuff to playlists until I can track down (and afford to pay for) the albums.

And now it's synopsis time!

Summer Of Love (the novel)
This is a story about two cousins trying to get their estranged grandparents to fall in love again in the summer of 1994.

The Fringe (the script)
This is the one that has no 'real' plot. All I've got is that it follows the exploits of Cherry Wilson, a seventeen-year-old who's sent to spend the summer of 1984 with her aunt and uncle on the west coast. She's used to spending her summers with her friends in suburban Toronto. This was not part of her plan.
When she arrives in Vancouver, she's further jaded by the news that her aunt and uncle expect her to help run their little music shop/café. To make matters worse, the patrons are largely Christians.
Convinced her summer is shot, Cherry begrudgingly takes up her post behind the till at The Fringe within two days of her arrival, to spend a full two and a half months listening to a bunch of Christians trying to convert her.
There, she meets a rogues' gallery in the Christian youth group that meets there and is witness to all their shenanigans.
That seems like a lot, but I'm not sure how to script this. Most of this project is almost guaranteed to be my characters geeking out over music (because, you know, none of my other writing projects turn out that way anyway).

And now, back to writing! Update forthcoming either later tonight or sometime tomorrow.