25 November 2013

Steve Taylor News

This needs to happen.

This NEEDS to happen.

Yes, fans of obscure music, a new Steve Taylor album -- the first in twenty years. And it's up to us. Pledge by Christmas Eve.

Let's make this happen.

(For the curious... concert footage here.)

23 November 2013

Novel Update - Day 23

That's right. I'm still in the game even with a college workload (mind you, all of my big assignments went in the last week of September) and having to do my own housekeeping (washing dishes continues to be my least favourite chore).

So... I guess I have to start at the beginning since I haven't actually posted one of these yet.

It's 1985, and the book opens on this nine-year-old kid named Lucien. He's dancing in a cordoned off and weed-infested parking lot to an audience of decrepit buildings and abandoned sidewalks. We learn that he lives with his dad in a motel room in a seedy district in SoCal (not that I know if there are actually seedy districts in SoCal, but research is what December is for), working in the motel bar in exchange for living there.

One day, a band (who may or may not be Crumbächer under assumed names) comes in and plays the motel bar. Lucien is captivated and the members of the band become his friends -- his only real contacts in the world aside from his father. He convinces the motel manager to bring the band in several more times and each time, his friendship with the band grows.

Then one morning, he and his dad wake up to find that someone staying in their motel has been murdered. Lucien's father is visibly shaken and tells Lucien to pack -- they're moving.

As he's packing, Lucien accidentally knocks over a box of his father's that he is not supposed to touch. As he's putting the contents back into the box, he realises that some of the papers are newspaper clippings -- clippings talking about the unsolved murder of his mother. Lucien is stunned. His father had always told him that his mother had died of an illness. In addition, he finds a contract for a Russian ballet company, signed by his father, and a handwritten letter. It's in the Russian alphabet, which Lucien doesn't know very well, but he gets the drift that it's a threatening letter, though he doesn't know why.

But he says nothing about all of this, only puts the contents back in the box and continues to pack.

The band, by chance, plays their new home motel several weeks later and they reconnect with Lucien. Shortly after that, Lucien is doing his favourite thing -- dancing in an abandoned parking lot -- when he is grabbed from behind, drugged, and taken away.

Lucien's father is left a nervous wreck. Having suffered through the murder of his wife and now reduced to living in motel rooms, living day-to-day, losing Lucien is the final straw. He slowly begins to go mad with grief.

The band, while playing the motel a few weeks later, recognises Lucien's father and asks him where Lucien is. It takes some doing, but they finally get it out of him that Lucien has been kidnapped.

Two of the band members, Daniel and a character known only as Flip, take it upon themselves to start checking in on Lucien's father, making sure he's doing okay, helping where they can.

Meanwhile Lucien awakens and over the course of a few weeks finds himself taking dance classes full time in a studio in Russia. He befriends one of the senior dancers (Mikhail), who tells him that he is being trained to ultimately join the dancing master's company sometime within the next ten years or so. As the gravity of his situation sinks in, Lucien realises that the only way he will ever see his father again is if he can work his way up to be in the main touring company before they next tour America.

In the meantime though, he misses his father. He gets Mikhail to track down a copy of the band's record and sends a letter to their booking agent, telling the band where he is and to tell his father that he's okay.

Upon reading the letter, Lucien father's snaps and goes literally mad with a mixture of grief and rage (the readers don't know it yet, but he recognises the name of the man who Lucien is studying under as the man who murdered his wife nine years before).

The band is now going to attempt to tour Communist Europe all in a harebrained scheme to re-kidnap Lucien back from the ballet company. This will be difficult, as Lucien is not allowed off the property, and if he's going to attend the concert in the nearby town, Mikhail will have to smuggle him out. Plus, of course, there's the issue of getting Lucien out of the country and back to America after that...

As for the actual writing process, it was odd -- I had this very well planned out, but when it came to write it, I had a really hard time getting into the swing of things this time around. I'm blaming it on college -- my brain is so fragmented. At home I could just focus on one thing all day if I had to. Here I focus on music theory for an hour and fifteen minutes, then I focus on getting to and eating lunch fast enough to make my next class, in which I think about theology for an hour and fifteen minutes, and so on... I can never dwell on anything as long as I need to in order for it to sink in, I only have a certain amount of time to think about it before I have to shift into a completely different headspace. It's draining, and the first 25k of the novel (among other things) really suffered because of that. I love this novel and the plot idea, but I just haven't had enough time to really have fun with it. I can never really get into the zone of it because there's always something else that also needs to get done so this is on an hour/minute timeline now rather than just the thirty-day one. It's got a lot of potential, though, and I'm getting a decent framework for it laid down, at least. I was hoping I would be able to have more fun with this one during the actual writing process though.

Now for statistics:

Current word count: 40,098
Official goal for Day 23: 38,333
Number Of Daniel Amos References: 3
Number Of Characters Killed: 0 in story; 1 in backstory
Cups Of Coffee Consumed: 0 (that's right, I'm so skilled I can do NaNoWriMo without caffeine)
Number Of Times I've Played ¡Alarma! Bonus Bonus Disc: at least 4
Currently Listening To: Eternal Teenage Angst by Veil Of Ashes (2013)

22 November 2013

Music Day - Crack The Sky

I like this song because it's different. It does not start with a few mellow acoustic guitar chords. It starts out with a thundering drum (I'm always reminded of the sound of horses galloping) and a rocking guitar before it falls into a gritty bass line. The rest of the song is pretty normal '80s-Christian-rock fare, but the relentless drumming absolutely makes the song. (It almost goes without saying that I'm a sucker for the chorus medley on the keyboard.) Plus, the guitar solo simply soars. As I listen to this again, I'm reminded of DeGarmo & Key, circa Streetlight or D&K.

Title: Crack The Sky
Artist: Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart
Album: Crack The Sky
Year: 1987
Label: Word Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

COMING UP NEXT WEEK: I'll be reviewing John Schlitt's new album The Christmas Project, released this past Tuesday. Does it measure up to the standards of this Christmas music purist and that doppelgänger of hers who loves a good rock song? Find out next Friday...

14 November 2013

Music Day - Royal Command Performance

Finally got Escape From The Fallen Planet. Man, I thought Incandescent was amazing. Holy crap.

Generally speaking, Escape isn't nearly as fast as Incandescent, but it freaking soars. You can fly on this album, and especially this specific song.

Title: Royal Command Performance
Artist: Crumbächer
Album: Escape From The Fallen Planet
Year: 1986
Label: Frontline Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

It is majestic. It is the best of the eighties sound -- a rich, full-yet-open feel that you almost never hear from a keyboard-based band. It has a killer harmony, and vocal layering that is... indescribable. The song as a whole just swirls around you, open at the top, as if you were in one of those old European cathedrals. The double keyboards fill everything and yet it's anything but claustrophobic. It sweeps you along on a whirlwind ride through space. It soars. This is the song you would listen to while touring the solar system.

Not long ago, I had music theory tutorial and then after that was done I wandered out into the main foyer. Since there's no classes on Fridays, there was nobody in there. Anybody who did show up was just passing through, head down, on their way to somewhere more important. But even these were few and far between... thankfully.

In the week leading up to that, in my choreographic-creation-deprived state, I had been walking through that foyer from one class to another with an intense sense of longing. The space was so big and mostly wide open. And I wanted to dance in there in the worst way. But there were always classes... either my own or others, which meant that even when I was free, there were always other people in there. And choreography is not exactly something that happens in public... so when I walked into that foyer and saw it completely empty, an excitement that was perhaps unprecedented came over me. I marked out an imaginary stage before me, pulled out my iPod, and began to listen -- first to a DA song (and I choreographed the intro, the second chorus and the ending, thank you very much), but then inspiration seemed to run temporarily dry and on a lark, I started playing this song.

People -- when you're sitting on the floor, with your back against the wall, looking across a space larger than most entire neighbourhoods (at least in my part of the world) into the open doors of the (equally large) sanctuary, with no-one around to distract you, and you look up into the high valanced ceiling and listen to this song, and let the dancers in your mind carry it... it is a chilling, beautiful moment.

Crumbächer isn't generally known for deep touching lyrics, but these have been exactly what I've needed for the past few weeks.

One-night gigs are bringing me down
I'm feeling blue (why am I feeling blue?)
Fill my thoughts with the hope of serving You...

Later in the song there's line in a backing vocal: It's such an honour to play for You.

And that's really what it is. Since coming to college, I've been pondering my apparent calling to choreography... how it's pretty much guaranteed that I will never be rich or famous doing it -- heck, I'm probably going to be lucky to have money for food. Realistically speaking, it's almost a given that I'll 'languish' in obscurity, if I get anywhere at all with this. (Of course, none of that takes into account the power and orchestration of God.)

So if I'm basically going to be performing it for no-one (barring an act of God that dictates otherwise), then why do I bother still doing this?

I wasn't sure myself. But sitting there, looking up at the ceiling, listening to Stephen Crumbächer's natural everyman-like voice talk to God about his life (at least in the role of the song's protagonist), and then identify himself as a servant for the King of the universe -- that put it in a different perspective. Regardless of how many people see my work, the fact is that God does. The King and Creator of the universe -- I am essentially performing for Him.

I mean, say you're a carpenter or something, and you get summoned to the grand palace of the King of the freaking universe, and He asks you to build a piece of furniture for His personal quarters. Wouldn't you use the best wood you could find and make certain there are no flaws in it before using it? Wouldn't you measure and cut it with the utmost care and precision? Wouldn't you do everything you could possibly do to make it perfect? Not a lot of people outside of the palace would see it, but you would still do your best, right? Because it's for the king. It's a royal commission.

Well, for now the King has asked me to create dance. May I give it the best that I can... and may I quit complaining that 'only' the King sees it.

10 November 2013

Taking Risks

So it begins...

And it ended spectacularly. That photo was taken at 9.17pm, just a few minutes after I sat down and began to listen to the song. By 10.30 I had choreographed (sketched out) the entire dance, down to the individual steps, except for the entrance, exit, and the third verse. Oh yeah -- it's a six-minute song.

You may or may not have suspected as much from the album review, but this song is my favourite from this album, and it was a favourite from pretty much the first time I listened to it. This was also the song that seemed like it would be the most difficult to choreograph. In fact, I was reluctant to even attempt it -- nothing I could come up with could possibly do justice to something so lovely and nuanced. I didn't want to ruin the song by matching it with a forced (and by extension crappy) dance.

I was listening to the song that night just to listen, but this time I didn't stop the dancers in my head -- though I wasn't expecting them to do much.

Boy, was I wrong. This dropped into my lap. It was all I could do for my pencil to keep up. It felt gloriously like when The Double came to me in February. It's not so much me choreographing the dance as it was me writing down the dance. There's no effort involved, no 'what would fit best here?' the brain just takes the song and flies, grabbing my hand and dragging me in the wake of it, demanding that I write faster, still faster, lest I forget what I just saw.

You know, I think it's only with Daniel Amos/Terry Scott Taylor songs that I can do that (so far). I owe that guy a huge, huge debt for the inspiration alone (to say nothing of how much the songs themselves mean to me).

08 November 2013

Music Day - My Frontier

I've been overdosing on this song as of late. I don't even know why... it's like when I was a kid, I would love songs to death, but people would ask me why I liked this song or that artist so much and I wouldn't be able to answer. I didn't know why I liked them, I just did. Nowadays my reasons for liking songs usually have something to do with the lyrics, the poetry, the vocal, or sometimes there's a certain instrument track or soaring climax that captivates me. But I don't actually know why I love this song so much. It captivates me and sends me through so many emotions, but I don't know what it is about the song that does that. Perhaps it's all of it as a whole -- all the instruments, the poetry, the vocal... this is DA, after all. There's a melancholy artistic feeling to the song. I think it's the feel of the whole general thing that gets me -- the sum greater than its parts, maybe?

I suppose I should talk about the specific attributes of the song here though, so you have a better idea what you're about to hear. I make no guarantees about my ability to put this into words though (trying to describe great music in writing is stinking difficult -- why do I keep doing it then? Probably because nobody listens to me when I talk out loud about music and I have to exercise my enthusiasm somewhere...).

It crashes in with a guitar... I don't know, chord? and then the jingling guitar creeps up and that wonderful solid bass line comes in -- thump thump thump. The whole song has kind of a sweeping, swirling, ethereal feel to it, and only the bass keeps it grounded. It really is timeless. It's the same sort of feeling that captured me way back when I was four and fell in love with the music of David Meece (specifically, the song This Time).

And the climax of the song gives me chills -- when the piano thunders in and Terry's voice grows higher and more earnest (he spends most of the song in a low smooth near-whisper). And for some reason I absolutely love the line Kick it apart; Kick the whole world apart... Don't know why.

Title: My Frontier
Artist: Daniel Amos
Album: MotorCycle
Year: 1993
iTunes here; YouTube here.
Lyrics here.

Kick it apart
Kick the whole world apart and the
Night will absolve us
Wipe the slate clean
Maybe not for a lifetime
For just one day
Just one more day...