Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yeah, I dunno

Funny: it has never bothered me all that much when people (i.e., bands) send me emails telling me about a show in a city I am way too many miles away from to actually attend.

First, I am very well acquainted with the "delete" key and have no qualms about using it when necessary. And second, if I like an artist well enough to have actually opted into their mailing list, then I am genuinely interested to know that they are performing, whether or not I can, in fact, attend. (I also appreciate the opportunity to peek at other people's PR language.)

Still and all, this (which defines the above-referenced gig announcement situation as a faux pas) is a pretty excellent list of band email strategies, etiquette, etc.

Wow, I suppose I need to really get on this one:

Always talk to them [your email recipients] without swearing. It may be part of your 'persona' as a band, but some people don't like that language. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Yahoo mail, hotmail, AOL, etc don't like it either, and your message will go directly to the junk box. You wouldn't talk to your grandma that way, would you?

To this last question I can only respond: you don't know my grandma very well, do you? But the point is well-taken, as are all of the others it comes with. (Really, don't be dissuaded by my sarcasm -- the article is a good read for those of you interested in the business part of the music business.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday evening economic meltdown music

Speaking of self-absorbed blog posts, this tune (from this album) is sort of like that, I guess.

On the verge of a nervous breakdown I decided to fight right to the end / But if I ever get my money I'll be too old and grey to spend it / Oh, but life goes on and on and no one ever wins

Did I ever tell you how much I love the Kinks?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breaking the law, breaking the law

Whoops! If this is a (broad) rule of jazz blogging, I guess I violate it a lot:

It is generally easier to discuss someone else’s music than your own. (I freeze up when I have to write about The Bad Plus.)

(Source: Ethan Iverson's advice to new bloggers (as part of the excellent contest you may have heard about).)

There is some basic truth here, of course. Hence another statement I pompously dispensed to the MTC attendees a few weeks back: "I'm the least-qualified person to say anything valuable about my own music."

And yet what, other than "I like it" or "I don't like it," can I usefully say about other people's music? F'r'instance, when it comes to the well-known critical trope of innovation --

[Artist X] is the first to do [musical strategy Y]. Hooray!

-- isn't the real question this:

Why do you or do you not like [musical strategy Y]?

And when you peel away the layers in an effort to answer that question, aren't you really just saying that you like it because you like it? (Or, maybe worse, because of some brain chemistry process that you may not completely understand?)

Which is not to say it's not fun to read excellent writing about music. Just that, these days, when I make the effort at third-person criticism, I usually end up feeling stymied by the ultimate tautology of it all.

Which is also not to say that I'll never use this blog to write about other people's music again. Just that I'll spend a fair amount of time (maybe too much time) writing about thongs and mustaches too.

But you knew that already, right?

Monday, April 27, 2009

And the stupid interludes just keep on coming...

Oh, so we're back to this again, are we?

Yeah, I guess we are. While I ponder the annoyance of having to redo the audio to that last film, I offer up the companion piece to our "Introducing the Brass" bit, as performed during the first show of our April 2009 tour, recorded live at the Dore Theater in Bakersfield. (Cinematography by Matt Lichtenwalner, camera provided by Tany Ling.)

In case it's not clear what the impetus for these interludes is: inevitably, I am bored by the sort of patter that bandleaders / frontmen / frontwomen have to do ("and this next number is called..."). Somehow setting that patter to music seemed like the best way to avoid said boredom, while still getting the necessary information out.

I should also make it clear that I typically throw these little songs at Jill and Tany a few days before they are to be performed. It's very much an eleventh hour endeavor. And as a result, for instance, you get little lyrical flubs, like the mis-statement about Brian Walsh playing soprano instead of tenor that comes partway through this version.

But what can I say? When it comes to these interludes, which are pretty stupid to begin with, I usually find such flubs more endearing than anything else. In any case, both ladies deserve a ton of credit for being willing to dive right in with this stuff, despite the obvious risks involved. (The band also deserves a ton of credit for being willing to be, uh, spotlighted in this way.)

Note that the band is wearing the mustaches that figure prominently in another new tune, which I'll be posting soon: "Theme for a Cable News Show."

Oh yeah, and: there is an alternate, San Diego version of this, in which Damon Zick is replaced by Jim Romeo. Coming soon...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday morning economic meltdown music, continued again

Alternate post title: Another Side of the IJG.

Specifically: a new thing called "Hard Times / The End of Money."

It's still a bit of a draft -- in particular, I think I overcompensated for some of the problems in the live recording -- but what the hell.

We actually introduced this at our New Year's Eve show this past December. What can I say? The real-world context has become more dire in the ensuing months, and so I ended up putting together something that has a certain melodramatic flair. Not sure if that's good or bad.

It still has that absurdist IJG stamp, of course. Particularly in the juxtaposition of scenes of honest-to-goodness poverty with scenes of bourgeois consumerism, or whatever you want to call it. Again, I probably went overboard. So sue me (I have no money, so you'll get nothing!).

The opening chorale is an arrangement of the Stephen Foster chestnut, "Hard Times." With particular deference to the following lines: "While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay / There are frail forms fainting at the door / Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say / Oh hard times come again no more."

The rest of the tune is my fault.

Unlike most of our other videos, footage of the band (c/o Matt Lichtenwalner, via Tany Ling's camera) plays a pretty minor role in this piece -- mostly it's ephemeral cinema from my usual treasure trove, the Internet Archive. Sources include instructional films about economics, documentaries on rural poverty and suburbia, and a slew of old television commercials.

Make of it what you will! Just remember it's a work-in-progress.

(The sillier side of the IJG will return in the next video, I swear.)

Audio recorded by James Dethlefson and crew at CSUB (thanks again, guys!), during our show on April 3.

Reeds: Gavin Templeton, Cory Wright, Evan Francis, Brian Walsh, Damon Zick, Gabriel Sundy.

Brass: Dan Rosenboom, Kris Tiner, Joshua Aguiar, Ian Carroll, Mike Richardson.

Rhythm: Dan Schnelle, Oliver Newell.

Vox: Tany Ling, Jill Knapp.

Composition / conducting: Andrew Durkin.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I don't think I can make this any clearer...

Thursday morning economic meltdown music

Sometimes it's surprising to learn just how blatant propaganda used to be. Even in the case of one of our better presidents.

Yes, this is (a somewhat bedraggled) Jimmy Durante (and did you notice one of the Three Stooges playing an audience member?).

Somehow the notion of a "schtick" seemed to work during the last Depression. For a good cause, by and large, but still... we're smarter now, aren't we? We're immune to political song and dance, right?

(Sigh.) As if.

(Here's where I got this video, incidentally. In case you have problems viewing it in the post...)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The tyranny of the new

So here's one of the central tensions for an independent big band helmed by an easily-bored composer who can only afford to take everyone on the road maybe three or four times a year. Specifically: figuring out how to strike a nice balance between the following things:

1. the need for artistic growth and freshness, and

2. the need to have played a given tune enough times that the band feels the requisite level of "mastery" to perform it with conviction, and

3. the need to promote the tunes that are actually on the album you're selling to an audience that may never have heard them before, and

4. the need to make sure the band doesn't get too "comfortable," cuz comfort tends to obscure the adrenaline-intensive place that can incite the best performances, and

5. the need to make sure the audience is not too disoriented (thus the need to avoid the total lack of familiarity that would obtain if we unleashed an onslaught of new tunes every time we did a show).

I have never thought that I balance these competing needs particularly well. Indeed, if anything, I err on the side of novelty, the hard-to-satisfy impulse to always keep things moving full-speed ahead, and damn the consequences. It's not unlike how I listen to music, in fact: I much prefer to dig into a new album rather than pull out something I already know I like. For me, successful listening -- as I pompously described it during the Meet The Composer talks I did as part of this latest tour -- is a quest for astonishment. (Sometimes I feel like I am more interested in the possibility of astonishment than I am in the guarantee of pleasure from a recording I already know and love.)

The charitable way of looking at this is that I'm a musical (and cultural) omnivore, one whose tastes and temperament are perfectly suited to the Library-of-Alexandria-esque smorgasbord that characterizes our digital age. A less charitable way of looking at it is that I have very fickle, and even superficial tastes. In either case, I fear I'm terribly, even unfairly impatient with audiences who come to a show wanting to hear the songs they already know. Of course, I bear no grudge against that desire, and of course I want to provide some kind of stable ground from which to proceed. But, as I said, I'm impatient.

Goddamnit if Fiona Apple (who I hadn't realized was still making records until IJG drummer Dan Schnelle re-introduced her to me during one of the recent tour-related road trips) didn't nail, in the above YouTubed tune, what I think (again, terribly and unfairly) is going on with the desire for repeating the "tried and true":

Give me something familiar
Somethin' similar
To what we know already
That will keep us steady
Steady, steady
Steady going nowhere

"Nowhere" indeed.

Anyway, normally I try to be pretty incremental in the process of introducing new tunes, bringing in a new one or two per tour, and adding it to the stuff that is already working well. But you keep adding and adding, and eventually you have some pretty outsized sets. So this time I decided to bite the bullet and gut the show of the tunes that have been staples of ours for 3-4 years now: "Howl," "PDX LIX LAX," "Bongo Non Troppo," "Fuck the Muck," and "Big Ass Truck." Sure, it felt a little like sitting them all down on an iceberg and pushing them out to sea. But I think it was the right thing to do.

And with that, I think the band is now officially in a "new phase," which means there will be a new album soon. More on that later... in the meantime, watch this space for yet still even more videos of the new tunes, of which there are four.

Ah, what the hell, here's a preview: a little sample of our "Theme for a Cable News Show," recorded by someone in our San Diego audience (warning: at one point it becomes very thong-centric):

Friday, April 17, 2009

"The Job Song" as you've never heard it

C/o Ms. Knapp.

If you don't know the actual tune from whence this comes, it can be found on the IJG Facebook page (the tunes are in the lower left-hand column), or at the IJG ReverbNation page.

The little Republican pin is an especially nice touch.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

No comment

I haven't really had a huge interest in making any remarks about this "tea-bagging" business (although I do feel a few political posts brewing, just because of all the crazy shit that is happening in general). Honestly, what can one say about it? The whole thing is so misguided and stupid.

It's funny, I get that. But it's also sad. And when one grows tired of laughing at it, and feeling sad about it, and then one notices that it is still there, like a canker sore that won't go away -- then the vibe starts to get a little scary, too.

I don't know, it just feels like the premise is too simple to support all of the jokes it has spawned (and believe me, I'm all for milking a good joke). I basically agree with this brief, effective summary from the Rude Pundit:

Ah, fuck this. Fuck the puns and the mocking. It's just too fucking depressing. Somewhere, Karl Marx is laughing his bearded ass off. Because what is this but classic exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie? It's a bunch of rich fucks, beginning with that tool Rick Santelli on CNBC and ending with the slavering profitmongers at Fox "news," making the poor idiots, who are desperate from fear of or actual job loss and heath insurance loss and home loss, do their bidding. Look at the people attending. Bedraggled Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin wannabes, clinging to the image of those who create the illusion of the working class without the work or the class. Ignorance is such bliss, man.


Of course, the sadist in me was disappointed that no one (as far as I know) bothered to undertake the only appropriate response to the various "parties" that were held around the nation today. To wit: hire some out-of-work porn actors to show up at a protest and start actually tea-bagging each other. (Important: the actors should appear confused and / or hurt when the bona fide protesters express outrage at said actual tea-bagging. "What's the matter? Isn't this what we all came here for?!")

But as I suggested, the joke is getting old.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The funmaker

Since I took my very first piano lesson in a Wurlitzer store in the 70s, it seems poetic that I managed to score a (gratis!) Wurlitzer Funmaker Custom Series 545 Organ yesterday.

You know, the one with the Leslie speakers! And the foot pedals! And it's in near mint condition!

Talk about luck: I had no real plan for getting this hefty beast home, and was unexpectedly assisted by the kindness of not one but two strangers in the process of getting it into and then back out of my Volvo station wagon.

A big shout-out to my awesome and beautiful wife for allowing my to drag this damned thing into our dining room. (She may or may not have seen it as a kind of "fee" for the chickens that are on their way to our house at this very moment.)

I can't be sure, but I suspect that this may be the very instrument used in soundtracks to many of the sci-fi and horror B-movies I seem to be addicted to these days.

And the kid likes it too!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Truth May or May Not Hurt

Don't let all this blogging, facebooking, twittering, youtubing, myspacing, and flickring (etc.) -- not to mention this 16-piece bandleading! -- fool you. I'm fundamentally an introvert. Always have been.

Not sure what that means? Or how to explain that contradiction? Here's a primer.

(Okay, apparently this has been around for a while, but I just learned about it via @sivers.)

Particularly comical bits and pieces:

Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. [...]

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. [...]

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

[...] We [introverts] tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.

Personality is a hilarious thing...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Street date: your Mom!

Another of the interludes that peppered our most recent tour. This one was the show opener. I was going for a self-deprecating dada-Broadway vibe, and I guess I got a little carried away.

The video is a composite of a pre-gig rehearsal (in Bakersfield, April 3) and our live performance at Dizzy's in San Diego (April 5). Hence the discrepancies in sound quality. Footage by Matt Lichtenwalner.

The "libretto" doth proceed thusly:

Jill: Oh, crap here we go / it's another IJG show...

Jill and Tany: I've heard this band, they blow / You never really know how low they will go...

Jill: How low, low, low, low, low, low!

Tany: You never know how to act --

Band: Is it ironic?

Tany: When they dispense with wit and tact --

Dan R.: What's tact?

Band: Dinner at Applebee's! [a reference to our tactless tune, "Il Ponderoso / Apropos of Nothing"]

Jill and Tany: In the end we always end up feeling sorry for them / Pitiful, miserable jazz musicians!

[Evan's Kenny G. imitation]

Tany: Trying way too hard to make a point.

Jill: There is nothing real about this joint.

All: Speaking of joints, the new record's dropping soon!

[Gavin quotes "PDX LIX LAX" over the bassline for "Gonna Make You Sweat"]

Jill and Tany: But why should we take the time to hear this band?

Mike R.: Street date: your Mom!

Jill and Tany: Do they think we really need to understand --

Ian: We tweeted about it!

Jill and Tany: -- whatever truly ponderous thing they have planned?

All: But wait: there's more, if you act now!

Dan S.: It slices! And it dices!

All: And sounds pretty!

Tany: Oh, let's just get it over with...

* * * * *

And there you have it.

I promise I'll get back to uploading the "real" tunes soon.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The pause that refreshes

Wow. Cool. That was simply a great experience all around. (I'm talking about the most recent tour, of course.)

I'll have something more in-depth to say about it by and by. For the moment, as I ponder the highlights, and review the recordings, and examine the footage (and the footage, and the footage) -- I am, in spite of my manic nature, taking a moment to enjoy the glow.

Inane, I know. Now is no time to rest, Durkin -- there is so much yet to be done!

Duly noted. Gonna go put the laurels back in storage now. In the meantime, speaking of inanity (which, as you know, I don't consider an entirely bad thing), here's a flavor of the sort of Broadway-musical-from-hell vibe that informed our show this time out. Be sure to stick around for the thong:

Much more to come. I promise it's not all that stupid.