Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Oh, the truth will form and fall apart again.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Guitars, etc.' category


Monday, 23 July 2001

Gray and Buckner in L.A.; behind the camera

     Well, I’m finally back. Alive on the Web again! Quite a lot happened in the last three months, and I’m really sorry that I wasn’t able to fix this no-Web-presence problem until recently.

     In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this site used to be housed at a different server, but there were some problems with the domain for a few months (rendering the site inaccessible), so I had to move it to a new place. So here I am, at a brand new location: musicandmeaning.com. If you’re wondering where "music and meaning" comes from, it’s a reference to something that happens in the movie Howards End (it’s something that is not in E. M. Forster‘s novel, but one of the brilliant things that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote for the screenplay. In the novel, there’s a crucial scene that takes place at a concert, but Jhabvala turned the concert into a lecture about music, entitled "Music and Meaning"). I like it because there are lots of layers/possible meanings to the phrase, plus on the obvious side, it makes sense for music-addicted me and the contents of this site.

David Gray plays -- can't tell which guitar.  But there's a Kyser capo...     What’s happened since the last time? Big things that come to mind: I’m working on a new writing project. That’s all I’ll say about that for now. Aside from that, I got to see David Gray with a couple of friends (hi Ed, hi Jay) when he made a local stop for his North American tour a couple of months back. I had a great time. DG was in top form and played many of my favorites that I didn’t think he would play (although he did not draw from his Lost Songs collection, unfortunately). And of course the "Please Forgive Me" experience was ridiculously fun. My friend Ed (who was not that familiar with DG’s repertoire aside from "Babylon") later commented to me that he’d never seen so many people "head-bang to a piano song." :-)

     I could write more but I don’t want to make this entry too long; plus there’s an old, "missing" entry about a Richard Buckner concert that I’ve included just below. I wrote it back in May but was never able to upload the file because of aforementioned server issues. So here it is now:


     11 May 2001 — Greetings! I know that an update is long overdue, so here I am again. This time, though, I’m going to focus mostly on a concert I attended recently.

     A couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I went to see Richard Buckner perform — it was an excellent show. He (as well as Eric Heywood, who played pedal steel guitar, electric guitar and electric mando) played for nearly two hours, including three long encore sets. The repertoire included a nice sampling from all four albums (Bloomed, Devotion + Doubt, Since and The Hill), as well as some new, unreleased (and in a couple of cases, still unrecorded) tunes from a forthcoming EP or album. I didn’t keep good track of all the titles but there was definitely an emphasis on The Hill, naturally — after all it’s the latest release. Both performers were in good form, and Heywood was really impressive with his accompaniment and solos. They both seemed to be really into the music, too (Isn’t it odd to see someone playing and s/he’s so far away from the music, and apparently not enjoying it? Well, that was thankfully not the case here). It was a really small venue, kind of a mid-sized room with a tiny stage, and my friends and I got there early enough to sit in the second row. Keep in mind that there were probably around 10-15 rows total, definitely less than 20.

     After the concert, I was fortunate to talk to Buckner a little bit (i.e. I thanked him, gushed over his music, and basically tried not to ramble on). I think he might have sensed my nervousness, because he smiled and said thanks, and then kind of patted my shoulder as if to reassure me. He also graciously signed my copy of Since. I wanted to talk to Eric Heywood too, but he didn’t come down to chat with the guests. In any case, it was a memorable evening. If you ever have a chance to see Buckner in concert, I highly recommend it.

     Buckner played two acoustics: I think both of them were Gibsons but I might be wrong about one of them (not familiar enough with Gibsons to tell you what models they were). He also had a red Danelectro U2, which he played pretty clean. It sounded surprisingly good. After the show, I took a look at the effects he used… among them he had a Boss Line Selector, two Boss Dual Overdrive pedals, a couple of delays, and a tuner. There was one another small black box but I couldn’t read what it was. Both acoustics were plugged into L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I. boxes. I’m pretty sure there were at least two different Fender amps, one for Buckner and one for Heywood, but I didn’t check carefully. Don’t know what the acoustic pickups were, but both sound holes were blocked. I should have asked about them, huh? (Tangent: as I was looking at the pedals, one of the venue’s sound guys coiling mic cables saw me, smiled and said, "Sure are a lot of gadgets, huh!" as if I were about six years old, and I managed not to roll my eyes or laugh. I just paused, amused, and said, "Well, not really. It looks like he just has two of everything [for the acoustics]." The guy didn’t respond and left me alone after that. BTW, this is why I’m not naming the venue here, but you can probably figure it out by reading elsewhere…) Each of the amps was miked with a single Shure SM57, and I’m pretty sure that Buckner’s vocal mic was a Shure SM58; all going through the house board to the PA. I think the mics belonged to the venue.


     Yes, I really enjoyed the Buckner concert. Could you tell? :-)

     Music of the moment: Quite varied, actually, but right now I’m mostly on a folksy kick. Richard Buckner (not surprisingly) still holds a spot in my CD player. I’m finally giving David Gray’s album White Ladder a break (gasp) for the time being (BTW, thanks to his newfound popularity, all of his previously out-of-print albums have been re-issued…I feel sorry for the people who forked over 50+ bucks for his old CDs on eBay). As for new material, I’m really looking forward to Buckner’s new album (coming later this year or next?) and to Gillian Welch‘s new album (released next week!). I have Jason Falkner‘s latest CD, Necessity at the top of my wish list right now, thanks to its introduction to me by Anne Litt of KCRW’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Thankfully she seems to play it every weekend!

     Take it easy. See you soon.


Friday, 19 January 2001

Gray, Buckner, guitar strings & night skies

Not a whole lot of new developments since a few weeks ago. I’m still really into the music of David Gray and Richard Buckner, and my CD player still has the same discs in it as the last time I wrote.

I know that I’ve been mentioning Mr Gray quite a bit within the past couple of months, and a lot of my friends aren’t familiar with him. So in case you’re not either, you might try catching this week’s Austin City Limits on PBS. ACL is an hour-long show featuring live music, and usually is split up into two half-hour segments (each segment showcasing a certain artist’s performance). So if you’d like to hear/see David Gray and finally find out what I’ve been raving about, please try to tune in. If you’re in the Los Angeles basin, you can either tape/watch ACL with Mr Gray this Saturday night (20 January) at 12:45 a.m. (yeah, technically it’s Sunday, the morning of the 21st). His set includes six songs, including "Babylon," which is probably his most popular song in the U.S. right now. He performed a condensed version of the song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn earlier this week (and yes, I saw him both times). Anyway if you’re not familiar with ACL and aren’t sure when it’s on in your area, you can find out the exact time/date on the Austin City Limits site.

Other news… Well, I was de-tuning my guitar from standard to DADGAD a couple of days ago and my first E string decided to break. I must say that the sound of a string breaking is never pleasant, and almost always unexpected. I think I’m going to try to devote my classical for alternate tunings and my steel-stringed for standard (but a half-step down) tuning to try and avoid more de-tuning string breakage, since it’s not the first time that happened. But nylon strings just don’t sound the same, and sometimes steel just sounds more appropriate, e.g. when I was practicing a Nick Drake tune, the steel just sounded better. Anyway. Sorry for rambling.

Earlier in the month, on kind of a whim, I signed up for one of those free Barnes & Noble information sessions. I prefer to say that than "courses" because they’re not exactly what I’d call courses, and I definitely think the whole "university" name is just wrong. In any case, I’m taking "The Night Sky: An Introduction to Astronomy." It’s a month long and we’re almost three weeks down. I only bought one of the (two) books recommended for the session, but just reading that plus the online lessons are actually pretty helpful for such a newbie like me. I’ve wanted to learn more about astronomy for a while now, and thought that the free BN.com session might be fun, or at least a good starting place. So far it’s been interesting, and the lessons are directed toward complete newbies like myself so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Plus, getting involved with the info session has also re-sparked my interest in photography (using an SLR camera), especially in photographing stars. We’ll see how that progresses.

See you later. Hope everyone’s 2001 is getting off to a good start!


Wednesday, 3 January 2001

Happy new millennium!

     Hope everyone’s holidays were enjoyable, how
ever you spent them. I’m thankful that I was able to see many friends,
a few whom I hadn’t actually seen in ages, over the past few weeks.
As for holiday gifts, well, I’m lucky to have gotten some fabulous CDs,
some of which are dominating my CD player
as I write this. The newest/main attractions are David
Gray
, Richard Buckner and the soundtrack to my favorite Rodgers
& Hammerstein
-based film. :-) Thanks to those people (you know who
you are!) who knew what to get me.

     One thing that I’m bummed about: I missed
both Weekend
Becomes Eclectic
shows on KCRW (30 & 31 December). It’s
not the first time I’ve missed both shows over a weekend, but the Sunday
show was a "best of 2000" retrospective, I think, and I probably missed
a truckload of good stuff. And you know, reading a playlist just isn’t
the same…

     Recently I got to visit a music store (a new
branch of a big chain which shall remain nameless here). It’s so amazing
how a roomful of guitars, all asking to be played, can brighten my day
(I guess you can tell by reading this that I don’t visit music stores
that often) :-) Anyway, I mostly looked but did play a few, including
a Martin
000M that sounded surprisingly good. Unfortunately the place didn’t
have any of the particular brands/models that I’d heard about and was
looking for (Martin 000-16 and variations, Martin 000-15 and variations,
Larrivee
OM models and Parlors, Tacomas). But my time there did allow me to come to the conclusion that if I ever
have the chance to get another guitar, I would prefer something smaller
than a dreadnought. I played a few, including a Martin D-15, and they
were way too boomy for me. I also played a Guild
D4
and a Gibson
Working Man 45
. Again, too big, but the WM45 also sounded too trebly.
Maybe it was the fault of the strings? I wasn’t there long enough to
test drive anything else, but there were definitely enough guitars in
there to last an entire afternoon. :-)

     I also saw two movies, both of which I liked,
but one more than the other: I highly recommend Finding
Forrester
(the character of Forrester is a writer — played
by Sean Connery — but I doubt it has any connections to either C. S.
Forrester or E. M. Forster). I also "kind of" recommend Cast
Away
, which just pummeled its way to the top of the box office.
Finding Forrester is a much better executed movie — and
has a much clearer story — than Cast Away, which feels
aimless and completely immersed in its own confusion in the last third
of the plot. Forrester is genuinely thoughtful, but the
Tom Hanks vehicle (by the way, Hanks still does a good job) only makes
a half-successful attempt to be profound; it could have been much more
powerful if the ending/resolution had been more developed.