Music

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The New Modern Prophets

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TL;DR jump to audio file. Also, see the note at the end for disclaimer regarding names mentioned in this post.

Flashback – Summer, 1981

I was in-between semesters at Furman and was trying to earn a bit of cash for school by working maintenance for Laurens School District 55. This particular summer I was painting Sanders Middle School with an older guy (and by older, I mean probably in his mid-30s) whose first name I could only remember – Willie. Willie was a hard worker, and taught me lots about commercial painting, most of which I’ve long since forgotten. I liked Willie, and enjoyed my work with him that summer.

Willie was a devout Christian, and enjoyed listening to a local Black Gospel station on AM radio. I got into it, too, listening jealously to some of the piano chops these guys had. However, the one thing that made my day were the advertisements for Reverend Yuri. At precisely 11:25 am and 2:25 pm these would air.

Reverend Yuri was a spiritual advisor and reader located on Cedar Lane in Greenville. To this day I can point out his former establishment, which still looks rather weird. (I only know it was the place because there was a large billboard proclaiming it as Yuri’s, and not from any actual visits to the establishment.) His advertisements featured him using the vernacular, and started like this…

Is you tired? Is you lonely? Has your friends let you down? Reverend Yuri can help…

In the following years I’d tune in every now and then to listen to the ads, simply because I loved the use of the lilting vernacular. A couple of years later Reverend Yuri was replaced by “Sister Yuri.” I don’t know what happened. Sex change? Had I misunderstood the gender from the get-go, and the voice I was appreciating was that of the announcer? Who knows? Eventually Yuri closed shop and the ads ended. (more…)

More Moog

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moog_promo-bob-moog

Bob Moog with His Moog Synthesizers

Ken Cothran was very indulgent. He waited patiently as I tried out all of the gear in the Moog showroom. After our Moog Adventure we were having a discussion on Facebook, and he confessed that most of what he had heard sounded like noise, and he wasn’t sure how such an instrument would be used in composition. Ken wasn’t criticizing the instrument, but just didn’t have the background with it.

I explained that for the most part at the Moog Store they were just putting the instrument through its paces, demonstrating the the types of sounds it could create. This would be similar to running a few scales on a chosen instrument. The Moogs are monophonic, and are meant to be part of a toolbox of instruments, which would include multi-track recorders and sequencers.

As I was trying to come up with a good example of how these instruments could be used (Monophonic Moogs specifically, as opposed to modern polyphonic digital keyboards), the first thing that came to mind was the classic – Switched on Bach, by Wendy Carlos.

Switched-On_Bach_first_sleeve_(seated_Bach) (more…)

A Pilgrimage to Asheville for a Moog Music Tour

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Moog Voyager 40

MiniMoog Voyager 40

It was 1982. Dr. Robert Moog (rhymes with “vogue”) was visiting the campus, giving master classes in the afternoon and presenting a lecture on music synthesis in the evening. I was a senior music major at Furman University, and a DJ with WPLS, our campus radio station. Somehow I landed (mostly by begging) the assignment of interviewing Dr. Moog for the radio.

Dr. Moog was gracious, and turned my bumbling, star-struck questions into a wonderful interview. He made me sound good. It’s now years later, and I wish I had a copy of that recording. Alas, with the ephemeral nature of magnetic tape, it’s probably long gone.

I’ve always held an appreciation for Dr. Moog, Ray Kurzweil, and other early pioneers of electronic music. Some years back I was amazed to learn that Dr. Moog had moved to Asheville, NC, and further still, had re-established his company, Moog Music, in the area. I knew that I would have to pay a visit. It was always on my list of “that’s something I’ve gotta do someday.” I finally made the pilgrimage yesterday with my friend, Ken Cothran. (more…)

Fourth of July 2014

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Canada Day Fireworks

OK, It’s not Fourth of July, but Canada Day Fireworks photo by Ben_Senior

At some point I’m going to stop beginning my posts with “It’s been a crazy week.” It starts sounding like Garrison Keillor’s standard “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” But…it has been a crazy week, topped off by a holiday weekend.

Chorale Concert

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the collaboration between the Furman Lakeside Concert Band and the Greenville Chorale. It’s of our most popular concerts, certainly the best attended. We had rehearsals Monday night, then Tuesday with the band. The concert was Thursday. (more…)

Standard “Too Busy to Post” Post

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How many things can be crammed into one weekend? On the agenda for this one upcoming there’s Mother’s Day, a kayaking trip with Lowcountry Unfiltered, a photo walk with the Upstate Photographers, Artisphere is happening in downtown Greenville, it’s Furman Commencement…

…and, oh yeah, we have a concert at the Peace Center Saturday night and Sunday after noon with the Greenville Chorale and Greenville Symphony Orchestra, with rehearsals Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.

I think I have an excuse not to post anything elaborate, although I’ve got a few things on various back burners.

As for the concert, we’re doing “Music from the Heavens” which includes the Poulenc Gloria, Verdi’s Stabat Mater and a piece from Aida, and Mascagni’s Easter Hymn. Edvard Tchivzhel is conducting, and he is taking maddeningly fast tempi as he usually does. That way the bad notes don’t last as long, as I used to tell my choirs. The music is challenging, but it should be a good concert. I have a very brief semi-solo bit with the men of the Chamber Ensemble in the second half of the show, but only for a couple of measures. There are two of us on a part, so I guess in a group this size, that qualifies as a “solo” ;-)

Rehearsals are exhausting. Monday we started working with Tchivzhel. Either his English is getting better, or we’re learning how to interpret his thick Russian accent. We seemed to understand him a bit better. Now I’ll have to see if I can get through these next few crazy days without losing my voice.

Altered RPMs

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This conversation started on Facebook, and the results were entertaining enough that I thought I would summarize it here. If you’ve already read it and commented there, then just skip this post.

It all started when a friend directed me to a site that had a slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s hit “Jolene.” It was as if someone had taken the 45 single and played it at 33 1/3 RPMs on a turntable. The result was a slow, haunting version that sounds amazing.

I reposted this on my Facebook timeline and got lots of comments. One commenter doubted the veracity of the record, and thought that it had been faked. I suggested taking the original audio file and importing it into Audacity, then slowing it down by 27% digitally. Rather than wait, I decided to do it myself. (more…)

Radium and Radiant Music

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These Shining Lives

“These Shining Lives”
Furman Theater

It was an arts-filled weekend for us. This weekend was concert weekend for us, and was also the weekend of a Furman Theater production of “These Shining Lives” by Melanie Marnich.

Saturday morning was dress rehearsal. We started we what has gotten to be our traditional pre-rehearsal breakfast. This time ten of us gathered at Northgate Soda Shop for breakfast. It was a great gathering, and we enjoyed the company before getting to work.

image (more…)

Cat Trio – A PicoBoard Theremin with Scratch

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Cat Trio

OK, I’m sure that’s the most confusing post title of all time. I’m sure it will make sense by the end of this post.

This is a Theremin…

Moog Theremin

Moog Etherwave Theremin

…and I want one. Unfortunately, Santa (aka, Laura) didn’t agree. Something about it being too expensive and weird-sounding. :-) Oh well. So, I decided to look into options for building one. I had been playing with the PicoBoard and MaKey MaKey, and thought those would provide excellent options.

It seems that everyone wants to make banana pianos with the MaKey Makey. Since a MaKey Makey imitates a keyboard, it’s great for discreet keys and tones. However, a Theremin operates on a continuum, sort of like a violin or trombone. Therefore something else was needed. That’s where the PicoBoard comes in, with its ability to return values along a continuum based on its sensors. (more…)

Singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (sort of)

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Mack Wilberg

Mack Wilberg
Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

 

Once upon a time I was a choir director. Before getting caught up in all of this technology stuff I taught chorus to middle schoolers during the week, and directed music at a fairly large church on the weekends. It was what I trained to do as an undergrad, and I was having a blast doing it. As my career evolved, I needed weekends back, so I gave up choir directing. I continued singing with the Greenville Chorale, and that kept me musically active, but one of my retirement goals was to get back into choir directing.

It’s now been ten years since I’ve had a church choir. I did a brief interim at Fourth Presbyterian in 2005-06, but that’s hardly long enough to count. When I was a choir director I would regularly attend the Furman Church Music Conference, held on campus each January. I decided that a step toward my goal would be to attend the conference this year.

This year the clinician would be none other than Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Wilberg had spoken at the conference before, twelve years ago in 2002 when he was the associate director. Oddly enough, that was the last conference I attended. The session titles for this year were the same as that 2002 conference, and I almost hesitated – but now I’m glad I attended. (more…)

Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Original Illustration by Phillip Light
Click image for website and more in this series

I clearly remember the first time I heard this song. I was about six years old, and we had just gotten the Goodyear album “The Great Songs of Christmas” volume 6. The album had recordings of Christmas music from many popular artists, but the one that impressed me most was Andy William’s rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I’d never heard it before, and fell in love with the song. I vaguely remember singing it all the time.

According to that most trusted of online resources, Wikipedia, the song was written in 1962 by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne as a plea for peace right after the Cuban Missle Crisis. The Harry Simeone Chorale first recorded the song, but it really took off with a Bing Crosby recording in 1963. (more…)

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