Archive for the ‘guitar rig’ Category

Travelers of Tyme present: “DC Metro” a new single for $1

January 25, 2011
  • This single that is a tribute to the Washington D.C. metro supports the efforts of the Travelers to create a full-length and go boldly where no band has gone before. Available in most elite formats from $1→WhatYouChooseToGive! 

    Originally entered into the Washington Post Metro-Music contest. The B-side got 2nd place and attributed oddly to John Yaya! (fr0d.net/dcwin) Keeping the mystery alive in 2011!

    DOWNLOAD CONTAINS: Desktop backgrounds of cover art to adorn your computational device!

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Picture it: a lonesome subterranean train platform. A balding man in a rumpled black suit stands, waiting, anxiously checking his watch, too often. He rocks on his heels. His train is late, so very late. And what is his final destination? Not one of us can answer that with any certainty, can we? So we might as well be patient. (Just don’t tell that to the Waiting Man. Our secret…) 

An empty train arrives – but it’s not the Waiting Man’s train. As the doors open, they unfold in slow motion as a beautiful brunette in a crisp pant suit emerges like a swan from a swirling gray mist. She seems not to walk but to hover, gliding across the platform, a gorgeous spectre existing beyond Tyme and space. With a wink and a slight smile to the Waiting Man, she mounts the escalator and is carried into an unknown fog above. What is her final destination? Who can say? Perhaps she has already arrived!

As for the Waiting Man, his train is still running late. And it always will be.

ALWAYS.

▲ ▲ ▲

The Travelers of Tyme present “Misty Businesswoman” b/w “Last Train to Limbo,” 2 songs constructed using sound samples of the Washington DC Metrorail. Whether you are waiting, in transit, or have already arrived at your destination, this music is specially designed to enhance your travel experience.

Thank you for spending six minutes and fifty-five seconds with us. We hope that you enjoy the rest of your Tyme in this Universe. It is a pleasant one.

Cordially,

Professor John Yaya and Doctor Klem
The Travelers of Tyme

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Detholz! demo – “Catherine Zeta-Jones”

August 1, 2007

Welcome to the Detholz! mp3 blog’s second installment! All of these blog postings are in two parts:

1. Song Concept for “lyrics” people, and
2. Song Composition for “music” people.

Feel free to skip around!

1. SONG CONCEPT

This week, a Detholz! demo presented in earnest for the next record: “Catherine Zeta-Jones” (I seem to be mired in Hollywood these days… well, who isn’t?)

In this case, ol’ Cath is incidental to the subject matter. As I mentioned last week, all of the songs on the new record deal with different aspects of betrayal. This song is about the sad case of American traitor, Robert Hanssen, an FBI employee who sold secrets to the Soviets for over 15 years. He holds the distinction of being the worst (the best?) spy in American history.

My interest in his story was piqued initially by Billy Ray’s recent film “Breach,” which I watched in the back of the Baby Teeth tour van a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think the film does justice to the real Hanssen, as it presents him as a frustrated “super-spy” (though Chris Cooper’s performance in the role is exceptional). The truth is, Hanssen was a mediocre FBI agent that rose in the ranks primarily because the Bureau didn’t really know what to do with him. He was a textbook headcase, which is unusual for an FBI employee given their rigorous screening process.

Hanssen had undeniable technical skill and a superior memory. Unfortunately, these talents were overshadowed by a seeming inability to deal with people. He wore black suits daily, never smiled, and was referred to by his subordinates at the FBI as “Dr. Death.” At one point, he physically manhandled a female FBI support employee who refused to stay in a meeting and he was simply “brushed under the rug.” The Bureau didn’t fire him, they simply took him out of a supervisory role and transferred him to a solitary technical job. (Heh, sounds like a naughty priest. Ironic since Hanssen was a fanatic Catholic and a member of Opus Dei…)

[Sorry for the history lesson. I mean, hey, this is a music blog, right? To read the full account of Hanssen’s fascinating 20+ -year career in the FBI– incl. his espionage activities– the Dept. of Justice has posted an unclassified synopsis here. The USA Today article published at the time of his arrest is also available online here.]

History lessons aside, what struck me after reading this stuff was how Hanssen’s fantasy life consumed — and ultimately destroyed — him. THAT’S what this song is about: betrayal of self by fantasy. In Hanssen’s case, LAYERS upon LAYERS of fantasy.

Lyrically, this plays out a couple of ways:

1. Hanssen was obsessed with porn, and had an unhealthy fixation on Catherine Zeta-Jones. Evidently he’d carry around copies of Zeta-Jones movies in his briefcase (“Entrapment,” ironically). He would also regularly post sexual fantasies in graphic detail on the web– even using his wife’s real name. Additionally, he would secretly videotape he and his wife having sex, and then watch the tapes with a childhood friend. *shudder*

2. He was a fanatic Catholic, would attend Mass at least once a day, and was a supernumerary member of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei sect– mostly at his wife’s prompting. She caught him writing a letter to one of his Soviet contacts in the early 80’s, and insisted that he confess immediately to a priest. (!!)

These points are borne out in the second verse:

“I ate a bitter scroll
[a reference to Revelation 10:10, where the apostle John ingests the prophetic word of God, which is “bitter in his stomach”]
Inside my spider’s hole
I had my wife, the Blessed Virgin,
[an image that combines his wife with his Catholicism]

And whispered lies to her in Russian

And she’s on the screen
For the world to see
And now she’s Catherine Zeta-Jones
and I’m Catherine Zeta-Jones
[The idea that once his wife is on a TV screen, she transforms into his fantasy woman, and he likewise transforms into a fantasy of himself.]

And I bait the Bear
With locks of her hair”
[His fantasy of himself as “moral beyond morality” enables him to “bait the Bear,” the Bear doubling as a symbol for the Soviet regime and his imminent capture.]

The lyrical linchpin of the song, of course, is the repetition of “Touch me like that / Don’t touch me like that,” which refers to the dichotomy between fantasy and reality: “I WANT this thing / I cannot HAVE this thing.” Or, more rightly, “I WANT this thing / This thing does not EXIST.”

A quote from one of Hanssen’s last letters to his Soviet handlers sums this up well. When asked why he was betraying his country, he answers:

“Conclusion: One might propose that I am either insanely brave or quite insane. I’d answer neither. I’d say, insanely loyal. Take your pick. There is insanity in all the answers.”

The “insanely loyal” Hanssen is now serving a life sentence in a supermax federal penitentiary in Colorado and spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

2. SONG COMPOSITION

Musically, the arrangement started with the opening bass line. [Well, I say “bass line,” but I’ve purposely NOT used a bass in recording recent demos as a personal challenge. Bass is the instrument on which I’m most comfortable, so it’s easy for me to fall in a creative rut if I overuse it. I think it’s important in songwriting to be uncomfortable sometimes, at least for me! What you’re hearing here is a guitar with fuzz and an octave effect using Native Instruments excellent “Guitar Rig” plugin.]

Second, the drum part! I wanted to keep the groove interesting– it would have perhaps been easier just to do a “4 on the floor” kind of part, but I wanted this song to have a jerky, fractured feel since it’s about a man splitting in half. The bass line bounces up and down off of an open G, and the drum part emphasizes the beats where said bass line hits those G’s, all on off-beats:

one-AND-two- AND-three-four-AND / one-two-AND-three-four

Though the bass line changes in the verse, this rhythmic pattern does not.

Thirdly, that ridiculous descending saxophone/guitar line which, as Jonny astutely pointed out in rehearsal, is in Dorian mode. Lately, just to keep things interesting for myself, I’ve been including at least one element that makes me laugh. The sax part is that element. You may notice that the pitch is horribly flat– when I tuned it up, it didn’t sound as good. Sometimes, for color, it works to leave instruments out of tune. Listen to some of those old Velvet Underground recordings and you’ll see what I mean.

The verse is antiphonal– call and response, i.e. bit of melody, answered by “Ze-Ze…Zeta-Jones!” This is a verse form I use ALL of the time (cf. verse of “IMA Believer,” “Club Oslo,” and others from “Cast Out Devils” – songs available for $0.89 download at www.detholz.com or on our MySpace page). I was reminded of the effectiveness of this songwriting device while listening to the The Angels’ song, “My Boyfriend’s Back” on oldies radio. What a great, catchy song! I directly attempted to copy that technique here.

The chorus continues my experimentation with “4-notes-or-less” chorus, and just as in “Tammy” (from last week), the chorus melody consist of just two notes, a perfect fifth apart.

The final element I’ll call attention to occurs during the break before the “out chorus.” There is a 4-note melody (in theoretical terms, a musical “motive”) in the synth that comes from “Death to the Traitor”– a song that is the centerpiece of the new record– and that “Traitor” motive occurs in almost every new song we’re doing. It is a sort of “cantus firmus” that holds this entire album together (though for you music nerds, it doesn’t technically function as a cantus firmus). I love albums that tell stories, and this spooky little “Traitor motive” is included as a reminder that someone, somewhere in the song, is being betrayed.

Listen for it again at the tail end of the song!

So-called “motivic composition”– esp. in larger pieces– is near and dear to my heart. I’ve done it before, most notably in a 45-minute electronic work I did in collaboration with big James (aka “Mister M”) in our side project, “Surrounded by Monarchs.” Look for movements from that piece on this blog in the near future.

As always, your comments and criticisms are welcome! We’ve started rehearsing this, but the jury’s still out. Should Catherine stay…or GO?

Tune in next Wednesday for the 3rd installment of the Detholz! Mp3 Blog… collect them all!

Thanks for tuning in!

Your pals,
Jim C. & Detholz!