There Is No Try (Not!)

Today I’m thankful that I can take as many random academic courses as I wish.

I’ve been reading a book with what is probably one of my favorite titles (be warned, it is slightly rude).  The basic premise is that you won’t be good, or even mediocre, at everything you try, and that’s all right.  The point is to discover what you care enough about to become responsible for.  Each person has a limited amount of energy (or time, or concern, or anything) to give (referencing the book’s title) and sharing that resource according to your virtues is the way to live an examined life.  The short version is you need to pick your battles.  I admit that the concept is facile, but I appreciate that it’s grounded in practice rather than theory.  I will always prefer spending a day with an engineer to an artist.

In my life there are number of things I say I care about, but I’m not experienced enough at most of them to gauge the accuracy of my claims.  It’s more that I feel I should care about them, regardless of whether I actually do.  I’ve decided to put the book’s thesis into practice, because I only have so many fracks to give.  One of the perquisites of my work is reduced tuition and fees at a local university.  I’ve enquired about taking courses in several subjects.  The worst case is that I don’t enjoy the topic while still gaining knowledge.  I realise I should have figured out these issues long ago, but I’m thankful to have even a delayed opportunity.

Unrelated, but I sing and Aretha Franklin was the singer, and I’m very sad that she is gone.

This video is not mine.  I claim no rights.  All rights belong to the copyright holders.

Raising My Voice Anew

Today I’m grateful for voice/singing lessons.

I had a voice teacher for several months about five years ago.  The lessons ended because she moved about 10 hours away.  I’m a singer.  I always have been.  I’m not a great technical musician – my sight reading skills are negligible and I know very little theory.  I’m a tolerable instinctual musician, if such a thing exists.  I’ve developed an excellent ear out of necessity so that I don’t fall behind, and I can harmonize almost instantly.  I’ve been a harmony part since my voice changed and I have more fun moving around the melody than I ever did singing a piece straight.

I restarted voice lessons two months ago.  It took a couple of sessions to get our footing.  I wasn’t sure specifically what I wanted and the teacher needed to suss out my abilities.  Parts of my range are rusty.  That’s slightly frustrating, but I’m elated to be learning something again.  I truly enjoy singing in the church choir, but I needed to sing for myself as well.  Now I am.

Smiles From Glasgow

Today I’m thankful for Scottish synth-pop.

I am always hunting for new music.  My taste is eclectic and I’ll happily listen to most things once.  YouTube suggested a Chvrches video based on what I’d previously viewed.  I’ve tended to either highly enjoy or immediately need to skip their songs.  There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

They have a clean sound.  I prefer that to distortion, except in some punk and sludge metal.  Their production is crisp and the layering is precise.  I appreciate the intricate beats, and the fact that each song is a complete item.  They don’t meander to some strange musical future.  This particular track has helped get me through a long work week.  I was amused by the writer’s description of it as a “middle finger mic-drop.”  That probably says more about how I handle stress than I actually care to admit.  Listen and enjoy, I hope.

All rights belong to the artists.  I do not own this video.

Will Love Be There?

Today I’m thankful for “Shine.”

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the song.  I’ve loved it since.  It’s one of the few songs I recognize immediately, by the bass riff.  The lyrics are challenging but hopeful.  It’s in my vocal sweet spot so I belt along whenever I hear it.  It’s one of my top three favorite songs.  One of the others is “Cliffs Of Dover”, which I’ve posted about previously.  The third is embarrassing and I don’t feel like admitting it just now.

Metal-er Than Thou

Today I’m thankful for the Angry Metal Guy.

I’ve mentioned being a bit of a metal head.  I lean more toward older stuff (RIP, Ronnie D.).  I’m a power/prog metal weenie and like some doom and math metal.  The NWOTHM is absolutely my thing.  I prefer clean vocals.  I’m not a fan of black metal.  I’m not offended by the antireligious aspect.  It’s mostly that the world is already so screwy that I don’t need to be any more nihilistic.  I enjoy learning about emerging artists and ludicrously specific subgenres (technical death slam, really?).  I’ve listened to this nonstop for the past several days.

The site manages to be informative and occasionally hysterically funny – see the comments on any Jorn Lande post.  This beauty is a good example.  Sourced via the Angry Metal Guy.  I do not own the video or song, and material on the Angry Metal Guy website is protected by copyright.

I think Monster Magnet may be my new favorite band name.

 

The Trooper

Today I’m thankful for Iron Maiden.

I appreciate bands that have fun, not taking themselves too seriously and making music for the joy of it.  It’s a bonus if they also happen to be good.  There are three specific things I most like about Iron Maiden:

Chances are if I’m in a Maiden mood I prefer the music to be aggressive.  Their guitar/drum combo never stops moving forward.

Bruce is an old school shouter.  I’d rank him with any of the original generation wailers.

Eddie is the perfect mix of macabre and humor.  He’s instantly recognisable, endlessly modifiable and bloody good fun.

Neither the song nor the video are mine.

Sassy Sings

Today I’m thankful for Sarah Vaughan.

I don’t remember how I first heard Sarah Vaughan sing.  I was transfixed.  Her voice is like silk.  On occasion she would forget the lyrics, or be in disagreement with her band, and she never let it get to her.  Recordings that include such incidents showcase her fairly wry sense of humor.

She started with Chick Webb’s band.  Her broad range and warm voice are what made her stand out from her peers.  She performed almost continually for almost 40 years.

I have no rights to the song or video.

 

The King Of Space

Today I’m thankful for “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.

The university choir I sang in collaborated with the local symphony to perform The Planets in concert.  There is a choral part in “Neptune” which is what we sang.  Holst wrote the suite during World War I.  The first “Neptune” chorus was recruited from a local girls’ school.

There are movements for each planet that astronomers knew about at the time.  Pluto wasn’t discovered until the 1930s, and its planetary status is still debated (planet, forever!).  The movements in the suite are not in astronomical order.  Being pedantic, this annoys me.  Each movement is intended to convey the astrological, rather than astronomical, aspects associated with its planet.  Mars almost won my heart with a massive kettle drum chorus.  Then, I heard the middle string section of Jupiter.  I got teary and have adored it ever since.  My favorite part starts around 3:07.  I have no rights to the music or video.

Sing It, Sister!

Today I’m thankful for two “sister” groups from the ’30s and ’40s:  The Andrews Sisters and The Boswell Sisters.

I discovered the Boswell Sisters by reading, of all things, an interview with Donald Fagan of Steely Dan.  He mentioned that Connee Boswell was one of his formative influences as a vocalist.  I’m always up for hearing new music so I looked up some of their songs.  They were unique in that they’d switch parts in the middle of a verse, or whenever they felt like it.  They jumped around vocally, so that one sister was never stuck on just one part.  They stopped really performing as a group around 1938, but Connee did a lot for the USO during the Second World War.

If you’ve ever heard “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” you’ve heard the Andrews Sisters.  I don’t know as much about them off the stage as I do the Boswells, but their arrangements are usually just fun to listen to.  It’s difficult not to sing along.  Enjoy!

I claim no rights to these videos or songs.

Lite Metal

Today I’m thankful for DragonForce.

I’m a bit of a metal head.  I love crystalline guitar solos and machine gun drums.  I prefer clean vocals but can appreciate growling. It’s usually when I’m pissed (angry, not drunk) or in the middle of a tough workout.

With that, I most enjoy bands that don’t take themselves too seriously.  They seem to perform out of sheer enjoyment.  DragonForce is technically accomplished.  They also are just as likely to include chiptune riffs and sing about ridiculously wizard-y things as they are to write lyrics about ripping off faces.  All song rights belong to the artist.