Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quiz Answers!

I had a student today who said I must get so bored teaching him beginning piano, going over and over scales, chords, basic rhythm. I assured him this is not so.  While I love working with professionals, I also love the structure and science of music that teaching beginning piano and music theory puts me in touch with. 

Also, I love to dance.  It's the creative discipline I practice just because I love to do it, without any expectation that I will ever actually achieve anything with it.  I owe my sanity in large part to dance teachers and dancing partners who are patient enough to dance with an amateur.  So I guess I'm partly returning a favor to the universe by teaching beginning piano, on top of the fact that I don't mind it as part of the mix (if it were the only thing I did every day, I would indeed go crazy pretty fast). 

So, I guess my quiz was pretty hard, huh!?  I had a lot of feedback to that effect.  I guess if you're not google-cheating, it was pretty tricky.  Heck, I google-cheated making it up!  I did have one friend who quickly facebooked me the answers including the song titles, so it wasn't "Impossible".  Which, by the by, was number 4.

Here are the answers:
1. C - Hallelujah
2. F - Possession (Sarah McLachlan)
3. D - Anna Begins
4. A - Impossible (Cristina Aguilera)
5. G - Addicted (Kelly Clarkson)
6. J - Torn
7. I - Gravity (Sara Bareilles)
8. H - Tunnel of Love
9. E - She's Your Cocaine
10. B - Mean

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pop Quiz!

Today, Monday:
New vocal coaching client first thing in the morning. Noon: accompany voice lesson with vocal-coach-to-the-stars I've been wanting to meet for a long time. Learn "Here I Go Again", run errands. Two hours in a gig that's associated with a bunch of unresolved personal tumult. More errands. Home for short rehearsal for Wednesday night's gig. Chat with my best friend from college, break the news to her that her first love, whom I'm still friends with, recently had his foot amputated. Tension, gunfire, and a heat-packing young man being chased towards me on the way to the train to teach a 9 p.m. lesson. Contemplate my mortality, and what I would do if, say, I were wounded in the arm or hand by a stray bullet. Lesson is fine, and I even get to use "Here I Go Again" to illustrate my point that I, IV and V are the most useful chords EVER. Wait ages for the bus on the way home, having decided not to return via Gunfire Park North. (I should mention, for the benefit of everyone who's worrying about me right now, that this is only the second time I've heard gunfire in my 5+ years living in New York City.)

Bought myself roses on the way home from the bus. Made a cup of tea, and will now take out the rest of the day's angst on you, dear readers, in the form of a pop quiz. I am going to give myself a pop quiz tomorrow: set a certain amount of time, probably a couple hours, to play through as much of my song-a-day list as possible, and see how I do. I will probably fail miserably. It's ok. I realized recently that I was not capable of learning and memorizing a song at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, I might be. Also, I'm having fun. Learning my song is the high point of my day, something I look forward to, even when I have zero energy and don't really do it very well.

Ok. Ready?

This pop quiz concerns songs about effed-up love. There are so many ways for love to fail. It can be obsessive, unrequited, co-dependent, or just... mortal. And the pain of messed-up love has no expiration date, but damn if it doesn't make for some great lyrics. I almost always connect to the lyric of a song first, and this is even more true with songs that fall into this category. I may not be able to wrap my mind around why my love didn't work, but man, oh man, I really GET this song... I may be all alone, but this song makes me feel less singled out by the universe. Et cetera.

Most of the songs in this quiz are ones I learned earlier in the year, or will be learning this week. I will provide a lyric (numbered), which you can match to a fact about the song (lettered). You provide the title. And... GO!

1. "all i've ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you"
2. "My body aches to breathe your breath/your words keep me alive"
3. "She's talkin' in her sleep, It's keepin' me awake, and every word is nonsense but I understand"
4. "How can I give you all my love, baby, if you're always, always putting up your guard?"
5. "And I know I'll never change my ways if I don't give you up now"
6. "I'm cold and i am shamed, lying naked on the floor/Illusion never changed into something real"
7. "You loved me 'cause I'm fragile when I though that I was strong, but you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone"
8. "Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us/You, me and all that stuff we're so scared of"
9. "And is it true, that devils end up like you, something safe for the picture frame?"
10. "You used to send me flowers when you f***ed up in my dreams"

A. Two New York City native divas, one from Hell's Kitchen, one from Staten Island, perform on this song.
B. This song is from Funhouse, but was not one of the singles.
C. Penned by Leonard Cohen, this song has many covers, possibly the most famous being Jeff Buckley's. I first heard it on the soundtrack to Shrek.
D. This Counting Crows song has historically been known to make me fall a little bit in love with the person playing and/or singing it.
E. The title of this Tori Amos song includes a controlled substance.
F. Sarah McLachlan nearly got sued for plagiarizing this song... by stealing material from letters written to her by one of her many stalkers!!
G. This song comes from the winner of American Idol's first season.
H. This song was/is the title track from The Boss' "divorce" album.
I. The title of this song is also one of the four fundamental interactions of nature (eg electromagnetism).
J. This 90s hit is actually a cover - it was originally done by the LA band Ednaswap.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama, Shadowman

Turbo blog entry. More to practice. Need sleep. Not so much burning the candle at both ends as submerging the candle in the fires of Mordor, and today I was sick again. Bleh. Always fun to play a gig when you think you're going to puke at any moment. I think I'm a lot more exhausted from this whole break-up/move/figuring out a new life thing than I like to admit. I don't have as much energy as I usually do, and my immune system is shot. As an added bonus, whenever I get sick, I also get upset and sad that I'm sick, which is kind of dumb but there you have it.

I needed a pick-me-up song with a good groove today. No tender ballads, please. I looked at my uber list: "Right Here Waiting", no. "Fire and Rain." No, definitely not today. "Sweet Home Alabama"... I looked it up on playlist, and was grinning as soon as it started playing. I like the eight-note groove on each chord change - a little extra attitude, hitting it twice - and of course the iconic guitar riffs. I've been choosing guitar-based music a lot lately. I think I might need a guitar. I'm an occasional lyricist, and I usually picture myself with a guitar when I'm working out the lyrics in my head. Which is a problem, since in real life it takes me about five minutes to change chords on a guitar. There may be a visit to a pawn shop - or more likely, craigslist - in my future. Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of learning the piano solo at the end of "Sweet Home Alabama".

Last night, my friend Joshua came over to jam and we transcribed the song "Shadowman" by K's Choice, a Belgian band I'd never heard of before. My current favorite thing about this song: the Asus4 at the end on the lyric "now'd be perfect". The song is in C# minor, and we haven't heard Asus4 before in the song. That D natural in the harmony is just sweet here. It resolves to C# in an A chord, stays on C# for C#min/G#, B# in G# chord, then back to the tonic. What is it about chromatic lines that make them so, so sexy?? Perhaps it's the tiny movements - a half-step is as sensitive as musical intervals get in typical Western scales. A chromatic line is a thread the ear can follow throught the tension and resolution in the harmony.

It's all in the resolution: the progression that starts the "Shadowman", we analyzed as "figure 1": C#min - A/C# - F#7sus4/B - F#7/A#. Music theory nerds will understand why we started to analyze the third chord as Bsus4. B, F#, E. But instead of the E resolving to a D#, the B resolves to the A#. It's not just semantics, it does sound different. The resolution colors the chord that came before it in hindsight, and then when you hear it again (as you do many times in this song), you know what to expect, and you perceive the F#7sus4/B a little differently based upon what you know it's gonna do next. There's a life metaphor in here somewhere.

The form and the harmony on this song are actually really interesting, but I'll have to save any more geekery for another time. Meanwhile, you can check out the video and draw your own conclusions. I feel so honored that they chose my first initial for their band name!