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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL PEART-September 12, 1952-January 7, 2020.

When I was in high school, Rush was my favorite band, hands down.  I listened to them all the time.  I made tapes of all of their songs in alphabetical order and would listen to them straight through.

I still loved them in college, but a little less so as my tastes broadened.  But every new release was something special.

It’s frankly astonishing that I didn’t seem them live until 1990.  There were shows somewhat nearby when I was in college, but I never wanted to travel too far on a school night (nerd!).

For a band I loved so much, it’s also odd that I’ve only seen them live 5 times.  However, their live shows are pretty consistent.  They play the same set every night of a tour (as I found out when I saw them two nights apart), and there wasn’t much that set each show apart–although They did start making their shows more and more fun as the years went on, though).

One constant was always Neil Peart’s drum solo. It too was similar every night.  Although I suspect that there was a lot more going on than I was a ware of.  It was also easy to forget just how incredible these solos were.  Sure it was fun when he started adding synth pads and playing music instead of just drums, but even before that his drumming was, of course, amazing.

It was easy to lose sight of that because I had always taken it for granted.

I am happy to have seen Rush on their final tour.  I am sad to hear of Neil’s passing.  I would have been devastated had it happened twenty years ago, but now I am more devastated for his family.

So here’s two (of dozens) memorials.  The first one is from the CBC.  They included a mashup of some of Neil’s best drum solos:

But what better way to remember the drum master than with a supercut of his drum solos? From a 2004 performance of “Der Trommler” in Frankfurt, Germany, to a 2011 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, to his first-ever recorded drum solo (in 1974 in Cleveland, Ohio), dive into nearly five minutes of Peart’s epic drum solos, below.

The best Neil Peart drum solos of all time.

I was only going to include this link, because it was a good summary, then I saw that Pitchfork ranked five of Neil’s best drum solos (an impossible task, really).  But it is nice to have them all in one place.

You can find that link here.

Starting in the 1980s Neil’s solos were given a name (which shows that they were pretty much the same every night).  Although as I understand it, the framework was the same but the actual hits were improvised each night.

Even after all of these years and hearing these drum solos hundreds of times, watching them still blows my mind.

  • “The Rhythm Method”
  • “O Baterista”
  • “Der Trommler”
  • “De Slagwerker,”
  • “Moto Perpetuo”
  • “Here It Is!”, “Drumbastica,” “The Percussor – (I) Binary Love Theme / (II) Steambanger’s Ball”

[READ: January 2020] Canada 1867-2017

In this book, Paul Taillefer looks at the most historically significant event from each tear of Canadian history.  And he tries to convey that event in about a page.  Can you imagine learning the history of your country and trying to condense every year into three paragraphs?

And then do it again in French?  For this book is also bilingual.

I can’t read French, but i can tell that the French is not a direct translation of the English (or vice versa).

For instance in 1869, the final sentence is:

This, in turn, signaled the start of the Red River Rebellion which would not end until the Battle of Batoche in 1885.

Neither Batoche nor 1885 appears in the entire French write up.  So that’s interesting, I suppose.  I wonder if the content is very different for French-reading audiences. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE KING’S SINGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #768 (July 23, 2018).

There are so many a capella groups in existence.  Some are collegiate (there are three alone here at Princeton) and others move beyond that.  The Nassoons started in 1941.  The Footnotes started in 1959.  The Tigerlilies, (the all-female group) started in 1971.

So when this blurb talks about The King’s Singers being fifty years old, well, that’s not so impressive in some respects.  But anything that has lasted that long is still pretty impressive.  As is the fact that  they have 150 recordings out.

Fifty years ago, a group of six guys walked on a London stage to perform for the first time as The King’s Singers. They were choral scholars and graduates from King’s College, part of England’s venerable Cambridge University.

The group quickly earned a reputation for its precise and warm close-harmony singing, which is as strong as ever today. There have been more than 150 King’s Singers recordings, Grammy and Emmy awards, and countless concerts and television appearances. New singers, of course, have cycled through over five decades, but the six-man vocal setup has remained constant: two countertenors, one tenor, two baritones and a bass. Also unchanged is the group’s penchant for singing just about every style of music.

So it is no surprise that the current iteration of The King’s Singers — in the midst of their 50th-anniversary tour — brings a diverse set list to the Tiny Desk, including a Beatles tune and a bawdy madrigal from the 1500s.

Notice the glistening top end on Lennon and McCartney’s “I’ll Follow the Sun,” courtesy of countertenors Timothy Wayne-Wright and Patrick Dunachie.

I also enjoyed hearing the occasional bass notes from Jonathan Howard.  It’s fascinating to see how the tenors like Julian Gregory take various parts of the song, sharing the lines.

“Shenandoah,” the traditional American song, sports a velvety carpet of accompaniment for baritone Christopher Bruerton’s lead. The blend of light and color shifts beautifully in Bob Chilcott’s diaphanous arrangement.

Christopher Gabbitas’ introduction (and plug for their album) is quite amusing.  The way the five singers start with “ooohs” in harmony is really striking.  In addition to the lead, the gorgeous high notes of the countertenors are absolutely striking in this song.

“Horizons,” with its cinematic hissing, humming and other special effects, tells a tragic story of the San people of Southern Africa.

Howard introduces this song by saying that somewhere in a cave in South Africa there is a San bushman painting of a Dutch or English ship dating back to early 1700s.  It celebrates the incredible powers of observation of the now virtually extinct San people.  The people the San saw as gods because of their stature and opulence were soon to become their executioners.  This is what the South African born writer and composer Peter Louis van Dijk writes in this song which celebrates their humility and their oneness with the environment.  It also laments the demise of these people at the hands so-called progress.

This song really toys with my idea of what a “traditional” a capella group might do.  There are hand clasps, hissing sounds, snaps and other vocal sound effects.  Sung initially by baritone Christopher Gabbitas, everyone eventually takes a turn doing vocals and vocal/hand percussion.

The rhythmic and risqué “Dessus le marché d’Arras” channels a bustling 16th-century French marketplace.

This madrigal takes them back to the 1500s.  It’s a pop song written by from the renaissance era written by Orlande de Lassus in which a Spanish soldier in the Northern French town of Arras asks a woman how much….  And they walk off, hand in hand. The madrigal doesn’t say what she is selling, and The King’s Singers don’t want to say (as it is being broadcast).

The singers intertwine their voices beautifully.  It’s a fast spirited number and a lot of fun (even if you can;t tell what they are saying).

The King’s Singers remains a vocal juggernaut, playing 150 concerts in this anniversary year. With its power, finesse and silky blend, the group is like some close-harmony Ferrari that can purr and growl, leaving you amazed at the splendor of the human voice.

[READ: October 11, 2017] “The Wizard of West Orange”

I have enjoyed most of Millhauser’s stories.  This one irritated me though. The fact that it won me over is a testament to the quality of the story, but I was really annoyed by the style.

This is a diary.  And I hate the way it is written.   I get that a diary can be truncated, but why did he chose to make this such a tough read; “A quiet day in library; this morning overheard a few words in courtyard.”  Ugh so frustrating.  And the whole story–all 12 pages of it is written in that halting style with limited articles.  Man is it annoying.

It starts out on Oct 14 1889 and was written by the librarian who works with Thomas Edison–whom he refers to exclusively as The Wizard.  The first few entries are pretty dull–The Wizard is secretive going about his business.  I was afraid this was just going to be one of those imaginings of what someone who worked with Edison’s job was like or blah blah blah.  And it is much like that.  A book comes in and one of the scientists looks for it.  The Wizard is working on his phonograph and his talking doll.

There are two main characters beside the narrator.  There is Earnshaw who is very much devoted to the idea of motion photography–he’s thinking about something with sprockets in it.  And there is also Kirstenmacher whose time is devoted to the kinescope.

It gets interesting when the entries reference a wired glove.  And Kirstenmacher determines that the librarian is fascinated by the inventions, in particular the kinescope

Turns out that Kirstenmacher has invited both Earnshaw and the narrator to test out this new device–the wired glove has a silk lining and little metal points throughout.  When the librarian puts the glove in, and Kirstenmacher turns the wax cylinder, the librarian feels weight in her hands, tickling sensations.  It is amazing.

And as the entries go on, the details of the experience grow.  Eventually it becomes a full body suit and the feelings are uncanny.

Earnshaw meanwhile hates the experiments–he wants nothing to do with that infernal machine but Kirstenmacher won’t let him quit.

“Today at a little past two, Earnshaw entered library.”  ugh

Kirstenmacher has high hopes that in twenty years it may be possible to create tactile sensations by stimulating the corresponding centers of the brain. Until then we must conquer the skin directly.

The Wizard filed a caveat with the patent office for the haptograph–protecting his invention while acknowledging its incompleteness.  He announces to the paper that he hopes to have it presentable in six months.

Kirstenmacher says that if three more men are put on the job, and ten times current funds diverted to research, the haptograph might be ready for public in three years.

Then one day the machine is destroyed.   The Wizard doesn’t seem all that upset but the librarian is distraught.

~~~~~

Just this weekend we visited the Thomas Edison National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service) in West Orange and it was pretty awesome.  Totally worth a visit.

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 6 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 13, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows (which I really hope to see some day).” This was the 6th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was a free Tuesday night.

Note:  After the encore break Ford Pier plays a solo version of Diaphanous Heart and then Dave fortuitously jokes that the band just decided to break up.

As the show opens, Dave says they’d like to that Kat and Leeroy for playing with them tonight.  He then says that this is their fifth night, “lucky number 5.” But it clearly isn’t.

They open the set with a stretched out version of “Fat.”  Mike asks, does that stand for “File Allocation Table?”  Dave: “Of course is does.”  “Aliens” has an unusually heavy riffing opening but then the song is played fairly straight.  During the quiet part, Dave doesn’t play anything else but there’s some pretty twinkling keys from Ford.  The song ends with an unexpected guitar solo.  And as the band starts to play the next song, there’s more soloing–a solo unlike what Martin typically does.  I assumed it was a guest but apparently not.  And yet, it lasts for just a moments before the song becomes “Claire.”  Martin’s got some interesting guitar sounds going on for the lengthy solo.

Martin tries the opening of “Torque Torque” but it sounds wrong–naw it didn’t work.  Dave: “Bit of a clunker.”  The next try is fine although there’s a really ugly moment in the middle of the song where the chord is just wrong.  But they get past it pretty quickly.

Dave announces that that was from the film Whale Music, the soundtrack to which is available on zunior.com, a site that is making our musical available digitally.  “We also just released a recording called Calling Out the Chords Vol. 1 which is a recording of last years’ Fall Nationals.  It’s a 12 song souvenir of that event.”
Ford: “I’m astounded that this is volume one.  What do you need someone to take out a fistful of money and burn it in front of you before you get a goddamn clue?”
Dave: “I thought vol, 1 because you know those albums like Cruisin Vol 1.  No one every goes, ‘Wheres Vol. 2?”
Ford: “I felt that way about Kill Bill.  There’s more? Ew.  A martial arts movie with no martial artists?”

When they start “It,” Martin jumps a ahead to the dinosaurs verse and then says  “Is it the wrong verse?”  Dave tells him to go back and they more or less start over.  This time when he gets to the dinosaurs, he roars.   Next up is “Queer” which rocks.  Before the end coda, Ford take a lengthy jazzy piano solo.  It’s followed by “Pornography” which feels a little rushed. There’s some ugly static on the guitar.

When the song is over Ford asks who watched the Grey Cup.  “Everybody did, naturally.  And you all saw The Black Eyed Peas and enjoyed them very much.  And you know that woman Fergie?  She was one the voice of Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally in the Peanuts cartoons [this is true].  And now, when you watch the special and she says ‘My Sweet Babboo’ you’ll hear her saying ‘My humps, my humps’ and that’s just wrong.”
Dave: “Yeah, but what a band.  And what a great cup.”

After a nice “Sunshine at Night” Dave introduces Ford: “all the way from Edmonton, via Vancouver, via Eastern Europe, that’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.”

Then Dave thanks everyone who donated to Alpha and Huron Schools (Tim’s daughter goes to Alpha and my son goes to Huron, and they’re both co-op and they need it.  You gotta love a new toilet, right?  Everybody remembers their first toilet.  You probably had some pretty crude toilets in Caprino, eh Martin?”
Martin: “oh yea!  Toilet technology is catching up, but in the 70s it was primitive.  In my aunt’s bar, there was a hole and two porcelain footprints.  And it reeked.”

Martin starts tuning and then does a really awful chord–“whoa, I tuned it cool.”  Mike: that’s some serious positive reinforcement…  Shit, I slept in.  Cool.”

Martin says the next song is about a rock musician with a special haircut, a pompadour.  It’s a great version of  “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful and Mine” and it’s followed by a particularly intense version of “The Land is Wild.”  Written by “Dave Augustino Bidini.”  Dave really screams during the “it didn’t have to be” part.  And he has now added the final verse about Fogarty’s death.

There’s a huge reaction when “Here Comes the Image” begins and it features Augustino on the rums and Wojewoda on the synths.

Out of the blue Dave asks, what was your favorite Triumph album, hammer or anvil?  Then Dave says that the band Anvil were from Etobicoke and were originally called Lips.

Dave says the next song is dedicated to Ford’s shirt (someone in the crowd shouts we love you Ford Pier).  It’s “P.I.N.” and this time it ends with them chanting “I love my humps, my lovely lady lumps.”

Dave says that “Mumbletypeg” is one of those jump up and down songs, just like the last one.  They end the set with “Satan Is The Whistler: which totally rocks.  Martin ends it with his robot voice and then go to an encore break.

After the break, Ford comes out to sing a solo song on guitar. It’s his song “Diaphonous Hairshirt” which I’d never heard before.  It’s catchy but also a little odd, with some interesting vocal lines. Then he goes back to the synth and plays some pretty intro music.  Dave says he wants to tell everyone the band wants to break up.  Mike: “And then we can get on with our lives.”  (They would officially break up in January).

Martin starts counting 1, 2, 3, and keeps going up to 18.  Dave says “if my kids heard you do that they’d think you were a god.  How did he remember so many numbers in order?”  They play “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson,” but instead of the “Michael” chant, Dave shouts Autobahn!  Then during the slow part, Dave sings “fun fun fun in the autobahn.”  He continues, “Always defer to the Germans.  Always defer to krautrock when you’re looking for a good rock n roll slogan.”  Martin starts singing “It feels good to be alive” with a German accent.

The end the night with Part 2 of “The Ballad of Wendel Clark” It segues perfectly into Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Before continuing Dave chastises, “Stop looking at your camera, sir” and then they end “Wendel” and say good night.

That’s nearly two hours of free music.

[READ: July 21, 2017] Science Comics: Flying Machines

I really enjoyed this book about Flying Machines. When I heard the title (without the subtitle) I assumed it was just going to be a book about various flying machines.  I didn’t realize it was going to be a story of the Wright Brothers (and their competition).

And even better is that the story is told by their sister Katharine Wright.  We get a brief bio of her in the beginning and then a longer (but still brief) sketch of her at the end.  Katharine was the youngest child in the family and when their mother died (when Katharine was 14) she took over the family work.  She was also her father’s secretary as well as Orville and Wilbur’s “public relations director”–she dealt with kings and queens for them.

The story begins with Katharine trying to teach flight to an unruly classroom of kids (including one who needs to go to the bathroom).  And then she flashes back.  I love the way Brooks does this flashback, with Katharine as a kind of blue and white ghost look where she observes the other panels in full color.  The inspiration for her brothers wanting to fly was their father’s bringing home a hélicoptère–a small wooden “bat” that spun and flew.  It was designed by Alphonse Pénaud, he never made one big enough for people to fly, but inspired many.

The Wrights were from Ohio but they drove to Kitty Hawk to test their planes because the place was flatter and windier.

The book shows all of the people who tried to master flight (and the names of their ships) (more…)

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