Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Music for Viruses

Or, Before and After Medical Science

Miraculous cure.

Simply miraculous. All you do is open your throat and sing the fucker out of your lungs.

In a period of false remission this weekend, I weeded a few vegetable beds in a state of the sort of mindlessness that invites Mindfulness. When I'm like this, bits and pieces of the most wonderfully irrelevant nonsense come flitting across the landscape. Snatches of music, unfinished and open-ended conversations, bits of verse (learned from books or made up on the spot), anything and everything is likely to -- indeed welcome to -- pop up.

As I pulled nascent clover out of the pea-patch, I began to feel a rhythm-glyph brewing. Just a little thing: Schwack-ack-ack-ack-ack, it went. An Eighties thing, a snare drum hooked up to an echo machine set at a song's tempo, so the schwack is the drum being hit, and the ack-ack-ack following is the reverberations from the delay machine.

As I let this thing play in my head, I began to hear other things along with it, the rest of the drum part, then a bass line that oscillated between two chords a whole-step apart. Finally it dawned on me what I had just dreamed up: It was an arrangement of Brian Eno's "No One Receiving," from Before and After Science.

I went inside, fired up GarageBand, and within a few short moments I had the arrangement noted down.

Then I went and got Bad Sick again. Round Two. Couldn't face anything, least of all The Music.

Came home early from work yesterday, decided I would try some Play Therapy. Extended the basic groove out to song length, put down a live bass to buttress the synth riff, played the rhythm guitar part underneath everything. Kitchen-sink percussion.

In the early evening, the time had come to sing the thing. It's not a difficult melody, even for someone of my limited range, but remember I've been pretty goddamned ravaged by lung trouble for a week. As I was beginning to sing, I started hearing low rumblings in the microphone monitor, and noticed that a spectacular thunderstorm was playing outside. Screw it, I thought, saved my work against a power failure (not at all an uncommon thing here) and kept on. My voice was terribly wobbly at first, but as I vocalized at full throat I felt strength coming back. A few takes and I felt absolutely wonderful, better than I have in days, and when the storm had passed I am prepared to swear it took that goddamned virus right with it.

The guitar solo. Ahem. Yes.

You should never -- that's never -- do what I did, which was to clap on closed headphones, plugged the Les Paul into the GigaSchmertz Hyper-Frenobulator, set the Fripp-o-Matic Phaser Doohickey on the ultra-secret, never-to-be-used-except-in-dire-emergency "Tom Scholz Must Die" patch and shredded my tintinnabulaceous cochlear bones into a fine dust. As I say, you must never do this, and I only did it because I'm a trained professional and I only do it about once a year. When, say, you want to chase a particularly pernicious viral infection from your body. When bombarded with shreddage like this, ain't a microbe on this or any other planet wouldn't pack its bags and leave town in a hurry. I notice now that it was so loud that I lost track of the chord progression for a few bars, but screw it. It's an awesome, frightening thing to make a noise like that come out of a guitar.

Here's the thing, then: No One Receiving (pops).

And now I'm healthy.

(Thank you to Matt for reminding me to finish it up.)


blue girl said...

Very cool.

Employee of the Month said...

Burger cruising just above the ground ground ground
And gunner puts a burnish on his steel
Anna with her feelers moving round round round
Is sharpening her needles on the wheel.

Burger bender bargain blender shine shine shine
And gunner burn the leader on the fuse
Bundle up the numbers counting 3 - 6 - 9

Here's anna building webs across our shoes
Celebrate the loss of one and all all all
And separate the torso from the spine
Burger bender bouncing like a ball ball ball
So burger bender bargain blender shine.

Do the do-si-do, do the mirror man
Do the boston crab, do the allemande.

fgfdsg said...

You threw *that* together under those conditions? Bloody hell! Even something i've fully completed never sounds anywhere near remotely that good.

I think I made the right decision giving up the songwriting.

Seething with jealousy...

Gavin M. said...

You just did that thing with the octaves -- on the A string and 2 frets up on the G string.

I swear, there was a time when nobody used to do that.

Matt said...

I can see it now:

Koufax Awards, 2006: "Guitar Riff Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" . . . .

Neddie's got more talent in his freakin' guitar pick than I've got in my entire jlziz!

Anonymous said...

baby's on fire...

beyond passionate said...

Myself, I've upgraded to Logic Express. More control, better interface, a lot of fun. Had an awesome session this past weekend that I'm very pleased with. Ain't modern electronics fun?

Neddie said...


You, me, lamppost: I mixed this one in Logic Express. Left that detail out so as not to complicate the story.

I love tracking in GarageBand. It's just so marvelously simple -- this from a guy who used to scrabble around inside the Cubase manual for hours on end to figure out how to arm a track. Logic strikes me the same way: I lose hours figuring out how to do the simplest things -- hours that I should be using doing music.

But once I've got the tracks sketched out and the bits and pieces in place, bing, it's time to save, quit GarageBand, and start losing myself in Logic's twiddly EQ settings. Yeah buddy.

I think probably theoretically this could have sounded this large coming from GarageBand. But you'd really have to work.

qanrukp? No thanks. I already had two.

Blue Wren said...

Glad you're back on top of the world, Neddie. Beats chamomile and eucalyptus tea all to hell. I wish I was musical... sigh.

Bob Dwire said...

Fine tune, Ned, but that's not my point.

My point is: WTF were you removing clover from the pea-patch? Sucker is a sure sign that you're mssing nitrogen, which admittedly the peas will themselves help to provide, but you might as well leave it and then till it in with the pea haulms in a month or two.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Woah- this is all good and shit. And it sounds all modern. Nice. I have no pea advice.