Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quasi Una Supervillain Fantasia

I’ve already mentioned—Avril, Yes; Beyonce, Christina, No—that if I were an empowered supervillain, if I had the resources for a really cool lair and the funding to take on a gorgeous, wacky young sidekick my first choice for a gorgeous, wacky young sidekick would be Skye Sweetnam. Actually Skye would be my first and second choice and off the top of my head I’m not sure who my third choice would be. Not only is Skye as pretty as pretty can be, but she’s a guitar girl and she has, or appears to have, lots of energy. My gorgeous, wacky young sidekick will have to have lots of energy.

Anyway, I was off somewhere yesterday and I heard a Skye Sweetnam song on the sound system and I thought that was pretty cool because I believe Capital let her go and it’s been a while since there’s been any Skye news so maybe people still remember who she is.

I don’t know how much of her voice is her real voice and how much is better living through signal processing, but from just what I hear she has my favorite voice of all time. Even when she’s singing a song I don’t really like I’m still happy to listen just because of the tone and inflection and character of her singing.

That was the case with the song I heard yesterday. The singing is great. The lyrics are okay. But I don’t really like the song just because of the rhythm arrangement. And not only do I not like the rhythm arrangement, but it brings up the Frankenstein music issue I posted about in Quasi Una Fantasia Again about quantized rhythms.

FWIW, I’m certainly not the only person interested in the way quantized rhythms are re-shaping everything we hear. In one of the most extraordinary blog posts I’ve ever read, Paul Lamere at his blog Music Machinery created software that analyzed music files to check out how much the rhythm track varies as the song progresses. The top chart shows Led Zeppelin playing “Kashmir” [I quoted some of the lyrics to “Kashmir” here] and the bottom chart is Britney’s “One More Time.” The Bonham playing, of course, is much more organic, much more human and—do I really need to say it?—much more fun to listen to!

As much as I like Skye Sweetnam, I strongly suspect a plot of the rhythm variances in “(Let’s Get Moving) Into Action” would be as flat or flatter than the Britney song. And I don’t think that’s a good thing at all. I’d love to hear this same song performed with a drummer and bass player who were just having fun.

The whole song—and it goes on for almost four minutes—to my ears sounds like it’s built on jackass rhythm machine sounds and patterns that almost never change, almost never vary and make you annoyed after about thirty seconds.

There’s a music video of the song on YouTube and it’s pretty silly, too—silly as in you think oh no not this kind of stuff again—but it’s still Skye Sweetnam’s voice so I can struggle through watching it. And I’m going to embed it here so if anyone’s interested they can check out what I’m saying about the rhythm track:

Watching the video yesterday got me thinking more about music without rhythm tracks of any kind. I certainly enjoy playing without a click of any kind, but I can’t really tell what the experience is like for a listener because up until recently I never videotaped myself to get a feel for what it’s like to watch and listen to me.

And once I got started thinking about that quasi una fantasia topic again the next thing I knew I was playing to my webcam again.

This video is me playing two verses of “Blue Velvet.”

I’m kind of conflicted about this song. I love the music for the verses, but I hate the music for the bridge. I like some of the lyrics of the first couple of verses, but I hate most of the late lyrics.

So I resolve my conflicts by not singing at all and by dropping the bridge.

I don’t know if it’s cool to just drop a whole section of a classic song, but it’s my webcam, my guitar, my Tascam GT-R1 doing amp emulation and my blog so I’m going to arrange the song anyway I like. Just the music for the first couple of verses. And the coda.

So here I am, no click and no vocals, on “Blue Velvet.”

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