Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wiegand EP ℗

Most of you have probably been guided to here by my little facebook message today. Without further ado, here are the MP3s, here are the lyrics, and here is the artwork. (edit: Apparently some of the lyrics aren't accurate. The Word document has a couple errors, not the recording. Now it's too late to change as I leave tomorrow, 5/25. I tried. Sorry!) Basically, this is my sustainable/cheapo way of releasing the original music I’ve been working on this semester. The following paragraphs are more or less the liner notes to this short album so hopefully you will read them after downloading the music. As far as downloading goes, it’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t take very long, despite the fact that RapidShare tries to get you to pay for faster service. If you have any problems, let me know.

This spring semester, I decided to take composition lessons from a guy named Aaron English who was asked to teach at PLU by my past composition teacher and longtime faculty member, Gregory Youtz. I started taking from Aaron because his focus is on songwriting and popular music as opposed to the more classical approach of Dr. Youtz. I’ve loved studying with Dr. Youtz and plan to continue next year but I wanted to reconnect with my songwriting roots that I have so long neglected.

My lesson scheduling was unconventional since Aaron was on tour with his band in the Midwest for the first half of the semester. Instead of having an hour lesson once a week, I started having two-hour lessons every week halfway through the semester. I wrote the songs in February and March and started recording them in April down in the Wiegand Multimedia Lab (hence the title), located in the Morken Center for Learning & Technology, PLU’s new, fancy-schmancy, computer savvy building. During these past couple months, the emphasis of my lessons was learning Pro Tools recording software. It was a crash course (closer to the literal meaning than usual) but I eventually transferred my GarageBand skills over to the real professional recording software and was fairly proficient by the end.

The whole process was stressful for a plethora of reasons. First and foremost, having an ambitious project that takes hours and hours doesn’t go conveniently with being a busy college student. And of course, I started quite late because of the lesson schedule. Along with being foreign to Pro Tools and the whole mixer setup, the room where I worked is a public place, quite available to people who find pleasure in mixing up various cables, which was just a bundle of joy.

After what seemed like hundreds of setbacks, in late April, I finally got into a solid schedule of going down to the lab with all my bells and whistles and recording for several hours every weekend. Even with all the equipment funtioning right, recording is an extremely tedious, painstaking process. My already enormous respect for bands like XTC or Steely Dan whose recordings sound pristine just went way up after struggling to make something that was adequate in terms of quality/mistakes. During the last few weeks, Aaron gave me lots of helpful advice on mixing and manipulating the tracks. This Monday, May 18th, I burned the final disk to finish for good.

Musically and lyrically, I hope the songs will speak for themselves so I won’t go into what they are about. Let’s just say that the narrator (whomever that may be) had some odd experiences this year and felt the need to make sense of them through music. It’s definitely a thematic work and I tried to be intentionally repetitive with certain images (light, time, thoughts etc.) However, it was completely unintentional that four of the five songs are 4:20 give or take a few seconds. No reefer was used in the time writing or recording the songs, I promise.

I recorded using just about all the instruments I can play or attempt to play: guitar, trumpet, keyboard, ukulele and bass. There’s also a shaker and one song with a drum loop. Since the songs are fairly serious, I decided to give the work an arbitrary name, as everything else I thought of seemed too pretentious. Plus the word Wiegand (pronounced Wig-ind) is entertaining for some reason. Maybe because it sounds like Wiccan. Also, the artwork is a photograph by my friend Jon Post. Hopefully, you’ll be able to drag it right into iTunes.

I hope you enjoy what I’ve made. Overall, I’m fairly happy with it considering the circumstances. I may have been able to make a better recording with more time but not all that much better. My experience is limited so I am just happy to have actually finished what I started. Thanks for reading this and I’d love to hear what you think!

Copyright 2009 Ben Tully

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The End of the Line

As the school year wraps up for me, I thought I’d write a brief summary of my musical education over the last eight months or so. I know I said these blog posts would focus on music above my own life but I’ve decided to bend the rules a little bit because this seems to make sense as it combines the two.

The main musical change that sticks out for this year is my appreciation of jazz. In September, I tried out on trumpet for the Wind Ensemble and University Jazz Ensemble because both groups were going to China in May. My first choice was the Wind Ensemble and the only reason I put down Jazz Ensemble was the potential of traveling. After butchering the jazz sight-reading exercise, I somehow got put in the group and will be off to Beijing on May 25th. I’ve played bass in a few jazz bands before but never trumpet. I’ve also never been in one this good and this serious. The immersion has been nothing short of incredible, as I’ve improved as a musician and expanded my horizons at least tenfold if these things can be measured.

I’m also about to finish up jazz theory class where Dr. David Joyner (also the jazz band director) has explained the basic concepts of improvisation and jazz harmony. The experience and formal music training has been invaluable and I’m excited beyond words to take one of the only truly American genres across the Pacific Ocean. Also, as luck would have it, I was recently assigned to write a review of a jazz album on I still wouldn’t consider myself a huge jazz fan but I appreciate it more than I ever thought possible.

Continuing with the academic side of my musical knowledge, I have taken piano, guitar, trumpet and composition lessons. In my composition lessons, I’ve written three brass quintet pieces and am almost done recording five songs (more to come about this…). There have also been music history and theory classes as mentioned earlier and I’m almost done with keyboarding and ear training forever, which is great! Basically, I take many music classes at school and I know more about it than I did a year ago. Insanity.

I’ve also gotten plenty of play counts logged on my trusty iTunes account. If there are three artists that I’ve fallen in love with over the past year, they would have to be Fleet Foxes, Elliott Smith and Grizzly Bear. I’m jealous of those of you who get to see the two current groups on that list at Sasquatch this year. As for Elliott, may he rest in peace and continue to make me believe that truly beautiful music can often come out of profound suffering.

Next week, I will be posting recordings of the EP I have been working on. I’ll go more into detail about it next week but for now, let me just say that I have spent a lot of time on these five songs. I should really be sleeping or studying right now so I’ll finish up. I am so ready for summer!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Henry Purcell and Why He's Rad

Right now, in the spring semester of my sophomore year in college, I am taking Music History I. The course has covered Western music from Greek Antiquity up through the Baroque Era, which ended roughly in 1750. Part of the reason I have not posted here in so long is that I’ve been working on a paper about, you guessed it, English composer Henry Purcell. Unlike most of my peers, I enjoy this class. No, I do not love every second of digesting information about the ricercare and the toccata (if you care, these are two types of Baroque keyboard pieces). But the greater picture is fascinating. Slowly but surely, we sophomore PLU music majors are getting an idea of how music as we know it came to be.

My earlier post entitled “The Great Schism” delved into this, but learning about music of old is important for getting a grip on what are truly universal themes of great music. Take Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas for example. Don’t worry, I won’t spew out all nine pages of my paper on this topic but I do think we can learn from this 320-year-old work. In 1689, when this opera was first performed, the world was a completely different place. People dressed differently, lived by different laws, had different concepts of science, were governed by a different system, and certainly had different ideas of the purpose of art. The pure beauty of Purcell’s music is so remarkable when thinking that it was intended for the ears of people whose lives and upbringings could hardly be farther removed from ours. Nonetheless, Hammerin’ Hank Purcell (as he was known to his close friends) transcended time and place with his music. Call the pretentious police if you will, that’s how I feel.

This is a perfect example of why we study music from long ago. It is not simply out of tradition, to pay homage to the greats. It’s to strip away our topical preferences and listen carefully for what speaks to us. On the flip side, it’s also important not to praise music simply because it’s deemed high quality. It's quite easy to be concerned more about being in line with musical taste you respect and less about finding what you love. I fall victim to this quite often and I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t particularly like Godspeed You Black Emperor! Is this because there’s something wrong with me? No! I say this but continue to listen to it, trying to decipher why people love this band so much.

Purcell is a different story. From the first snippet I heard of this opera that premiered 300 years before my birth, I was amazed. I’ve never liked opera before but this was different. It wasn’t about the diva, it was about the music and the heart-felt emotion put forth with every word (in English!). As I write music in an entirely changed world than that of the 17th century, I hope to remember the way Dido and Aeneas made me feel and attempt to recreate that. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in three centuries, it’s the way well crafted music can turn a person’s heart on a dime.

Oh and here’s my Blue Scholars article.

And if you haven’t noticed, I’m changing the blog’s subtitle to lyrics I like. Gold star to you if you can figure it out what it is from without google.