Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Riding The Bus

Riding The Bus

Jimmy Cliff singing in my ears

Ruby with a gun in Brixton

Bus shaking as the driver grinds the gears

Every bus ride is a long one

Swinging

Swinging from the strap one handed

Keep looking for your stop and you’re

Freezing

Freezing so the rain don’t fog up the windows

Keep looking for your stop

Catch a glimpse of the gulf every day

Crossing that bridge at Edgewater

Take it all in ’til you get taken away

Riding through the streets of Clearwater

Swinging

Singing in your head little snatches of a song

Now you missed your stop

Ringing

Ringing the bell let me off right here

Cussin and fussin cuz damn I missed my stop

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

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So.

This week, I’m taking a break from Allosaurus. Doing this for a couple of reasons. Allosaurus is about outsiders, misfits, loners, others, who have been granted abilities to act out their powers in larger-than-life ways. Some of these ways are quite violent, or dark; and the story actually gets darker as it goes on. Because of that, I felt that it was too early to return to that world so soon after the tragedy this past Friday morning in Colorado. I don’t want to talk about the person who did the killing – the focus should be on the people who died, the families, the ones who lived, the ones who sacrificed so that someone else in the theater could live. Point is, the general infotainment sphere can do without blood and terror for a little bit.

The other reason, strangely enough, was that I had planned to take a break this week regardless, because I had planned on seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend. While I’ve got a great deal of Allosaurus written in my head, I was concerned that, subconsciously, Christopher Nolan’s world would exert an undue influence on my own. I didn’t go Friday like I planned; that seemed to me at the time to be a bit disrespectful. But I did end up going later on, like a good little dork.

Strangely, I detected in the film a sort of meditation on the futility of violence, of war. Not something you generally expect in a summer blockbuster, and  definitely not what one expects from a superhero flick. Fitting, perhaps.

As I write this, I’m listening to Pandora. Ukulele Lady radio station. Some of the most peaceful music you can listen to, full of ukuleles and slide guitars, slack key tuning and blissed – out yodeling in a language that’s almost all vowels. Playing a lot of uke this weekend. Here’s a picture of Elaine, my tenor:

When I was in rehab, I was able to build up my coordination and finger strength by playing this puppy. In fact, the doctors told me that playing music actually allowed me to get well enough to leave a lot faster than I normally would have, so, yay Elaine.

 

This is Gertie: Gertie's stringsGertie's head stock.The first real uke I got my hands on. Lovely little soprano with a mellow voice. I’m afraid I can’t play either of these things as well as I would like, but the fun of it is in practicing.

As this week progresses, I would urge you to think on those peaceful things in your own life. I like to think about this:

 

 

 

 

 

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Clayelle.

Confluence is a weird thing. Or, a better way to put that, would be this: A picture of a statue, combined with an article I read on Cracked.com, plus a really cheesy riff I came up with on guitar, plus my literary pretensions, times my break-up, led to this song about men trying to force women to be something they’re not. Or something.

If you click the link, you’ll find an article about the ways men are trained to secretly hate women. One of the most interesting points to me was the bit about men feeling that the culture has promised them a girl all their own. And, much like a Real Doll(tm), this woman isn’t supposed to have much say in this arrangement. Guy does such and such, guy gets the girl of his dreams – just about every movie or book or TV show that features a male/female dynamic in it somewhere has this setup. Of course, this rarely happens in real life: thus, men feel cheated. It’s why a lot of guys have these antagonistic relationships with their significant others, allegedly. 

About the song: Rob hates the name. I get attached to these song titles that use words not found anywhere in the song. Rob comes from the school of thought that the title has to be part of the chorus. I usually feel like the song’s title should reflect the mood of the piece, and that if you say something in the chorus, you don’t need to repeat it. Most songs are written, of course, the way Rob would write. It’s more memorable that way. You hear a song, the chorus is catchy enough to stick in your head; when you look for that song, you look for the part you remember. I think I’m just obstinate. Whatever. Google the name, if you must.

Pygmalion.

It was like any other day
I made a girl friend out of clay
I taught her all the things to say
We’ll see how far it goes

We found a pleasant place to stay
In gulfport right beside the bay
It’s like a party everyday
We’ll see how far it goes

She don’t like rock and roll
Only listens to Philly soul.

It was like any other day
Me and Clayelle went out to play
She worries about how much she weighs
You know how far that goes

Clayelle looked so far away
Her 1000 yard stare made me say
“Hey baby why you look at me that way?”
You know how far that goes

She likes to dress in black
When she reads Jack Kerouac.

It was like any other day
Clayelle brought home a bag of clay
I looked at her, she looked away
I guess that’s how
it goes.

The chorus of the song is still under debate. 

Except for the Cracked.com article, words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

So, I’m working on becoming Internet Famous(tm). The trio I’ve been recording with for the past year and a half finally accrued enough stuff to make ourselves a Reverb Nation account. The bass player/recording engineer just put it up today. I have often been asked what kind of music we do. Natural enough question, but it leaves me flummoxed.

“Well,” I hem and haw, “it’s kinda like acoustic-y, R ‘n’ B-ish, uh … ?” I end my super informative description with a shrug. Maybe it’s like distortion-free grunge with bongos instead of a drum set, or hard-to-listen-to easy listening? We’re all adults, and we did it recently, so maybe adult contemporary fits. Haven’t a clue. Which is kind of odd, in a way. I’ve been in bands that were:

Afro-Cuban Jazz
Jazz Trios
Punk
Earth, Wind and Fire type of music with a bunch of African drummers instead of a horn section
Reggae/Ska
HipHop
“Alternative”

So, being in something that I can’t readily identify as a “type” or “style” bothers me. Not because I think all music should be categorized into neat little boxes – that was ALWAYS a marketing scam – but because I hate, hate, HATE with the fury of a thousand blue giant suns, that whole “Our music can’t be categorized, man” pretentious bullshit. It’s usually a cop-out, a way to gloss over the fact that you sound like every other bunch of angry teenagers out there, or lonely college kids with fairly whiny lyrics, or jaded grownups who utterly worship Leonard Cohen and anything by Elvis Costello made before 1986. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of all of the above and more. It’s just that there are so few bands or musicians who truly don’t sound much like anything else. Nobody sounds like King Crimson, for example. Not even King Crimson. Don’t like an album by them? You will, at some point.

Anyway, the point of all this, is that the bass player put a tag on the Reverb Nation page under the part that says “Sounds like”. Handy feature, that. If you like NIN, or Can, or Jacques Brel, then you’ll like This Band. If you don’t care for Merle Haggard or Tori Amos or The Cramps, then you can safely skip whatever That Band has to offer. It’s an effective weeding system. As the business of marketing music has grown more and more democratic with advances in technology and publishing, errbody and they momma can and is putting out music. You haven’t, you say? Don’t worry. You will. One of you reading this blog right now is probably the next Rebecca Black.

Does any of this have a point? Yes, person in my head that is criticizing this utterly rambling discourse. According to our bass player, we sound like Keb Mo’. I don’t know what to make of that, really. I’ve never heard anything by the guy. Or girl, or band, or whatever. I’ll check him out, and see whether or not I should be cool with that.

“So, what are you guys called?”
“Uh, the Hypothetical Project.”
“What?”
“Hypothetical Project. It could be a band, it could not. It’s like Schroedinger’s Cat.”
… aaand, that’s usually the point where people smile and nod, and begin to back away slowly.

Rob plays guitar on the yard.

 

Rob and Alligators and I.

Anyway, if you like Keb Mo’, go check us out.
Hypothetical Project

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

It’s gotten so I can recognize them on sight. Just takes a second or so.

The slight, almost imperceptible nod of the head that keeps time with the steps as they walk.

The callouses between thumb and pointer finger on the right hand; or between middle and ring fingers of the left; or the callouses on fingertips.

The tiny smile.

The look of distraction; like someone listening to ear buds, but with no wires, no mp3s, no little white plastic doo-dads sticking out of their ears.

I used to wonder what it was that made people think I was a musician. Was it the glasses, thick black plastic rims and coke-bottle lenses? The goatee? The questionable fashion choices? No, it was none of these. I did experiments, changed up the variables, strove for statistical rigor. Those things weren’t the cues.

I finally discovered it when I was in the hospital last year from the second (or third, depending on who’s counting) stroke. There was … something about one of my nurses. I asked her.

“Yes,” she replied, startled. “I play cello. How’d you know?”

“I really don’t have a clue,”  I answered. “Have you had people tell you before that you looked like a musician?”

She nodded. “I get that all the time. I’ve been trying to figure out how people can tell.”

“You, too, huh? It’s a little unnerving, isn’t it?”

“What, that people can tell something so personal about you and what makes you tick -”

“-without you even knowing what you’re doing to tip ’em off. I get that a lot, too,” I concluded.

“You know,” she began, “it’s funny, because I was about to ask you what instrument you played. Just before you asked me.”

In the world of sit-com romances and bad fiction, this would have been the beginnings of a beautiful romance. In the real world, however, this took place in the early morning before I had been bathed by strangers in the rehab wing of Tampa General. I could barely stand, I had oxygen tubes up my nose, the orderlies hadn’t given me a new gown yet. I was hardly the dashing figure of breathtaking manlitude that I normally am. Ahem.  

There is something about musicians, I suppose. Long days and nights perfecting complicated languages; contorting your body in strange ways; injuring fingers, lips, hands, chin, chest – all in the hopes of coaxing vibrations from wood and metal, skin and bone and air. Hoping that those vibrations will speak to yourself, or even someone else. There’s no logic behind it. The activity in and of itself doesn’t produce food, or generate offspring, or provide shelter. There’s a hint of madness in it.

Yet, without such madness, we would be less than human.

Graciela and Marisol.

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.