Friday, June 12, 2009

Less is More: Leaving Space for Other Musicians

When playing in an ensemble, a really good ensemble with fine chops, you may get ahead of your inspiration and play too much. You can always play too much. The talent in the other people you jam with will invoke you to add to their texture, always trying to further the search for the golden overlap, a sheet of sound, if you will; but then there is always space. Nothing like empty space to inspire you.

For instance: You (we'll say piano player), B the bass player, G the guitarist, and D the drummer are all jamming on a 4/4 shuffle; the tune takes an instrumental turn and you all start to trade solos, as we all know that as a musician, you either play with the band, or over the band (rhythm and lead). It is your turn to solo after G, and instead of going off on some Johnnie-Johnson-Boogie-Woogie tangent, you will inspire and accent the band a little bit.

Cliches and familiar riffing must be executed in a mutated yet tasteful manner for them to be any bit pleasant. Nothing is worse than hearing a bad and repetative, double-string Chuck Berry riff that doesn't suggest anything else. Subconsciously as a soloist, you know what phrase you want to say next; however, instead, play only a fragment of the phrase and delete the other half from your working mind; this will not only leave room for different ideas but it will also complement (as well as bring forth) the rhythm and drums. Your ideas are good only if you sacrifice the best, it will come forth later on; instead focus on what you don't know. I say this because chances are, they don't know. This promotes exploration, and more space.

You feel your way when you don't know; musicians listen when they don't play. If you know B, D, and G as well as you think, then you know their frequent voice patterns; you know how this note resolves the other in G's riffs, and you know when D is hinting in another direction. What will inspire you is to hear things they don't usually do, or rather, fragments and infinished parts of what they usually do. Your subconscious will say, "That's weird, he didn't play the rest of that riff he always does...well, he's not audible for this split-nano-second so I should fill the space!"

It's just an exercise. Don't be surprised if new songs come pouring out of your rehearsal space. Another experiment worth trying when soloing, involves either the use or complete disuse, of a note. B.B. King was famous for returning back to the root note (a high, crying root note that is) after voluptuous bends, and doing so sometimes throughout his entire solos; he gave his listeners the note they wanted, sometimes unexpectedly or sometimes right on the money. One could appeal to a more technical listener if he/she avoided the root notes, focusing more on fifths or chromatic thirds; the musician continuously beats around the bush of the expected note(s), causing antsiness and attentiveness in the listener while also forcing more challenges and excursions within the musician.

Miles Davis is probably one of the most famous "less-is-more" musicians. There was a concert he held in his early So What days where he only played one note at the very start, and proceeded to let his band play the rest of the show as he listened. Listen to him play melodies and notice how he quite often leaves crucial notes out of the melody, keeping listeners, but more or less himself, on their toes.

Bottom line, music is but another language humans have conceived; if you talk too much, no one will listen. They may hear it and try to listen, but to no avail. Music is a language that, in large groups, humans interact and sound their voices all at once; obvious contrary to common vocal communication where participants speak and then proceed to silence themselves in acknowledgment of the other person's verbal intentions. With that in mind, music should be dealt with carefully. The bass line has a hole to jump in but also leaves a hole for the percussion to jump in. The pianist's right hand plays on the off-beat of the shuffle, while the guitarist's right hand rakes up with the piano, but immediately back down to meet the percussion on the snare hit. Every instrument has a certain niche and spot in every song; playing less and listening more is the key to unlocking it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Top 5 Best Bars in Burlington, VT

Burlington's nightlife has naturally had to keep up with the astounding amount of college students, tourists, and residents that dig the homey and diverse vibe of the various clubs and bars available to the parched enthusiast.

Out of the many present spots to get your drink on in this humble college town, I've narrowed down a select five that stand out and hold their own individualism. These five spots are Nectar's, 3 Needs Taproom, Vermont Pub and Brewery, What Ales You, and RiRa
5. 3 Needs Taproom

Located on College street, 3 Needs is the perfect tavern for the Burlington local. With it's share of regulars and it's infamous Duff hour, it's the epitome of a home-town, dive bar with beers to boast. It's decked out with hilarious pictures and memorabilia from over the years, and despite its size, packs a decent pool table with a "sign-up" policy. One will immediately feel lively from the classic rock and reggae music, as well as be close to all the action with the taproom being only a few doors down from the Church Street Marketplace.

4. What Ales You

Located off of St. Paul street below the Brazilian steakhouse, What Ales is a dark, musky basement hideaway for the thirsty fratboy, lined with classy booths and a wrap-around bar in a classic, dive atmosphere. This spot typically has a regular younger, college crowd, but not quite as "townie" as 3 Needs. Friends visiting friends at their college will most definitely dig the classic yet contemporary vibe of this local tavern.

3. Ri Ra

If you're in the mood to shake your money maker and enjoy drinks and laughs with your aquaintances, Ri Ra's Irish Pub is the place to be. Immediately warm and welcoming, this is a pub rooted in the Irish tradition, both a comfortable family restuaraunt serving top-notch burgers and the perfect Guinness, as well as a hot-spot for the bustling college folk. Ri Ra hosts a diverse array of musicians, some of them traditional Irish musicians, and some that play the funky, raw rhythms that get the crowd dancing. With it's double-door entrance and the long, old-time style tables in the back, Ri Ra is Gaelic for "Good times" and "Celebration", both of which you will surely have.

2. Vermont Pub and Brewery

Every major bar-town must have a designated spot for all of us beer connoisseurs. Thankfully, The Vermont Pub and Brewery brings you a hefty menu of homemade brews, matched with a hearty food menu. Their Burley Irish beer has one countless awards, and there are some eclectic brews made with berries, chocolate, and other unconventional additives, which make for an interesting yet familiar beer-drinking experience. The bartenders and staff are incredibly knowledgable about their products and are quick on their feet to assist you in your needs. A beautiful dining patio across the front and the metal brewing pipes scattered throughout the bar area make you feel like you're drinking right inside a brewery, a brewery with a touch of comfort and class.

1. Nectar's

You will indeed be sorry if your visit to Burlington didn't include the infamous Nectar's. This hometown spot used to be a savings bank, and his since transformed into one of the most satisfying and musically-rich spots on the Burlington grid. With it's spinning, orange-lit sign out in front, you immediately know this place is the cream of the crop. They've got the tastiest gravy fries this side of Lake Champlain, and you can bet that any night you step into Nectar's, there will be live music. That's right; Nectar's hosts live entertainment just about every night throughout the week, with the exception of their fun "Trivia Night". Originally one of Phish's first venues, Nectar's is scattered with colorful local art that customers can offer to buy, a custom one will notice happening in a lot of Burlington's businesses. Upstairs is Club Metronome, another spacious, eclectic club that also hosts live music almost daily. One can very commonly come to Nectar's and be able to view two bands playing at the same time, an experience you will rarely find anywhere else. They've got a flatscreen outside the door, so all you cigarette smokers and folks in line can watch the game before you even get into the bar. A fun, comfy vibe paired with great drinks, food, and service make Nectar's the #1 bar to check out in B-town.

Whichever place you choose, the city of Burlington poses a lot to do for just about anyone. Days spent on the beautiful waterfront or bike path can be met with satisfying nights filled with a diverse and plentiful bar scene, all of the bars different in their own ways. A haven for college kids and interesting enough for the frequent tourist, it's a place we can all enjoy, all on a little piece of land in a town no bigger than you went to High School in. B-town is a teeny-weeny town chock full of things to do and interesting folks. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You and Your Compass: Walking the Trail of Mystery and Discovery

The woods can be a seemingly infinite grid of life. Nearly 100-million acres of the United States are designated wilderness, with no human inhabitants or establishment. With almost 3.8 million square miles (or about 2.3 billion acres), the United States has used up nearly all of it’s area. With the ever-increasing population and the electric demand, it won’t be long before even our precious wilderness has been pulverized. Most of our state parks have been blazed, the AT alone covering nearly 2,200-miles down the east coast.
Despite the many trails we’ve blazed, paths we’ve crossed and roads we’ve paved, it is a rather small comparison to the amount of ground that hasn’t been blazed, walked, or even seen. There is a wealth of wilderness and uncharted land open for exploration. One must, however, be more or less open to what Thoreau called the “wildness” in things, perhaps letting your intuitions and desires guide you to where you want to be. If you’re finding yourself in a financial frenzy, lost your job, or even just a little bored with your typical hiking patterns and procedures, this is an idea worth considering, an idea abandoned since the age of maps and GPS coordinates.
You may find yourself a bit weary at first, but the sooner you realize the freedom you have, the more curious you will become about your woods.

However, before making any quick decisions or taking your first step off of that main road, don’t forget your compass.
As most of you know, a compass uses a magnet to determine direction in relation to the Earth’s poles. The idea was developed by the Chinese and improved upon in the Middle Ages by the Europeans, who invented the first dry compass. Obviously since then, many advancements and variations have taken place.

- Baseplate Compass – A typical style, often has clear baseplate for use with maps
- Sighting Compass – Highly accurate compass with a folding mirror that allows visual of the compass capsule in addition to the target destination
- Gyrocompass – Used by boats and vessels, it uses an electric spinning-wheel, creating friction to further utilize the Earth’s rotation. It finds the “true” North of the Earth’s rotational axis, rather than the magnetic North
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – Precise, digital device displaying signals sent by satellites high above the earth, often times difficult to use

Many compasses are sold within a “multi-tool” type of arrangement, like my whistle/compass. Don’t beat yourself up over quality; as long as the thing works, you’re in business.
Figure out what it is you want from this experience. Try to be open to anything, and use your surroundings to find your way. Get to the highest ground possible for your general area. If you need to climb a tree to get the closest you can to a 360-degree view, than do so. Study your surroundings and try to pick a direction that intrigues you. Perhaps there is a distant water tower that you’d like to find out more about, or maybe there is a fine lookout ledge in the distance, requiring you to possibly scale a cliff or two. Whatever the case may be, once you decide on your direction of travel, you must consult your compass.
Keep your compass level to the ground and wait about five to seven seconds before observing your position. You should now figure out the direction of your destination. You must observe this reading carefully because if you do indeed plan on reaching this target, you will need to follow your trusty compass rigidly and deliberately.
Half the thrill and fun of this, is obeying the compass and watching it lead you through perilous and curious terrain, paths, and grades of all kind. Depending on where you are of course, very rarely will you stumble onto a designated trail or path.
Track your detour when and if you need to get around any large or dangerous obstacle. Keep track how long your detour was, and what direction you went. When the time comes to get back on track, figure out the adjacent direction of your detour (for example: if you went Northeast to avoid your obstacle, head Northwest). Follow this for the same amount of time you detoured, and then return to your initial direction. The important thing here is discipline.
There are infinite possibilities to what you may encounter, what you will discover. You may have a few brushings with wildlife, perhaps a well-hidden falcon’s nest, or a sly fox from a distance, catching his afternoon fish. You may take an old logging road and find a bald patch filled with vibrant, wild asters, overlooking the lake and open to the cool, gentle breeze of the churning waters.

That bald patch I called the “Field of Asters”, because I myself, have conquered the bohemian, no-map-no-trails experience, and look forward to many more. Regardless of how free and fun an excursion like this can be, I cannot stress the importance of your compass and your relationship with it. If you aren’t using maps, you should be using a compass. Even if you are using maps, you should be using a compass. It is your best friend, your sidekick, the one who will guide you home. Where you end up, depends almost entirely on the validity of your compass. Where you point your compass, however, depends on you.

SOLAR POWER: Did it really take this long?

"I'd put my money on solar energy," said Thomas Edison. This was over one hundred years ago. Thomas Edison was a smart man; he was the first true inventor, one who not only was smart enough to figure out new ideas, but devised and created ideas that sold to millions and made many people a lot of money. Back in those days, he couldn't conceive ever constructing something that could harness energy from the sun. He was smart enough to know, however, how powerful the sun is, and that it can do a bit more than bring May flowers.

We've dilly-dallyed, we've dabbled, we've even had success. There is probably a surprisingly small amount of people who actually run all of their electricty from solar power, and even in this "green" age, it's just now beginning to catch on.

Is it not a no-brainer that it is MUCH cheaper to install solar panels than to go extending the electrical grid? had an interesting statistic: Within 15 years, renewable energy could generate enough electricity to power 40 million homes and offset 70 days of oil imports.

No one is even thinking about this. I'm under the opinion that many folks will overlook this amazing alternative for many, many more years. With their home and land bought and paid for, and their home itself running off of solar electricity, one could breeze by, year after year, paying nothing but property taxes and food and water bills, thereby boosting the economy in more commercial areas and giving unambitious folks more jobs that they've been wanting for so long now.

How much more coal can we burn? What's so good about natural gas? There's certainly nothing good about it. I wonder how dumb we look to our own atmosphere.

Although humans are the smartest species, our history shows a steady climb to excellence; Rome wasn't built in a day, and that's fine. The sun, however, rises every morning with a heap of heat and an amount of ultraviolet light that prohibits us from actually looking at it, and if there are other unknown planets in close residence to the sun, I wouldn't be surprised to see them taking advantage of it electrically. Every day you watch it come up, and then you watch it go down. You know that it's a light that never goes out, and you know it grows your crops.

The sun is the original God. The first man saw the sun and saw everlasting life, and worshipped it. There were no iPods, computers, day jobs, wives, children, money, insurance policies, or diseases to distract him. There was only the sun, and everything he knew was under it. Omniprescent and rich, it was hard for him to disregard it as being The Creator, or All-That-Creates.

For a little investment, a PV Solar system, equipped with panels, charge controllers, batteries and inverters can run anyone's home. In this age of technology, it would take a significant amount of wattage to accomodate the average American's electrical needs. Chargers, computers plugged in all day, luminant lights; they all need their share.

If we all learn to SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY, then our solar systems will be a lot cheaper. The point is, that the government has had everyone by the balls for far too long. There is so much freedom still in this country. It may look shadowy and far too controlled, but one must realize effective alternatives, and just rise above it. The question will eventually be: "Shall I contribute to world pollution and overall ecological negligence by signing with the power company to send their concentrated electricity to us through those ugly wires? OR, shall I save up a little money and purchase a perfectly adequate solar system that coexists with the sun that rises, takes it's hand-outs all the live long day, and then harnesses it after it sets?"

American Idols Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai (LA Times) just may be what it will take to get the electrical message across to so many television-drenched Americans.

Regarding the Recent Swine Flu in Mexico

I read an article today about the recent swine flu illness spreading across Mexico. Apparently 20 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to to Donald McNeil's recent NY Times article.

1300 breathing problems and 81 deaths in Mexico? That's a fairly hefty amount and considering the close proximity, America may be hoping their flu shots are a little more juiced-up this season.

The question here is not how powerful America's vaccines will be, but rather, are Mexicans taking care of themselves? This is a virus derived intially from contact with pigs carrying the virus, and is then spread from human to human. It could just be a matter of people not cleaning up after themselves, and worse, not cleaning themselves.

The people of Mexico maintain a fairly primitive routine considering the continent they're on, full of commerce and production. They are a dedicated people, suited for a simple life of hard work and appreciation. But as any visitor will tell you, Mexico is just not a clean place. The water is forbidden, which can't possibly help even if you're trying to wash yourself.

What strikes me also are conclusions based on numbers. Because not too many have died (80), officials probably don't even consider it a threat yet. In reality, many Mexicans are suffering from breathing problems and irregularly prolonged flu spells.

Monday, January 12, 2009

M.I.T.T. and the Downfall of My Fellow Man

Wondering if anyone out there has heard of a frisky little organization called M.I.T.T. (Mastery in Transformational Training), a group-awareness program out of California.
A long-time, good friend of mine is deep into the training, a program whose beginner course starts at around $500, with proceeding courses charging up to $1200-$1500 bucks.

He had been telling me about this stuff for weeks. One evening, I went over his house to catch up and just hang out. The second I showed the slightest interest in the MITT program, it didn't stop.
He began referring to me as if I had already committed to the program. When I would ask him a question about it, he would involve me in the explanations, (you will find this out, you will see this, this will happen to you), never once just explaining what they do.
After extensive research I found this helpful blog: I found out about the owner of the company, how she bought the Lifesprings company (which had been subject to lawsuits involving suicide, and psychological illness) and formed this new company, probably with a plan to modify, reshape, and upgrade.
Now the company's mission doesn't seem so wrong, however preventing participants from advancing due to inadequate recruits or "enrollment", well that my friend is called a scam, belonging to yet another ill-run business..
A cult is kind of like a religion, often "considered unorthodox or spurious", says the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This program, isn't even worthy of being a cult. It is a straightforward scam. There are cultish attributes about it, in the way they mold weak minds and prey on the unsure and insecure, but the overall assessment is that they're all money-grubbing whores. One more recruited to them, means eventually another. Another $500.
In this program, they teach you that money doesn't matter. So then, why do I have to pay you $500?
I'm ready to flip out on this Margo Majdi woman.
Let's think about this for minute here: so an "educated hairdresser" (?) from Holland buys the rights of an otherwise failing fraud of a company, and basically just changes the name. After assessing all the lawsuits and filings, they adjust their programs to fraudingly reflect a more "positive" mission statement. These "life-changing experiences", and "break-downs" hit so far home for some people and are articulated by the speakers so intensely, that they truly take it as something that has saved their life. It all becomes clear, and they are no longer afraid. So when the time comes to start "enrolling" other people to the program, it's hard from them to not enroll, because they've become so passionate about the training.
Classic cult. Masked under a seemingly hopeful mission of transformation. Now my friend freaks me out beyond belief. I've known him for about 15 years and now he's completely brainwashed by these people, and can't even find the sense to trust my words.
The weak mind won't always be weak. That's what I think life is about: learning from others and from your mistakes. Unless you're 100% mentally retarded, you will not go through your whole life brainwashed. Reality, at some point, has to kick you square in the face. I'd call this Margo Majdi out so hard on being the coldest, most heartless woman I've ever heard of, all just to make money off the weak minds.
What is the NEED for these businesses? Do people need to make money that badly and that menacingly and that easily? Why can't these people just write books? I'll tell you why: PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF REALITY. Our economy, society, and government suck. Instead of revolting, people rise above it. "If it makes me a little money, screw em". Tobacco companies, banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, and especially online companies, along with these MITT-type spiritual-recruitment-bru-ha-ha, are just a bunch of twisted clowns laughing at consumers. While Billy slits his wrists after losing all of his friends after only trying to "enroll" them, Margo Majdi sits in the Caribbean, sipping champagne.
MONEY ISN'T THAT IMPORTANT! People have their standards, and they need to be lowered. SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY. Have less, need less. All these toys are unnecessary. Cars are unnecessary. Consider the outside as your home, and your actual house, just a shelter from the storm. Wander and walk, ramble and talk. Why do you need a job? There are things growing out of the ground that you can eat. What's so bad about being a "bum"? Why is it called a "bum"? Not all the bums are on a "bummer", you know. A lot of them just didn't feel like conforming to this mess of a world we live in, and I don't blame them. I would much rather hobo from train to train then conform to this appalling place we live in.
These poor people, victims of traumatizing pasts and families. If only they knew how big the world is, and that wonder and satisfaction can be found in their surroundings at hand. Write about, draw it, become a part of it, but don't get screwed by it. "If you're good at something, never do it for free", and "Instead of walking a common path, blaze one's own" come to mind. Enough of this hustling, bustling system. REVOLT!!!