Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Assignment

This past year I came up with an assignment for my students wherein they had to create a topic-based video clip that was one part of a longer song. I myself later combined the student segments to finalize the full song.

As part of my instructional focus, I want my students to be sensitive to copyright issues, so I have been providing them with only one segment of a copyrighted song that (barely) remains within the fair use limits of %10 of the original. Their task, then, is to produce a video clip that matches the musical timing of the original segment with images of their choice related to the lyrics (preferably Creative Commons tagged images). I then adjust their work to fit a Creative Commons audio version of the same song.

Here are two samples from our unit based on "Future". Each features a Creative Commons (CC) soundtrack, and although all images are not specifically credited/listed, that was a part of the assumption/rubric behind the task. Note that they are WMV files of 16 and 25MB (may take some time to aquire)

When I'm 64
Space Oddity

The next in the series, which the students have just started on, based on the theme of "Hero", we will begin working on a version of Little Feat's (they give their live music away at archive.org) Time Loves a Hero. Because the original audio is CC, my tasks should be easier - don't have to work on matching the timing of a separate version to the original's. For the above two, I had to find nearly exact-timing CC versions (from beatles ukelele project and soundcloud, respectively, credited in the videos, I believe)

Check back later to see the results for Hero...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Extended Arrangement

Genesis: The Cinema Show (Selling England By The Pound)

A rigorous definition of the musical form "suite" usually spells out 4 separate movements. In many ways related to the "medley", the suite often includes tempo changes (fast - slow - fast again....) whereas the medley can combine two or more songs of the same tempo. By definition, the suite would be a difficult format for rock groups focused on the 3-minute radio airplay format; however, a select few groups have managed to successfully and commercially pull of the feat of the extended composition that allows for this kind of variation and extended arrangement.

Genesis is rightly credited with more than one musical "suites". Rather than looking for Genesis pieces that are labelled as "suites:, I take a look here at an extended play Genesis song that incorporates numerous switches of tempo but is not ID'ed as a "suite" per se.

Genesis' 1973 album Selling England By The Pound corresponds to the height of their career. At this point in time, the band still included the combined creative talents of both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins as well as Steve Hackett, Tony Banks and Mark Rutherford. Exactly half of the songs on the album well exceed the standard 3-miniute pop-radio play limit. Several of them segue from one into the next - as if part of a suite.

My choice here, The Cinema Show, showcases several distinct sections, if not a full suite. Starting out with a keyboard and vocal section, at about the 2 minute mark, the rhythm/tempo switches to a slightly more "pumping" style as the drums and bass kick in for about a minute. Again. at about 4:30, the keyboard and vocal section moves uptempo with the return of the drums, bass and guitar. At about 6:50, the druming doubles in time and then song enters a vigorous section with a well executed time signature change as the song heads through a vigorous section ending with a reduced accompanimnet and leads into the next song on the album: Aisle of Plenty.

The album is best listened to in its entirety. [buy the album]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Remembering Earl Scruggs

Two sites are likely to provide the bulk (but definitely not all) of the material driving this blog. They are free and legal places to get some great music:


Both offer up [legally free] free music. Many - but not all - of the songs in each repository are available for download. Some are only there for online listening/streaming. |In either case, the musicians concerned are on board and are among those that believe that music should belong to the people.

Certainly, other resouces are likely to appear over time, both through your input and as a result of my own research. However, the above should provide more than enough to get us started.

To get started, I offer up some banjo music. I'll call it an homage to Earl Scruggs, who passed away March 28, 2012. Another master of the banjo, Bela Fleck, paid tribute to Earl Scruggs both by attending the funeral, and then later including a solo banjo medley at his April 1st Omaha concert with the Flecktones.

In the Omaha concert Bela Fleck apparently included a medley of Scruggs tunes (I was miles away, so I rely on media reports). I would assume that he included The Balad of Jed Clampett - probably Mr Scrugg's best known piece. To me, this week's first file/recording from a concert in 2000 at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans tells it all: for the first minute or so, Fleck "jazzes" it up -various free-form interpretations of Beverly Hillbillies. He hits a final off key (but not really) chord that is followed by a brief but seriously authentic rendition of the recognizable tune.

The second song in this posting is a duet featuring Bela Fleck and Earl Scruggs together. The short version file linked here has been extracted from a 3 hour Scruggs-related recording of the March 30, 2012 "Out Of The Woods" radio show on WSCS out of Colby Sawyer College in New Hampshire. The DJ tells us the recording is from Tales from the Acoustic Planet The Bluegrass Sessions v.2 and it's called Foggy Mountain Special.

Bela Fleck: Balad of Jed Clampett (Live New Orleans, May 2000)
[Original copy at archive.org]

Bela Fleck/Earl Scruggs: Foggy Mountain Special
[Full Radio Show @ archive.org]