Sunday, January 25, 2009

Landscape Escape

I had my middle school students do a project I called Landscape Escape. They had to set a simple geometric shape approximatel 1/4 the size of the page in the center of the picture plane. They had to use simple branching to create a forest emphasizing foreground/middleground/background and comprising a cool color scheme. They had to fill the central space with imagery that would contrast the landscape in at least three ways. This student created contrast by using a warm color vs. cool, animal vs. plant, and domestic vs. wild. I like it.
By the way, this is the work of a special ed student who suffers with Autism. He absolutely loves to draw and he loves his dogs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Black Page Marimba Attempt

So as I said, I have a marimba in my office and, since I can already play the drumset part for Frank Zappa's The Black Page, I decided to tackle the mallet part as well. Far easier said than done. This is my first try and it is indeed far from perfect, but worth documenting. I'm working the same way I did with the drum part. Generally, for the first time through, I will ignore the complex phrasing and just try to get the pitches and sticking right, then I can practice with a metronome and get the polyrhythms rhythmically correct. So when you listen to this keep in mind that I'm just sort of playing the rhythm by ear. I'm also ignoring the rolls. All I want this first time through is to get the pitches and sticking down. This is approximately the first six measures of the piece.

P.S. that's not a video, just an MP3 with a static picture attached. Not even my hands.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Black Page Update

"That's right folks, don't touch that dial". I'm gonna try to keep you updated through this just like I did last year. Step by boring step! Unh-Hunh, the resolution for 2008 was to finally play The Black Page on the drum set and I succeeded, even playing it live before an audience of five or six drunken twits in a dive bar in Scottsdale, Arizona.... GOSH I'm proud of myself. The res for 2009 is to play the mallet part. Yes, since I'm now officially a music teacher, I have a marimba in my office and, by God, I'm gonna play that damn thing. Every morning I have about twenty minutes and every afternoon I've got my prep hour. I'm devoting that time to The Black Page. Presently, I can play the first four measures. I contacted Zappa percussion alumnnus Ed Mann through to ask for advice and he was kind enough to give me this sage wisdom... "*) transpose where necc.*) play with whichever mallet grip feels best to you* ) use normal methods (math) to conjugate polyrhythms and create a worksheet if necc to mark the subdivisions of the meter, that's what I did - it seemed to work. good luck Ed Mann". Thanks Ed! So, at this point I'm up to measure five. I'm very confident that I'll be able to complete this. Special thanks to Keith for the vibes so I can practice at home too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Black Page

So, now that I can play the drum part for The Black Page, I've decided to tackle the mallet part. The transcription I have is for keyboard melody, so I'll have to compare it to a recording to figure out if there are any quirks I need to be aware of. The score is from an old copy of Keyboard Magazine. I'm playing it on marimba and I would love any tips if anyone's got some.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drumset Mindmap

Okay, many people have requested this for quite some time so here it finally is: The Drumset Mindmap. The right side of the map generally follows the origins of the Drumset as a unique musical instrument beginning with it's roots in the marching band music of the late 1800's, through it's development in Vaudeville and New Orleans Second line, to it's ultimate real birth in Jazz. This information comes from the Percussive Arts Society. The left side of the map explores the various instruments that have from time to time been incorporated in the set. Above are three of the most important basic rhythms applied to the set and, below are depictions of the common notation key and a typical score. I hope this meets expectations! Once again, this is on 20" x 30" x 1/4" foam core and the color was done with a combination of transparent highlighters and opaque Sharpie markers. Special thanks to my son Zane for his assistance in adding so much color. Click on the label links below for more mind maps and teaching aids.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Hey there, here's my first post of the new year. I don't know about you but it seems to me that the world is being overrun by Jerks. A Jerk has been running our country, invading others, and eroding our civil liberties for the last eight years. In fact, Jerks in power in almost every country on the globe have acted in similar fashion. Jerks in business and industry have been systematically destroying the world economy with predatory lending practices, by taking outrageous perks and bonuses, and by lying, cheating, and stealing every chance they get. Religious Jerks from every sect and denomination on Earth have amped arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, and hatred to new astounding levels. The media in all it's myriad facets from vitriolic talk radio to insipid network news has sunk to mudslinging, innuendo, and slimy ridicule as a primary export. In addition to politics, business, religion, and the media, the general population has donned jerkness as it's new mantle. The Jerk zeitgeist pervades all aspects of human endeavor. Read the comments below any video on YouTube and you'll know what I mean. Our trains and buses have signs asking us to turn our music down and give up our seats to the elderly and disabled because we're such Jerks we have to be reminded of what common courtesy is. Jerkness is so prevalent that I could list examples ad infinitum. I've been a Jerk and you've been a Jerk. In the words of the inimitable Frank Zappa, "Jesus thinks you're a jerk!". There is only one solution: don't be a Jerk. As long as one person isn't a jerk there's hope. You can be that person and so can I.