Thursday, February 28, 2013

Value in art

$138 mil, actually.
As I was pulling together that De Kooning post, I came across this factoid re: the sale of his painting Woman III for 100+ million dollars— a figure that happens to be close to the total US federal budget for arts funding for the year 2012. A common major stumbling block to dealing with modern work is reconciling the price tag with the work itself— which often looks informal, expressive, non-technical. “Like something my kid could do.”

Woman III is especially rough looking, and doesn't really track as an extreme luxury item. It was not painted for effect, and is as much an artifact a process as it is a finished work of art. What it is is ambitious street level art-making; the work of an painter who was becoming well-known in New York's local modern art circles, but who was still quite poor. It's more a symbol of an artist defiantly expending all of his resources to do his work. At the time De Kooning could barely afford to use actual artist's oils, yet he would expend huge amounts of paint working all day, then scrubbing the canvas down with turpentine and starting over the next, sometimes for months on a single painting.

Prices like that say more about the scale of contemporary wealth than they do the works themselves. The people buying famous artworks are, in fact, so ludicrously, obscenely rich, that of course prices are wildly out of proportion with most people's idea of the ordinary value of a painting. If they could, those people would be paying the same money for a 10-minute conversation with Julius Caesar, or a sleepover date with Marylin Monroe. Those things would be great, and so unique as to be nearly priceless, but not for quality of the of the conversation and companionship. Like virtually all other individual human works, they couldn't support the burden of being $100 million worth of awesome.

So we have to leave these billionaires to fight over possession of the corpse, and judge these things on their human-scale value. How much of your time does it command? If you get to see it in a museum, how well does it hold the room? What kind of impression did it make vs. the hundreds of other things you saw that day? How does it hold up on seeing it in reproduction decade after decade? What does the thing have to say to you? Did you learn anything in trying to figure it out?  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Groove o' the day: Whipping Post

Extraordinarily busy this week, but there's always time for a groove o' the day, so here's Whipping Post, by the Allman Brothers. Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johnson are on drums, apparently playing basically in unison.

The opening, in 11/8. I was too rushed to include a key, but you should be able to figure it out by now.

The second time through the 11/8 section:

On the verse and solo is an unusual 6/8 groove— just double this up if you want to count it in 12/8. The cymbal part is played on the ride; the bass drum notes in parentheses are optional.

On the chorus there's a more standard 12/8 rock feel, with fills every measure.

Audio after the break:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Now you're talking

Here's what I like to see— London drummer/blogger Sam Yadel has adapted Alan Dawson's “Rudimental Ritual” into 5/4:

I'm not much of a RR guy— it was just never a part of the drumming culture out here— but I heartily endorse this; go pay Sam a visit to get all five pages of it.

UPDATE: Part 2 is up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cracking 5/4: feet ostinatos

In adapting the blog post Cracking 5/4: the basics for the upcoming 2012 Book of the Blog, I noticed an an ugly gap in my materials— for that portion I suggested you get your patterns from Ralph Humphrey's Even in the Odds. So my book will be complete, here are some basic feet ostinatos use with that portion of the method:

The idea is to play these with a few different cymbal patterns, and then do small modifications to the bass drum part— see the original post for details.

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DBMITW: Ed Blackwell, more Milford

I've got several wordy pieces kicking around the drafts folder right now, but I'm working on the 2012 Book of the Blog today, so it'll be a minute before you see them.

In the mean time: you really don't hear people play their ride cymbal with Ed Blackwell's driving feel these days:

Also, in case you didn't make it to the end of the Milford Graves post, this duo record with David Murray is really great— one of my new favorite duo records:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Milford Graves

Hey, there's more of pioneering free jazz drummer Milford Graves up on YouTube than there used to be. I think he's my favorite of the early way free guys, and I wish he was on more stuff. You sometimes get the feeling with that music that there's not much going on beyond the massive expending of energy, but there's real music going on with Graves. He's got a special kind of pulse, and melodic sensibility you don't hear in the straight wall-of-sound guys. There's some fairly difficult listening here, but be sure to check out the very last thing, at least.

A nice track from his 1977 record Babi, which I had never heard before:

For years, this solo album was just about the only thing I could find with him on it— well, this, and Paul Bley's Barrage, which I found as a random lucky score. He tends to do a lot of vocalizing as part of his thing:

More after the break:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best books: the Dahlgren & Fine rock book

Complete Text for the Rock and Roll Drummer
by Marvin Dahlgren and Elliot Fine
Really Good Music Publishing
66 pages

When Really Good Music Publishing reissued a raft of Marvin Dahlgren titles last year, I was especially curious to see how Marv (along with Elliot Fine, in this case) would handle the question of how to play rock drums. I've gotten to do a little more work with this one since that original notice, and it's definitely a product of those two authors; the methodology is completely original, using their own special mathematical/logical, independence-oriented approach. Applied to rock and roll, that's very unusual.

After a fairly abstract introduction to using the four limbs on the drum set, there are sections on 8th note rock, triplet rock, shuffles, rock with 16th notes, and 8th note rock with right hand variations, plus a large section on fills. The authors' unique four-limb staff is used throughout; some of the fill pages using the toms are a little difficult to read, using different note heads for each tom.

tom notation

The major method used throughout the book involves playing snare drum variations (or fills) along with ostinatos played with the right hand, and/or the feet. The left hand parts either are generic, given names like “Latin”, “rock and roll”, or “bossa nova”, or are logically derived from the bass drum part (by adding snare notes before or after BD notes, for example), or are completely independent.

More, with examples, after the break:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Elvin-like 5/4

Here's another in this fairly massive Elvin series, which I wrote to develop this unusual cymbal pattern in 5/4, with the 8th notes on beats 3 and 5. The first measure is the cymbal-and-feet ostinato, and the second measure is the Elvin-style pattern, with the left hand in the gaps in the feet parts. The remaining exercises are left hand independence exercises adapted to work well with this particular ostinato.

By now we've accumulated a bunch of pages of this sort of thing, but don't be overwhelmed by that; learning any one of them thoroughly is a serious accomplishment. You will have the basic thing together, and subsequent pages will happen much faster. First get them together playing the left hand normally on the snare drum, then do the tom moves, with the LH playing a rim click on the snare.

Get the pdf

Friday, February 15, 2013

New lessons site up

Here's part of what I've been doing this week instead of posting here— completing my new private lessons site. If you're in the Portland metro area, don't hesitate to get in touch re: private lessons. Struggling drummers are my specialty, so don't go thinking you need to already be a smoking player. I don't offer Skype lessons yet, but if I get a few requests I will be encouraged to get that together more quickly— probably one or two lucky students will get a few free lessons while I get the technical kinks ironed out.

Oh, and if you're a teacher and/or performer and would like me to put together a similar site for you, contact me and we can discuss it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A few De Koonings

A little palette-cleanser today. Here are some comments on some nice Willem De Kooning paintings I've never seen reproduced anywhere before, and a little thumbnail sketch of his career— minus the well-known “high” phases. First, from the mid 50's, a collage of cut-up works on paper. He probably went through hundreds of pounds of this cobalt blue and cadmium yellow annually:

More after the break:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Groove o' the day: Grant Green — Cantaloupe Woman

Here are two different Blue Note/soul/boogaloo-type grooves on the tune Cantaloupe Woman, from albums by Grant Green.

First, from the great session drummer Ben Dixon (who also wrote the tune), as played on the 1965 Blue Note album His Majesty King Funk:

Then on the 1971 album Visions, played by Idris Muhammad (or possibly Harold Caldwell— I think it's IM, though):

In both examples the bass drum notes in parentheses are optional— those notes are played maybe 50% of the time. The snare drum hits are played at roughly an even volume, with the buzzed note in the second example maybe a little lighter. None of them are loud.

Audio after the break:

Monday, February 11, 2013

DBMITW: Fela Kuti — Zombie

Continuing with light posting for a few days, as I have a lot of other work to do, so here is all of Fela Kuti's twenty-something-th album, Zombie, with the great Tony Allen on the drums:

The album title is a reference to the Nigerian military, which retaliated brutally against Kuti for it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The map is not the territory...

...and this is not a pipe.
Sometimes I worry that with the things we cover here— and the way we cover them— I give the impression that those are the most important things about learning the drums and being a musician. Actually, we just talk about the things we can talk about; that doesn't necessarily mean that they are the most important things. There is often little to say about the things that are actually important.

Like, playing with people is just the true arena for learning music, and being a musician. That's where everything happens. If you're not doing it, there's not much to say about it except, “start doing it now, even if you suck at it. Especially if you suck at it.” And listening: there's nothing to say that's going to replace, or assist in, actually parking it in front of the stereo with some records on a regular basis. To be a musician you have to do those two things a lot, and there's no way to talk, study, or practice your way around them.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Transcription: Philly Joe Jones — Hi Groove, Low Feedback

We'll continue light posting through this week, as I'm in the middle of a big booking push, and then heading to the coast. But here's an interesting Philly Joe Jones transcription, from Hank Mobley's Hi Groove, Low Feedback, from his Blue Note album Hank (or Hank Mobley Sextet, it says on the back of the sleeve).

The transcription covers just the intro and head. There's a little confusion during the first couple of measures of the tune— Philly Joe's opening fill appears to throw the bassist a bit; everyone else appears to be more or less where they're supposed to be. Several times Philly Joe accents on the hihat with his left hand while playing the ride cymbal with his right, so I've put the hihat part on the tom tom line when that happens.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Friday, February 01, 2013