On A Windy Morning

 

 

After getting last month’s song done relatively early, this month’s is extra late, which was not how I was wanting it to work out.  This tune is a bit different, and in some ways a more difficult composition, but the delay is more life-related than anything, having had 4 out of the 6 weekends since my last release at least partially occupied. It didn’t really take me any longer than the other songs, I just had less time to work on it.

I am pretty excited about this one. I usually have some sort of huge misgiving after I release something, and that will probably happen with this too, but at the moment I am a proud parent. I considered last month’s song to be a bit of a breakthrough for me, and this one  continues down the path towards…  wherever it is I’m trying to get to. 😉

One of my goals in starting this song-a-month project was to familiarize myself to a much greater degree with the various tools that I can use to make music, and I decided at the outset of this song that I would use this app called the Moog Filtatron that I had purchased for my phone. The boop-boop-boop that runs through the first half of the song was created by using that app. Since I didn’t really know what I was doing, I just recorded that loop for a few minutes and started building the song around it. It was a bit challenging, as I couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate drums with it,  and it ended up with a fairly unique structure. This is exactly the sort of thing that I’m looking for! It is perhaps a bit too loose, tempo wise, but I do like to create things with a kind of gooey tempo, and I feel it lends itself to the kind of woozy psychedelia I want to create.

As strange as it turned out, it was very organic, I wasn’t making any conscious effort at strangeness, just a sort of intuitive set of decisions based on this kind of no man’s land I found myself in. It also inspired the lyrics, them being about moving forward with another person in a kind of pleasant uncertainty. The boop-boop-boop brought to mind unsure footsteps. Ideally, every song would have this unification of music and lyrics. 🙂 As with all of my songs so far this year, it is perhaps not quite complete in it’s current form, but I am feeling good about this one and am looking forward to working on
the next song, which needs to be quick so I don’t fall further behind! 🙂

Sun Blanket(song of the month)

This was a quick one. Quick ones almost always turn out the best. Unfortunately the only route towards a quick one is just to make things a lot, and a quick one will just pop up.  It might be something directly from the right hemisphere of the brain, which would normally have to explain things to the left side in order to execute it’s idea. It escapes before the analytical mind can start to criticize it and change its shape.

This short instrumental came about as an offshoot of the song that I was working on previously, which was something of a failure, but proved to be quite challenging, and if not a step up in quality, a step up in complexity and know-how. I had been experimenting with, and trying to reach competence with, slide guitar, and the chords of this song are all in the ‘D’ tuning which I play slide guitar in(D-A-D-F#-A-D). I thought I’d try to write a song in this tuning, and found the chords by using just one finger on one or more of the strings. After a couple of days of fiddling around a bit, I started picking the chords instead of strumming them, and I felt the result was so nice to listen to that maybe I would just make it an instrumental piece.

I recorded one go round of the chords and came up with another simple guitar part to go with it. I then decided that I wanted to repeat the passage and add more parts to it the second time. Essentially I had the entire song in a couple of days. I added a part using the Animoog app on my iPhone(which is quite awesome), and composed a synth string part. I had planned on adding several other parts to the second half of the song, my imagination was quite stimulated by this piece of music. But it turned out, by my judgment anyway, that the piece didn’t need any more parts, it was finished. Sitting on it for a week did not change how I felt about it. So up on the internet it went!

I have made more than one instrumental piece in my life, and none of them have titles. Since I already had an untitled piece up on Soundcloud, I though I should come up with a name for this one. Sun Blanket was a title I had, waiting for a song to go with it, and while this is not the type of song I had imagined for it, I though that it worked as a stand alone title, and also as part of this semi-narrative I’m semi-developing with these monthly songs.

This one has accumulated listens faster than any other track I have released, and I actually didn’t make much of an effort to draw attention to it. I feel like it turned out really good, but there is no way to know that before you listen to it, so I’m a little mystified as to its performance. Anyway, thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed the tune! 🙂

Song of the Month! Woo-hooo! Yaaaaaaay!

 

In an announcement that is certain to bring the Internet down to it’s knees, Slida’s Song of the Month is going live today! Free music from someone you’ve never heard of on the Internet! It’s unprecedented!

But seriously, I am finally in music making mode after a long hiatus, and the creation of at least one reasonably complete song a month is one of my goals for the year 2013. I have read a million times that announcing ones plans to do something will strengthen one’s resolve to do that thing, so I have decided to blog about it once a month as well, and make an attempt to draw attention to it for a weekend. I think that approach might work better if people were actually paying attention, but worth a shot(if you are paying attention and have actually read this far, you are super, super awesome).

One of my bigger issues with completing pieces of music, is that I never feel they are(and I’m pretty much always right) complete, and the specific kind of music I want to make normally doesn’t lend itself to quick completion. By vowing to release a song a month, I am essentially forcing myself to get one specific song into good enough shape to present to people every month, and also forcing myself to move on,for the time being, rather than constantly fiddling with it, until I can’t stand listening to it anymore and abandon it.

[more explanations redacted]

In true me fashion, this is the third different mix I’ve uploaded in the last 3 days. I call it an enhanced demo,as I would be working on this for at least another month, I imagine, if I hadn’t started doing this super exciting thing!

 

R.I.P. My old friend Mike.

The last time I posted a blog about anything other than the works of J.R.R. Tolkien was when a young man I barely knew died unexpectedly. I had had to move into this wild and wooly hippie house due to financial circumstances, and he had occupied the other downstairs bedroom. He went home for Easter and never returned. It was very sad, but very abstract at the same time. Death is just unimaginable. People just disappear.

So today I post another blog I could never have imagined writing. My friend, Mike, whom I’ve known for a very, very long time is fading away as I type this.  It was not completely unexpected. One day this July, half his face became paralyzed, and it was discovered that he had a walnut-sized tumor in his brain, along with several others, and spots all on the inside of his body. It was skin cancer, oddly, the man did not get much sun.

I knew, intellectually, that it was a death sentence, but going to see him in the hospital, he was the same old Mike, and his personality was so upbeat, it was easy to think that he would be alright. . It’s Mike, after all, and the big tumor was operable.

Mike was a guileless, friendly person. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. We both worked at Arby’s and he was a smiling, loud laughing face amongst strangers. He also sported a ridiculous mustache, for quite a long time. 🙂

Arby’s was a strange, quantum focal point in my life back then, getting a job there set off a whole chain of events of which there are still reverberations. I haven’t thought about that in a long time, but it’s rather astonishing that  just getting a crappy job at a fast food joint could effect my life that much.

So yesterday morning, my phone rings, and I see it’s a call from Rick( Rick is Eddie’s younger brother. I met Eddie at Arby’s. I ended up being roommates with Rick, and subsequently got him a job at Arby’s, where he met Mike. Thanks to their mutual ability to geek out on toys and strategy games for hours at a time, they formed a fast friendship.) I knew it was going to be bad news about Mike, he had been in an out of the hospital lately. The treatment was making him very sick. The doctors said the treatment was working great, that there was nothing else wrong with him, and felt that his frequent trips to the hospital were psychological in nature. This one was different, he’d had a stroke, and it sounded pretty bad.

Rick lives in Wisconsin, and Eddie about an hour and a half away, and Rick and I arrived just moments before Eddie. Just in time for his mother to tell us he wasn’t going to make it. Rick and I had just spent the last few minutes talking ourselves into his eventual recovery, and the news was devastating. It still is.

What followed was an incredibly bleak exercise in reality that nevertheless seemed completely unreal. A neurosurgeon came in and explained they’d found more tumors and there was nothing to be done besides making his death peaceful. Then a priest came in and performed some sort of absolution. I understand that people find comfort in these things, but in a room bursting with emotion, his words sounded hollow and meaningless, words that have been repeated verbatim 1000s of times.

Mike was a great guy. He helped me out on numerous occasions, too many to count. We hadn’t been particularly close for a while, and just before he got sick(found out he was sick, I guess) I helped him move to another town, whereas previously he was only a half a mile away. He was no spring chicken anymore, but too young to die.

I didn’t know I would be so broken up about his death, I guess that’s why I felt compelled to write this blog.

 

The sudden death of Saruman. #PtBiB

The epic tale, and epic blogging, comes to an end, although not quite(the reading part), as I am still reading the appendices. I forgot about these, but as I read them, I realized that I most certainly read them before. They fill in a lot of blanks, especially filling in the history of Gondor and Rohan that seemed glaringly missing in the story. I’m enjoying them and will be finally reading ‘The Simalrillion’ soon. That is, I’ll start reading it soon, it’s gonna take a while. 😉

I’ve very belatedly decided that rather than try to go over all the events, I’ll just pick one.

What stuck out for me most for me at the end was the quick, violent death of Saruman. I found it pretty shocking. Saruman is a bad guy, obviously, but Tolkien really, really doesn’t like him, it seems. His portrayal is quite broad and cartoony. He really comes off as childish and petulant, ridiculous and foolish. It is hard for me to believe that this character was ever considered wise, and had accomplished the many, many horrible things that he had. He is held in such obvious contempt by the author himself, that I wonder if he was based on an actual person Tolkien knew. It seems so… personal. He really, really wants to get across that Saruman has not one microscopic shred of decency in him. And then Grima, Saruman’s even sorrier companion, having had enough abuse, slits his throat. I was not prepared for that.  There is plenty of death and violence in this tale, but that is the single most violent moment in the entire book. It’s just kind of blipped over in a couple of lines, I suppose that’s why I forgot it, but …Jeez. Really? I think that if I could discuss one thing with Tolkien, at this point in time, it would be this event.

I theorize that Tolkien really wanted this character dead, but none of  his good characters were up to such a deed. Destroying the Shire was the last straw, I guess, and Saruman just had to go. Outside of this specific event, I find myself doubting that all these things could have possibly happened in the Shire in a years time. I mean, it was a long year for everyone in middle-earth, but it’s still just a year, right?

All in all, I found this a very satisfying read, and the Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog event an interesting way to go about it. With the exception of my brief attendance of a college course and watching a couple of the movies in the theater with friends, this tale has been exclusively in my head, and this is the most I’ve been exposed to other peoples opinions and takes on the story. I think more highly of these books than I did before, and I always though highly of them.:)

Here is a page with links to everyone who participated in this project.

Snobbery

Kate of Mind

DavidJFuller

 

 

 

The Ring is escorted out of existence. #PtBiB

I was hoping after doing these for a while, I could come up with some sort of approach to blogging about these books, but it never quite panned out. I tend to be stuck between going over the major events and my own new insights into the book. I had decided to write my own entries before reading the others, but it would have made much more sense to do the opposite, as I lack the proper blogging chops, and am really more in the intermediate(at best) stage of knowledge when it comes to  these books and middle-earth lore. It’s been a learning experience in several different ways, the best kind!

I’ve been increasingly seeing Frodo as a mere figurehead, almost an object rather than a character, as it’s clear that Sam is the hero here in the surprisingly sudden end to the quest, brief capture by the orcs aside. And Gollum, of course, performing the actual coup de grace that my next door neighbor Brian informed me of all those years ago(I have still never watched the RotK cartoon, although I have no real excuse now).

Sam rescues and then drags and then carries Frodo to their very much final destination, to have Frodo refuse to destroy the Ring right on the precipice. If Sam had not decided to spare Gollum, we would have a very difficult ending indeed, as Sam would have had no choice but to try and take the Ring from Frodo himself. Fittingly Gollum, who brought the ring back into the world from the bottom of a lake, personally escorts it back to its origins in gruesome finger-chomping fashion, severing it from its owner much like it was from Sauron to begin with. The hobbits are done for, no rewards at the end of this quest, but the Eagles, once again with impeccable timing, sweep them away.

With their tasteful, soft rock stylings.

This whole section has a dreamlike quality, which is underscored by Sam waking up in comfort, thinking it was all a dream himself.

After a rather long wait, this episode happens rather fast, I’ve generally found the speed of things has been increasing since ‘Fellowship'(although the movie TT was somehow ponderous, despite that book being full of action, the extended scenes did not help that one out.) Perhaps this is of purposeful design, or maybe it was just a realization of how mammothly long this would become if it continued at the pace of the first books. I kind of got used to things taking a long time to happen, and it felt strange in parts where it didn’t. I suppose I haven’t really been in much of a hurry for this tale to end, having taken a very purposeful, relaxed approach to getting back in to regular reading. There isn’t really a comparable activity to sitting down and quietly reading a book.:)

Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog:

Kate of Mind

Snobbery

David J Fuller

A tale(and the summer) approaches the end. Lord of the Rings: Book V. #PtBiB

I’ve grown increasingly interested in the perception of time, and this summer Tolkien fest has stood a bit outside of it, moving at a different pace than the rest of life. Even though I read every weekday when I get home from work, the end has somehow snuck up on me. The tale itself has accelerated, while the summer has seemed to slow down(although I already knew from experience, it turns out that time seems to go slower the higher one’s body temperature is).

I have, miraculously, only missed a couple of installments, on the weekends, oddly, when I have way more time to compose a blog to begin with.

The biggest singular event in Book V is the slaying of the only (partly) corporeal representation of the Big Bad, the head Nazgul, the only one with a fancy name, ‘The Witch King of Angmar.’ The tag team of (surprise!) Eowyn and Meriadoc the hobbit bring him down, much to his chagrin I imagine, and at great cost to themselves (Kate Sherrod blogs about it as a guest on Snobbery here). A new thing here that I found interesting; Merry uses the dagger he acquired during his adventures with Tom Bombadil in the Old Forest, and the fact that it is from the same time and place as the Witch King himself causes a wound which would have otherwise been impossible. I thought that was a nice literary touch there, that adventure seeming like a long,long time ago now, and seemingly isolated from the rest of the story. Not so!

I read the complete trilogy for the first time over the summer, a long time ago, in a similar way, I’d say, probably reading before I went to sleep. It is clear to me now that I have probably only read “Return of the King” twice, maybe three times, as it is the least clear in my memory, and the parts not involving Frodo and Sam are especially hazy. At any rate, I last read it in another lifetime.

That’s great, actually, to have this element of newness in a tale I thought I knew already, and I have enjoyed Gondor’s Last Stand. Unlike the Helm’s Deep battle, I have now spent enough time with the humans in the story to feel how desperate their situation is, and it is quite desperate. Aragorn’s kingly magic and ghostly allies helped turn the tide of the first great battle, but it soon becomes apparent that Sauron doesn’t even need to possess the Ring to win this war, and the armies of Gondor march out to their pretty much certain doom, hoping to distract Mordor enough to allow the two hobbits to perform their impossible task. Book V ends with the good guys engaged in a battle they can’t possibly win, very fittingly with Pippin being knocked unconscious or worse, the best non-Ring cliffhanger in the books.

Although it doesn’t really matter much now, being an adult, the waning of Summer still has a distinctive feel to it, the feel of transition, and it dovetails with The Lord of the Rings itself, being about a transition from one world to another.

Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog:

Snobbery

Kate of Mind

DavidJFuller

 

Another sudden ending??!! Lord of the Rings Book IV: Ch. 5-10 #PtBiB

Sam and Frodo’s visit with Faramir and the rangers gets a little tricky when they discover Gollum and Frodo has to save him from certain death. It awkwardly works out in the end, and with some shiny new walking sticks, Sam, Frodo, and Gollum continue into Mordor.

This section is pure gold, and I enjoyed it more than anything I’ve read so far. I thought I remembered this section pretty well, and I certainly remembered it better than the first half of the book, but I forgot about how intense this was. Just about everything one could expect in an entire story is in these few chapters.

Tolkien’s penchant for description, first of all, gives this section a lot of heft, as he puts you right there. Sam and Frodo both begin to realize in an immediate way that they probably aren’t going to survive this. Things get meta, and they start a discussion about themselves as characters in a tale, and how they’ll be remembered. This is heady stuff.

Sam’s dedication to Frodo is… well it’s rather sweet really. There they are, almost literally at death’s door, and Frodo is napping on Sam’s lap. It’s so sweet that even Gollum is overwhelmed, but get’s caught by Sam, though he’s innocent, for once.

Up into the stench-filled cave they go. They can see absolutely nothing. Despite being unable to actually see anything, these are excellent descriptive passages ( If I was that good at describing things, I’d do it a lot, I imagine).  Gollum abandons them in the dark. Sam remembers the phial from Galadriel, and Frodo holds it up, just in time to see a horrific giant spider(is there any other kind?), otherwise known as Shelob. A bit more than just a big spider though, Shelob seems to be some sort of intense evil embodied in spider form. Quite a nasty disposition.

Gollum’s plan is coming to fruition. He get’s a little overzealous when attacking Sam(a fantastic moment when Gollum reaches out of the blackness and seizes him, as Shelob attacks Frodo.)  is unsuccessful and flees. Sam,  whose is just bursting at the seams with heroism at this point, brandishes Sting, and between it and the phial wins the confrontation with Shelob, and she crawls away. Sting, of course, got it’s nickname whilst Bilbo was fighting…giant spiders! How fitting.*

He is too late, and Frodo seems to be dead. In what may be the single most heroic thing anyone in the books has done so far, he takes the Ring and vows to complete the quest himself. Orcs soon complicate the situation and he has to use the Ring. I don’t know how I could have forgotten about that, but I did. We find out that Frodo is not dead(whew), but he is captured, and the invisible Sam is mistaken for a great warrior based on the evidence of his deeds. And then it ends, suddenly, right there.

I’ve been reading this on the kindle as just one book, so I didn’t realize I was coming to the end of ‘The Two Towers’. It’s really no mystery as to why I was far more concerned with this part of the tale, back then.  🙂

 

*I found this intense even though I knew the outcome. In fact, I knew, at least generally, the outcome before I read this book the first time. What if I didn’t? As a kid, I didn’t really think about things like that, but this whole section goes to another level of intensity if you don’t know what happens.

Puttin’ the Blog in Balroggers:

Kate of Mind

Snobbery

David J Fuller

Sam’s big mouth. #PtBiB

It’s gotten very quiet, all of a sudden, as we return to Sam and Frodo, who have slightly better than no chance of succeeding at this juncture. I like this part of the book, I think partially because of the scenery, partially because of the climbing around, and partially for it’s simplicity and aforementioned quiet. Up to this point, we’ve been dealing with large groups of people, lot’s of chatter, sword swinging, death, mayhem, chanting ,etc.

It’s so quiet you can hear the pitter-patter of little evil feet, as Gollum makes his first real appearance since “The Hobbit”. Just as Sam and Frodo do the near impossible with the help of magic Elvish rope, Gollum is spotted crawling after them like an insect. The three of them make for an interesting dynamic with Frodo as the focal point, while Sam and Gollum snipe at each other.

Frodo’s kindness seems bring out some deeply buried memories of before Gollum became so wretched, and there seems to be a tug of war between his original self, Smeagol and the current Gollum.

One way or the other, Frodo, who I’m becoming increasingly impressed with, realizes that they really have no chance of completing their quest without Gollum/Smeagols help, and expertly manages this Gollum situation pretty well. Seeing as he is carrying the only thing in the world that Gollum cares about, this is pretty amazing.

Gollum being who he is, is leading them into some sort of trap, which only the reader is privy to. This is one of the mysteries that ceases being a mystery after you’ve read the story(or seen the movie, nowadays). All we know at this point is that there is a ‘She’ with an unpleasant personality, no doubt.

This section is mainly about Sam, when it comes down to it, and his struggles with doing his master’s wishes whilst not offing Gollum in his sleep. Sam has some intense feelings for Frodo it turns out. This is another of the things I’d forgotten about.

To me the hobbits are the hobbits, as they are to the other peoples of middle-earth. In the Shire though, Frodo is an aristrocrat, and Sam is a laborer, and this master-servant dynamic is one of the many feudal throwbacks, that idea that the wealthy are somehow more noble and worthy(I suppose this still exists now, but for the most part only the wealthy feel that way about it.) In this context, I suppose Sam’s feelings don’t seem quite so over the top. Being the ringbearer as well makes Frodo The Most Important Hobbit of All Time. Even with all that being said, Frodo is quite impressive, when it comes down to it, and is pressing on through obvious exhaustion(much of it Ring caused) and lack of hope.

The hobbits, taking Gollum’s Dangerous Shortcut, happen to run into some folks from Gondor, thanks to Sam’s wise decision to make some rabbit stew(rabbits courtesy of Gollum), and then forget to smother the fire properly. They are being lead by Boromir’s brother, Faramir. Awkward. The increasingly wiser Frodo does quite the masterful job of leaving out important bits of information during questioning, and we(I) realize that he obviously doesn’t know anything that happened after he left the Fellowship, Boromir’s death included. The whole situation is too much for  Sam, and it causes him to lose all control of his mouth, and soon the Ring’s out of the bag. Fortunately, Faramir doesn’t seem to have Boromir’s gimme gimme gimme disposition or we have a very different story from here on out.

You get to know this little group from Gondor better than the Rohirrim, there is a bit of history, the necessary strategic alliance with Rohan, etc(that may actually be chapter 6). One gets a sense of Gondor without even being there.

Despite nothing much happening besides travel and description, I didn’t find this part at all boring, and tore through it pretty quick. 🙂

Others Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog:

Snobbery

Kate of Mind

David J Fuller

Alotofstuffatonce. And Eowyn’s heaving bosoms. #PtBiB

I was noting last time that things have been speeding up quite a bit in this segment of the book, not realizing how fast things were going to get. I don’t think it works particularly well in these chapters. Where there are many places one would want things to speed up, here I would like them to slow down a bit. A huge battle is fought, almost out of nowhere, with very little build up. Gandalf ‘cures’ Theoden of Wormtongue’s spell(how could anyone trust someone called ‘Wormtongue’ by most everyone that’s encountered him?) And in no time, he’s saddled up and in a dizzying, seemingly unwinnable battle with hordes of orcs. In parallel, the Ents are attacking Isengard, while an army of ent-like, extremely pissed off trees travels to help with the orcs. Saruman is defeated and humiliated, Pippin and Merry are reunited with the 3 amigos and Gandalf and we have most of the Fellowship intact, except for Sam and Frodo, of course.

No other section that I’ve read so far could be so completely summarized in so few words, drawing from my previous experience of incompletely summarizing other sections in many more words. There are some important details, but they are drowned out amidst all the commotion. And I don’t remember properly how those come into play in the future.

It’s curious to me that he abandons the parallel storytelling he was using, to just have Pippin explain what happened at Isengard during the battle at Helm’s Deep(awesome fantasy book place name alert). If anything, I think he focused on the wrong battle here. We basically just met these people of Rohan, and I personally didn’t feel the obvious peril they were in, and the weight of this battle. It just all happened too fast.  It could just be me, but Tolkien has done a good job previously in establishing the importance of what is going on. It kind of seems like he wanted to get this Saruman business out of the way so he could go on with the story. Or perhaps more likely, it was just edited that way. Orrrr, maybe I wanted to get the Saruman business out of the way. Hmmm.

One thing I am definitely suffering from at this point, is that I have seen the movies more recently than I’ve read these books, and it has been quite awhile since I’ve seen the movies, thus even longer since I read the books, and there’s a bit of a memory jumble. For instance, I remember the visuals of the Ents at Isengard quite well, and thought it was pretty great. Also, I had forgotten about Eowyn. Now that I remember her, I remember she had a fairly large part in the movies, with a lot of her and Aragorn making eyes at each other. This seems like a movie sort of thing, and I imagine she is not as prominent in the books… but I don’t remember now. I r confused.

Anyhows, I bring this up because the one thing in these chapters that jumped out at me was Eowyn and her ‘encounter’ with Aragorn. Now this is a sexless book, and the only females to appear so far in these books are magical and ephemeral, even Aragon’s girlfriend, Arwen(who seems less so since the movies, as I picture Liv Tyler now). But here we have this description of Eowyn that is a bit more visceral, I would say, than his previous descriptions. And even though its all very chaste-seeming, Aragorn and Eowyn encountering each other raises an eyebrow. How he chooses to write about this just cracks me up. Imagining this little part being written in a more ‘adult’ manner also cracks me up. Perhaps it is just unleashing my inner 13 year old. Erotic Aragorn and Eowyn fan fiction most certainly exists, right?

The Balroggers:

Kate of Mind

Snobbery

DavidJFuller