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So Happy

Today is a waltz, baby! A Happy Birthday Waltz. 3/4 for three over the four on the floor. So Happy Birthday to you, and Happy Birthday to me.

There is no greater gift than group-singing a song to a loved one on the day of their birth. It’s too bad the only known Happy Birthday song is a slow waltz written 100 years ago that no one likes to sing. Perhaps this is because it’s too long. Might we simply cut this 8-bar waltz in half?

Ah! That’s better. Almost like the bumper on a radio station. And now back to our regular atonal chit-chat

For the people’s credit, the “8-bar Happy Birthday” is really hard to sing, and it’s not like there’s a grand piano in every household anymore to help you find the key. The first chord of this song is made dissonant by a passing note in the melody; the “birth” (E note). This creates an unstable G major Sixth chord (G, B, D, E).

Trying singing that shit in tune with your flat family.

All the melodic jumps in the B-day song are quite tricky too. Best to stick with the 4-bar version and blow out them candles Prestissimo.

But let’s please keep this cheeky little melody around…

Who can resist the deliciously mocking tone of the G Dominant Seventh?
“Many More” is derived from “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin. You can hear the theme towards the beginning (at 00:55), played on the piano. It’s also the last thing played before the big crash at the end.

Gee, I wish human life were more musical. All I hear is the 2-note songs of birds, and the 1-note drones of machines.

No, that is not my wish. I’m not telling…

But it certainly involves Animal Liberation and Kid’s Rights.

Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to you.

Welcome to your doom.

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New Song

“Forescream” is a dance rock song highlighting men’s issues. Go over to bandcamp to download.

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Preview: Knock Knock Song

Have you heard this song come knocking on your door?

Blog coming soon!

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Giffy Pop

Gifs like this always excite my auditory cortex; I hear a pulsing rhythm in time with the image switch. I’m not crazy; this is a common enough phenomenon. Do you hear it? The gif below plays at 60 beats per minute like a heartbeat or timeclock.

los live at snugs

Live at Snug’s 2/6/15
Breakfast in Fur CD Release Show
Photo Credit: Kaitlin Gallucci
Gif Compression: Los

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Phantasm Beats

Most everyone can find the beat, but can the beat find you? Does the beat sneak up on you and trip you as you’re walking down the stairs? Has the beat ever slide-tackled you off the stage? Or perhaps thrown a cymbal at your head to try and decapitate you?

Everyone can follow the beat to some degree; even deafies and the rhythmically-challenged end up locked in the world’s ubiquitous groove. Just let it penetrate your open ears and entrain your brain, so you can comfortably bop your head along. We are children of the rhythm after all; our hearts kick like kick-drums at an even pulse of 60 beats per minute.

However, after playing drums for several years, I find it hard to forgo the beat, if I were so inclined. I long for that blissful ignorance of the novice, stranded in a chaotic sea of time and sound with nothing to hold onto.

So, we let the beat find us by letting go and losing the beat. We set it free. What professional musicians call “to be tripped up,” similar to that feeling of a phantom step at the end of a staircase. Author Vladimir Nabokov describes this childlike experience in his autobiography Speak, Mnemosyne.

Another part of the ritual was to ascend with closed eyes. “Step, step, step,” came my mother’s voice as she led me up—and sure enough, the surface of the next tread would receive the blind child’s confident foot; all one had to do was lift it a little higher than usual, so as to avoid stubbing one’s toe against the riser. This slow, somewhat somnambulistic ascension in self-engendered darkness held obvious delights. The keenest of them was not knowing when the last step would come. At the top of the stairs, one’s foot would be automatically lifted to the deceptive call of “Step,” and then, with a momentary sense of exquisite panic, with a wild contraction of muscles, would sink into the phantasm of a step, padded, as it were, with the infinitely elastic stuff of its own nonexistence.

I’ve always loved songs that can evoke this phantasmal feeling, either through an odd-time meter or the lack of rhythmic context. The latter can be heard in the Phish song “It’s Ice”.

“It’s Ice” by Phish

The guitar riff seems to begin on the One, but it actually doesn’t. The drums enter on an off-beat fill, which makes for a brief delicious moment of rhythmic chaos, before the drums settle into a syncopated 4/4 beat. The phantasmal feeling remains for the next bar or two, washing over us like a wave, while we realign ourselves to the correct beat. (Also, notice the Benny Hill bass-line.)

A recent example of an odd-time phantasm can be heard in “Hack or Shack” by Fernandez 4. The piano and vocals sound like they’re on the beat, but they’re actually playing a polyrhythm of dotted quarter notes, floating atop three measures of 7/8 time, which is the backbeat defined by the entrance of the drummer.

One dotted quaver = 3 semiquavers
One measure of 7/8 = 14 semiquavers
Fourteen dotted quavers = 42 semiquavers = three measures of 7/8

Can you think of any musical phantasms that trip you up or throw you off? Please put them in the comments below.

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Abracadabra is a magic word used to cure diseases for centuries, traditionally written in an inverted triangle and worn as an amulet. But what if we wanted to make a musical amulet out of the word?

I have always been impressed with words that can be played as music, called musical cryptograms. Composers in the Baroque Period began using cryptograms to sign their name into their compositions. Here is Bach’s name as a musical cryptogram (B, A, C, H is German B).

So in traditional musical cryptogram fashion, we can drop the Rs in abracadabra and use the relevant remaining note letters to make our cryptogram. Drag over the noteheads to listen to the tones, or press play to hear the incantation as it would be sung in church.

In Aramaic, it translates to “I create as I speak.” In Hebrew, it is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In mnemonics, it is the first 4 letters of the alphabet, A-B-C-D.

In music, abracadabra is in the key of A minor.

British intelligence man and black magic beast Aleister Crowley was way into abracadabra but he believed the true form to be “abraHadabra.” For this spelling, we can replace the C with the German H (B) in our cryptogram, although the above is more musically satisfying.

Our musical amulet is now complete and ready to be worn around your neck. Here ya go.


Begone demonic sickness…

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Ewok melodies

The Ewoks get a lot of shit for being toy bait teddy bears that sold out Star Wars™ to the baser taste of children, but I never had a problem with them. Unblinking bastards that only served to disnify the original trilogy—but those guys are ok with me. Maybe that’s because I was just a child when Return of the Jedi came out, and I always wanted to be this guy when I grew up.

Anyway, Ewoks religiously chant a perfect fifth backwards, and their aboriginal music is the usual Fraggle Folk Rock—skin drums, bone flutes, and electric funk bass. Their victory song “Yub Nub”, meaning “freedom”, closes out Episode VI.

“Yub Nub” has a funky meandering bass, a chromatic hook from Sesame Street, and this awesome Aeolian cadence at the chorus.

The bVI bVII I chord progression is a popular musical device used to add some epicness at the end of a song. Beyoncé did it at her POTUS Banner. Phish do too. Focus as well. And composer John Williams also does it, because he’s an epic Hollywood kind of guy.

“Yub Nub” is in the key of G Major, but ends with a transitional Eb Major chord to segue back to the Main Theme. A fleet of minor sixes heralds the key change from G Major to Eb Major and the return of the trademark fanfare.

In the Special Edition, they replaced the classic muppet finale “Yub Nub” with a polished studio instrumental, but the Ewoks are a simple people without reverberated panflute and modern day percussion; they are supposed to sound like a ragtag bunch of Henson creature shop rejects. That’s why they have a makeshift xylophone made from the helmets of dead stormtroopers. The music is gritty and real, like ‘practical effects’, compared to the ‘CGI’ of the newer song (which I won’t bother linking to).

There are so many retconned versions of the original Star Wars floating around, it’s hard to find the scene in question, so here it is.

Best for the artist to let his work die in a bittersweet fire just as Luke Skywalker laid his father to rest. Allay loo ta nuv.

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