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Cuckoo

The cuckoo has long been a symbol of cuckoldry from Shakespeare to the Disney channel, but did you know this musical bird also inspired the door bell and the bell itself?

Common cuckoo


The common cuckoo calls in major thirds, and almost exclusively in C major. Click on the score below to listen.


Common Cuckoo Call


“Go-koo,” he calls, and the girl-bird returns a bubbly answer.

Actually, the cuckoo changes his interval throughout the season. As Margaret A. Barrett write in The Musical Times:

The cuckoo begins early in the season with the interval of a minor third, the bird then proceeds to a major third, next to a fourth, then a fifth, after which his voice breaks without attaining a minor sixth.[1]

In June, the cuckoo actually forgets how to sing. The cuckoo cucks himself, as it were.

Much ado has been made on this blog about the natural evolution of the major third interval in our industrial soundscape, from the influence of the Harmonic series to Big Ben’s Westminster Quarters. But the cuckoo’s C major call is the ultimate inspiration for the Quarters, the door bell, convenience store ding, and of course, the cuckoo clock. He spread his cuckolding ways around the world as a migrant and a vagrant, from Peru to the Bronx.

Common Cuckoo Clock

On the clock, the cuckoo’s call is set to the off-beat. The bong of the bell lands on the beat, preferably at 60 beats per minute in 4/4 time. Cuckoo clocks are commonly set in C major. The world’s biggest cuckoo clock in Triberg is close-by in B major. Show starts at 00:58. From the Black Forest, the birthplace of the cuckoo clock.


I’ve always been fascinated by cuckoo clocks. They make time fun. By drawing my childlike attention to the rhythm of time, with its boom-tick rock beat pattern, the cuckoo clock strongly swayed my decision to play drums. Also, Father said to me, “You will play drums, son.” And like all rock drummers, I have long since synced my heartbeat to clock-time. My heart kicks at an even 60 BPMs throughout the day and it don’t stop till I get enough.

From horse beats to bird tunes, we set nature to a machine and call it music. So it makes sense to honor the cuckoo and his inspiration for the bells, by placing him at the top of the clock—the cuck of the rock.

Also, check out this awesome song by Beethoven that features the cuckoo major third among other musical birds.

Note:
[1] Barrett, M. (1897). “The Cuckoo’s Notes”. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular

Recording

EAR OP coming soon.

Ear Op

Now if I can just get rid of those yella rectangles.

Poison Melody

In 1990, hip-hop trio Bell Biv Devoe released Poison. B.B.D. was the first concert I ever saw. Gerardo and C+C Music Factory opened. B.B.D. came on stage in those tubes from the end of E.T. I’m not sure why I was listening to such sexually-charged music in grade school, but songs like “Do Me” seem wholesome in comparison to today’s music.

BBD

“Poison” features the classic B.B.D. melody courtesy of the East Coast family. They used this melody everywhere. It’s a harmony of voices bending down and up in a minor key. Here it is in F# minor:



The great thing about this melody is it works for almost any word—Nintendo, Spider-Man, Iesha, precaution, poison.

* * *

Anyway, “Poison” is a great song with a mystic cave zone bass-line. It also has that upbeat shuffle so popular in old school hip-hop.


Never trust a big butt that smiles indeed. Notice in the notation above, the slurs and ties between the noteheads form smiling butt cheeks.

Vai’s Melody

Steve Vai has a melody. It’s his favorite melody. He uses it everywhere. It sounds like something Frank Zappa hummed in the shower and Vai transcribed for electric guitar.



Vai’s melody is made of major thirds. It’s in the key of A above and makes an A Major seventh chord in passing. It first appeared in “Little Green Men” on Vai’s debut album. The melody is found at the very end.

Vai liked it so much he made a whole song out of it on Passion and Warfare. “Answers” is a toe-tapper that opens with a phantasmal beat. At around the 1:59 mark, Vai’s melody takes over and dominates the final minute of the song in various keys.





Gee Steve, why don’t you marry that melody?

* * *

Steve Vai told a story in an interview. He played guitar for two days straight and fell asleep with his instrument. In his dreams, he continued to play guitar. The music he made was more beautiful than any of this world, but unfortunately, Steve Vai wasn’t able to remember it or it was impossible to play. Either way, he got Kubla Khan’d hard.

I would link to the article with the interview, but I’m not really interested in the internet anymore. I like imagination and boredom, faulty memories and synesthesia. Sitting around on the floor like Beethoven in a pile of orange peels. This is what we do.

vai

When I bought Passion and Warfare from Sam Goody in the late ’90s, the cashier convinced me the album was satanic. He said nice-looking kids were the biggest satanists in terms of musical purchases. Anyway, it kind of scared me into not listening to the album for a while.

Now I’m not sure why all music needs to be satanic, but I guess Christian rock is kinda lame. “Devil’s got the best tunes,” as the preacher says.

Eyeej

Well, Tracy had gone to work, but at the same time he had also written three lines to a song.

Lost song from Tracy's Tiger by William Saroyan

A video posted by Los Doggies (@doggieslos) on



Here’s Thomas Tracy’s song from Tracy’s Tiger by William Saroyan, published in 1951. It’s a wide-interval diddy in C major so I thought it would sound nice on a glockenspiel.

Tracy's song

Try it at home: E C B C E B E F G

However, Tracy didn’t think too fondly of it:


The three lines of Tracy’s turned out to be as so many other things turn out to be, dirt. The song faded away, the very scrap of paper on which Tracy had so carefully written the words were lost, the melody was forgotten.


Well, I like it. I want to make a pop song out of it with intervals sung wide. It’s got the major third lead-in like the bell song and the door bell, but it jumps an octave down to a low C. It would make an interesting vocal melody.

I think music is too small; we need to widen it up a bit with big intervals.

Show in N.N.Y.

We’re playing the Wherehouse in Newburgh once again. Come join us for great food, drinks, and music.

rocky

Event Page on Facebook

Stranger Things

Occasionally, this blog is relevant—really relevant. Like shilling for a new Netflix Original series relevant.

winona

Stranger Things is a comfy creature feature throwback to the glorious ’80s with a strong Speilbergian vibe. The music also has a nice Carpenteresque feel to it.

John Carpenter often composed the music for his movies, with several iconic electronic soundtracks to his name such as Halloween and The Fog. In the ’80s, Carpenter was King of the Arpeggiator, as can be heard in The Thing and my personal fave, Big Trouble In Little China.

The Theme from Stranger Things opens with a synth heartbeat just like The Thing (actually written by Ennio Morricone to sound Carpenteresque), and there’s a nice smooth arpeggio of a C major 7th chord. I’ve often called this chord, the Chord of Love, but context is important. It takes on some of those qualities—mystery and longing, but the lack of progression, also gives it a stalking, foreboding quality like being pursued by a hungry CGI monster. The overtones of the 7th, the B, add some Lydian flavor to the theme with an implicit F#, even though there are no fourths provided. The Lydian mode is often used to evoke the far reaches of outer space and inner dimensions.

(Click on the score to play/stop. Sorry, I couldn’t make a perfect loop in Flash.)

Simple. Haunting. Effective. Very Carpenteresque. No melody. Just arpeggios. His soundtracks were sound-oriented rather than musical.

Coda:
The ’80s now seem like how the ’50s seemed in the ’80s. Anyway, Stranger Things was a good watch. I definitely recommend it, if you’re going to Netflix and chill with that special someone. It captures that wonderful magic of youth and adventure from The Goonies and E.T., which kinda makes me think I missed out on something, like young hot teen love. Or maybe just D&D with the bros. Or Winona.