Over the holidays, I had the privilege of riding the Long Island Rail with all of its whistles and bells. It was the night before Christmas when all through the train, I struggled to stay awake to the gentle jazz of the wheels on the tracks. The doors even signaled their openings and closings with a simple musical interval. Perhaps it was the comfiness of the LIRR, or that I had drunk a little too much soy nog, but I began to think those thoughts which tend to stir this time of year, of orphans and angels and other things like that. The CIA-grade conspiracy theorist in me wishes to see the world in a negative light, and indeed this blog should be taking advantage of the cottage industry booming around musical conspiracies, (such as the notion of Rockefeller Equal Temperament and the Lost Concert A that cures cancer), but thinking of Mrs. Train, her doors and her chimes, the jazzy way she slinks along the tracks, carrying humanity’s children home; I do believe Father Christmas, Mother Nature, and possibly my Drunk Uncle Joey are in some kind of collusion, rigging the very doors to sound in a way that even babies find pleasing. After all, we built this city…we built this city on major thirds.
Here’s the door chime now; drag over the noteheads below.
The M6 train closes its doors with a 2-tone chime—the friendly DING-DONG of a doorbell, a Major Third interval which can be traced back to “Westminster Quarters”. The new M7 has a horrible beep like a truck’s back-up beep, just to be sure that everything still worsens over time.
Just in time for the holidays, Los is back with our fake book of forlorn folk songs! Try singing along at home while you drag your mouse over the black unstemmed noteheads.
“Thanksgiving Is Fun” is a children’s song in the key of A minor. The minor key gives it a plaintive quality, and the Andalusian cadence expresses loss, regret, and gratitude. For you see, there is a desperation we all share, that we are truly alone, even in the midst of our families with the comfy hearth and the colorful TV, we die as we dream and we must do it alone aloved at a loss along the liffey of the soul. So thanks to you, whosoever you are. We hope the above song finds you well and may your Thanksgiving be fun.
The 2015 Ben Folds album So There features one of the most stunning examples of a meta-musical joke song, “F-10 D A”, a song so grand it basically puts every like-minded effort off of Los Doggies’ e’rebody to shame.
To quote Ben, he wanted to write a song to “teach kids how to cuss,” as well as learn “what notes they can cuss from, theoretically and correctly,” and so from the reverberated shower (where the best ideas come from), he came up with this dirty little chestnut. The double meaning of the cryptogram should be readily apparent in all its delightful childishness. Click on the melodies and drag over the chords to listen.
On the “D”, the piano plays an Ebmaj7 chord so that the melody hits the major seventh. This is a very Ben Foldsy kinda thing to do, although I can’t say why, and don’t have another example, but let’s just say he’ll often throw in Major Seventh chords and sing them (such as in the song “Narcolepsy”).
“F-10 D A” contains lots more note name puns and cryptogram fun such as in the line “See what it’s like to be flat.”
Good thing Los has long since moved out of the musical edutainment field and become a strictly emo band. Otherwise Ben Folds would’ve 25 skidooed us the eff out of there. Even better than the song is the interview he gave about the song in which he shares all of my obsessive compulsive concerns—the lack of an easy G note pun and the last note of the song mistakenly landing on the F despite saying “A”. I suppose nobody wants to get effed in the F though.
Is it possible to not like this man? He could cover one eye on his album cover and ritually sacrifice his former bandmates for all I care.
The Multi-Tone Car Alarm has six tones and they’re all wonderful. What urban soundscape would be complete without the bleepity-bloopity of a sine wave gone wild? Before dubstep had its way with us, before EDM consumed all pop music, there was the Multi-Tone.
The first ‘tone’ is a series of ooey-ooies, followed by the rapid lazer beams of the second tone, while the third tone gets musical, in fifth intervals from C to G. The G is much sharper than a Perfect Fifth, giving it the feeling of a Minor Six. It’s a little scary. The tempo also slows down significantly, so it’s safe to call this “the drop.” If I were playing drums to this alarm, I’d probably go half-time here; it just feels right.
Click on the score to play/stop.
After that, the fourth tone is a rising whoot-whoot portamento, which segues nicely into the alarm clock-style buzzing below. The fifth tone was probably inspired by the even chirping of a field cricket.
The alarm finishes with a salvo of slower lazers, then loops back to the beginning and repeats throughout the night.
Look out for my forthcoming album Drums! where I play moderate rock beats live to car alarms, church bells, and a babbling brook by the side of the road.
The EKG’s got the high B! Click on the score to loop/stop.
When you’re hooked up to an electrocardiogram, your heart beats evenly at 60 bpm. It doesn’t shuffle like the biological lub-dub of your heart sound; this is electronic music which doesn’t ever shuffle.
As long as you keep the beat, you’re alive. However, when you flatline, The Great Conductor places a fermata on top of your scoresheet.
You can now return to the Wellspring of Consciousness. Heaven awaits, locked away and forgotten behind your mind. Recalling the joke of your life, you can now see that death was the punchline. So you laugh at yourself, floating high above the firmament in your ascended form, and take one last glance around the Earth before returning home in a blue beam of light. It is now okay for the nurses to unplug the EKG and silence the incessant beeping.
Windows 8 was a crappy mess of an OS, but the sound scheme was GOAT. Pardon my internet slang, but this was the only scheme I hesitated to turn off. We’ve covered other Win8 sounds here on this blog, but the ones that stand out over time are the sounds for the “hardware insert” and “hardware removal.” Like call and answer, the two sounds compliment each other.
Here’s the hardware insert, a sprightly F Major Seventh chord. Click on the black stemmed noteheads. (Click rapidly for extra fun.)
And here’s the removal sound; they both resolve to the E—the 7th of the F Maj. 7.
In and out goes the USB, and pleasurably does she sound, a tiny fanfare of electrical excitement.
The entire Windows 8 sound scheme is in the key of F major, a pleasant FACE of a key. The simple timbres evoke a perfect future where machines sound softly and never buzz or bloop—a nice contrast to the ubiquitous marimbas of iphones.
What sonic pleasures does Windows 10 offer? I’m too scared to open my backdoor to find out.