All posts by Durkin

He used to play the piano, he was a very nice boy


As I have written before, I don’t really consider myself a pianist. I get the job done, but that’s about it. Still, every once in a while I will publicly put myself in an extemporaneous pianistic situation, in order to blur my own sense of the distinctions between “composition” and “performace.” (Actually, this is something I’m doing more and more in my current side gig as a church organist, which often requires incidental music at the drop of a hat, forcing me to improvise my best approximation of a medieval sacred style.)

Most composers will agree that just sitting down and playing (and recording the performance) is an incredibly useful practice, because it inevitably reminds one of the unprocessed core of musical expression. And in my own case, that initial musical gesture is really where all of my music ultimately comes from. So I like to do this sort of thing a lot (though rarely in public).

One of the few times I’ve freely improvised within earshot of a “real studio” was back in 2003, during the session that ultimately produced The Star Chamber. One of the tunes on that record was a thing called “Schwarzkopf Takes the High ‘C’ for Flagstad,” which featured a prelude duet improvised by myself and master multi-woodwind-ist Cory Wright. (We’re pictured above during a 2002 rehearsal in Culver City.) At the session we recorded numerous versions of this prelude, because I wanted to have a bunch from which to choose. In the end, several takes of three different configurations — piano and flute, piano and clarinet, and piano and tenor — were preserved for posterity.

I recently came across (raw and unmixed copies of) these out-takes in my archive, and thought, what the hell? May as well offer them up to the internets. (I should also admit that I was at least partly inspired by the example of musician/writer/blogger Henry Powderly, who recently began posting some of his own (really quite beautiful) piano meditations.)

Overall, the set is sort of melancholy and charming, and maybe a little restless. Interestingly, most of the tunes on The Star Chamber are of the long-form persuasion, but these preludes are true miniatures. So maybe they are actually morphologically (and I guess philosophically) closer to the “less-is-more” aesthetic I’ve been exploring lately. In other ways, these “Schwarzkopf Duets” provide a pretty radical counterpoint to the edition of the IJG that is out and about these days.

Anyway, thanks to the marvel that is SoundCloud, you can listen to (or download) any of these duets (which all clock in at under two minutes) by clicking any of the play buttons below. Or, just go to my SoundCloud page, and listen to the whole set: click the top track, and they will all play automatically, albeit in reverse order. (Note that “Duet no. 9” is the one I ended up using in the album version of “Schwarzkopf.”)


Star Chamber duet no. 1 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 2 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 3 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 4 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 5 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 6 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 7 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 8 by uglyrug

Star Chamber duet no. 9 by uglyrug

Meme of memes

jesus beardFacial hair jokes: we can’t get enough of ’em. Sorry.

This one comes from the Blog of Christ, which as an agnostic I probably should have discovered a long time ago. It’s called “I Think It’s About Time I Lose the Beard”:

You know, it dawned on me recently that I’ve been rocking the same look for two millenia now, and never once considered a change.

Part of the reason was probably that you people love my long hair and beard look so much. Must be something appealing to you about the irony of worshipping a guy whose hair is a length forbidden by the most fundamentalist of you and whose beard makes him look like a homeless man you cross the street to avoid.

Majority of you Christians out there ignore the bulk of what I say anyway. You act like blessing those that curse you and turning the other cheek is some mamby-pamby hippy talk, not a decree from the Son of God. So maybe, you need a clean-shaven Lord and Savior to rail on you like a drill sergeant, and force some love, joy, peace, and patience down your throat.

So be it.

(Ya gotta click for the result.)

The “Howl” Remix Contest


(Updated December 4, 2009.)

As another one of my crazy schemes to get the word out about this silly band, I offer up the first official IJG remix contest. Ever.

(Credit where it’s due: this was at least partly inspired by a similar contest conducted by Chris Schlarb back in 2006.)

The song I selected for the remix treatment is a “perennial favorite” (if such words even obtain in the land of Industrial Jazz) from our LEEF album: “Howl.” (If you have never heard it before, you can grab it from the ReverbNation player embedded there on your right.)

What we have here, first, is a breakout of every track that went into creating the Frankenstein version of the tune that actually ended up on the album. As explained in the album’s liner notes, said version was actually a combination of live Bimhuis tracks, plus a bit of studio sweetening (from a multi-tracked session that preceded the Bimhuis show). All of the tracks (except drums) are mono, and are taken from the mix that I made at home before lugging the entire session to engineer Nick Moon. Voila:

Soprano 1 / Soprano 2 / Alto / Tenor 1 / Tenor 2 / Bari / Studio sax 1 / Studio sax(es) 2 / Trumpet 1 / Trumpet 2 / Trumpet 3 / Studio trumpet(s) / Bone 1 / Bone 2 / Studio bone(s) / Bass / Drums (stereo) / Vocal

And just because I know (believe me, I know) how challenging it can be to mix that many tracks, and just because I know you may prefer to work with something more, uh, scaled down, I’m going to provide some simple stems as well:

High saxes / Low saxes / All bones / All trumpets / Rhythm section

*** UPDATE! *** In response to several requests for higher quality source material, I have now uploaded AIFFs of all tracks here. (And if you prefer WAVs, I believe that iTunes can do your conversion job.)

*** ANOTHER UPDATE! *** AIFFs have been re-upped here. Should be live until the deadline, but let me know if there are any more problems.

Total personnel (live + studio): Beth Schenck, Cory Wright, Evan Francis, Brian Walsh, Katharina Thomsen, Josh Sinton, Ariel Alexander, Damon Zick, Ryan Perez-Daple (saxes); Dan Rosenboom, Phil Rodriguez, Andre Canniere (trumpet); James Hirschfeld, Wolter Wierbos, Ron Christian, Mike Richardson (bone); Dan Schnelle (drums); Oliver Newell (bass); Jill Knapp (vox).

So. What are the specifics of this contest?

Consider it this way: I’m not particularly interested in hearing another mix of “Howl” that attempts to present the tune for “what it is,” and leaves the compositional elements more or less intact. What I am interested in is a true remix, something that re-imagines (indeed, improvises upon) the tune — say, by filling it out with some new voices, or by slicing and dicing its roadmap, or by mashing it up with the latest Christina Aguilera hit. You probably know my aesthetic by now — the crazier, and the more creative, the better.

We (the Industrial Jazz Group) will be selecting a winner based on that set of (admittedly vague) criteria. Said winner will receive $50, and will be given the option (if he or she so chooses) of having their creation included as a bonus track on the next Industrial Jazz Group recording (due out in 2010). He or she will also get a copy of said recording.

Need a deadline? Okay. How about we say that all entries are due by 11:59 PM on December 31 of this year (2009)*** UPDATE! *** The deadline has been extended to 11:59 PM on January 31, 2010. You get a whole extra month! (Don’t you wish everyone was that flexible?)

(For the curious, entries will be posted in this blog space upon submission — barring any objections, of course.)

Questions and submissions can be beamed (or hurled) at the following email addy: industrialjazzgroup (at) gmail (dot) com.

Everybody ready? Go!