The Bleeding Dragon

Miracously, I made to the final round of SpinTunes #8. The challenge was:

Painful Progression – Write a song about PHYSICAL pain, and do so using a I-V-vi-IV chord progression in the chorus.

My naive assumption is that I can deal with the musical restriction more easily than the other contestants this round, who are a bit jazzier in my ear. Anyway, for this round I couldn’t just throw out a quick song like I did last round. I’m not a good singer, so a “normal” pop song wasn’t my aim. My first idea was to write some kind of Irish folk song, instead. Even before I picked up my guitar I decided to write about the pain of a menstruating dragon. I had this idea for the first time back in 2006, when I took the Hammerfall song title “The Dragon Lies Bleeding” literally. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a jolly chorus. The rest of the song manifested itself more quickly. I had a percussive click track resembling a bhodran, which I kept in the final version. I went a bit crazy with all kinds of keyboard sounds (including some banjo!) but most of them are buried in the mix. Needless to say, I would have loved to have real instruments. Anyway, there was a deadline to meet and I am quite satisfied with the outcome.

What made me very happy was the following review by Dave Leigh:

This sounds like the sort of thing that Hobbits would sing at the pub. Really demented, sick hobbits. Hobbits who need therapy. Who in his right mind writes a song about a menstruating dragon? Nobody, and that should tell us a thing about Jutze. However, this is the form of insanity that’s just really, really entertaining.

Check out all entries! I also filmed a quick sofa video that ended up with an over-enthusiastic preview thumbnail.

Deep under the mountain in the dark and the cold
Sheltered from the wind and the rain
Sitting on a pile of silver and of gold
The mighty dragon is in pain
Maybe it is time to leave this cave behind
Time to get some fresh air

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

Only the elders have seen this once before
Almost a century ago
They shut all the windows and they lock every door
Hiding in the cellars below
Maybe there’s a chance to escape the burning flames
Maybe they will survive

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

High above the lake the dragon’s breathing fire
Feeling that the cycle is complete – once again
There’s no way around it, no use in climbing higher
The time has come to bleed
Maybe it is time she should start to procreate
It sucks to menstruate

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
In agony and pain the dragon is flying
Nobody knows how much more it’s going to take
The dragon in the sky feels like dying

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

2014 Creative Commons by-nc Johannes “Jutze” Schult

Dar Williams live in York

Dar Williams played at the Fibbers in York on March 11, 2014. She was her usual charming self and played a wonderful collection of songs. Given her back catalogue, it’s impossible to honour all requests. The upside of this is that pretty much every track is a winner. First, there were some gripping songs from her recent album, “In the Time of Gods”, and standard songs from her live repertoire. I was really happy that she played “Buzzer”, not only because I was there with some other psychologists. “The Ocean” and “February” were also personal highlights. The mix of upbeat and softer songs was perfect. Needless to say, the classic songs like “The Babysitter’s Here”, “When I Was a Boy”, and “As Cool as I Am” received the loudest applause from the roughly 90 people in the audience. I was pleasantly surprised that they sounded as fresh as the first time I heard them many years ago.

The music was great. The guitar was a tad too loud sometimes but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment. And there was, of course, a lot of insightful and funny banter between songs. The unique voice of Dar’s storystelling alone is worth the (humble) price of admission. I do hope there won’t be another eight year until I get to see her in concert again!

Dar Williams - live in York (2014)

Setlist:

  1. The Light and the Sea
  2. The Beauty of the Rain
  3. Spring Street
  4. I Have Been Around the World
  5. Buzzer
  6. Holly Tree
  7. I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You
  8. The Babysitter’s Here
  9. The Ocean
  10. The One Who Knows
  11. As Cool as I Am
  12. Storm King
  13. February
  14. When I Was a Boy
  15. The Christians and the Pagans

Over.

Estimating the Release Date of Richard Shindell’s Next Album

Richard Shindell has been working on his next album for quite some time now. His fans (that includes me) try to be patient. Several new songs have already made their live debut. The album is supposed to be called “Viceroy Mimic” (VM), but a couple of weeks ago he also mentioned “Same River Once” as a contender. Pressed about a release date, Shindell said (during a recent concert in Boston) January 2015. Regardless of this, here’s the statistical perspective – just for fun! The linear trend across all album releases (including live albums, cover albums, Cry, Cry, Cry etc.) suggests that a new album should have been released on November 4, 2013.

Graph: Linear prediction of the release dates of Richard Shindell albums (incl. live albums etc.)

The quadratic trend across Richard’s original studio albums, however, would imply a May 11, 2014 release date for “Viceroy Mimic”. The linear prediction appears to be worse in this case; it the lag between original albums is increasing.

Graph: Quadratic prediction of the release dates of Richard Shindell albums (only original studio albums)

Given the projected 2015 release, a cubic function might be necessary, soon. Anyway, below you can find the detailed data and the Stata code to replicate the graphs.

Continue reading ‘Estimating the Release Date of Richard Shindell’s Next Album’ »

Konferenz-Gedanken

Zum Ende der 2. GEBF-Tagung in Frankfurt habe ich ein paar Überlegungen festgehalten. Sie beziehen sich nicht zwingend auf die konkrete Konferenz, die insgesamt sehr kurzweilig war (und u.a. Kekse beinhaltete).

  • Alle Pausen (mindestens) 30 Minuten lang machen! Redezeiten werden überzogen, man geht zur Toilette, man deckt sich mit Kaffee und Keksen ein, bisweilen sind die Vortragsräume über verschiedene Gebäude verteilt – und es bleibt (bei 15-minütigen Pausen) kaum Zeit für Gespräche, Orientierung und Regeneration. (Im Zweifelsfall dafür eine Keynote weniger ins Programm nehmen.)
  • Hilfskräfte mit Wasserpistolen ausstatten, die immer dann zum Einsatz kommen, wenn ein Redner die Zeit überzieht! Ich fände es auch sinnvoll, eine Datenbank mit der Vortragsdauer (bzw. der jeweiligen Abweichung von der vorgegebenen Redezeit) anzulegen, damit bei zukünftigen Tagungen die “Überzieher” (Konferenz-übergreifend) identifizierbar sind.
  • Kekse anbieten! Zur Not die Teilnahmegebühr erhöhen.
  • Zum Starten von PowerPoint-Präsentationen F5 drücken! Ich persönlich wurde freilich das pdf-Format bevorzugen (bzw. ganz auf Folien verzichten). Bei Adobe Reader ist Strg+L die Vollbild-Tastenkombination.
  • Wer in einer Session zuletzt vorträgt, kann sich häufig die Einleitung sparen! Eine wiederholte Vorstellung der Konstrukte und Theorien ist redundant.
  • Vielleicht wäre es eine gute Idee, beim Tagungsbüro in der Nähe einen Stadtplan auszubreiten bzw. aufzuhängen, damit die Teilnehmer sich besser orientieren können (ÖPNV, Restaurants, Kneipen, Plattenläden).

Just a Dream

Just a Dream” by Brian Gray is one of my favourite SpinTunes entries. My cover version is clearly inferior to his recording, but this is the internet – I can do whatever I want! Okay, the Creative Commons by-nc license helps. The truth is, I recorded this song many months ago. I’m not happy with my vocals. And I had imagined a glorious video to go with my version. With Lego. And me in a cubicle. Anyway, I figured my singing talent isn’t going to improve and I might as well put this out for all the world to hear. I changed a few words here and there and compressed the bridge. Thankfully, Brian had posted most of the chords on his website. Please ignore my version and check out the original:

SpinTunes #8

It felt like a good idea to join the 8th edition of the SpinTunes songwriting contest. Naturally, I regretted my commitment repeatedly since I signed up. I produced two songs so far, and chances are I won’t advance to the third round. The current task was to write a hate song about someone. Here’s my song:

I read the prompt on Sunday morning and soon found myself tuning down my electric guitar. Half an hour later I had several melodic death metal parts ready. “Black Tears” by Edge of Sanity was a huge influence, although I only went back it after I finished my song. It turned out that it was way more melodic in my memory. Anyway, the song was there, now I needed lyrics. Like some other contestants, I didn’t want to write a hate song. I want to write love songs! Or songs about statistics. I used my initial reaction in the second verse and went back to an older idea for the first verse. They have nothing to do with each other, so I’m curious what the judges are going to make of it. I’m a bit uneasy regarding the mix. My heart says the (programmed) drums should be louder, but my heart is a fickle bastard with timing problems.

The first round was all about missing someone. I toyed with various ideas, all of them glorious, but I didn’t have time to elaborate any of them. Also, I needed music. I even tracked real drums, but the one take I had time to record was noisy and I liked the programmed brush drum set better. As for the lyrics, I ended up with an uneven relationship that was apparently good enough to get me to round 2.

Lektüre 2013

A list of books I finished reading in the last 12 months:

  • Patricia Highsmith: Zwei Fremde im Zug
  • Theresa Couchman: The Unmapped Lands
  • Elizabeth George: A Suitable Vengeance
  • Khaled Hosseini: Drachenläufer
  • Ian McEwan: On Chesil Beach
  • Marc-Uwe Kling: Die Känguru-Chroniken
  • Greg Cox: The Bestseller Job
  • Elizabeth George: For the Sake of Elena
  • Bertram Job: Bis zum bitteren Ende – Die Toten Hosen erzählen IHRE Geschichte
  • Allan Pease, Barbara Pease: Why Men Don’t Listen & Women Can’t Read Maps
  • Johan Harstad: 172 Hours on the Moon
  • Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop
  • Robert Galbraith: The Cuckoo’s Calling
  • José Carlos Somoza: Das Einstein-Projekt
  • Winston Graham: Marnie

Meet Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer

When was the first time you heard Simon & Garfunkel? Which song was it? Did you like it instantly? Do you want to have a similar experience? Then meet Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer. You will hear beautiful harmony vocals, nuanced lead melodies, a folky-edge, and a reckless passion for original music. You will find lyrics that venture beyond beyond the run-of-the-mill nonsense of mainstream pop music. And be warned: You will end up yearning for more even though you know very well that the duo is no longer making new music.

Just like Simon & Garfunkel, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer do not have one typical song. They have a dozen or so masterpieces. And yes, they have some weaker songs, as well. The bleak banjo of “When I Go” is a signature moment; the upbeat number “Gentle Arms of Eden” is another one. “Kate and the Ghost of Lost Love” – a haunting ballad – has been said to have attained the ever-ellusive state of perfection. And then there is “The Mountain”, an enigmatic tune that Joan Baez once played for the Dalai Lama. Personally, I would recommend their 2002 album “Drum Hat Buddha” to newcomers. “Ordinary Town”, its opening track, is the sort of simple song which takes a talented songwriter years to flesh out. Dave Carter’s songwriting, however, is effortless. Tracy Grammer’s clear voice brings the song to life and is augmented by subtle harmonies in the chorus. The second song paints a seemingly complete picture of “Tillman Co.”, mostly thanks to the catchy mandoline hookline and Carter’s poignant vocal performance. I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture. The lyrics are remarkably thoughtful, yet the music is mostly positive and uplifting. This is especially true for “Happytown”, the opener of their second album “Tanglewood Tree“.

Sadly, your local record store is unlikely to carry the duo’s works. I suggest you make the effort to get the music through Tracy Grammer’s homepage, webshops, or digital downloads; regard it as an active protest against soulless mainstream plastic songs and music business politics. Or better, regard it as a treat for your ears and your heart.

The Best Van Canto Songs According to Facebook

Yesterday, Van Canto asked their followers on Facebook to name their top 5 songs (incl. at least one cover and at least one original song). I aggregated the first 337 responses (excluding those that contain less than two songs). Here is the overall hit list (along with the number of votes):

Graph with Van Canto Song Statistics

You can find some more results below.

Continue reading ‘The Best Van Canto Songs According to Facebook’ »

The Best MTX Songs According to Me

Last year I made this compilation of MTX goodness for romance, road trips and overall awesomeness:

  1. Here She Comes
  2. Swallow Everything
  3. Swiss Army Girlfriend
  4. Dumb Little Band
  5. Lawnmower of Love
  6. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
  7. I Love You, But You’re Standing on My Foot (live)
  8. As Life Goes on You Get More and More out of It
  9. New Girlfriend (live)
  10. Sackcloth and Ashes
  11. Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba
  12. The History of the Concept of the Soul
  13. Semi-OK
  14. Jill (live)
  15. She’s My Alcatraz
  16. Will You Still Love Me When I Don’t Love You?
  17. I Fell for You
  18. You’re the Only One
  19. Losers Like You (Dr. Frank, live excerpt)