Music

Jazz Fusion

Since I have been young I have been a chaotic youth.

I was diagnosed with ADHD and there was a lot of times that I just needed a lot of stimulus.

If you met me now, you might have never thought that, most people assume I am just a very chill guy and always have been. I am chill now in spite of my youth, not because of my youth.

That said, plenty of things carry over mentally, and one of those things is that I like really bizarre rhythms and sounds. I didn’t realize that as a child, but it is clear to me nowadays. Anytime I hear an interesting new sound or composition I really enjoy it.

When I was young I liked the Beatles. This isn’t weird or individualistic of me. I am not the only one who really liked the Beatles, there are so so so many young people who do.

Rant Begin.

There are so many young people who believe they are enlightened for listening to older music and not this stupid (c)rap stuff. These are probably the only people who actually make me cringe. Sidenote: If you say you like everything but country and rap, you are also probably wrong.

Rant End.

But this isn’t about people who think they are born in the wrong generation. This is about young Maxwell who listened to Magical Mystery Tour more than any other Beatles album that he had.

I didn’t understand it at the time. I had listened to Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, Let it be, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper, and while all of these are great albums, they did not stand up against Magical Mystery Tour. I loved Magical Mystery Tour, with its extensive use of synthesizer and sound effects.

And then I listened to a lot of indie rock. This was alright. I did that for a couple of years, the years between Intermediate School and High School.

And then in Middle School something cool happened, Pandora came out, and my musical diversity skyrocketed.

From one band that I knew called Surrogate I somehow found another staple of my musical appetite, The Sea and Cake. I also found StarFlyer 59 which I would go on to actually appreciate in college. But Sea and Cake really got things clicking in my brain.

They aren’t a weird band by any means, they are (according to wikipedia) an indie rock band with jazz influence. They just kind of jam and it was the first music that I really couldn’t understand the lyrics to, and really just enjoyed the sound of the band itself.

From there I somehow found my way to math rock, whose only goal is to shove as many beats into a bar as possible and break as many musical conventions as possible.

Oops, now I’m listening to New Wave, and wait, that isn’t a bad thing. New Wave is great because it is full of synthesizer and weird sound effects and usually a lot is going on.

And then I found what would become my bread and butter.

Art of Noise.

I talked about this band at (some) length in one of my first blog posts. They were an 80’s electronic band that would just sample things. They sampled a lot of things and every song had something interesting and new going on in it.

At this point I almost couldn’t hear new music because it wasn’t gimmicky enough.

Then I got to college and it is much of the same. Until recently.

Recently I found Jazz Fusion and it is everything that I could want.

It has funky light rock melodies, and weird, weird synthesizer, and everyone is just jamming and going at it.

And that is only if you do Classic Jazz Fusion where they fuse the funkiness of jazz with the classic style of rock. This can go way beyond.

Of my favorite fusion artists:

Herbie Hancock – Literally a classic, a description won’t do him any justice. Headhunters is one of the most amazing albums, I used to climb a stairmaster and listen to it on repeat. Only good memories.

Return to Forever (featuring Chick Corea) – I assume these guys are also a classic, but I have listened to them a whole lot recently. They have an album called The Romantic Warrior, and they are able to get jazz, rock, and medieval melodies all to match up. It’s a masterpiece.

Jan Hammer – Oh Yeah! That’s all I got to say…. No seriously, ‘Oh Yeah!’ is the title of one of his albums and it is definitely high in the most hectic of fusions. It’s wonderful.

Guru – Alright, you caught me, this isn’t funky funky jazz rock. This is Jazz Hip Hop. If you ever listened to hip hop and thought, “Know what would be good? If there was professional jazz musicians backing up this rapper.” Then this is the guy for you. He released 2 volumes of what he called Jazzmatazz and I highly suggest you look them up.

That’s all I got to say, I’m on a jazz fusion kick, and it is one of the best musical phases I have experienced. When I saw La-La Land and part of the premise was that some people don’t like jazz I almost vomited.

And with that disgusting hyperbole, I’m signing off. Take it easy.


Googlin’… It is so Darn Fun!

Before I begin this blog post I would like to link to a Guadalajara Joe song named Segwayin’ and Googling. It is exactly what it sounds like.

Now for the real blog post.

I am a computer science major in college, and for most of the population that means that I’m a computer wizard. But I don’t believe I am. I don’t even believe most of the people who I think are tech savvy are computer wizards.

I believe we are just good at Googling.

Now I’m not trying to demean any of the skills of myself or my classmates by saying that. For one, it is definitely a heavy exaggeration. For two, there is definitely some inherent truth to it.

I believe that this generation is capable of accessing more information than the past generation could even imagine. Following that belief I believe that the next generation is going to access more information than we could imagine, even more efficiently.

Most of the past generation don’t inherently understand computers. They weren’t born with them. To understand how google works, and how the web works, and how your web browser works, and how your keyboard and mouse work you have to learn. They aren’t naturally intuitive.

To understand something intuitively you can’t just know certain inputs lead to certain outputs, you have to know why certain inputs lead to certain outputs. You can learn to intuitively understand computers but nothing beats using a computer as a child, the best time to learn intuition.

This brings me to my next point.

My parents weren’t born with computers.

I was born with decent desktop and laptop computing.

My children will probably be born holding smartphones that will out-compute the computers I had as a child (maybe even the bulk of the computers nowadays).

For example:

My parents’ generation access Google to look up a popular site name that they already know, instead of using the url.

My generation types in sentences to Google that are halfway incomprehensible in order to find better results.

My children’s generation will probably be using our gibberish with fancy search filter terms.

I don’t know if my thoughts came across as complete, but all I’m trying to say is that the ability to Google could be considered a defining distinction between my generation and the last.

I’m a Huge Fraud

I really hope that title, although true, doesn’t get taken out of context later in my life. I’m a huge fraud, but given some context I think we can all get a good laugh out of it.

Last year in the middle of the summer I started my YouTube channel Xylo-A-Day to ensure that I would essentially practice everyday.

Every day I upload content to that channel.

Every day I lie to the public.

There are 287 videos posted at the time of writing this blog that are all complete and utter lies.

It’s not a xylophone, it’s a marimba (specifically, a Musser M31).

I know, I know. I apologize.

But here’s the thing, I didn’t realize that it was a marimba. And I know that sounds a little far-fetched, considering that I have been playing mallet instruments since middle school but let me explain myself.

The high school where I learned to play used Yamaha instruments not Musser.

Here is a Yamaha Marimba:

Image result for Yamaha marimba

Here is a Musser M31 Marimba (The instrument I have):

Image result for musser m31

And here is a Yamaha xylophone:

Image result for yamaha xylophone

At this point you are either in two fields:

  • Maxwell, the difference is so obvious! Look at the resonators!
  • Those are different instruments?

And as a person who has had 6 years of mallet instrument experience by the time I got out of high school, I’m ashamed to say that somehow after a year of playing on a marimba I’m just now realizing that it is a marimba.

All throughout my time playing mallet instruments I was always a little upset when people would call every mallet instrument a xylophone. I’ve become my own worst nightmare. For a year, I’ve been running a channel on the premise that it is in fact a xylophone.

Hindsight is 20/20. Now that I look at it I can’t believe I ever thought it was a xylophone. But I understand what led me to that assumption.

Here is list of all of the blunders that led me to believe for a whole year that I’ve been playing a xylophone:

  • When I was told about it in the first place, I was told it was a xylophone.
  • Bar Width, I didn’t know marimbas could have fixed width bars.
    • A Yamaha Marimba increases bar width and length the lower the pitch gets.
    • A Yamaha Xylophone has a fixed width and the bar itself gets longer.
    • A Musser M31 marimba has a fixed width bar and the bar itself gets longer.
  • When I got it I completely spaced on the fact that resonators are not supposed to be that long for a xylophone. That one is fully on me.
  • It isn’t in great condition. It’s not necessarily in bad condition, but the lower frequencies cause the resonators to rattle a lot, so I prefer not to play them. This meant I mainly played and heard the higher end of the marimba, which is more xylophone-ey than marimba-ey.
  • In the euphoria of receiving a mallet instrument I played it without question, which means that up until last Sunday I never looked actually looked up the model of the instrument. That one is fully on me as well.

So does this mean that I am going to name change Xylo-A-Day? Am I going to change it to Marimba-a-Day?

Nope.

My plans with the channel is to one day have a variety of mallet instruments, so Xylo-A-Day is here to stay. I still really want to play a vibraphone on the channel and whenever I get one and upload those videos I wouldn’t change my name to Vibra-A-Day.

At the very least, I plan to reflect from here on out that it is in fact a marimba and not a xylophone. You can still expect me to put xylophone tags everywhere since most people don’t know what a marimba is anyways.

And last but not least thanks to Cris the Experience for making me question everything that I hold dear.

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I Made Another Video of Decent Quality

Yesterday, I made another quality video. It involved the Zelda Chest Opening Theme, dry ice, and a cooler.

This semester I tasked myself with uploading at least 5 quality videos amidst the never-ending onslaught of daily videos, which mainly consist of only <30 second folk songs. I’ve only uploaded a few that I thought of high enough quality to check off my to-do list, one of which was the GameCube Startup Theme.

From that video I learned a few things. I learned I could edit my videos just slightly more than usual and come up with profoundly greater looking videos. The GameCube Startup Theme only consisted of me playing one riff and then overlaying the GameCube startup video. It was short and sweet and it looked alright, so I decided to upload it to Reddit to see if I could get any exposure for the channel. Most of the time I submit to subs that can be associated with the videos:

  1. Zelda theme week on /r/Zelda
  2. Super Mario Bros on /r/Mario
  3. Sound of Silence on /r/ArrestedDevelopment

I couldn’t submit to /r/gaming though because at the time I didn’t comment enough to pass the threshold created by the sub to post. So I was left with /r/YouTubeHaiku, which specializes in short YouTube videos.

And it was a jackpot, in terms of my channel at least.

Most of my videos on my channel average at around 5 to 6 views after a few days after uploads, unless I advertise it on the Twitter or post it to an appropriate subreddit, which then can vary the results from 40 – 100ish views.

The GameCube Startup Theme garnered 1000 views in a single day, brought my view count to 4000, making that video account for about 25% of all the views on my channel… which had well over a hundred videos.

So there it was, the flash in the pan. The lightning in a bottle. The fluke. I couldn’t think of anything else to upload that would be of such short length and such high quality. Until a week ago when I came up with the idea of using the Zelda Chest Opening Theme.

It was an iconic sounding riff, it had an iconic animation associated with it, and I could put a little gag at the end, all of which are needed for a successful video. I now even knew of a place that would be highly accepting of my video.

To give credit where credit is due I got the sheet music from NinSheetMusic.org they are super awesome and as the name implies, have sheet music for Nintendo games.

The next step was recreating the iconic animation, which in my mind consists of Link reaching into a semi-mysterious glowing chest and then pulling out the item that he found. Then I needed the parts:

  1. Link – Myself
  2. Semi-mysterious – A fog effect created by dry ice
  3. Glowing – A phone flashlight
  4. Chest – The cooler I bought along with the dry ice
  5. Item – A piece of paper that says ‘consider subscribing’

This was the result.

The rig inside the cooler was pretty funny itself. It consisted of a block of dry ice leaned towards the door, on the side of cooler closest to the camera. I would pour hot water on it to create the fog effect which then created the issue of the dry ice now becoming ever so slightly wet.

This meant that the paper could not be put directly on the dry ice or it would get wet. My solution was to place a block on top of the dry ice to create a flat surface after I poured the water on it. This created a dry surface that a paper could be placed on then easily found in fog.

Then I needed light. I had a flashlight but it wasn’t strong enough so I needed to use my phone’s light. This turned out to be risky because I couldn’t just put my phone on the bottom of the cooler due to the hot water. My solution was to place my phone on a small coffee cup, which I then placed into the cooler after pouring in the water.

With all those elements put together I was able to create the video, which upon looking at the stats, is getting pretty successful. I’ve almost doubled my subscribers so far thanks to the gag at the end and it has also garnered at least a thousand views.

I can’t make any promises, but I’m hoping to try to release a semi-quality video every week or so (something that is of considerable length i.e. >minute) and a quality video (something of good editing) every month or so. I’m also hoping to have a Metroid Theme Week, much like the Zelda theme week of a semester ago.

I’m excited to see where the future takes Xylo-A-Day!

If you want to edit the video, here it is so you don’t have to rip it from YouTube:

Smash Mouth and Metroid

Sometime around 2004 my brother and I were playing Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

To de-rail the conversation if you aren’t familiar: the Metroid series follows the exploits of intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran. It was a 2d action shooting platformer game that has a large map and elaborate tunnel systems. In 2002 Metroid Prime was released on Gamecube, shifting the 2d platformer into the third dimension.

So it is sometime around 2004 and I’m still a young boy. My brother decided that the sound track to Metroid Prime 2 wasn’t amazing enough, so he played Smash Mouth in the background while he played the game. The reason I remember this is because this was the first time I ever thought of playing a game with different music in the background. And thus begins my weird trail of associations.

Every now and then my friends and I will be chilling in the living room and we will be talking about a game or talking about some music and one will remind me of the other. It usually doesn’t make sense either. This will then be followed by a guessing game that I make my friends reluctantly play (am I a great friend or what?).

To name some of them:

Metroid Prime and Smash Mouth. As the title says anytime I listen to Smash Mouth I won’t deny that I have an itch to play Metroid. Same works in reverse, Metroid is way more fun to play when you are blasting All-Star in the background. Safe to say this Friday when Metroid: Samus Returns is released, I’ll probably be playing it to the tune of Walkin’ on the Sun.

Killing Floor and Comedy. Killing Floor is a wave based monster survival game. It involves gore and lots and lots of monsters. It is also grotesque and a little frightening. In contrast it is very rewarding to shred through armies of the bloodthirsty while also listening to Demetri Martin talk about sweater vests.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band + Magical Mystery Tour. By far one of my favorite games, Twilight Princess is an installment in the Legend of Zelda series. It follows Link (or whatever you want to name the hero) as he has to defeat the forces of evil and also transform into a wolf. This one is the simplest explanation, I liked the Beatles and one Christmas I got Twilight Princess and two Beatles CD’s. I have vivid memories of being stuck for hours trying to figure out how to thaw Zora’s domain while also listening to Your Mother Should Know.

I can’t think of any more off the top of my head right now, but if I remember a really good one I’ll probably update this post.

The Race to Space Boy

Today’s post is about the music artist Space-Boy. If you haven’t heard of him he is on bandcamp and his music is definitely worth a listen.

I don’t know what to say, I’m a big fan of electronic music, and this guy produces the perfect kind of it. I’m not a music critic, just a music appreciator.

The first few posts of this blog were about music, and I was able to say this guitar was good, that drum was good, this flute was good, etc. With Space-Boy though I really don’t know what to say, so I’m just going to go through every song on Dioskouroi, my favorite album of his and say where I think the song would be good.

  1. Abandoned manners – 8 bit dungeon crawler
  2. The Orange Laser – Laser Tag, whether real or in a video game
  3. Tension – Space based platformer where you are on a moon mining camp
  4. Approaching Past – Timed escape sequence
  5. Kicked while down – Steampunk potion shop
  6. DBS – Cave music
  7. Outlandish probability – This would fit well in a game like Metroid, essentially an astronaut exploring the ruins of an advanced space civilization
  8. DBS2 – Inn music
  9. Raw – Exposition scene of a space explorer video game where the protagonist who is an astronaut is just chilling in the lounge of his space ship while text is being shown on screen telling you what is going on
  10. Near Crisis – Exploring the surface of a planet
  11. Space rain – A scene where the astronaut is trying to navigate through a whole bunch of asteroids
  12. Air Mattress Lullaby – lighthearted platformer where you play as a sheep who is trying to find all the gumdrops in the sunshine kingdom
  13. Chill – This would be in the lava room of a giant cave system where there just happens to be an innkeeper trying to rent out a bedroll to dungeon explorers who have managed to survive the perils of the cave to get there
  14. Somehow – Dungeon explorer through a giant ice cave
  15. What You’ve Found – Astronaut lands on a distant planet and as he is opening the door to his ship a vibrant land comes into view
  16. That Annoying Muzak – First person shooter when the protagonist has to sneak through a technologically advanced restricted area
  17. One Person Missing(You) – Town music for walking through a bustling town with a long to-do list
  18. Nile – Dungeon game where the protagonist just entered great pyramids
  19. Last Resort(The World is Flooding) – The molten layers of the fire dungeon, right after the innkeeper checkpoint
  20. Departures – Robot factory that has long been abandoned but still seems to be churning mysteriously
  21. Intermission – Dungeon exploration game where you just got to a new part of the cave and it’s filled with all kinds of weird creatures
  22. 3 days left – First person dungeon explorer
  23. Unremitting – Boss fight where the boss is either flying or fast
  24. Department of Ministries – This is the same as departures except it doesn’t seem abandoned at all, instead it is overflowing with activity
  25. Rapids – Space racing game where the protagonist is finally racing against his greatest foe
  26. Open Ducts – Just walking around the space ship while the ship is steadily chugging along the expanse of space
  27. Rolling Blackouts – Oh No! While the protagonist was walking through the techno-ruins he awoke the giant security robot. Get ready for a boss fight against an ancient mecha.
  28. Ghoats – Platformer where you are a lamb looking for gumdrops in the sunshine kingdom but you stumbled into the goat cemetery

Also if you are looking a song that reminds you to check your e-mail inbox check this song out.

Everything said, Space-Boy is a great artist, and you should definitely check out his stuff.

Harry and the Quest for Everlasting Awesomeness

“…And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright…”
Sultans of Swing’, Dire Straits

To give some backstory, Sultans of Swing is a song by Dire Straits. As far as my literary analysis goes, the song is about a small band and all of its members. It doesn’t paint the small band as anything particularly amazing or anything particularly sad, it is just a small band of people who get together and play music.

The lyric above was and probably is still one of my favorite music quotes around. It perfectly illustrates a man who hones a skill as a hobby; he plays an instrument and has no desire to make it big. Harry has a daytime job, maybe a family, maybe a dog, cat, who knows? What we do know though is that Harry is pretty alright at guitar and he has no intention of devoting his life to it.

It’s refreshing in literature and art to create a person who is so uninspiring. If it were a novel or play, Harry playing guitar would never show up, in fact super boring Harry would probably be at best a side character who is notable for being mundane. His guitar playing would never change his life, or the story, and so they would never put it up on stage. Playwrights don’t put things on stage without it actually having an effect on the story, as illustrated by Chekhov’s gun.

Yet in this song, in this band, there is a completely normal guy who understands his limits and understands that he has a stable job that he shouldn’t risk on some mediocre guitar playing.

Now here is my side of the story, this quote used to define me, in fact I would go as far to say it used to inspire me. The idea that I only need to worry about my daytime job and then I can be as mediocre at whatever else I want to be sounds very tempting.

I used to be like that, I used to be daunted by tasks and just strive for mediocrity. This quote drove me to shut down on trying things just because I was sure that I would fail and then where would I be?

I wouldn’t be the best. Who cares about the guy who gets the silver medal?

The fact is most people aren’t going to be astronauts, most people aren’t going to be billionaires, most people aren’t going to master an instrument or a sport. Do not let this discourage you.

Harry probably isn’t the best guitar player there is, and he came to that conclusion, and that’s fine. I bet you though he practices a couple of times a week and he tries to get better.

Life isn’t about being THE BEST it is about being the BEST YOU CAN BE.

I have seen people who have tons of raw talent and don’t apply themselves get greatly surpassed by those who have nothing and put their heart into it. Most people would be surprised to see the best they can be is much better than what they thought they could be.

Have goals, and shoot for the gold, there is no reason to settle for mediocrity. Also know your limits, there is no reason to beat yourself up for being second best, because that is still better than ~7 billion people (as of now).

There is no reason to worry about being the best there is, only the best you can possibly be. Harry realized that. He realized he probably can’t make it big, but it’s fine because he’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright.

Supertramp and the Super Best Music

First off, I wanted to apologize to the non-existent people who read this blog, I said I would put a post up every Wednesday with my recommendation for something and I already failed that. Hopefully it won’t happen again, these sub-par recommendations are of the upmost importance.

So for my next recommendation it’s another band (I promise next week I won’t cop out and do another band).

The band this week is Supertramp, an English rock band who has a killer pianist. Many of their songs contain intricate rhythms and fast-paced piano playing and to say anymore would be overstepping into music taxonomy. All I can really do is show you some of their songs which have found their way into my heart.

First off the song that actually got me into Supertramp was Cannonball, this is the epitome of what I was just saying. It is faced-paced, energetic, and best of all, lasts a while in case you don’t want it to end (which I hope you don’t).

If you are a fan of the TV show The Office, then you might know the song Goodbye Toby, but what you might not know is that it is a parody of Supertramp’s Goodbye Stranger. The fact that Goodbye Stranger is about one night stands only makes the comedic impact of Goodbye Toby that much funnier.

Another song I would recommend giving a listen to is Lord is it Mine. This song is much slower paced then all the other songs I have listed but it has its merits elsewhere. The piano playing is meaningful, the vocals are on par, and the instrumentals kick in at just the right times to make a difference.

And finally my personal favorite… Drumroll please… Asylum. Although this isn’t one of their critically acclaimed songs, like Breakfast in America or The Logical Song, this has turned out to be one of my favorite songs in existence.

Asylum has:
1. Interesting Lyrics
2. Fantastic instrumentation
3. Slow parts complemented by fast parts
4. Rapid inflection changes
5. A live version that goes much faster

In fact it was actually the live version that I heard first and I grew to love. When I first heard the studio version I thought it was greatly inferior to the live version. Then it grew on me and now I have 2 spots on my favorite songs list filled by the exact same song.

Although this post was probably just an elaborate plug for Asylum (otherwise known as the best song in the universe), I definitely do recommend listening to the rest of their music, it’s a treat to any percussionists out there.

Gimmicks in Music and Art of Noise

I really like sampled music and music that pushes the boundaries of conventional music. I’m not a gimmicky guy but it is hard to deny that if music has a little quirky sound effect I’m not attracted to it.

Because of this I have I listen to music to bands like Art of Noise. If you never heard of them I don’t blame you, but I hope this post might broaden your horizons.

Art of Noise is a British avant-garde synthpop group that came around in the 1980’s. They weren’t and still aren’t widely known, but they have produced a few hits, including:
Moments in Love
Beat Box
Close to the Edit
Instrumentals to Tom Jones’ “Kiss”

As I said, these are their hits and I do enjoy them but they will only give you a taste of their style. That stuff is probably tame considering some of their other music might just be a continuous sample of somebody saying “Legs.”

But all in all my favorite of their works is definitely the Seduction of Claude Debussy. This is a concept album which could very easily be the soundtrack to a Claude Debussy drama documentary. If you don’t know who Claude Debussy is you’ll know it by the end of the album.

What is so fantastic about the album is that it contains such a diversity of genres.
“But does it have rap” Have you ever heard of Rakim?
“But I have refined taste, is there any opera” That is a bellowing yes.
“What about string quartets” Yes.
“Wait, is there any electronic music in it at all?” Beep Boop.
“Does it have narration from John Hurt?” Affirmative.
“Would this make good music for a colorguard show?” Actually… Yes.
“Classical piano?” That is Claude Debussy.

If you are reading this and you have an hour to try out new music or listen to new sounds then you should really give it a try.

That is all I have to say about Art of Noise, at least without making this post thousands of words long, they are an awesome band and they probably have a song that could fit your tastes.