Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

To all nervy white folk who are anxious (or just plain panicked) about increasing ethnic and cultural diversity in America:

Become a well-rounded musician or music-listener and you might lose your fear of diversity.

As I bounce back and forth between sermon preparation and rehearsal for a piece of music I’m presenting in church tomorrow, it occurs to me that I am playing a flute traditionally used by Native Americans of the Great Plains, a guitar built by a Canadian company, all played over electronic music with roots in Europe with improvisation based on jazz, an African-American invention.

Oh . . . and the sermon is based on a piece of scripture from a writing originating in the Middle-East around 3,000 years ago (a Psalm from the Hebrew Bible, a.k.a. Old Testament). And to my knowledge, the Bible which we Christians, including White Christian Evangelicals (the religious group most disturbed by cultural diversity) claim to be the cornerstone of our religion, spirituality, and ethics was written by a bunch of Semitic Middle-Easterners and Greek-speakers from what is today’s Palestine, Syria, and Turkey. No American white guys involved.

Maybe I’m due to give an apology to my ethnicity, so here it goes:

To all white Americans—my apologies but, I just don’t get the fear of diversity that’s created the Alt Right, nurtured racial division and inequality, and somehow makes the angry rhetoric of American isolationism and wall building seem reasonable to far too many. Sorry, but I just don’t understand what the problem is and why I should be anxious, suspicious, and hateful of non-whites either in America or outside of it. Indeed, I feel enriched by exposure to cultures other than my own.

Okay . . . so that wasn’t really an apology. I guess I have no apology I feel I need to make for my embrace of the world’s cultural and ethnic diversity. Why should I? As God says in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make humanity in our image,” and that means all of us (I just can’t get that to read “Let us make white Americans in our image.”).

Oh, by the way, . . . about that wall one of our presidential candidates wants to build to wall off Mexico— The French tried that tactic already. It was called the Maginot Line and after great expense and effort to wall off France from Germany, the Germans simply went around it.

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After a career working with computers and lots of other high-tech and cutting-edge stuff, it’s ironic that I’m back into the vacuum tube biz. It’s been decades since Dad and I took lunch bags of suspicious tubes to the local drugstore to test them on their console tube tester. What goes around sometimes comes back.

EL84

Since I bought an Ampeg tube amp from a fellow guitarist, I’ve learned more about those finicky, fragile, lethally high-voltage tubes than I ever expected to know. Here’s my latest observation:

My amp has two EL84s in the power stage, is rated at 15 watts output, and is just plain loud. I toned it down a bit with a pair of EL844s (a lower output version of the EL84). They sound fine and breakup occurs just a bit sooner.

I tried to adjust the pre-amp stage as well by replacing the one 12AX7 with a 12AY7, a tube with a lower gain factor. This swap hasn’t gone as well as the EL844s. The 12AY7 makes the amp sound oddly soft in terms of response and overall sound (can’t think of a better way to describe it). Having gone back to the 12AX7, the amp sounds better.

Back to work (on tomorrow’s sermon) and maybe a little time later for some guitar . . .

Ya wanna huge, beautiful chord to hang in your aural space? Try the major 9th. These things are wonderful, with a sound that evokes large but not barren spaces. They are luxurious.

If you’re music theory is a bit rusty or you are new to extended chords, a major 9th begins with a major triad – root, major 3rd, perfect 5th – and adds the major 7th (a half-step below the root’s octave) and a major 9th (an octave above the major 2nd).

For example:  Cmaj9 = C E G B D’    Bbmaj9 = Bb D F A C’

The maj9, has a mildly suspended sound, and when several are bundled together they sound woven together. To hear this, try a progression of fourths, such as

Cmaj9  /  Fmaj9  /  Bbmaj9  /  Ebmaj9

Without hearing the progression you can see how they weave together.

C E G B D  /  F A C E G  /  Bb D F A C  /  Eb G Bb D F

If you haven’t used chords larger than 7ths, give the maj9 a try.

Caveat:  Because maj9 chords are so fat they leave less room to improvise over. It helps to keep lead lines simple.