First day of spring, new musical interests, and being stiff and sore

Happy equinox/first day of spring… finally!

I had my first clematis blossoms open on my really early Clematis armandii ’Apple Blossom’

And I almost have daffodils open (outside of the teeny mini-daffodils), but I guess those are for next week.

Yeah, I said that last week, but the Replete daffodils haven’t co-operated yet.

I did have the first open bloom on my “Bridal Crown” daffodils, but those live in a pot, which is kinda different.

I haven’t done a damn thing for the spring flowerbed clean-up this week, though. Oh well.

So far, so good as far as the squirrels are concerned – the little bastards have continued to stay away from my roof and eavestroughs.

The new fascia boards are under the covered patio and have been painted white, waiting to be installed sometime soonish, at least on the east side.

What else… I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around writing some more upbeat, cheerful kinda string music for the opening bumper for the comedy podcast I’m starting with a friend.

The first round of that resulted in music that was more suitable for Under My Skin, so that became the new intro and outro music for that show.

My friend mentioned Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ as an example of the sort of feel he thinks might work. It’s triumphant and happy (and also rather posh, which is what makes it funny as inspiration for the intro and outro music because we ain’t).

So, I’ve been trying to write something similar, which is surprisingly difficult when my Overton window of what the music I write should sound like has been shifted so far to the angry/stormy/lamentation side.

I did come up with a new short piece that might well work, basically by trying to think of one of the butterflies that skits around in my garden in the summer, have the solo violin be the butterfly and the rest of the strings set the tone for that. Major key stuff, etc.

It ain’t Mozart, but it’s certainly a very different vibe to anything I’ve written before other than maybe a few 4 bar counterpoint examples from back in my UBC School of Music days, and that was just for exams in music theory class.

Quite the brain-melter, trying to write in a different style than I normally write in. Which, as you might guess from maQLu, tends to be quite dissonant and dramatic… “dark night of the soul” as my pal put it. (The odd thing being that I’m not necessarily that way in my real life, or at least, I try not to be.)

But hey, it’s a good challenge. And I’m still thinking of trying my hand at writing some musicals, and I will definitely have to do some style shifting to suit those works and the needs of the plots and characters.

Not that it wouldn’t be hilarious to do a comedy musical wherein all the music was dark and miserable, but you want that to be a deliberate comedic choice, not something you’re forced to do because you’ve never written anything else.

I might actually spend my Sunday afternoons working on music, even if I don’t have a specific project in mind, just to get my chops back.

Speaking of chops… and related to music… I haven’t been practising much since I stopped talking to my former guitar teacher/sorta songwriting partner, and that was in the summer of 2019.

I mean, I take drum lessons, which I started after I moved here (maybe I should say resumed, but before that the last time I took drum lessons was when I was a teenager). But I could stand to do a little more practising with that. OK, a lot more practising.

And I don’t think I’ve opened a guitar case in a couple years now. Certainly one year for sure.

I have occasionally messed around with one of my basses, but I could stand to play that more, too.

I also have a trio of unlikely instruments I’ve picked up over the years with the intent to learn someday but the day never came: flute, clarinet, and violin.

And then there’s the piano… I’ve been thinking for a while it would be fun to learn to play jazz piano and was thinking of looking for lessons before all the fun in the world got banished last spring.

Yes: music lessons, at least aside from singing and wind instruments, are possible again, in person, even, but while I am willing to tolerate the stupid face shield for my weekly drum lesson on account of already being in progress with those lessons, I don’t feel like it for new teachers, especially when it seems all the piano teachers in this town are pissy old Karens who probably want you to triple mask and hold your breath anyway.

Fortunately, there are plenty of jazz piano lessons on YouTube, and since I have taken piano lessons a few times over the course of my life and used to play synths live for maQLu, I can DIY this shit with the piano.

Actually, I intend to DIY the lot (even with drums – I play rock drums at my lessons but I’ve been curious about learning jazz drumming for a while now, so I found a bunch of decent YouTube tutorials to try in addition to my lessons).

So, a few days this week I have carefully assembled my clarinet and occasionally managed to get some beautiful slinky low notes out of it (in between a whole lot of squeaks and breathy nothings) while watching Clarinet Mentors on YT.

Flute… well… it didn’t help that much of the first day’s allotted 15 minutes on flute was spent with me holding the flute backwards in a mirror image of The Flute Channel’s YT video and wondering why I couldn’t figure out where to put my fingers. Once I figured out I was backwards, though, I’ve graduated to being able to make a sorta decent tone so long as I don’t have any keys pressed down, so… Well, I guess it takes a while for that, too.

I have a simple jazz drum groove that is kicking my ass, but I’m starting to get the hang of it a little.

I’m working on mixing up rhythms in my right and left hand to improvise over a simple 2 bar ostinato in piano.

And surprisingly enough, the instrument that is complying best with my attempts is the violin. Er… fiddle, because I started on St. Patrick’s Day and in the interest of trying different musical idioms, I’m working on Irish fiddle tutorials.

Granted, one of those started with teaching how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” which is at least as authentically Irish traditional music as your average U2 song. And mine sounded more like a peacock being strangled, but still.

I’ve still been lazy with the bass and the guitar remains in its case. First order of business for the guitar, I think, shall be figuring out an open tuning that will allow me to mess around with bar chords as I strum so I can avoid the indignity of having to cut my nails… at least not any more than I already had to shorten my talons to manage on fiddle. (This is not an issue on bass, because I fret with my fingers flatter on bass.)

If Dolly Parton can do it, so can I:

So, Dolly uses open tunings and bar chords. Good to know. (My nails aren’t nearly that long, being my natural nails and frequently broken when messing around in the garden. Hers are acrylic.)

Open tunings are quite common in bluegrass and other roots music. Which kinda ties in a bit with the Irish fiddle milieu. I watched a good documentary on Scots-Irish (ie, Orangemen) influence on American music, particularly bluegrass, the other day:

Pretty interesting stuff and I do have Ulster Scot in me as well as regular Irish.

And OK, I watched that on St. Patrick’s Day… which is kinda inappropriate, lol… The following day, I watched U2’s “U2 Go Home – Live from Slane Castle” which they had up on YT for a couple days for free, the first of 4 such shows they’ll run on their YT account over the next month.

It’s, of course, an old show from 2001 (and sparked tomorrow’s episode of The Zamo the Destroyer Show, wherein Zamo, of course, torments Technical Support Monkey by pretending to think it’s Duran Duran playing.)

I tried to embed it, but they’ve pulled it down already. Next one runs next Wednesday.

So… maybe I’ll end up getting some basics of bluegrass and roots on guitar, some Irish and Celtic basics on fiddle, some jazz on piano and drums and clarinet, and… well, hopefully something on flute other than a breathy whistle.

None of which are career-related in anyway, which neatly removes the pressure.

I mean, hey, it would be nice some day to be decent enough at clarinet or jazz piano or jazz drums that I could maybe go to jazz jams if such things will ever exist again (well, they do, in places like Florida and Texas, and possibly in places like Guadalajara. But I mean somewhere within driving distance of where I live… or will move to, God willing.)

Speaking of music, the music book I’ve been working on I think needs to wait a little. Even though it’s zine-style with a collection of essays, stand-up bits, poems/lyrics, etc., it still feels like there needs to be a more satisfactory conclusion to it. A lot of what I wrote was done when I was more pissed off and angry and in the midst of the maQLu project, or afterwards when I was pissy and jaded.

And I’ve been thinking this week that it might work to hold off a few months til I’ve been writing more and practising more and hopefully rebuilt a healthier relationship with music. Or some such crap, I dunno.

Maybe that’s just my procrastination in a sneaky new disguise.

Other new developments this week: I finally got around to picking up my dumbbells from my dad’s place so I’ve starting lifting weights again after my walks on 3 days a week.

It’s been a while since I’ve lifted, so of course I’ve been stiff and sore, especially when trying to sit down… which can be problematic when one is a girl and must sit to piss, especially when one is also increasing one’s water intake.

Oh well, the soreness will ease off in a few days as I adapt to the new workload.