Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Test Me, Schaller

So, as has happened before, a meme for my local Twitter gang has turned into a song. This one took a few years to ripen and is slightly different from the actual phrase we use, but such is art.

Chris Schaller is a great guy and the ground system software guy for the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He also can be kind of snarky (which is part of his charm). After he teased the nearly-equally-snarky Sarah Hörst, she responded "don't test me schaller".  Simple enough. For whatever reason, the term took off (well, for small values of taking off) among several planetary science tweeters, even leading to a T-shirt with the phrase.

I'd thought it would be a good song title. Turns out that "Test Me, Schaller" is even better than "Don't Test Me, Schaller" (at least for me). I'd had the first line/melody for a little while, but finally wrote the rest of it yesterday.  And in the interest of striking while hot etc., here it is:

"Test Me, Schaller" (live to mono)

Don't expect to see this on any albums or anything. It seems a bit too esoteric. :)

Also, Happy Mardi Gras!!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A too-quick, too-short post commemorating David Bowie

I woke this morning to find with shock that David Bowie had died. As many have said, it almost seemed like he couldn't die, but as with all the other people we felt similarly about, he could.

Bowie deserves a much longer, much more detailed post than I can give him, at least right now.  What I can do right now is post a snippet of a cover song. Back in college, we did a few songs by Bowie--"Suffragette City" foremost among them. But I'm going to post something I had much more recent involvement with.

At the most recent Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in November, we had an open mic night. I referred to it earlier as I was trying to decide what original to play.  I was lucky enough to have a few times on stage that night, but the one that had the most response from the audience was with Maria Banks and Joe Spitale as part of a trio we kind of called "Hot Ham, Jarlsberg, and the Deli Slicer" (it's a bit of a long but maybe not that interesting story). When Maria said she wanted us to play something together and she'd bring her travel harp, it was obvious to me that "Space Oddity" was the song to play. Some video may have been captured, though I haven't seen it.

What I can offer is a little bit of our rehearsal, which I recorded. It's rough, and the microphone is too close to me (so the mix is terrible and you can't tell that Joe is doing the lead singing), but it's something I can do right now.

Space Oddity (rehearsal)-- Hot Ham, Jarlsberg, and the Deli Slicer

RIP, David.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 In Review

It's a bit later than other years in review, but I figure it's still early enough in 2016 to recap 2015 on this blog.  It wasn't as busy a year as some, due to some big work projects and a lot of travel, but I still made 40 posts.

Despite this being my "music blog" the majority of those posts were poems, as usual. I took part in National Poetry Writing Month, and successfully wrote and posted a poem every day. It's hard to pick a single favorite poem from this year, I'll just point to two that I like:  The more whimsical "Very Different" and the less whimsical "When Collins Wakes".  I also posted, along with many friends, a poem for the Pluto Flyby by New Horizons.

There were a few musical anniversaries marked here. Personally-beloved original "Down From The Skies" turned 25, and I indulged in a re-recording that I posted here. "Passerby" turned nearly as old,  and I did a first-ever recording of it, which I also posted.  Two other originals also saw their first posting here: "The MANTIS Song" commemorating our Cat-1 mission proposal, and "Surf Titan", which is something I threw together in the mid-90s and then threw together as a recording shortly before posting. I also provided two versions of "The Astronomers Song"--an additional set of verses honoring women astronomers (with terrible-looking video of the performance), and a go at the original words. That latter version also came with a run-through of "The Girl Next Door", which was written nearly the same time and is connected in my head.  Finally, I recorded a John Lennon/Beatles song.

The other post of note is one commemorating the 15th anniversary of The Red Album.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2016, I've been doing some recording with The Gedankenband and I hope to get an album of music out to the usual places.  I have several songs already in decent shape. I'm going to try not to stick songs already on EPs onto the album, though I reserve the right. :)

I hope you've had a great year and have another great one ahead!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Across the Universe

I remember when John Lennon died, 35 years ago today. It's always seemed foolhardy to try to cover one of his songs, either with or after the Beatles, since they are all so iconic.  Sill, I figured I'd mark the day by doing just that.  We still miss you, John.

Across the Universe (live acoustic mono)

for a better version by a better musician, see here: 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Two for the road

I'll be playing at the Open Mic Night at the upcoming Division of Planetary Sciences meeting.  I've kicked around what song I should do, with a few possibilities out there.  One that I considered but probably won't do is The Astronomers Song.  So I figured I'd record it and post it below.  While I was fumbling through trying to record it I also lapsed into another song of mine that it reminds me of, Girl Next Door.  That one took me several takes, I'm posting the only take that I actually finished.  Both were done live to glorious one-track mono, using the laptop's microphone and Audacity.  Both of these songs date back to the early '90s, and they've both been among my favorite originals.  Neither have been performed live by any of my bands, but both appeared on In-Jokes with Myself.

Enjoy or "Enjoy".

The Astronomers Song
Girl Next Door

While I'm at it, here are the Gedankenband versions:
The Astronomers Song
Girl Next Door

Friday, October 23, 2015

Red Album Anniversary

I've been recording myself playing music for a long time. As technology improved (along with my musical ability) I've moved from accompanying myself live on cassette to multi-track recordings with Garageband. Sometime in 1999 I got a music recording program for our Windows 95 machine. In the summer of 2000 as we got ready to move from Tucson to Boston, I decided I'd make an album as a keepsake for our friends, the first one I'd digitally recorded and the first one I distributed. The Red Album is the result.

The playlist was a combination of songs that I'd recorded early on while figuring out the new software, favorite songs of mine, and Science Diet's live set. I was able to include Jennifer, Barbara, and Joe, the other members of Science Diet, on a couple of songs (To All the Girls (NSFW) and Taking Matters (also NSFW)), and Jennifer sang backup on several others.  Chris Schaller had access to a CD burner, and made a bunch of copies. I started giving it out on October 24th, 15 years ago.  At the time I was thinking that it'd be the only album I ever recorded, even if DIY. 

It's hard for me to be terribly objective about it. Some of the songs hold up reasonably well, others are more embarrassing to listen to today.  The reaction received was pretty positive, and I believe it made it down to Antarctica one year.  The sound quality is pretty patchy in places, particularly since I had no idea what I was doing.

In commemoration of the anniversary, I'll link not only to its page on the Bandcamp site but put up a few alternate/live versions of some of the songs as played by the bands that...made them famous?

The Red Album (Bandcamp)
To All The Girls (NSFW) -- Science Diet (Live at The Barn, 2000)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time -- Dr. Lüst (Live at Bexley, 1991)
Here We Go Again -- Jury Rig (Live at The Jam Shack, 1993)
Postage Due -- Science Diet (Live, 1996)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Poem for #PlutoFlyby

Out of the Sun
from the sign of the Hunter she comes,
like the swing of a hammer
past one belt into another.

After billions of years
the king of the underworld
greets a new visitor to his court,
a brief nearest neighbor
though she will not tarry—
shining as bright in this
new world’s nitrogen sky
as this world does
at her home world.

We can look forward
to the honeymooner’s pictures
slowly uploaded to the web.
And may our latter-day
live long.


The usual suspects decided we'd write some poems to commemorate the New Horizons flyby of Pluto, happening now (basically).  I wrote one a few years ago for the 2012 National Poetry Writing Month, here's my new one! I've kept to the ethic of not spending too long on it, hopefully it doesn't show too badly...