Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘music

All About

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Cyndie. This Weekend, it’s all about Cyndie as we celebrate the milestone of her 60th birthday. With Jackie tending to animal chores at Wintervale, Cyndie and I are submersed in the loving energy –and I do mean energy– of the Friswold family. We are staying at her parent’s house in Edina, MN, but have twice in a row found our way to downtown Minneapolis.

Last night, it was dinner and music at the Dakota, where we ate like royalty and swooned over Shawn Colvin‘s very personal solo guitar song performance.

This morning, Cyndie is sleeping in. My brain is busy trying to process the onslaught of activity, memories, and emotions –not to mention distractions of mental and physical preparations for my biking and camping trip that starts on Friday– conspiring to confuse me over whether it’s all about Cyndie, or all about me right now.

I had the great pleasure of starting the day yesterday riding bikes with Cyndie’s brother, Ben. He rode over from about a mile away just as a rumble of thunder rolled over us.

We took pause inside to watch the radar long enough to see we would have a perfect window of opportunity after a very short wait. The tiny disturbance sliding south of us was just a precursor to the precipitation that would arrive in the middle of the day and hang around for the afternoon.

While the sky was watering the earth, more of the Friswold clan gathered for lunch at Jimmy’s restaurant near our old Eden Prairie stomping grounds.

After a little nap before heading out for the night, attention turned to a gift brother Barry presented to Cyndie. Her jaw dropped when she saw her younger face on the cover of a memory book of pictures he had spent many loving hours to produce.

Just as she finished a first pass through the overwhelming collection of memories the images trigger, we stood to witness Justify run for the triple crown. Then eleven of us headed out for dinner and the concert.

With noted local musician and song-a-day YouTuber, Zachary Scot Johnson opening the show for Shawn Colvin, we were treated to a range of guitar-accompanied stories, providing me with a second recent prompt to wonder whether I am still a guitar player, or not.

A variety of reasons have combined to allow months to pass without my spending time with fingers on frets. I am inclined to blame my yet-to-be surgically treated arthritic left thumb as the primary culprit for the hiatus, but deep down, I have a sense I may be giving that more credit than is due.

Somehow, while distracted with too many of my own concerns rarely focused on accomplishments, I have been granted the chance to flutter around the bright light that is Cyndie for 44-some years.

It makes for a tangled web that isn’t so much all about her or me in the end. It really has become all about us.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

Saturday Morning

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It’s just another Saturday morning. Yesterday is over and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired, like so many millions of mornings before, but more aware of it than usual. Is it a physical tiredness, or mental fatigue? I think the answer to both is, yes.

I’m tired like I must be another day older. I guess I can’t argue with that. Older, I am.

I’ve got Trey Anastasio’s self-titled 2002 album playing straight through, in the order it was presented. It’s become an anomaly for me to let recordings play the way I listened to them when I was a kid, one side of a vinyl LP and then the other.

Now days, for me, it’s almost always a computer-generated “mix-tape” of songs from the complete catalog in my iTunes file. That has its own rewards, but it produces a different result, for sure.

Music is like food for my soul. Sometimes I eat just because there is food in front of me. “See food,” I call it. I listen to a lot of music in the same way, consuming it just because it is there. I like to assume it nourishes me adequately enough, but sometimes my mind must develop a craving for tunes that will give me something particular I need.

I want to hear a song I love, an instrumental performance that thrills me, or a composition played so inspiringly that I get a shiver up my spine.

It is a phenomenon that is difficult to manufacture. There are a lot of intangible aspects fueling the outcome, most of them in my head.

It’s odd that I picked one album this morning because I usually get what I seek by way of spontaneously building a custom mix for the moment and letting one song feed the next in a climb to satisfaction.

I’m thinking I might try that next, but the single album mode served to get my tired old self started this Saturday morning.

As I write that, Trey is singing, “Push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day…”

With no firm plan of action for the weekend, I look forward to discovering what unfolds.

Pushing on!

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2018 at 9:56 am

Great Show

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Many, many months ago, I bought tickets for a show in downtown Minneapolis at the State Theater on Hennepin Avenue, not really sure why I was picking this concert over so many other more obvious choices for us. Must have been my keen intuition.

Last night, the performance date finally arrived and we headed to the big city to see the TajMo band. Two blues greats, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, have joined forces to come up with a very pleasing combined version of themselves.

Here is a link to a nice review of their show in Nevada back in June that matches closely with the version we experienced. It does a good job of capturing the essence of the night we had.

The only drawback with our little forays to the Twin Cities on work nights is that it cuts into my sleep, which usually makes for short blog posts, too.

I’ll leave you with a couple of shots taken on my phone from up in the balcony. Did I mention it was a really great show? It truly was.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2017 at 6:00 am

Looking, Listening

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The morning light coming over the eastern horizon bathes our property with such picturesque hues. Yesterday, Cyndie captured how the smooth, freshly mowed hay-field looked as she and Delilah made their way around to open the chicken coop and tend to the horses.

Was it a coincidence that while I was processing this image, John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind” was playing and took over my brain with its lyrics?

“…in back roads by the rivers of my memory
Keeps you ever gentle on my mind.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

That’s the kind of song I wish I had written.

I’m probably in this mindset after reading Rickie Lee Jones’ tribute to Walter Becker on RollingStone.com. Just put me deeper in songwriting envy, revisiting the Steely Dan catalog and some of Rickie Lee’s best.

“done up in blue print blue. It sure looks good on you…”

She writes, in answer to her query about the “blue” meaning, that Walter told her he didn’t know; just felt like writing it.

I understand exactly.

Rickie Lee’s big breakout self-titled debut album was released when I was working full-time in a record store. Her phrasing and lyrical story telling captured me immediately.

“you never know when you’re makin’ a memory…”

My memories are flowing over the rolling hill of the hay-field toward the rising sun that is sculpting the popcorn clouds hanging low under the high blue sky. I am thinking of lives and loves who have come and gone with whispers and kisses, dipping toes in unknown oceans of improbable possibilities that did or didn’t actually play out, but undoubtedly shaped everything that has happened since.

Luckily, love grows, unbounded by physical limitations, and it continues to pave the rivers of my memories.

Ever gentle on my mind, indeed.

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Nostalgia Happens

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Nostalgia. I can’t help it. Against my own wishes to deny the inevitable chronological orientation of my being, which fits precisely in the place where nostalgia begins to dominate ones attention, I am powerless. For years and years I enjoyed living in defiance of marketers who flooded the airwaves with attempts to bait and hook the primary buying demographic.

My tastes and interests were usually out of sync with the times or just far enough from center to be of little consequence to the purveyors of must-have products and services. My hobbies and interests leaned toward the years of my older siblings more than they matched what was aimed at me and my peers while we were coming into our prime.

Or so I like to think. In reality, there is every likelihood that the cunning advertisers of the products that I did fall for were deftly plying their trade to make me think I was forging my own bold path on the journey of maturation. I blindly wandered directly into the cross-hairs of their financial machine which worked its grips for brand loyalty deep into my unconscious.

With each passing year I have to work harder to deny that my value as a consumer is fading fast from the ever-changing entertainment industry and flying headlong for the entry gates of the AARP and pharmaceutical marketers.

During this wonderful NCAA basketball tournament month, my primary radio station for music has decided to run their own playoff bracket pitting match-ups of record albums from the 1990s. Yawn. How come I don’t care about any of these artists? I get the hint. I’m getting old, thank you very much.

In the same week that I was going through that realization, Cyndie turned on the television in our bedroom to see what was on and landed on a mesmerizing review of my home state, Minnesota in the ’70s. Produced with the Minnesota Historical Society Press and inspired by authors Dave Kenney and Thomas Saylor, the incredibly familiar scenes dredged up completely neglected memories of the world I experienced as a teenager.

I couldn’t look away for fear of missing something. I wanted to soak in every last morsel of what was appearing on the screen.

Did these images trigger my latest re-fascination with long-lost music memories or is the timing incidental? Again, just last week, I was pulling out old vinyl albums that weren’t to be found anywhere in digital form, hoping to feed the hunger to listen to songs from my collection that I haven’t heard in decades.

There was an old Loggins & Messina album in the bunch that I realized was totally available for download, and after giving it a spin on the turntable, I went right to the iTunes store and bought it. That should definitely be in rotation on my iPod.

The advertising genius of showing other similar albums at the bottom of my screen found me powerless to its allure. I hadn’t thought about Seals & Crofts for so long that I’d forgotten they existed! I bought that, too. Jim Seals and Dash Crofts’ voices together are a spectacular combination.

Since I hadn’t listened to that harmony for what feels like forever, it sounded good as new to me again.

It also makes me feel like I might be getting a little old.

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Written by johnwhays

March 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

Forgotten Albums

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I went on a download binge of old music from my youth over the weekend. When I finished high school, I spent a year working full-time in a record store. Spending long hours exposed to a repetition of newly released music tends to in grain the songs in a person’s mind.

Every once in a while I get an urge to hear the old tunes again, but the majority of my old album collection was sold long ago. If I want the music back, I need to buy it again. I’m okay settling for digital versions that can be conveniently downloaded, but those offerings aren’t as complete as I need them to be.

My tastes, and the depth of music I was exposed to back then, move beyond the mainstream of what has been converted to digital.

I don’t know what the parameters are that record companies use to dictate what gets digitized and what doesn’t, but it always surprises me when I stumble upon something that has been passed over for upgrade to the latest technology.

Luckily, I still have my old turntable, so if I get truly desperate, I can always shop for the vinyl versions of old favorites that I once thought I would never miss again.

Before I do that, I first need to find the single milk-crate-sized wooden box of the most precious saved albums I couldn’t part with, stored downstairs somewhere, to verify my latest craving isn’t actually one I kept.

My digital music collection has taken on a renewed importance again, as the public radio stations are running one of their thrice yearly fund drives this week. We are already sustaining members, so I avoid the whole pitch and replace radio in the car with my iPod on shuffle.

I keep coming up with songs I had no idea were in my collection. It’s a wonderful distraction during my long commute to the day-job.

ipodAfter purchasing some old favorites, like the Blues Brothers album that came out while I was working the record store, I needed to update my iPod. I didn’t want to completely sync it with my home iTunes library because the iPod has some music on it from CDs I ripped on my work computer (because it is an old iMac that still has a disk drive in it).

Not thinking clearly, I stumbled on the feature where I could select just the new songs I wanted to add. Thinking I had found my answer, I clicked the 5 new —using that term relatively— albums to copy over and hit sync.

Do you see what I did there?

When it was finished, I had all 5 freshly downloaded albums moved to the iPod… but that was all I had. Be careful what you sync.

I gave in and let my entire home iTunes library re-sync with the iPod. Now I need to go back later and figure out what method I originally used to move only the 4 albums ripped into the work iTunes library, onto my iPod.

I’ve done it before, I should be able to do it again.

I suppose this would be a lot simpler if I’d just store all of my music in the cloud.

Maybe I’m just waiting until they digitize all the music I really want before I will finally take that step. The ball’s in their court.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

I Wanted

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I wanted to be a recording engineer. At least, I thought I did, back at the time of my life when I was feeling pressure to pursue an education beyond high school. With no strong drive toward any particular career and no interest in committing money to a general college program, I considered vocational training.dscn5486e My passion was music, but it seemed like a 1-in-a-million long shot to become anything more than a “starving artist” if I started down that path. I landed a full-time job in a record store after high school and mulled over what kind of schooling might suit me best.

With little confidence or drive for the struggle toward making a living off performing or writing, I decided to look into the production side of the business. Brown Institute on Lake Street in Minneapolis was well-known for cranking out broadcasters and disc jockeys back then, and I discovered they also offered AA degrees in Electronic Technology that incorporated a multi-track Studio Recording elective.

Sounded good to me (regardless the fact that was a pun). I dove into the program, quickly discovering the basic electronic curriculum was easy for me to grasp. I had no idea. My impression of the guys who knew electronics was framed by images of NASA flight control engineers with white shirts, pockets of pens, and tape holding their eyeglasses together. I had zero practical experience with wires and transistors. This was unfamiliar territory for me.

Uncharacteristically, I arrived late on the very first day at Brown, interrupting the instructor to walk the length of the classroom with all eyes judging my late arrival and my “not-an-engineer” appearance. Much later, I enjoyed hearing the honest perspective of a significant number of classmates as they admitted to first impressions that I was likely a loser who wouldn’t last the year.

The math and electron physics turned out to be easy for me to grasp and I led the class in test scores. I’d found a good fit. After a year of basic electronics, we were able to choose from a variety of electives. I was there for only one, Studio Recording, and actually considered cutting the program short after I got what I wanted. It only took one presentation from the school to alter my thinking.

They laid out our options, boasting of the 3 potential job possibilities they knew about for local recording studios, and the hundred-or-so opportunities for general Electronic Technicians. On top of that, the starting salary possibilities for Technicians were eye-opening and beyond my expectations.

It changed the course of my future. I did learn to splice tape and clean heads, coil cables, run a huge multi-track sound board and produce a recording session. Massive fun, but like my songwriting and guitar performance, it would ultimately end up playing out as a hobby-level pastime.

I thought I wanted to be a recording engineer, but my pragmatic tendency to choose a course with safer probabilities has paid me back handsomely. Happily, my eventual career path through industrial electronics manufacturing didn’t end up diminishing my love for music one bit.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2016 at 7:00 am