Monday, November 24, 2014

"It All Sounds the Same"

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that modern compression applications often hinder, rather than accentuate, the human side of both guitar playing and music in general today. Judas Priest's last album had at least a few killer tracks, but the entire thing was so over-compressed as to make it uncomfortable to listen to for more than a couple of songs at a time. One of the things that suffered most from it was the guitar leads, which on their own were often quite fine. The produced sound just squeezed the blood out of the whole thing; it's hard for a listener to find a way to immerse him or herself into something so crushed of dynamics. And the same goes for general heavy metal guitar processing in this era; for all we know, really good players like Chris Broderick and Jeff Loomis could be the most expressive players of this time, but I doubt we're made capable of fully appreciating the nuances of their styles given the way their parts are processed. Paucis verbis, the guitar tones of today too often sound boringly similar, despite there being tons of great players. I could be wrong about some or all of this, but that's what I hear.

 I remember recently reading about how today's listeners are so used to everything being perfectly in tune and practically everything being perfectly in time that producers are urged to stay along that path as much as possible. I can't think of a quicker path to soulless robot-ville than approaching music this way.

The processing of today's female Pop vocals are the worse victims of this approach. Besides the Pop singers whom obviously do have talent, there are hundreds if not thousands of female and male singers in the genre who sound almost exactly alike.

I can't finish without mentioning there are many wonderful, state of the art effects out there, many of which do enhance the music. However, from an overall perspective I feel there needs to be another Punk/Grunge style revolution in Pop, Rock, and Metal today, especially in the oh so important producer's realm.

That said, It might already be too late for Rock and it subgenres now. It's last gasp (Nirvana) was basically Jim Morrison writing lyrics for a set of Black Sabbath worshippers. In fact, the last great Rock album might have been (wait for it) Appetite for Destruction. And will be until the balls grow back.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg

Right around the time Richard Wagner wrote the most Gothic and Black of operas, Tristan und Isolde, he wrote arguably one of the most life affirming, Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg. Where Tristan und Isolde's themes and music centered around the triumph of death as the ultimate union of lovers, and was by far the most dissonant (and possibly revolutionary) piece at that time in music history, Die Meistersinger glorified (and attempted to emulate) the euphoric experience of love in this world, and was both predominantly consonant and intentionally mired in the traditions of old. Note here the intricate counterpoint; Wagner took the main themes in the opera and layered them in a way that would have made Maestro Johann Sebastian proud. And don't miss the glorious, exhilarating finish, he always knew how to end things with a dominating flourish.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wagner, Wagner, Wagner

Words cannot adequately describe the immensity of the impact Richard Wagner's music has had upon me. Before I experienced Der Ring Des Nibelungen, I was all about the guitar, my only goals involved becoming progressively better on the instrument, to the virtual exclusion of anything else regarding music. Interestingly, I first got turned onto Wagner's art through my exposure to Manowar, in particular their epic album Gods of War, and I remain heavily indebted to that band and album, for my subsequent initiation into Wagner's last four operas brought with it a dire compulsion to teach myself everything I could about music composition, arrangement, and orchestration, carrying on into today with my obsessive studies in music production and engineering. One could say my eyes, ears, and heart were opened to regarding music from a far bigger perspective...just as Tony Iommi first compelled me to fall in love with lead guitar, Wagner, from a similarly visceral level, motivated my understanding of and passion for music as Art.

His music is, for me, a wonderful adventure, a gift that literally keeps on giving, for the care and attention he gave to his art yields unlimited rewards upon repeated appreciations. Though I have little regard for the composer as a man, as an Artist I hold no other in higher regard. To me he was the Shakespeare of opera, the greatest pioneer of my most beloved musical genre. Here's to you, Ultimate Maestro of Metal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lyraka Volume 2 NOW IN PRODUCTION!

We are super happy and grateful to announce that fans/friends have put Lyraka Volume 2 into production. Your donations are making this album finally happen, and we are so thankful.

We still need your help to release Lyraka Volume 2, please! Any size donations help, and thanks so much to all whom have helped already, your support means everything to us.

While even small donations are massively appreciated, anyone donating $25 and over receives both the Lyraka CD the week of release plus your choice of the 5 Ken Kelly "Lyraka" prints as a big 24X36 poster!

I'm going to be realistic and predict a Lyraka Volume 2 release in Autumn 2016, but the more donations we receive, the faster we can get the music to you. So please keep helping!



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lyraka Interview Rainbow Fan Clan

2014 interview with Andy DiGelsomina at the best Blackmore's Rainbow site on the web (THANKS FRANS!):

My Wagner Experience Pt. 1 Der Ring Des Nibelungen

My Wagner Experience

The Wagner Experience is a past tense term that has been used to denote an individual's personal "clicking" with the works of Richard Wagner. To be more specific, it means the point where a neophyte to Wagner's music becomes irreversibly immersed in it.
My first serious encounter with Wagner's music occurred in the spring of 2007, with Der Ring Des Nibelungen. I purchased the James Levine-conducted dvd set, along with a book/concordance by Barry Millington entitled "Wagner's Ring". During my first full viewing (four day's worth) I was overwhelmed and intimidated by the scope of the piece. I even watched it following the libretto, which I see now only hindered my inward absorption. After that first viewing, I walked away having been very moved by the "highlights", but feeling very small and lost in the face of such towering genius. The music at times seemed impenetrable to me, and made me feel dumb.
That same year the Kings of Metal, Manowar, released their most risk-taking CD, Gods of War . This cd was obviously heavily influenced by Wagner's Ring, as bassist/main songwriter Joey DeMaio publicly confessed his own Wagner Experience many years ago. Though there are Manowar albums I like better, none do I respect more in terms of courageous artistic terms their challenging will to experiment, an experiment I personally thought overall succeeded, and a shame it was never expanded upon. All this spurred me on to renewing my study of the Ring, after nearly eight months of timid avoidance.
Being more open due to Manowar really helped his time, the prelude to Das Rheingold floored me, and spurned me onto being more open to the piece as a whole. The initial scene with the mermaids and Alberich sets the musical stage for much of the rest of the opera, so clicking with that helped me a lot with the rest of the tetralogy.
As a sidebar, many Wagner "newbies" utilize what is termed a "bloody chunks" method, trying out the preludes and overtures of his works first, kind of like dipping one's toes into a hot bath before full immersion. This approach can be very helpful. But I wanted to start out with the full experience.
I got much more out of the Ring the second time, but I still felt like I was missing a lot. It was obvious to me that this work was a real milestone: its scope and depth were apparent from the very first listen. I later likened this deeply felt intuition to a spiritual experience: it was as though I could inwardly intuit how much of an impact the Ring would have on my life.
I became committed toward having a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Ring, and Wagner overall.
I learned that the greatest studio recording (by popular consensus) of the Ring was conducted by Georg Solti . So I devised a course of action: buy each part of the Ring tetralogy, one cd set for each month. That way I could immerse myself completely into each set per month: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, etc.
It worked. My main problem before had been a misunderstanding in how I should approach the music. I kept expecting compact, consistently resolving melodies along the lines of Mozart (at the time I was very much under the spell of the movie "Amadeus").   Due in part to my further reading, as well as my more willfully focused listening approach, I now understood how Wagner often wouldn't use conventional (I-V and I-IV-V) melodic patterns, since those tend to be complete within themselves. That is, they couldn't be continually expanded upon (as in the case of a psychological epic) without turning trite and repetitive.  Popular and folk musics tend to rely on conventional, predictably resolving melodies to the virtual excusion of any others, since they are perfect for folks that mostly love music to "jam out" or dance to (nothing wrong with that!).

When one listens intently to Wagner's music, especially keeping in mind the themes in the more "popular" parts of his operas, one can understand how he worked. Wagner liked to have large, sprawling melodic forms in order to keep a broad scope. He would often take what would later be described as "germ motives" from the more accessible melodies in his operas, and elongate, invert, retime and implode them. It just takes more attentiveness and patience to unravel the intricacies.
I must add here that Wagner had several instances of what could be termed non-melodic, at least borderline recitative parts in all of his later operas. This was almost always due to the fact that he would begin working on his operas as prose works, and then only marginally edit the text when setting to work on the actual music composition. That is, he'd often try to write the music to fit the existent words. Obviously, this resulted in some unmusical sections in his dramas, but they are easy to identify and forgive. Often their placement adds to the overall dynamics of the piece.

In any case, I learned from my experience something that could be likened to a "spiritual truth": to fully absorb something above and beyond one's preconceptions, one must empty one's self. The only resistance I was experiencing was just that: the "I". I had to learn a whole other musical language, had to put aside the "but that's not right!" sensibility. Wagner's accomplishment in terms of personal expression is amazing, but a person might only be capable of fully absorbing it through the discipline described above, a discipline that's been a part of learning since...well, probably since learning itself.
To be continued. This piece was originally taken from the site "Our Father of Metal", my own Richard Wagner heavy metal site here:


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Allan Holdsworth and Being Uniquely Brilliant, Pt.1 "The Things You See"

To me the IOU album is where Allan resolutely cast his revolutionary lead guitar playing and idiosyncratic harmonic idiom in diamond; where the Tony Williams Lifetime beginning stages of his originality had both matured and crystallized into what players like Edward Van Halen referred to as the best guitar style in history, full stop.

The chords on this song are so interesting and carry plenty of emotional weight, most noticeable when listened to on headphones. This album is what first made me think of Holdsworth as the modern day Liszt, the consummate guitarist-composer.