Sunday, September 25, 2005

Kingdom of Fools

Kingdom of Fools

T his is my latest finished song. Recently, I saw a bumper sticker with big, bold letters on a patriotic red, white, and blue background that read "THE POWER OF PRIDE"...

... and I thought to myself: What about the power of humility?

There are those who wrap themselves in flag and holy verse to justify what looks to all the world like pride, greed and foolishness. You can't help but wonder if many of those folks have actually read the scriptures they so enthusiastically and frequently bang.

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The Kingdom of Fools

Ain't no such thing
as too high to fall
aint no place so low
you can't get there
if you crawl

Ain't no bro'
so close you can't play him down
'cause in the kingdom of Fools
only one can wear the crown

Ain't no truth so pure
you can't turn it to a lie
ain't no love so deep
you can't drain it 'til it's dry

ain't no flower so pretty
you can't crush it to the ground
in the Kingdom of Fools
only one can wear the crown

Ain't no lie
that can ever make you see the truth
and your whole life 'til now
is just so much living proof

Ain't no one but you
can keep you from where you're bound
'Cause in the Kingdom of Fools
Only one can wear the crown


blog within a blog...

B ack in the 80's a friend of mine gave me the old upright grand piano she'd bought for $100 some years before. It was beat to heck, had some broken keys, and was pretty out of tune, but a sensitive piano tuner who loved old pianos was able to bring it more or less into fighting trim and for 15 years it had a central place in my living room.

When I traded the sprawling space of my former mid-urban home for a small, beachside flat, I wrestled with a way to fit the big ol' thing into my living room -- but it ended up in the garage, as I had always suspected it would. If I move things around, I can play it down there -- and I promise that at least one AYoS recording will feature it -- but it's not something I can do everyday. And, in this tightly packed neighborhood, it's not something I could probably get away, anyway.

So that left me with what keyboardists call plastic 'boards: my two synthesizers that are also "controllers" that can control virtual synthesizers on my computer, or other hardware synthesizers via the MIDI music communication protocol.

Plastic 'boards have that somewhat derisive name because, while they may offer many of the control parameters needed to communicate with various synthesizers, digital pianos, and so on -- they mimic the light plastic keyboard of the eletric organs of the 60's and 70's. They have a feel to match: light and fast, to be sure, but completely unlike the mechanical hammer action of a real piano. And, while hammer action MIDI keyboards have been around for many years -- 'real' pianists seldom feel comfortable with anything else -- they've been quite expensive in the past, usually running into the thousands of dollars.

For that reason, I've soldiered on with my platic boards, ignoring the surreal disconnect between the rich, big piano sounds coming out of the speakers and the tinky, downright squirrelly feel of the keyboards.

Now, however, our future benevolent overlords, the (formerly "Red") Chinese, have applied their justly famous production skills to knocking the bottom out of the hammer-weighted keyboard market. Small furry, rodent-like mamal that I am, I decided to scurry among the falling bodies of the dinosaurs and snag up a new Chinese-made 'board from the company CME. While my old keyboard controllers were 60 key 'boards, this is a full scale 88 key range, with the most "piano-like" action I've played in a MIDI controller 'board.

Only the Dance

There are no onboard sounds -- but the action is so good that, with my favorite grand piano samples running in my computer, I can play and, at least for brief, idyllic periods, forget that I'm not playing a real piano.

No digital sample set, of course, will ever replace or completely replicate the sound of a real piano -- especially not one like my 110 year old upright. I could lose myself for hours on that old box, letting my hands go where the muses led, hearing the echoes of a century of sounds -- and emotions -- seemingly stored in its wood-ivory-and-iron frame. By contrast, the muses would barely give me a a few fleeting moments with my hands on my old synthesizers, leaving just me and my puny brain to try to figure out how to make music.

But, now, I can feel them starting to come back around after almost two years. They're skeptical, I can tell. It's easy to scare them off. But, if I close my eyes and try to lose myself in their music, sometimes I can coax them to stick around. And the music they give me is so much better than the music I make...

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