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17 Aug



Makin’ Whoopee

24 Jan


Played a show in Manhattan — a place called Ella’s Lounge / Studio A. The most important lesson learned is that parking doesn’t necessarily cost $40 in the Lower East Side if one has confidence.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the lyric “the judge said budge right into jail” from the song “Makin’ Whoopee” — I always assumed it’s a Cole Porter tune, but it isn’t. Let’s look at it:

[He says ‘now,]
judge, suppose I
fail?’ The judge says
budge, right into
jail. You’d better
keep her. I think it’s
cheaper than makin’

Masterful rhyming, that’s for sure; I’ve divided it up by measure. But…it’s that word ‘budge’ that annoys me. There’s no definition in the OED that makes sense in this context, though we all understand what it means. Let’s look at the opening stanza, which I’ve always particularly liked:

bride, another
June, another
sunny honey-
moon, another
season, another
reason, for makin’

And there you have it. The pattern of rhyme is different, and it doesn’t feel forced. The first and third lines (brackets indicate the pickup) have no rhyme in this stanza, and they don’t need to. So the ‘udge’ is not only used unnecessarily (the second judge could have been a pronoun), but the incorrect use of budge could have been avoided altogether by replacing it with any of a million other possibilities. Ugh!

19 – 28

22 Jan

Rehearsal in Brooklyn.

Bass always came naturally to me–I wasn’t quite sure what Paul McCartney was playing on the recordings, I thought bass was just something that added an indistinguishable low end. And when I got my first guitar it only took a few months before I realized that I’d memorized and could hum pretty much every Beatles bass line. I didn’t know it was bass yet. And when I began playing bass I had an instinct about it, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I could hit any note given to me as if I did. So it’s always been fairly simple and fun to show up at any rehearsal or gig unprepared, knowing I’d still play excellently. And it’s not laziness…I know what it is to practice, and to be nervous on stage, as I would be when I was a tympanist, practicing endlessly and taking more pleasure in performing Dvorak than I have in performing anything else. It’s just what comes easy.

Piano–a way to memorize tunes is to memorize the melody first, and it’s recommended to memorize the lyrics while you’re doing that, and then to learn the chords off the melody. I didn’t believe it at first, but it seems to work for me.

As many times as I’ve made the drives between NYC and Philly, I had no idea how to get off the Turnpike and pack into Philly last night. I wonder if I have business expenses. I wonder if I am a business.

1 – 18

21 Jan

I don’t believe in inspiration. That’s not true. Recently I was inspired while driving, inspired to make a reckless u-turn…the silver lining is that I now know how to remove the inner panels of my car doors and three methods of dent removal.

Inspiration is a pagan belief. It’s also an excuse. It’s been a long time since anyone could feasibly claim herself pregnant due to some amorous god, yet not a day goes by without inspiration being claimed and accepted as real. Let’s say it has nothing to do with gods or ether, but is really just one of those proverbial lightbulbs, the right recipe of time and happenstance. That’s reasonable. But that’s not how Warren Buffett–or Jimi Hendrix–became successful.

The point is that a lot of those silly things that I do are finally paying off. Did it ever occur to me that they would? Did I take pride in them? No. It was for pure pleasure that I spent ages figuring out what shape my mouth could make to represent any given instrument. Why? Because I enjoy learning the music on albums and imitating the instruments as I sing their parts. I also enjoy finding novel ways to annoy my sister. One of them is to cover my nose and mouth with a large glass, so that it’s hard to hear me, and then try to have conversations with her, you know, across the table, but I’m screaming at the top of my lungs into the glass, but it comes out really soft. It’s obnoxious as hell.

Combine these two ideas? And that’s why they hired me. I don’t have perfect pitch, but when a blender whirrs, or a truck roars, or a dog farts, at least once a day I know I’ve heard the spit and image of that note in a song by the Beatles. So when I asked them to try grabbing a saucepan, to hit it with the side of a wooden spoon, first on its bottom, and then its side–and it made precisely the tone and the notes I’d written and recorded with actual instruments…I wasn’t entirely surprised.

I spent days composing and recomposing a scene based on notes and a script that were fairly vague to me. But that’s part of my job, taking vague words and turning them into sound. The surprise was when the director’s jaw dropped. The surprise was when the cast applauded upon first hearing a recording of me singing their parts in falsetto.

But for all the fun I have, now it’s getting down to business. For the first time in my life, I’m learning what music is and how to make it.

Yesterday, ten hours. Today, eight.