Welcome to the M2M Blog

Roger The Blogger

 
 

My name is Roger and I’ve been an amateur musician since junior high. Sounds like introducing myself to people at some 12 step program. Maybe it is. I also have a home business repairing stringed musical instruments, although I have been doing less and less of that, by choice. I’ve made guitars and learned to play quite a few instruments, playing some of them reasonably and some poorly. I have an advanced degree and know something about chemistry, physics, and electronics.

From about 1995 to 2004 I played violin, mandolin, and pennywhistle with the Tucson Friends of Traditional Music’s Slow Jam, its successor, and one spinoff.  At the Slow Jam I met Catherine and limell’. They introduced me to the Mount Lemmon Marching Mandolin Band, and later to the String Bean Folk Orchestra (SBFO).  In 2009 I joined the SBFO, playing a banjo tuned an octave below the mandolin. Lately I’ve been playing violin III and clarinet.  After a layoff of about 30 years, I’m back on woodwinds. Yay!

In 2010, Catherine started Minute2Minute (M2M), with me on clarinet, bass clarinet, penny whistles, and, lately, ocarina. I have begun typesetting music by computer and arranging a few pieces for performance by both M2M and the SBFO.  Maybe we’ll introduce the tarogato. (I have one, and can play it, but you should Google tarogato to figure out what it is. For that matter, you should Google the ocarina.)

Some of what I will write in this blog concerns the technical aspects of musical instruments.  Some will be background into the history and evolution of musical styles, and some will be music theory.  I do not claim to be a musicologist, but I know how to do research and how to be skeptical about what I read, especially on the internet.  I will present literature references for my source materials and will indicate which are my conclusions and which are those of the experts.

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Musical Origins: The Basso

The Basso is an upbeat tune that we perform every chance we get. The tune is sometimes listed as a "Universal Gypsy tune."

You can hear it on YouTube by various excellent performers, including this one.

We love it because it's upbeat and slightly exotic at the same time. Unfortunately, we don't know much about its origins, but we'd like to know more.

Perhaps you know someone who can enlighten us? Anyone?

In an upcoming post we will examine whether there is really a Basic Gypsy Chord Progression.

The Basso is on our CD "Postcards from El Bossa", although we call it El Basso. The entire CD is available from CDBaby.
  Tom Dukes and Roger Sperline playing  El Basso  in 2014

Tom Dukes and Roger Sperline playing El Basso in 2014

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/)

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Music Theory and Exotic Scales: Part 1

  The A natural scale

The A natural scale

M2M plays many pieces in unusual, minor, exotic sounding scales. In order to understand the differences among, say, Klezmer scales or Andalucian scales, and Major scales, we’ll look at how they are constructed, beginning with Major and proceeding to the more exotic. We’ll stick to musical scales based on western ideas of 12-tone chromatic scales (no micro-tones).

My opinion is that keeping track of the "semi-tones" between intervals is easier than learning all the scales by rote, or whether or not the 3rd and whatever steps are flatted. If you are serious, you should learn both the semi-tone and flatted interval methods.

Major Scale The familiar Major scale ascends and descends using the same notes. Starting on C, playing only the white keys on the piano, these would be C,D,E,F,G,A,B,(c). Starting on D, these would be D,E,F#,G,A,B,c#,(d). We’ll put “interval” numbers on them as 1 to 8 and look at the number of semi-tones between them. A semi-tone is the smallest separation between notes on the piano. I’ll also use part of the convention that upper case letters signify a lower octave and lower case letters signify a higher octave.

C Major Scale:     C,     D,     E,     F,     G,     A,     B,    (c).

Interval:                1,     2,      3,     4,      5,     6,      7,    8

Semi-tones:              2       2      1       2      2      2      1.

Another example:

D Major Scale:     D,     E,    F#,    G,     A,     B,     c#,    (d).

Interval:                1,     2,    3,      4,      5,     6,      7,      8

Semi-tones:              2      2      1       2      2      2       1.

Natural Minor Scale The familiar natural minor scale ascends and descends using the same notes as its “relative” major scale, but starts at a different place in the sequence. For instance, A Natural uses only the white piano keys but starts and ends on A. (A is the 6th step of the relative C major scale – see the diagram above). You will also see this described as “the same notes as A major with the 3rd, 6th, AND 7th flatted”. (That's what the b means in the diagram below.)  See pianoscales.org

A natural minor:           A,     B,     c,      d,     e,     f,      g,     (a).

Interval(rel to A Maj)    1,     2,      b3,    4,     5,     b6,    b7,    8

Semi-tones:                      2,     1,       2,     2,     1,      2,      2

Notice that the semi-tone sequence has just been rotated (last became first, first became second, etc.), because we played the same notes in the same sequence but started in a different place.

In Part 2, we’ll get into other types of scales that are heard less frequently in western music, but which are central to exotic sounding music.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/)

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Musical Origins: Amari Szi

"Amari Szi” is a Roma song about a family welcoming their new daughter-in-law into the fold. This song comes to us thanks to a German band called Csókolom. (pictured below)

photo of Czocolom.png

The song caught Catherine’s attention while touring with The Mollys in 1999, at the Chimera Music Festival in South Australia. She heard it performed by Csókolom and it was love at first listen. She was intrigued with the song, especially the performance by Anti von Klewitz.

Led by violinist Anti von Klewitz, Csókolom performed “Amari Szi” on the soundtrack to the movie “Everything is Illuminated," which starred Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello fame (much more about them later), and Elija Wood (yes, that Elija Wood).
“Amari Szi” shares melody and chorus with “Keren Chave”, and both can be found on Gypsylyrics.net.

There are many wonderful Roma songs, with lyrics, and many with video performances, on that site.

M2M performs Amari Szi in a rather straightforward E minor, where the chords are Em, Am, D, G, B in part A, and Em, Am, D, G, Am, B, Em in part B. The scale seems to be E natural minor. That would be the same as the Mode known as E Aeolian. The traditional American song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” is in natural minor.

Amari Szi, Amari is on our CD "Postcards from El Bossa", available from CDBaby.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/)

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Music Theory and Exotic Scales: Part 2

 C'mon, it isn't that bad, is it?

C'mon, it isn't that bad, is it?

Last time I showed a way of looking at Major and Natural Minor scales from an interval/semi-tone viewpoint.  This time we’ll look at how to get to some important, lovely, exotic sounds based on the Harmonic Minor Scale.

Harmonic Minor Scale: This minor scale is not played using the same notes as any major scale, relative or not. Unlike the natural minor scale, 3rd and 6th are flatted from the relative major scale, but the seventh is not. The scale is played the same ascending and descending. Later we’ll see a minor scale that is different ascending and descending.

For more info on minor scales, see pianoscales.org.

The harmonic minor scale in A looks like this:

Ascending or descending:  A,     B,      c,        d,       e,      f,        g#,     (a)

Interval (rel to A maj):        1,      2,      b3,     4,       5,      b6,      7,        8

Semi-tone intervals:                2,       1,      2,        2,      1,        3,       1

The “augmented 2nd” interval consisting of 3 half steps is what makes it seem exotic.  This scale is often used in Klezmer and Eastern European music. Examples include; “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life” by Michel Legrand, “Girl” by John Lennon, "Besame Mucho" by Consuelo Velázquez, and “Hava Nagila”.

Take the IVth mode of the regular Harmonic Minor – that is, start on the fourth interval.

Harmonic Minor:          C,      D,      Eb,       F,       G,       Ab,       B,       c

Interval (rel to C maj)   1,       2,      b3,       4,       5,       b6,       7,       8

Semi-tones:                        2,       1,       2,        2,       1,         3,       1

 

Take the IVth mode of that (start on F if it was C Harm Min) to get the Romanian Minor scale:

Romanian Minor:          F,       G,       Ab,       B,       c,       d,       eb,       f

Interval (rel to F maj)   1,       2,       b3,        4#,     5,       6,       b7,       8

Semi-tones:                       2,       1,          3,       1,       2,       1,         2

(You can think of this as a key signature of Ab and Eb, and start on the note F.)

This scale is used extensively in Klezmer and Jewish music (known as Mi sheberach or Misheberak), and is common in both Romanian and Hungarian folk music. See “The Pinewoods International Collection,” Tom Pixton, NightShade Publications.

Spanish Gypsy Scale (aka ''Phrygian Dominant'') is just the Vth mode of the regular Harmonic Minor.

Harmonic minor Semi-tones:     2,       1,      2,      2,      1,       3,       1

Spanish Gypsy Semi-tones:        1,       3,      1,      2,      1,       2,       2

So, starting on C...                  C,     C#,     E,      F,      G,      Ab,     Bb,    c

(You could imagine a key signature of Ab, Bb, and C# and begin on C, or a signature of Bb, Eb, and F# and begin the scale on D.)

''Phrygian Dominant'' is used extensively in Flamenco and sometimes in Heavy Metal (of all things). I will discuss Phrygian, Phrygian Dominant, and Dorian in upcoming blogs about Flamenco.

In Part 3,  we’ll look at the Double Harmonic Major, Hungarian Minor, and Melodic Minor scales.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/posts/812436872293184)

 

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Musical Origins: Indifference or Kozony

M2M calls this piece “Kozony”, which is Hungarian for “Indifference”. 

 Everyone except Terri is pretty indifferent, but that isn't the kind of indifference we want.

Everyone except Terri is pretty indifferent, but that isn't the kind of indifference we want.

Indifférence (Valse Musette) was composed by Joseph Colombo and Tony Murena.  Tony Murena et Son Ensemble Swing recorded Indifférence in 1942, with brothers Etienne "Sarane" Ferret and Pierre "Barro" Ferret on guitar.  Murena was featured on accordion.  The Ferret brothers, earlier, played with Django Rheinhardt in the Hot Club of France. Some this can be heard on YouTube.

 

According to Wikipedia: Musette dance forms arose (in Paris, beginning in 1880 and continuing into the 1930s) from people looking for easier, faster, and more sensual dance steps, as well as forms that did not require a large hall. "Musette-forms" that established themselves as variations to popular dances of the day include:  tango-musette, paso-musette, and valse-musette, with a special variation called la toupie ("the top"), where dancers are very close and turn around themselves very regularly.  An original musette dance also appeared, known as java. The accordion was later substituted for the bellows-blown bagpipe locally called a "musette.”

Wikipedia: Antonio Muréna was born in Borgo Val di Taro, Italy. His family emigrated to France in 1923 and settled in Nogent-sur-Marne. His uncle gave him his first accordion and he began a performing career assisted by his cousin Louis Ferrari. Muréna played in cabarets and music halls from an early age.

In 1932 Muréna began to play the bandoneón in tango orchestras, including that of Rafael and Eduardo Bianco Canaro, at french clubs including La Boule Noire, Java, The Silhouette, Balajo (rue de Lappe), Pré Catelan and Ciro's. He toured in South America, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. In 1949 he bought the Le Mirliton caberet where he often played with Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. He also played with Matelo Ferret, Henri Crolla, Didi Duprat, Jo Privat, and Gus Viseur. In 1958 he established the Radio Luxembourg Orchestra and hosted the 36 Candles television show.

Muréna composed works including: “Passion”, “Indifference” (co-written with Joseph Colombo), “Jockey Club”, and “Ping Pong.”

There is very little available online about Joseph Colombo, but here is a discography for him.
Indifference is on our CD "Postcards from El Bossa", available from CDBaby.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/posts/819177628285775)

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Minute2Minute Trivia: Part 1

We're often asked, "How did you get this disease?" and, "How will it affect your loved ones?"...

Affecting my best John Wayne accent and quoting John Lee Hooker, "Well, pilgrim...let that boy boogie-woogie, it's in him and it got to come out."

So, to be philosophical about it, getting the M2M disease is part karma and part biology. That bit about how "it got to come out" might explain both why I avoid acupuncture and my unnatural fear of staplers.

As for as how it will affect one's loved ones: Well, pilgrim, at first they will become groupies and pack the tables at the bars and restaurants where we play. The restaurateurs will be ecstatic. The loved ones will offer to schlep the audio gear until they learn that most of the work consists of unsnarling and coiling mic cables late at night, then they'll magically disappear leaving half the cables on the floor. Then they will remain groupies and learn to coil cables late at night and where things go in Catherine's tiny car so everything fits and the restaurateurs will remain ecstatic. THEN they'll learn that if they merely ask, we will play Start Wearing Purple again and again until everyone is ecstatic even if there are no restaurateurs or mic cables involved.

Another thing we have been asked is why we don't have a regular violinist playing with M2M. This, of course, begs the question of whether or not there are any regular violinists, but the real answer is that none of them will play with us.

 Better watch your back, Nick, I'm gaining on you!

Better watch your back, Nick, I'm gaining on you!

Similarly, why don't we have any banjos? (banjoes??) There was that unfortunate incident at our very first public gig where, by request, we played a tune on 5 banjos. We had borrowed (I hope those were borrowed but I didn't ask) enough banjos and practiced just enough to get by. Fortunately, a GREAT deal of alcohol was involved on the part of the audience and NONE on our part, so none of our faux pas were noticed. We weren't embarrassed by the banjo experience as much as by our incompetence, but we haven't wanted to relive it.
P.S. The requester and the audience loved it.

I recently had my debut as a percussionist, playing (sort of) tupan and doing some tambourine whacking in medieval style for a school program. It is all very hard to get right. Not only does the tempo need to be spot-on, but the individual strokes have to be intentionally hard or soft to suit the beat or off-beat, rather than like a steamer trunk rolling down a flight of stairs. Our own Nick has mastered it all (not the steamer trunk part.) Huzzah! Huzzah!

I also gave a very short demo of the medieval hurdy-gurdy, then played a 13th century piece.  What really made my performances come alive, of course, was the hat. Medieval muffin hat with peacock feather; warm without weight, stylish without ostentation.

 Cover coming off the medieval hurdy-gurdy I built. Note the miracle hat with magic feather.

Cover coming off the medieval hurdy-gurdy I built. Note the miracle hat with magic feather.

It is not widely known that M2M's success throughout the years is actually due to the extensive use of appropriate headwear. Because the finer arts of millinery and haberdashery are, let us say, extinct, we now bow to the tastes of Jeanne (our Stage Madame) and Catherine "El Bossa" (our fearless leader). Here is a Gallery of examples.

 

 

 

 

Of course, I'm saving the really choice photos for other purposes.  On the other hand, although I love all of my band mates, I don't know what kinds of photos they have of me.

 Nick and Pinko.

Nick and Pinko.

 Brian doing Leonard Cohen, plus boa.

Brian doing Leonard Cohen, plus boa.

 Tom modelling stunning royal blue headwear.

Tom modelling stunning royal blue headwear.

 Heidi being devoured by a carnivorous worm.

Heidi being devoured by a carnivorous worm.

 limell', Nick, and CZ. These hats all have darling mouse ears. All the rage for certain "Clubs" in 1957.

limell', Nick, and CZ. These hats all have darling mouse ears. All the rage for certain "Clubs" in 1957.

 Jeanne, Stage Madame. "Fine – Don't Believe Me!"

Jeanne, Stage Madame. "Fine – Don't Believe Me!"

 Now we know whose fault it really was.

Now we know whose fault it really was.

 

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/posts/831877573682447)

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Music Theory and Exotic Scales, Part 3

In previous blogs in this series, we’ve described musical scales all based on western ideas of 12-tone chromatic scales (no micro-tones). Here I’ll fill out the exercise with more neat exotic stuff, and finish with Melodic Minor, which is very common in western music. Somehow, scales that are common in western music just aren't very interesting to M2M.

Double Harmonic Major (aka ''Arabic Scale''). Misirlou is perhaps the only tune known in the West that uses this scale (and even then only in the first part).  It begins in E Double Harmonic Major, but changes to A harmonic minor.

C Double Harmonic Major:  C,       Db,       E,       F,       G,       Ab,       B,       (c)

Intervals (rel to Cmaj):        1,        b2,       3,       4,       5,       b6,       7,       8

Semi-tones:                               1,         3,       1,       2,       1,         3,        1  

(With TWO augmented 2nds, it feels like it has two root notes. Notice that the semi-tone sequence is palindromic.)

Wikipedia also says it was used, ”…in the “Bacchanale” from the opera Samson and Delilah by Saint-Saëns. Claude Debussy used the scale in "Soirée dans Grenade", "La Puerta del Vino", and "Sérénade interrompue" to evoke Spanish flamenco music or Moorish heritage. In popular music, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow used the scale in pieces such as "Gates of Babylon" and "Stargazer".  The Miles Davis jazz standard "Nardis" also makes use of the double harmonic."

Hungarian Minor (aka ''Gypsy Minor'' and ''Double Harmonic Minor''), is probably most important in Eastern European music.

Take the IVth mode of the Double Harmonic Major, that is, start on the F of the C double harmonic major scale:

F Hungarian Minor:        F,       G,       Ab,       B,       c,      db,       e,       (f)

Intervals (rel to F Maj):  1,       2,       3b,       4#,      5,      6b,      7,       8

Semi- tones:                        2,        1,        3,        1,       1,        3,      1

  (You could think of the key signature as Ab and Db, or G# and C#.)

Another example:

C Hungarian Minor           C,      D,      Eb,      F#,     G,      Ab,       B,      (c)

Intervals (rel to C Maj):    1,       2,      3b,      4#,      5,      6b,       7,       8

Semi- tones:                          2,       1,       3,         1,       1,       3,       1

   (You could think of the key signature as F#, Ab, and Eb.

                                                              Hungarian Minor Scale in C

                                                            Hungarian Minor Scale in C

Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 has runs in Hungarian Minor. That sharped (augmented) 4th interval is apparently very significant to Eastern European music. I think that a run with two semitones in a row should be easy to detect.

Hungarian Scale or Hungarian Gypsy can also refer to a scale of 2, 1, 3, 1, 1, 2, 2. Wikipedia says, "Other modern examples of these scales in use are Foreigner's "Blue Morning Blue Day" where both forms of the scale are used (the lowered 7th only occurring at the very end), and even more recently, Arctic Monkeys' "Brianstorm," where both forms of the scale are also being used, interchangeably."

Melodic Minor is a little more complicated than Harmonic Minor and might be a little happier sounding. It is rather European/Western. The melodic minor scale takes the major scale and flats the 3rd interval when ascending, and flats the 3rd, 6th, AND 7th when descending.  This descent is the same as the natural minor scale. 

  Melodic Miner adjusting his condenser mic prior to blasting a seam.

Melodic Miner adjusting his condenser mic prior to blasting a seam.

                                             the A melodic minor scale

                                           the A melodic minor scale

The melodic minor scale in A looks like this:

Ascending:                   A,       B,       c,        d,        e,       f#,      g#,     (a)

Interval (rel to A maj):  1,       2,      b3,       4,        5,       6,       7,      8

Semi-tones:                        2,       1,       2,         2,       2,       2,       1

(this is A major but with the 3rd flatted)

 

Descending:                  a,         g,        f,        e,       d,       c,        B,     (A)

Interval (rel to A maj):   8,        b7,      b6,      5,       4,       b3,      2,     1

Semi-tones:                         2,        2,         1,      2,        2,       1,      2

   (this is A natural minor in reverse   )

Wikipedia cites Elton John's Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word as an example of the use of melodic minor. On Quora, Masaki Okamoto reminds us that certain lines in  Greensleeves, Yesterday, Autumn Leaves, Lullaby of Birdland, The Shadow of Your Smile, I Just Called To Say I Love You, Nature Boy, When You Wish Upon a Star, and I Hear a Rhapsody use the melodic minor scale. I assume there are many more.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page.
(https://www.facebook.com/m2mtucson/posts/862704337266437)

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