Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Acoustic Melodic Shred Guitar?

Time for a RyG update. Since I first heard of these two, which wasn't long ago at all, they've quickly climbed to the top of my list of favorites--and that simply from their releases on the 'net alone (listed below)!

Their new (self-titled) album is doing phenomenally well abroad, but I have word from their label that it won't be released in the US until September. I couldn't wait so I recently purchased the CD+DVD set from CD WOW! in the UK (very reasonable price and [best of all] free shipping worldwide).

They present the most rocking acoustic guitar I have ever heard. No, it doesn't always sound like rock or heavy guitar, but the vibe & energy is always there in whatever they play. You can feel it when you hear it. Check out this collection of performances available on the net. You'll see what I mean if you haven't checked them out previously:

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Orion (streaming audio)
Tamacun (streaming audio, also here)
Tamacun (Live, streaming video)

Live Manchester and Dublin
Mr. Tang (Live, free MP3)
One/Take 5 (Live, free MP3)

Foc (Free MP3)

Here's more info on the duo taken from a press release for your reading pleasure while you're listening to their remarkable music above:
Rodrigo y Gabriela

New album goes straight into the Irish charts at no 1.
This is a first for an instrumental album.

Rodrigo y Gabriela have reinvented the rules for acoustic guitar. They have reshaped its landscape using lightning speed, dynamic range and irresistible rhythmic invention. Constantly refining and redefining their craft, 2006 sees them rising to meet the challenge of taking their craft to a wider audience and greater artistic acclaim.

The exotic appeal of the R y G sound stems from their unique ethnic background in Mexico, which is at the heart of their success story. First meeting in their late teens in Terra Acida, a Mexican thrash metal band, they enjoyed some local success before a combination of frustration with the insular domestic rock scene and an overwhelming sense of wanderlust brought them to Europe.

Embracing the freedom that traveling with acoustic instruments brings. R y G alighted briefly in Denmark and Spain, before settling on Dublin at the turn of the millennium, following a tip off that it was a good town for visiting musicians. Early gigs in bars and restaurants were supplemented by busking, as they honed their skills on Grafton Street and Temple Bar. Damien Rice was an early fan, and it wasn’t long before they came to the attention of nascent Irish label Rubyworks. A private pressing of their earliest recordings entitled ‘Foc’ was re – recorded and reworked as ‘Re – Foc’ and this hit the stores as Rodrigo y Gabriela’s debut album proper in 2002.

Extensive touring in both Ireland and the UK followed, playing with acts as diverse as Courtney Pine, the Buena Vista Social Club, David Gray and Damien Rice. A sizzling souvenir of this period, the ‘Live Manchester And Dublin’ album surfaced in 2004, and became the first instrumental live album to crack the Irish Top 10.

2005 saw them back out on the road, with further live triumphs at festivals in Ireland and the UK, their first forays into the continental Europe live circuit, and a successful arena tour with David Gray. A writing and demo – ing session in Mexico ensued before settling down with legendary producer John Leckie (Muse, Radiohead, Stone Roses) in the UK to shape the new studio album.

With the release of ‘Rodrigo y Gabriela’; they are satisfied that they have managed to finally capture the raw excitement and energy of their live shows. Showing them as leaders in their field, gleefully blending and blurring musical genres in pursuit to their artistic vision – a direct connection with the hearts and minds of the audience. This album is a special gift to their fans and will hit UK record stores on March 13th.
I personally can't wait for the album to arrive from it's long journey across the seas. I would love it even more if these incredible players would tour the US sometime here in the near future! Acoustic Melodic Shred Guitar? Yep, sounds good to me.

A Guitar Classic On Ukulele

This is really nice!

George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps performed on Ukulele. Very well done. The only information I have on the performer is the URL listed at the end of the video, but the site says that it is temporarily down. At any rate enjoy the video.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

GNX Preset Viewer

Just a quick note for DigiTech GenNeXt (GNX) users. CodeKinesis has some very useful tools available, particularly the On-line Preset Viewer:
Use the GeNetX™ Online Preset Viewer to view and/or print, right from your browser, any preset on file at the DigiTech GeNetX™ Sound Community on DigiTech's web site. You can then enter the patches manually without the use of MIDI. Or, you can print them right from your browser for future reference.
You can pull up community submitted patches as well as the Guitar One & Guitar World magazine patches available for various GNX units. Nice.

There is also a Windows program available as well that lets you browse patches locally. Very cool, very useful.

Coming soon, a review of the MFX Basic Series Supermodels patch set for the GNX2 from MT Prosound & Guitar3456

Noisy Pickguards

Just when you think you've seen it all, you are reminded that you still have much to learn. Below is an excerpt of some e-mails that I sent to an electronics tech friend of mine:
This is really really strange, maybe you can offer some insight into what might be going on.

[Most] Strat® style guitars in modern times come with plastic pickguard assemblies. Pickups, switches, knobs all mount to this pickguard, as I'm sure you already know. Last night I discovered the strangest thing. When I run my hand or finger(s) across the pickguard, even while the left hand is touching the string (meaning I should be grounded)--when I run my finger across the plastic without touching any of the [metal] components, I hear a static type noise! This is totally bizarre and something I have never encountered before. I thought it was the guitar but when I tried the same thing with the Mini Strat® on another amplifier... same thing. It's not the guitar, it's me! What the heck is going on?! Am I somehow creating a static charge when my hand runs across the plastic that the pickups are responding to? How can this be? If so, what the heck am I going to do to stop it? A ground strap? I should already be grounded when I touch the strings. Anti-static spray? This is soooo weird!
Now where I live, high humidity is a near constant. However, in recent days it has been very cool, even cold. The humidity has beenoticeablyly less as of late. After realizing that the issue was not specific to one guitar, and somehow I was generating the noise, decidedlyly non-technical solution presented itself:
Well I'll be...

It was static generated when I touched the pickguard after all! I used some moisturizing lotion on my hands and problem solved.

How about that? Very weird...
So there you have it. Noisy pickguard? Try a moisturizer before you tear out all your guitar hardware trying to fix it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wing Can Sing?

I've, uh, never heard anything quite like this before.

New Zealand Chinese "Rest Home & Hospital Performer" Wing sings AC/DC's Back In Black.

Utterly bizarre or incredibly hilarious? You decide...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Patenting Thoughts

We move ever forward towards the utterly & inescapably absurd.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled This Essay Breaks the Law, Jurassic Park's own Michael Crichton informs us of a case that will be heard before the Supreme Court of the United States this Tuesday:
  • The Earth revolves around the Sun.

  • The speed of light is a constant.

  • Apples fall to earth because of gravity.

  • Elevated blood sugar is linked to diabetes.

  • Elevated uric acid is linked to gout.

  • Elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease.

  • Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.
ACTUALLY, I can't make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient's test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent. [emphasis added]

Unbelievable. Patent law abuse knows no bounds. I thought the notion of ideas as things was bad? Now you can't even think about patented ideas! Crichton's essay is a must read. Anyone who thought the whole Blackberry patent scandal was a total abuse of the system will most certainly recoil at the extent of this legal hubris. I mean your portable e-mail device is one thing, but mind/thought control?! What country do we live in again??

Sometimes I get confused...

More "Intellectual Property" News
I'm sure I could come up with a dozen or so more items for this list, but why not read a comic book instead?

Hmm, I wonder why someone doesn't try to trademark, patent, and copyright the idea of a story depicted in text & illustrations bound in a cheaply produced newsprint format?

Breathe Deep

Here's a simple, effective counter to the legal absurdities that are being used to cheat society out of it's cultural birthright--cliched as it might be: Ideas aren't formed in a vacuum. Stewart Brand wrote:
Recursion is the essence of science. For example, science papers cite other science papers, and that process of research pointing at itself invokes a whole higher level, the emergent shape of citation space. Recursion always does that. It is the engine of scientific progress and thus of the progress of society. [emphasis added]
So go ahead, patent it all. Copyright (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) everything. "Fair Use"? Ignore it entirely or lie about it until it just goes away. While you're at it, why not charge us for the very air we breathe?

These attempts at (and notions of) "intellectual property" control (and worse, now even the very thought you think) are just as stifling & damaging to the common good of the society in which we live as trying to license the air we breathe would be to the individual.

Take away the air of ideas. Create a vacuum. Watch society, culture, science, etc. all come to a grinding halt as they slowly suffocate in the pollution of legal abuses...

Finally! The Indie-net Revolution

No major label support. The Arctic Monkeys shouldn't have gone anywhere, but they are topping charts everywhere via internet "word-of-mouth" promotion alone.

Let the revolution (finally!) begin!

From a Wired blog entry, Monkey Bites

Their story is remarkable because of one fact: grassroots communication channels like MySpace and P2P file trading networks worked better than the major-label hype machine. The Arctic Monkeys became hugely popular because they wrote good songs, made them available to their fans for free, and encouraged them to share the MP3s with their friends.

Actually, the tech may be new compared to say 1980-something but the concept definitely isn't. In fact the internet's own "band most hated by their own fans" eventually became a household name by word-of-mouth, handing out cassettes of their demos and encouraging their fans to copy/share the tapes...

That would be Napster's own worst nightmare come to life, aka: Metallica.

Ironic isn't it? I guess in the Napster days they'd kind of forgotten where they'd come from and what initially got them noticed in the first place. Today, they offer up free downloads of their past shows on their MetallicA -Live- site, with the cry of "Download - Burn - Share - Kick Ass!" plastered on each download page... Yeah, I still think they want all the $$$ they can get, but I also believe they remember where they came from once again...

Fight it all they want, the days of old school big labels calling all the shots are definitely numbered. Particularly if my own experience is any indication--all of the new artists I have gained any interest in over the last several years I have found via the internet. Not on the radio, not on the big labels. Nope. In fact I have found most of them through their association with Maganatune. What I like from the free/legal downloads, I buy.

Yeah, I get notices from EFF all the time about how the big media companies are trying to lock down every new (and even old) technology they can via legislation but they can't really win. The cat is already long out of the bag, and if they try to stuff it back in I think they're going to get bit. You can't kick your customers around very long before they stop buying from you. I think some of the big labels know that. There are faint signs that some are taking notice and maybe trying to move into this millennium. We'll see how they fare. Slam the stupidity and reward the positive efforts buy voting with your wallet. That's how I see it these days at any rate...

PS Oh, did I mention the Artic Monkeys rock? Shredders? No, but of the two songs I have heard, they really know how to groove! Definite '80s influenced rock vibe going on. Very cool!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Shredding Prodigy

This is an interesting clip from Google Video. Apparently it's an 8-year old located in Russia (or so it would appear from the banner in the background), that has developed some pretty amazing guitar technique. Whoever said "shred is dead" didn't bother telling this kid! Sure, there is definitely more to music then simply playing ninety miles per hour, still, having the chops to play whatever you want could sure lead to some interesting avenues of musical endeavor over time. Let's hope he keeps up the good work!

I don't know why but I am reminded of a couple other guys with some impressive skills as well, despite the physical challenges they face:

A bassist, Bill Clements, who despite the loss of one arm has continued playing--developing an interesting style all his own. The other is a blind guitarist, Hiroaki Tagawa. His technique is employed over the top of the guitar neck similar to Jeff Healey (remember him?) except that he plays standing (whereas Healey played the Strat on his lap). Tagawa seems to be a very well rounded player. Solid rhythms and melodic leads.

These video clips are each interesting & inspirational vignettes of some very unique players. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

When World Views Collide

This is one of those video clips that everyone should see. Arab-American Psychologist Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera TV states unequivocally the position the world faces today in the constant upheaval of cultural clashes we see before us. This lady is incredibly bold and unflinching. It is amazing and enlightening to read the transcript, but watch the video. You will see the conviction of her stance in everything she states. She is not afraid.

The 'best' her opponents can do is label her 'heretic' and tell her there is no talking to her as such. Nice...
Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?

Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...

Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you.
Ms. Sultan's comments should not be ignored.

Video Clip (or here)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Save Goolge Video to AVI

Just a quick note. There is a modified version of the Google Video Getter Greasemonkey script that will give you a link to download .avi files (instead of the .flv files) from Google Video. I'm finding that these transcode the best more often then not out of the various flavors they offer. Windows users don't get this option automagically from Google but this Firefox script does the job.