Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Want to Form a Musical Trio and Tour Iceland

I want to pack up a banjo, a harmonica, a glockenspiel, and two people willing to cram into tiny suitcases, and fly straight from Toronto to Reykjavík. Upon arrival, we will immediately locate the nearest winter garment distributor to purchase the thickest, most flamboyantly litskrúðugur woolen sweaters available.

Potential candidates must be willing to follow, without potential for alteration, this route which I created in MS Paint in no less than seven seconds:

As you can see, we will be visiting every town in the entire country. Our route will be relatively straightforward, with the exception of a single trip into the exact centre, carefully chosen to occur during the point of the trip where my finger slipped while using the paintbrush tool.

Our trip will begin at 11:59 on the evening of the 2010 summer solstice. It will end on an entirely arbitrary day of my choosing (whenever we get bored).

In order to ensure the trip goes smoothly, I have compiled a list of challenges we may encounter both throughout the planning stages, and eventual arrival.

Issue #1: Financial feasibility

Good news! While North America struggles through its own economic crisis, thanks to our valiant efforts to save ourselves, and ignorance toward other countries that really don't matter, the Icelandic economy no longer exists!

(Just in case your eyes don't focus illegible resolutions, that's a candid photo of "2009" and a "big fucking vertical line" drunk and locking lips at last night's party).

Now, I know what you're asking: "what does this mean for the price of a Big Mac in downtown Hafnarfjörður?" Well, while America's hat is paying more than $1.00 more on average than its head, an Icelandic Big Mac combo will run you roughly $0.00 depending on which recently unemployed fisherman you offer to help find a job.

Issue #2: The language barrier

My best efforts to translate the preceding text using the only Icelandic language resource I own, a Sigur rós calendar I purchased on the internet one night last summer while drunk, leads me to believe it translates in its entirely to the English equivalent of "August". Of course, I had my doubts, so I decided to ask Icelandic born Sam Neill where I might have gone wrong:

"I don't even know where to begin telling you what's wrong with just about everything you're talking about" was his response.

I was flabbergasted.

As much as I would love to be fluent in the language of the vikings, it turns out the vast majority of the country speaks English. Crisis averted (for now).

Fellow Jurassic Park actor Jeff Goldblum was unavailable for comment as he was busy trying to convince the world he wasn't dead for the fifth time.

Issue #3: Gnomes

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a travelogue written by J.R.R. Tolkien about his trip to Iceland, mistaken for a work of fiction by his publishers.

PROOF: Figure 1.1: Composite drawing of "The Shire"

Figure 1.2: Actual photo of your average Icelandic dwelling

More than 80% of the population of Iceland believes in the existence of elves, gnomes, or magic pixies according to that website (and my mom during a family dinner at Swiss Chalet earlier this summer). Not even Iceland's great roadway expanses are exempt from gnomish influence. "Highway engineers in recent years have been forced to reroute roads around supposed elf dwellings". THIS IS WHAT ICELAND ACTUALLY BELIEVES.

To be entirely honest, during my trip to Iceland, I'd much rather face off against my musical shortcomings than to Gollum, or some kind of maliciously enchanted treant.

So mark your 2010 elven calendar for the 42nd eve of
lairë. I'm already stuffing my piggy bank with valuable dwarven crystals.

See you there.

- Alex

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Long Road

Nothing gets in the way more of sitting at home in your underwear, eating crackers and jamming out on your keyboard, than having a job. On the long road to musical mastery, your job will hinder you more than any other obstacle (aside from sleep, but that can easily be curtailed with a cup coffee and a few minor serious health problems.)

We all enjoy listening to
music at work. It's the next best thing we can get to playing music at work, but I think we've all had to endure that "banjos don't pull weeds" lecture at least once in our lives. "It's just common sense". Well, obviously she never took third grade science. I decided it was time I teach her an aesthetically pleasing lesson in garden etiquette.

HYPOTHESIS: Music and gardening go together like peanut butter and bacon


MATERIALS: You can't have a flower dance party without the perfect mixtape. Here's something that's just begging to be taped over.

A little more flower-relevant please.


Figure 3.4: A typical Paenoia Lactiflora.

"I asked it, "so what kind of music do you like?" Its response was cold and reserved, but I could see the curiosity burning through its petioles. We stood there in silence for more than a minute. Suddenly I knew I wasn't going to get a a straight answer."

Figure 7.8:
Paenoia Lactiflora equipped with high quality JVC stereophonic audio.

Some people believe that plants will respond to certain frequencies and vibrations at a cellular level, and think that talking to their plants, or playing classical music for them, can increase their yield. Now, I've done no research whatsoever, but nonetheless I assume that countless studies have been conducted on the effects of the music of Mozart, Bach, and the like, on all sorts of flora and fauna.


Here, for the first time ever, we're going to see how an everyday garden variety peony reacts to some REAL music. Kids these days aren't loading sonatas and arias onto their iPods, they're singing along with MGMT going "doobedoodoop" and occasionally, when the mood warrants, "dipdeepeederpdeedee".

In order to appeal to today's flowering youth, I've decided to crank up the volume, and crank up the rock, with the classic Nine Inch Nails ballad "Closer."

Figure 9.1:
Paenoia Lactiflora immediately following exposure to Trentus Reznorium

It seemed like he was really enjoying it at first. In fact, I was half expecting him to whip out his stamen and start photosynthesizing right in front of me. But sometime around the line "you can have my isolation, you can have my hate" something changed. Something snapped. Obviously I didn't get the results I was looking for. Moving on.

Figure 5.7: A plant of the
lettuce family, commonly known as lettuce

Figure 7.3: You get the idea

NEW HYPOTHESIS: Music doesn't make plants
grow better, hippies and old people have had it wrong the entire time, music makes plants taste better.

MATERIALS: Mouth + lettuce

It tastes just as bad as you would think a big pile of lettuce would taste. And I think it was covered in parasites.

CONCLUSION: I was right, suck it science Further research required.

Time well spent I say. Until next time.

- Alex

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Piano

As a self-described musical visionary, I've always felt the only thing holding me back was a crippling lack of talent. Nevertheless, I feel that what I lack in talent, I more than make up for in WISHING I had talent. Therefore I'd like everyone out there to take a moment, gather round, and bear
witness to my inspiring rise from drunken keyslammer to concert virtuoso.

Even Schubert (pronounced shoe-BURT with appropriate emphasis) had to dish out a few earsplitting renditions of Mary Had a Little Lamb (potential blatant inaccuracy) before penning his greatest symphonies in his elder years (and dying of syphilis, and that was back BEFORE it was cool).

We've all heard the expression "those who don't know, teach" and if I've learned anything in my lifetime from timeless folk adages, it's that there is no better source for advice (potentially save Reader's Digest, and that's really only relevant for miraculous volcano survivals and the ten best ways to save money this Christmas). So, in order to better understand the nuances of sheet music for myself, I'm going to gather together what little I've learned over the past three years and teach YOU, the reader, how to play Schubert's classic composition "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Figure 1: The "score"

Fun fact: The ONLY song written in the past 200 years that sounds better when you scream out the notes rather than play it.


Figure 2: The subject
(potential blatant minor inaccuracy)

Figure 3: The lesson

Everything you could ever want to know about sheet music (save rests, dynamics, sharps, flats and just about everything important) in one simple picture. Remember the simple acronym for Mary Had a Little Lamb?
B.A.G.A.B.B.B.A.A.A.B.D.D.B.A.G.A.B.B.B.B.A.A.B.A.G. It rolls right off the tongue. And it's all at your fingertips now.

Figure 4: The demonstration
(talent sold separately)

"Technology to the rescue"

In the age of MIDI keyboards and internet dating, it's a small miracle what you can do with a little technical know-how. Welcome to the role of the producer, who, if properly trained, and with the help of a reverb or two, can turn the sound of a wild monkey orgy into the latest prog-epic by The Mars Volta. Let's see if we can't do something similar. Our next subject, the "almost perfect" recording.

Looks like we've got a black lamb amongst our flock (of lambs.) See that circled fucker there? That's an F. Sounds all innocent doesn't it? Well sit yourself down because here comes the bombshell: that F... shouldn't be an F at all. Shift it up a notch (or two if you're big into sharps), because it'd sound a hell of a lot better as a G. In this case, F is for "failure." G is for "good" as in "good note" as in "the right note." But what can we do? We can thank the inventor of the clink-n-drag.

Can we get an instant replay on that?

Beautiful. Tune in next week to learn how to make your very own rock anthem with nothing more than a fork, a pizza box, an even MORE enthusiastic thumbs up, and of course, a big 'ol bag 'o dreams.

Keep hope alive.

- Alex