Orchestra Musician is not a cush job – support your local musicians

As many know, there has been a rash of labor disputes involving some of America’s finest orchestras, large and small.

In our charged political climate, it is not unusual to hear people who don’t know better siding with management.  “The musicians should be happy with the salary they get.”  “I don’t get paid that much!”  Eight weeks of vacation!  That’s crazy!”

The labor disputes in San Francisco and the Twin Cities have been especially nasty.  Recently an opinion was written on Brian Lauritzen’s blog in response to a misinformed opinion siding with orchestral management on these issues.

Read this great article here

Countless hours of dedication, uncertainty, lack of moral support, poverty, competition and other hardships await those who wish to pursue the constant artistic growth needed to make a career in the arts.  There are no salaries, benefits, solid paychecks, or certainty for musicians trying to pursue their dreams until they make it to the very top of their profession, and now those rewards for the select few are in jeopardy.

Support the arts.  They are what give us humanity, are the most important cultural gift to future generations, and remain one of the most pure and noble of human pursuits.

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Thought you knew what was possible on Double Bass? Watch!

Renaud Garcia-Fons: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

 

 

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Stanley Clark, Stewart Copland, and Ben Harper record in a basement

Stewart Copland, the outstanding drummer that you may know from his days with the Police, has done many great musical things during his career.  Lately, he has been getting together with different groups of musicians in his basement studio and recording.

Enjoy this collaboration with Copland, Ben Harper, and legendary bassist Stanley Clark!

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Pic of Chicago Bass Ensemble Performance 3/10/12

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Chicago Bass Ensemble at 2nd Presbyterian Church 3/10/12

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John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 3

For those who don’t know, I spent a large amount of time during grad school working in and around Musicology.  That also means that I have done a lot of writing about various aspects of the art form, especially popular music.  Here is pt. 3 of a paper that I wrote about the role and identity of bass in popular music from the not so distant past.  All appendixes are linked at the bottom for reader’s convenience.

John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 3

by Hans Peterman

A more detailed discussion of the bass riffs used in this song needs to be had to start to understand where and how Jones’ improvisational style manifests itself. The chorus riff, mirroring the guitar (Appendix 2), is normally the least modified, except for the last beat of the second measure of phrase, which is has room for an improvised scalar fill at the end. The tonic riff of the verse (Appendix 2) is similar to the chorus riff in many ways. It contains the octave leap, the sixteenth note dominant bass pickup, and the distinctive two eighth notes appear on almost every first beat of the harmonic rhythm.

What separates the verse riffs from the chorus riff is not only the length of the phrase, half of the chorus phrase, but the verse riffs are played in a much more rhythmically defined than melodically defined way. While the chorus riff, by it’s very function, needs to be more melodically defined to remain recognizable, the same is not true of the bass riffs during the 12 bar verse. As previously mentioned, the two eighth notes that begin every phrase are the single most unifying factor throughout the entire bass performance.

The less defined melodic structure of the verse riffs allow for a much more powerful improvisational gestures for the bass from the start of the form. It doesn’t hurt that the guitar has taken a backseat in the texture and the bass is one of the only voices melodically moving besides the vocals. While the chorus riff remains more melodically constant, especially early in the form, the verse riffs are continuous modified from the beginning.

John Paul Jones’ improvisational style truly manifests itself during the verse sections of the form. While rarely playing the same exact gesture twice, Jones maintains organizational structure throughout the verse, divided into two bar statements. Following the two eighth note gesture, the first bar in the sequence will almost always start with a sixteenth note pickup on the end of beat two, followed by a sixteenth note arpeggiation and a syncopated scale down into the next bar. The second bar, following the two eighth notes, will be a contrasting rising figure with less melodic motion and more of a concentration on the syncopation. Constant are the two eighth notes that rhythmically and harmonically establish the phrase.

Using scales and arpeggios, syncopated and straight, Jones’ comes up with endless ways to creatively and melodically move the harmonic structure into the next chord. As demonstrated in the transcription in Appendix A, Jones’ bass line still follows the general syncopated nature heard at the beginning of the chorus riff, lending a unified sound to the general feel of the song.

The two different transcriptions of the verse, one from the beginning of the song, and one from the guitar solo that happens during the fourth time through the verse structure, demonstrate the increased amount of improvisational freedom that Jones exhibits as the song progresses. In the transcription of the guitar solo verse, more notes appear in the structure, and the syncopations during the second measures of the phrases are more complicated. Additionally, as can be seen in the second measure of the phrase based on the IV chord, and it’s return after the dominant, Jone’s line has now occupied the whole measure.

In bands of Led Zeppelin’s era, the rhythm section was not for backup like it was during the 1950s. Influences of soul and jazz, and innovations in amplification and equipment, allowed backline players to contribute much more musically to their situations. This era in rock music saw the rise of powerful and virtuosic rhythm sections, and none were more musically respected than John Paul Jones and John Bonham. From early in their career, they exhibited remarkable synergy in being able to musically communicate with each other.

Much of Led Zeppelin’s live power and mystique was owed to Jones and Bonham. While Robert Plant and Jimmy Page contributed much of the melodic improvisation, the rhythm section set the tone for the band’s presentation with precision, complicated technique, and huge amounts of sound. In my opinion, the “tight but loose” sound is based on the ability of the bass and drums to create pocket. The communication and shared feel that musicians need to create a deep pocket is hard to describe. Good rhythm players care as much about space as the notes played, and both Jones and Bonham had a wonderful grasp on the concept.

Evolutionary improvisation in the bass lines of Led Zeppelin do not occur to this obvious of a level all the time. In much of the later recorded material, especially after Houses of the Holy, the rhythm section parts are much more established. However, improvisations from Jones still occur, although they tend to be over smaller temporal intervals, as the riffs during this period tended to be much more established over the course of the song form.

John Paul Jones’ bass playing helped define Led Zeppelin, and it is curious that he is not talked about musically more than he is. His ability to freely improvise over the foundational harmonic and rhythmic responsibilities he has are uncanny. This ability formed the foundation for much of Led Zeppelin’s live improvisational power, a calling card for the band, especially during the crucial first years of their career. Although their mid and late period album work gets a lot of the attention while discussing the band’s musical legacy, it cannot be forgotten that Led Zeppelin began as a highly charged, highly creative live act centering on improvisation.

 

 

Sources:

Fast, Susan. In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the power of rock music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001

Bream, Jon. Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin : the illustrated history of the heaviest band of all time. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2008

 

www.ledzeppelin.org

 

PT. 1 and Pt. 2 available. Here is a ZepFormAnalysis done for this song as well as notated examples in Appendix2

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Chicago Bass Ensemble Performance This Sunday, March 10th

This Sunday March 10th at 2:30 The Chicago Bass Ensemble plays a recital at 2nd Presbyterian Church in the South Loop.

 

We’ll be playing at the Second Presbyterian Church, March 10, 2013.

1936 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
312.225.4951

This is the first season of a new music series at Second Presbyterian, Sounds of the South Loop.

Suggested donation ranges from $8 for seniors buying online up to $18 for non-seniors at the door. Follow the link above.

Program includes:

  • Teppa Hauta-Aho’s “Why?”
  • Tony Osborne’s “Rocket Man”
  • Two Bach Fugues arranged by Joel DiBartolo
  • Paul Ramsier’s “Lullaby”
  • Dan Armstrong’s “Wildebeests and Warthogs
  • “Three Spanish Motets” by Tomas Luis de Victoria, arranged by Michael Cameron
  • Jan Alm’s “Quartet #1″
  • Telemann’s Concerto #2 in D for four Violins — arranged for four basses in G

 

More Concert details are available here.

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John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 2

For those who don’t know, I spent a large amount of time during grad school working in and around Musicology.  That also means that I have done a lot of writing about various aspects of the art form, especially popular music.  Here is pt. 2 of a paper that I wrote about the role and identity of bass in popular music from the not so distant past.  All appendixes are linked at the bottom for reader’s convenience.

John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 2

by Hans Peterman

LedZeppelin_07

Melodic bass improvisation is more of a lost art in today’s popular music world, but in the late 1960’s, it was the way things were done. From James Jamerson and Bob Babbitt of Motown, Donald “Duck” Dunn of Stax Records, to Jack Bruce of Cream, John Entwhistle of the Who, and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, bass players took more of an assertive role in the improvisational nature in the music of the period. John Paul Jones, above all of the other rock players, knew the importance of laying down a strong harmonic foundation to compositions, learned from his extensive experience in the London session scene and diverse musical background and training. Jones mastered a style of improvisation that allowed him all of his artistic freedom, while laying down the the solid foundation Zeppelin needed for their heavy sound. “I like to be free in what I do. I hardly ever play the same thing twice. Even in songs that are mapped out, like ‘Good Times, Bad Times’, I swap it around a little bit. We all enjoy the freedom to do that. In order to have that freedom, you have to know each other so well.”- John Paul Jones (Bream, pg. 41)

“Traveling Riverside Blues” is a perfect example of Jones’ foundational technique. The riffs, sometimes shared with the guitar, sometimes only bass, are well established from the beginning of the song. Zeppelin’s approach to their more electric sound was normally based on riffs, different gestures that comprise, rhythmic, melodic, harmony, and timbre elements and are related to each other in specific ways. (Fast, 116)

The riff based nature of Zeppelin’s approach to “Traveling Riverside Blues” is a typical example of the way the band approached putting together a song, especially early in their career. The riffs not only sit well on the guitars, allowing for easier improvisation and fluidity, but they are a concise way of laying out the form of the song for listeners. The complexities of the textures are intensified by the fact that the guitar only plays a riff from the song during the chorus. While the bass outlines organized repeating riff patterns in the verse, the guitar retreats to a more classic, rhythm based 12 string technique during these periods.

The song form, mapped out in ZepFormAnalysis, is a modified twelve bar blues in G Mixolydian, with the chorus being four four-bar phrases in the tonic key, while the verse, and later guitar solo, are in a typical twelve bar blues form. The bass harmonically outlines the form with consistent riffs, different for each part of the form and each chord change.

Outlining the form primarily with the bass allows several important characteristics to happen. First, Jimmy Page is much more free to improvise 12-string guitar chords behind the lyrics, and use the 12 string sonorities in more of an atmospheric, supporting role. Secondly, it helps to highlight Robert Plant’s ability to vocally improvise. Normally in rock forms, the vocal line plays a decisive role in giving to the listener the start of the chorus versus the start of the verse. With Jones taking care of this function, Robert Plant was able to be much more free with the way that he approached the song, including not always singing the same chorus, and using fragments of lyrics and melodic improvisations instead of a firmly established lyrical line.

The chorus riff(Appendix2), played by the guitar and bass as a duo, is an announcement that the song has arrived at a tonic stasis in the form. This stasis not only contrasts with the longer harmonic rhythm of the 12 bar blues verses, but allows the song to have a larger formal structure. The chorus riff is shared by guitar and bass, signaling a unity of material that only happens in the chorus part of the form. The chorus riff is played by Page’s solo twelve string guitar once after a short chordal introduction, and is followed by the rhythm section three more times to complete the introduction to the beginning of the song form. This introduction helps establishes the main riff as ‘home’ for the listener.

The chorus riff contains Zeppelin’s often used octave leap in it’s construction. This melodic technique is common in the band’s electric songs, including the ‘Wanton Song” and “Immigrant Song”. (Fast, 117) This important gestural element fits well with the Mixolydian contents of the riff. All the bass riffs used in the song also contain the octave leap, usually preceded by a dominant sixteenth note pickup.

The bass riffs that occur in the twelve bar blues form almost always start with two eighth notes on the main harmonic chord. This gesture mirrors the beginning of the chorus riff, building continuity between formal sections. Additionally, starting the bass gesture in this way not only puts down a strong harmonic foundation for the phrase, but allows for the rhythmic space needed to establish Led Zeppelin’s powerful pocket. The pocket, usually discussed by rhythm players as having more to do with space than notes, is also heavily swung, which allows for more powerful spatial movement during the phrase. This spatial movement is part of the “tight but loose” sound that Led Zeppelin was famous for.

Sources:

Fast, Susan. In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the power of rock music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001

Bream, Jon. Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin : the illustrated history of the heaviest band of all time. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2008

www.ledzeppelin.org

PT. 1 is available here and  Pt. 3 will follow shortly.

Here is a ZepFormAnalysis done for this song as well as notated examples in Appendix2 for reader’s reference.

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John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 1

For those who don’t know, I spent a large amount of time during grad school working in and around Musicology.  That also means that I have done a lot of writing about various aspects of the art form, especially popular music.  Here is pt. 1 of a paper that I wrote about the role and identity of bass in popular music from the not so distant past.  All appendixes are linked at the bottom for reader’s convenience.

John Paul Jones and the improvisatory elements of bass in Led Zeppelin, Pt. 1

by Hans Peterman

a1973-john-paul-jones-led-zeppelin

John Paul Jones

Through the early part of their recording career in the late sixties and early seventies, Led Zeppelin quickly established themselves not only as prolific album producers, but as crowd pleasing live improvisers. Centering on tight rhythm section interaction and lengthy guitar solos spiced with vocal improvisations, the band maintained a “tight but loose” presentation that pushed all parts of the musical texture to new heights of experimentation. Elements such as virtuosic musicianship, using fragments of other songs during their lengthy group jams, and sheer epic length and size helped quickly make Led Zeppelin an underground live sensation.

Underneath Jimmy Page’s extended guitar solos and over John Bonham’s complicated and groove-based drumming, John Paul Jones’ bass lines offered not only a melodic and harmonically foundational style of bass playing, but also a level of improvisation rarely matched in the playing of other bass players during the period.

Demonstrated in the song “Traveling Riverside Blues”, Jones presents a riff-based foundation of playing which allowed him to improvise throughout the song, extensively using fills at the end of phrases, as well as changing the rhythmic and melodic character of the riffs he played, while he maintained the structural integrity needed to define the song form. On this track in particular, as well as others in their early career, there is an evolutionary improvisation that is presented by the bassist. Maintaining a consistent approach to the foundational riffs is important to establishing the song form to the listener. The bass line that is constructed shares similarities throughout the structure. However, as the song progresses, more of the space around these structural elements is improvised. This concept of evolutionary improvisation in the bass part gives the listener the feeling that as the song progresses, each time through the form is more improvised, culminating in the extensive improvisations during the guitar solo phrase near the end of the song.mming, John Paul Jones’ bass lines offered not only a melodic and harmonically foundational style of bass playing, but also a level of improvisation rarely matched in the playing of other bass players during the period.m section interaction and lengthy guitar solos spiced with vocal improvisations, the band maintained a “tight but loose” presentation that pushed all parts of the musical texture to new heights of experimentation. Elements such as virtuosic musicianship, using fragments of other songs during their lengthy group jams, and sheer epic length and size helped quickly make Led Zeppelin an underground live sensation.

“Traveling Riverside Blues” was originally recorded live on June 29th, 1969 at Maida Vale Studio 4 in London, England. The track was recorded along with others for one of several live performances for BBC radio that Led Zeppelin did between 1968 and 1971. BBC radio live sessions, also done by illustrious bands of the period like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Who, was a common way for groups to market their music to British audiences. The song was later released as part of the album Coda in 1982, a compilation of unreleased tracks put together after John Bonham’s untimely death in 1980. “Traveling Riverside Blues” was then later on the Led Zeppelin box set release in 1991, and still later on the BBC Sessions compilation released in 1997. It was also extensively used as a promotional track for the previously mentioned box set, the first collection of the Zeppelin catalog to be digitally remastered by Jimmy Page.

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Robert Johnson

Much of Led Zeppelin’s influence and inspiration came from early American blues artists like Johnson. Jimmy Page especially demonstrated a love for the form, and much of the impetus for putting Led Zeppelin together was to play the early american blues music “heavy”. Although some of the lyrics and some song forms were directly taken from the original songs that Zeppelin covered, most of the time the riffs in the band’s version were all original.  This song helped stoked the fire of controversy of credit and ownership in Led Zeppelin’s catalog during the 1980’s. Many of the songs off of the bands first few albums were claimed by American blues artists, and the band did much atoning for this, included lucrative settlements and crediting original artists on certain tracks. Interestingly, this song should not have been much of a controversy, since all of the recorded versions listed Robert Johnson as the primary songwriter, included the earliest in 1982.

Listing Robert Johnson as primary songwriter may have been generous and credited as more of a tribute to the famous bluesman, as all of the riffs in the song are original and the Zeppelin version bears almost no musical resemblance to the 1937 recording. Robert Plant’s lyrics, generally the most similar characteristic to the original when the band covered blues songs, were actually an amalgamation in “Traveling Riverside Blues”. They contain lyrical sections of several different Robert Johnson standards, including Come Into My Kitchen and Kindhearted Woman, as well as songs from other artists, includingSleepy John Estes’ Milk Cow Blues andSt. Louis Jimmy Oden’s Goin’ Down Slow. (www.ledzeppelin.org)

“Traveling Riverside Blues” bears a lot of resemblance to the “Lemon Song”, released on Led Zeppelin II, on October 22nd, 1969. Not only does the “Lemon Song” consist of the famous “Squeeze my lemon” refrain, but contains extensive bass improvisations, including the second verse, which is sans guitar. This style of rhythm section only accompaniment to the vocals may have been spawned from “Traveling Riverside Blues”.

 

PT. 2 and Pt. 3 to follow shortly. Here is a ZepFormAnalysis done for this song as well as notated examples in Appendix2

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Chicago Bass Ensemble plays concert March Tenth in the South Loop

Chicago Bass Ensemble Concert – March 10th

Jacque Harper, Anton Hatwich, Hans Peterman and Michael Cameron will be performing.

Performance is at the Second Presbyterian Church, March 10, 2013.

1936 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
312.225.4951

This is the first season of a new music series at Second Presbyterian,Sounds of the South Loop. We’re honored to be a part of it!

Suggested donation ranges from $8 for seniors buying online up to $18 for non-seniors at the door. Follow the link above.

We’ll be playing

  • Teppa Hauta-Aho’s “Why?”
  • Tony Osborne’s “Rocket Man”
  • Two Bach Fugues arranged by Joel DiBartolo
  • Paul Ramsier’s “Lullaby”
  • Dan Armstrong’s “Wildebeests and Warthogs”

We’ll also likely add the following pieces (we’re still working out the details):

  • “Three Spanish Motets” by Tomas Luis de Victoria, arranged by Michael Cameron
  • Jan Alm’s “Quartet #1″

This is a great chance to hear what bass quartet music is like close to home!  Hope to see everyone there.

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Student Testimonial #3

“I am a guitarist, writer, and engineer that found himself playing bass in a Black Sabbath tribute
band. Quickly under water, I decided to seek help, and luckily found Hans.
Too old and ornery to actually “learn” how to play bass properly, Hans quickly adapted to
my needs. Noticing and adjusting technical aspects of my playing, he was able to improve
my sound immediately. By compromising lesson plans, we found several exercises that I
was able to incorporate into my own systems. I learned that my problems were mine and
not my guitar’s, and was able to confidently contribute to the project.
Mostly, however, Hans helped me philosophically. Through our discussions, he patiently
helped me discover the nature of the instrument. I evolved into more of a bassist than a
guitar player playing bass, and became a better musician in the process. My work on bass
has directly translated into my guitar playing, drumming, and writing.
No matter your level of experience or your reason for seeking lessons, Hans is the man
to take you where you want to go.”

Mat L – Bass Guitar

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