I was teaching a beginner guitar student this week using Yousician and the open string mnemonic came up: Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie. Having grown up in China and only recently been immersed in an English-speaking country, she was unfamiliar with ‘dynamite’. I turned to the best example I could think of in the moment, the Roadrunner!
Maybe it’s because I’ve been looking through my dad’s old diaries that my mum gave me, but I’m in a sentimental mood. I just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest Revisionist History podcast episode, too. It’s one of my very favourite podcasts, thoroughly researched (as you’d expect) and always interesting and touching.
Jen and I went away with Mum this weekend. I was driving and I usually prefer spoken word rather than music to keep me alert. We listened to four episodes of Revisionist History on the trip and this one I’ve just listened to, ‘Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis’, continues the theme of memory. In it, Gladwell explores an idea that’s very close to my heart and experience — how difficult it can be to perform songs that have a great personal connection.
There’s a moment near the end of the episode when he’s talking to songwriter Kaci Bolls (thanks to a reader for correcting my spelling!). She’s singing a song she wrote about her mother and gets choked up as she tries to recall and perform it. Gladwell doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable feeling, in fact that’s his whole thesis, and just as the other person in the interview pulls up out of the discomfort, Gladwell interrupts, ” wait, Kaci, could you play that song?”
I really admire that, because I know how very much she wants to sing that song in that moment even though it’s hard. And not in an arrogant way (people often think performers are just looking for a chance to show off), but she wants to sing it despite knowing she doesn’t know it that well. It’s an act of connection with the subject of the song, her mother.
I recently sang a song of mine, ‘Make It Home’, at a gig with David Rooney. It has lots of little references to my memories of home as a child and never fails to bring a lump to my throat. But I still love it and I want to sing it. I was encouraged by Gladwell’s empathetic conclusion that “a lesser person would’ve sung it perfectly.”
I was going through some old passwords and sites I’ve subscribed to over the years and found this profile on a site called broadjam. It’s about ten years since I last updated it, and it’s a real snapshot of my life back then.
There’s a mixed bag of songs and some guitar instrumentals, too.
I used to play clarinet in a marching band when I was growing up in Northern Ireland. We’d have these ring-bound books that clipped onto our instruments using special attachments so we could play while marching along. We played a lot of tunes by the great American composer John Philip Sousa (Monty Python fans will be familiar with ‘The Liberty Bell’, which was used as the signature music to the cult British sketch show).
Jen and I saw ‘The Post’ last week, so maybe that’s why this particular tune jumped out at me when I was idly searching for a tune to work on. The film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and retells the proud history of the newspaper’s stand against Nixon’s administration.
Sousa was asked to write a march in 1889 for The Washington Post’s essay contest awards ceremony (read all about it in this article by Post writer John Kelly) and he came up with this piece, which apparently was great for dancing the two-step.
I hope you enjoy my ukulele arrangement! It uses a style of playing called campanella that has been a bit of a revelation to me in my approach to the instrument. If you want to find out more, seek out Jonathan Lewis’s YouTube channel and his website jons-ukulele.com.
Being snowed in these past few days, thanks to Storm Emma, has meant I got it finished. Check out my video — the tabs are here, too, if you’re interested.
ukulele tabs PDF
My ukulele arrangement of John Philip Sousa's march, 'The Washington Post'.
Laura Jurd has a real talent for composition and Dinosaur is a really exciting group to witness. They groove hard together and there is an easy chemistry between the four musicians. Parallels are inevitably drawn between Jurd and Miles Davis – trumpeters, confident band leaders, composers, embracing electronic instruments. Jurd’s command of the instrument is unquestionable, her tone is wonderful across the whole range. I was reminded of a Duke Ellington quote: “as a result of a certain musician applied to a certain instrument, you get a definite tonal character”.
[Originally published on Goldenplec.]
I accompany the Gardiner Street Gospel Choir each Sunday evening at the 7.30pm mass in St Francis Xavier’s Church on Gardiner Street. This Sunday was a special service to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Joseph Wresinski, who strongly believed that “extreme poverty is the work of mankind and only mankind can destroy it”. He founded the organisation ATD Fourth World in the 1950s and it continues to bring the voices of the world’s poor to the corridors of power.
Take a moment and read the last letter he wrote before he died in 1988:
We sang Michael Jackson’s song ‘Man in the Mirror’ (written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard) after the mass as a special tribute to Wresinski’s legacy.
Such a great track (sidenote: there are apparently two versions in the new Lego Batman movie). The outro is just fantastic. The choir (The Andraé Crouch choir, The Winans, and Siedah Garrett), the synth bass, the whole thing in a slightly other world at the end. The song’s key change lifts us from G major up to A flat major (listen how the electric piano sound is switched out at that point for a grand piano…Greg Phillinganes really lets loose!). The whole last section rests on a variety of the IV chord – D flat sus 2 – which provides the ‘open’ feeling. The bass that punctuates every six bars rather than eight, as we might expect, and this also destabilises the listener. You just have to relax into it. The singers are so confident, though, as is the bass…it leans us out over the edge of the chord, starting on a B flat, but draws us strongly back in…B flat, F, C, A flat, D flat. So satisfying! I love that the song stays in this place right to the end. Michael’s final urging to ‘make that change’ flies off at the end with infinite possibility.
Check out the ten songs shortlisted for the Song of the Year 2016. I have to confess I don’t know most of them, but I’m going to have a listen and see what I think. Let me know your thoughts in the comments here or tweet me: http://twitter.com/jaywilsonmusic
Really lovely feedback from the wedding ceremony I played at on Saturday at Celbridge Manor Hotel. The bride had organised everything with me via email, since she lives in Belgium. We’d discussed what songs she wanted and I sent snippets to them via YouTube so they could get an idea of how they’d sound.
The celebrant was Dara Molloy, a Celtic priest who I’d done one wedding with last year. I really like his manner and the meaningful ceremonies that he crafts for couples.