“Since opening last April the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino has become perhaps the most profitable in the world. Together with Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), another casino complex opened in Singapore last February, it is close to out-grossing the entire Las Vegas strip. Singapore seems to have gone from strait-laced container port to gambling mecca in one bound.”
“Goodbye, Costa Mesa” - Aaron Cannon, trumpet; Matt McGowen, trombone; Zach Meyer, alto sax; John Mason, tenor sax (solo); Zach Gorra, piano; Justin Binder, guitar; Michael Siegel, bass; Scott Schoen, drums; William Kenlon, vibes (solo); Emily Boeke, voice. November 18, 2010.
Back in my JMU days (daze?), I took two wonderful semesters of pop songwriting with Joseph Taylor. The third or fourth assignment he gave us was to write a song with “no more than two structural elements.” This piece (with words which I have since abandoned) was the result of that. When we listened to my initial home recording in class, another student called me out for actually having a tripartite song: a verse, a pre-chorus, and a chorus. (Even without lyrics, as above, I think it’s pretty clear which is which.) However, my defense was that even though the form of the song can be divided into three distinct parts, the verse and chorus are members of the same structural element - that being the 7-note ostinato which the vibraphones play almost unceasingly throughout the piece. Regardless of that, this is one of my songwriting class songs that I don’t mind sharing with people.
In fact, I’m happy to share this with people. It’s kind of an anomaly for me: it owes a huge debt to minimalism and nothing to Messaien; it has a simple, folk-like melody; it has only one single, solitary major seventh chord. (!!!) But I think I like this song precisely because it doesn’t sound like me. Writing this kind of thing is like compositionally wearing my jammies all day, or eating beef & potato stew. Where’s the cardigan? Where are the herbes de Provence? Exactly.
In addition to my original one-man-band recording, I also arranged this piece for a smaller jazz combo at JMU (same as above but minus vibes, piano, and voice). I’m much more fond of this one; the piano and vibes add enormously to the texture of the piece. The mix is not what I’d like it to be - Emily is a wonderful jazz singer, but her vocals are a little too present here, as is one of the inner lines during the chorus - so one of these days I may get a hold of the ProTools session and move some trims around.
William is a new friend. I already think he’s awesome. Listen and know why.
This one in record time: 2 hours! Well - and a little bit. Thought I would get it out before all the snow melts and the winter bite is no longer in the air.
I’m starting to wonder if my sense of rhythm really is that bad - or whether its my Macbook/GarageBand that can’t record everything properly synced. Hm. I am sure, though, that my laptop’s not to blame for the strange ending, that doesn’t close properly on the “m” sound of the last word, “time.” Hm. Hmmmmm.
PS: Must get my hands on their new album - hopefully when they come to Boston in May? :)
UPDATE: So with repeated listening and a gentle point-out by music extraordinaire, Mr. William Kenlon, I realized I majorly messed up both the rhythm and the lyrics of the lines ” following the pack/all swallowed in their coats.” Epic fail. :( A good reminder to study the songs I cover more carefully next time…
Intern-ships are seemingly thankless jobs, but they are often a rare golden ticket to a path to highly sought after positions. The issue is that most of these jobs are non-paying, making them un-affordable for those who don’t come from a privileged background. When one must toil through 12-hour days, with tasks ranging from the banal (fetching coffee) to somewhat skilled (fetching data,) it doesn’t leave time to take a second job to support their dream. This creates a very real societal structure that locks out those on the lower rungs of society from pulling themselves up. The American Dream requires more than a little help from friends and a well established and generous family.
Was listening to the radio on a lazy Saturday morning when I heard their story, and it just captured me. They bought a sailboat, sailed for a year, and wrote an album about it? I have to listen to this music. Especially since it was described like this:
"You see the rawest form of experience — an experience devoid of judgment or opinions from other people — and it just yields itself to more creativity," Riley says.
The long-awaited second-coming of the divine and bearded. No, I’m not talking about Jesus Christ, I’m referring to the most anticipated folk album of 2011 by the legendary mountain-men of Seattle known as the Fleet Foxes. After listening to their epic debut album, which was critically praised and insanely popular, I found it difficult to fathom that they could top themselves. Well with this new single, Helplessness Blues, all of my doubts have been utterly obliterated. This song is pure folk glory! Epic in sound and angelic voices that cause my skin to crawl with goosebumps as I’m dying with anticipation to grace my ears with the rest of this greatness. This is heavenly bliss for your ears.
“I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you.”
So lush, and absolutely stunning.
Thank you, Sally Sharrow, for introducing me to the Fleet Foxes! (Although you mightn’t actually remember doing so; I think it was just a passing mention at one of our project meetings in Sophomore year. How fortuitous.)
They also get awesomeness points for being from Seattle. ;)
I am in the Gan Eng Seng Primary School in a middle-class neighborhood of Singapore, and the principal, A. W. Ai Ling, has me visiting a fifth-grade science class. All the 11-year-old boys and girls are wearing junior white lab coats with their names on them. Outside in the hall, yellow police tape has blocked off a “crime scene” and lying on a floor, bloodied, is a fake body that has been murdered. The class is learning about DNA through the use of fingerprints, and their science teacher has turned the students into little C.S.I. detectives. They have to collect fingerprints from the scene and then break them down.
I missed that DNA lesson when I was in fifth grade. When I asked the principal whether this was part of the national curriculum, she said no. She just had a great science teacher, she said, and was aware that Singapore was making a big push to expand its biotech industries and thought it would be good to push her students in the same direction early. A couple of them checked my fingerprints. I was innocent — but impressed.
This was just an average public school, but the principal had made her own connections between “what world am I living in,” “where is my country trying to go in that world” and, therefore, “what should I teach in fifth-grade science.”
I was struck because that kind of linkage is so often missing in U.S. politics today. Republicans favor deep cuts in government spending, while so far exempting Medicare, Social Security and the defense budget. Not only is that not realistic, but it basically says that our nation’s priorities should be to fund retirement homes for older people rather than better schools for younger people and that we should build new schools in Afghanistan before Alabama.
President Obama just laid out a smart and compelling vision of where our priorities should be. But he did not spell out how and where we will have to both cut and invest — really intelligently and at a large scale — to deliver on his vision.
Singapore is tiny and by no means a U.S.-style democracy. Yet, like America, it has a multiethnic population — Chinese, Indian and Malay — with a big working class. It has no natural resources and even has to import sand for building. But today its per capita income is just below U.S. levels, built with high-end manufacturing, services and exports. The country’s economy grew last year at 14.7 percent, led by biomedical exports. How?
If Singapore has one thing to teach America, it is about taking governing seriously, relentlessly asking: What world are we living in and how do we adapt to thrive. “We’re like someone living in a hut without any insulation,” explained Tan Kong Yam, an economist. “We feel every change in the wind or the temperature and have to adapt. You Americans are still living in a brick house with central heating and don’t have to be so responsive.” And we have not been.
Singapore probably has the freest market in the world; it doesn’t believe in import tariffs, minimum wages or unemployment insurance. But it believes regulators need to make sure markets work properly — because they can’t on their own — and it subsidizes homeownership and education to give everyone a foundation to become self-reliant. Singapore copied the German model that strives to put everyone who graduates from high school on a track for higher education, but only about 40 percent go to universities. Others are tracked to polytechnics or vocational institutes, so the vast majority graduate with the skills to get a job, whether it be as a plumber or a scientist.
Explained Ravi Menon, the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry: “The two ‘isms’ that perhaps best describe Singapore’s approach are: pragmatism — an emphasis on what works in practice rather than abstract theory; and eclecticism — a willingness to adapt to the local context best practices from around the world.”
It is a sophisticated mix of radical free-market and nanny state that requires sophisticated policy makers to implement, which is why politics here is not treated as sports or entertainment. Top bureaucrats and cabinet ministers have their pay linked to top private sector wages, so most make well over $1 million a year, and their bonuses are tied to the country’s annual G.D.P. growth rate. It means the government can attract high-quality professionals and corruption is low.
America never would or should copy Singapore’s less-than-free politics. But Singapore has something to teach us about “attitude” — about taking governing seriously and thinking strategically. We used to do that and must again because our little brick house with central heating is not going to be resistant to the storms much longer.
“There is real puzzlement here about America today,” said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, “because we learned all about what it takes to build a well-functioning society from you. Many of our top officials are graduates of the Kennedy School at Harvard. They just came back home and applied its lessons vigorously.”