Musings from the basement...

How to Add Depth and Character to Your Music

Contributed by Ryan Harrell I remember the first time I heard Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. I couldn’t have been older than 9 (way too early for Floyd) but the strangeness of the soundscapes stayed with me. That you could use the crinkle of a cash machine as a percussion tool – as in “Money” – was a revelation, and it shaped much of my future music tastes. When I stared making music, I sought out new sounds and rhythms. For a while, I was obsessed with Indian classical music and its (to Western ears) strange rhythms. This was followed by a foray into South African music (mostly after a revisit to Paul Simon’s Graceland). During this journey into uncharted musical terrain, I’ve…
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Musical Memories: Jane’s Addiction, “Summertime Rolls,” and dancing on a rooftop

Songs are stories. A song can conjure up a time and place like nothing else. Some songs are inextricably etched together with moments in my life. These are Musical Memories. For a couple of summers, I lived on a rooftop, crowded into an apartment with a gaggle of bearded, sweaty men with strange accents. They called themselves “Texans.” During the day, we’d dress up like cowboys, throw rubber chickens at one another, then have a shootout. We got paid to do this. In the evenings, we’d go back to our rooftop apartment and drain many, many cans of very, very cheap beer. It paid like shit and the work was not what I was cut out to do, but the carefree lifestyle and the people…
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That time I wasted my life editing together a ‘new’ J.R.R. Tolkien book, then lost it

The recent announcement of a ‘new’ book by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fall of Gondolin, which will compile previously published material about one of the great tragic epics of Middle Earth’s early days, brought to mind a few weeks of wasted life circa 2002 or so. It’s a waste that still frustrates me to this day. Years ago, I got this idiotic idea in my head to edit together a load of Tolkien stuff into a standalone book. There was a wealth of material about a character called Turin, a cursed man who goes through some truly awful stuff, up to and including accidental incest and the death of just about everyone and everything he comes in contact with. Yes, it’s a real joy! Turin’s story…
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The final stages of writing a book are always the most nerve-wracking

The last few hundred yards of a marathon are always the toughest. Well, okay, I’ve never run a marathon and doubt I could run more than a block and a half even if being chased by knife-wielding ducks, but you get my point*. I’m currently under contract with Rowman & Littlefield, and have been neck deep in writing a manuscript since last August, due to be delivered by May 1. (I’d love to be able to announce what it is, but have to wait until they release the information first.) I’m almost there. Being immersed in a big project is generally a must for me. Keeps me focused. Keeps me sane. And it’s gratifying seeing something come together piece by piece. The act of creation,…
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Annihilation is a sleeper science fiction gem with GOD-AWFUL marketing and heady themes

You may have seen the name “Annihilation” in passing. Natalie Portman, a shimmering force field, monsters? That’s the one. It’s in theaters in the U.S., Canada, and China right now, where it’s getting stomped by Black Panther and others, and is on Netflix everywhere else. Watch the trailers and it looks like a movie we’ve seen before. A concerned lover (Portman) takes on a dangerous task to rescue their loved one (husband) from a strange place (inside a huge force field, or “shimmer”), but there are monsters there, so it becomes a fight for survival. This is the picture every trailer and commercial paints of the movie. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The trailers are absolute garbage and do a TERRIBLE job of…
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