Sunday, November 29, 2009

Playing the crowd

The pentatonic scale, ladies and gents. It seems to be built in to each of us, Bobby McFerren says he's done that little exercise all over the world with the exact same results. Are we hard-wired for music? Maybe so. Maybe so.

Now for a bonus:

Shambolic murder ballad "Weighted Down" by Skip Spence off of his one and only album "Oar", written after he was released from a psychiatric hospital upon which he promptly drove to Nashville with $1,000 in his pocket, entered a studio, and used the remainder of his money to record this album. It was released in 1969 to universal boredom and almost zero sales. A musician that I respect pointed this one out to me as one of the most interesting albums by a complete lunatic street person to come out of the 60's, sort of a country blues album with way too much drugs involved.

-- Badtux the Musical Penguin


  1. Yes, I'd say we're hard wired for music. The pentatonic scale is found in folk and primitive music all over the world. It falls right out of the circle of fifths.

    Music exists at the intersection of physics and physiology. Consonance is all about vibrations in small whole number rations. The combinations tickle the ear in a most pleasing way.

    Is it my imagination or does Spence sound like a slightly less raspy Tom Waits?

    From Tw's wikipedia page: Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.

    JzB the raspy trombonsit

  2. Ooops. RATIOS not rations.

    JzB the self-correcting trombonist

  3. Are we hard-wired for music?


    Just as we are hardwired for sex and surviving.

  4. Jazz, I can't get by Tom Waits's voice. I know he has some great songs, but the "taken outside and run over with a car" is what I want to do to his voice when I hear it. That's why I haven't posted any of Tom's videos here, I respect Tom as a songwriter but his voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Spence's voice was distinctive, but far more pleasant than Tom's.

    "Oar" is a bizarre album, it's like Nashville meets Jefferson Airplane. The image of Skip Spence walking out of Bellevue in his pajamas, taking his $1,000 severance payoff from the record company, buying a motorcycle, riding off to Nashville (still wearing his pajamas!), and spending the last of the check recording that album is an image of complete and utter lunacy. His ending was sad but certain, mental illness makes you poor, and then it kills you. But at least he did manage one magnificent accomplishment before he fell completely out of it.

    - Badtux the Music Penguin


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