Travelin’ By Tunes

Where in the World Was Cassidy Frazee on Sunday evening.  Well, I was in Baltimore.  Why?

Skating, of course.

Actually I wasn’t skating, but a metric shit ton of other women were, as we were all there for a clinic hosted by World Champion Laci Knight of the Angel City Derby Girls, which was the first woman’s flat track derby team and generally considered one of the best leagues in the world.  Since I’d love to become a pivot, I signed up for this clinic back in January and was waiting for the chance to be on the rink with another person from whom I could learn.

Of course I was there to observe only as I’m not certified, but those be the breaks.

So I cut out of The Burg about 4:30 PM (or 16:40 if you are from outside the U.S. and/or happen to be a witch attending a special school in Massachusetts) and drove on down to Baltimore, which put me there right before 6:00/18:00.  This gave me time to grab a bite before getting to the clinic:

Dining on the best the city of Baltimore has to offer.

 

The clinic was fun.  Even though I couldn’t skate I was allowed to stand in the middle of the rink and watch all the craziness going on about me.  I shot video for my time, though I’m not allowed to post any of it here.  We did, however, get a team shot at the end of the night.

 

Yes, that’s Laci’s doing the handstand while still in skates.  I’m over on the right not in skates and wearing my HARD shirt.

One of the things I had with me while traveling is my portable speaker, which I linked to my phone so I could play music from my various YouTube playlists.  The radio in my car doesn’t work, and even if it did, it doesn’t have all the snazzy Bluetooth features that so many vehicles have today.  Therefore I made do the best I can, and this is how I do so.

It’s no secret that I’ve been in a massive funk for a while–at least three months with January being The Month From Hell.  There was a time when music used to alleviate these feelings, but it hasn’t happened in a while. But Sunday afternoon and through to the night–yeah, there were a few magical moments that caught my attention and set my mood to “Yeah, this is Cool.”  And I’d like to share those moments with you, ’cause they’re sharable.

The first song that caught my mood as I was crossing into Maryland while the sun was setting was this: Sukiyaki, which was released in 1963.  Performed by Sakamoto Kyu, the actual title is Ue o Muite Arukō, which translates as “I Look Up As I Walk”.  When it was released in the U.S. it was given the name Sukiyaki because they rightly knew no one who wasn’t Japanese–or at least understood Japanese–would be able to pronounce the title.  This was also the first single from Japan to chart on Billboard, making Sakamoto Kyu the first Asian on the U.S. charts.  This is always been one of my favorite songs and I can remember hearing this as a young kid way back in the day, as they say, and when I need something catchy and soothing, I go here.

 

A point of trivia:  Sakamoto Kyu was aboard Japan Airlines Flight 123 when it suffered cabin decompression, lost its vertical stabilizer (aka, the tail), and crashed on August 12, 1985. 520 people were killed and this remains, to today, the worst single aircraft accident.

The next one came as I was making my way out of Baltimore, specifically as I was heading north along I-695, the Baltimore Beltway, heading into the massive interchange with I-95.  And what played as I rolled down this stretch of highway was Elvis’ Burning Love.  Now, full disclosure: I am not an Elvis person.  I don’t consider him the King of Rock and Roll, and I don’t have a lot of use for the majority of his catalog.  There are, however, a few of his songs that get me going, and this is one of them.  And with the darkness around we on a somewhat empty section of highway, this was the perfect tune to set the tone for my journey home.

 

I stopped off in York to pick up a few food items before continuing home.  Being in York generally means I’m about a half-hour from pulling into the apartment complex, so when I finished up the play list I had going I popped in the next song: the just over eleven minute Elton John epic, Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.  The album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was the first actual pop/rock album I bought with my own money and it got good and worn out on my turntable, with this opening track getting the most play.

Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding is best known for the grandiose opening, which was not recorded by Elton but rather by album’s engineer, David Hentschel, who spend a considerable amount of time on an APR 2500 synthesizer overdubbing track after track to achieve the orchestral effect.  It wasn’t supposed to actually be part of the song, but after Elton heard the playback he told Hentschel to add it to the track.

Mentioning the ARP 2500 allows me to bring up the photo of Phil Dodds, then VP of Engineering at ARP, installing the 2500 used in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I believe this very instrument now resided in a private school for witches…

 

I timed this nearly perfectly: the tune was coming to an end just as I parked my car right around 12:10 AM on Monday morning.  Do I know how to do this, or what?

 

Music hasn’t actually touched me in a while, so it was great that my mindset was such that I felt so good going south to the City of Chicken and Waffles (true, this is where it’s really supposed to have started), enjoyed a skating clinic, and then had a nice time driving back in the darkness.

Let’s hope I have that same feeling today as I head to Jersey to visit with my doctor…

Getting Your Art On: Setting the Interest

The last two nights of writing have ended up seeming a bit surreal, because of back inside Helena’s A Level sorcery class, and I’m remembering all the stuff I wrote about her the first time while doing it all again.  And make sure realize that some of the instructors at the school have been on the job for close to twenty years: there are two who fall into that category easily, and two more were creeping up on that goal.  Helen is one of those instructors who has been teaching for about ten years straight, but during the 1990s she actually had a few other stints between Guardian field operations where she put in a year or two of instruction during her down time.

And when you consider that every instructor, as well as the staff, were students before they became instructors, that tacks on anywhere from six to eight additional years spent at school.  When you had that on, Helena has spent nearly twenty years at Salem, and Jessica and Erywin have been at Salem for closer to thirty.  But you know, what’s thirty years when you’re likely to live for a hundred and fifty?

Speaking of one of the instructors is actually been at the school for over twenty years, first as a student and then instructor, we now get in to actually meeting Professor Matthias Ellison, the head of the Arts and Music Department.  The reality is that save for a few people who come in from time to time to help out with things, he is the Arts and Music Department, as the only other people who are associated with this department are those student tutors who Matthias reaches out to to help other students.

Believe me when I say I had fun putting his background together, because it gives you a little hint of how he actually got to where he’s at and you get to see a little of the Normal background that drove him to be who he is today.  So let’s kick back and enjoy Professor Ellison’s opening statements.

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Professor Ellison waited for everyone to find their workspace before he begin taking the first attendance of the year. As soon as he was satisfied that everyone was in the proper classroom he moved the tablet about three quarters of an arm length from him and turned to face the students. “Good morning, everyone, and I would like to welcome you to Introduction to Art. I am Professor Matthias Ellison, but most people call me Matthias. It’s easy to remember because it sounds like an important name, and I prefer being called that because ‘Professor Ellison’ sometimes sounds a bit too stuffy.

“A little bit about me. I was born in Canada and come from a Normal background. When I came to the school I was placed in Blodeuwedd Coven, were managed to maintain fairly good proficiencies and graduated in 1991. After leaving here I went to college in Canada and managed to get my Masters before coming back here to teach in 1998. I was present during The Scouring and fought with honor alongside a number of instructors and students—and some of those students with whom I fought for now colleagues of mine.

“I mentioned I’m from Canada. Specifically, I’m from White City, Saskatchewan, which is situated on the Trans Canada Highway about ten kilometers east of Regina, a city famous for its NHL hockey players, a song by The Guess Who, the hometown of actors Leslie Nielsen, Stephen Yeun, and Tatiana Maslany, and the fact that everyone messes up the pronunciation of the city by not realizing it rhymes with a body part found only on women.” He waited for a smattering of laughs to die down before continuing. “White City is also known for The Ice House, which serves the greatest hamburgers in all of Canada, and anyone who says that isn’t true is a liar. There’s little that makes the town spectacular: it’s what people in America would call a ‘bedroom community’ and today it’s filled with a lot of upscale people, two of whom are my parents who work in downtown Regina.

“One of the more interesting things about White City is the origin of its name. One says that it came about because of a misspelled store sign, but another—the one I like best—is that it was named after the White City section of London, England. I mean, it’s not unusual: a lot of places in North America are named after cities and towns in Europe, so it makes sense that perhaps someone decided to name my hometown after location back in the old world.

 

Everything in the preceding three paragraphs is true.  Not only did I do my research, but I happen to have a couple of Facebook friends who live in the Regina area, and when I told them that I was actually researching Regina for this section of my novel, they gave me a few hints on what to include.  One of the friends remarked that she was surprised to see me include the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina, which both appear below.  My other friend is actually from White City and found it interesting that I wanted to write about it.

And it’s this friend who told me to make certain that I wrote about The Ice House, a local burger joint that is well known through this part of Saskatchewan, and which she actually said serves the best burgers in all of Canada.  So I looked up a little information on The Ice House and discovered that it is not only a burger joint but a liquor store as well, because Canada.  I mean, why not?  Load up on a burger and fries, maybe a little poutine while you’re at it, and then grab some beer  and wine for the drive home.

Come for the burgers, but don't leave empty handed.

Come for the burgers, leave with the adult beverages.

Their primary burger is known as The Iceberg, which is a homemade confection that appears to be the sort of thing that I would eat if I visited this place.  But if you have a huge appetite you can try the scaled up version of The Iceberg called The Glacier Burger, a CAD $29 monstrosity that will guarantee you don’t leave this establishment hungry if you can find the energy to regains your feet and stagger out to your car.  In fact, it looks almost like one of those novelties that you see restaurant served from time to time: you know, like a five pound/two and a half kilogram steak that if you can eat the whole thing you get for free.  Though I’m pretty sure with this burger you pay up front before you start eating.

Oh, and make sure you have a beer with it to, eh?

Oh, and make sure you have a frosty beer with it too, eh?

And one last thing to point out and that’s the correct pronunciation of the name Regina.  This one I got directly from my friend Nicole, who lives and works in Regina, and who has said on occasion that since far too many people pronounce the name “Ra-GE-na”, there is an easy phrase to help you remember the correct way to pronounce the name: “Regina like Vagina.”  Yes, just like Professor Ellison said, it rhymes with a particular body part found only on women–well, on csiwomen.  There’s just some of us gals who haven’t quite caught on with that particular trend…

Now that Matthias has given us a little background on Canadian geography, he gets into one of the main reasons why he is the person he is today:

 

“I really didn’t think much about my hometown’s name origin until I started here as an A Level. That’s because two months after I started here an album came out titled White City: A Novel, which was written and performed by Pete Townsend—he’s a guy who’s been in the band The Who for like forever, which is something I’m sure almost all of you didn’t know.

White City—the album, not my hometown—is what was known as a ‘concept album’, which means all of the songs tied together to tell a story. You don’t hear of those too much these days, mostly because the music buying public can’t really listen to a song that’s more than four minutes long before they tune out, but back in the 1970s and through a bit of the 1980s, they were all the rage; it seem like every famous band then put out at least one during their lifetime.

“Now here’s a dirty little secret of mine: before coming to Salem I wasn’t really that into music. I listened to music, but it was little more than background noise to my life. It wasn’t until I was able to sit and listen to White City that I started to get into music. It wasn’t that the music was great—because it was, it was fantastic—but it was the idea that one could convey a story using music and lyrics, and make it a coherent, meaningful experience.

“You might say that this album was my musical epiphany, because it wasn’t long after that I realized that all music tells the story. It does this because music triggers an emotional response in each of us and makes us feel things that we didn’t realize we could feel.

“While I was home on Yule holiday that year I parents took me to the MacKenzie Art Gallery, which at that time was still connected to the University of Regina, my other alma mater. This was the first time I was exposed to paintings and sculpture, and the experience left me speechless. When you’re twelve years old you’re supposed to find art stuffy and boring, but I didn’t: I found it amazing. When we were leaving the museum I bugged my parents to buy me a book that would show me how to sketch, and I spent the rest of my Yule holiday working on sketching. And I brought that book back to school with me, managed to get a hold of a sketch pad and pencils, and spent the rest of my A Levels sketching whenever I had time.

“When we returned home from school that summer I couldn’t work on magic, so I worked developing my artistic talent. I also asked my mother if I could take piano lessons that summer, and she paid for me to see a teacher. So that summer I was not only learning to draw and paint, but I was also learning to become a musician—or, I should say, I was learning how to play piano.

“After returning to school I asked the then head of the Arts and Music Department if I could perform during Ostara, and if she could get a tutor to help me work on a piece between the start of my B Levels and March of the following calendar year. She agreed to both my request, and in 1987 I performed at my first Ostara. After I left the school I went back to the University of Regina enrolled in the music program graduated with honors from there, and then worked on a Masters that would allow me to teach music and composition.

“And when I was finished with all that, I decided that the one place in the world where I could make the greatest impact with what I’d learned was right here at Salem. And I’ve been here ever since.”

 

There you have it:  Matthias Ellison discovered music because the guitarist from The Who created album that, I feel, is one of his best and most underrated works, and because his parents decided to expose him to art.  And from that he learned to draw and play, then went to college to understand it better before coming back to Salem to pass along what he learned.  Which is how real teachers do this.

Now that we have his background, it’s about time for him to explain why he likes the arts–and why you should as well…

A Hundred at the End

I said I was going to do it and yesterday I did.  Somewhere around six-thirty P.M., I not only crossed the one hundred thousand word mark, but ended up a hundred and fifty words beyond that point before stopping for the evening.  It took about two and one half hours of writing to get to that point, but get there I did.

So in 169 days, or five months and sixteen days, I wrote 100,150 words, for an average of five hundred and ninety-two words per day.

Not a bad five and a half months of writing.

Not a bad five and a half months of writing.

The majority of what I wrote yesterday was part of a thousand word monologue performed by Professor Ellison–who we are still excerpting today.  Funny how that happens.

Oh, and after I finished with this part of the novel, I got dressed up, put on makeup, put on my over the knee boots, and headed down to the local restaurant that usually frequent where I got a ricotta cheese plate and the cannoli to accompany the three glasses of champagne I drink to celebrate the end of 2016.

I wanted to feel good today, not like I'm dying.

I wanted to feel good today, not like I’m dying.

All in all it was a good evening, and I didn’t end up going to bed until about one o’clock in the morning, which allow the fireworks which go off near my apartment to finish.  The first New Year’s Eve I spent in my apartment I went to bed about a quarter to midnight, not realizing that a tremendous fuselage of fireworks was about to go off, and continue going off, for nearly ten minutes.  I don’t make that mistake anymore.

So what remains of this visit to the Keyboard Room?  Not a lot, which is why am going to dump out the rest of the scene today, my first gift of 2017 to you.  Also, as of right now I’m eight thousand words ahead of this point, so I have plenty of room to maneuver.  So let’s finish this part and see what sort of satisfaction Kerry gets:

 

The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Kerry looked down as he smiled. “I guess I knew the piece better than I thought.”

“I’d say.” Matthias returned to his place at the right side of the KRONOS. “So, do I have you sold on this?”

“Oh, man—” Kerry started laughing. “This and the KROME are what I want to work with. They’ll fit right in with what I want to do.”

Matthias picked up on the wistful look that momentarily crossed Kerry’s face. “I take it you have plans for beyond this next Ostara?”

Annie squeezed between Kerry and the keyboard and took his hand. “He told me he has a plan for when he performs that Ostara during our D Levels.”

He nodded. “This year I want to learn the equipment and see how I can use it to play simple stuff. Then the following Ostara—” He looked toward Annie once again before turning back to Matthias. “That’s when I want to play something impressive.”

Matthias nodded. “It certainly won’t go wrong with this equipment.” He gently rested his hand on the instrument panel of the KRONOS. “Now, when it comes to this particular instrument I have good news and I have bad news.”

 

So Kerry can get his keyboards, but there’s that old “good news/bad news” thing going on.  So just like Annie and Kerry, let’s find out what the professor’s going to tell them–

 

Annie sensed Kerry starting to wilt, but she knew Professor Ellison wasn’t the sort of person who would string them along and then disappoint at the end. “Perhaps you should get the bad news out of the way first, Professor.”

“That’s a good idea. The bad news is both the 88 key version of the KRONOS are reserved.”

“What?” Kerry’s eyebrows shot upward in disbelief. “So what’s the good news?”

“The good news is Nadine was in first thing this morning and reserved both keyboards.” Matthias pointed at Kerry. “She specifically said that I needed to set one of these aside for you, along with one of the KROME workstation. She will use three keyboards in her performance and two of them are the ones we just looked at.”

Kerry let out a sigh of relief. “I should’ve figured Nadine would be looking out for me.”

“Well, you two have rehearsed together the last two Ostaras.” Matthias cleared his throat. “She also mentioned she was the one to put the bug in your butt about starting to work with keyboard workstation.”

Annie gave Kerry a playful look. “I was wondering when you would get around to mentioning her.”

“Yeah.” He allowed a sheepish look to vanish from his face before continuing. “She emailed me at the end of June and we started corresponding back and forth for a couple of weeks. Since she wanted to use a workstation for this Ostara, she thought it would be a good idea if we both worked on them at the same time.”

Matthias nodded. “It’s a good idea. It’s also probably why she reserved both the 88s.”

“She probably figured we get the basics down on the keyboard and then work off the same set up when we knew we wanted to do.”

“Exactly.” Matthias motioned at both keyboards he’d shown. “I’ll get these two set aside for each of you, then get you a couple of MIDI servers and a monitor to cable into the keyboards.” He pointed at another instrument further down the row. “She’s gonna use one of the keyboards down there, too.”

Kerry leaned to his right so he could look around Professor Ellison. “What’s that?”

“A Roland Jupiter-80. It’s a digital synthesizer with analog modeling capabilities. Really a nice instrument.”

“Ah, yeah. She used one of those the first time we performed.” Kerry knew that Nadine was a fan of Roland equipment and that was all they used them for their first performance. He got to pick the equipment for last year’s performance thought she worked hard to have him use a Roland keyboard in place of the Yamaha piano. “You know what she’s going to perform?”

“She’s going to do three songs, but the only one she told me about was Foreigner’s That Was Yesterday: she said she was going to do the old twelve inch remix version.” He placed his hands in his pants pockets as he smiled. “You familiar with that?”

For the first time Kerry was stumped. “I don’t think I know that.”

Both Annie and Professor Ellison looked at Kerry with mock shock, though Matthias was the one to speak. “Really? Look it up when you get the time: I think you be impressed.”

 

That Nadine, she likes to look after the kids she used to tutor.  It seems when it comes to music Nadine has been a great influence on Kerry–not because she has better insight into his musical stylings, but when it comes to equipment she seems to be a bit more knowledgeable.  One has to wonder if Kerry would’ve considered using keyboard workstations this time around if Nadine had emailed him over the summer and said, “Hey, you need to look at this.”  Either way, Nadine is a good influence on Kerry when it comes to the technical aspects–even if she can’t always get him to use what she likes.

Though she's using this for her performance no matter what this year.

Though she’ll use this for her performance this year no matter what.

And if you were ever wondering what Roland equipment Nadine and Kerry used during his A Level performance, his keyboards were a RD-700nx piano for the lower keyboard and a V-Synth GT for the upper keyboard, while Nadine used the Jupiter-8o for her lower keyboard and a Juno-Gi for her upper keyboard and synth pad.  All this equipment is legitimate and based upon a Roland catalog for 2011.  Yes, I do my homework.

And for the first time we see Kerry stumped by a song title.  Yes, there is some old music he has never heard, but you can be assured that once he had a few minutes alone with his computer he probably looked up the song that Nadine had chosen the play–at least the only one she mentioned was going to play.  Don’t worry, I know what both of these kids are playing for the next Ostara.

It looks like were almost done with getting the equipment, but there’s one more question…

 

He removed his hands in his pockets and interlaced his fingers together. “Anything else you want to discuss?”

Kerry shook his head. “I’m covered.”

Annie answered before Matthias could ask her. “I have nothing, Professor.”

“I have something for you before I returned to my office.” He lowered his voice just a little. “Since you’re already a little advanced for this class, would you be willing to help a few students if I ask you to give them assistance?”

By now Annie was so used to being asked to be a minion that she didn’t question the request. “I wouldn’t mind helping if necessary, Professor, but you should know that our levelmates aren’t always receptive to us helping out during labs.”

“I’ll worry about their feelings: that way you can concentrate on helping.” Matthias chuckled as he waved everyone toward the doorway. “I need to get back to my office—”

Annie nodded. “It’s quite all right, Professor.”

Once in the hall Matthias closed the door to the Keyboard Room and took a couple of steps back from his soon-to-the students. “Thanks for coming by; I’ll see you in class next week.”

Annie and Kerry said their farewells and headed toward the stairs leading to the ground floor, with Annie holding Kerry’s hand tight. “Now that you have all that out of the way, how do you feel?

He let out a long sigh. “Excited and relieved.” He glanced at Annie out of the corner of his left eye. “We should meet with Nadine after dinner and tell her we met with Professor Ellison.”

Annie knew how eager Kerry was to discuss the work Nadine and he would do together preparing for Ostara, and sitting down with her after dinner would also give Annie a chance to sit and talk with her friend. “I would like that.” She pulled Kerry to a stop a few steps short of the ground floor landing. “You’re certain you want to keep this year’s Ostara performance simple?”

Kerry gave a slight nod as he smiled. “Trust me, Darling. This year I just want to do a great performance of a few songs. The last thing I want are any surprises.”

 

So there you go: Kerry is ready for his 2014 Ostara performance.  Well, ready in the sense he has his equipment set aside; there’s still matter of rehearsing songs, but that’s a trifling matter.  By the time November rolls around Nadine and he will probably have a pretty good handle on playing their parts, which means they’ll have January and February of the next year to start the rehearsals with the house band.

When you think about it, there’s a crazy amount of work that goes into getting up on stage at Ostara and performing for ten minutes.  And Nadine and Kerry are like your normal performers: they seem to be their own worst enemies in that they’ll just want to play well, they want to play great.  In reality, these two kids do their best not to play but to perform, and if it ain’t perfect, they ain’t gonna be happy.

Just like Annie says, now that that’s out of the way…

We’re going to go and spend some time with our favorite witchy doctor–

Arts and Music: Seeing and Hearing

Here we are at the penultimate day of the year, and as of this moment I’m about twenty-seven hundred words from one hundred thousand.  Getting that amount in the next two days is doable, so I’m gonna have to get with it if I want to hit my mark.

Now, I’m about to get technical–yeah, I know, some of you don’t like that.  You want magic and morte spells and kissing and possible love triangles, but given that one of my characters is an esteem nerd of the highest caliber and can chat the lingo when needed, there are times when the story is gonna get down with the techspeak.  And this is one of those times.

So hang on…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Annie and Kerry followed the professor the short distance down the corridor to the famous Keyboard Room, were nearly all of the schools usable keyboards were kept. Matthias headed inside and headed down one of the aisles, finally stopping before group of instruments that looked nearly brand-new. “At the end of the last school year I put in orders for some of the newest equipment from both Korg and Roland. These came in at the beginning of August.”

He lay his hand across one of them matte black keyboards. “This is a Korg KROME workstation. I managed to pick up five of these: one 88 key version and two each of the 73 and 61 key versions. It has a very nice action, lots of processing power, and you can use the MIDI function to upload and download sounds as you need them.” He turned to Kerry. “For your performance what do you want to use and how?”

Kerry had his answer ready to go. “I want to use two keyboards. I’ll use the bottom one as a piano/synthesizer and the top one as an organ/synthesizer.” He looked at Annie and smiled. “Really simple set up, you know?”

Annie was half laughing as she turned toward Matthias. “I’ve heard about this several times, including once when we were in Paris.”

“He interrupted your time while you were alone with this?” Matthias shook his head. “He must be serious, then.” He ran his fingers over the KROME workstation. “This is a good machine, but it’s not quite the top-of-the-line. However, I would suggest using the 73 key version as your organ/synthesizer: it would be perfect in that role.”

Kerry appeared satisfied. “That works for me. So what do I use for the piano?”

Matthias took three steps to the right and touched another matte black keyboard with wood finish on the sides. “This: the Korg KRONOS. This is the successor to the OASYS and improves have upon that workstation significantly. This is basically everything that Korg wanted to do with the OASYS that they couldn’t because they lacked the technology at the time.

“This is DAW ready, has MIDI inputs and outputs, and allows you to select a nine different engines, including three analog modelers and one of the best piano engines in electronic keyboards today.” Matthias activated the machine and began pressing icons as soon as the display panel was active. “How’s your playing?”

 

This section above is the result of about two weeks of off-and-on research trying to not only figure out what sort of systems would be profiled for Kerry’s pleasure, but what all this stuff means.  I mean, I went through different sites and watched videos, and once I’d figured out what I wanted to see, I had to check if they were actually available in the fall of 2013.  All for about four hundred words within the story.  Believe me when I say I care to get things right, kiddies.

Now, what does all that stuff mean?  Let’s go through it:

Keyboard Workstation is a particular kind of keyboard with the processing power to allow you to take pre-generated sounds and modify them, usually as MIDI files, for later playback.  You can even used a keyboard workstation to layer different digital samples together for a combination of sounds that are later used either in a recording or a live performance.

Kerry is using two workstations.  The first is the 73 key Korg KROME, which is a nice system that is affordable (about $1,000) to anyone serious about performing.

At least Kerry is getting his keyboard for free.

At least Kerry is getting his keyboard for free.

There is actually another Korg keyboard similar to the KROME called the KROSS, which is considered a more mobile system (that means it’s lighter) good for live performances.  Start doing your research and you discover there are a lot of “KROME verses KROSS” discussions out there, and while they don’t usually get too heated, you quickly see this becoming the “Star Trek/Star Wars” debate for the keyboard players.

As for his main keyboard, Kerry’s going with the 88 key Korg KRONOS:

A lot of keyboard sweetness right here.

A lot of keyboard sweetness right here.

This is considered one of the top workstations today, the successor–as pointed out by Professor Ellison–to the Korg OASYS (pronounced “Oasis”, because if you sound out the acronym it’s O-A-SYS.  OASYS actually stands for Open Architecture SYnthesis Studio), which showed up in the mid-2000s and was replaced after four years due to advances in technology.  The reality is the KRONOS is what Korg wanted the OASYS to be, but they didn’t have all the needed technology until about eight years later.  It’s more expensive (about $3,500) but a lot more powerful than the KROME, and has one of the best piano engines in the world.  And “engine” is something I’ll touch on below…

Action is how the keys feel.  The KRONOS feels like you’re playing an actual piano due to the weighted keys, while the KROME feels a bit more like playing an organ, and this is the main reason for Professor Ellison’s suggestion on setup and usage.

Daw is Digital Audio Workstation, which is the standard for recording these days.  It’s often a computer tied into a keyboard workstation upon which composing is done and downloaded as a digital file.  There are a whole lot of programs out there, some of which are open-source designed to run on any computer, which means just about anyone can begin composing and recording anywhere.

Engines are the keyboard’s built-in software used to process the sound samples and allow them to be reproduced when the keys are pressed–or as we’d say in the business, “triggering an effect”.  (Least you get too confused, triggering an effect means that when you press a key something happens.  In a work processing program on a laptop computer, pressing the key marked “C” makes the character c, while pressing the middle-C key on the KRONOS produced a middle-C sound as sampled.  Both are examples of triggering an effect.)  One of the KRONOS engines allows you to emulate just about any kind of piano in the world, and since the keyboard is a workstation you can change those sounds up however you like.

Analog Modeling is used in some of those engines:  that’s a fancy way of saying you can take a clean, digital sample and run it through various filters to make it sounds like a warm and fuzzy analog synthesizer sound.

And yesterday Kerry said something about Splitting the Keyboard, which is something you can do on both these machines.  The software in the keyboard can segment the keyboard so you can play one set of sounds with your left hand while playing something else with the right, or so something like add cellos to your lower register keys while you play piano with both hands.  If you watch video of Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp, playing the opening bars to Hide in Your Shell, you’ll see a good example of splitting the keyboard, as he plays a combo piano/electric piano sound with his left hand while playing a combo organ/synthesizer sound with his right.

So now that I’ve gotten ALL THAT out of the way, it appears Kerry is interested.  The question is:  does he feel like giving the keyboards a spin right now?

 

Kerry made a back and forth motion with his right hand. “I suspect I’m rusty. I didn’t feel like playing a lot over the summer.”

Matthias glanced at him. “I think that’s gonna change as soon as you play this.” He stepped away from the keyboard. “Give it a go.”

Kerry gave Annie’s hand a squeeze and then stepped up in front of the workstation. He surveyed the control panel before seeing that the display was set for piano. He ran through the intro of his A Level performance, Lovers in Japan. He not only felt how the keyboard reacted much like the P255, but that it had an even richer sound than that piano. He stopped after close to a minute of effortless playing. “Wow. This is incredible.”

Annie moved up alongside. “You should have seen your face.”

He slowly turned toward her. “What do you mean?”

“You looked fabulously pleased while you played. It was like seeing you back on stage for a moment, though you seemed far more satisfied with what you were doing this time.”

“That is certainly true.” Matthias stood just beyond the the right edge of the KRONOS. “Care to satisfy my curiosity?”

Kerry stepped back away from the workstation stood alongside Annie while facing Matthias. “What do you have in mind, Professor?”

“I want see how rusty you actually are.” He nodded toward the keyboard. “Play the intro to Firth of Fifth. I know you practiced it last year because you told me.”

Kerry’s eyebrows shot upward for second. “Yeah, but I haven’t played it since then. That’s been over a year.”

“It’s not like I’m asking you to play it at 9/8 tempo.” The instructor chuckled. “Come on, dude. You know you want to give it a shot.”

 

All I can say is you gotta love it when one of your instructors calls you “dude”.

 

“I…”

Kerry was about to hesitate again when Annie whispered in his ear. “I would like to hear you play.”

He touched the left side of his forehead to her right forehead and spoke in a low voice. “That’s what you said to me the first time we came here.”

“And you were hesitating then about playing Ostara.” Annie twisted her head around so she could see his eyes. “Professor Ellison is right: you want to do it and you know you can do it.”

Annie stepped back as Kerry turned to face the keyboard. She said nothing, for she didn’t want to do anything that would affect his concentration. Like Professor Ellison she waited for Kerry to remove the doubt from his mind and play.

She watched as he let his hands hover over the keys. She noticed the imperceptible motion of his fingers and knew what was happening based upon the few times she’d sat in on a few of his rehearsals: he was imagining playing the first few notes and his hands were reacting appropriately.

He started playing without saying a word. His fingers touched the keys and music emanated from unseen speakers. Annie wasn’t watching his hands, however: she was watching his face. Whenever he wasn’t certain that what he was going to play was note perfect the tension was reflected through a series of facial tics, frowns, and grimaces. But when he knew the piece he was performing, his face grew relaxed and his hands danced over the instrument.

Right now his fingers dance with great freedom. If Annie had been unaware of Kerry’s statement, she would’ve assumed he’d last performed this piece the day before.

A little over a minute later he slowed the tempo, touched the last few keys, and removed his hands from the keyboard. He took a step back from the instrument and glanced toward Annie. “How was that?”

A smile slowly formed upon her face. “I’m not that familiar with the piece, but it sounded perfect to me.”

“It was perfect.” Matthias stepped up to Kerry and patted him on the shoulder. “Pretty impressive for someone who hasn’t played that piece in over a year.”

 

As for more research, I looked around to see if there was any video of someone performing the same opening.  Fact:  there are a lot of videos of people playing the intro to Firth of Fifth ’cause it’s a good piece to show off your chops, and people love to show those chops.  It only took viewing about a dozen videos before I found this one, which the person in question performed on a Yamaha Clavinova CVP 301 electronic piano, first built in 2004.  Though one person says there’s a small mistake in this performance I’m damned if I can hear it, so I say this is about a perfect as you’re gonna hear it without going to the original recording.

In short, this is pretty much how Kerry would have played that day in the Keyboard Room:

It looks like Kerry has everything he needs–however, there may be just a bit of a problem…

Arts and Music: The Personal Evaluations

While I managed to cross the ninety-six thousand word line last night, I didn’t come near thousand words as I wanted.  Probably because when I got home around five I sat down and watched the last movie in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.  So there was three hours spent camped out in front of the TV right there.  No complaints, though: you need that time to sit and recharge the batteries, and to get your mind and write creative space.

Will I write three thousand, seven hundred words by midnight on Saturday?  Doubtful.  But I will cross the hundred thousand word mark by at least 1 January, because I don’t intend on going out and getting stinking drunk on New Year’s Eve like I did last year.  So crossing that line will be a good way to celebrate the coming of what I feel is going to be a year just as shitty as 2016.

And as I pointed out to others, on New Year’s Eve instead of playing Auld Lang Syne, we’re gonna play The Rains of Castamere:

This is a perfect image of 2016--

This is a perfect depiction of 2016, and I’m sure I’m not the one holding the knife.

On to happier news now.  When Kerry goes off to visit Professor Ellison on the first day back to school, it’s often with Ostara in mind.  That’s what happened the first time Annie and Kerry visited, and it was implied that they discussed music selections when they visited during their B Levels.  And it’s true he’s there to discuss what he wants to do during this year’s performance–please also doing a bit of a postmortem on what happened last year…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“First, I want to scale back my next performance. Instead of doing one long, complicated song, I’d rather do two or, if you let me, three songs instead.”

“Any particular reason why?”

Kerry nodded. “Burning Rope was a complicated piece and I feel I may have gotten a little over my head. I pushed myself with an ambitious piece—” For just a moment he looked a bit chagrined. “And it almost got away from me. I feel like I need to step back a little and do a change of pace this year so I can push myself again the following year.”

Mathias said nothing for a few seconds: when he did speak there was a semblance of pride in his tone. “Again, spoken like a true artist. We are often our own worst critics, but if we can put that ego aside and look at those points where we know we were skirting with danger, it helps us grow that much more as an artist.

“I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to stifle your confidence, but I had my doubts you could actually pull that performance all. It wasn’t that I thought you wouldn’t play well; it was more that I was worried you were going to convince yourself you couldn’t do piece correctly. And when you go into a performance like that with any sort of doubt, the results can sometimes be disastrous.

“It was a good performance: maybe not the best you could’ve done, but still a hell of a lot better than what most people were doing. But from where I was sitting I could see that look in your eyes on a couple of occasions where you were wondering, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into?’ The fact you got through it with nary a bobble is another sign of true artists: keep pushing on no matter what.”

Matthias stood and circled around to the edge of his desk. “As a C Level you have an option on three songs, though as you know you have to keep them relatively short. If you’re looking at doing something a little simpler, three songs isn’t a problem.”

Kerry smiled, appearing relieved. “Thank you, Professor.”

“You’re welcome. And as I’m sure you’re going to discover, Nadine is also doing three songs. So you guys will be able to rehearse together again.” He took a couple of paces away from his desk. “Since you indicated a first thing you want to discuss, I gather there’s a second?”

 

In the B Level novel Kerry shared his concerns with Annie that perhaps the song he played shouldn’t have been the song he played, and he felt as if he’d taken on too much too soon.  Were finally hearing that Professor Ellison agrees with that summation, but that he’s also happy to hear that Kerry learned from the experience and wants to scale things back just a little this next time around.  Someone might say, “Well, performing three songs isn’t actually scaling back,” but Kerry will have an option of playing three, which means he can only play two if he wants.  Sure, two five minute songs is still ten minutes of performing, but at least you break up the action a bit.

Now to Kerry’s done with his postmortem–and this time around he didn’t beat himself up too bad–he gets to the second part of why he’s there.  Beyond the, “I want to talk about what I want to play this year,” stuff:

 

“There is.” Kerry stretched his shoulders before letting them drop to his sides. “For the performances this year I’d like to work with keyboard workstations.”

This caused Matthias to return to the front of his desk where he once more against the edge. “That’s interesting to hear. But why the sudden interest in working with that sort of equipment?”

Kerry ran his right hand through his hair a couple of times. “Last year it was really cool to get to use all that different equipment. I mean, playing Tony’s ARP was tremendous, and I got to use a mellotron which was cool, but the more I thought about it over the summer the more I realize that stuff is all part of the past.” He gave a quick shrug. “If I’m gonna play in modern times, I need to know how to use modern equipment.”

Matthias returned rubbing his chin. “Hence using a workstation.”

“Yeah. I did some research over the summer and saw what you can do with the new workstations. I want to learn how to create and modify MIDI files; I want to use one with DAW software; most of all I want to be able to do things like split the keyboard and switch between engines and use customized play lists. And you’re only going to be able to do that with a modern keyboard workstation.”

For a few seconds Matthias regarded Kerry. “You know what Tony thought about new equipment, don’t you?”

Kerry was well aware what Tony Banks thought on that subject. “He said he always tried to work with the newest technology and he didn’t look back on the old stuff with any sort of nostalgia.”

“Pretty much. He certainly liked working with digital samples more than he liked working with stretching tapes and overheated electronics.” He stood up once more began heading toward the door, waving it open as he turned towards his guests. “Come on, I want to show you both something.”

 

Ah, keyboard workstations, something I spent a good two weeks researching just so I could get a thousand good words on the matter.  (Trust me, it’s usually like that…)  Kerry got to play with a bit of history during his B Level Ostara performance, but he also got a taste of the present when he used an Akai keyboard controller to play MIDI files so his keyboard sounded like an organ.  So now he wants to move up to creating those files and working with Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) and splitting that keyboard so he can pretty much play two different things at the same time.

You know, just like real musicians do.

Which means we keep to see what sort of goodies Professor Ellison has stashed away in the Keyboard room–

There’ll Be Artwork and Pain

Let’s get this out of the way first thing: a couple of days ago I passed sixty thousand words.  It took eighteen days to get there, but there was probably less actual writing since during those two and a half weeks I was kind of preoccupied with real-life.

But I got it done.  And I got a feel good about that.

Right here's the proof of feeling good.

Right here’s the proof of feeling good.

I think it’s really funny that if you look at the picture above, you see that the word count I ended with last night was exactly two thousand words less than the word count from the previous scene.  Since then–which is to say this morning–I’ve added a few more words so that counts don’t jibe, but still: I love little coincidences like that.

Also last night, I wrote a total of twelve hundred and sixty-four words.  That is probably the biggest amount I have written in a long time, though all that writing was done with the help of Dragon software.  It took me exactly two hours and forty-seven minutes to finish the scene–how do I know that?  I’ll tell you in a bit.

And one last thing before we get to the excerpt: I noticed when I begin speaking Annie’s dialogue, I speak in “her” voice.  Which is to say, I soften my tone and try to speak with just a bit of an accent.  Not much, but there’s a little bit there.  I guess you could say I’m getting into her character what I’m speaking as her, and I do think about what she would actually say as opposed to what I am going to write.

Then again, I caught myself speaking of slightly English accent when I was doing Penny’s voice.  But just like with Annie, I speak of slightly softer tone when speaking is Penny or Alex, and I’ll probably do the same with him speaking as Anna or Elisha.  Funny how that works out.

Now that we got all that out of the way, let’s look at part of what I wrote.  I’m not going to give you everything today, you’ll just have to do with what I’m giving you here.  I assure you, it’s going to be enough.

And it should be good.

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“He’s fine.” Annie look back toward Penny and Alex before turning toward Anna and Elisha. “Could you give us a few moments alone, please?” Alex nodded and turned away with Penny doing the same. Anna and Elisha did the same and headed off in the opposite direction from the other two girls.

The moment everyone was out of sight Annie began gently pulling on Kerry’s arm. She moved close to him so no one else could hear her speak. “Let’s sit, my love. Please?”

Kerry nodded just enough to acknowledge that he heard Annie. They sat on the floor between two of van Gogh’s paintings while still keeping Starry Night Over the Rhône before them. Annie was about to ask Kerry something when he suddenly leaned forward, closed his eyes, and began sobbing aloud.

She was unsure of what to do beyond wrapping her arm around him. Annie had never seen Kerry act like this before—no, that wasn’t entirely true. Kerry had experienced a number of sobbing breakdown for, but all of them had occurred at school and in private. While she had seen him shed a few tears in public before, this was the first time she’d ever seen him break down completely with other people around.

Annie pulled him into her, holding him close. “What is it, my love? Please tell me what’s wrong.”

 

It goes without saying that Kerry is something of an emotional mess right now, the comforting of the soul mate not withstanding.  His worst fears came true and he’s dealing with them with varying  degrees of success.

However, this is something different:  this is something that’s overwhelming him, ’cause Annie knows, he’s not one to up and breakdown like this in public.  She’s good at getting him to open up to her, and this time is no different:

 

It took a few more seconds for Kerry can bring himself under control. He held his head up and back, drawing in deep breaths, and after the third one he was ready to speak. “I don’t want you to think this strange—”

Annie chuckled. “I won’t think it’s strange, I promise.”

Kerry pressed is fingertips against his forehead. I really like van Gogh’s paintings. I don’t know why, I just saw them on-line one day and I thought about how fantastic they looked. I know it seems strange that I would like art—”

“I don’t think it’s strange at all. You’re intelligent and creative. Look how you enjoy my artwork; look how you enjoy playing music.”

“I know.” He looked across the enclosure at the painting on the far wall. “It was when Elisha asked where van Gogh was when he painted the other Starry Night, and I said he was in an insane asylum—” He rested his head against Annie shoulder. “Have you ever heard the song Vincent?”

She stroked his hair. “No, my love. I haven’t.”

He drew in a long, slow breath and exhale completely. “It’s an old song by Don McLean. He wrote about Vincent van Gogh and it’s a really…” Kerry’s voice caught as he tried to control his emotions. “It’s a beautiful song. I don’t listen to it much because it makes me feel sad.”

Annie knew there was more to what Kerry was feeling now than just being sad about a particular song. But she couldn’t come right out and say that: it wasn’t the way to get through to him. However, having known Kerry all her life, she knew how to pull information out of him. “I’d like to hear the song one day. But something else must have occurred, something even more sad, that is connected to this painting. Is there?”

He looked off into the distance for a moment then turned back and focused on the painting. “I was looking at this painting and the other Starry Night on-line one day—it was like a month before I was invited to Salem. I had Vincent on a playlist shuffle and it started playing while I was looking at the pictures. I started thinking about what it must’ve been like—” He looked down and closed his eyes for a second. “What it must be like to go mad. And I got all, you know—” He turned to Annie with tears in his eyes. “You know.”

She brushed the tears from his left cheek. “I do indeed know, my love.”

He nodded. “Some sitting there, trying to get control of myself, and my mom walks into my bedroom without knocking or anything. And she sees me there, crying, with the music playing, and she’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ And I told her I heard a sad song and made me cry. And she—” He closed his eyes as he fought to keep from sobbing again. “She says, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? You’re worse—’ He shook as he strained to get out the last few words. “‘Sometimes you’re worse than a girl’.”

 

And here’s where it was a good thing I had a few glasses of wine inside me when I wrote those last few paragraphs, ’cause something like what happened to Kerry happened to me.  Only it happened while the aforementioned song was being performed live at the Grammys and I started crying in the living room in front of both parents, and I ended up getting a disgusted look from my father and pretty much the same last statement from my mother.  Yeah, thanks a lot, guys, for knocking me down with that burn.

Needless to say, Annie’s got some choice thoughts for her future mother-in-law, and while she calls her something that sounds like “witch”, it ain’t.  Louise Malibey doesn’t know it yet, but she’s shaping the life of another person she’s never met–and she’s doing as shitty a job with her as she has with her son.  Having an emotionally traumatized witch who knows Morte spells in the house is one thing:  having his cool and collected Dark Witch girlfriend who can River Tam your ass in a fast second is another, and that’s one that could come back to bite one on the ass at some point.

Now, for the song in question:  I picked this version because of the slideshow of van Gogh’s artwork the presenter put together.  Enjoy.

 

Now, as to my claim that I finished the current scene in exactly two hours and forty-seven minutes–yeah, I got this backed up.  Last night I also modified my YouTube Music From San Junipero playlist based upon an extended playlist that Black Mirror creator and writer Charlie Booker put together on Spotify.  He says that his playlist has all the music that was in the episode, all the music he tried to get into the episode but couldn’t because of licensing issues, and a couple of songs “that inspired”.  The time it takes to play all the songs?  Two hours and forty-seven minutes.  I started writing as the first song began and finished as the last song ended–which is a nice bookend in a way as the first and last songs are bookends to both the playlist and the TV episode.

So here you go, some great music coming from one of the best hours of television ever written:  not just my opinion–one I gave when I recapped this episode a short time back and you should read if you haven’t–but the opinion of many others who enjoyed great TV.

Now, what’s Annie gonna do to help Kerry out of his current mindset?

Guess you’ll find out tomorrow.

Checking in From Post D.C.

A quick check in ’cause I can’t seem to go away.  After getting off work yesterday I spent two and a half hours on the road driving to Washington, D. C., to visit a friend from West Virginia who was lobbying Congress on behave of the Sierra Club.  She was staying in the Marriott Marque, which was a pretty swanky joint:

Though you wouldn't know it from this blury picture. :)

Though you wouldn’t know it from this blury picture. 🙂

I didn’t return home until 10:30 PM, so there was no writing.  There was, however, a lot of listening to music on my phone since I’d just bought a whole lot of data and could affords to let it run for about forty-five minutes.  And it also allowed for me to find a new opening to the next scene that will show Kerry doing something he’s never done up to now.  It’s gonna be fun.

In the meantime I broke a nail this morning–really, it snapped and then I had to pull the acrylic overlay off–

It looks worse than it is.

And being it’s Wednesday I’m in full Mean Girl regalia:

Even have the right Resting Bitch Face for pink.

It’s a quick check in and it means I’ll be into the writing tonight after I return from the phone bank.  I hope to finish up the last of the meeting between Kerry and his mom, which would mean getting into the next scene and showing something surprising and something special.

You just gotta wait.