ART: 17th C. Dutch Genre Painting – Baburen, The Procuress

These go back to 2014! Nine years ago.

When I found these two art works recently, whilst putting yet more stuff into our attic, I brought them down, to have a fresh look at ‘em. And I’m pleased with how they look.

The pencil drawing was my first look at reproducing Dirck van Baburen’s The Procuress. I actually chose to leave the Procuress herself out of the picture, which also changed the overall format of the piece (from off square to a portrait type rectangle). Instead we have just the young dandy and his lute-plucking lady.

A terrific book! And the source of this project.

I found van Baburen’s The Procuress in this rather lovely book. It’s an old’un, but a good’un! My mum had a copy back when’s he did her degree. I think I’ve posted about this book here before? But I’ve not found that post, so can’t link to it yet!

16-18th, April, 2014.

Here they are individually, for a bit of a closer look. The pencil drawing is finished. But the oil stalled before completion. So I need to finish that off.

These two pieces are both for sale, should anyone want either. The pencil drawing for £89, and the oil painting for £239. That’s unframed. I can frame them as well, if required. Or a buyer could do it themselves.

Woman Holding Scales, Vermeer, 1664.

I’m planning to do more in this line, as I enjoy it, and it teaches me a lot. I have a few favourite paintings I’ve long wanted to reproduce, such as Vermeer’s Woman Holding Balance, and Caravaggio’s very theatrical St Paul.

Caravaggio’s dramatic vision of St Paul.
Together again. Indoors this time.

The first three pics of my efforts, further up this post, were taken outside in the sunshine. These last were shot indoors. But all the pics in this (and almost all my blog posts) are taken on my iPhone. So, hardly pro/ideal! But hopefully they get the idea across?

MUSiC: Transcribing Drums – Midnight Rendezvous, Casiopea, 1979

Takashi in the studio.*

I have been digging the fantastic drumming of Takashi Sasaki for a while now. He was, strictly speaking, Casiopea’s second drummer. Their first drummer, Tohru ‘Rika’ Suzuki, didn’t record with the group (at least not on an officially released album). Hence Sasaki is commonly thought of and referred to as their first, as he’s the first to be heard in the chronology of their official recorded discography.

His style is light, tight, intricate and highly musical. His chops are extraordinary. With a mastery of dynamics – the range between his ghosted notes, standard hits, and accents, make his playing very hard to accurately emulate – and a penchant for a style Weather Report infamously described as ‘soloing all the time without ever soloing’.

Looks like an album cover or sleeve montage?

He can and does get busy at times, but he always grooves like a mother! Some of his fills are truly ballistic. And, occasionally, they’re almost impossible to decipher. This is particularly true of a few fills (and possibly even grooves?) on the super tasty Midnight Rendezvous.

Even using Moises to isolate the drums, and ASD to slow them down, there’s a fill at around the 3.00 mark that is doing my noggin in. I initially thought perhaps it was in fives, or something like that. But repeated listening leaves me stumped. I need to have it running as a slowed-down and visual (wave-form) loop, methinks. I’ve not tried that as yet.

My score for this is a work still in progress.

It’s taken me a good few hours to get down the first two pages of what will, I think, be a four page score. And even the fifty or so per-cent I’ve done so far will, undoubtedly, be subject to some revision.

I’ve got as far as the end of the (very tasty) guitar solo. Next up is the keys solo, under which Sasaki does some very light and intricate stuff. I’ve blocked in some of this latter section. But I’ve yet to get in there and tweak it.

Sketched out, and still needing fine tuning…

All the cats in this band are just utterly phenomenal. They play in that deliriously groovy sweet-spot, where instrumental prowess and sheer good taste, when it comes to musical choices, collide.

Once I’ve finished the transcription, I intend to learn to play the whole piece as best I can. I’d like to do a YouTube video cover of it, and share it online.

It’s funny for me, as a primarily self-taught drummer, who’s only learned to read drum music ‘on the job’. Stuff that ‘classically trained’ musos might find obvious and easy can sometimes fox me. Transcribing stuff is proving a great way to teach myself written music. Albeit I’m still dealing in timing only, and not pitch/harmony, etc.

A master at work. What became of him?

Here’s a specific example of how I’m learning on the job: there are some quick ‘crushed bounce’ style left hand-doubles – sometimes such stuff is played as a buzz; but oft-times you can clearly hear these as a double – and I initially thought, ok, just turn a single 1/16th into two 1/32nd’s.

But that just sounded so wrong! So instead I turned the ‘&-a’-notes from two 1/16ths (or more [in]accurately one 1/16th and two 1/32nd notes) to a group of three 1/16 note triples. The resultant ‘4-e-&-trip-let’ subdivision sounds and feels sooo much better. And that’s how he plays it. Learning on the job!

* Those tom angles!? They look awful… like a school-kid’s drum set up. Still, the sounds he gets, the feel he achieves, that’s the proof o’th’ puddin’. Just goes to show there’s no single right way. Each to their own!

MUSiC: Drums – Stick Control Summer Challenge

This post isn’t so much a review of George Lawrence Stone’s evergreen classic, which is rapidly nearing its centenary. I’ve reviewed this before, elsewhere.

Instead this post marks a historic achievement for me: I finished my summer holiday Stick Cobtrol challenge – play through the entire book, every exercise twenty times (as prescribed!) – start finish.

It’s just after midday, on Friday, 19th June. And I’m very, very chuffed! It’s amazing how enjoyable these exercises become. They’re hypnotic and meditative. Some are easy, some harder. And I guess what some find easy, others may find hard?

The funny thing is, of course – and anyone who knows Stick Control will know this – that you’ll never truly ‘finish’ this stuff. I’ve gone through it all one now. And in doing so I learned a lot. Some of it was how to interpret the notation, some of it was about the mechanics of stick control.

But I can come back to it, all of it, and mine it for so much more: try it with my feet! Try more focus on individual exercises at differing tempi. One thing I already found myself doing occasionally was adding in obvious variant iterations of ideas that suggested themselves but weren’t actually in the book.

The possibilities for continuing study with this book are, literally, endless. On the one hand that’s daunting. Maybe even a little off-putting? But in the other, it’s a call to continued study.

I think instead of going straight back to aspects of Stick Control – the flam section, for example, is one I could do with studying much more – I’ll focus on working through the next book, Accents & Rebounds. And then there are the two volumes of Joe Morello’s Master Studies.!

What’s great about finishing this book is that I first of all feel a sense of accomplishment. And secondly I now feel more confident teaching from the whole thing. but thirdly, and importantly, it reminds me that having all the drum books I own is all well and good. But only when I work through them do I get their benefits.

I mean, it’s so obvious, it sounds idiotic to even say that. But the truth is that oft-times I e allowed myself to purchase educational drum books, and left it at that! Daft as that sounds. This is a wake up call to start working through my drum score library.

MiSC/MUSiC/HOME: ARSE!!! Hard Times Force Sale of Beloved Geetah…

Sold this beauty today.

You hear on the TiVvy that times are tough. But it’s usually only when it comes home to roost, when you feel the burn, that you really get hipped to the pain of poverty.

I’ve never ever been a bread-head. Indeed, I’m actually quite proud of my anti-capitalist anti-monetarist stance in life. Ok, I may not have set the world aflame, or even achieved very much on any level. But for the most part my time has been my own. To ‘spend’ or ‘waste’ – such dumb-ass hooman ideas – as I choose.

So shiny!

But sometimes these ‘lifestyle choices’ can hurt a bit. Today is such a day. Some money went out of my account today to pay for a holiday. The first and only real holiday we’d have had – excepting only Abbie’s glorious wedding! – in about three years. Indeed, we hardly leave the house, except to work, or buy stuff.

That last observation makes me realise I haven’t escaped the rat race treadmill half as much as I’d like to! The money leaving my account to pay for the AirB&B accommodation would take (indeed, may have already taken) me over my overdraft limit. Like Louis Cole… ‘I don’t want to, check my…’

Anyway, to meet the costs of other regular commitments, I’ve been trying to get some casual cash in hand work, and I’ve signed up with Amazon Flex, to do deliveries. But so far, nada. So in the meantime I’ve been flogging stuff.

And now we get to the rub, the pain, the hurt… Today I sold a resonator guitar that I only bought, I dunno, maybe six months back? I’ve hardly even played the damn thing! And whenever I have I’ve really enjoyed it.

In mint condition.

It’s a cheap Chinese jobby. I only paid £60-70 for it (and I just sold it for £75). But I didn’t want to sell it! It was worth a lot more to me as a thing; a thing of beauty capable of the magic that is music. Indeed, checking it over prior to selling it I got ‘in the zone’ for a bit, which only makes parting with it all the harder!

Oh well, easy come easy go. I guess…

WORK/MiSC: Today’s Office, Groovy New Tee

Loving my new Steely Peanuts T-Shirt!

Today is apparently an official heatwave. And, dang-nab it, it sho’ is hot!

Today’s office, #1.

Having just recently got my beloved car back on the road, after a cam-belt failure (which I repaired myself!), just being able to drive to work – last week I taught the same day’s workload using public transport and a taxi to get around – is bliss.

And, I’m realising that my life really isn’t too bad at all. There are things that need tweaking. Most obviously a greater income, and a concomitant lessening of expenditure!

But by and large my actual work is both a doddle, and usually really quite pleasant. The kids I teach are all quite charming. And whilst the range of ability is wide, and weighted towards the lower/lesser end (today is a two primary schools day), they’re all both pleasant and enthusiastic.


MUSiC: 1958 Hofner Congress…New Guitar!

I travelled ‘darn sarf’ today. Two hours each way. And for what? A new guitar!

I’ve wanted a nice old vintage arch-top guitar for years. I was lucky enough to borrow a Hofner President from my pal Patrick, for a period of several years. That was a gorgeous instrument. But rather beyond my budget.

Phwoar… get a load of those curves!

The President was also fully ‘lectric. Whereas this, a Hofner Congress, is fully ‘coustic!

The Congress was at the low end of Hofner’s offerings, way back when it was launched. And remained at the budget end of their catalogue during its heyday. And it had a heyday, being a very popular ‘decent yet affordable’ axe, those many moons ago.

I read online somewhere that this was Hank Marvin’s first guitar!

Dang nab it, she’s lovely to look at. (Despite missing string and frets!)

Anyway, this has been on the list of potential guitars for me, in this line – hollow bodied, arch topped – for several years. I know it’s hardly a top of the line legend. But they look lovely, and plenty of folk online testify to them being decent enough, even possessed of a degree of charm.

A sexy back, eh!?

But even these budget axes of yesteryear have become quite expensive. They typically sell anywhere between £200-800! So when I found this one pretty cheap – they were asking £85 – I thought it worth taking a look at. I drove the 70 odd miles to Thundersley, Essex, and decided I’d get it.

The concave bend of the neck is clear.

It has a fairly major issue; the neck. This was a pre-truss-rod guitar. And the tension of the strings on the neck has bowed it. It looks as if it’s possibly even been broken, and repaired. The frets are appalling, and two are missing, suggestive of further fiddlage!

Odd doings on the heel of the neck.

The body is in good order, and looks lovely. All the other fittings, bridge, tail-piece, scratch-plate and tuning keys are original. The guitar is numbered 7735, which, according to a website that supplies such info’, means it’s of 1958 vintage!

The weathered old label, inside.
Only five strings on her, and they’re coming off.

Here are a few more pictures.

The floating bridge, floating off…
And in situ. Note locating pin!
The bass side of the body. A few dings.
The treble side.
The rather utilitarian headstock.
Reverse side of the headstock. Oddly asymmetrical!
Hofner’s patent ‘compensator’ tail piece.
The on-body decal. Good nick for a 64 year old!

My plan is to take the neck off, repair it, and put it back on. Keeping it as original as I can. Ideally with the addition of a truss-rod. I have no idea if this is feasible, using the neck as it is.

Can I retro-fit a truss-rod into a neck of this sort?

Another idea is to fit a different neck. One with a truss-rod. There’s one pictured below. But I’m not so keen on that idea, for two reasons. Silk purses and sow’s ears, for one, and originality and integrity for another.

I love this type of Hofner neck; mother o’ pearl a-go-go!
Seriously sexy headstock!

Well, for now I’ll leave the strings off, and see if the neck bends back into shape. In the mean time, I’ll gaze on her adoringly, and dream of the fun I’m going to have tickling her strings some day soon, when she’s restored to a more playable state.

MUSiC/DiY: Workshop – Bodhran/Frame Drum, #2 (Part the 1st)

Having cut the body from a 13” tom, sanding the cut edge.

The workshop is fairly clean and tidy now, at last. I decided to make a start on frame drum #2. I’m not really a fan of Irish folk music, hence it not being a ‘bodhran’, as far as I’m concerned! The last frame drum I made was for a person Teresa works with, who is a fan of Oirish folk. So, that was a bodhran!

I routed a new bearing edge on the cut side.
It has a more symmetrical and softer profile than the donor tom has.

Like this first, I’m making it from an old 13” rack tom. First I cut around the diameter, judging the depth by eye/feel, as opposed to measuring to a set depth. Then I fill a loa of the holes where formerly tuning lugs were mounted, using dowel.

The last one I made was sprayed black. This is lacquered for a natural wood look.

I’ve knocked off for the night, having done that much. I also sanded the cut side. The dowels need to dry overnight, and then it’ll be time to sand then flat, and fill any gaps. if I can I’ll also rout bearing edges around the cut side.

Today, Sunday,31st Nov – Hallowe’en! – I taped off the drum shell, and sanded the exposed area, ready to take the goatskin head, which had been soaking overnight.

I taped off the area of wood that will be visible once the skin is attached.

I forgot about the details of this process, and has to re-learn them on the fly: stretch still wet skin; fix using wood glue, clamps, and finally elastic, wound round several times; clamp elastic; re-stretch skin, re-clamp, and leave to dry/tighten.

This didn’t go as smoothly as last time. And Chester, our beloved moggy, savaged the goatskin, which was very poorly packaged, whilst I was out at work. When I got home, I found he’d left tooth and claw holes in it.

Goat skin glued on, clamped and ‘elastic’d’!

This meant I couldn’t place the skin equidistant from all edges. Instead it was quite a way off centre. This meant that when securing it to the drum, some areas had excessive amounts of skin to grip on/stretch, whilst others had barely enough to grip, or gain any purchase when stretching the head.

I’m just hoping that when it dries out it’ll be tight enough to sound ok. My first attempt, perfectly undamaged, and therefore well centred, came out very nicely. Perhaps too tight. So I did want a lower tone in this second one. But not too loose/low/baggy… we shall see, or rather hear, once it’s dried.