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We here at the Siren have been a little lax in the postings lately, but rest assured it’s not due to a dearth of ideas. On the contrary, there have been too many ideas coming in too fast. It seems that just as we hammer down an idea for an article we get slammed with something else equally engrossing. We have also been doing a little soul searching in the attempt to better define what The Acme Siren is, and how it should carry itself into the future.

This weekend The Siren heads down to the city that Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III once described as; “The hog butcher to the world.” Chicago. We are going to see Prefuse 73 and Blank Blue since Chicago was the furthest north they were coming on tour. We are also going to see some friends, eat some hot dogs, and maybe some pizza, and probably freeze our asses off. When the Siren returns you can look forward to such articles as:

A Series of Open Letters to Rolling Stone

What I Learned at the Opera: The Siren gets Cultured

The After-Bar: An Investigation of Morals and Human Interaction

Why be a Zero When You can be a Guitar Hero

-and of course-

What I Learned at the Prefuse 73 Show

Until then enjoy this video from another Chicago band, TRS-80 (they’re one of my favorites):

(You can find a higher quality mpeg version over at the film-maker Eric Fensler’s site. He’s the same guy that did the GI Joe PSAs)

Who knew that Thanksgiving was so popular with the Rap/Hip Hop community.

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Here is the “script” for This is Spinal Tap. I hesitate to call it a script since the film was largely improvised and this was written after the production of the film. But, it’s still impressive. Here it is.

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Comic from the always funny Toothpaste For Dinner 

I usually don’t like to talk to people about records. And when I say ‘records’ I mean the black vinyl disks with music on them. I love talking about the music on the records. When I refer to the music on a particular black vinyl disk I use the word ‘album’. I also apply this term to CDs and music bought off the internet, kind of a catch-all phrase for a collection of songs by an artist (or artists) regardless of medium.

The worst record conversations are with people over the age of 40. And record collectors. Record collectors can really piss me off. And if someone is a record collector over 40 I really get nervous. I think of myself as an enthusiast, not a collector. The main difference in my mind is I buy and hold on to records for many many reasons. Because I like the music, the cover art is cool, the notion of the record is interesting, etc. Collectors buy and hold on to records because of a perceived monetary value. This is understandable since collectors need to draw an income, or a return on investment from what it is they are collecting. Now, I must confess I’ve made a little money selling records. Once. Because I got really lucky. I came across a bunch of picture disks and a couple sealed copies of some rather popular records from the eighties. I bought them for a dollar a piece at the Salvation Army, and tripled my money when I sold them at Cheapo. That was the only time. I don’t regret it and I’ll acknowledge it, but making making money and reselling records is not my motivation for buying them in the first place.

The reason I hate conversations about records with people over 40 is because it’s ALWAYS the same exact conversation. Here’s how it breaks down:

1.) 40 year-old discovers that I own some records.

2.) 40 year-old states that it’s unusual for someone my age to own records.

3.) 40 year-old tells of their record collection when they were younger.

4.) 40 year-old asks me what records I listen to. Most times they are totally unfamiliar with the records I buy, because I buy random records for the reasons listed above.

5.) 40 year-old tells of how their record collection either a.) was sold off/stolen/abandoned by family/friends/girlfriend/boyfriend; or b.) still resides in their basement/parents basement.

6.) 40 year-old expresses interest in acquiring said records and listening to them again.

7.) 40 year-old tells of the audible difference between records and CDs. This statement leads eventually to the fact that some records were never transfered to CD.

8.) And on, and on, and on …

I’ve left out most of my responses because usually I just smile and nod, having heard all the nostalgia a million times before. I also limit my responses for the simple fact that I don’t want to encourage this dreadful conversation.

Just this morning I was in the bathroom at work and the guy who comes in once a week to water the plants walks in and begins the ’40 year-old Record Conversation’ at step 4 (he had completed steps 1–3 at an earlier date). Now I’m not one for talking about ANYTHING in the mens room, (I think it’s something I picked up in the Boy Scouts) let alone records. So, this guy is at the urinal T.C.O.B. going on about records. I’ve already washed my hands and have my hand on the door waiting for an opportunity to make a quick escape. But this guy just keeps going. He finishes his business at the urinal and he just keeps talking (he’s at step 8 now). He washes his hand and he just keeps talking. We are both ready to leave the men’s room since we both have no further business to conduct in that setting, and he just keeps talking. We end up leaving the men’s room together, and the ‘conversation’ spills out into the atrium of the building. I’m nodding and interjecting with the required ‘yeah’ and ‘that’s interesting’ every now and again, all the while slowly backing up, inching my way closer to the door of my office and increasing the distance between us. He doesn’t even notice, just starts talking louder to compensate. And just when I think I’m going to have to call the office and tell them to notify everyone that I won’t be available for the rest of the day because of some stupid China-Syndrome record conversation he lays a doozy on me. Having found his way back to step 7 he compares a record to a camera in the sense that certain cultures believed the camera was capable of stealing souls, and that the audio quality and physical nature of vinyl was similar. That all the noise and all the pops and scratches and shit are an essential part of the ‘soul’ captured and imprisoned in the vinyl. And I thought, “That is really fucking interesting.” The comparison to photography alone was great. The idea that the physical inscription of the vinyl captures a representation of a time, a place, and an occurrence is very similar to that of film based photography. And when he dropped the soul stealing aspect on me, he really blew my mind. In a way, DJing and sampling, are ways of manipulating those trapped souls. A way to make them say something other than the original message. Anyone who disagrees can look to the controversy regarding sampling and usage rights. On some level I’m sure it’s about money but it’s also about letting the soul speak for itself rather than having a new message attached to it after the fact. But on the other hand using that music again gives it a new life, (I promise I won’t get too biblical).

Back in the early-mid nineties I thought music piracy and file sharing were, in a way, beneficial to the idea of music. It freed music from the confines of a physical medium, making it more ‘musical’ somehow. After all, the origin of music, literally and historically, is live performance, not a cassette tape or a CD. So why should it matter where or how you got that music? I felt that when I did buy a CD that my money was paying for the encasement of the music, and not the music itself. The music existed beyond the CD, it floated in the ether of the universe. Unlike books where the words are clearly visible in black and white, and you can see that they exist, music offers no such proof of existence. The fact that music is audible and not visual helped with this notion of ethereal existence.

So to bring it all back to the uncomfortable conversation I had in the men’s room, I am now thinking that the encasement of music is just as important as the music itself. The medium is as important as the message. The music may exist in some ethereal alternate music universe, but it’s the medium that allows it to live in ours. It’s the medium that lets us interact and manipulate that message (for better or for worse). It’s the medium that these 40 year-olds are nostalgic for. They still enjoy the message of the music in CD or mp3 format, but the fact remains it’s just not the same. I just wish they would quit talking to me about it.

Note: No 40 year-olds were harmed in the writing of this document.

Full circle.

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Several years ago I found a website featuring the music and life of a man named Shooby Taylor. I feel obligated to share this website with the rest of you for a two reasons. One, I think it has some of the coolest audio content on the internet. The second reason is a bit more complicated.

The previous Acme Siren post was taken from a Friendster “About Me” profile I wrote some time ago. I was listening to some jazz music at the time I sat down to write the profile and began singing along. What followed was 20 minutes of scat singing and writing which eventually became the profile. I thought is was funny that someone would sit down for 20 minutes and write scat, with shout outs and descriptions, in prose form: totally detaching it from the vocal, freeform improvisation that makes scat so cool.

Then I found Shooby Taylor.

In comparison to Mr. Taylor my little post is tiny, pointless, and dumb. You see, Shooby Taylor was a singer. He sang improvisational scat to rather well-known songs, and some of his own original compositions. He would sing along with the actual recording; overdubbing his voice on top of the track. He called himself “The Human Horn” and was a serious musician.

Now, most people know scat singing from listening to Louis Armstrong. And he was a very good scat singer. But he did not possess the desire, seriousness or commitment to scat that Shooby did. Shooby was not, by any measure, a “good” singer. But when you listen, you know that every note comes from the deepest recesses of his being. Listening to Shooby is a musical Pandora’s Box. An exercise in audio endurance. If you can get past the first few seconds of shock and discomfort you will become a believer, and there is no going back from that.

On his website there mp3s available for download and an unbelievable video of his famous Apollo Theater performance. When I first saw and listened to Shooby Taylor, I was struck dumb. He had taken the power of scat singing and projected it into a new dimension. What I tried to do on my rinky-dink little blog he did for real on the stage of the Apollo Theatre. What I thought was a wise-ass goof, he had done (semi)professionaly.

Sadly Shooby died in 2003, but his music lives as an unforgettable part of anyone who comes within earshot of it.

Today there is a movement looking to clear the rights of Shooby’s old recordings and release them again on CD. Since Shooby recorded over other copyrighted songs the the process of clearing the rights for all of them is proving to be difficult, but hopefully it will be completed soon.

Enjoy! www.shooby.com

For a more comprehensive dive into the world of Shooby check out Irwin Chusid’s journal. And his book Songs In The Key of Z.

Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Deedley deedley deedley deedley dee dee dee (this is the clarinet solo) Deedle deedle dee dee dop. Dee dop dee deedle dee dop. (toss it to the bassist for contrast) Baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw. Baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw. (Everyone!) Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. (DRUMS!) Shocka shocka shocka shick shick shick sock. Sssss. Shocka shick shock shocka. Shocka shick shock shocka. Bum bum bumpita bum bum bum. (he’s on the toms now) Bum bumpita bumpita bumpita bumpita. Shhh shicka. Shhh shicka. Shhh shicka. Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. (take it to the bridge) Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Baaaaaaaaaaaaa. Bum.

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The shirts I ordered from The Imaginary Foundation arrived last week, but I’ve been so lazy/busy that I’ve forgotten to let you all know. They are excellent. Good quality. Good printing. The only thing I felt was lacking was better packaging for shipping. They were just stuffed into a box, no plastic bag or anything. If they’d gotten wet it would have been most unfortunate. But, alas they arrived safely. I think I am going to officially adopt the “I Believe In Music” shirt as the unofficial shirt of The Siren. Until we can get an official shirt.

Department of Eagles-No One Does It Like You

Grizzly Bear-The Knife

My good friend Bud Snead, turned me on to Take Away Shows by Blogothéque. Each “show”consists of taking a band or musical act out of the studio, off the stage and out into the street to play a live “show”. The occurence is filmed and offered as a podcast. They are filmed in one take, often times improvised to accommodate a lack of instrumentation, or done a capella, and are wonderfully gritty, real, and honest.

From the website:
“Sessions are always filmed as a unique shot, without any cut, recorded live. We usually haven’t much time to record them, so the groups have to be spontaneous, to improvise, play with what they have with them, and with their environment, whether there’s a public or not.”

These Take Away Shows show us that music is a human experience, best shared between people with as little distance between each other as possible. Each band is filmed walking among the masses, and shown to be humans in their own right, rather than a photo on an album cover. These are not the gigantic, overly produced and polished mega-stars of American Idol. These are real musicians whose talent and love for what they do come across loud and clear as they walk the streets playing for the public, and the camera.

Some acts are notoriously reclusive and don’t garner a lot of press, such as Liars, and Department of Eagles. Others have had more public exposure, such as Architecture In Helsinki, and Andrew Bird. But none of these bands have ever been seen like this. Enjoy.