Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I thought I had posted about this podcast once before, but I'm not finding it easily accessible with a search, so I'll post it again with the title, Probes.  It bears repeating anyway, if you are an adventurous music listener or care about the history of music. 

When I was younger my mother made me take piano lessons.  Her heart and thinking were in the right place, but I just wasn't a very good student.  I didn't care about practicing, and wanted to be outside playing tag, riding the bike, or whatever else with my brother.  But I wish I had been more studious back then.  I still remember my piano teacher's name, however, Mrs. Brown.  I remember at times she'd also be cooking and sometimes whatever she'd be cooking (or her husband) would come whiffing from beyond the other room.  Sometimes it would smell good, but sometimes odd to me.  I don't know what it was they were eating that day, smelled like maybe liver and onions, something strong like that or fish or cabbage, but it filled the house with odor. 

At any rate, I stuck with piano until I hit sharps and flats.  I couldn't get the hang of that.  Sharps and flats are the black keys on the piano.  They are the half steps in tones when either written or played.  The piano and all music has the same language or is composed of notes A thru G, then it repeats that into the next octave (8 notes), either higher or lower, A thru G.  But thrown in the sharps and flats and you get A then A sharp, then B and then B sharp.  Sharp being written as a # on the page, if memory serves.  At any rate, either she didn't explain that well enough to me, or I didn't get it, or I just wasn't a very good student, I sort of missed the boat there.  Soon afterwards, I asked my mother if I could drop the lessons.  My sister on the other hand continued, and is still playing well at the church today. 

I wish I had stuck with it though as I love music so much.  I wish I had taken band as an elective in high school too although I don't know what I would have wanted to play, but I did take choir.  If one could go back in time, I would have taken art appreciation all thru those years as well.  I would have been a full-on bohemian art geek. 
At any rate, Probes.  Probes is a music podcast hosted by Chris Cutler, who used to play drums in the RIO (rock in opposition) avant-prog group, Henry Cow, Pere Ubu, Art Bears, among probably some other bands.  Henry Cow were a fantastic band that combined rock, free jazz, classical and avant garde into an unmistakably unique combination.  But Henry Cow were extremely unconventional, and made music that didn't conform to any laws, and were therefore an island to themselves. Of course the Cow unleashed Fred Frith and Chris Cutler into the world, two of the major innovators in new music to this very day.   Frith is still releasing and playing solo and with other bands, however, I'm not real sure what Cutler is doing musically these days, but he has been doing this Probes podcast, which has been very interesting.

The Wire magazine had a write-up on the program as did Dangerous Minds on the web.   For whatever reason, whoever put the podcast together didn't do it in a very organized manner, and I wish they had.  It sure would have made it easier to access.  Cutler goes through the history of modern music, focusing on the rejection of tonality, how our ears have adapted to understand dissonance and "noise" as music, and how sound recording has altered how music is composed. But this short summary doesn't do it justice.   I really can't recommend this podcast enough. Every episode has been fascinating, with mind blowing, enlightening moments. Each episode also has a separate side episode of just the music. Probes is like a college level music history/appreciation course for hipsters. 

To begin the program, you can start with the first podcast here.  And then Probe 1.2 is just the music only.  It follows that path,  Probe 2 is the musical discussion (along with music), and Probe 2.2 is the music only.  With this link you can find out thru the transcript who was being played and talked about in each episode.  For the transcript you'll have to put your mouse and highlight the transcript link:  Probes #1 Transcript, then scroll back up to the top of the page and you'll see a little PDF box.  Then click on that box for the full transcript of the series.   Like I said, it's a little confusing to navigate, but once you get the hang of it, it's worth it. 


At 5:00 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

I started lessons (on the guitar) too early, so the instructor told my mom after an unpromising beginning – not at all too young for a prodigy with natural talent, but for an average tin-eared boy with sausage fingers. I never pursued it on my own later, which I too eventually came to consider a mistake. It’s likely, though, that I’d have been as untalented when older as I was when younger.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

I'm surprised you didn't take up guitar like the rest of us wannabes when the Beatles splashed upon the scene. I never was very good at guitar, but learned to play lead and some bar chords. Music along with some of the other arts can get pretty pricey, but I think it's even more so. I had a synth too and learned to play that and guitar enough to informally jam with other players--some of which I still have on tape. But I never got good enough to form an actual band.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

I love music but I'm just not talented enough to make it on my own. Played the clarinet and bass clarinet for several years starting in elementary school and into junior high. It was fun enough, but I really have no rhythm at all, and found it difficult to express musical terms verbally. I can read music enough to tell you where to put your fingers on a clarinet to play the note, but not what the note is called.

Been listening to a podcast called Underscore which tackles and dissects film music in depth. Really interesting stuff, but they go over my head with some of the technical music theory concepts. Luckily they often play or hum the elements they are talking about so I can follow the discussion, but man some of that stuff sounds like another language when they talk about it. So far they've tackled "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Vertigo" and "Back to the Future". Hoping they tackle some Goldsmith (especially "Star Trek: the Motion Picture). That would be a blast.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

I'll have to Google the podcast underscore, it might be fun to check out a few of those podcast. I'm the same way. If they start to talk too technically about music, they'll lose me, but sometimes I can pick up the general sense of what they mean.

I wish I had played in the band when I was younger. Clarinet would probably have been fun. I wonder at times if I had played in the band what I would have liked to have played. Clarinet is a good choice. I like the sound of a French horn as well, and flute has an attraction to it too. I play guitar and a tad keyboards. I recently bought a Korg synthesizer used. They can still be fun to tinker around on.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Paula Suarez said...

Nice blog

At 11:26 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Thanks Paula


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