I got a call from my father the other day. “You were right,” he told me.
He’d been trying to keep a barbershop group together up where he lives in Anchorage, Alaska. But he was unable to keep the group engaged at the level he demanded, and he got tired of doing all the work. So he finally decided to take my suggestion that he just get himself a decent mike, plug it into his computer, and record all the parts himself. Unfortunately, he ditched Apple several years ago, too soon to take part in the iLife Revolution. Now he was asking me which Windows software would be the best for the task at hand. I had no idea, so I pointed him to a couple of readily Googlable trial versions and hoped for the best. In the end, he went with the off-the-shelf solution at his nearby Best Buy.
He was so stoked with the results that now he was calling me again, asking about gear upgrades — specifically, one of those nice hands-free mike and headphone combos that you see all the kids wearing on television. He told me his new goal was to mount a series of karaoke-style performances at the local hospital. I told him it was time to forgo his computer store for advice and head over to the local music store. We also discussed the importance of extensive rehearsal and the necessity of working through the suck.
My brother Damon always had a similar dilemma. He’s been involved in a long string of awesome musical groups, none of them had any real staying power. More often than not, they seemed to break down on the rocks of their indifference to putting in the work it takes to master my brother’s beguiling and complicated original compositions. Like my father, he also wound up wed to the convenience of digital multi-tracking.
“Octet For Percussion” is a perfect example of a piece he never talked anyone into learning. I’m not even sure he tried. It existed on paper long before it ever got recorded. For his teevee show, Damon added a comparatively mundane video collage homage to his job behind the wheel of a cab. Similarly, he also gives autobiographical touches to his version of Jacques Brel’s “Les Chanson De Jacqui,” breathing all his frustrated singular ambition into Brel’s classic tale of an everyman’s aspirations of grandeur.
Though he maintains a couple of loose musical associations on his Henry VIII, King Of All England site and as the leader of the essentially fictitious Kings Of Doggwater, my brother’s current musical output is mostly a solitary enterprise. But unlike our father, he does have one very powerful partner in his corner. After years of wandering in the Windows wilderness, he finally acquired an aging Macintosh from one of his fellow musicologists. We wish him nothing but good fortune and creative productivity free from driver conflicts.