Thursday, May 19, 2005

“A musical education” (in celebration of my 103rd post)

Well, how do you like that—Because I missed a few posts (saved in Word) when I formatted them for automatic numbering, I actually missed my one and only glorious opportunity to celebrate my 100th post!

Better late than never. To celebrate the (passing of) this major milestone in my life as a blogger, I’m going to post a copy of an e-mail exchange between me and Psycho Toddler ( . Some of you may not be aware of this, but PT wears two hats (or kippot)—he’s both a physician (Mark Skier, MD) and a musician (leader, lead singer, and bass player of the Moshe Skier Band). I mentioned him in my Sunday, May 15, 2005, post, A Jewish blogger speaks: What am I doing here, literally?,” (, which probably should have been my 100th post, but I wasn’t thinking of that at the time. The below is what I meant when I said, “I'm currently getting an education in contemporary Jewish rock music. (Check this out: This man plays a mean bass .)” By all means, check this out—hop on over to and listen—literally— to what I’m talking about! Enjoy!

Sat, 14 May 2005 20:54:27 -0700 (PDT)

I must admit that having a blog buddy who's both a band leader and a bass player has certainly made me pay more close attention to what I'm listening to. In the process, I've noticed some interesting things.

For openers, if one wishes to sing and play a musical instrument at the same, it certainly helps to be an excellent multitasker. How else can one possibly sing "Horeini, HaShem darkecha" in one rhythm and play a harmony on the bass that's in a totally different, much more syncopated, yet somehow perfectly compatible rhythm at the same time? I would give my eye teeth to be able to pull off a stunt like that!

Another thing I never noticed before is that the bass player doesn't *always* play. That's most obvious in "Elokai Netzor," when there's a frequently-repeated passage that sounds *almost* like a call-and-response pattern between the bass and guitar (except that the guitarist never actually stops playing). So maybe playing *all* the time is the job of the rhythm-guitar player. Or maybe not. I'm clueless.

I've also notice that a good musical arrangement can make an enormous difference, especially when one is attempting to rescue old chestnuts from being consigned to the "boring" category. "Oseh Shalom" is literally old, and it gets figuratively old, too, pretty quickly, after about the 4,564 repetition of "yaaseh shalom." There's just not much anyone can do with a melody that's that familiar--the only things keeping this piece alive are the drums and the bass. Even so, after about the 878th repetition, I'm just about ready to change the channel when some guy in the back row gives me a wake-up call with a nice bass line. Just walks right down the scale, repeating each note except the last one twice--do, ti flat (?), la, so, fa. And then--wait for it--proceeds to do the same nifty thing again, about 3 bars later. Whoa! Did Carlebach ever write anything like that? :)

Then there's "Sh'ma." It starts with a nifty bass line, then the guitarist (topped by a violin, methinks), comes in with . . .well, I haven't a clue what, exactly, but whatever knob, lever, switch and/or button he hit on his guitar gives him a sound that I sure as heck wasn't expecting the first time I heard it. Then we go to bass, voice, and drums, with only a smidge of guitar at first--also unexpected--with some violin thrown in later, and a seriously swift guitar solo. Neat!

I've been rather pleasantly surprised to hear tunes that, to my ears, are carried largely by the bass line ("Horeini" and "Sh'ma" come to mind). That's a new one on this former choir singer.

So how much of the arranging do you do? For that matter, which of the songs on your website did you write from scratch?

And where do I get a lyrics sheet? :)

Sun, 15 May 2005 07:58:42 -0700 (PDT)

Wow, I think that's the best analysis of my music that I've ever heard! I mean "read"! You obviously have an excellent ear. You are dead-on right about the multitasking. People don't realize how hard it is to play bass and sing at the same time. I got a new respect for Paul McCartney after picking up the bass. You're basically playing a monophonic melody on the bass which is often at odds with what you are singing. For my own songs, I cheat. I tend to write basslines and melodies that I can perform together. I also tend to write notes in my own vocal range, which is actually quite narrow.

As far as arranging goes, it's variable. What I like about music is the ability to build and create a sound or a mood from nothing. And I like working with a band because you can get different ideas from different people, and when you put them together, it sounds like more than just the sum of the parts. One example would be a "groove." Like what we did with Oseh Shalom. I tried to get the drummer to play as straight as possible. Then I try to fill in the gaps by playing "off" of his rhythm. If it works out just right, it's kinda like great sex. Actually I think life is all about timing. I may blog about that one day. Anyway, if we do it right, the person listening to the song can't tell it's two people playing different things. It sounds like one sound doing something interesting.

One song where I did all the arrangements is "Shiru Lo", which is on the Kabbalah cd. I wrote all the parts. But most songs I just let the instrumentalists do what they want. That's why, although I'm pretty much constant throughout the 20 years of material I sent you, it sounds different at different time periods.

I just bought PT’s—er, Moshe Skier’s—Rock of Sages CD. Nice stuff! Much to my great amusement, the Kabbalah band (his previous band, whose music is on this CD) even did a Beatles take-off, Ayzehu Chacham, with words from Pirkei Avot (Verses [Ethics] of the Fathers), chapter 4, perek (?) 1. The music is probably by Moshe Skier; the lyrics are by Ben Zoma :). Check it out!

I'll be off the Internet for a few days while we pick up our son from college. Shabbat Shalom. I'll see you Sunday.


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

It's so nice of you to post this exchange! And in case my wife reads this--I'm kidding! Sex is still better than music!

Thu May 19, 01:40:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

My pleasure. Speaking of which, in case my husband reads this, sex is still better than folkdancing, too. :)

Sun May 22, 10:27:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Noam S said...

PT's music is awesome. If you get him to send you all four cd's(Kabbala, Rock of Sages, MSB I and II) you can hear his transition from mainstream rock to the more stripped down punk/alt sound. The funny thing is I really like the two slow songs on Rock of Sages a lot, although nothing compares to "v'Imru Amen", or the primal shout of Tza'amah lecha nafshi. My kids in the car ask for either Eishet chayel, or "that guitar song"

Tue May 24, 04:40:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Man, I gotta get the rest of those CDs! That and a "lyrics" sheet! With my limited knowledge of Tanach/Bible, I find myself in the rather interesting position of either A) knowing none, or almost none, of the words to a song ("Tza-amah l'cha nafshi" is one of those); B) knowing some of the words (Shiru Lo) but not necessarily knowing from where I know them; C) knowing all the words and knowing from where I know them (Elokai Netzor); and D) knowing all the words, but having no idea from where I know them (Hafachta). :) As one of my former rabbis used to say, I'm "confused on a higher level."

Wed May 25, 10:29:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Noam S said...

Shiru Lo is great. that is the "guitar song" my kids love.

Thu May 26, 10:03:00 AM 2005  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I don't know the words to Tzama either. I think Mendel just makes em up.

Thu May 26, 02:31:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Where's a "roll-eyes" emoticon when I need one? PT, you're too much! :)

Fri May 27, 01:50:00 AM 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>