A Virtuoso of Rhythm Passes

Just over an hour ago I was given some very painful news from a friend. She and many/most of my good friends know all too well how passionate I become about iconic drummers, percussionists who make the skins (as they are sometimes called) come alive, the various metals, hollowed woods, mallets, and drumsticks hit, reach, vibrate into and through, then consume human bodies and spirits bringing together perfect, harmonized syncopation with Earth’s air, our ears, with life’s purest beat and rhythms. Today is a day and night of mourning. I am crushed as well as stunned by this news. The Rolling Stone headline reads:

Neil Peart, Rush Drummer Who Set a New Standard for Rock Virtuosity, Dead at 67

When I heard the Canadian band the very first time in 1978, their “2112” album, I was immediately affected and in sheer awe at this drummer’s skill and abilities. I remember that day on the airline flight to London Heathrow with football/soccer teammates. He and I were both drummers in our middle school and high school marching and concert bands. After listening to Overture, The Temples of Syrinx, Discovery, and the remainder of the 20-minute concerto of fine rock, and then A Passage to Bangkok, I was speechless. I thought I had just listened to the most beautifully complex, other-worldly performance of percussion I had ever heard. And believe me, I had listened to countless rock drummers at that age. It was my obsession next to football/soccer.

To this day there are but two or three other performances by other drummers that by my heart and standards can be included in the discussion of Greatest of All Time. Neil Peart was more than my childhood idol behind the skins and cymbals. He was a god, the Lord of the Skins as we ‘sophisticated’ drummers affectionately called him. Now he has passed into the ages at far too early an age. This world, the art of fine modern music, percussion, rock, and lyrics will miss terribly this brilliant, talented man. A dark day indeed.

I raise my shot-glass to this icon of drums. I place a pair of drumsticks in front of a burning candle in honor to this once-in-a-lifetime artist that meant so, so very much to me most all of my life, not only by his remarkable sometimes independent syncopation by his two hands and two feet—he could keep four different rhythms perfectly and simultaneously—not an easy task for most, but Neil was also highly educated and therefore an exquisite lyricist for Rush. I’d like to pay my homage to this fantastic man and the trio from Toronto.

Many of you might be familiar with their 1981 hit Tom Sawyer from the Moving Pictures album, one of their top selling albums of all-time. Be utterly impressed by this man’s drumming talent and watch how he invests so much into his artform:

I have many favorite songs/lyrics that Neil composed. It’s impossible for me to say that I have a number one song/lyrics because I don’t; never could shrink that list to less than ten. However, for this emotional occasion I will share one of my top five. It is from their Permanent Waves album released in 1980. I wore this entire album out for at least two years straight. I played it so much on my stereo turntable it hardly left the actual record-table, much less get put away into the paper sleeve. The song I’ve chosen? Though Red Barchetta is a magnificent arrangement in all ways, I did not choose it. Part of my adoration for this particular song is its continual time-signature changes from 6/4, 7/4, to 6/4, to 7/4, 6/4, and 8/4 and back again. Simply amazing! Neil’s four limbs never miss a beat, that is… four independent beats. Here is Neil Peart’s work of art, Freewill:

Rush_Permanent_WavesThere are those who think that life
Has nothing left to chance
A host of holy horrors
To direct our aimless dance

A planet of playthings
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive
The stars aren’t aligned
Or the gods are malign
Blame is better to give than receive

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will

There are those who think that
They’ve been dealt a losing hand
The cards were stacked against them
They weren’t born in Lotus-Land

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate
Kicked in the face
You can’t pray for a place
In heaven’s unearthly estate

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will

[incredible instrumental solos by Geddy and Alex, followed by the most hypnotic, moving seque back into the main theme] 😲

Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt
That’s far too fleet

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will

Freewill” by Neil Peart and Rush from their album Permanent Waves

If you are interested in listening to this song’s complex sophistication of Neil’s syncopation talent along with bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, click here.

Finally, I give my most humble adoration, appreciation, and tribute to Neil for this long, very exhausting composition, also with several time-changes. It took me all summer long (in 1981 when I finally got my 15-piece monster drum kit!) to learn and master, mimicking every single hit of the open or closed hi-hat, double-bass strikes, cymbal crashes, and all drum-fills by every sized tom-toms from 4-inch to the 16-inch and 18-inch floor Toms in perfect syncopation! Never in my life, then or since (well, until my Alt-lifestyles actually), had I achieved the neurological, chemical rush in my body, the natural euphoric HIGH I would get every time I played this song. Dear God it nearly killed me. The composition was around 144-beats per minute for 9 ½ minutes non-stop! Very, very demanding mentally and physically on any drummer. Some olympic athletes might compare it to a Decathlon. But the more I perfected it, the more I HAD to have more! I was becoming a protégé of drumming greatness. Without a doubt I was a seriously lost Peart-addict. There was no hope for me.

I pumped it through my garage band’s Peavey guitar-speakers, four of them all at once! Our downstairs playroom walls with sliding glass door and one window vibrated like earthquakes when I turned up this jam. I had to install a small fan on top of one of my bass-drums to help with the perspiration I’d work up. Several times my hands were so sweaty I’d launch a drumstick across the room trying to keep up with Neil’s unhuman play. What a FREAKIN’ workout it was to get lost in this brilliant piece of music… and I loved every second of it. Perhaps you will hear and detect why it is incredibly demanding for the drummer:

I am going to miss this great artist and percussionist dearly. He fills so much of my early life, my addiction to many rhythms all coming together to create masterpieces. There have been several great drummers over the decades that compare to him, but they have or will confess soon enough that they should not really belong in the same hall or Apollonian Temple as Neil Peart. Here’s to you Neil, rest in peace. I wonder, will the concert halls and recording studios ever be so fortunate again to have a real historic Master of the Skins? Probably not. Not in my lifetime. Now I’m going to a private room to weep.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Bang the Skins

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Gadgets, Machinery & Hobnobs

Workers Hand Brain intro

At first they dug with picks, and then the great
steam drills were made. The navvies, who had carved
their way through living rock, sickened or starved
or died of bends. The bubbles percolate

to heart or brain; you die. Not soon enough,
The engineers and stokers died as well.
They might as well have tunnelled into Hell.
The bubbles came for them. Not only rough

workers by hand die at those depths; the brains
of scientists who tried to work out why
exploded too. They came back, saw the sky
and felt the pangs of death. These days the trains

are pressurized. Unharmed we make our way
from London to New York in just one day.

Roz Kaveney, Steampunk Sonnets

It has been some time since last I posted about Steampunk, my fond alternative dimension of life. I have neglected the neo-vintage, quirky, dashing artforms, imaginative gadgets, and ingenious bits-n-bobs far too long. For this I present to you today more marvels in Steampunk pageantry.

On this occasion we will read Steam-sonnets by Madame Kaveney, gaze in wonderment over a menagerie of Steampunk instruments, engines, and craftsmanship—in particular a certain renown submarine with a twist. And I’d be amiss should this tour proceed without tunes of revolutionary movements and social reforms upholding neo-Bohemian melodies and harmonies performed by Abney Park and the now retired Doctor Phineas Waldolf Steel. Should you still be unsatisfied a stop at an extraordinary cafè in Cape Town, South Africa that serves-up dreamy crumpets, tea, and java for any who enter craving. With a smile they serve travelers of modern-mediocrity or flamboyant Steampunkers alike. All the same, let’s begin first with the wacky gadgets and mechanized mobilities. The following slideshow are actual, real-life functional Steampunk items and machines:

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Should you be a wine connoisseur extraordinaire, the lover and aficionado of make-the-machines-do-it as gentry Victorians would’ve done, then this contraption is a must in your saloon. Have a look at this thingamajig that does everything except select your wine of choice.

BN_WorldsMostElaborateCorkscrew_02.jpg

Lost your corkscrew? Can’t seem to summon your Sommelier? No worries, here’s how to impress your evening guests with flair, or reveal just how much you cannot be bothered by mundane tasks of bottle-opening and filling glasses. Pfffttt, such behavior is for peasants and servants:

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

The Engine intro

They started him on messages; he’d go
on roller-skates down the long corridor
with windows to the engine. It was more
than he could take in, but he came to know

it first by all its parts—the cogs and gears,
the pistons and the loom that read each card.
It was the computation he found hard
but learned its pounding rhythms down the years.

He’d moved from skates to oil-can, then to run
the simpler programmes, then to write his own,
and then to oversee. He’d sometimes moan
in sleep, as if he felt a throbbing ton

of metal in his brain. He lost his sight
and hearing, as the numbers grew more bright.

Roz Kaveney, Steampunk Sonnets

‘He envisions a world where the only obligation of the people is to have fun… It all comes down to having fun. We spend our lives trapped,’ voices zany Dr. Steel, ‘when all we really want to do is play. So, let the people play! Let us build a Utopian Playland.’

Rudyard Kipling in 1915 wrote “The Fringes of the Fleet” and a year later composer Edward Elgar penned musical songs about the Tin Fish, or submarines. It goes:

They bear, in place of classic names,
Letters and numbers on their skin.
They play their grisly blindfold games
In little boxes made of tin.

However, engineers at Five Ton Crane Arts along with Christopher Bently and Sean Orlando had a different vessel in mind:  The Nautilus Terra-firma Submarine Car. She weighs in at 11,000 lbs. dry and has a top-speed of 13 mph. From bow to stern she’s 25-feet and 100-inches from port to starboard, and stands a proud 11-feet 6-inches without canopy (see below slideshow). Aboard ship she’s fully equipped with:

  • Harpoon gun water cannon (13 gallons per minute)
  • Hydraulic drive controls
  • GPS navigation and Pro-audio sound
  • LED RGB programmable lighting system
  • Library
  • Specimen lab
  • Navigation room
  • Night vision periscope
  • Poop deck with custom shade canopy… and yes,
  • Air conditioning

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Though some may carry doubts that the Age of Steampunk has seen its last days and appeal, yet there are far many who yell Nah! Surviving musicians of the HMS Ophelia, a clockwork guitarist, two belly dancers, a flintlock bassist, a Middle-Eastern percussionist, a contorting violent violinist, and a Tesla-powered keyboardist sing and perform:

Your subculture shops at the mall
We build ours with blowtorch, needle, thread, and leather awl
With our antique clock parts we’ve taken all arts, fine art to fashion
And now we’re spreading worldwide to circle the globe with a furious passion

Out with the new
In with the old
Out with the new
In with the old
Steampunk Revolution by Abney Park

Should your zeppelin or land-craft malfunction, snap a cog, or run aground in the southern most portion of the African continent, make haste to Cape Town, South Africa. There you will detect friends, dazzling decor, smells and nourishment that comes only from the realm, the timeless culture of exquisite Steampunkery at Truth Cafè. If you care to peruse their daytime Brasserie Menu or curious of their After Dark menu, click-on said links.

Truth - Coffee Contraptions - Cape Town_SA

Truth Coffee & Cafe – Cape Town, SA

One online media agency reported on Cape Town’s most radically themed shop and cafè writing:

Every inch of the coffee shop is packed with visual candy from large saw-blade tabletops to beautiful overstuffed booths and an ornate array of coffee making equipment that looks absurdly complex, almost like interior of a World War 2 submarine. If that wasn’t enough, Martin also crammed the space with vintage typewriters, Singer sewing machines, and old candlestick telephones. The design even extends to the restrooms which have exposed copper pipes, old extending mirrors and Victorian tap levers.
“Step Inside ‘Truth,’ a Steampunk Coffee Shop,” ThisIsColossal.com accessed Dec. 10, 2019

Being a romantic of retro-futuristic steam-powered gadgets and aesthetics myself, feast your eyes and appetite upon Truth Cafè’s surreal interior in Steampunk design. See if you agree—Haldane-Martin Designs, photos – Micky Hoyle.

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∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

Happiness intro

The stokeress had washed her sooty face
And wore her best bandana round a neck
Scrubbed almost white. She took a turn on deck,
Chatted to a lieutenant. Knew her place

But flirted anyway. He took her to
The magic lantern show and kissed her hand
On parting. And she dreamed how he would stand
Outside her cabin door, and bring the shoe

She had not left behind. Awoke to spend
Her days in shovelling, and dust, and grime,
Her nights exhausted. Found her life sublime
To serve the great machine, and sometimes mend

Rips in the fabric of its bag, look down
At Delhi, Boston, Prague and London Town.

Roz Kaveney, Steampunk Sonnets

If you have not yet journeyed to my other Steampunk blog-posts, below is a quick list of links. There’s also a dedicated Menu up top along my green-barred header. You can’t miss it.

victorian-line-break_1

Steampunkery Marvels The park of magical zoological encounters from the imaginations of Jules Verne intertwined with the mechanized creations of Leonardo da Vinci is the Les Machines de L’ile.

The A-C of Steampunk A look forward and backward at the contraptions of today’s Steampunk sub-culture.

Living Steampunk Modern urban living meets Jules Verne and Captain Nemo — see the Chelsea apartment in NYC.

Through the Monocles A photomontage to satisfy the most curious with music by KK and The Steampunk Orchestra.

Pure Steampunk Art Donovan and his lighting company have given the Steampunk movement another electric jolt of popularity!

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Hope for Humanity?

As all of you can gather from my previous blog-post, and comments on other’s blogs about this last weekends multiple mass shootings and massacres, I was much more effected by them than in others past. That is not at all to say that the long, long list of all our country’s prior mass shootings, going as far back as 1966 at the University of Texas, Austin tower massacre, are any less crushing to me. They are! Every single fatality, every single wounded survivor scarred, perhaps permanently maimed, and those families having to deal with the life-altering aftermath and long, long, road of recovery, are all remembered and they all deeply effect me. This past weekend was especially gut-ripping heart-piercing because of how quickly they occurred in about one week. That is extremely disturbing for me. Actually, beyond disturbing.

But as luck would have it, in a small way, I was fortunate to catch last night on PBS American Experience their excellent documentary about Woodstock 1969. How timely it was. However, as I watched, my own memories of what took place at Woodstock were clouded, not like this show. It was different in some/many ways compared to what these actual attendees, band members, event coordinators, and journalists (actually there the entire 3½ days) interviewed and they interviewing fans, filming, photographing were saying in 1969 and was now made into this documentary. Clearly, I had been shown and told a distorted version and reports about the festival from what I now suspected were anti-Woodstock people, anti-Hippie people, anti-freedom people, pro-Warring people, all of whom would’ve had me believe their perceptions. Their presupposed conjectures while, ironically, not even there or within 5-miles of the ’69 festival. Imagine that.

I was determined to watch every single second of Woodstock: Three Days that Defined A Generation! Why? Because I wanted to know with all the major potential disasters I was foreseeing, I had to know the end results, about the injuries, the utter failures, Mob-panics turned into sheer chaos to survive, and therefore, probable casualties/deaths. What was going to happen and how bad was this going to end?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

If any of you plan to watch it—and I highly recommend you do—then I won’t give too many spoilers. But there were two segments I found deeply profound, spiritual in the sense that had one been there, in those days and nights, by early Sunday you would have known beyond any doubt… you were part of something incredibly monumental, uplifting, and proof of what a half-million or so decent men, women, young boys and girls, and children, toddlers and babies, were all capable of doing, having received, and gave, helping… because it was just the decent thing to do. All these human virtues were undeniable, unavoidable as told by every person there.

When Jimi Hendrix came on stage Monday, (calm down Arkenaten!) toward the end of his set, he played The Star-Spangled Banner, a once-in-a-lifetime version of the national anthem. Spectators said it was an artform beyond verbal description. Hendrix had added his styled sound-effects dispersed throughout the anthem, like ‘rockets and bombs bursting in air.‘ Many fans picked up on his guitar-violence, death and carnage of war, the Vietnam War, and broke down in tears. The thousands there had lost dear ones, family members, brothers, husbands over there in the jungles and rice-fields. Other fans were speechless for several minutes after he finished, frozen in their postures their mouths gawked by what they just heard, felt, and witnessed.

Jimi’s encore song was Hey Joe. Perhaps one of his greatest songs ever.

As the end of the festival was drawing near, much of the crowd wanted to see/meet and hear from the owner of the farm and land they were on:  Mr. Max B. Yasgur. He was politically Conservative and had had serious reservations about what he had approved and more so when he saw how so much bigger and challenging the event became in just the first day! In the end, even he was astonished:

Today, in our current state of affairs in the 21st century, I would have been dumb-founded by what happened and more… by what did not happen! I would’ve been speechless given those 1969 events and what happened between July 28th and August 4th, 2019… and too many other times since 1966 on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin. Amazed would be an insane understatement.

Woodstock 1969 showed me that even during one of our nation’s most turbulent, bloody, violent two decades in the Cold War, the 1960’s and several major assassinations of peacemakers—John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy—that about 400,000 to 500,000 “people” (labelled derogatorily Hippies by pompous Conservatives) CAN INDEED conduct themselves exemplary over 3-days and 3-nights crammed onto one little farm to share music, fun, love, drugs (of course), and peace—only one accidental death during the 3½ days—and exhibit kindness to total strangers.

Yes, humanity’s best is absolutely possible! Half-a-million people packed into a few acres, outdoors, with security/police named “Po-lease” (i.e. hospitality) not legitimate police officers, and so potentially volatile to panic and countless other possible flash-points, proved it does happen, and ended instead with no violence whatsoever. Better yet, no serious problems to the chagrin of Conservatives who prior wanted to shut down the festival or were hoping it would have horrible injuries and fatalities! That is what they had warned to newspapers and TV reporters.

What really moved me was that when natural weather-forces moved-in coupled with the opposition of bigoted, arrogant, slandering Conservatives labeling the event a pending or complete disaster and certain subsequent humanitarian rescue… the Hippies of Flower-power, cannibus, and LSD helped each other for FREE! They worked together, volunteered to resolve many arising problems! Apparently it was contagious. The tiny town of Bethel’s residents pitched in to provide food for all the festival-goers! Are you FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME!!!?

People… WordPress readers… THAT is what an intelligent species does full of compassion, unity, selflessness, understanding, and embracing pure HUMAN connection. You don’t even have to belong to any nation, any charity, any political party. It’s JUST. NOT. THAT. COMPLICATED.

What a spectacle. What an epiphany those four days must have been… intimately amongst 400,000+ others you had not known before that Friday! Wow. My hope in and for humanity, decent caring people—if any Woodstock-goers would’ve ever been called that by 60’s ultra-Conservative Americans—but human beings being very human, were part of something bigger than self, glad to help each other while having fun openly, loving freely, dancing, smiling and never once considered gun-shots to be a fix, ever. YES… my belief in humanity’s finest virtues were restored, are restored. At least from Hippies in 1969 they are.

However, I think there are some/many today equal to those good Woodstockers who were grossly stereotyped and wrongly judged as useless before anything started Aug. 15, 1969. Because there are many of us today, many decent people like them in 1969, who know violent-hate or verbal-hate can be stopped and will not be tolerated, ever. Let’s not forget we have many, thousands, millions who know what the right thing to be, say, and do is really about, what it actually looks like, sounds like, and behaves like… for anyone from anywhere on this beautiful planet.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Stop Stereotyping & Hating

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