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Capricon, part 1 - Phil's Rambling Rants
February 13th, 2006
02:18 am

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Capricon, part 1
Would you like to filk until five
Make Tom Smith spew with hand jive
For a change feel really alive
Or would you rather get some sleep?

I came up with that summary of Saturday's filking in the shower Sunday morning.

I took the dogs to Jim and Robin's and got all my stuff into the car only a few minutes later than I meant to, arriving at birder2's at about 4, when I meant to be leaving.  Somehow, even though I was only taking the things I normally take with me to cons, it seemed to take up more room in the car than I expected, and by the time I got her stuff in the car too, it was clear that there was no way that both catalana and her guitar would fit into the remaining space, so I left Tiger at birder2's.  Oddly enough, I think that was the only possession I missed for the weekend -- if I forgot anything, I didn't actually notice.  bider2 and I headed to Champaign and got catalana, and we headed up to Chicago.  The trip was leavened with amusing discussion, which touched on a student arguing about how Tolkien should have been involved in writing The Great American Novel (boggle), and what The Lord of the Rings would have been like if written by Hemingway.  OK, I guess you had to be there.  Traffic was a non-problem; when we got onto 290 from 294, we didn't have to slow down until we got onto the curved part of the entrance ramp.  This speculated me to wonder whether I'd missed the news that Chicago had been evacuated due to an ebola outbreak; I'd been expecting to spend at least 5 minutes backed up at that intersection.

We arrived at the hotel without incident (unless you count my forgetting which end of the hotel the front desk was at as an incident, which I think would be harsh).  birder2 checked herself and me into a room on the 4th floor (meaning that I'd be able to take the stairs for the rest of the con), we picked up our badges with no more problems than some misspellings, said hi to exapno, and checked into the art show.  We were starving by this time, and discovered to our delight that the con was providing a taco bar, where we proceeded to chow down while greeting various people.  The Thursday night filk was anchored by Peter Beagle and Kat Eggleston, which was quite a treat.  I had never heard Peter Beagle either live or recorded; I knew he was a musician, but that was about it.  He turns out to be a folk/blues guitarist, quite competent even though he apologized for being rusty, with very nice songs.  In particular, he did a pirate ballad that I really want to learn; I am not clear if it is a song that he wrote or if he gleaned it, but in any case, I would like to find a recording.  It tells the story of a Caribbean pirate named Mary Reed, supposedly a real figure (Peter said the story was "true with stretchers"); the chorus runs "Here's a glass to every prize and two for every dirty deed / And three more for the soul of wicked, loving Mary Reed."  Anyone heard of it (other than from this weekend)?  I'm really having trouble remembering all the way back to Thursday night, but I didn't get back to the room until nearly 3, it was a good night of filking, and this was only Thursday.  Racking my brain, I remember that I proclaimed my mission to sing Cindy songs and did "Gilda and the Dragon" when something a bit silly seemed to be called for, and almeda revealed that the Cindy song she said she'd been working on that I did was in fact not a Cindy song at all (she'd been confused) which helps to explain why I had no idea of what song she was talking about.  It was "Dark Wine and Roses", which she sang a capella, to a tune that wasn't quite mine.  More on this song later.

Friday, I managed to get up in time to stop briefly by ericcoleman's concert, and singlemaltsilk asked me if I would come to the Absent Friends theme filk later that afternoon and do some Cindy.  I had a bit of a Homer Simpson moment, because it hadn't occurred to me that I should do that until she mentioned it.  I wanted to get to Bryan Palaszewski's presentation on alternative propulsion systems, which was supposed to overlap the first half of the Absent Friends, but I said I'd try to make it.  It turned out that Palaszewski only had one hour worth of presentation (and sadly, only about 10-15 minutes worth of material on the actual propulsion systems; most of his talk was fairly fluffy stuff about the missions the propulsion systems were supposed to make possible, when what I wanted to hear about was the propulsion!), so I was able to drop in on the theme filk, which turned out pretty good.  Several people did songs either written by or beloved by a bunch of people we're missing, including Stan Rogers, Buck Coulson, and Gordy Dickson.  I believe I did "Ryan's Star" and "Crimson and Crystal" in honor of Cindy.  This was followed by quadrivium's concert, which was good but didn't quite blow me away as much as I'd expected (but there was this really eerie song about some Egyptian wizard who was bemoaning his terrible fate that his magic had made him immortal that I really liked, both for the mood and for the insight that death isn't always so bad compared to the alternative).  I was kind of hoping to find a dinner party, but nothing came up.  I walked through the art show, where there was some new stuff, and some good stuff, but nothing that tempted me too seriously, and nobody had bid on any of my stuff.  I got to Michael "Moonwulf" Longcor's Internet Cafe set, which was good stuff (saying that Wulf was good is like saying the water was wet) but not much of anything new.  I hit a couple of parties, stopping in barbarakitten_t's Heinlein Centennial party, and staying there (since the DucKon party was delayed opening) until Peter Beagle and Kat Eggleston's joint concert.  Peter played some of the stuff he'd played Thursday night, but I didn't mind hearing it again (especially the Mary Reed song), and some other stuff as well, and Kat did some good stuff, although the only one of her originals that I remember knowing was "Flowering Green".  I don't know her material well enough.  Passing in the hall on different occasions, both of them mentioned to me that they'd enjoyed hearing what I'd done on Thursday, which swelled my head a bit.  The open filk was a bit light on Friday, owing to most people not starting to filk until after the Peter and Kat show ended at midnight, but it was a good show.  Again, my memory is hazy, but I recall hearing peteralway do "Polystyrene Shipwright" and "The Wide Ocean Sea", both of which I don't think I'd heard, and thinking, damn, Peter, you're getting really good, why do you have to keep singing "Barfy the Seasick Hedgehog"?  And I did get to sing Kanef's "Crossed Over" for my good friend Art Warneke, who I thought would really appreciate it given that he'd already juxtaposed Anne Boleyn and Nearly Headless Nick by writing his song "Nearly Headless Nick" to the tune of "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm".  It was received fairly well in general, but his reaction wasn't what I'd hoped -- he seemed amused, but nowhere near terminally so.  I meant to ask him if he'd seen it before but I forgot to.  (This was the song that vixyish almost put me in the hospital with at GaFilk.)

Saturday, I managed to get up in time for the Performance Master Class.  (I think calling this workship "juried one-shots" is less intimidating, but whatever you call it, I think it is a great way to learn; I encourage cons to do it more often.)  I chose Cat Faber's "The Word of God" for my piece, and I thought I did a pretty good performance for the workshop.  The judges had one concrete piece of advice to which my initial emotional reaction was "you're nuts", but they all agreed on the point and I made myself consider it:  lose the fingerpicks, they said.  I apparently don't realize just how loud my guitar is with the metal fingerpicks -- they assure me I was overpowering my voice, even though I know I have plenty of vocal power.  I resolved to try their advice at the master class concert.  It is almost as interesting to hear what the masters say to the other students as what they say to me, so I was disappointed that I had to walk out, but I wanted to have lunch and get to the vocal workshop.  As it was I was late to the vocal workshop, given by Wild Mercy's Jen Midkiff (who combines stunning vocal and instrumental talent with incredible good looks, and on top of it she's so nice you can't even hate her for it...) I hope my subconscious remembers what she talked about better than my conscious.  She talked about the importance of breath support, and introduced some exercises that I need to make myself work on.  This was followed by min0taur's Cheap Guitar Tricks workshop.  I wouldn't call it cheap tricks, though; what he was covering was, to a bunch of filkers, pretty advanced technique.  (When the starting point of the exercise is holding a full bar second position G chord, you're leaving a lot of filkers in the dust.)  I think I got something out of the workshop (at least if I can remember it), but I was expecting simpler riffs and cheat techniques, rather than introduction to blues style.  This was followed by Moonwulf's concert, which was great, but somewhat diminished by the fact that he repeated almost all of his Internet Cafe set; considering the size of his repertoire, those of us who made a point to get to both sets were wanting more different songs.  After that, I'd been expecting to have another sandwich, but janmagic ended up herding a bunch of us to the buffet for a decent if somewhat overpriced real meal, where I ate way too much and almost couldn't stagger to the Wild Mercy concert.  Wild Mercy was awesome; they mostly did material from their albums, with a couple of blues medleys of material from English and American literature thrown in to advance the academic theme.  The souvenir program included one of the worst jokes of the whole weekend, describing "Queen of Argyll" (keep in mind the academic theme) as "Study A Broad in Scotland".  They also punctuated a pirate song about how it's lots of fun being a pirate until somebody loses an ear by throwing a handful of plastic ears into the audience, and one of them landed squarely on my shoulder and stayed there for the whole song.  They ran over their allotted hour, but filkertom magnanimously insisted they do their whole set.  His own set was high energy, lots of fun, pretty much all familiar stuff, but with one real high point:  as he was doing "A Walk Along the Beach", I started doing the hand jive, and as other people in the audience started picking it up, Tom started chuckling and cast aspersions on my parents marital status.  I shouted that after all these years, I'd finally gotten him back, and the room dissolved in laughter and a five minute digression into how, young, brash, and inexperienced, I had challenged the audience to try to crack me up while I sang “Beware of the Sentient Chili”.  With Tom sitting beside me.  Yeah, I was young, brash, inexperienced, and *dumb* back then, and as soon as I hit the line “The vegetables plan insurrection”, Tom said “Duhhh, we’re takin’ over!” in a properly goofy voice, and of course won the challenge right there.  I’ve (in a low key way) been looking for revenge ever since, and claimed it there.  I was able to stop laughing before I actually passed out, but my ribs are still sore.  And I was literally so charged up from that that it carried me through the whole evening.  I love you, Tom.  The open filk followed Tom’s concert, but for some reason it convened in the filk room (the concerts had very wisely been moved from the filk room to the double-sized room at the other end of the hall, but for some reason the open filk that was supposed to follow Tom’s show didn’t move with them).  And somehow, we lost Tom during the move.  We were just getting a good filk going when it was discovered that the room was totally full and there were still more people trying to mash themselves in the door, and so we found ourselves schlepping back to the other end of the hall, which is kind of annoying to me (having a medium amount of stuff), really annoying to some of my friends who like to bring a good-sized music store to the filk, and mostly frustrating because I’ve seen a lot more filks die from being moved to a different room than successfully take advantage of the better location they were moved to.  But somewhat to my surprise, we still had a good, energetic filk for several more hours in the new room; it wasn’t even squashed when, inspired by Moonwulf performing “Hooters” I pulled out markiv1111’s “I Can’t Get Over You” and managed to fumble pretty much every bar chord in the whole song.  I’ve seldom felt more of a pull to cleanse my honor with the rite of seppuku as when I finished that disaster -- I don’t know what the problem was; I’ve done it several times in public at least decently, but I just completely fell on my face that time.  It took all the strength of 25 years of playing to keep singing and pretending to play through the comedy of errors on my left hand.  And it’s a measure of just how good a mood I was in that I didn’t even run away and hide after it was over, and I did more stuff and I think even redeemed myself.

My apologies for cutting this off in the middle, but I’m falling asleep at the keyboard and I have to get up to pick up my puppies.  I’ll finish this tomorrow afternoon (and to you pedants out there, the new day doesn’t begin until after I get up in the morning; it’s two o’clock in the morning, but it’s still Sunday night.  From this vantage point, twelve hours hence is properly “tomorrow”.)

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[User Picture]
From:filkertom
Date:February 13th, 2006 09:32 am (UTC)
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I apologize for not making the open sing Saturday, but after that set I was (pleasantly) wiped out. Besides, I'd just had almost two hours -- time to let you guys sing awhile. And I wuv you too, Phil. :)
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
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Just to be perfectly clear, just because I'm disappointed that you didn't make it to the open filk doesn't mean you had an obligation to be there; if it would be a burden rather than a pleasure, of course don't do it. But just because you've just had a concert does not mean you're not entitled to a turn in the circle. (You're not entitled to turn the circle into an indefinite continuation of your concert. But you never would; some performers don't get it, but you do.)

I'm going to keep babbling on this point, because it is a general thing and not just about this concert: at least for those of us who also perform, we love to have the concert performers come to the filk at least as much because we want the chance to sing to them as because we want to hear them sing more. So the person who finishes their concert is more than welcome to put their instruments away, announce that they're done singing, and just come and listen for a while. Too often, I think the people who do concerts don't think they're really welcome to just kick back and enjoy the filk; they think that if they show up at all, they have to continue to be "on stage"; because they've had enough of being "on stage" they skip the filk entirely. For me at least, concerts are great, but open filk is where the real fun is, and when I express disappointment that the concert performer doesn't make it to the filk, it's because I don't want them to miss the fun. It is a little bit selfish; I want them to have a good time so they'll keep coming back and entertaining me. But I genuinely want them happy. Maybe I'm projecting my own preferences onto others, but I can't help feeling they're depriving themselves of the best part of the con.

Saturday night, I wanted to thank you in person, right away, for making me so happy, and you disappeared before I could.
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From:msminlr
Date:February 13th, 2006 11:46 am (UTC)
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The "Mary Read" song is on an OOOOOLD Off-Centaur tape.
Did they do a "Peter Beagle Live" collection? I seem to recall one.
Or it might have been on one of the Bayfilk tapes.
At least that narrows your search parameters some; between you and birder2 there's a good chance you've got access to it.
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From:billroper
Date:February 13th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
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There's definitely a Peter Beagle Live tape from Firebird. I don't recall if it was originally OCP, but I don't think so.
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
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To some it may be nit-picking, but to refer to Peter Beagle - LIVE! (Firebird) as an Off Centaur tape might still cause some people to not speak to you again. I am aware of the existence of this tape, but I don't have it and I don't think birder2 does either.

Can anyone give me a certain reference to a specific recording? (An in-print recording would be even better, but I'll settle for knowing for sure what to look for.) I would even be grateful for sheet music.
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From:msminlr
Date:February 14th, 2006 12:54 am (UTC)
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Those "so-and-so...LIVE!" tapes, I'm remembering now, were the first batch done by Firebird as it came into being following the Great Off-Centaur Meltdown. That other post was done with insufficient caffeine in me. While I recall having had it in stock back then when I was hucking, I don't seem to have kept a copy for myself.
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From:billroper
Date:February 14th, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
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Peter Beagle Live is still in print to the best of my knowledge.
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From:filker0
Date:February 13th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
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Don't worry about fumbling bar chrods -- I didn't really start even doing them until they started banning smoking in public places...

It was great to see you at the con, BTW. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
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/throws a tomato

Great to see you, also, and to actually hear you sing more than a couple of songs.
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From:born_to_me
Date:February 13th, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
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Hey Phillip... it's Teresa, from Capricon. (aka gundo's groupie/roadie) Stumbled into your journal as I was adding the LJ's that I managed to scavenge at the Con. Hope you don't mind me adding you!
[User Picture]
From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
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You (and everyone else) are welcome to read my journal, comment, and friend me, but please understand that I won't friend you back until I've had a chance to meet you in RL, talk to you, and feel like I know you (just being in the same room doesn't count). I think I am connecting my vague memory from the weekend with the right person, but I'm not sure.

BTW, my name is Phil, unless you're writing a legal document when it's Philip T. Parker -- I don't answer to Philip. And there's only one L in Philip. No offense taken and no rebuke meant -- just letting you and the world know.
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From:born_to_me
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
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Understood. I'm extremely particular about Teresa, because it's so often spelled with an 'H', so thank you for correcting me. Of course, part of it was the early hour I found your journal at. Feh on me for computing before caffeine. ;-)

I tend to always use full names, it's a habit of mine, but will always try to respect those who choose diminutives. exapno's son is a great example - it's with pain that I call him Josh, and not Joshua. ;-)

I'm sure we'll see more of each other on the filk circle. I'm friending a lot of folks on that basis mainly to start getting a feel for who goes to what cons and what local music scene there is outside of cons.

Cheers, and I'll be the zaftig woman toting gundo's gear at the next con. He was the redhead sitting next to you at the Sat. circle... I was in between you two for a while... and he did the Toad the Wet Sprocket song with Daniel's Succubus at the Master Recital. I'm the one who'd never heard Daniel's lullaby... so you might remember me snorting.
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From:peteralway
Date:February 13th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
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why do you have to keep singing "Barfy the Seasick Hedgehog"?
A) Because I am a bad person.
B) Because I want to create an earworm
C) Because people are foolish enought to sing along
D) Because I want to annoy every filker from the state of Illinois

Actually, I never sang it a Capricon.
(Deleted comment)
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From:peteralway
Date:February 15th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)
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The melody (in midi, playing in the background) and words are here:

Barfy the Seasick Hedgehog

There may have been some subconcious influence from "Alfred the Airsick Eagle" in the first line, as I do remember that song from Captain Kangaroo in my youth. But there is also an influence from "You Made Me Love You" and a blatant theft from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 4th, 2006 02:07 am (UTC)

alfred the airsick eagle

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alfred the airsick eagle never liked being up high.
So delicate is he that heights make hime dizzy
So he doesnt like to fly.
Oh alfred the airsick eagle......

Do you know if there are any more lines or versus when he says the creatures in a fire and learns how to fly?

email me at wayne.huseby@goodrich.com
if you have an answer
Thanks
Wayne
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From:singlemaltsilk
Date:February 13th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)

re: the fingerpicks

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You brought tears to my eyes with your recital performance. Without the fingerpicks, the previously hidden subtleties and nuances of your vocals were finally accessible. And your faculty advisers were so proud of you for taking that leap of faith!
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)

Re: the fingerpicks

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Thank you for the kind words. The song means a great deal to me, and if I can make it mean a lot to others, that gives me joy.

Thank you for giving me such a good opportunity to learn something.
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From:barbarakitten_t
Date:February 13th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
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just wanted to let you know that you made me kitten my diet coke and scare the undergrad at the desk....
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From:andpuff
Date:February 13th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC)
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I have the lyrics to THE BALLAD OF MARY REED around here somewhere. If you like, I'll take a look for them, scan them back into the computer (file was on the hd that blew) and send them to you.

When you figure out the actual chording, you could send that back because I think my guitar teacher's suggestions are... well, not right. *g*
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From:billroper
Date:February 13th, 2006 09:00 pm (UTC)
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The judges had one concrete piece of advice to which my initial emotional reaction was "you're nuts", but they all agreed on the point and I made myself consider it: lose the fingerpicks, they said. I apparently don't realize just how loud my guitar is with the metal fingerpicks -- they assure me I was overpowering my voice, even though I know I have plenty of vocal power.

No matter who the vocalist is, they're always looking at a trade off between power and control. The more power that you put into a vocal, the less able you are to control it. Great vocalists don't have to make as large a trade off as lesser vocalists, but the trade off always exists.

By reducing the volume of the guitar, you reduce the amount of power that is required to sing over it, thus increasing the amount of control in the vocal. When you sang Anne's song (or is it just one she frequently sang? I forget), Green is a Dangerous Color, you swapped volume for control and it came out quite nicely.

I'm also advised -- by Sam Baardman, no less! -- that it's quite possible to play with a pick without being loud about it. But it's harder to do and takes practice. It's certainly easier to be less loud -- and more expressive! -- when playing in a filk circle without the picks.

I'm thinking about that practice thing myself. All I need is spare time. :)
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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While it's certainly true that there's a tradeoff between control and power, I believe that I have useful control of my voice when I'm singing loud enough to be heard in a good sized room. I was not intentionally changing my vocal volume between doing Word of God with and without the picks, but everyone who heard it both times said that they could hear it better without the picks, because with the picks the guitar was just plain too loud.

On Dangerous Color, my conscious intent is to sing as softly as I can and still be heard by the audience. I'm trying to project the emotional tone of an earnest whispered warning. But there's still a big difference in the volume I need for that. I was in one end of a big room and the audience was at the other end, so I was actually singing it a lot louder than I usually do.
[User Picture]
From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and about picks -- it's possible to play pretty quietly with a flatpick (I was using one on Dangerous Color), but with metal fingerpicks and the style I was using, much closer to a strum than a picking pattern, not so much.
From:exapno
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
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likely have much more to say, but am gonna be behind for a few days :)
it was fantastic getting to see you again, and thank you for the many many huggles! :)

Not being very knowledgeable, i can't really comment too much on how you may have played the song in the past, but what i heard sat/sunday was amazing. Incredible song, great performance. Truly amazing.
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From:peteralway
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
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lose the fingerpicks, they said. I apparently don't realize just how loud my guitar is with the metal fingerpicks -- they assure me I was overpowering my voice, even though I know I have plenty of vocal power.

Funny how counterintuitive this seemed to you, when it was so obvious to someone living outside your head. The improvement was conspicuous when you tried it without picks in Open Filk Saturday night, as well as at the concert. Not only was the volume balance better but the guitar tone was a lot nicer, too. It was an order-of-magnitude improvement.
[User Picture]
From:tigertoy
Date:February 13th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
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The difference in tone is certainly there, but it's a matter of aesthetics, not objective judgment, which sound is better. I like the bright sound the picks give, and I hope that some other people do too. What is pretty clearly objective fact is that the picks make it too loud. I started using the picks because I was convinced that I was too quiet without them, 20+ years ago, but that was when I was playing with the technique and confidence I had then. It was probably true at the time.
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From:beige_alert
Date:February 14th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
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I'm discovering that when I play the guitar loudly I really can't tell how it balances with my singing. I've been playing Mal's Song with a strum hard, sing loud style, but I really didn't know until I asked Xap if I could actually be heard over the guitar. It's a lot easier to be subtle when quieter.

You do sound great on Word of God this way. I agree, you got lost in the guitar before. The bright and loud metal fingerpicks sound is nice, too, but maybe this isn't the song for it.

And remember, you might have wanted to kill yourself after that performance of "I can't get over you," but we didn't want to kill you.
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From:daev
Date:February 14th, 2006 08:02 am (UTC)
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I've heard Peter Beagle play several times at in-store shows in Berkeley. He's just amazing ... it's enough to make you jealous. The character of Joe Farrell, omnicompetent luthier in The Folk of the Air, isn't all that far off-target for the author himself. I'm glad you got to hear him.
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