Johann Sebastian Bach: Baroque Superstar

(Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750)

J.S. Bach’s dad was a musician. J.S.’s uncle was a musician. All four of J.S.’s brothers were musicians and composers. In fact, pretty much everybody in the Bach family were musicians and had been since great-great-great grandpa John Hans Bach, originally a baker, had a mid-life crisis and discovered that he was meant to be a piper instead.

By 1685, when Johann Sebastian Bach was born, the Bachs were the German Baroque equivalent of our modern day musical Jackson family. The Bachs were well-known, highly connected, and prosperous. They served as musicians to Dukes, were musical directors at important churches, and were directors of renowned choirs. Even the ladies of the family got in on the act. J.S.’s second wife was a popular singer.

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My Photos at 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Here are some of my photos from the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. For my show reviews and thoughts go to:
http://conradaskland.com/blog/edinburgh-fringe-2017-shows-thoughts/

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an annual theater destination with hundreds of different shows to attend from stand up comics, musical theater to the absurd and serious theater genres. This year was the 70th annual Fringe and it was awesome!

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Tarragona – Solo Piano Improvisation

“Tarragona” is a piano improvisation by Conrad Askland. Recorded July 31, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain.

In this video you can see the far stone wall behind the piano. That stone wall is part of a guard tower that is dated to be at least 800 years old. Used at one point as a guard tower and later as part of a winery.

I thought about the long history of this special place in Spain and let my fingers color the imagination of what I saw in my mind’s eye.

Varekai Band 2017

Musicians from the Cirque du Soleil Varekai band taken June 2017 in Vilnius, Lithuania by Gabrielus Jauniskis.

From left to right: David Piché (violin), Conrad Askland (bandleader and keyboards), Mikey Hachey (bass), Isabelle Corradi (singer), Jamieson Lindenberg (singer), Damion Corideo (percussion), Jose Manuel Pizarro Carmona (winds) and Paul James Bannerman (drums).

It is an absolute pleasure to work with this group of musicians!

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My Edinburgh Fringe 2017 – Shows and Thoughts

I attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a 70 year old theater festival in Scotland, from August 14-23, 2017 and it was incredible. In all my travels this has got to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

In 9 days I attended 30 shows. Many more were booked but it was such an overload that I just had to take some time off here and there. My friends ask “Did you see the castles?” No. “Did you see the Military Tattoo?” No. I was here for shows.

My show thoughts and reviews are below. If interested in photos I took at the 70th annual fringe go here:

My Photos at 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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St Clair – New Age Piano Improvisation

“St Clair” is a piano piece for my friend Judy St Clair. Judy and her husband were mentors of mine when I was younger and they guided me through many adventures. Some were sweet and some were painful, but still they were all adventures.

While playing this piece, I was remembering the light and playful camaraderie we had during those times. Style might be called a new age piano improvisation.

Recorded July 31, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain. Part of my “Tarragona Piano Improvisation Sessions” – Audio engineer: Jesus Rovira

6 Tips for Adult Music Beginners

If you are thinking of learning a musical instrument as an adult, you might be wondering if you can do it. Maybe learning a musical instrument has been a lifelong dream, or perhaps you have been inspired to learn along with your kids.  

Whatever your reasons, you can succeed at your chosen instrument if you are willing to commit to what it takes. Try these handy tips to help you stay focused and make your dream a reality.

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Alberti’s Dream – Neo Classical Piano Improvisation

“Alberti’s Dream” is a piano improvisation by Conrad Askland. Recorded July 31, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain.

For this piece, I started with a simple Alberti Bass in Bb and then just followed where it led me.

Session 3-8 of my “Tarragona Piano Sessions” improvisations.

Alberti bass is a particular kind of accompaniment figure in music, often used in the Classical era, and sometimes the Romantic era. It was named after Domenico Alberti (1710–1740), who used it extensively, although he was not the first to use it.

How to Tune a Musical Instrument

Unless you are completely tone deaf, it is often not difficult to tell when a musical instrument is out of tune. This is because the pitch sounds wrong — it’s either too high or too low. To the trained ear, the instrument will sound a bit flat or sharp. For this reason, musical instruments need to be tuned before they are played, particularly if several instruments are being played together. If you are just beginning to learn how to play an instrument, this might seem like a complicated task, but it is really quite easy once you know how.

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Skagit Impressions Three – Adaptive Layer Battle Theme One

Skagit Impressions Three from the Gary Brown and Conrad Askland project. Farmland photos of Skagit County, WA by Gary Brown with music by Conrad Askland.

This third impression includes my composition “Adaptive Layer Battle Theme One.” This is a five layer composition for use in video game adaptive scoring. Each of the five layers are complete unto themselves, but also layer to create different levels of tension. In a gaming environment these different layers would be triggered in and out by player actions and states of being.

For the Skagit Impressions Three video, each layer builds sequentially. Starting with layer one – then layer one plus layer two – then layer one two and three and so on until all five layers are playing together.

In the video below, I show how this same music might be used in a gaming environment. The layers are used for the different states and actions of a character in the video game Uncharted 3.

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Skagit Impressions Two – Music As Water

Skagit Impressions Two – Music as Water. Photography by Gary Brown. Vocal by Leisha Skinner. Music and Melody by Conrad Askland (ASCAP).

This is the second in the series for the “Gary Brown and Conrad Askland Project” where I take the photography of Gary Brown and create music to accompany his photos. We do this to express our impression of the natural beautiful landscapes and farmlands of Skagit County, WA. This is also the are famous in the spring with tourists for the Skagit County Tulip Festival. There are many photographers that take photos during the tulip season, but Gary Brown takes photos of these landscapes all year long so you get to see different hues and variations of the landscapes.

ON THE MUSIC

The music I wrote for this, which I call “Music as Water” was part of a weekly assignment for a class on Songwriting for TV and Film that I took with Berklee College of Music. The assignment was to write for the least number of instruments possible, with the option of adding a vocal. I chose a piano and vocal arrangement. There is an original piano track and then I added some light fills in the top octave in between the vocal lines.

The music stays in Cm (natural minor) and floats in a 12/8 time signature. When we recording the vocal, we experimented with several different vowel sounds. At the final mix I found myself enjoying the natural “Ah” sound, so that is what you hear in the final mix.

Here is the music as it could work as sync placement in a television series:

 

Where None Would Go – Gettysburg Memorial Song

“Where None Would Go” (Gettysburg Memorial Song) is a piece I wrote to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. This song released July 4, 2016. Words and Music by Conrad Askland. Vocalist: Leisha Skinner. To a variation of the melody “Shenandoah”.

I was inspired to write this song after spending many hours of discussion on the Civil War with my friend, Joe Bowen. He is a scholar of American History where he studied the Civil War at Harvard College. He will setup battle tactics and battle strategies on tables using napkins, playing cards, cups – whatever is around – to really immerse me in details of the Civil War. The conversations usually start with prose, then get into historical details and facts of the battles and politics of the time, then end with philosophical musings, anecdotes and quotes from soldier’s letters.

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Art and the Concept of Truth

this-is-not-a-pipe

 

Truth is a variable in it’s definition that relies on the cultural glasses worn by the observer. Maybe part of what this discussion is really about is honesty. Artists can be the honest ones to give voice to a found truth when others see the Emperor’s new clothes.

Perhaps part of the reason artists can give voice to honesty and truth is that they often have nothing to lose. The struggling singer-songwriter who can barely rub two pennies together is extremely sensitive to observing the world around them. In some ways the struggling singer-songwriter is in a very powerful place because they have no corporate or record label responsibilities to be “marketable.” Janis Ian says the world needs artists because artists tell the truth. Truth is honesty. The singer-songwriter is compelled to write about what is important to them and they hunt for the truths (and untruths) they see around them and then report this in song as honestly as they can.


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