I’m very pleased that Ba Ren Chi’s music on Jamendo has close to 2,100 listens at this point, only a few months after the first release back in October of 2020. By far the favorite piece so far, according to the stats, is Lalo Sí with a little over 700 listens on its own. That’s great, and I’m pleased the song has resonated with so many people.
But I’m not as pleased when I re-listen to it now, some fifteen years after first creating it. I hear too prominently what one music blogger reminded me of: it sounds like a midi track. Well, that’s because it IS a midi track, but that’s also only part of the reason the sound sticks out today. It’s also because I made it fifteen years ago, and a lot has changed since then in terms of playback. By comparison, more recent pieces, such as Da Levante or Oni Daiko, which are in fact no less midi than Lalo Sí, sound so much better, so much more natural, that they almost don’t even appear to have come from the same place.
Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the original Finale files I used to create Lalo Sí. They are too old for me to update, it seems. Either I’ll have to re-compose the whole piece, or I’ll need to re-mix it using updated sections and an overall re-mastered score. This is possible, I know, but it’s not something I’ve spent enough time with to really do well, at least not yet. At this point, I’m re-composing individual sections and using Soundtrap to mix them in. Landr is also helping me with mastering and, as of a week ago, distribution (one can now find Ba Ren Chi’s music on iTunes, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify, and occasionally elsewhere). This process is slow but not unenjoyable. The tech has changed so much over the years. It is still fun because every little thing is about learning something new.
Ba Ren Chi has two new singles out, both available (for free as always) on Jamendo.
The first is called Oni Daiko, or “Demon Drums,” and is my take on a traditional Japanese summer festival form, in which the performers wear some scary looking oni, or “demon,” masks during part of their performance. I’ve seen such numbers many times in my partner’s home area in the western part of the country. But being who I am, I couldn’t limit myself to traditional Japanese instruments, so while there is a shamisen and some drums that sound like they could be waidaiko, there are also plenty of other sounds that are pure improvisation on my part, at least in terms of the instrumentation. So a pretty prominent marimba, a vibraphone, a xylophone, some concert percussion instruments, pizzicato strings, and why not, a drum and bugle corps drum line. There’s some other stuff, too, but it might be hard to pick them out.
The second, Too Cool, is much more conventional in terms of its form and instruments. Flute, upright bass, drums, conga, and piano are the main ones, but then there’s the punctuation and the opening and closing sections, which feature other kinds of sounds and a very different atmosphere. There’s a riff in the middle section that begins in the piano and then passes to a solo flute, then a flute section. It’s probably the line that sticks with me most.
Both were too much fun to make. If people enjoy listening even a fraction as much, I’ll be very happy.
People still seem to be finding my Ba Ren Chi album on Jamendo, with just under 1000 listens and dozens of downloads over its first month of being out. This makes me very happy.
I wrote earlier that one surprise was how many more listens the song “Meaner Than That” had than most of the others, but the big exception is now “Lalo Sì,” which has increased over the last couple of weeks and is now a close second. This is a song I wrote years ago, a tribute to the great Argentine-American pianist, arranger, composer, and conductor Boris Claudio “Lalo” Schifrin.
Making it was so much fun, with all the changes of tempo, the odd time signatures, the driving 7/8 that transitions to 10/8, all the energy it brings out, and the subtle and not so subtle hints at Schifrin’s most famous TV theme, the one from Mission Impossible, which made its way into movies, and is now so pervasive that just about anyone will recognize it after only a few notes.
Schifrin is one of those figures who has shaped the musical scene over several generations without having a name that everyone recognizes (a little like Quincy Jones), and I am a big fan. So very happy that my little tribute seems to be agreeable to some listeners.
It’s nice to see the hundreds of listens to Ba Ren Chi compositions on Jamendo since I released Cool 7 earlier this month. I was a little surprised to notice the piece “Meaner Than That” move up slowly as people sampled different ones. Not displeased (I personally like all of them), just surprised. One listener, LebKamp Radio RNB, even added it to a playlist (I need to figure out why this one sounds a lot quieter than most of the others on LebKam Radio RNB’s playlist–if anyone knows, please send word!).
Still, I couldn’t keep my hands off it and felt there was something of a missed opportunity in the B section, which was feeling a bit like it ended too abruptly. So I made a longer version. The A section is the same as before, but for B I added punchier accents in the brass and percussion, beefed up the counter melody that emerges in brass section No. 2 towards the end, and opened up the middle for more drums. The end is bigger, too. Here it is as an “extended version,” released yesterday as a “single” on Jamendo, a nice feature I will probably make use of as I develop album No. 2.
COVID-19 isolated me, as it did most of us, in ways that we could not have anticipated. I found a variety of ways to not go crazy. One was to rediscover music, not listening so much as making, something I have done off and on for many years since I was a teenager. In the age of non-contact, what I found was notation software, which has come so far it is hard to believe. I started composing again this spring and summer, picking up threads from years, sometimes decades ago and creating completely new ones from scratch. It does not seem to want to stop at this point, but calls constantly. I have to resist in order to get my “work” done.
I’ve put up so far a lucky thirteen pieces at the YouTube channel I created for sharing. The name Ba Ren Chi is something I thought up years ago, the Japanese Romanization, one possible one anyway, for the first three syllables of my last name. It seems apt.
The latest is mean, I mean that’s in the title, Meaner Than That, and the two before were spur-of-the-moment compositional gifts to my mother on her 90th-birthday and my wife on her we won’t say which birthday. Then before that Cool 6, which I find so fun, and then older ones like the zany Zapp, the eclectic Rok Ni Yon, and the sincere September Elegy. And that’s only seven of them.
I am sharing because it’s really all I want to do. Have a listen if you’re at all interested. No pressure to like or become a follower (or whatever the YouTube version of that is). I put little stock in such things. But if anything speaks to you, please drop me a line via comments here. It will make me feel very good.