Wulf's Webden

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Thursday 14 November 2019
by Wulf
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Breaking chains (and complex notation)

One of the songs I’m planning to use at ASTAD on Sunday is Break Every Chain (There is Power in the Name of Jesus) by Will Reagan. Lyrically, it is pretty simple – both verses are repeated lines, ending with multiple times round the phrase ‘break every chain’. Even the bridge section isn’t massively long or complex. However, the official notation (IMHO) makes it all look much more complicated.

The main subdivision is the semiquaver with a few demisemiquavers thrown in for good measure. Also, very little falls on the beat; it is mainly ties between notes, leading to complex syncopation. Quite the rhythmic exercise, in fact, and it may well be an accurate transcription of a seminal performance of the song. However, to me, it seems to be over the top. It is a simple song (yes, all FOUR chords are included…); I’m pretty sure that I could listen to several recorded versions and not find one that follows these dots.

What I’m going to give the team is a simplified version, probably with the word freely emblazoned at the top. There is a place for precise notation but, in this context, I think the written score should be designed as a launch pad rather than taking the appearance of tangled pitfalls and snares.

Wednesday 13 November 2019
by Wulf
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Jamaica Pie

Earlier this week, Jane cooked up a delicious pie with banana, pineapple, cherries and more. Jamaica? No, she wanted to…

Appalling pun out of the way, it is more or less the recipe I learned from my mum as Jamaica pie. Whether it has much to do with Jamaica or not, I don’t know – a quick online search turns up pages about meat patties rather than a dessert dish. However, there is something about the dish that creates a Caribbean mood. I think it is largely down down to the sweetness of baked banana and then layers of delight are added by the textures and flavours of the additional fruit.

I’m not sure mincemeat is a very Caribbean ingredient but we had some that needed using up. Waste not, want not… and enjoy.

Tuesday 12 November 2019
by Wulf
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Turn Your Eyes

Today’s main task has been working on Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, a classic early 20th century hymn that I’m planning to include in my worship leading debut at Thorpe Acre this week.

The main challenge with such pieces is that there isn’t one definitive version but all sorts of versions recorded by diverse artists and in a multitude of settings. I found a fairly vanilla version on CCLI’s SongSelect site and we have a licence that let me download the lead sheet but it wasn’t quite to my taste… so I’ve made corrections.

The verse begins on the major 3rd and then puts a toe down to what is notated as a sharpened second; I can’t seen any reason not to show that as a minor 3rd instead and so I’ve made that change. As an added advantage, I’m going to do it in E major and that lets me use G natural rather than F double sharp, which will be much less confusing for others following the dots. I’ve also made quite a few tweaks to the chords: a mixture of what makes sense to me based on the melody, gives some nod toward functional harmony and works well on guitar, which is what I will be leading from.

That took a little time and then a bit more to work up my version of the score with Lilypond… and then a lot more to get all the tweaks in place. However, I’m pretty pleased with it now. I’ve even got details like numbering for the start of each verse and coping with the fact that the first and third verses have an extra syllable compared to verse two (a dotted slur and the \ignoreMelismata directive to make the lyrics on the outer verses stick to the right notes. As well as advancing my Lilypond-fu, it also gives me another example piece to build the next one.

Monday 11 November 2019
by Wulf
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Whadjacallit Pie

Shepherd’s pie: minced lamb with mashed potato topping. I suppose that is a logical name although I would be surprised if shepherds are often encouraged to eat their flocks.

Cottage pie: minced beef with a mashed potato topping. I guess people in cottages often eat this, but the link is even more tenuous.

So, what would you call a mash-topped pie made with a veggie filling? I blitzed onions in a food processor and set them softening, then added a blitzed mixture of mushroom, courgettes, peppers and garlic. Proper vegetarians would probably not smile kindly on the Oxo cube (nor vegans on the egg that, along with leftover ‘Mexican houmus’, enhanced the mash) but it was a pretty tasty result however it ought to be named.

Sunday 10 November 2019
by Wulf
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Closer than I thought

I’m back in Oxford for a couple of days after another nice afternoon for driving down. It has been wet for the last few days and I knew some areas had been flooded but I’ve only got round to seeing the extent of flooding and flood warnings this evening and it turns out to have got closer than I thought.

You don’t have to travel far up the road into Nottinghamshire to find places that have been badly affected and parts of Loughborough are still on an orange warning, with a note that today’s sun will be replaced by the unwelcome return of more rain tomorrow. It shouldn’t directly affect either where I work or where I’m staying but perhaps I’ll pack my wellies when I go back later this week, in case flooding does happen and there is visiting and helping to do.

Saturday 9 November 2019
by Wulf
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Refactoring

One of the tasks I’ve been working on this week is adapting the website I developed to support the worship team at St Clement’s – refactoring it, to use the technical term – in order to bring the same things to bear at ASTAD. This provides a rota for the team along with a list of songs we’ve played, showing what has been popular over various time periods, like the last year or last three months. Where available, songs have links to the CCLI SongSelect service and it is possible to see who is leading with a given song or what keys are used for it most often.

Some of the work was simple, like backing up and then clearing out old data. I’ve kept the list of songs, which will be a useful starting point, but I’m now working with a different set of people on a new services and including some instruments, like sax, which I didn’t previously have the chance to draw upon.

Other parts were more involved. For example, a weakness of the previous system was that I only recorded the date when a song was played and used that to link to the list of services. This obscured information when we had more than one service on a given date. I now link performances to individual services, which sounds simple but required redoing some gnarly SQL and also updates to the PHP code creating the relevant pages.

The job seems to be done though and I’ve got the songs from last week entered on. Now I’m waiting for the data from tomorrow’s service and then I’ll send a link out to members of the team and start using it to work up the rota for December, once they let me know about their availability.

Friday 8 November 2019
by Wulf
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Same ol’, good ol’ blues

I was out at a blues gig tonight – Dawson and the Creekers at The Golden Fleece in Loughborough. It was a fairly acoustic set (discounting the electric guitar and mics for the vox and harmonica) but at a volume that was clear and easy to listen.

I was struck by how familiar the set was – I didn’t know every song but I’ve performed a good chunk of them myself, mainly through my tenure as a sideman for Mudslide Morris in Oxford. A bit of Stones, a bit of Creedence and plenty more. Good stuff!